Laying it all out there.

I’m not totally sure where this one is going to go. It’s a difficult one to write, or should I say, an easy one to write and a difficult one to publish. Because it’s honest. A true reflection of what is going on. There may be little in the way of conclusions or even clarity, but I think I’ll just write for a while and see what happens. 

I’ve been feeling, how do I put it, ‘off’ lately, not quite the best version of myself. Anxious, short-tempered, uninspired, lacking a creative spark and tired, oh, so very, very tired. It just so happened I had a health check recently, a routine, ‘you’ve reached a certain age’ healthcheck and whilst I was fairly certain that I am totally healthy, there was a brief thought that perhaps my blood tests would show a medical reason why I’m so tired. Low Iron, maybe or a thyroid issue, but no, nothing. 

I began to wonder if perhaps my low mood is a little more serious than I thought, the depression word popped into my head, in one of my many internal monologues, but I just don’t buy it. I just don’t feel that I am and not in a self-delusional way, I just don’t feel depressed. A bit stressed out maybe, a bit weary of the grind, but not depressed, but I did begin to wonder if perhaps I needed to offload on someone and that’s where this blog post grew from. Why spend money I don’t have on therapy when I have a blog. Am I right?!

Because, ultimately isn’t it the shared experience of something that brings us back to blogs time and again? Isn’t it the fact that personal blogs aren’t magazines that sets them apart? I am a blogger, I share stuff and by sharing stuff I reach out and someone will nod and think “yes, I feel that. I know what you are thinking and feeling” and by making that connection, we are all better off. 

Mothering is hard, hard work. The mind numbing grind of some of it, as we tidy up the same mess, made for the thousandth time or prepare the endless food and drink that is either spilled or rejected or eaten, while making it very clear that they “hate this dinner”. The huge amount of patience that we need to breath through the two year old who is finding her own way and testing her own abilities to do it all herself. Or the four year old who can’t deal with his emotions and is pushing all his boundaries, it seems all the time. Or the seven year old who is touching that next level of maturity and wants to be like his friends, have what they have, do what they do. The patience we need for this is more than can really be expressed in a few paragraphs. 

Then there is the juggling. The school commitments, the wider family commitments, the appointments, the phone calls, the emails. Basically the flotsam and jetsom of family life that can feel like it will sink us. And we do it all with a smile to the public world. A friendly chat at the school gate, small talk at the toddler group. A shrug and a wry smile when someone gives us a compliment about how busy we are and how together we seem and we carry on, because that’s just what we do. We are patient, when we feel we have no more patience left. When we feel we have no more left to give of ourselves, we give some more. When we feel we can’t cope with it all, we find that we can. We carve out much needed time for ourselves when we probably should be sleeping and eventually we just feel……well, tired to the very core of our bones. 


I look around at other mothers, at my team, as it were and I don’t think it matters what the differences are. Working, not working, single, one child, four children, mothers with babies, mothers with teens, attachment mothers, Gina Ford mothers. It can be hard for us all. There is no miracle cure, this is how it is sometimes. We still have moments when we laugh and relax or days when it all goes well, but sometimes it just feels harder than others. 

So, what do we do? I am still not sure on this one. I tried a little Internet break. I’m not sure what I was expecting, I am not really one for feeling Insta-envy. I am fully aware that the snippets of life that we show are edited and I’m fine with it. Taking a break certainly didn’t change my life. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the restorative experience that many speak of. I didn’t feel more present in my own life and now I have re-installed all the social media apps on my phone, I’m generally just annoyed that all the notifications seem to be turned on and it keeps buzzing at me, when someone who will never talk to me, follows me on Twitter. I am a sharer. I believe that we should be making connections, not withdrawing and when it comes to motherhood it is even more important. A coffee with two other Mums, that have three children, of similar ages to mine, was the best therapy I could have wished for last week and those connections are just as valid on-line as they are down the street. 

I think that perhaps that is the answer, or at least part of it. Along with more rest, good coffee and a regular dose of yoga, the way to find that spark, that last ounce of patience and grit is to share our story. To speak the truth about our life and experience. Not every moment of every day, but sometimes we should say; “This is where I am. This is how I feel”, because there will always be someone reading who will say “Yes! This. This is how it is and that’s OK” 

Single-tasking; Is it the way forward?

If you ‘google’ Single-tasking you get a ton of links that tell you how much more productive you will be, from a work perspective if you single task. On the other hand, we live in an age where everything is faster and everyone is trying to be busier than each other and if we are not trying to do at least two things at once, we are failing. I’ve been thinking about single tasking recently, as I’ve noticed more and more how difficult I find it. I watch an episode of my favourite TV programme while folding washing. I send emails while I eat my lunch, I tidy the kitchen while eating my breakfast, I look at the social media while watching TV. In fact, anytime where I am only doing one thing feels like a waste of time. Not only does this seem really unhealthy, but it means I don’t always do anything well.

The more I think about it, the more I feel as though I need to re-train my brain to just do one thing at a time. For example, last night I watched a film. I started by also repairing a cushion cover, but came to the end of what I could really do for a while and so put it down. I had intentionally left my phone in another room, so I would get to bed at a reasonable time. So, I found myself, alone and doing nothing other than watching the film and it felt really very strange. My hands fidgeted, I found myself feeling restless and it was really hard to immerse myself in what I was watching. My mind kept wandering to things I have to do this week, this month, next month. The same thing happened to me when I went for a massage earlier in the week. Switching off and just focussing on one thing was really hard. We seem to have come to the point where we over stimulate ourselves so much, in a quite passive way, that we can no longer just do one thing or is it just me? Come on, be honest, I know it isn’t….

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Although actually, it seems, from doing a little digging that we don’t usually multi-task at all. We are task-switching. This sounds really familiar to me. I may think I can tweet, watch TV and check emails at the same time, but so often I find a whole episode of something has finished and I don’t really remember any of it. It’s just been a background noise. I am making it sound as though all I want to do is watch TV and watch it well and that’s not the case. In fact, I think the idea of single-tasking makes us really decide what we want to do most, rather than just trying to do it all at the same time and doing none of it in a fulfilling way.  So, if I am not going to give the TV my focus, does this actually mean I am not bothered about watching it and should really be doing something else.

Sometimes multi tasking the dull bits of the day seems like a good thing. It can make those mundane tasks easier to power through. For example my new habit of watching something on iplayer when folding washing. Although, I do wonder if that’s not a really sad way to catch up with my favourite TV and in any case, wouldn’t folding washing without any entertainment give me some much needed quiet time. Some mental space, if you like.

Perhaps the most difficult part of single-tasking isn’t going to be the actual doing of one thing at a time, but the mental multi-tasking that has become so ingrained in my way of thinking. One of my favourite Instagrammers did a great hashtags project last week called #whatdoesmummydoallday. It was a great way of shown her girls what she really does all day. The part that I found most interesting was the way her brain was always multi-tasking. While she was doing one or even two things, she was also thinking about something else on her ‘to-do’ list. It was so familiar to me. I do this all the time and it can tip from thinking about stuff that needs doing to anxiety about the stuff of life. For me it can anyway. I think that could also be why I try to multi-task, to over-stimulate. So that I don’t have the brain space to overthink.

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Sometimes multi-tasking is essential, like when making risotto and holding a child
Whatever the reason, whether it’s trying to block out negative thoughts or simply get as much done in the shortest time possible, I have trained myself to multi-task or at least attempt to multi-task too often. I am going to try a bit more single-tasking in my life. One thing and one thing only and then move onto the next thing. I suspect the art of single-tasking is under used and much needed for many of us.

What about you? Do you think multi-tasking is detrimental to you and if so have you tried any methods to retrain yourself to single-task?

I love…..for a 7th birthday

Another month, another birthday. I think of the Spring as birthday season. All neatly spaced six weeks apart, but it does leave me with a sense of time rushing by, especially with Mini Mck. As the oldest, his is always a new number in our little family and it marks, not only his birthday, but the amount of time I have been a mother. I am hoping that seven is as awesome as six has been. Here are some of the reasons why it is…….

I love that your questions have changed, they are challenging and intelligent and show how your brain is changing and thinking on it’s own. I love how you are opening up to the world more and more. Before school everything is small and you saw not much further than the home, for the first couple of years at school your focus widened a little, to friends and teachers and those around you. Now, what you notice and talk about has exploded. Politics, football, places, the future, the environment, art. Your world is widening and you are soaking it up. 

I love that you wanted a craft party for your birthday and you were right, it was awesome. I love that you are starting to realise that ‘cool’ doesn’t have to mean gelled hair and being a boisterous, rude boy. That it can mean being creative, being funny, having your own sense of style (Thank you Art Ninja) I love that you are starting to have an opinion about what you want to wear or how you want to have your hair. Not to a damaging level, but growing your own sense of identity. 

I love your devotion to your sister. It has been a totally unexpected surprise, but the kindness you show to her, your patience and willingness to spend time with her still floors me after two years. I love how hard you try with your brother. You want to help him do stuff, you want to teach him things that you know and when you’ve stepped way over the line with him, you try your best to put it right. 

I love that you sometimes come back downstairs after the other kids are in bed. You clearly want a peak into the adult world and will chat with us or do some schoolwork or watch football with Dad. I love that you want to go running and you can run for long distances. I love that you try new food and that taking you to a restaurant is a really pleasant experience. I love that you chose Afternoon Tea somewhere “fancy” to celebrate your birthday. 

I love your talent for things that I can’t do. Your inventiveness with Lego, your ability to draw, your love of climbing things. I love how your body has changed. You are still small and wirey as you always have been, but I see muscle definition where before there was the shadow of a toddler. I love that you are starting to really enjoy playing football, there is an intention behind your play that wasn’t there before and playing in a team pushes you out of your comfort zone. I love how creative you are. I know how it is to have to do something creative everyday and this is how you are. Hold onto that, whether it be for money or just pleasure, it will enrich your life for many years.

I love that you still like a cuddle in the mornings, at other times too, but especially in the mornings. I love that you still want to be read to every night and you never want us to put the book down and turn out the light. 

I love that you know people. You know me, you understand what makes me tick and how my brain works and you can use this for good or not so good. You have always been tuned in to how people feel and this has never left you. I hope it never does. I love how you are, in many ways, the same as a boy, as you were as a toddler and even a baby. You have a core, that is entirely you and is unwavering. I hope that this stands you in good stead for the whole of your life. 

The truth about siblings

This post has been rattling around in my head for so many years I can’t even remember when I first wanted to write it.  Possibly when MM was three and had stopped smacking Nano indiscriminately as he walked past him. This was after the slightly humourous habit he had of giving his ‘only just learnt to sit’ baby brother a gentle shove as he walked past, hence toppling him over, like a skittle. Humourous now, at the time, very very annoying. When we look at Social Media lives, the things that grate with us are more to do with us than anyone else and the thing that always bothers me are the super sweet Instagram posts that only mention the lovely side of siblings. It always made me wonder why it was only my children who would fight and argue and bicker, but I’ve come to realise that my children have perfectly normal, healthy sibling relationships.

 

Both the boys were two when a younger sibling arrived in their lives for the first time and they both reacted in very similar ways. Fascinated by the new arrival, keen to interact with them, occasionally beautifully affectionate, but mostly irritated by the time their new sibling took up, unable to really interact with them, confused about the new family dynamic and too young to recognise these feelings or react to them in any way, other than physically or acting out in a general way.

It’s extremely hard to be faced with the prospect of your baby getting a shove or a poke. We immediately go on the defensive when we feel our children are being threatened. It’s even harder when the person dolling out this behaviour is your, previously passive and adorable, toddler, who you also want to defend. Add to this that you are probably exhausted and that things always seem to explode when your baby is finally happy and content and you have your hands free for a moment, it’s no surprise that emotions run high for everyone, adults included.

I like to think that I was and am fairly relaxed about these sibling squabbles. I really did get why my two year old would want to hug his baby sibling in a manner that wasn’t really a hug. It wasn’t that their behaviour didn’t make me mad or exasperated and frustrated, but I always thought it was normal and that as they got older, it would change and be easier, until, of course, someone raised their eyebrow or I saw the Insta-life of someone declaring that their small children were devoted to one another. Then, I would question myself. Question whether we were doing the right thing by keeping our reactions low key and not making a huge fuss.

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Fast forward a few years and it turns out I was right. Their behaviour was normal. The dynamics of having three children aged 6, 4 and 2 is actually really interesting and watching their relationships with each other wax and wane is fascinating. Mini Mck is pretty much devoted to the his sister. The almost five year age gap showed me a very different sibling relationship. He’s never physical with her, always amazingly patient with her and is able to express what upsets him pretty well. He understands that if he doesn’t want her to eat his sweets, or break his Lego he needs to get it out of her way. He is completely different to how he was when his brother was born.

The ones that are closer in age also have nice relationships, but they can be equally as challenging and difficult to navigate. Nano seems like great fun to his sister and they can enjoy the same things more easily, just as he also has things in common with his older brother, but in both of these relationships there is friction. Perfectly normal friction. There is jealously, frustration, occasional hitting, definitely shouting and lots and lots of laughter.

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But here’s the truth about siblings, they FIGHT, they ARGUE and sometimes they hit. It’s horrible, but they learn to be better and here’s the other truth, it’s all NORMAL. Imagine having to live with the same people all the time. People that you didn’t choose to live with. I mean, let’s face it, living with people we have chosen to live with is hard enough. I love Mckdaddy with everything I have and yet sometimes he can be the most annoying person on the planet, but I am an adult (most of the time) and can recognise my emotions, take a step back and maybe spend some time away from him, or just take a breath. That’s not always possible when you are 6 or 4 or 2 or even older.

The thing that finally made me write this post was a little spate of new siblings in my blog and Instagram and some of the older siblings struggling to adjust, so this post is for all those Mamas living it at the moment. My message to you is: Don’t fret, give lots of cuddles to everyone and just know that this bit gets easier, at least it does for now.

A Year of Organising: How to stop shouting in the mornings

It happens in so many houses on a weekday morning, right? Children dawdle, things are unorganised and we, the apparent adults end up shouting and having a little tantrum. I don’t know about you, but the worst part about that scenario is that the shouting doesn’t get us out of the door any quicker, just a lot unhappier. So often I would find myself about to drive the car away into rush hour traffic, feeling really stressed and it got my day off to such an awful start. It was one of the first things on my agenda in my Year of Organising project. Now, most of the time we get out of the house on time and calmly. This is how I’ve done it.

The Night Before

This is a pretty basic one, I know, but how often do we do this on maybe a Sunday night and then not for the rest of the week. It’s vital to get things ready the night before. Fill water bottles, get snacks ready, make sure that shoes, book bags and anything else that needs to leave the house with us is close to hand and easy to see. I can’t tell you the amount of times a lost shoe has nearly sent me over the edge in the past. I have found an extra tip for this one, if you have a young family, as I do and bedtime can drag on a little. Get this stuff ready before they go to bed. I tend to do in while they’re having down time after school and I am preparing dinner. When I come downstairs, yawning, out of Lady Mck’s dark room at 8pm, the last thing I want to do is start thinking about the next morning. It’s great to know it’s done.

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Lay clothes out

This is an extension of the first tip really, but I find it’s a vital one for a smooth morning. I always get my own clothes ready and Lady Mck’s. It usually doesn’t matter what either of us are wearing, seeing as it’s just us at home, however, I find that removing the need to make a decision first thing in the morning really helps. Take the choice away from yourself and just get dressed!

Work out realistic timings 

This one seemed so basic that I didn’t think it was necessary, but after I got a notebook and pen and wrote down everything I need to do in the morning and how long each thing takes, I realised that I actually need to get out of bed ten minutes earlier than I had been doing. I like to clear the breakfast things away so that Lady Mck and I come back to a reasonable looking kitchen and it was this kind of thing that I realised needed to be factored in. Also Lady Mck is now a toddler, with all that goes with that age and it can sometimes take ten minutes to get her dressed. I know what I should be doing and when I should be doing it, so I know if I’m slipping into late and can adjust accordingly. Working out my timings and getting up ten minutes earlier has made the biggest difference to my mornings and subsequently my children’s mornings.

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Acceptance

This was a big one for me to get on board with, but it has helped so much. Previously, it just annoyed me that I need 15 minutes to get the children ready to leave the house. I would try and clear away the breakfast things, while simultaneously shouting at them that it was time to go and to get their shoes one, get their shoes on, GET THEIR SHOES ON NOW. Honestly, I still think it shouldn’t take 15 minutes of doing nothing else to get them out, but it does and once I just accepted that, things got a lot quieter in the house. At 8 o’clock I stop everything else and simply concentrate on getting myself and the children ready to leave. It takes that long to stop them playing, get shoes and coats on, grab bags and get everybody in the car and belted up. Your amount of time may be less (lucky you) or more (my sympathies) but whatever it is, stop fighting it and just allow time for it and don’t try to multi-task it.

Give yourself and them a break

Even if you do all this, there will be days where one, two or all of the children in your house are just difficult to get out. They will be immersed in their play or not happy to put a coat on or will remove the shoes that you’ve just put on them and you will find yourself wanting to shout. You will be thinking how hard you’ve tried and still you can’t make it work. Sometimes you may even shout. Firstly, breath, then think about how unusual those awful mornings are now. Shrug your shoulders and remember no-one is hurt or in danger and the worst that will happen is you may be a little later for school/work/nursery than you usually are. I bet in most cases, if you’re anything like me, you won’t even be actually late, just a little later than usual.

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Calmer mornings have made such a difference to our family. I feel so much better and the children are actually easier and quicker to get out these days and because of the preparation that I have already done, if one of them is difficult, we usually have an extra five minutes for me to calmly coax them out of the house without histrionics. If shouty mornings are a regular thing in your house, I urge you to really look at your routine and I am convinced that you will see some easy changes you can make to improve things. If I can, anyone can.

 

I love…..{for a 2nd birthday}

Last month saw a birthday in our house. Once that I let go unmarked here and I want to put that right. So many of the post I like to re-read are ones that capture my children in a moment of time. They may not be the most read or shared, but they are some of my favourites and so they can sit along side the other bits of my life that make it here. Here are some of the things I love…..

I love that your hair curls at the ends. I love that it is long enough for teeny tiny cute bunches. I love that each day your speech is growing, new words and full sentences tumble from your mouth and never fail to astound me. I love that you tidy up, you put things in the bin when you are finished, you take your shoes off and very carefully line them up in the shoe cupboard, you hang up your coat. Of course, you also empty the Tupperware drawer and mix all the food in the larder drawer. I’ll be honest, I don’t love that so much.

I love that you talk about your day when we sit in the rocking chair at the end of the day. I love that you can ask for a cuddle, when you’ve had enough milk. I love that you try and hold all your stuffed toys at bedtime, until you realise that you won’t be able to reach me to have your milk and you quickly reject all, except your precious Felix Bear. I love that you tell me what you need to fall asleep “Sing Mummy” or just as common “NO sing Mummy!”. I love that you try to sing along with me, tunelessly.

I love that you want to choose the clothes to wear or even which pyjamas you want to wear. I love that you will try to dress yourself and can definitely undress yourself. I love that you put your brothers pants on over the top of your own trousers and try to sit on the toilet, even though you’ve already filled your nappy.

I love that you smile, almost all the time. You are either extremely happy or extremely sad and upset. There is little in between. I love that you want to climb and jump and be held upside down. You are fearless and will find yourself of any surface into your biggest brother’s arms. I love that you try to climb the doorframe, just as they do. “MY TURN MY TURN”

I love that you make sure everyone in the family is OK and that we have all kissed and cuddled each other at the end of the day or when your Daddy leaves each morning. I love that you follow your brothers and allow them to lead you in play, but are also not shy in bossing them around.

I love that you want to solve problems, you like to work things out and sometimes will even take some guidance in how to do things. You will try again and get it right. I love that you want to play rough, big games. You love to jump of high things into people’s arms and be held upside down for as long as possible. I love that when we have had enough and want to stop the game, you say “Last time. Last time”

Caring for a two year old is hard work, especially one who still needs so much touch time, but I love watching the person that you are becoming. I love watching you change from a baby into a child.

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A very late, but very big Happy Birthday to my littlest love.

A year of organising

Do you remember A Year of Organising? I wrote about my plan for this year last month, after a slow start to the year and I haven’t been idle. I’ve been working on a few things to make our lives more organised, clearing the actual and metaphorical clutter, so that we are able to enjoy the good things in life a little more.

As I’ve started work on this year long project, I’ve been able to order and refine my objectives and have increasingly fixed on three main areas that I want to work on and will be able to share with you on the blog as I do so.

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Routines

For me, routine is when you do something without having to think about it and I have come to the conclusion that the more non-thinking routines and habits I have, the better. The less thinking I have to do, the less cluttered my brain is and the more calm I am. I want to implement routines for myself, but also for my family. If the children are in a good routine, it helps them and me. Last year I found myself feeling so disorganised and I want to impose some order on how the home runs and also how I live. My work on routines can cover all manner of things. Cleaning, children, food, time management and general life admin. This is why it’s such a vital area for me to improve.

Home

I’ve mentioned before that we still have lots of DIY and sorting jobs that need doing in our home. There is also still decluttering and organising to be done. As I watched Heather’s recent video about her garage declutter, she mentioned it was a good idea to think about why you want to declutter and I have a few reasons. Firstly, I want our home to feel calm and I find a lack of clutter really helps with this. Clear surfaces and the absence of untidy piles everywhere really helps my mood. It may sound boring, but I think that accepting this is the case, is really helpful. Secondly, I want cleaning to be easier. I spend so much time tidying and partly this is because we have too much stuff and what we have doesn’t always have a proper place. Finally, I want to be able to find things. I am terribly impatient when I can’t find things and when you consider I often have to know where the belongings of four other people are, as well as my own, it is even more frustrating. I want everything to have a home and generally to be in that place.

Wellbeing

My first two goals are external. They are about how the family and the home work and making them fit for purpose. My final goal is more about me. I am not always very good at looking after myself. Getting enough rest, eating the right food, drinking enough water, spending my leisure time wisely. Too many evenings are spent mindlessly surfing the web or watching TV too late. I don’t always look after my skin or my nails, or really any part of my body. I don’t make the effort to see friends or arrange things for me and Lady Mck to do during the day. I fritter money away, when I could be saving it and spending it on luxuries that I really want. I need more good, positive stuff in my life and less damaging stuff. None of this is to beat myself up. We all get stuck in a rut every now and again, but my year of organising seems like a perfect time to look inward as well as my outside environment.


So, there we have it. My plan has a shape.  I am looking forward to sharing with you how I get on in my attempts to organise my life and that of my my family.