Monday, 25 November 2013

This week: being thankful

As my American readers will know only too well, Thursday of this week is Thanksgiving. It has become an adopted annual celebration for me, with my other half being American. Last year I wrote about it too, with a focus on the food side of things. I also mentioned how touching it was getting to listen to our son tell us for the first time what he was thankful for.

This year in writing about it, I am focusing more on the 'thanks' in Thanksgiving. It is a time when we 'officially' stop and think about what we are thankful for and that is something I have been thinking a lot about during recent weeks. Feelings of gratitude are well-linked to feelings of happiness and indeed, some people recommend writing or sharing aloud one or two things they are grateful for at the end of each day. It is undoubtedly a good exercise.

Since joining Twitter, I discovered a nightly, 'Be positive before bed' time, when people tweet something positive from their day. I was trying to join in fairly frequently but have not done so recently. Some days it is hard to pick out something good from everything that has happened and when you're feeling like it's been a tough day. However, those days are probably exactly the days when we should force ourselves to identify at least one thing that we are thankful for!

An old post on one of the blogs I enjoy reading, The Happiness Project, provides four questions to ask yourself, to help boost your feelings of gratitude. It is a good starting point if you feel unsure of where to start in thinking of what you are thankful for. Often the little things and often the things we take for granted are ultimately the linchpin to our happiness and so it really is important to stop and think about those things and recognise how crucial they are to us.

I shared a couple of things I am thankful for in my post from last week. I would love to hear some of yours (please don't be shy!). Do you regularly take a moment to contemplate your sources of gratitude or is it something you rarely think to do?
photo credit

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Quietly keeping busy

There has been a bit of unsettling news in the Mummy Zen household of late, which is why I have not written (again!) in a couple of weeks. We're in that frustrating state of limbo, awaiting more information, with tough decisions looming on the horizon. I could think about the 'what ifs' all day and drive myself into depression, cry myself to sleep each night on speculative thoughts but I am trying to avoid both those paths.

The trick of course, is to keep busy and keep my mind occupied. Children are the perfect distraction for a lot of the time. Life must go on so there's the school run, play dates to host, weekly activities/classes to attend with my youngest, reading and writing practice with my eldest and general play and fun to be had with both. When they are at school or napping, I occupy myself with preparing meals and I have been keeping on top of the cleaning more than usual!

I also find seeking company among friends is a good way to keep my spirits up. Sometimes you don't feel like being sociable at times like these but I recognise it does me good to be around friends. A friendly chat can be recharging for the soul, as well as a welcome diversion to one's own situation and wandering thoughts.

Challenging circumstances tend to give us a renewed perspective and appreciation of what we have in our life and those around us. I'm filled with love and gratitude for my little family; my two wonderful children who are always making me smile and feel proud, and my husband, who is such an amazing loving, caring support to me and still manages to make me laugh in the midst of sadness. My mother might not live in the same country but she manages to make me feel like she is close by nevertheless, checking in on me regularly and being there any time if I need a chat. Then there are the good friends who will look after my children at the drop of a hat if need be. I would be lost without them.

In my aim to keep busy, I did eventually get around to writing this post and have ideas for a couple of others that may manifest before too long! We'll see....

How do you keep yourself busy when you need to? What or who do you turn to as a distraction during a difficult time?
photo credit

Monday, 4 November 2013

Raise Happier Kids

I never thought I would write a post recommending an app, as I am not the kind of parent who gives my children a tablet or phone to play on. However, last week I stumbled across Knoala, a free app that aims to keep children happy and occupied away from screens by providing activities parents can play with their infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Knoala's slogan is the title of this post, 'Raise happier Kids' and the app was created by first-time parents, who wanted to explore the potential of play for their child's development. After some extensive research they created the app that now offers thousands of ideas for fun activities for you and your child.  
'Based on your child's age and local weather conditions, Knoala finds activities that are most suitable for you and your family. Bond with your child over games and crafts that foster artistic, cognitive, emotional, motor, sensory and language skills.'
To give you a couple of example activities, there are things like getting your child to peel a boiled egg or slice a banana, various art/craft ideas and outdoor activities too. One suggestion I know my son would love is to get some of those little plastic eggs and fill them with healthy snacks. Hide them around the house and let your child go on a hunt for the eggs. Obviously they get to eat the snacks when they find them :-).

Another good thing Knoala provides are loads of story starters to help you have fun making up and telling stories with your child. One I read today was, 'Tell a heroic story about a determined star who is on a secret mission'. I like how these starters can get you and your child thinking and storytelling about something that might be completely unlike what you usually think of, keeping the imagination alive!

 As the cold weather sets in here in London, there will invariably be those days or moments when I am looking for something enjoyable and a bit different to do with the children and at those times, I am sure Knoala will definitely come in handy for giving some inspiration. The fact that all content in the app is free is a bonus too!

Have you used Knoala or have you heard of it? Are there any other apps you like that help encourage fun playtime with your children?

Disclosure: I was not contacted by Knoala or requested to review the app, I simply wanted to share something fun I found that other parents might benefit from!