Mindfulness and the Slow Movement #PoCoLo

tortoise+and+hare

I recently read a post by a blogger I haven’t come across before (found through the Britmums My Best Post of the Week linky) called Josie, who’s post on managing and coping with motherhood (primarily, I feel aimed towards a complete newbie who hasn’t yet had a chance to get their head round the life-altering change a baby brings) got me thinking about mindfulness and how to live more ‘in the moment’ in general.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I tend to be quite an anxious person and often find myself worrying about one thing or another. I get stressed out quite easily and having a child exacerbated this no end! Having two children has cranked it up to stress volume overload! I even began developing a ‘stress rash’ – a small area on my left arm which flares up into an angry, itchy, raised rash the day after a particularly stressful, angry or overwhelmingly negative experience. Its a classic example of the mind alone bringing  something that’s not really real into full physical existence.

In the last few weeks I’ve had two or three really stressful experiences and my arm has been flashing itchy red like a demented traffic light.

A few years ago I wrote my Masters dissertation on the subject of Information Overload – another experiential stress zone. I now remember that while I was researching this piece of work I stumbled across Carl Honore’s paen to something called the Slow Movement, “In Praise of Slow”. (I’ve just discovered he has a website www.carlhonore.com) He talks of the way in which our culture teaches us that speed is the key to everything – from fast cars to multi-tasking and earning a fast buck. I love the fact that he was inspired to write his book after reading a newspaper article encouraging parents to condense well-loved classic children’s stories into minute-long soundbites in order to get out of the nursery quicker and pick back up on all those must-do adult activities.

At first glance, the One-Minute Bedtime series sounds almost too good to be true. Rattle off six or seven “stories,” and still finish inside ten minutes – what could be better? Then, as I begin to wonder how quickly Amazon can ship me the full set, redemption comes in the shape of a counter-question. Have I gone completely insane?

I think this thought captures what so many of us think and feel on a daily basis. I want to be a good parent, but do I have the time? And then there’s “I want to be a good partner, but do I have the time?”. Life with small children can not only be a stressful experience in itself, but can also make you feel like everything else you do that doesn’t involve them has to be done at breakneck speed in order to make the most of this precious little time. Hence if I find myself with one day off while they’re both in paid childcare I must squeeze in a house-clean, cook two casseroles, fill out a passport application, do two loads of washing, write a blog post, have a cervical smear, etc, etc, ad infinitum – sod relaxation and escapism! And fitting in the needs of a relationship on top of this? Forgive me for the utter selfishness but if I find myself with ten spare minutes I’m going to want to pick up a good book/soak in a bubbly bath/research some fun activities that I like the look of and help me remember who I am and who I want to be.

I feel that sometimes I’m on the edge of a minor breakdown and something has to change. I need to slow down, live more in the moment, let go of this constant need to “keep up with the Joneses” (which is exacerbated no end by the cult of social media one-upmanship) and learn to live on less and value more of what I’ve got.

Linking up to #PoCoLo over at http://vevivos.com

Post Comment Love

I’ve been nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award!

versatile-blogger-award

I was really touched recently when Twitter notified me that I’d been nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award by Mummy Tries! For those who don’t know, its a bit of a ‘spread the blog love’ version of a chain letter – you pick seven random facts about yourself to share and then nominate some more worthy candidates who write blogs which you enjoy reading and find interesting, varied and which keep you coming back!

For my theme I have chosen: No Theme! (this is meant to be random after all!!)

  1. The two most useful practical skills I have learnt in life are driving and touch typing
  2. My finest sporting moment at school was performing a perfect Fosberry Flop. I’d be the first to admit that I’m not the sportiest person in the world…
  3. I went to see Back to the Future 10 times at the cinema in 1985/86. And in other random 80s cinematic trivia – I lusted after Madonna’s cool accessories in Desperately Seeking Susan.
  4. The bravest thing I’ve ever done (or stupidest??) was jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet over Mission Beach in Australia. (If you’re going to do it anywhere, do it there!)
  5. I lived in Texas for a year when I was studying for my first degree. I went to the University of Texas in Austin which is as big as a small city in itself! Memories include hanging out at coffee bar ‘Insomnia’; raging thunderstorms which outdo anything the UK can muster up – practically biblical proportions when clouds of black crickets are washed off flat rooftops in waves!; Restaurants like the original Tex-Mex Chuy’s which ooze character; lazing by natural pools at Barton Springs; watching the sunset from Mount Bonnell – amazing views!; partying at the fun bars downtown on 6th Street; mimosas and huevos rancheros for breakfast! I could go on…
  6. Controversial one: I cannot understand why women love Robbie Williams. I find it completely bizarre both in terms of sex appeal and music. In fact, I’m thinking of creating a Support Group for like-minded women because its obviously NOT NORMAL!!
  7. I’m a huge literature fan but a cursory glance at my bookshelves tells me that I’m a serial reader of Nick Hornby, Christopher Brookmyre, Kate Atkinson and Sarah Waters. Can’t go wrong. (And on the subject of bookshelves, if you don’t have shelves full of books in your living room we may not ever be besties! 🙂 )

My Nominees for Versatile Blogger are:

Be lovely to read a bit more about you or see your spin on this ‘chain’ thing – profuse apologies and please ignore me if you’ve done this before – you’re obviously just too bloomin’ popular! X

The joy of a flushable poo!

Poo

I just know that any of my friends or followers who don’t have children will have just read this title and backed off in a hurry – hee hee! I know, I know, its probably way TMI but this is a subject that’s very close to my heart (well, very close to my toilet as well!) at this moment in time.

EJ has recently been suffering from many particularly delightful runny nappies and for about a week he was even taking out about 4 outfits a day (which did the poor, strained washing machine no good whatsoever). The thing was that, despite what, for all intents and purposes, would be described as diarrhoea under any other circumstances, he was absolutely fine in himself, running around, happy as the proverbial Larry. Then one day I suddenly had a flashback to a similar stage in JJ’s development and a quick web search revealed that both children had, most likely been suffering from a syndrome which is probably not all that uncommon and goes by the name “Toddler Diarrhoea” (not very imaginative, I think I’d prefer “Exploding Nappy Syndrome” or “Sudden-onset Heavy Internal Turbulence”*).

For those who may have a child with similar puzzling nappy contents, it may be interesting to know that this phenomenon can (and probably is) caused by diet and nothing to do with food intolerences. The information I have says that you should make sure your child has a good daily intake of fat (such as full fat milk, etc), take in a normal, but not excessive amount of fibre and, the one I’ve found to be most pertinent – too much fruit juice and/or squash. Apparently some of the sugars in fruit juices are not easily absorbed into the bowel and sit in there causing water to be retained which leads to those delightful runny poos!

It galls me to say this, but I think the advice about juice and squash is probably spot on as, since cutting back EJ’s consumption his poos are finally back to good old peel and flushables! I say it galls me as there is a bit of a back story to this. I realise that its pretty common good advice to give your children milk and water over other drinks for as long as possible but the hubster’s ex has, for years, made it her mission to rule over my step-daughter’s liquid diet with the flexibility of an iron girder. As a dental nurse I guess that’s not surprising and its the teeth themselves (rather than any real dietary concern) that is her primary – if not exclusive – battleground. Even now at nine, my step-daughter will not allow herself to accept so much as a sip of lemonade on Christmas Day – trained and groomed just like her mother’s agile whippets!

I vowed that I would never be such a harridan as a mother and allow my poor children some little pleasures in their young lives (or perhaps I’m just WEAK willed and don’t know how to say no!!). At the age of weaning and really quite quickly losing interest in baby milk, I tried in vain to get JJ to drink other liquids – cow’s milk or water. But no dice. He went through norovirus at about 6 months and I discovered that formula was simply exacerbating the diarrhoea he was suffering from and in the end invested in a few sachets of Diarolyte (blackcurrent flavoured). To my astonishment he downed a 7 oz bottle of the stuff (he was probably starving at the time mind you having gone cold turkey from milk for 24 hours on doctor’s advice) and after that I wondered and suspected that I could kick start his life as a consumer of non-dairy fluids by gently easing him onto some harmless (reduced sugar) Ribena. Hey presto, one hydrated and content child. Who then progressed to fruit shoots, smoothies and now, yes, I’m sorry to say I gave in the battle with (the very occasional!) lemonade! (Never Coke mind you, I’m not having sugar and caffeine in the boy’s system!).

Of course, along came EJ and, as soon as the powers of observance came into play he was damned if he was going to put up with that crap from the tap when his big bro was swilling the good stuff! Hence the fact that we practically by-passed weaning and went straight to the Happy Meal Fruit Shoot. Parenting FAIL!

Having said that, I do believe that it is worth the effort to attempt to wean him OFF the squashes by increasing the dilution little by little. He’s a much better drinker than JJ was and I know he’ll kick up a fuss but he will drink if he is thirsty at the end of the day.

And don’t lets forget solid poo = happy mummy!

*S.H.I.T.

For information, Toddler Diarrhoea is apparently more common in boys than girls and strikes between the ages of 1 and 5.

Never accept a negative label…

plodding donkey

OK so I recently read this post by Mummy Tries and I wanted to comment but, you know, do you ever read a blog post and feel that your comment would be inappropriate without a prolonged explanation? Well that’s how I felt. So instead I thought I’d just mention it here.

(Just as a precursor to these thoughts I should mention the fact that I come at this perspective from the point of view of a deep thinker who loves words and language and loves to analyze and deconstruct meaning. I studied literature at degree level and that included literary theory which encompasses the writer perspective and the reader perspective for pinpointing meaning so I am well aware that this is only my take on what was written).

The post argues that most people fall into one of two categories which are called ‘doers’ or ‘plodders’. There is a very balanced argument which says positive things about both categories (and, in fact, this is primarily a post about being inspired by others), but I can’t help but be a bit dismayed by the terminology. ‘Doer’ to me, has very positive connotations, yet ‘Plodder’ has quite negative ones. ‘Doer’ says: ‘get up and go; ‘energy’; ‘creativity’; ‘can do attitude’. ‘Plodder’ says: ‘drab’; ‘lumbering’; ‘uninspired’. Even Wikipedia points out that “Plod or P.C.Plod is a British slang term used to refer to a police officer, particularly one slow-witted or dull”.

I think the heart of my dismay lies in the feeling that, certainly lately, I would probably fall into the ‘Plodder’ category as I feel that I am generally reading or observing the creative and inspired projects of others yet not finding the time or energy to jump into the fray and come alive with projects of my own. At the same time I feel it’s a bit unfair that someone may now label me a ‘plodder’. I was trained in journalism (a long time ago!) so I know how useful labels can be in rounding out a written article and summarising contained ideas (and I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I never do it myself). Look at parenting – nowadays we have ‘Helicopter Parents’, ‘Snowplough Parents’, ‘Attachment Parenting’, etc, etc. But really, as a human being it would be nigh on impossible to fall within such a rigid and defined category on an ongoing basis without ever doing something completely contrary (even to a deeply felt and consciously crafted way of life).

I was out Christmas shopping today (which I loved!) and a quick glance around Lakeland got me quite excited about what I could be doing for Christmas next year. Home-crafted gifts are a fab idea and definitely include a big dollop of love which bought presents don’t have. I love the idea of pressies in jars (and have a good friend who sells Christmas cookie mix in a jar and mulling syrup in a lovely glass bottle – both of which I will be sampling!). Its also a great way to keep it natural and (maybe even slightly) reduce your carbon footprint… I just discovered this page which shows some absolutely adorable ways to use Kilner jars. (I’m particularly loving the idea of brandied cherries or cocktail syrup which can be used as the base to create Mojitos, Margaritas and Mint Juleps as well as home-made sweeties, snow globes and pot pourri).

I’ll also be Elf on the Shelfing next year (EJ will be going on 2 and a half), and it is my intention to learn how to create some home-made bunting and cushion covers as well as some little crochet projects like flowers, handbag charms or something like this adorable fox stash basket:

crochet fox

I have no idea whether I’ll be any good at any of these things but I think I would enjoy doing them.

I may feel like I have very little energy or time right now, but I know that organisation and planning ahead are key to being productive and timely (especially with regards gifts) and that is my goal for 2014.

Sometimes you can be a dreamer and a planner and a thinker and even a writer, but anyone who is content to be classified as a plodder must be someone with very limited horizons (in my honest and humble opinion!).