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Nothing Can Disturb You More Than Your Own Mind

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I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I have a house, car, clothes, beautiful family, all that. But, I’m telling you, none of that matters.Even if you have everything you need, if your mind is upset, you can’t enjoy any of it!

Some days, I walk down the beach and watch the sunset and I’m in awe of life’s beauty. And, some days, I walk on the SAME beach. I have the SAME house to go home to and have the SAME beautiful things in my life, but if my mind is a mess, I can’t see a thing.

Luckily, I’ve been meditating for that many years that I usually catch my mind wandering and I can quickly snap out of it. And, over the years, I have far far less of the disturbing days than I used to have.

When I do snap out of it, it reminds me. It doesn’t matter what you have. No amount of money. No amount of things. No amount of beautiful scenery. No amount of relationships or success at work. NONE of it will make you happy if your mind is disturbed! This crazy mind jumps from here to there and there to here and back again. It will drive you insane!

So, we need to take care of that silly old mind of ours.

The funny thing about the mind is that you can’t control the mind with the mind. You can’t just negotiate with an anxious mind to make it calm. You can’t just tell your mind to stop planding so that you can drift off to sleep. You can’t just tell your mind to stop broofing over the past.

This mind is tricky!

You can practice mindfulness and awareness, but it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to control the mind that way.

The fastest and easiest way to keep the mind in balance is through breathing and meditation. I’ve been meditating every day for 15 years, and trust me, it works. It really works to help keep you happy.

Why?

Because breathing and meditation bring your mind to the present moment…. and if your mind is in the present moment, then you don’t worry as much. And, if your mind isn’t worrying as much, then it’s less disturbed and that means you’re more happy.

If you’re more happy, the people around you are happy. And, if you’re happy, the sunsets always look better!

A good meditation app I use sometimes is called ‘Sattva’ there are lots of free meditations on there. Also, the Art of Living foundation’s ‘Happiness Program’ will teach you the most amazing breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya. The organization runs programs all over the world.

Respecting a Baby’s Space

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Babies are so cute! They’re so innocent and non-judging… they make lots of people feel the love, belongingness and connection that we all crave.

And, babies need to be picked up, handled and held for just about every activity they do! As an attachment style parent, I’ve had very close contact with my babies all day and night. Physical touch and connection is vital for a baby’s well being.

But where do we draw the line as to what is respectful to a baby’s body or what may be unintentionally violating a baby’s space? Shouldn’t there be a difference in how a stranger enters your baby’s space as opposed to someone the baby knows? And, just because a baby is smiling, does it mean that he’s enjoying the interaction?

I know, I know, again, baby’s are so cute! It’s hard to not want to tickle them or stroke their soft skin or ask to hold them or to squeeze them and poke all their round delicious parts. My son is just about to turn six months old at the time I’m writing this, and man, is he a ham! It’s hard for people to keep their hands off him!

But… babies are people, let’s not forget. Small adorable people, who can’t talk. Would it be ok to go around stroking a stranger’s cheeks? Or, if you saw a cute looking guy in the shops, would it be alright to stick your finger in his hand? No…

I don’t have the right to tickle, poke and prod or do anything that might make my baby feel uncomfortable. And, I feel like I need to protect my small person from other well-meaning people who can’t help but want to do the same.

I’ve had countless strangers approach my babies and try to get a squeeze, or a poke or a kiss! Even when my babies have been tucked away in the baby carrier, and I try to turn away, I’ve had people touch my baby’s toes, plant a kisses on my baby’s head, put a finger in my baby’s soft hand or stroke my baby’s cheeks (their cheeks are amazing, I admit).

Then, people ask for cuddles…

If the baby is tucked away in the carrier, they won’t ask (thank goodness). But, if the baby’s out of the carrier and they ask, I don’t always know what to say. Saying ‘no‘ seems rude. If they could ask my baby and he could answer, then the answer would be straight forward. But, how do I know if HE wants you to hold him? This is not a game of ‘pass the baby‘, this is a little person with feelings!

How would I feel if a giant stranger, who looked, felt and smelled very different from my mother, picked me up? I’m not sure I would like it…

I love the most when people interact with my son by smiling at him and talking. That way, he can simply snuggle his head into my chest if he doesn’t feel like interacting. Or, he can choose to respond by smiling back. Sometimes my son smiles during an interaction with someone, but I have to look at his body language to know if he’s enjoying the interaction. Is he smiling, but tense and pulling and squirming away? Or, is he smiling with his body relaxed? If he’s relaxed, then I know he feels safe and comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, other people have definitely held my babies, I’m not that uptight and it’s beautiful when the holding is done with awareness. My parents just came to visit from America and my son spent tons of time on their laps. And, some of my good friends, that I see on a regular basis, get cuddles. But, people whom I don’t see often, I just don’t feel comfortable saying ‘yes‘ to when they ask for a casual cuddle. A cuddle is a very intimate thing, in my opinion!

It’s not just strangers who want to poke and prod babies, I think about how often my husband and daughters (or even I) may accidentally invade my son’s body space. My girls love him so much, tthe second I put him down, they’re all over him like white on rice! It’s a tough one, like I said, because babies need to be picked up, interacted with and helped all day long… and we do love to play with him. So, I try my best to nicely remind everyone to look and listen carefully at his cues to see if he starts feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

The whole idea of respecting a baby’s body in the way I’m talking about, is a very subtle concept. It’s not to say that we limit the touching or holding of our babies, because babies absolutely need lots of closeness. And, we should act natural around babies! But, is the touching and holding done with awareness? And, does the baby feel safe and comfortable?

We just don’t know what strong impressions are being made in a baby’s brain at such a young age. True, they won’t remember individual events, but they do remember the feeling. I want to make sure that down the track, my children grow up with the feeling that they have felt safe and respected.

The Day After Daddy’s Days Off

The day we spend in recovery…. This is the day the house is its biggest wreck. Don’t ask me how or why, because we haven’t actually spent much time at home to mess it up. We’re always out, running around having fun. But, without fail, the day after my husband’s weekend, the dishes are piled high, there’s crap all over the floor, I’m up to my armpits in dirty laundry and the kids are absolutely knackered. We need an entire day off just to recover!

Luckily, I don’t have to go to work on those days, (or most days for that matter)! What do mothers do who have to go to work, ‘the day after’?! How do they survive??? When do they find time to clean up the nuclear fallout, because it takes me almost the entire day! (I wonder if it’s the same for stay at home dads the day after their wife has the day off?)

We homeschool and I work part time and casual. The days I’m home with the kids, we seem to enjoy a good rhythm. We usually do just enough to not get exhausted, we stay pretty emotionally connected and tidy up at least enough to clear a path.

But, when daddy’s home, it’s too exciting!!! All the rhythm and the rest and the order that the kids and I follow all week, gets thrown out the window! It’s a tricky thing to negotiate everyone’s needs on a normal the day. But on a daddy’s ‘off’ day, everything just goes ballistic. It’s just not fair! There isn’t enough time!

My husband works really hard, has really long hours and is always too exhausted to do much when he comes home from work. So, on his days off, it’s tempting to do as much fun stuff as possible. He’s not the type of person to lounge around (nor am I). We do like to have our fun,,, but there’s always hell to pay the next day.

So, here I am writing this, it’s the evening of the last day of my husband’s weekend. The kids have collapsed in bed, in an exhausted pile of unmet needs combined with too much excitement. If you need me tomorrow, I’ll be in my pajamas, wading knee deep through debris and wiping away tears…

But, we did have fun.

Let Them Throw Sand! (Sometimes)

We were on the beach and it was very windy. There was nobody close by. My girls were throwing sand and pretending to be Elsa, blasting their magical powers and creating ice! The sand (ice) was flying through the air for a good distance. We live in Australia, what do you expect, they’re desperate to see snow!

I let them do it because there was no one standing down wind. But, a little nagging voice in my head said, “If you let them do it once, they’ll always want to do it!

*Shut up little voice!*

I remember so clearly being told as a kid that: “If we let you do it once, you’ll think you always have a license to do it! So NO!” Whatever it was that I was asking for, I forget now, but I always remember that response.

Oh, how I used to get so outraged! The feeling that I wasn’t trusted to use my own judgement, made me furious and frustrated!

And, I understand why adults used to say it, I mean, nobody gives adults a child rearing manual with step-by-step instructions on how to handle every scenario. So, ‘no‘ is often a safe answer…

The truth is, behaviour that is undesirable in one setting, may be perfectly acceptable in another. I realised that my daughters had an amazing ability to use their better judgement, providing that their needs for connection and understanding had been met.

If I always try to control their every move, when the time comes that I really need them to listen, they might not, because they’re so sick of me always saying ‘no‘!

So, when I say ‘no‘, there’s generally a good reason why. If I can let them do whatever it is that they’re asking to do (throw sand for example), then I certainly do. If it’s not appropriate to throw sand, I tell them not to.

I also allow my kids to complain, cry and rage when I say ‘no‘, but the answer  is still ‘no‘. Allowing them to express their feelings about the answer is an important part of the process of democratic parenting.

My kids can’t throw sand at people, but I let them throw sand sometimes.

They have to hold my hand across the street sometimes and other times I let them walk across by without holding hands, if it’s not busy.

Most of the time, they can wear whatever crazy outfit they picked out, but I just won’t let my four year old wear a sweaty poofy dress-up when we go out, only because then I can’t clip her into her car seat!

I let my kids binge on junk and sometimes I say no.

Sometimes, I let them buy whatever they want at the shops and sometimes I say ‘No‘.

If I can give them a good back scratch before bed, I do it, and if on other nights I can’t, then so be it.

Sometimes I let them run amuck… and sometimes I don’t.

What’s interesting is that allowing for variety seems to create more cooperative children!

My kids are never really confused by this apparent change of rules or inconsistency. If anything, they’re relieved that the answer isn’t always ‘no‘. In fact, they almost always ask my permission before doing something, even if they know there’s a chance I’ll say ‘no‘… because often there’s a chance that I’ll say ‘yes‘.

They won’t lie or hide things because they know that I’m mostly fair when it comes to their requests. They don’t feel so desperate when I do have to say “no“, so they’re less likely to act out.

Allowing for variety does make parenting a little more tricky in the short term. If the answer isn’t always ‘no‘, that means there’s room for negotiation, and negotiation takes effort. BUT, I imagine them as adults. Imagine they’re given a situation that’s unfair, do I want them to sulk away thinking they have no chance?? No way! I want them have the skills to use their voice and to understand when to speak up and possibly when to shut up.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we had to eat the same foods every day?? Well, that’s how I feel about rules at home. There needs to be some variety. There needs to be times when we can let our kids do things that they normally can’t do. That way, when the time comes when we need their coperation, they’re more likely to give it.

 

Elimination Communication Four Month Update

Elimination Communication update, for those who are interest in following this part of my journey.

My little guy is four months old and I can safely say that the early months of doing EC have been very similar to doing EC with my two girls. I usually use nappies as a back up (saves the stress in case in case I miss something). I found that right between the 3-4 month mark they will not poo in their nappy anymore. Hooray! This happened with all three kids and it makes using cloth much MUCH easier. Read the rest of this entry

How I Honored The Fourth Trimester

I didn’t leave my house at all for the first six weeks after my son was born at home. Staying home during the early post partum period was one of the most profoundly healing and beautiful experiences of my life. I wrote about my experience here. Often, the post partum experience is expected to end at six weeks, but I feel like my full post partum recovery lasted until about 3 months.

The fourth trimester is a term I only heard about after the birth of my second, but it basically means the time period, about 3 months, after birth when you and your baby are recovering from pregnancy and birth. You take time to nourish your body and soul. And, you spend time bonding with your new child and responding to the baby’s needs. Looking back on my previous babies, I think it took a similar amount of time to adjust to new life when they were born.

After my six weeks without leaving the house, I was very reluctant to go out. The world was big and fast and seemed like it was waiting to devour me. I was surprised at how very fragile, both physically and emotionally, I felt.

The six weeks didn’t just end and I took my first step back into ‘reality‘ and that was that. Oh no… after entering the world, it took at least another 6 or 7 weeks to adjust. Keep in mind, this was with my THIRD baby, no longer a rookie parent, and it still took time.

At first, I had to be very careful when choosing which activities to do. I tried not to do anything too stimulating, (especially for the baby’s sake) and I avoided the elements as much as possible. It was entering summer in Australia when I started to leave the house, so it was hot and sunny. The temptation to take the bigger kids to the beach every day was so inviting (and they begged me)… but I generally had to say no. Doing that would have made me so tired and hot and would have not been enjoyable for my baby. The wind was especially annoying to be out in. Instead, we walked around the cool air conditioning at the shopping centers near our house. And, in the afternoons, we all had big cuddly naps. The few days when I did too much (hello, when we went to IKEA??) I almost always landed myself a massive headache the next day and got easily grumpy with the kids. I had to really watch it and not over-do it!

My son grew very big, very fast, and my body was not strong enough to carry him around for long periods of time. I’m usually as strong as an ox, so it was a shock to me that I was feeling sore from something as simple as babywearing a newborn! But, at six weeks, he was already over 6 kilos (13 pounds). I remember after only taking a short walk one day, with him in the baby carrier, that my feet and joints became sore. This happened for a couple of weeks until I got strong enough to carrying him around. After the three month mark, I noticed that I could carry him for much longer and I didn’t feel so tired.

Here we were at 3 1/2 months, and I still felt a like big adventures were a little too much for us…

Another interesting experience I had during this time was hyper-sensitive senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. It was really bizarre, like I was on drugs or something. I remember craving weird things, just like when I was pregnant. The feeling of steaming my face with eucalyptus oil and hot water, was something I felt drawn to. Daily warm oil massage was something else I craved. On a hot day, getting in the car, smelling and feeling the air conditioning on my skin and breathing the cool air in, was almost orgasmic! I sort of wish those sensations would have lasted longer because it was fun, everything was new! I don’t remember feeling this way with my previous births, so I think it was because I had been at home for six weeks and had received some very deep rest. I was extra aware and in tune this time around.

Some things I DID NOT crave were things like exercise and socializing. I felt like I needed to save my energy for breastfeeding and things like having patience with my older kids! And, talking to people, even friends, made me really tired.

My daily activities were enough to make me strong. I did go surfing a little, after 2 1/2 months and that helped me to gain my strength again, but surfing is a sport that I’m used to doing, and it can be done sort of moderately. We made sure to take lots of naps and laid around reading books on some of the really hot days.

So that was the physical part of my return to normalcy, but there was also the emotional and mental recovery as well! Getting used to an extra kid, when out and about, took a while. Before, with two kids, my attention was divided, but with three, it felt scattered (even though the baby was usually asleep and in the baby carrier). So we tried to stick close to home that at I could feedback him comfortably at home. Not because I’m uncomfortable with feeding in public (if you only knew how many years of breastfeeding in public experience I have up my sleeve) but because it was much more relaxing that way.

Although I spent 6 weeks bonding with my son at home, I still had to get used to how he would respond to being out, in the car, etc. It wasn’t bad, but it was still something I had to get used to and it was pretty stressful the first few times.

I’m so glad that I honored the process of birth and recovery. Lots of my friends on social media had babies around the same time as me. It would have been easy to get worked up, comparing what they were doing and how they were looking, with my own experience. But, I wanted this post partum experience to be authentic and deep. For once, I felt the need to really listen to myself and to the true needs of my entire family.

Slowly leaving the fourth trimester is a little sad. I still get remnants of it here and there, as my son is only just under 4 months old and still holding on to those small baby qualities, but now he’s starting to change fast. And, I’m starting to change too! Slowly, my attention is being pulled away from the mother-baby bubble and is starting to focus on everyone else’s needs. Life is moving on. There’s no going back. The few months after a baby’s birth is a once in a life time opportunity to take it easy, simplify and tune in. It fills my heart with joy that I honored my needs, and the needs of our new little person, during the few months after his birth. I feel so complete, like I finished writing a chapter of my life and I couldn’t have written it better.

 

Nature vs. Nuture: How Much Does Our Parenting Matter?

Years before I had children, I went to a talk by the spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Somehow the question came up on parenting. Although he’s not a parent himself… he is an enlightened guru, so he gave some insightful advice.

He said that 50% of a person is just how they’re born, it’s their nature, you CANNOT change that. The other 50% is something that CAN be changed by their environment/parents/experiences/nurturing, etc.

This idea of nature vs. nature is not something new that he came up with, and lots of people have talked, researched and written about this topic. In fact, I’m sure there’s some expert out there could argue the exact contribution that our parenting makes towards the outcome of our children, but I like to think 50/50 is a good start. Anyone can observe that sometimes kids who come from even the most nurturing families still turn out a little um… like maybe they need a hug… While sometimes people who come from horrible, abusive or traumatic childoods, turn out to be outstanding citizens of their society.

Hopefully it makes some of you reading this feel a little lighter. While we do have a big responsibility to do our best as parents, at the end of the day, we can only work with what we’ve got! Our kids are still little people who come with their own set of qualities. These qualities, are traits we might love or might drive us bonkers!

And, it does make me feel better to know, that when my kids are acting like lunatics, even after I’ve tried every trick up my sleeve, that I can just shrug my shoulders and leave as ‘just their nature’.

Something Must Happen When They Turn 4

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imageIt happened with my older daughter and again, as the younger one reached the same age. It was like angels singing one day. Suddenly, something changed and when I stopped to think about what it was, I remembered, “Oh, they turned 4!”

Not that my kids have been overly difficult at 3 (I know, threenager is nothing to laugh about), but I definitely noticed a huge shift around 4. More reasonable. More cooperative. More able to cope with stimulation. More confidence. Need to be carried less/can walk father. Less baby-ish and more like a “kid”.

I’ve asked a lot of mothers about this, and many of them have confirmed my observations: something big happens at 4. Four isn’t really considered significant in terms of ‘categories’ for children’s ages. Technically, 4 is somewhere in the middle of preschool age, but I see 4 as a big milestone.

It just seems that at 4, things get ‘easier’. Of course, easier in some ways. Pysically easier, while the other types of emotional and mental demands sort of increase! But, a big change nonetheless.

Stop Glorifying Exhaustion!

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I was just reading an article titled something like “21 Secrets Midwives Will Never Tell You About Their Job”. The article seems nice enough. The midwife talks about the love of her job, etc. But one thing she inadvertently does is brag about how exhausted she gets at work! Yes, hardly a break, hardly a bite to eat or a drink in a 9-12 hour shift. As if it’s something to admire….

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want someone over-worked and on the brink of exhaustion, making split minute decisions about my health or the health of my baby.

It’s one thing to work hard. Working hard is good for us. And sometimes we have no choice. But, working to the brink of collapse, and being proud about it, is pretty wacky. If you’re in a life or death situation and you have to work until you drop, yes, you’re a hero. But, in our society, we’re generally not pushing ourselves to exhaustion in a life or death situation. But we still think being tired is pretty cool. Read the rest of this entry

Living On Stolen Land. I’m Sorry.

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Stolenland

If you ask the people in the town I grew up in, what the land was before our neighbourhood was built, they’ll tell you that it used to be a potato farm.

But, for how long was it a potato farm? Before that, what was it? Wasn’t it a vast forest that was home to wildlife and… the Native Americans who used to live there? Yes. But, most history doesn’t go back that far, apparently. That’s in America, where today, they’re celebrating their ‘Independence Day’. The day when the founding fathers of America decided they were tired of taxation without representation. Well… if you ask my mother, and any other mother, she’ll probably chew your ear off about how high her taxes are.

Eight years ago, my husband and I moved to Australia. Right now, we’re in the process of buying a place. Actually, wait. We’re in the process of buying a teeny tiny apartment on some patch of dirt and this teeny tiny apartment is expensive (although relatively cheap for this area). As in, so expensive that my husband has to be away from his family between 40-50 hours a week, just to so that we can afford it. And, I have to scramble to find work from time to time to make ends meet. That’s ‘normal‘, isn’t it? Read the rest of this entry