Make it your year!

I am not necessarily one for New Year’s resolutions.

It all seems great on the night of celebrations, making declarations of sweeping changes I am going to make or goals I am going to reach. I’ve been there. In the weeks, and sometimes even days, that follow though, my resolve seems to wane and I often return to a “business as usual” mode of operation.

This year, I intend to do things a little differently, to bring attention to some of my habitual ways of thinking and patterns of doing, and put my energy into simpler things.

My youngest son Jack started kindy in February, which feels like an epic milestone. He has gone to day care since he was a baby, but suddenly it all feels so different, this quiet shift from toddler to boyhood.

I am watching with awe as Jack grows out of tantrums (well, mostly), finding his words more easily, and developing this wonderful sense of humour. He is dressing himself and heading off on the ‘walking bus’ with his brother Locky and the other kids on the street.

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It is inspiring to watch Jack embracing school full force and adapting to new situations in this time of transition. It also opens up this space for me to think about some of the shifts I would like to make in my own life.

Like many kindys, Jack attends three days one week and two days the next.

Aside from my husband and I getting back in the groove of who picks up whom when, what this means is that once every fortnight, I have a day off ALL TO MYSELF. I joke that I don’t like to talk about it too much, for fear it might disappear or be taken away, or that someone will fall ill with gastro and it won’t happen, but it did.

This past Wednesday I had a day for me.

I went to yoga in the morning and I felt such stillness and peace of mind. I was able to bring my attention to the practice and be present in the moment in the room. There was no agitation or expectation, no rushing or comparison. It was beautiful.

I found myself so full of gratitude that I could ‘fill my own cup’ by simply connecting with the breath.

Afterward, I took some time to truly contemplate the wisdom shared by our instructor and remind myself the importance of applying that knowledge in my everyday life.

How vital it is to bring my attention to the present moment, whatever it may be, and meet the needs of that moment, with compassion and without judgement. How important it is to challenge myself to extend beyond what is comfortable, whether it be a holding that difficult yoga pose for an extra thirty seconds or taking on something new in my personal or professional life.

I thought about how often and easy it is to let the fear of falling over, or failing, hold me back from taking chances and reaching my true potential.

This year, I am setting intentions rather than resolutions.

To dance more, see live music and devote more time to writing. To reconnect with friends and have more date nights with my husband! To remain committed to my yoga and meditation practice and bring greater awareness to what it is that makes me happy and what I need to thrive.

And I’m going for it.

Whether it is on the yoga mat or at home or work, I am being gentle with myself as I move along my journey and I am giving myself permission to falter. There will be challenges, but I know this is going to be my year. Make it yours too!

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The perils of the checkout

As I sit to write the boys are in the bath, happily playing after a pretty big day. They attended a seven-year-old birthday party where the weather was sunny and beautiful and they ran around with all their mates at the nature playground. When we departed the boys were given their token party bag, which they clutched with glee despite my repeated words that they were not to open it until we were in the car. The minute they were locked and loaded in their car seats, they began to devour the mix of lollies and sweets in their bag, wrestling with wrappers and trading for their favourites. Needless to say, that afternoon they were sugar-crazed and rambunctious. I was exhausted. It was only when they were tucked into bed that they finally began to come out of the sugar haze that had ruled the day.
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In general, the boys are healthy eaters. Their school lunches are filled with corn, carrots, apples, and watermelon. They do eat biscuits and cakes, but in moderation. We talk about ‘always’ foods like fruit and veg, ‘sometimes’ foods like chocolate and lollies and those ‘rarely’ foods like Twisties! I am not the mother who makes them green smoothies and spirulina shakes, but I can whip up a pretty mean beetroot cake and zucchini slice. We eat dinner together as a family most evenings, something that numerous researchers and academics say is a predictor of kids staying out of trouble and succeeding later in life.

I will say one activity that can be challenging is getting in and out of the grocery store without a heap of rubbish making it into the trolley. I love that many of the larger shops have now placed baskets of free fruit, like apples and bananas, at the entrance and I admit when my four-year-old Jack and I enter we often take two or three! I go in with a list and a plan. I try to linger in the fresh produce section, exploring the various types of fruit and veg, trying samples, and pointing out new and unique vegetables that we have never seen before. I also try to skip the aisles with chocolate, chips, and cookies and divert the gaze of the children when passing packages of tiny teddies and other confectionary items. It’s not easy, but the greatest challenge lies before us at the checkout.

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When we have finally crossed everything off our list and we approach the checkout I pray that we whiz on through without having to linger there for long. When we do get caught there is often a chorus of “may I have this?” and “can we get that?” as the boys are faced with lollies, sweets, and soft drinks. Of course, all of these items are strategically placed perfectly at their eye level.

Rather than letting this stress me out, I use it as an opportunity to talk about the importance of healthy eating, things that are naturally sweet, and the ingredients in food and non-food (those things filled with numbers and emulsifiers). We talk about how tempting it can be but how we really don’t need any of the things that we see. I can see other adults or parents giggling or even listening, but I know they too have been faced with these perils. It’s a challenge, but one that we often rise to and I celebrate every time we make it through without something extra.

I have seen that there is a new wave of stores that are lining the checkout with fresh fruit and veg or basics for cooking that we often forget as we wander through the aisles of the grocery store. How wonderful this is, and could be, to have your children ask for an apple or some grapes as you wait to pay rather than a chocolate bar or fruit tingles. It’s slowly catching on and hopefully, will become the norm someday. Until then, I will continue to have some strategies in place every time we go to the shops and keep the faith that we can make it out alive!

All Aboard!

I remember the days before children when, after work, I regularly attended gym classes or sometimes caught up with a friend for a meal on a moment’s notice, without planning it weeks in advance. These days, I am lucky to make it to the gym once or twice a week, and those plans with friends are on the calendar ages ahead of the actual date. Clearly, finding the time for anything between work, after school activities and dinner can be challenging.

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That being said, I realise the importance of setting aside time for doing things that I enjoy. I attend a weekly philosophy class. I make time for meditation. I exercise, which for me personally, is hands down, the most effective way to de-stress and re-charge. I make it to a weight training class on Tuesday evenings after work. I wake with the birds sometimes on the weekends, and tip toe from the house while everyone is sleeping to get in a walk by myself, to the ocean and back. I think it’s true that as a mother, or parent, by taking care of yourself, you are better equipped to take care of the little others in your family.

My husband and I both agree that there is less and less free time “to ourselves” or with each other. We have our own hobbies and we do make time for date nights. We also focus on doing more physical activities together as a family than aiming to get free time on our own. Now that Locky and Jack are almost seven and four, we have been getting out and doing exercise as a family, which has been really fun.

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We live in Fremantle so one of our regular activities is to go and walk the stairs at Manning Park (move over Jacob’s ladder!). It is so cute to see the boys thundering up and down the steps, with the unbridled energy of youth and I’m thrilled that we are doing exercise that is challenging for me as well as them. Sometimes Jack holds my hand and we take it slow while Locky races ahead and greets us at the top. Other times, Jack meanders around at the bottom with my husband Jeremy while Locky and I whip up and down. After a few rounds of stairs, we walk the two km loop, a tree lined trail with lookout points that provide glimpses of the ocean. A playground lies at the finish line where the boys a have a play and Jeremy and I can just sit and have a chat. The only thing missing is the coffee van!

Other activities that we do together as a family include ice skating, kicking to footy at the park, and getting out in nature to the hills for a trail hike. I even try to log in incidental exercise time with the boys by walking to the shops while they scooter or chasing a friends dog around the park. Whether it is a planned outing or running or a necessary trip, it never ceases to amaze me how wide-eyed the children are, the smallest details they notice and the joy they get from the simplest things. I love the way it reminds me to practice gratitude, be present and not sweat the small stuff.

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I guess my point is, and I remind myself, that I don’t have to “get away” to exercise. There are lots of options to get out and get active with the boys. Not only do we all feel recharged from it, but Jeremy and I also show them how much we enjoy being physically active. We model those positive behaviours and hope that as they grow older, they stick, and the boys continue to enjoy exercise and make it a part of their everyday life.

Now if I could only get them to eat the carrots in their lunch…