Once upon a time…

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Once upon a time there was a young couple, madly in love. They would hold hands constantly and gaze into each others eyes adoringly. They had all the time in the world for each other, dined in restaurants most evenings and would often go on spontaneous romantic outings. On Valentine’s Day he would surprise her with dozens of roses, romantic dinner cruises and boxes full of helium heart balloons….

Then they got married and had children.

And they no longer knew if it was Valentine’s Day or not because, quite frankly, in the chaos of family life they felt lucky enough just to have got themselves dressed and out of the house each day. On the 14th of February the smell of roses in the house was replaced by the smell of recently changed pooey nappies. She herself no longer smelled of Chanel perfume but of regurgitated baby food. And, while once she used to buy beautiful lingerie for such occasions, nowadays she felt like she had won the lottery if she found a matching pair of underwear in her drawers.

They did try very hard to go on “date nights” but, when they actually managed it, they would either end up talking about the kids the whole time or calling the baby sitter to check everything was ok. They still watched movies curled up together on the sofa but, inevitably, one (or both!) of them wouldn’t usually be able to keep their eyes open much past the credits.

However….

the sound of laughter and giggles filled their home daily. Pinned to the fridge was a Valentine’s card their eldest son had recently made for them with squiggly hearts and trucks. Their ‘night-time cuddle’ now often involved two toddlers and included lots of tickling and silliness.
Things were different, but different in a very lovely way.

Watching how wonderful her husband was with their children made her heart swell with pride. And he, in turn, marvelled at the way she was so loving and caring with them. Bringing these two little ones into their lives had certainly not always been an easy ride for them but their trust and respect for each other had reached a new level and had firmly rooted their love for one another. They didn’t need Valentine’s day to show each other how much they cared, it was plain to see every single day.

Real love is not based on romance, candle-lit dinners and walks along the beach.

In fact, it is based on respect, compromise, care and trust. (Author unknown)

 

Image from http://www.123rf.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s ok to not be ok.

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I came across the quote ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ a few years ago and it really puzzled me.

When was it ever ok to not be ok? Didn’t we all just want to be happy? Wasn’t that the main aim in life? Why on Earth would anyone be ok with not being ok???

But over time and on deeper reflection, I realised that it is often when we are forcing ourselves to try and be happy all the time that we can become extremely unhappy. That’s when we start to compare our lives with others and I think many of us believe that we are just ‘supposed’ to feel on a constant high and that there is obviously something wrong if or when we don’t. But I like to compare this to saying that the weather should be a certain way. We don’t wake up on a rainy day and say ‘it should be sunny now’. Of course we might prefer it to be sunny but it is what it is and we have to accept it and carry on.  We can’t control the weather in just the same way that we can’t control life but I think we find this very hard to accept. So, in an effort to try and gain more control we either tend to overthink and overanalyse everything or, conversely, we completely avoid our thoughts altogether. The former meaning that you tend to live in your head most of the time and possibly create situations that don’t even exist and the latter, that you turn to other things to mask your feelings of unease, such as food or drink or making sure that you are always busy and never alone with your thoughts for too long. But all of these can make you feel that you are fighting a constant battle and it’s amazing what happens when you just say ‘okay’….for example,

  • okay I don’t feel great today
  • okay I am not happy at this very moment
  • okay I feel down sometimes
  • okay that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped
  • okay life isn’t perfect etc. etc.

For me personally, this acceptance diffuses the situation instantly and melts away any feelings of anger, anxiety or guilt. It allows me to start to move on rather than give more power to those feelings. Because when we start to question those feelings, we often start to make ourselves feel worse. ‘Why do I feel this way?’ ‘I should be happy’ ‘There are people far worse off than me’ ‘I must be a bad person’ ‘I’ll never be happy’ and so on. But just as it can start to rain even during the sunniest of days, so can a sad moment come along even when you are not expecting it. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It could be something that happened earlier that day that has suddenly resurfaced in your mind or a sudden, worrying thought that brought your mood down. It could just be tiredness or hunger. Once you accept that this is something that will happen again and again you can feel more relaxed about it and think ‘oh okay, it’s a sad moment again’ and just let it be. I actually find watching my children very helpful as their emotional breakdowns can be extreme but also quite short lived. They can be crying desperately one minute and happily playing the next and this is because they live more in the moment than we do.

I also love the way the poet Rumi describes the coming and going of feelings in his poem The Guest House….

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them all in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

So, the next time you start to despair, try to accept the feeling and remember that it is only temporary. The clouds will part and the sun will shine again for you.

(image from http://www.123rf.com)

 

 

 

Oh what a night!

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Recently Paul and I have had a few challenging nights (with both boys not sleeping) and, every day as the morning approaches, I just lay there thinking ‘what a night’! This, quite comically, gets the tune of the song by the Four Seasons in my head and I start to imagine different words to it, to go with the situation I find myself in. It has actually become quite an amusing activity so I thought I would post the finished article on my blog to provide some light-hearted relief to anyone else who is currently feeling a little sleep-deprived. (Every parent reading this I suspect!).
I hope you enjoy it!

Oh what a night!

Oh what a night!
Did I really ever go to bed?
Can’t believe it’s time to start again
As I remember what a night!

Oh what a night!
The kids were up and down just like yo-yos
Why they won’t let us sleep, I’ll never know
What a drama, what a night!

Oh I,
can remember what it was like to sleep all night long
And I,
As I recall it ended much too soon!

Oh what a night!
Screaming, crying and needing a wee,
They took their turns to keep us from our sleep
And we surrendered, what a night!

Sat up in our beds and left only to wonder
Would we ever get to sleep alone under the covers?
Oh what a night.

Oh I,
can remember what it was like to sleep all night long
And I,
As I recall it ended much too soon!

Oh what a night!
Why can’t they just sleep until daylight?
Just a few hours would be alright.
What a drama what a night!

Sat up in our beds and left only to wonder
Would we ever get to sleep alone under the covers?
Oh what a night….

 

And just in case you need a reminder of the original….

 

Main image from  www.123rf.com

Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_cteconsulting’>cteconsulting / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

Less existing and more living!

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So here we are on the cusp of a new year and it is probably making many of us suddenly feel much more motivated to change our lives for the better in some way, which is no bad thing…..but it has got me thinking about how our assumptions  in life can actually dictate the way we think and feel. For example, how many of us have felt that burst of enthusiasm at the beginning of each new year to eat better, get fitter, be more positive etc. only to find ourselves fighting the blues just a matter of weeks later? So much so that we now come to expect it in January! In recent years I have even read about ‘Blue Monday’ (the third Monday in January) which is, apparently, the ‘most depressing day of the year’. So we go from magazine and newspaper articles enticing us to make big changes in our lives after the stroke of midnight on December 31st, to being told that we are all facing the most depressing time of the year just a couple of weeks later. And it is a cycle that seems to repeat itself every year. Surely it must have an impact on us?

If we think about it now on a smaller scale, I bet that many of us tend to feel a bit low on a Monday morning when the alarm goes off and kind of drag ourselves through the day, feeling huge relief once Monday is over. By Wednesday we have probably got a bit more into the swing of the week and on Friday we may well be feeling jovial as we approach the weekend. Then Sunday evening we likely reflect on how quickly the weekend has gone and how it is nearly Monday again….and so the cycle starts over.

Now imagine that we are thrown into a different reality where time is not as we know it now and no longer divided into days and weeks. Yes, there would be chaos but we probably wouldn’t experience some of the moods and feelings we do now due to a lack of preconceived ideas and habits regarding our daily routine. I guess we experience something like this when we are on holiday or even now over the festive period, with people saying they ‘don’t know what day of the week it is anymore’. Of course we need routine and structure in our daily lives but, by being more aware of the present moment, we can let go of all those labels that automatically make us feel a certain way. So, rather than waking and automatically thinking ‘urgh, today is Monday’ or ‘tomorrow is only Tuesday’ we can just think ‘today is today’ and ‘tomorrow is another day’. Sometimes I ask myself on a Monday morning ‘How would I feel right now if today was Friday?’ and I can feel my mood change almost instantly. This shows me that the habitual thinking patterns I have formed over the years have a direct impact on the way I feel…..and, more importantly, that by acknowledging these thoughts and then letting them go, I can change the way I feel.

So for me this year there is no resolution to eat better or tone up or go on more holidays; instead, I resolve only to exist less and to live more by being more mindful. I believe that bringing mindfulness into daily life unlocks the doors to all the other desirable things…..feeling calmer and more content, taking better care of yourself, spending more quality time with loved ones, not falling into bad habits etc.. And, on that note, I wish you a very Mindful new year and I have listed some books below that I recommend if you would like to learn more about mindfulness and how to live more mindfully.

  • Mindfulness A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
  • Practical Mindfulness by Ken A. Verni
  • Mindfulness Plain & Simple by Oli Doyle
  • The Little Book of Mindfulness by Tiddy Rowan

 

(image from Pinterest)

 

 

 

Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle!

 

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With Christmas day fast approaching, I have found myself (as usual at this time of year) rushing around trying to get everything done and hoping that all these preparations will make it a really special day for my boys. It has made me think back, however, to what it was exactly that made Christmas so special for me as a child. Of course I loved opening the presents on Christmas morning but that is not the memory that immediately springs to mind. Instead, I remember things like watching festive films with my family, the glorious smell of the Christmas roast wafting through the house, us all eating turkey sandwiches and pickles on trays, my brother and I rifling through the Quality Street tin in a race to find our favourites and marvelling at all the Christmas trees and lights everywhere. I can’t really pinpoint what it was in particular though that made Christmas so memorable but I think ‘a feeling of togetherness’ comes close. It reminds me that it is something that money can’t buy so, even with the best preparation and shopping trips in the world, the way for me to try and recreate this for my own children is not to spend lots of money on them, but rather to spend lots of time with them…quality time. And not just on Christmas day but over the whole festive period. Easier said than done with all the hustle and bustle this season seems to bring but I am going to really try this year not to worry so much about the mess in the house or all the chores that need doing but to really make the most of this special time with my loved ones. And I hope you will do the same!

Merry Christmas!

 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Don’t get in a state

Life’s too short

To worry ’bout the Christmas cake.

 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

It will be ok

As long as

Your oven can fit the turkey!

 

Just remember when you were young

What Christmas time was like back then.

Watching films with your family

And pinching the best sweets from the tin!

 

Christmas time

Is all about the lil’ things

Yet we can forget

Not to let ourselves get caught up in all the stress…

So hug your family and remember you are blessed!

 

image from http://www.123rf.com

Copyright: <ahref=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_studioindigo’>studioindigo / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

No Get up and Go?

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(image from Pinterest)

You open your eyes and groan to yourself. Where did the weekend go? How on Earth can it be the start of the week again already? You let out a big sigh and wonder where you will find the energy to deal with today when all you really want to do is hide under the covers.

Do you find yourself doing this? I know I do but how draining is this kind of self-talk? It can really siphon away the slightest energy and enthusiasm in seconds. There are things you can do though to stop these thoughts from gaining so much momentum and having so much control over the way you feel. I find the following helpful …

  1. Try to start each morning with a grateful heart by being thankful for the brand new day ahead of you.
  2. Remind yourself that you won’t have this day again so you want to make it really count.
  3. Find time to get outside for a walk during your day, even for just five minutes, as this can really help to blow the cobwebs away and shift a tired or negative perspective.
  4. Make an effort to speak to people (and listen to them!) even if your instinct is to hide away and hibernate.
  5. Use the 3 minute breathing space (please see link below*) to centre yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed or as if you are just living in your head, on constant automatic pilot.
  6. When you get into bed call to mind 3 things that made you feel particularly happy or grateful during the day. I especially enjoy doing this exercise with my 4 year old as he often surprises and enlightens me with his answers, reminding me that being a parent isn’t about one-way teaching….we can learn such a lot from our children too!

You must learn a new way to think

before you can learn a new way to be.

Marianne Williamson

* Meditations from ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ by Prof Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman:

http://franticworld.com/free-meditations-from-mindfulness/

 

Thanks Super(market) Gran!

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(image from http://www.123rf.com)*

It’s amazing how a kind word can send your spirits soaring and even stay with you a lifetime and I experienced this on a trip to the supermarket with my two boys. I know these trips very often become extremely stressful (i.e. when your child decides to have a full-blown tantrum in aisle 2 because you said no to the Peppa Pig Bubble Bath), but on this occasion I left the supermarket far happier than I went in because of the kind words of an older and more experienced mum.

I was feeling tired and drained after finally getting to the store with a toddler and baby in tow and, when I eventually got to the checkout, I rushed to put the items on the conveyor belt as I could sense that an outburst was bubbling because the boys were bored. Suddenly I heard a voice behind me say:

What gorgeous boys. Mine are all grown up now but when they were little like that they gave me some of the best days of my life.

I smiled and thanked the lady for her kind words. I told her that I loved the boys to bits but that I did find motherhood challenging and I struggled sometimes with the extreme tiredness and the feeling that I was often telling them off or saying no. I will never forget her reply:

Being a mum isn’t easy but remember that they grow up very quickly. My boys don’t live at home any more and I miss those days of cuddles and baking and walks in the park. They remember those times too because we still talk about them and I have gorgeous grandchildren now who help to keep me busy.

I paid for my goods, thanked the lady and said goodbye while the boys waved to her and, on my way to the car, I realised how many wise things she had shared with me in just a couple of sentences:

  • The children won’t always be this small so make the most of the cuddles and family time.
  • They need a lot of teaching and guidance so it’s natural to feel like a bit of an ogre sometimes but…
  • …they will eventually remember the fun and silliness more than being told what to do.
  • A day will come when I will miss the busyness of being a mum and the house will feel empty….
  • …but hopefully I too will be blessed with grandchildren to fill the house with noise and laughter again.
  • Although there will always be similarities, each mother’s journey is unique to her and her children…
  • ..but by supporting each other, rather than competing, we can become happier mothers.

Thank you Supermarket Gran!

Being a mother is not about what you gave up to have a child but what you’ve gained from having one. Author Unknown

 

*Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_thodoristibilis’>thodoristibilis / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Mindful Music

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(image from http://www.123rf.com)

It’s funny how certain songs can really strike a chord (excuse the pun!) and I find it amazing how listening to music can transform the way you feel…or even the way you think about things.

Here is a list with some of my favourite ‘mindful’ songs:

1. That’s Life – Frank Sinatra

I just can’t let it…get me down

’cause this fine old world,

it keeps spinnin’ around.

Life is full of ups and downs, good things and bad….and that’s just the way it is. We can’t change that no matter how much we try but we can learn to accept it. In the end it’s all about perspective and how we view things.

‘We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses’. Abraham Lincoln

2. Let it Be – The Beatles

There will be an answer, let it be.

‘You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens’.  Mandy Hale

3. Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make a change.

‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself’. Rumi

4. Bad Day – Daniel Powter

You had a bad day

You’re taking one down

You sing a sad song just to turn it around.

Having a bad day doesn’t automatically mean that you have a bad life. Tomorrow is a new day.

5. Shake it Off – Taylor Swift

..the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

..the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake

..I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

shake it off.

There will always be people we don’t agree or see eye to eye with and situations we don’t understand but, often, the best thing to do is just take a deep breath and let these things go so that they don’t disrupt our moods/ lives.

6. Windmills of Your Mind – Sting

Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel

Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel

As the images unwind, like the circles that you find

In the windmills of your mind.

This song always reminds me how busy our minds can get with the all those thoughts constantly swirling around but I think we tend to forget that we have the power to slow those windmills down.

7. You can’t always get what you want – The Rolling Stones

You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometime you find

You get what you need.

Though it can be really disappointing, as the Dalai Lama XIV said, ‘remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck’.

8. Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bob Marley

In your life expect some trouble

But when you worry you make it double

Don’t worry, be happy.

Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening, it just stops you from enjoying the good.

9. Born This Way – Lady Gaga

Don’t hide yourself in regret

Just love yourself and you’re set

I’m on the right track baby

I was born this way.

Be authentic. Don’t spend your life caught up between who you are and who you want to be.

‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are’. E.E. Cummings

10. What a wonderful world – Louis Armstrong

I see trees of green, red roses too.

I see them bloom, for me and you.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Once in a while we need to lift our heads up and open our eyes and ears because ‘the Earth has music for those who listen’. George Santayana

I have added this playlist to Youtube and you can access it below:

*Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_igorrita’>igorrita / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

10 Games we love that drive mummy mad….

by Matteo (1) and Luca (4).

1. How many times will mummy pick it up?

This is when you are sitting in your high chair and mummy puts objects on your tray. She will try and fool you into thinking that you are supposed to keep them on the tray….DO NOT FALL FOR IT! Throw everything on the floor and see how quickly you can do it – mummy may look like she isn’t enjoying herself, with all the huffing and puffing and funny faces she makes, but this is just to try and put you off so that she can win the game. Once you have mastered this stage see if you can get on to level 2 of the game when mummy will get objects that stick to the tray and you have to pull those off too.

2. I’m not listening…unless you are unwrapping a biscuit.

You can ignore most of what mummy says and generally not listen….until you hear the ‘unwrapping’ sound as this means cake, chocolate or biscuits. When you hear this sound you have to jump to attention, locate mummy immediately and tell her that you are hungry. Often she will take some time to turn around and answer you – her face may look more bloated than usual and she might talk funny for a while – but you will eventually understand her and she will get you a biscuit as a reward for this so stick with it.

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3. Can I eat it?

With this game you take something that is definitely not food, such as lego or building blocks or even stones or snails, and you see if you can get the whole thing into your mouth in one go. Mummy then has to try and get it out but you keep your mouth shut really tight so that it is very difficult for her to get it. The longer you keep it in your mouth, the more likely she will take out a snack like mini cheddars or Pom-Bears from her magic bag….this is your prize for keeping the object in so long so don’t give in too quickly.

4. How many questions can you ask mummy when she is on the phone?

When mummy’s phone rings, it isn’t anyone calling her as she will make you believe, but the start of another great game. She will keep talking to a pretend person and you have to try and make her get off the phone so ask as many questions as you can and, if questions don’t work, start playing with switches and remote controls.

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5. How long will it take for mummy to open the bathroom door?

I love this one because it starts like a chase. Every morning mummy will run to that special room where you splash water everywhere and shut the door. As soon as she shuts it you have to bang on it as much as possible to see how quickly you can get her to come out again. It’s a bit like peekaboo. Do anything to get her out of there….shouting, shrieking, whatever it takes. You know you have hit the jackpot when she takes you in there with her.

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6. Do you need the toilet?

The objective here is simple….say no to this question as many times as you possibly can until you can’t hold it any longer and are as far away from a toilet as possible.

7. Quiet as a mouse.

Here you have to play normally and noisily when mummy is in the room but the moment she steps out you go very quiet to see how quickly you can get her to come back again.

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8. Be really loud when mummy says be quiet.

Shriek very loudly when everyone around you is quiet. You will know exactly when to do this as mummy will start making ‘sssh’ sounds and this is your cue to bellow as loudly as possible. High-pierced screams or farting sounds (or even better actual farts) are particularly good here as the prize for these, again, (in our case anyway) is often mini cheddars or Pom-Bears.

9. Don’t look at the camera.

Sometimes mummy will ask you to look at her phone and say she wants to ‘take a nice picture’. Don’t believe her. This game is the opposite of musical statues so instead of staying really still you have to move like crazy and look away from the phone as much as possible.

And mummy’s all-time favourite…..

10. But it’s not night-time yet.

Mummy will pretend that it is night-time and try and get you into bed but this is not true because mummy and daddy don’t go to bed then. They go downstairs and get funny drinks out of the fridge. There are a variety of tactics you can use in this game to stop mummy (or daddy!) putting you to bed too early, like:

  • saying you are thirsty and need a drink (please note this only works a short while as mummy gets wise to it and starts bringing you a drink to keep in your room overnight)
  • saying you are hungry
  • saying you are not tired
  • saying you want another story
  • saying you want a cuddle
  • and the pièce de résistance….saying you want to get in bed with mummy and daddy!

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(All images from Pinterest)