Self-doubt as Jasmine’s Mummy

Do you ever question yourself about the way your children are and whether you’re doing the right thing? I do it all the time with Jasmine and always have done, especially on those days that don’t go so well. I know it’s my personality to be sensitive, emotional and over-analytical and it’s also her personality to be highly sensitive, emotional, perceptive and unpredictable.

There’s more though….Jasmine is having some difficulties breathing properly which has been going on for some time now. She breathes through her mouth not her nose, is always congested, always has a runny nose, snores loudly and snorts all day to try and clear her nose.  She often sounds like Darth Vadar and you can quite literally see and hear her struggling to breathe normally. The winter weather seems to be exacerbating things but now our “bad” or difficult days are now far outnumbering the good days leaving me feeling full of self-doubt, sadness and guilt. It’s impossible to know which version of Jasmine will show up each day and it’s also impossible to know why that particular version shows up!

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Jasmine is a child of high highs and low lows, as I guess all children are really. She’s either dancing around the house to Lady Gaga spinning in circles and shrieking with delight, running to see who is at the door and eagerly asking to play with me, or, she’s watching TV for 90% of the day, crying at the mere site of a kind stranger and the most used word in her vocabulary will be “no”.

There are times she’s happy to try all sorts of new foods, eat fruit & veg by the gallon and enjoy avocado and quinoa but there are times the only things she’ll eat all day are a box of raisins, a snack bar, crisps and cake, with even her favourite meals being rejected. That day was today.

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There are times she has an abundant energy, bouncing out the door ready to go swimming or to a friend’s house to play but there are many, many days where leaving the house is as hard a task as climbing Mount Everest. No offer of going here, going there or going anywhere is good enough and she just seems in a constant state of fatigue or disinterest. There are days she wakes up in the morning and doesn’t stop talking and singing, or, there are days where she wakes up crying and keeps crying about everything that happens for at least an hour or more. There are times when we giggle, we run, we play, we jump and we explore but there are days when we walk on egg shells around her because if the slightest thing goes wrong, there’s a waterfall of tears ready to come flooding out. There are times when your energy seems abundant and times when you barely move all day. Is this just toddlers? Is this just Jasmine? Is this just me?

I worry when we have days like that. I wonder what is going on inside her body and her mind to make it a difficult day for her. Is she not feeling well but can’t recognise that sensation? Is she just really tired but no longer able to nap? Is she not able to breathe well enough to feel energised and healthy? Does she genuinely just want to stay at home all day to play? Is the unpredictability of random outings too much for her? Is she still adjusting to the arrival of her sister? Then I worry that it’s me. Perhaps I’m too soft with her or perhaps she has too much control. Perhaps she’s just testing me and I should “put my foot down”. Perhaps there’s actually no problem at all and I’m wasting precious energy worrying for nothing.

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I’m still learning to trust that much of all this is all OK and totally normal. The highs and lows and the roller-coaster are what every toddler and every parent experiences, right? I’m still learning to let go of that worry and go with the flow, knowing she is a happy, healthy, loving and thriving child. I’m still learning that she can’t always tell me how she feels using words so uses actions instead. I’m still learning all about her and all about myself at the same time. I’m still learning not to compare her to others. I’m still learning to focus on the positives, what we did do not what we didn’t.

I wish I could have a crystal ball to see into my children’s future. A way to look forward 20 years and see that everything turned out OK and that the “bad days” didn’t really matter at all, that maybe it was just her way of trying to tell me exactly what she needed, her way of showing me her unique way of learning and developing. For now, my job is to support her through the bad days and enjoy with her the good ones.

“Excuse the face,” and other things Mums need to stop saying

“Excuse the face,” is probably something you’re either guilty of saying or privy to hearing amongst your Mum friends or maybe just your female friends in general. If it’s not that then maybe it’s, “I haven’t even put any makeup on today,” “gosh, I look so rough,” “excuse the bags under my eyes” or, “sorry I look such a mess.”  We are full of these apologies, prefixing conversations or meet ups with friends with a comment about our seemingly less than acceptable appearance, as if the need to do so comes as a priority before anything else we may want to say.

I am so guilty of this. So guilty. I apologise for the way I look or the way my house looks all the time….even to my best friends! Although it’s often very true that as a busy and extremely sleep deprived mum of two, I haven’t put makeup on or do in fact have bags under my eyes, this is just my daily reality. I don’t feel my best or my most confident but I do not need to apologise for this. If I take a photo to capture a real and present moment of my motherhood life and see my bare face, my dressing gown and my wild postpartum hair, my immediate reaction is to find fault. Even when it’s a moment I want to cherish or share, I see my greasy hair in a mum bun and those pesky tired eyes and feel like it’s not good enough, that my appearance or the dirty dishes in the background take centre stage over the looks on my girls faces as we cuddle on the sofa first thing in the morning.

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Although it may be stating the very obvious, we do not need to apologise for our appearance to anyone and especially not to other Mums. We are a collective group of super women doing the hardest job in the world and we are worth so much more than our appearance. We are up all night, surviving on very little sleep, making sure the needs of small people are met all day long and yet we still feel the need to look a certain way in order to feel OK about ourselves.

Our tired eyes and messy hair exist because we are working our butts off with barely a second to ourselves. Our clothes are stained and our floors are dirty because we are mothering all day long and getting the kids’ breakfast ready comes higher up the list than applying foundation.

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Do you know what the most crazy part is? When we bring children into the world we are at our most vulnerable. Our most exposed. We are raw and unfiltered, often amongst total strangers. Nature forces us to let our guards down and become the most natural, powerful and miraculous versions of ourselves that we may ever be. Then we spend the months that follow fulfilling a societal pressure to look good (thanks Patriarchy) and apologising when we feel that we don’t. Our children hear these phrases. Our children copy our every move and learn so much of their own self worth from our actions and our words. Our children hear their mothers apologising for how they look but not their fathers.

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Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in our own skin and if you choose to make that a priority, more power to you! I for one would love to have time to blow dry my hair or put makeup on every morning and I know in many ways I would feel better for it. I would feel more confident, more uplifted and more like myself. Makeup can give us that little boost when we don’t otherwise feel great, but please, let’s stop excusing ourselves to others. Let’s talk about what we are achieving, succeeding at or most importantly how we are feeling. “I had such little sleep last night so I’m not feeling great,” is so much better than, “I had such little sleep last night so I look awful,” because I think really, that is what we are trying to say. I’m not feeling great and could really use some more sleep. I’d love some time to myself because I’m feeling overwhelmed. Can you help with the dishes because I’m feeling like there’s too much to do. That’s what we really want to say, isn’t it?

So next time you’re about to utter an apology for your face, just remember this. Our children never judge us for the way we look. I’ve often thought about how I get the same happy smiles and the same kisses and cuddles from my girls whether I’ve just rolled out of bed or whether I’m wearing makeup and have my hair done. It’s like they just don’t see any difference or even if they do, it changes nothing for them. I’m just their Mummy and any version of me will do just perfectly.

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Let’s meet in Down-dog

Down dog, cobra, tree, cat-cow, eagle, fish, lotus….no, I’m not talking about my love of animals and nature, I’m talking about yoga, or more so, the lack there of.  The ‘me’ before having children practised yoga all the time. The hashtag “yoga every damn day” got used on my Instagram photos almost, well, every damn day and I even had the naivety to imagine that I’d spend my first maternity leave practising yoga whilst the baby slept and becoming a pro hand stander in my spare time. (Feel free to pause here to laugh at my foolishness!) The pre-baby me went to yoga retreats and classes, read books, had way too many pairs of yoga pants and even considered applying for yoga teacher training. Yoga was a huge part of my life and identity, both for the physical exercise and the spiritual practice. It was my down time, my work out, my escape, my hobby, my passion. Yoga is even what led me to veganism. After Jasmine was born, I tried to cling onto my yogi identity by practising when I could and getting Jasmine involved on the mat, doing some baby yoga and making time lapse videos of our efforts but it didn’t last for long.

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Baby Jasmine practising on her mat!

Baby Jasmine soon become toddler Jasmine and things then got even crazier. Throw in returning to work, new found passions, business ventures and eventually falling pregnant again and yoga got pushed even further down the to-do-list, taking a long old rest in child’s pose, waiting for me to catch up again.

Now with two children, when things have been getting a little overwhelming, OK, a lot overwhelming (blog coming soon) I’ve felt a big pull towards yoga, yet not been able to get there. You know, that classic feeling of knowing what’s good for you but instead of hopping on the mat, I’ve been hopping onto the sofa to watch TV. I think perhaps now though, I really need it. I know I need to move my body more. I know I need to build strength again, to use my muscles, to flow, to release, to sweat, to cry. I can do all that on my yoga mat. I can have fun, be creative and relax. I can calm down, get energised and learn something new. Yoga can be the outlet for absolutely everything I am yearning to have yet feel that I’m missing.

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A spot of acro-yoga on the beach

At the risk of sounding like a total cliché, I think I am seeking a way back to parts of my old identity, when being a Mum wasn’t my everything and when raising two young girls didn’t take up 99.9% of my daily energy. All the other hats we wear as Mums get a smaller piece of the pie now too…wife, friend, professional, let alone having time for our passion projects. Why is it as Mums we seem to have a never-ending wish list for time? Time for yoga, time for making photo albums (sorry girls, I still haven’t started yours), time for an uninterrupted shower, time to read a book, time to tidy that cupboard of crap over there, time to complete a million and one jobs I could list to you if I simply had the time to write the list! Of course, it’s all a case of prioritising and certainly we can all make time for the things we really want to achieve, even if it takes slightly more effort to do so. I think I am seeking a way back to parts of my old identity, when being a Mum wasn’t my everything and when raising two young girls didn’t take up 99.9% of my daily energy. All the other hats we wear as Mums get a smaller piece of the pie now too…wife, friend, professional, let alone having time for our passion projects. Why is it as Mums we seem to have a never-ending wish list for time? Time for yoga, time for making photo albums (sorry girls, I still haven’t started yours), time for an uninterrupted shower, time to read a book, time to tidy that cupboard of crap over there, time to complete a million and one jobs I could list to you if I simply had the time to write the list! Of course, it’s all a case of prioritising and certainly we can all make time for the things we really want to achieve, even if it takes slightly more effort to do so.

When I stepped on my mat earlier today it was like riding a bike. The postures and the flow came straight back to me, like I had never left after all. It didn’t matter that my body was stiff or in pain or that it was only ten minutes. I instantly felt that wave of relief and that space for deep healing breaths. I immediately felt a sense of belonging and longing and I immediately knew I need this back in my life.

So, here’s to project “get back on the mat”, I am very, very excited!

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Let’s get back on the mat!

Is it just me?

Is it just me who loves being a Mum
But also wishes I could have more fun?
Is it just me who finds it so tough,
Day in day out, it can be so rough.

Is it just me whose house is always a mess,
Who frantically tidies before having guests?
Is it just me who feels like a winner,
When I don’t just make pesto pasta for dinner?

Is it just me who wishes for time
For yoga and books and other things mine?
Is it just me who always feels tired
But being a good mum keeps me feeling inspired.

Is it just me who plays all day long
Whose baby smiles at her favourite song?
Is it just me who worries too much
Because I’m not doing enough of such and such?

Is it just me who wishes for sleep
Who hears the baby wake as soon as they peep?
Is it just me who sometimes cries
When you suddenly realise how time flies?

Is it just me who opens the door
To check on her babies just one time more?
Is it just me who wants to run away
To forget my responsibilities just for one day?

Is it just me whose eyes fill with tears
As I think about my hopes and fears?
Is it just me who never quite knew
Just how much I’d change having you?

Is it just me who learns every day
Because you are the ones who show me the way?
Is it just me who stares into your eyes
And wonders how I won the prize?

Is it just me who is awake all the night
Feeding and cuddling and holding you tight?
Is it just me who needs to be told
“You’re doing great,”… that never gets old.

Is it just me who needs a break
Perhaps a hot tea and a big piece of cake?
Is it just me who gets driven mad
Who feels everything in between happy and sad?

Is it just me who worries about you
Like sometimes I just don’t know what to do?
Is it just me who can’t do it alone
And is thankful for all the mums in my phone?

Is it just me who escapes to the shower
For 5 quiet minutes but wants a whole hour?
Is it just me who can’t stop kissing those cheeks
Who wants to slow down the passing weeks?

Is it just me who feels incredibly proud
Who wants to show the world and shout it out loud?
Is it just me who never feels good enough
I should probably be doing more crafty stuff?

Is it just me whose dream has come true
By becoming a mummy to both of you?
Is it just me who doesn’t want you to grow
Yet wants you to, so there’s more I can know.

Is it just me who needs more time for self-care
For exercise, napping or washing my hair?
Is it just me who thought I knew how it would be
But then becoming a mother truly humbled me.

Is it just me who has a big dark fear
That something bad will happen when I’m not near?
Is it just me who does the same as my Mum
Giving a magic kiss better when you hurt your thumb?

Is it just me who needs her friends
To help with all that motherhood sends?
Is it just me who gives a laugh and smile
When I watch that old video I haven’t seen for a while?

Is it just me who wants to protect you from bad
In a world that can sometimes seem a little bit mad?
Is it just me who has marks on her skin
From the days from when I grew you within?

Is it just me who wants to give all Mums a hug
To offer support with a drink in a mug.
Is it just me who wouldn’t change a thing
Who can’t wait to see what the future will bring.

Postpartum Hair Loss

I was in the shower the other day, enjoying my five minutes of relative peace and quiet, when all of a sudden it started. After almost a year of my hair growing ever thicker thanks to the miracle combination of pregnancy hormones, it has once again started to fall out. When I’m pregnant, my hair habits change so much and I’m always intrigued as to why nature has evolved in this way. My hair rarely needs washed and barely a single hair ever falls out resulting in a rather untamed lions mane! I’m not quite sure why thicker, cleaner hair is an advantage for pregnancy but I’m sure somebody somewhere knows the answer.

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9 months pregnant with Summer

The postpartum period or the fourth trimester as it’s also lovingly known, is like a place between two worlds. You have a new baby and are no longer pregnant but your body is still in a state of recovery, no matter how fast paced life is all around you (if you have a toddler that is!)  All of a sudden, 3 months after giving birth and at almost an identical time to when it happened after having Jasmine, my body is sending me a sign that the precious fourth trimester is now coming to an end. Perhaps pregnancy makes you more attuned to what is happening in your body but I certainly notice these subtle and not so subtle changes all the time. Now I need to wash my hair more often and it’s falling out at a rate fast enough to make me think I’ll be going bald by the end of the month. What is this strange phenomenon?

To me, this sudden and fairly drastic change is another reminder that there’s a whole system working it’s magic inside my body that knows exactly what to do and when. Hormones! Hormones doing their thing just like they did throughout pregnancy, birth, postpartum and now. This change is significant for different reasons though. My body is changing again and it’s like I’m now leaving this pregnancy behind, saying farewell to the sacred journey I had and preparing for another move forward. Now I don’t feel so, “just given birth” and feel more, “full on mum of 2!” My muscle separation is healing and except for lack of sleep and breastfeeding, my body feels much more normal, like it’s wiggling back into it’s comfort zone, not quite the same one as before but a comfortable one none-the-less.

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Enjoying my mop of thick hair whilst it lasts!

Summer is changing too, all at once. She’s no longer content with days at home, cuddles, long sleepy feeds and staring at our faces. She suddenly needs toys, outings and experiences and she loves everything we’re showing her. Perhaps it’s her way of saying she’s ready for the world now too, no longer a newborn but a fully fledged baby!

The transformation into Motherhood is really never ending and there is a constant ebb and flow both physically and emotionally that when you stop to notice it, is really quite the wild ride. Now things are settling, it seems. Our family structure feels as if it’s always been this way. Jasmine has fully accepted Summer into the fold and their relationship is blossoming every day.

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Jasmine and Summer

So today I’m feeling grateful for my human experience. Thankful that I get to witness the miracles of the human body, my body, and what it can achieve. I continue to feel humbled by the way our bodies know exactly what to do and even when I might not understand the reasons or enjoy all the sensations, I know it is all to be embraced.

 

Anything is possible, isn’t it?

“I think I want to start being ‘Zero Waste'” are the words that I want to say but that I don’t quite feel ready to. I’m inspired but daunted, motivated but scared, at the bottom of the learning curve but ready to climb.

“Zero waste” wasn’t a term I was familiar with until I became vegan and even then, it’s only been recently I’ve really started to take more notice of it. In essence, living zero waste means trying to live a life that minimises disposables (waste) by refusing single use plastics and recycling and reusing as much as possible. It means trying to never throw anything into the bin, unless it’s a compost bin! How is that even possible I hear you say. Well, me too. I hear myself saying it too. How can you eat a packet of crisps without throwing something in the bin afterwards? Surely some waste is an inevitable part of modern life?

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Food storage goals, plastic free!

When you look around though, you will see that disposables and plastics are absolutely everywhere. From the bag of pasta you innocently buy in the shop, to the toothbrush you just threw away last week. From cotton buds to a sandwich packet, from wrapping paper to baby wipes, from takeaway boxes to washing up bottles and from a Starbucks coffee cup to a party balloon. Almost every single thing we (me included) purchase, is in some way disposable and a huge majority of things come with some form of plastic packaging, labelling or bag. What I’m starting to learn since delving into this world is that just recycling our plastic bottles isn’t quite enough and there is a hidden environmental footprint behind almost everything we buy.

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Every bit of plastic ever created, still exists

When I became vegan I suddenly became hyper aware of the extent to which we exploit animals for our own use and I would start to notice animal products everywhere I went. Now, I’m starting to see it with plastic and again, it’s a huge awakening. Not only that but I’m struck with the fact that if I don’t take responsibility for making more conscious purchases, then who will? I’m as guilty as the next person at buying disposables for convenience and enjoyment, for ease and for saving time. I take advantage of instant purchasing on Amazon and order a takeaway when we’ve got an empty fridge because all those things just make a life a little easier sometimes.

In the vegan movement, there is a saying, “there’s no excuse for animal abuse,” and perhaps the same can be said about waste. What is our excuse for throwing so much away and is our excuse good enough?

So just as I decide I’m ready to start making some changes, there’s that age old question that comes to mind….how would I make a difference? Me refusing plastic won’t stop plastic being on the shelves. Me switching to cloth nappies won’t stop nappies being produced. Me trying to buy as much second hand as possible won’t reduce the production line on new products. The plastic will still be there. But then I remember that surely refusing it, recycling it and reusing it is still the better option? One less piece of plastic actually making it to landfill is still better for the planet. Plus, if I let the fact that despite me being vegan, meat is still everywhere I look, bother me, I wouldn’t be doing very well. The vegan movement has grown hugely in the relatively short amount of time I’ve been vegan. None of this would happen if people’s decisions didn’t start to have an influence so I’m hopeful this may be the same for plastics.

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“If only bananas had robust, natural, biodegradable packaging on their own. Some sort of peelable skin, perhaps”

Can I really do it though? I’m going to have to sacrifice so much! When I first went vegan I was asked a lot how I could live without certain things I had become accustomed to and enjoyed. How would I live without cheese and steak and eggs? But I do, and I’m happier for it. Now I’m faced with similar decisions like what to do if I just fancy a takeaway but don’t want the wasteful containers. How do you still enjoy crisps if they are always sold in non recyclable packaging? What do you do about gifts and presents? How do you fit into a society that isn’t yet zero waste and what to do if you are going to alienate yourself even further for trying to further align your beliefs to your actions.

Let’s be honest. I’m not going to become a Zero Waste superhero overnight. I am a Mummy to two young girls who take up the majority of my time (quite rightly) and I don’t live somewhere with easy access to bulk buy stores or fresh food markets. The reality is that the supermarket is round the corner and if we are out of bread and veggies, that’s where I’d be headed. What I can do though is start to learn, stay open minded and make some immediate changes now.

I’m here on this planet with a purpose. I want to evolve, continue to learn and improve. I want to take responsibility for the world in which I have been gifted a place. I want to protect the Earth for my children and their children too. I believe that one person can make a difference but collectively the difference can be huge.

Watch this space….

Don’t go, Summer

With the Autumn Equinox behind us and the weather on the turn I’m feeling really nostalgic for all things Summer…both the baby and the season! This summer season was a biggie for our family. The anticipation of our second baby arriving, our last few months spent as a family of three and an intense heat wave certainly made it a summer to remember. Wow! Those days seem so long ago already and looking back at photos of our adventures with Jasmine and ‘bump’ brings me so much joy. How is it possible that Jasmine already seems to have grown up into a different child yet again in the few months that have passed since then? I have such happy memories of our time in the hot weather, playing in the paddling pool in our garden, spending hours outside, having picnics and ice creams, going to our first ‘festival’ and boiling away in the intense heat with only a single fan in the house to keep us cool. I will fondly remember this summer of fun, the 3 of us (and bump), and the gorgeous never-ending sunshine which I’ve come to appreciate so much these days.

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Jasmine enjoying the sunshine in the garden
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Jasmine at her first festival 4 days before Summer arrived

Then there’s the other Summer, our aptly named second baby girl born during the heat wave of July this year who has transformed us into a family of four, made Jasmine a big sister and brought us all more happiness than we could have imagined. Summer is growing and changing so quickly and the weeks are flying by in a flash. She has a huge gorgeous smile, takes lovely long naps and has such an easy-going and relaxed nature (so far!) I am in absolutely no rush for her to grow up and wish I could slow down time to enjoy her just as she is, to soak in those snuggles and stare at those eyes. I already worry that my memories of her time as a newborn seem distant. Did I take enough photos? Will I remember those precious first weeks in years to come? Did I make enough time to take it all in? I haven’t recorded all the details or memorised the dates of her milestones because time just seems to have vanished somehow. (They said this would happen with baby number 2 and I guess ‘they’ must be right!) Summer will soon be 3 months old and although there is so much fun ahead of us, my heart feels a little sad that my little one is already growing up so much and there’s nothing I can do to stop it!

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Summer as a newborn

So summer is over and autumn is officially here. My newborn has grown in a flash and I’m left with a feeling of slight sadness and apprehension. The seasonal change at this time of year is always a challenge for me, let alone when the clocks change! I adore long light evenings and detest it getting dark at 4pm. I’ve noticed that with the seasons changing, my thought pattern is becoming a little negative and that is something I need to keep in check. I’m feeling disgruntled at thoughts of cold weather and the inevitable colds and flues that Jasmine will bring home from nursery and no doubt pass to her sister. I’m aware that the upcoming seasons present an even greater challenge to be productive and active and resist the urge to hibernate under a blanket every night of the week. I’m already longing for another summer of sun that now seems so far away. The transition this year is more difficult than ever because it carries more emotional significance and I feel like I’m saying goodbye to a time I will never get back again but have enjoyed so, so much. I know I need to remain positive, get outside, focus on my gratitude and move with the flow of life, which includes babies growing up and seasons changing and as always, I’m focusing on the lessons that all these feelings can teach me.

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Newborn yawns

Being your Mummy teaches me so much and no less on this occasion. This week and in this transition, I’m focusing my thoughts on these important things….

  • Practicing mindful parenting. Learning to slow down and savour those precious moments without distractions. Taking time to really ‘be’ with my children, whether it’s for half an hour or five minutes but to be fully present is such a rewarding experience but can be so hard to accomplish in today’s world of business and ‘to do’ lists.
  • Go with the flow. The seasons changing is part of life (especially living in the UK) and is also Mother Nature’s best work. Every season comes back around each year and moving with the flow of this can help me to remain tuned in to all the good things that they bring. Each season and each new stage with a baby brings about new beginnings and new things to enjoy.
  • All good things must come to an end. The glorious, precious newborn days (which I appreciated so much more this time round) may have come to an end but it doesn’t mean the memories aren’t there. The good things teach us what we love about life. For me this summer has shown me I appreciate hot weather and being outside with Jasmine and that I can strive to achieve elements of that in the other seasons too.
  • Take photos! Yes, technology is both a blessing and a curse and yes our phones can take us away from being present with our kids but I am so thankful for our ability to capture happy moments on camera with no limitations. One of my favourite things to do is look back at photos on my phone whether it’s from a year ago or a week ago and it never fails to make be smile thinking about those moments or talking about how much Jasmine and Summer have changed. Photos are a way of preserving memories both for myself and my girls.
  • Gratitude. This is the biggie! I know that when I’m feeling low or when those negative thought patterns kick in, coming back to a gratitude practice always lifts my mood. So rather than getting frustrated when it’s dark at 4pm and wishing for something else, I’m going to remember by gratitude practice. Gratitude for the change in seasons and the different experiences they bring. Gratitude for the abundant life I’m living. Gratitude for being a mother.
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Our smiley Summer