Monday, 27 February 2012

Mind over matter

I always try to give up something during Lent, as an exercise in restraint and self-control more than anything else. It's usually chocolate but this year I decided to give up refined sugar as I had been having too many sugary foods than is good for anyone. In doing so, I am reminded that so many things come down to mind over matter.

As much as I enjoy fruit, I generally don't reach for it at those times when I crave something sweet. At the moment however, I am choosing fruit for a sweet fix and no matter what kind of fruit I eat, I think to myself how delicious it is and wonder why I don't eat it more often.

To give another example, when I'm feeling lethargic or grumpy I usually just want to stay at home and not go out. Yet when I have to go out, if a friend calls to meet up or for the sake of my children I force myself to go out, I am so glad I did and feel all the better for it.

Often what we think we don't want turns out to be exactly what we need. It's an interesting exercise to challenge our mind and choose the thing we think we don't want at that moment. It'll likely be exactly what we wanted or needed!
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Monday, 20 February 2012

Little things , big difference

A few weeks ago, I was finding our mornings very stressful. Getting two little people and myself up, fed, dressed and out the door to make it to my son's nursery on time is always a big rush. Shortly before we need to leave, my baby girl would start crying because it's her nap time and then I have to get her all bundled up to keep her warm outside which she hates and so there's even more crying. My son doesn't like being in a rush and doesn't like his hat, scarf and gloves going on so then he starts a combination of moaning, whining and fake crying. It's no fun. As soon as we step outside the front door it goes blissfully quiet thank goodness but those few unpleasant minutes were really getting to me.

I had to think about what I could do to make that part of the day better for the three of us. Having identified the causes of the general upset, I considered what I could do to try to ease the situation. With my daughter, I lay her down in her cot when she was tired. It was often only five minutes before we needed to leave but it gave my son and I five minutes of quiet to get ourselves ready and meant she was less miserable being kept up. She still cried when I then got her up and dressd her for the cold outside but it was a whole lot less crying overall.

For my son, I tried to make the whole getting ready to leave process calmer to make him feel less hurried. I told him he didn't need to put his hat on until we got outside so it was one less thing to put on at that moment. I tried to be a lot more cheery myself too, to try to create a happy atmosphere for everyone.

Not every morning was the same and I didn't do all those things every morning necessarily but those small steps made a huge difference. We still left rushing but everyone was a lot calmer and happier and it made for a much more pleasant start to the day.

Now my daughter is staying awake longer so we don't get the crying like we did at first. The temperatures warmed up a little so gloves and hat are not needed so often for my son. A lot can change in a short time, as you well know.

Sometimes when we are in the thick of a frustrating or difficult time, we fail to recognise that making a small change or two to the way we do something can make a big difference. Can you think of any situation where you were able to improve it by doing one or two little things?
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Monday, 13 February 2012

What makes you happy?

I've never participated in a blog hop before but when I read The Happiness Project - What Makes you Happy? on Kate Takes 5, I thought it was a really nice idea and decided to join in! As regular readers will know, I'm often commenting on things like happiness and articles that discuss ways we can be happier.

Kate decided to ask her children what makes them happy (with no prompting) and suggested we do the same. I'll have to guess for my 3-month old....things that make her smile or seem content are when her big brother takes some notice of her and when anyone talks to her, with funny faces and noises resulting in bigger smiles and maybe even a little laugh.

When I asked our 3-year-old son, he came out with.....funny faces. It was not what I was expecting but at the same time does not surprise me. He is at the age or stage when funny faces are very appealing. He likes to make them and likes when other people make them too. Anyway, I think it really captures his fun personality so I rather like that being his response.

As I only have one child who can speak for himself, I decided to ask one of my nieces too. She is age 11. Her response was being with her family. I can't imagine an 11-year-old boy saying that but who knows?? Anyway, I'm glad she feels that way.

It's interesting how our thoughts on what make us happy change over time. Different experiences in our life impact on what makes us happy. Our perspective alters with different stages of our lives too. As a stroppy teenager, I don't think I would ever have said family made me happy but now, married to a great man and with two wonderful children, my family really do make my happy (I think I probably have a greater appreciation for my extended family too).

What else makes me happy? Walks in the sunshine, being in the middle of nowhere enjoying peace and quiet and the beauty of nature, at other times being around friends, cooking, exercise and a good night's sleep! What makes you happy? What about your children - what do they say if you ask them what makes them happy?

Friday, 10 February 2012

For the sake of Valentine's

Valentine's Day - it's one of those things you don't really care about much until you have children and then it's another excuse for doing some fun things. As it falls in the half-term week too, I'm planning lots of heart-themed activities at home with my son and thought I would share a few ideas I have been looking at.....

I love these Valentine animals from Ziggity Zoom.

This heart potato printing is a great way to decorate homemade cards or wrapping paper, from Fab Mums.

Urban Mums found this lovely Valentine's Day Votive, simple to make but looks really effective.

I really like this post on The Artful Parent about teaching children how to mix colours while making Valentines.

Lots of fun recipes for Valentine's baking on the BBC Good Food site.

Are there any arts and crafts or baking ideas you have done in the past or plan to do for Valentine's day this year?
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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Embrace your inner child

I know the title of this post is cheesy (I couldn't resist) but please read on! This past weekend we had some snow in London and it was significant enough for some outdoor fun; snowman building, snowball throwing and general running and stomping around in the snow. I had a great time! It made me think of something I had read recently on The Happiness Project about enjoying childish pleasures. I've been thinking about that post a fair bit in the last few weeks and realising that I really do get happiness from quite a lot of the 'childish' stuff I do with our son.

Just for the record, here is a list of some such pleasures:
  • The aforementioned playing in the snow (ditto with running through autumn leaves)
  • Building with Lego
  • Any art and craft activity
  • Colouring in
  • Children's baking (eg cookies or cakes with sprinkles, gingerbread men etc)

Let's not get confused. It's not about acting childish and abstaining from adult activities but if a childish pleasure here and there helps relax you, improve your mood or just gives you more enjoyment on any given day, then there's nothing embarassing or silly about doing it. After all, you can always use your children as an excuse!

Over to you now - what childish activities do you secretly love?
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