Weekend bliss? – #MindfulChallenge

The trouble with writing about your meditation experience, is that your mind has a tendency to start thinking about what you are going to write, about how hard it is to stop thinking…which, of course, means I’m thinking..it’s quite a mind numbing circle.
It’s the weekend and I’m curled up in bed. The kids are all safely tucked away around the house on various devices. So it’s seems opportune to take my daily time out.

The knot it my stomach, is still there, it always is. About what…I couldn’t tell you. I wish it would go away but calm patient meditation man is telling me that I should be trying not to resist or wish for things to be different than they are. Just notice them.

So ..Ok….listen to my breath. My mind is going bonkers as usual, time and time again I keep suddenly remembering about my breath.  What we having for dinner tonight?….oh yes, breath….What shall i do with my life? …woops….breath….I wonder what the children are doing?…blow that thought away…breath…was that a car driving in the driveway?…refocus on the breath….

Kelly Exeter posted a great article about her challenges with meditation “Why meditation isn’t ‘working’ for you” and I think she makes some two really good points about the expectations that people have when they meditate.  Essentially, 1) That when you are “good at it”, you will have no thoughts and 2) You will feel amazing in the moment.

This is really true for me, I imagine that when I “get good” at meditating, it will feel like levitating, and my mind will be calm and still …like a pond. But really, that’s not the point. Meditation is actually practicing, like practicing an instrument, to be able to keep bringing your mind back to one focus point…over and over and over….

It is reminding me of bed time training with the kids. My daughter never liked going to bed (still doesn’t).  I was told that the best thing to do is to not “engage”, simple get up…take them back to bed, and walk off again. One night I took her back to bed 35 times. It is a huge mental challenge not to go bananas.

And if I think about it in that context, I realise that I am actually starting to progress on this. I think I’m better at putting my naughty children thoughts back to bed. I’m less concerned about how many thoughts are coming. Because the point isn’t to not have the thoughts, but the game is being able to calmly put them back to bed. I have also noticed that I have started to catch myself when I am unfocused and thinking about other things at other random moments in the day. When I’m driving. Brushing my teeth. Trying to get a peice of work done. I suddenly think…oh…your distracted and thinking about something else…bring your mind back. I’m by no means anywhere near a quiet mind but I’m starting to feel like I’m moving forward.

Crap..I’ve forgotton about my breath again… see!!! Arghh

Times up. Oh well, there will be more practice tomorrow…

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School holidays…the struggle is real

I have a kind of love hate relationship with school holidays.  Any working parent will tell you about the additional angst that comes with the juggle of school holidays;  vacation care, holiday programs,  day swapping with friends, taking time off work, the boredom, the complaining and the lack of structure.

The lead up to holidays always has me in a bit of a head spin…

I am very fortunate that my work has the option to “self fund” additional leave, so when I went back to work full time this year,  I also purchased additional leave to help us manage school holidays.    After all,  the kids are off school for 12 weeks in a year! so juggling all that time can be part of the working parents minefield.

So now I have bought this additional leave,  my holidays will be different.  Right?    Relaxing quality time, bonding with the children,  cafe trips and laughter over hot chocolate,  lazing around the house with my feet up,  catching up on the kids lives and reducing my motherly guilt about working full time.

As the first set of holidays approach,  I’m thinking….here we go, quality Mum time ahead.  I even made a deal with my husband.  You take a week,  I take a week.   Awesome,  this should be a cinch.

But I found myself in mounting chaos before the holidays even started.

Work, for example,  might be officially letting me go on leave,  but that doesn’t mean the work goes away.  So I find myself working frantically in the week before I am due to be away,  trying to get double the work done in order to not leave a massive gap while I am gone.  I’m stressed and frustrated,  this is starting to look like a bad idea.

On the first day of the “holidays”, I am still wired.   The kids are running around like lunatics and my patience is already running thin.   I spend the day doing chores around the house and everything I pick up seems to be back on the floor before I even turn around.

I decide I need a project.

Now might be a good time to redecorate my sons room,  the car bed we got when he was three isn’t really cutting it anymore…and it will be a great bonding project for us to do together I think.

I drop my daughter at a friends house and head to IKEA.   Within 30min my son is complaining he wants to go home.  He has chosen a bed,  job done in his eyes.  He wants icecream.  I am wandering the self service aisles trying to find the right flat packs for the bed and chest of drawers we chose.   They are not there.   We have to find someone to help. They get a forklift.   My son is now WAY over it and pulling at my arms.   I struggle to get the huge flatpacks on to the trolley with “help” from my son.  Somehow manage the get through checkouts and then we are finally free (3 hrs later) and I spend 30min struggling to get everything we have purchased into my trailer.

Pick up my daughter and we are home again.  My son has no interest in constructed the bed.  And before we even start his whole room needs cleaning out.  He moans that he just wants to play computer games.   Has a fight with my daughter.

I look around me at the chaos and I think…this is NOT what I had imagined.  I feel overwhelmed, defeated and exhausted.   I am not enjoying any quality time with the kids.  All they want to do is stare at screens and eat junk food.  Bloody school holidays.

But then I stop myself and I realise that my expectations have gotten the better of me, yet again.   That the picture of “ideal” holidays that I have in my head is unrealistic.   Hopefully being off work and spending all day with the kids means that there will be some pockets of quality time together,  but that doesn’t mean that the WHOLE time is going to be quality time…infact, likely not at all.

So…I shake myself off and reset the expectations button.   Send the kids off to play computer games and watch TV (they think this is awesome), make a cup of tea, put on some music and get stuck into the bedroom.

Over the course of the week,  we had some ups and downs.   Inevitably some days were hard work,  I was not relaxing with my feet on the table having deep and meaningful conversations with the kids…let me tell you now!

But by the end of the week, I was feeling in a much different space.   It was nice to spend some time just juggling one component of my life, not all of them at once like usual.  I did manage to spend some quality time with the kids,  we did go for walks together,  we did chat about what is going on with them.  They also spent a lot of time doing the things that they love on their own and time with their friends.  And, yes,  they also spent time lazying around the house watching screens in their pjyamas….and guess what,  one day I did that too! (after the redecorating project was complete of course).

Sure…coming back to work this week was another big shock.  Clawing my way back on top of the all the work projects.

And now I’m looking at the pictures of my husband eating ice cream with the kids after a walk around the lake (and getting his text messages saying that they are driving him insane)…and wishing I was there too.

School holidays are a struggle,  but maybe the forced time away from the usual routine is as good for me as it is for the kids.

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Dinner time hell…

IMG_1490I have always been very diligent and disciplined about having a dinner time routine in our house.   We rarely eat in front of the TV,  and always try to sit down as a family around the dinner table of an evening.

Lovely.  Right?   NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Why o why is dinner time such a NIGHTMARE at our house!!!  Seriously,  instead of being the lovely family time where we catch up on our days,  I’m lucky not to walk out of it without having totally lost my cool and turned into Psycho Mumma.

I had a thing we used to do,  where each person had to say three things that were good from their day,  or three things they were grateful for.  We did this even when the kids were younger,  and it was golden (I know,  I’m good hey!?)

Where have those days gone?

Here is a more typical dinnertime …

It starts with me asking the kids to turn off the TV,  which will be followed by at least 5mins of complaining, possible some stomping around or perhaps, the more likely outcome,  completely ignoring me like I don’t exist.  To which I have to then repeatedly ask before I explode with “TURN IT OF NOWWWWWWWWWW” and march over to switch it off myself.

The children will then complain about what I have cooked.  It doesn’t matter if it is their favourite,  I will have cooked it wrong or the green things might be touching it.  So I’ve given up cooking them stuff they will like, and I just cook them things they won’t like, so at least the whinging is justified (HA!).

My husband will then try to tell me some long winded story from his work but he won’t get two words out before being interrupted by one of the children (not that that will stop him, he will continue to persist with the story).  Most likely the children will be complaining about the other ones behaviour or asking about some random fact, like does it really take 5 days to fly to the moon (I know that is not true, at least I think it is not, useless trivia facts are definitely not my forte)  They then sing, yell, burp, fart or just generally make high pitch ear piercing noises for no reason whatsoever…

My husband will finally give up on his story and we will try to focus on the children instead.  How was your day?  tell me some good things about your day?   To which they will launch into a story, that has nothing to do with their day,  but usually some kind of whinge about the future..like whether they can watch TV after dinner (no you can’t…just like EVERY OTHER NIGHT)..whilst constantly being “talked over” by the other child.  Then getting cross.

This whole scenario has also been sugared with my husband and I inserting a long series of table manner reminders.   “Please use your knife and fork”,  “don’t rock on your chair”,  “eat with your mouth closed”,  “elbows off the table”,  “seriously….you need to use a knife and fork to eat mashed potato”…”NO…don’t wipe your hands all over your top”…etc etc.    All of which are pretty much ignored.

Once they have eaten two mouthfuls,   they start asking what is for Dessert.   Usually,  there isn’t any, except on weekend/special occasions.  But this does not fail to surprise and dishearten the children every single evening…another great opportunity to whinge.

We leave the table 15min after we started (that’s if the children haven’t already been sent to their rooms half way through dinner because we failed to keep the chaos under some kind of control) and I want to lie on the floor and sleep…but instead, I’m packing the dishwasher (it was the children’s job but I have lost the will to argue with them about it).

So…to all you wise family people who tell me that dinner time is one of the most important times of the day…YOU SUCK.   I’m sorry, but dinner time is hell. After a long day, it makes me want to cry.

As such…I have decided to drop my quest for elusive achievement of dinner time bliss.  I’m not saying that we won’t sit and eat at the table…but I’m going to give up on this being a quality time of our day.  It is a practical and required part of the day,  a teaching moment perhaps, but it is not quality time.  Maybe in the future it will be, I can’t imagine that…but sure…I’m open to miracles.

Instead,  I’m going to use reading time,  when the day is done and we are lying quietly in bed together…to have some quality time with the kids.   And when I have left them all snuggled up in bed,  then I can listen to my husband telling me about the stories from his day (and maybe insert something in about my own day if he stops long enough..because, lets not forget that I have also been at work all day)…. as long we are all finished before My Kitchen Rules starts,  because all I really want to do is sit infront of mindless TV with a cup of tea…and be grateful that I have made it through another day.

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Why exercise was the key that unlocked my inner awesomeness

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Ok…it wasn’t this icy…but it felt like it…

This morning I headed out at 5.30am in -4 degree temperature (yes, that is MINUS 4), to go for a jog.

I did feel a little bit crazy,  actually, a lot crazy.  My logical brain kept saying “why are you doing this?”, “go back to bed”, “you can surely find time to do this later”…  It was dark, it was eerily quiet and it was, quite literally, freezing.  At one point my glasses fogged up and I tripped over a drain pipe,  did a kind of crazy skid/skip, stumbled for a few steps, waved my arms around madly and somehow managed not to actually fall over (this is where I was glad it was dark).

I walked back into the house, to be confronted by my son at the front door…to tell me a woeful tale of his 6year old sister pushing him out of the big bed.  My daughter was crying in the bed room and my husband kissed me goodbye as he walked out of the house and away from the mounting chaos… big breath… first day back at school after school holidays…things were looking messy.

I managed to distract the children with some breakfast and get things back on track but then things took a turn for the worst when it was time to get dressed.

I’m such a horrible parent that I bought my daughter a new school dress (like the one she already has which she LOVES) in the next size up for her to wear on her first day back.  But unbeknown to me, the fall out from such a simple act would be explosive.   The dress… is too big.  The dress… is too wide.  The dress…is NOT the same as her favourite dress.  THE DRESS WILL NOT BE WORN.   Tears tantrums and yelling were to follow  (maybe a little bit of mine).  I felt my patience running thin and I quickly backed away from the situation (again..literally… you have to imagine me walking backwards out of the room, step by step…until I reversed into our bedroom shut the door…and locked it).   I took a big deep breath and took a shower.

I got back out and continued to pack bags ready for school, pretending like nothing had happened and this seemed to be working.  WINNING.  Then I noticed an alarming smell.  After further investigation I uncovered that our dog (god love him), had done a poo in his cage and managed to smear it everywhere.  AND…rubbed his bottom along the carpet (who can blame him, who wants poo on their butt…right??).

Again…I took another deep breath and decided to deal with that situation after I had dropped the kids off.

So then,  here I was,  on all fours,  scrubbing carpet of poo on a Monday morning… wondering when I would finally get to my real work.  When I had a realisation.   I just managed to get through the morning without totally losing my cool,  a rather dramatic morning if you don’t mind me saying so.   I didn’t do it perfectly,  it certainly wasn’t my best parenting morning.  But I did it and you know what,  I’m feeling pretty awesome.

And you know what I credit with this mysterious power?   My crazy icy run.

Having that time in the morning to myself before the chaos began.  To get the endorphins flying before my patience was tested and the universe thought dog poop on the carpet was a funny game to play on Claire…was the key.

We all know it.  We all read about it.  And in some ways it seems so simple it is hard to believe it really is true.  But for stress heads like me,  exercise is like taking a morning chill pill.  I didn’t roll out of bed thinking “Yah I want to go for a run”.  I’m not entirely sure I even enjoyed it while I was doing it (infact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t)…but I can absolutely tell you that consistently waking up each morning, rolling out of bed and doing some sort of exercise before I do anything else…is doing wonders for my state of mind.

Step number 2,  in my ten steps to work life awesomeness…Moving Daily…. NAILED IT (just quietly).

Are you feeling awesome today?  I’d love to hear what tips and tricks you have for waking up and shining.

claire2

My top ten list to awesomeness…

worklifeawesome

OK team…. here it is… after my post last week,  I have scoured my resources on well being, work life balance etc etc and I have netted down that advice into….

MY TOP TEN LIST TO ACHIEVE WORK and LIFE AWESOMENESS

1) SLOW DOWNWhether it be a 40min meditation session with calming oils and mantra’s…or a simple cup of tea in the sunshine.   The experts seem pretty agreed on this one.  Keep your mind calm and reduce the intensity of your day.

2) MOVE DAILY –  Again,  how and to what intensity isn’t really the point…just get moving.  I love the advise that you should make the commitment simply to put your shoes on and go outside.  The rest…is up to the moment.

3) NOURISH YOURSELF –  Lying on the couch, snuggled up with hubby, eating whole packets of biscuits is one of my favourite pass times and I’m not going to stop doing it.  But I know that giving my body as much of the things it needs on a regular basis is going to help it to be at its best…so I need to drink the green smoothie before the biscuits?

4) USE YOUR STRENGTHS  – I had a massive turning point in my career when I did the VIA strengths survey and identified my strengths.  It helped me to focus in on the things I enjoy and put more of them into my life.   You don’t have to do a formal survey though,  just think about the things you love to do and you are good at…then make sure you are doing them, regularly.

5) MAKE TIME FOR LOVE – This is good old advice from Mum.  Spending time on work , with the kids and with friends is great.  But don’t forget to foster the relationship with the person you have chosen to share your life with (or making time to find that person).

6) CREATE BOUNDARIES and stick to them.  What are your non- negotiables?

7) GET ORGANISED –  This had to be on my list.   A clean up on the outside can help you clean up on the inside.  Get those “to do” lists out of your head and onto paper.  Do you have a system? Do you have a schedule, how are you fitting in the most important things?

8) GROW YOUR VILLAGE – As I’ve said before…it takes a village.  Take the time to consider who is in your village? How are you helping them, how can you let them help you?

9) EXPRESS GRATITUDE –  Taking the time each day to reflect on all the wonderful things you are thankful for puts a shiny light of positivity over your every day.

10) HAVE FUN  When did life get so serious?  My childhood was spent laughing until my sides hurt.  I want some of that back please.

It was actually quite hard to keep this list down to 10, there were so many things that I had to cull…but if I had too many more it would have seemed daunting and unachievable.  One thing that I kept adding in and then taking out…was having a vision.  It is not that I don’t think it is important, infact, the opposite…I think is the overarching thing that you are working towards and this is just the top ten list of the things you need to do on a daily/weekly basis to keep you sane as you work towards your vision.

So, to keep me on track I’m going to choose one item from the list each month to focus on…and I will also do a special “setting my vision” session (this may well involve scissors and sticky tape),

Follow my Facebook group for regular updates on how I go with that (I have a sneaky suspicion things may not quite go as smoothly as I have in my head right now)….and if you are not already subscribed, I’d love you to join my wordpress tribe of awesome followers (just click on the follow buttons on my website here) so you can keep track of my status with my weekly blog posts.

First up…. time to SLOW DOWN….wish me luck

claire2

Our household balance has gotten out of whack…

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The balance of chores and family responsibilities in our household seems to be getting more and more unbalanced and I’ve been reflecting on how we ended up here.   You see, it certainly wasn’t always the case.

When my husband and I first started dating (a long long time ago), we both still lived at home.   My husband’s mother was an amazing wonderwoman.  I don’t think i ever saw her sitting.  Not only did she work full time, but she put 150% into caring for her house and family.  I remember being in awe of her, but also thinking “I’m never going to be like that” (you know, those kinds of judgements we make, and then realise later in the life, that we have landed exactly where we never thought we would!).

I was, after all, a new age university graduate who thought she was going to conquer the world.   I specifically made a point of saying to my husband (then boyfriend), that I would not be an amazeballs wife like his mother.  That I expected us to share things equally and he totally agreed.   I remember one incident on our first holiday together, when he asked me how to do the laundry.  I was annoyed that he “presumed” I knew how to use the washing machine when he didn’t.  So even though I did actually know how to use it (!),  I pretended not to know and told him to do it.   And when he produced an entire wash load of newly dyed hot pink clothes,  I didn’t rant and rave and call him an idiot…i simply sigh and said “Oh no, how did that happen”…and through his own incredible investigation skills, he suggested perhaps he should not have washed the clothes with his brand new red t-shirt.  Lesson learnt the hard way.

And so, when we moved in together, the chores were split pretty evenly.  There was even a time when he injured himself on the job and had to take 6mths off work.  He became a real househusband, cooking and cleaning while I went to work.

Our first baby came along and I took 6mths off work to care for him.   My husband also took 6 weeks off work because our son started his little life in special care and I needed extra help.  So, together, we figured out how to look after this new little person and manage the house.  When I went back to work full time,  my husband arranged his shifts so he could look after our son one day a week, my parents looked after him another day and thus he only needed to be a childcare three days a week…which was an arrangement we were all comfortable with.  And our household continued to be quite balanced,  each of us of taking on the household chores and parenting in equal parts.

I suppose it was the arrival of baby number 2 when things started to shift.  Our daughters arrival coincided with my husband moving into a new role at his work,  a male dominated alpha environment where long hours, being “on call” and regular trips away were part of the package.   Our daughter was a challenging baby, 3 mths of crying nearly threw us both over the edge.  I couldn’t bare the thought of going back to work after 6mths this time, I was exhausted.  So I used all my long service leave in order to stay off for 9mths.  And then when I returned to work,  this time we agreed it may be better for me to work part time in order to juggle our now bulging priorities.

And so the gradual shift of power began.

In “Overwhelmed” by Bridget Schultz,  she talks about the power of underlying pre-conceptions we all still have about what it means to be the “ideal worker”, the “ideal mother” and “the provider father”.  That despite all our best intentions (like in our case),  the power of these ideals drives our behaviour, often without us even noticing.

Gosh, this is all starting to sound incredibly familiar…and kinda scary.

Somehow, we have come to a place where  I do 90% of the household chores, I am “in charge” of the family and house as well as working four days a week at a demanding corporate job.  Because I work from home, it seems to make sense for me to throw some washing in the machine between meetings, and take the dog for a walk at lunch time.  My husband has to start work early so I do the morning ritual, getting kids ready and to school. Cleaning up the kitchen.  When my husband goes away (which he did for 3mths last year),  I have learnt how to do everything on my own.

My husband is incredibly appreciative and grateful.  He tells me I am amazing and he doesn’t know how I do it all. Which only serves to fuel my fire and pushes me further.  I find myself scurring around the house trying to vaccum and clean before he gets home, because he is always notices and is pleased.   I know he is often stressed (physically and mentally) after work, so I don’t want to throw the kids at him the moment he walks in the door.  So even though I have also been at work all day, I throw myself into cooking the dinner and watching the kids,  whilst he has a bit of chill time to watch the news or catch up on facebook.

I have become what I always said I wouldn’t.  I have unconsciously been being driven by the need to demonstrate that I can be both the ideal mother and the ideal worker.

At one point I remember my husband suggesting maybe he should consider going part time.  I didn’t give his suggestion any thought before shooting it down (I love having that one day per week where I can really pretend to be the ideal mother, walk the kids to school and bake cookies…he couldn’t take that from me).  I know he wants to spend more time with our kids.  He tried to coach the football team last year but the drag of the “provider father” and “ideal worker” on his conscious, keeps him committed to work whenever they need him.  I’m immensely proud of the work he does and I’m always encouraging him…even when it may be to detriment of our family.

Now…don’t get me wrong in all of this.  We are both incredibly grateful for everything we have.  We have discussions about our future goals and where we are heading. We both love our jobs and we love our children.  But I’ve suddenly realised that I am responsible for taking on more than I should have and now I’m finding it hard to give it back.

And as I sit here and contemplate how I got here…I realise that is exactly the point.  I don’t know because it was never intentional.  Back in the “good old days”, I knew what I wanted and I was pretty clear about it.  So it was far easier for us to work with that.  But since then, I haven’t re-established what exactly my goal is, I haven’t asked for what I want (quite frankly because I haven’t stopped to think about it).  And when we don’t stop and think,  act with intention, those slippery old traditional models start to mould their way back into our lives.

So just like I have with my work, and with other areas of my life.  It’s time for paper and a pen (Ooo…an opportunity for list writing…woohoo)… what does my “ideal” household look like, how does it feel.  And when I have my husband stuck in the car on our next trip (I love driving holidays because we always have the best conversations when we are trapped together for hours),  I can ask what his ideal household looks like too.  And together, we can set some strategies to get us there.

Let’s start with unpacking the dishwasher shall we?

claire2

Are you really busy?

This morning I was running around like a headless chook (as usual),  I’ve managed to do my exercise (tick),  get the lunches ready (tick), tidy the house (tick) dropped the kids on the school walking bus (tick) and now I’m at work and my mind is buzzing.  I have about 20 screens open on my computer (literally), although I have two screens so surely that’s not too bad?  I have every social platform open, plus a few other websites and my personal email.  Then my work email, plus my work messaging system.  Powerpoint, Word and Excel are all open with a least one file on each (Excel has two), and the media player is on because i started to watch a video then got distracted.

There’s pinging and popping coming from several devices and my to do list is buried under a pile of…who knows what…

Phew…I’m exhausted just writing about it.

Suddenly I’m hearing little whisperings in my head….I think it’s Emma.  Yep,  its Emma.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at work, led by Emma Grey from WorkLifeBliss on the 7 types of busy.   I loved it.  OK, so first confession is that I was already a fan of Emma’s,  I’ve been following her blog for a long time now and completed her 15min Challenge program.  So I was super excited when I had the opportunity to attend this session through my work.

Whilst there is so many things in today’s hyperdriven culture that we can’t control,  there are also a lot of things that we can…and sometimes we dig our own holes (well…she didn’t exactly say that but that’s totally what I do…I’m a great digger).

Anyway, since that call, “Emma” has been showing up quite a lot in my conscious, reminding me of some of the tips and tricks I should perhaps be following.   Like every “good conscious” does,  she’s sitting on my shoulder reminding me about the importance of being focused,  and not multi-tasking so much…because frankly, pretty much NO ONE is a good multi-tasker.

I remember a friend talking about going for a job interview as a Air Traffic Controller once.   And part of the preliminary testing was giving the candidates four different exams,  then each time the buzzer went, they had to change exams,  PLUS,  there were also some verbal questions which were randomly thrown over the loud speaker.  It is designed to test how well your brain can effectively multi-task, picking up exactly where you left off from an exam 10min earlier.   Needless to say, they failed that test, and I think most of us would.

Right now, Emma is telling me to shut down some of the apps on my computer.  To find that to-do list and change it to a “could do” list…and find those big hitter items which I really actually need to get done…So… now I’ve set myself a timer. 30min on the first task before I moved onto the next one.   Tick.   Next.   Oh my goodness,  i suddenly feel so much better.  All the overwhelm I had been feeling earlier has started dropping away.  I feel like I am back in the drivers seat and in control (and we all know how much I love control).

So, thank you mini Emma, for turning up again and getting me back on track with your little tips and tricks.  Of course, Evil Claire on my other shoulder (who shalt not be named) is now weeping because we haven’t checked facebook in over an hour…she’s not happy…but we’ll talk about her another day….

claire2