A bed time to remember

Jasmine, you just amazed me with your kindness, your maturity and your compassion.

I was lying with you at bed time, stroking your hair to help you relax as you had been rather excited. Daddy was out so it was just me and you, with Summer already asleep in her bed.

Summer suddenly started crying, which isn’t unusual but as you probably knew when you heard it, that meant I needed to go to her. I told you I’d be right back but you burst into tears and insisted on coming with me which of course, I allowed, because those tears were pure sadness.

You sat quietly on my bed whilst I lifted Summer out the cot and cuddled her back to sleep. I wondered what you were thinking then, seeing me cuddle Summer. Were you jealous or just watching? Were you sad or comforted?

I put Summer back down and we snuck out but in your innocence you started talking a little too loudly, waking her once again as we got to the door. Hesitantly, we went to your room and I hoped, maybe, although I knew it wouldn’t happen, that Summer would settle on her own because the thought of leaving you again to go her had my heart all twisted and sad. Instead you turned around and said, “oh Mummy, Summer is crying you need to go give her a cuddle.”

You gave me permission to go to her, not because you were trying to stay up later but purely because you understood it’s what she needed. I was so grateful in that moment for your kindness, being able to soothe Summer once again without worrying (too much) about you.

Again you sat on my bed as I held your sister in my arms. You popped back to your room to grab your Ellie Nellie and then lay still on my bed, watching, just quietly. I put Summer back in her cot but she woke up crying straight away, wanting more time with me and wanting to feed.

We went back to your room and I explained that I needed to be with Summer for longer. I explained that I’d come right back to you just as soon as I could. I explained that Daddy was out when you asked for him.

I fed Summer and she calmed instantly, her head becoming heavy as she found sleep again and I could hear you in your room, waiting, understanding, yawning and sighing. You could’ve been crying, pulling at my clothes wanting me all for yourself as often happens at bedtime but tonight was so different.

I came back to you and you were awake, ready for cuddles of your own. I held you and told you how proud I was that you’d waited for Mummy and how kind you had been to Summer. I told you what an amazing big sister you were.

Then you paused and looked up at me. You said, “I want to share my Mummy with Summer,” and those eight words of kindness overwhelmed me. I love you so much, angel girl.

Creativity in Motherhood

I’ve never considered myself much of a creative person. I’m the one drawing stick people and a house whilst my husband Ben is sketching faces full of character. I’m just no good at drawing and whilst I appreciate so many forms of creativity, “creative” has just never been an adjective I would have used to describe myself.

Since Motherhood transformed my life, I’ve realised that my words are my creativity and that I crave time to write because there is just so much to say. Sometimes I feel like I could write a chapter about each day that goes by raising these kiddos and that in itself, is creative. Making time for writing has now shifted way higher up my priority list in a way that I never expected. As Mothers, we devote our days to our small people and at times, the days can feel repetitive, tiresome and like one big exercise in planning and logistics.

Just as others may crave going for a run, making a new recipe, planning a yoga sequence, sinking into a good book or perhaps good old retail therapy, for me, having an outlet to write and share my emotions, tell stories, write poems and document the highs and lows of this motherhood journey…that’s my creativity. My blogs and even my Instagram captions are a way for me to write about my life now, as it happens. To write about my children, my emotions, my joys and my vulnerabilities. To write about my interests and my learnings, a place to write about my personal growth and for those words to then exist as something concrete and outside of my mind, for my children to one day read, for others to read if they choose to and for me to treasure as my work.

Writing has become a therapeutic outlet. It’s my way of trying to make sense of the craziness of life and be it about pregnancy, babies, toddlers, veganism, minimalism or anything else at all, it doesn’t matter. It’s the process of creating something that matters. The process of pouring words out and working on them until they mirror the emotions in my mind and the feelings in my body so that anyone who reads them can “get it” too.

I have developed a new appreciation for creativity, in particular around the theme of motherhood. I value what is being created by Mothers, for Mother’s whether that is art, music, podcasts, blogs, comedy, books, interiors, clothing and more.

These words are my art, my contribution to the female collective, to the sisterhood of Mothers and most importantly, for myself.

What holidays teach us about minimalism

I cannot get the idea of “minimalism” out of my mind and it’s certainly become one of my top goals for 2019. I don’t know how far the journey will take me and I also know, just by looking around me, that I’m still just at the very start, but I’m excited to continue to evaluate why I’m keeping hold of my possessions and create a home environment that makes me feel calm, happy and joyful. Back in November, I de-cluttered more than 400 things from our home (blog to follow…at some point) and I’ve since stumbled across blogs and Instagram accounts that as well as looking pretty, clearly demonstrate how owning less can benefit so many aspects of our lives.

Since the beginning of January, we have been in Israel and are living here for a month, a half holiday, half short term re-location of sorts. We deliberately tried to pack lightly (tricky with a toddler and a baby) because I was determined to see how we would a) manage with minimal belongings for a month and b) what impact it would have on us as a family.

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The thing is I think most of us already know, deep down, that it’s not things that make us happy but the things we do. If I think back to the times in my life where I’ve felt the most free, the most alive and the least stressed, it would almost certainly be the times where I’ve had minimal belongings. I’ve been privileged enough to have done a fair bit of backpacking (oh those days before children) and living out of a rucksack and simply not being able to have too much always made for the very best experiences.

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So what have I learnt about minimalism during a months stay in Israel? Let me tell you.

  • Holidays make us happy: if we are happiest on holiday, doing more and having less, surely this is a lesson for our everyday life too? When we go on holiday, whether for a week, two or four, we take our necessary belongings in our suitcase. We pack for certain eventualities, especially with children, but for the most part, we pack our favourite things, the ones we know we love and want to wear and even then, there’s always items that come home unworn because they were “just in case” after all.
  • We don’t miss our things:  We don’t miss the things in our homes whilst we’re away but we may miss our home itself. Maybe I miss my house plant babies but otherwise I don’t miss my things and even if I try to think about what I miss, nothing particularly springs to mind. I haven’t needed anything whilst away that I’ve kept back home. So if we can live on our holidays with a minimal number of belongings and focus on memories, experiences and so on, why not do that at home, all the time?
  • There is always a to-do list: whether at home or away, there is always going to be laundry to do, toys to tidy away, dishes to wash and floors to sweep and children to look after and that doesn’t change. We’ve muttered the words, “we have a lot of clearing up to do,” or, “there’s still washing in the machine,” so many times this trip because let’s face it, kids make mess (whether they mean to or not) and time for tidying is always in short supply, especially when you’d rather be hanging out at the beach! However, what is easier is the feeling that our limited belongings take less time to wash, clean and tidy. There isn’t an excess of stuff to worry about and that is certainly quite freeing.
  • Changing habits takes work: Having less stuff has highlighted something important to me about myself and that is that I am the one who also needs to make a change to my own habits. Even here, whilst living with less and knowing all the benefits, it’s still me whose clothes don’t get put away at the end of the day or who struggles to actively tidy up, notice what needs done and prioritise those tasks over other things. I’m certainly not aiming for perfection but aiming for self-improvement is always a good thing. Changing my habits may need to co-exist with the minimalism goal for me to really notice a difference!
  • Jasmine is calmer (in some ways): I’m not pretending for a second that holidays with minimal things are a miracle cure for toddler tantrums but it has been interesting to see Jasmine in an environment of less. For one thing, she chooses to wear the same dresses everyday, whether she has 3 or 10 to choose from, she’ll wear the same ones, without a care in the world. She chooses the same books most nights too (we packed about 8) and never asks for ones we don’t have with us. Out of sight, out of mind. She is playing more mindfully with the toys we have here, although in all fairness, most of our time in Israel is spent outside which does make it much much easier. I’ve been more able to tune into her needs, her joys and her preferences. We’ve spent hours just dancing to music or watching the world go by from the balcony – no stuff  – but more on this another time!
  • Marie Kondo is an actual genius: Really. If you haven’t read her books or watched the Netflix show, I highly recommend them (the books more than the series). If we keep things in our lives that “spark joy” and make us happy, we can feel satisfied with owning less. I have had a few moments of wishing I had some different clothes with me, having recycled the same outfits day in and day out. Most of these clothes make me happy but are also breastfeeding friendly and therefore, currently, necessary. I have created a small wish-list of joy sparking items I’d like to look for when we get home, but otherwise, it’s all I’ve needed.
  • Home is where the heart is: this trip has been about making memories, seeing family and experiencing a culture we know we love so much about. We’ve lived in a flat where nothing belongs to us, yet it has felt like home. We’ve not bought items we haven’t needed but have instead borrowed toys from family or just made do with less and in all honesty, it’s been magical.

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So, here’s to 2019 (again), to continuing to de-clutter, transforming our home, living with less and doing more and living each day as if we were on holiday.

Could 2019 really be the year?

I am one of those people who quite enjoys the strange time between Christmas and New Year, where you don’t quite know whether you’re coming or going. I find myself in a naturally reflective mood, setting intentions and goals for the year ahead, pondering the year gone by and giving myself an annual pep talk that come January, I really will start using my wardrobe instead of my floordrobe! This year, I realised that the pondering and the intention setting is the easy bit, the dreamy bit (I’m such a Pisces!) It’s lovely to sit down and set goals, visualising our best selves and feeling motivated by the fresh new start that 1st January brings. The thing is though, I’ve lived through enough New Year’s Days now to know that in reality, it can often all feel like a huge anticlimax because having spent all that time dreaming, you are then bluntly awoken with the same old crap, just with a different date attached. The clothes are still on the floor, I’m still too tired to exercise and there’s still a to-do list that’s growing by the hour. That feeling of discomfort from procrastinating worms its’ way back in and as the spiral of excuses starts again, days can tick into weeks without anything really changing.

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Jasmine and Summer on Christmas Day

All that being said, this isn’t a time to be self-critical or give myself a hard time for not living a picture perfect life. I am, after all, a Mummy to two young girls who DO take up most of my time, energy, love and time (I know I wrote ‘time’ twice but it’s the most important one.) I achieve so much each day when I look at my two girls but this year, I want to feel different in myself. I believe it’s more than possible for me to make some changes that will benefit my whole family.

This year, 2019, I’m aiming to create a life of more joy with less ‘stuff’, more knowledge with less screens, more yoga with less avoidance, more creativity with less self doubt and I’m determined to make it the year that come 31st December 2019 I can say, “yes, I really did it!” The number 19 is my birth date. It’s also my wedding anniversary date and was my Grandma’s birthday too so it does hold a lot of significance. Maybe that’s why this year feels like a big one.

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So without further ado, I’m going to write my resolutions, not only to be as a record and a memory for myself but because the act of writing them down makes them more real and also allows me to be more accountable to keeping them. Here goes….

  1. Read more books. A classic, I know, and I often make this a resolution. I love reading but last year I think I managed a total of 3 books with a further 5 abandoned without being finished. These days I love digesting personal development books, parenting books, factual books or a good old fiction book. So often I put the TV on the evening and say, “there’s not really much on is there?” and so when that happens from now on, I want to reach for my books. Amongst many, on the list so far are “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, “The Highly Sensitive Child,” by Elaine Aron and “I am Malala,” by Malala Yousafzai. I have been making an Amazon wish-list of books which is helping me keep track of what I want to read and I’m setting a goal of 12 books within the year, which can include audio books too.
  2. Exercise. Such a January cliche but hear me out. I haven’t exercised properly since before Jasmine was born, which is getting on for 3 years now. I don’t feel strong in my body despite having a heavy toddler who insists on being carried all the time. I suffer with back pain a lot (thanks pregnancy, co-sleeping and hormones) and my energy levels can be rock bottom. I’m now 6 months post partum with Summer and feel very ready to start working on myself again. My goal is going to be exercise of any form at least twice a week, preferably yoga or dancing around the kitchen with the girls.
  3. Reduce my screen time. In the spirit of accountability, I’m just going to say that my average daily screen time is a LOT (if you have an iPhone, it tracks it for you). Mine is far too high. I love my phone and I love connecting with my friends on Whatsapp, being inspired by blogs or social media accounts, taking (and posting) photos and writing blogs when the moment strikes me but I’m still guilty of mindless pick ups, falling down the scrolling hole and being on my phone in front of Jasmine and Summer. I really want to change this habit and put some of those ‘wasteful’ screen hours towards something else.
  4. Write more. Ah, my blog (this one you’re reading now!)  I started this blog last year because I wanted to journal about my motherhood experience, have a creative way to express my emotions (thanks motherhood for that, too) and leave something long-lasting for my girls to read. I must have written 15 or more draft blogs that sadly I’ve never gotten round to finishing, despite waking up almost every day willing myself just to do it. I want to keep writing because it helps me in so many ways and I believe that our ability to share our vulnerabilities and emotions is how we can connect to one another.
  5. Minimise and de-clutter. Back in November I started (and never finished) a blog about how I managed to get rid of over 415 items from my home in just one month. I am hoping to write that one up sometime! It was an amazing and eye opening experience and since then, I haven’t stopped. I feel passionate about living a life with more by having less and this is a new but exciting journey for me. I want to continue to make steps towards living “zero waste”, minimising our belongings as a family and tuning in to what truly brings me joy. I can’t wait to see how this one in particular unfolds over the year.

And that’s it. 5 “resolutions” that can last me the year but that feel like me and where I am at in my life. I’m actually so excited to get started.

 

“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.