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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Day 1 – #MindfulChallenge

OK step one of the mindful challenge. Start a daily meditation practice.

I’m going to do a Headspace mediation every day. I’ve had the app for about two years and throughout that time I have racked up an impressive (??) 30 meditations #winning,  so I’m thinking that I may need to be a little more consistent.

My challenge is that the meditation that is supposed to make me feel less anxious…well…makes me anxious.

My brain is very active, this morning whilst trying to focus on my breath, my brain was having its own party. Woot woot…she’s just sitting, lets go banana’s. Thoughts were popping up about things that happened in the past or plans for the future. I was thinking about all the things on my to do list, “what are the kids having for lunch today?”, “when are the school photos?”, “do I need to put my washing on?”.

But I know the drill, each time they pop up, I just acknowledge and go back to the breath. So then my brain starts being a bit crazy, at one point…it was singing songs. And there’s this “commentator”, who seems to take pleasure in doing like a voice-over for everything that is happening… and I’m a little embarrassed to say that most of this blog post was written in my head while I was trying to focus on my breath, it just kept popping up and wouldn’t go away. I tried to imagine putting my ideas in a box (I think my brain was worried about forgetting them), or imagine it as clouds in a blue sky blowing slowly away (but then my brain started singing “blue sky…nothing but blue sky..”).

And then there’s the feelings, my body hits the adrenalin response…not exactly helpful when you are trying to be calm. My stomach starts knotting. And this morning I also felt sad. Then bored. Then frustrated.

15 minute meditation complete and I’m feeling, exhausted. Pretty sure that’s not how it was meant to play out.

I know I know I know…this is exactly why I NEED to practice, why this is exactly what I should be doing. Right now it isn’t a very pleasant experience though. I’m not exactly inspired to continue.

But it’s day 1 …right… they say nothing worth doing is easy (my husbands favourite quote whenever I complain about anything..yes…yes, it is annoying).

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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

Top tips for a smooth morning…or not…

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You’ll all be pleased to know that my morning routine is now back in action.  If you recall,  daylight savings reeked havoc with my usual peaceful morning routine and it was driving me mad…literally (you can read about it here)

But thankfully, things have fallen back into place.

So I thought you might be wondering what my average morning routine looks like?  What tips and tricks you can perhaps learn from my experience?  So here it is,  in all it’s glory..,

6AM – Alarm goes off.  My husband begrudgingly drags himself out of bed,  curses that he has to go to work so early and promptly leaves the house.  I am sure that he imagines the rest of the household blissfully sleeping until 8am,  laughing over breakfast and then strolling (no…skipping..) to school.   But this is what really happens..

6.02AM  – Get out of bed.  Put exercise gear on.  Tip toe through the house with lights off, in vane effort to avoid waking the sleeping lions (if they are not already awake after elephant husband has stomped out of the house).   Trip over toys on the floor.  Nearly fall down stairs.

6.15AM – EXERCISE.  Can’t leave the house since said husband has already left.  Half heartedly start rowing, or put a DVD on.

6.30AM – The lions are awake. And they are circling.  “I’m hungry”, “When are you finished” “Can I have a go”.  I have learnt to block them out.

6.45AM – head upstairs.  Make daughter breakfast.  Decide son is old enough to make his old breakfast, tell him so.  Turn around to find him loading half a jar of Golden Syrup onto a burrito wrap.  “err…do you think perhaps some fruit and vegetable matter to balance out that sugar dear? ”  “Yes Mum, look, I have a bowl of Frozen peas”.  Okey dokey then.

7.00AM  Making lunch.  everything I put in, my daughter is taking out.  Time to get dressed.  Get son into the shower, he resists like it is the worst possible suggestion (like he doesn’t have one every morning) I just push him in.  2min later I’m trying to get him out…he is resisting like the shower was always his favourite thing in the world.  I turn the hot tap off.  Where are the clothes?  It is about this point I wish that my evening routine includes getting everything ready for the next day.  I know this is what wise and organised people do, but at the end of the day it is last thing I feel like doing. Now I am annoyed at myself as I frantically pull the house apart trying to find shoes, hats and other school required accessories.   Brush daughters hair and she screams like a banshee being stabbed to death.

7.30AM Trying to wrangle kids who have decided to play a game which involves taking blankets off the bed and trying to slide down the stairs.   At this point I’m questioning my decision not to have TV in the mornings.  We used to have TV, then we had no TV until “dispatch ready”…e.g clothed, fed, packed and ready to go as soon as i say “dispatch”..   I’m open to anything that works.  Right now,  we are on a “no tv in the morning” phase, due to the hell that was created last week when one was “dispatch ready” and the other wasn’t…don’t make me re-live the torture

8AM.  I’ve decided to ignore them.  I’m in the shower.  Bliss.  For 1min before they find me.  My daughter is complaining that her hair hurts.  My son is asking if he can play computer games (err…no…the same rule which applies  EVERY MORNING!).   If I shut my eyes I can block them out.

8.02AM  Open my eyes.   Kids have got the nail polish out and are painting each others nails (aka fingers).  I catch myself before I scream “what the? are you doing” at the top of my lungs.  “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter”  it’s my new mindful mantra…are they even allowed to go to school with nailpolish?  I don’t think so but I don’t have time to care.   “Do you have any boy colours mum? like blue”   “there are no boy and girl colours dear,  you can choose pink”  …no gender bias in this house…kapow…I’m on fire.

8,20AM  Straddling the children on the floor, trying to blow dry my hair.  “Can you blow dry our nails?”.

8.25AM  $*&% just realised the time.  5min to get to the school bus.  Hit panic buttons…start clapping loudly and yelling “lets go lets go” .  everyone ignoring me   “where are you hats, where are your shoes?  Why are you not ready…you were ready before” .  I used to have a bell for this time of the day.  I walked around the house ringing it without saying anything.  It was quite effective.   Where is that bell?

8.30AM  Finally left the house.  Walking down driveway  “it’s library day today, do we have my book?”  “I need to do a poo”.   RUN back in the house.  Search frantically for the book.   wait for toilet completion.

8.35AM  Running down hill to the corner.   Sorry sorry…we are here.   Big Kisses.  Have a great day.

9.00AM  Sitting in my peaceful study with a cup of tea…ready to start my “real” work.

AND that my friends is how it is done. Learn from the master.

claire2

3 simple steps to beat the afternoon slump

Move daily2

It is about 4pm in the afternoon and I feel like I need toothpicks to hold my eyelids open.   Exhausted doesn’t quite seem to cover it.   This is the time of day my body seems to go into under drive.   My brain starts losing concentration, I don’t have much patience and my eyes literally hurt at the effort at keeping them open.  Yesterday at this time, I was in a work telecon and I started to speak, then completely forgot what I was saying, like literally left them hanging mid sentence… luckily someone else picked up the slack and I went back to staring vacantly into space..  (which begs the question as to why I am using this clearly bad time of day to write a blog post… that is a good question… one I can’t answer but will be my excuse for not pumping out an extra-ordinary post)…

Interestingly though,  there is one thing which usually improves my afternoon slump… and it actually starts in the morning.

Exercise.

As much as I would love to snuggle under the blankets in the morning.  Especially when it is freezing cold outside.  The facts unequivocally confirm that starting my day with some kind of movement…sets the tone for the entire day and weirdly (since it is sooo long after).. helps me bypass the afternoon slump without as much effort.

On that note, I think you can guess where I was this morning.  That’s right…under the nice toasty warm doona enjoying a sleep in (yep, that’s right peeps…stayed in bed until 6.39am… you’d think I’d be soo well rested).

Which brings me (FINALLY…i hear you say)…to the point of today’s post…which is the 2nd point in my Ten Steps to Work Life Awesomeness…MOVE DAILY

I purposely use the word “move” rather than exercise.  Because the word exercise has a lot of connotations for many people.  And actually,  you really don’t have to do a crazy 1hr Body Attack session for it to have impact.  Infact,  I was reading in Sarah’s most recent “I Quite Sugar” book (don’t worry, I won’t actually be quitting sugar any time soon, but reading about it makes me feel very virtuous)… that the most recent research tells us that just doing a bit of light movement is much better for us.

There are three things that really stick in my mind when it comes to committing to a daily movement routine

1)  Just put your shoes on amd walk outside.   That’s it.   If you focus on that piece of the puzzle,  it seems so much easier than forcing yourself to commit to three one hour cardio sessions per week etc etc.   Because the chances are pretty high, if you put your shoes on and walk outside….you’ll keep walking, hell, you may even run.  You may decide to drive to that gym class or go do some weights.   But often the hardest part is just getting started.   So focus on just getting started,  then let the rest come naturally (and on those days when you really do just walk outside, and then walk back inside again…it really really doesn’t matter).

2) Just Fricken Do it.  This is Michelle Bridges slogan.  I like it though.   Because often we expect to always feel motivated or in the mood to go out and do some sort of exercise.  But the reality is, most of the time you don’t.   Consistency is the most important thing.  So don’t stop and think about whether you should or shouldn’t, or how long you should go for, or if the weather is nice enough.  Stop thinking and just do it.  Coming from an overthinker,  this one really works for me.

3) Just move more.  I spend a lot of time just sitting staring at my computer screen all day.   So I have to make a conscious effort to move more in my day. Walk the kids to school, walk around the block in my break, use the “stand up” desks at work (has your office caught onto this fad,  thought I was uber cool when I went in and wound my desk up all the way.  Feels totally weird standing up and working). When I am feeling slumpy,  I know it is because I have spent too much of my day sitting still, not simply moving.

So…this brings me back to my afternoon slump.  I nice reminder from my body that I missed my daily movement today, and I’m paying for it.

Time to get my routine back on track.  To get out of bed, put my shoes on and just fricken do it… I know I will thank myself for it (and hopefully you’ll be thanking me too!).

Good vibes and lollipops to you all (Oh wait…no lollipops… hula hoops…because you can do exercise with those…it’s true, I’m thinking of doing a course with my sister, but that is a story for another day)…

claire2