Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Morning Manifesto

a morning manifesto

I had one day recently when I got all five of us out the door in an hour and a half. Not only were we fed, washed and watered, but we all had clean clothes on.  I even had make-up on - always a huge achievement.
I was elated, but the best thing was I didn't once raise my voice at the kids or tell them off for not finding their shoes - it was a calm and happy morning. Even better, because I felt so buoyed by my success, I was on a high for the rest of the day. Which meant I had the energy I needed to get things done and enjoy time with my kids. It was a Super Mum day.

But unfortunately, this was a one-off. Most of my mornings with the kids don’t go so well at all. More often than not I underestimate how much time I have and how much I have to get done before it’s time to leave. Before I know it, I’ve got fifteen minutes left to get the kids' teeth brushed, dress the babies and pack Mr B’s school bag.
I spend those last fifteen minutes in a state of panic, running around the house, snapping at the kids, to hurry up or stop arguing. Along the way, I meet the obstacles: nappies that need changing, missing sunglasses, forgotten News day at school. I frantically watch the minutes tick by and catastrophise in my head about how late we're going to be, picturing us circling the school looking for a park and trying to get the four kids from the car to school before the bell goes. The pressure is intense and overwhelming.

a morning manifesto
Once I leave Mr B at school, I slowly exhale and start to normalise. But the stress has been replaced with guilt and shame. I hate myself for freaking out or yelling at the kids, hate that they have to see me like that. I think of how my stress impacts them and I feel sick. You can imagine how the rest of the day goes from there. It's hard to recover from such a bad start.
I know I’m not the only one that finds mornings tough. I’ve seen the faces on other mums as they rush their kids through the school gate seconds after the bell goes. The stress is obvious - their eyes are downcast, anxiety imprinted on their faces. They hold their child's hand tightly, willing them to HURRY UP! I imagine their morning to have been just as hard as mine.
There’s a good reason why we find the whole thing so bloody traumatising. During stress, our bodies go into overdrive to cope with the situation. It's fight or flight syndrome -  only in modern times. Whereas this used to be about running from a bear or defending our food supply, nowadays, it's about dealing with everyday stressors - traffic, financial worries, daily hassles.  When we perceive a psychological threat, our body releases a huge amount of  stress hormones, which help us face the situation. But that doesn't mean we always respond well. (ref: http://www.theperformanceclinic.com)

I'm sick of having mornings that cause all this. In the name of mummy savvy, it's time for a morning manifesto. 

A Morning Manifesto

Think positive

I've learnt that being prepared for a busy morning is as much about mental preparation as it is about practical preparation. So having clothes and lunches prepared is great, but so is a focussed and positive mindset. Find a mantra that works for you and repeat it to yourself continuously. My personal favourite: 'I will kick this morning's arse'. Even if you’re dreading the busy start, beginning the day with a positive attitude is key to getting through it intact. Use your mantra to kick-start your motivation.
Prepare PREPARE Prepare 
Have a list of what you need to sort out the night before. Stick it up somewhere. While the kids are eating dinner, run around for ten minutes emptying lunch boxes, checking notes from school, and preparing clothes for the next day. This includes getting everything for yourself ready too. Weirdly, all this will take you three times as long to do in the morning, so it makes sense to get it done now.
Stay focussed
When it's 'getting ready' time, avoid distraction. For me, this means avoiding my phone for those sneaky Facebook checks when I think I've got two minutes free. Revelation: there are NEVER two minutes free!
Be realistic

If the clock is ticking and you know you’re not going to get everything done, prioritise what absolutely must be done and can realistically be achieved before you leave the house. No one's going to judge you (or even know, for that matter) if you leave the breakfast dishes in the sink or the washing unhung. 
Get one up on Time
 Instead of stressing about the time, find a way to get on top of it. Set your clock ten minutes fast. Aim to leave ten minutes before you actually should. Get up earlier than you need to - however much this pains you. For me, this is a battle because so many of my nights involve broken sleep. But getting in the shower before anyone is up makes such a difference to the progression of the morning.  
Be kind to yourself
Morning stress is made worse by the way we speak to ourselves. Keep your inner thoughts gentle and don't berate yourself for forgetting to do something or falling behind the schedule. The add-on effect here is that by being kind internally, you'll exude a much calmer presence for your kids. 
 
Turn off the TV
Unless it works for you. You’ll get no judgement from me. But if you're after a more relaxed atmosphere, try swapping the box for your favourite tunes. Your day can start beautifully with some soothing melodies or energising lyrics.
Smile at a mum (or dad)
You're sure to bump into a few other parents during your morning travels. Why not offer them a smile? You don't know what their morning has been like and a connection with you could change their day for the better.
 

How do mornings go at your place? What helps yours go smoothly? And what completely unravels them?!

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Friday, 22 May 2015

A little king turns six



You creep down the stairs at a quarter to six in the morning, and for once I don't mind the early start. The house is dark and quiet, so we use the chance for a cosy snuggle. I whisper 'Happy Birthday' to you and hold you close, feeling your skinny arms around mine - they're strong and sweet, just like the rest of you.
I cuddle you, my birthday boy, and think of all the birthdays that have led to this one. I picture you at different ages, can almost remember what you're wearing at each birthday party we've had. You are my first born, and that will always mean you're special. We call you the king of the castle. It's true, you pretty much are. I don't mind - if anyone deserves to be a king, it's you.
And here we are at birthday number six. No longer my little boy, you're now my little man: tall and lean, growing before my eyes. You speak about things you are learning at school - new words and sounds, animals, politics in the playground. You have your own opinions and values and such a desire to learn more. I thought I would miss you as my little boy, but being part of your world now is so much better than I ever thought possible. Now I can converse with you. We share stories and talk about our feelings. We can have a laugh and play Rock Paper Scissors.
Too excited to wait for others to wake up, I let you open your presents. You're so sweet - you gasp in surprise and pleasure at every one, even at the new toy that you already have one of. You love your new pencils, and want to use them immediately, to finish your school scrap book.
The scrap book is full of sight words and certificates from school. It went to bed with you the night before, like all your favourite things do. You desperately want to bring it to 'News' today, so we spend the morning working on it, gluing in more sight words and notes from school. You add your drawings, using the new pencils - a picture of you and your friends, you holding up your hand in class. I help you spell out some words so you can add captions: 'We have fun in my class', and 'Here are my words.'
For once, I don't watch the clock. Instead, I enjoy the moment, revelling in your enthusiasm and watching you create.
It's a grey, rainy day.
Before school, we get you a milkshake. I promised you a trip to the cafe for breakfast before school, but it's too hard in the rain. You don't mind having a milkshake on the way to school instead. That's the type of boy you are - agreeable and kind. They give you a marshmallow and a tiny teddy to go with it. It's perfection.
I kiss you goodbye at school, and tell you I love you. I watch you walk up the stairs to your classroom and my heart just explodes with love. And I think, 'I am so honoured to know you. It is my pleasure to love you. I am honoured.'
My boy, you are six today. Bigger, braver, better. The world doesn't know how lucky it is.  


 Do you have a 6 year old? Surprised at how much better it gets as kids get older? Got any other birthdays on the horizon?

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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Social Life of a Mum

social life when you're a mum
Before I had kids, I loved going out with friends. I went to pubs, restaurants and concerts. I drank and laughed, stayed out too late and endured the hangovers the next day with the help of greasy food and a hair of the dog. 
 
How things have changed since we all started having babies! These days, going out is hard work. Getting out for some social time once the kids are in bed means that now, along with the usual madness of the dinner/bath/bedtime ritual, you also have to factor in getting on some decent clobber and time to put your face on before you leave the house....which you must do on time because otherwise what's the point? You want to be home by 9.30pm.
Quite frankly, the whole thing is exhausting, and while it's worth it in the end because you get some time-out and a catch up with a friend....does anyone else just want to put on their pyjamas and sip a glass of red once night-time arrives?
So, our social lives 'before kids' and 'after kids' - what's changed? 
Locking in the date
Before kids: It's easy to find a date that suits you and your friends – in fact you have a standing agreement to meet at the pub every Friday after work. There, you can discuss the plans for Saturday, which everyone wants to be part of, because of FOMO.
After kids: It's easy enough to lock-in a date for drinks but this ends up being rescheduled about six times because of sick kids or sleep deprivation. By the time you actually meet, it's three months since the original meet-up date. And secretly, at least one of the times you cancel is because you can't face the idea of going out after a long day. So you pretend that one of the kids is too sick to leave. It's ok. We've all done it.
 
Getting ready
Before kids: Getting ready for a night out is part of the fun. You have a drink to get you in the mood. You put loud music on to get the vibe happening and painstakingly apply your make-up, taking the time to enhance your best features. You spend lots of time in front of the mirror, and probably even find time for a phone call or two to talk about what you plan to wear.
After kids: Getting ready with kids in tow is a battle. You have a cup of tea to perk yourself up. Peppa Pig is on in the background, loudly. Attempts to put on make-up and get dressed happen amidst the dinner/bath/bedtime melee which has you madly dashing back and forth between the kids and your make-up bag. There is a very real risk of you heading out with just one eye done and lipstick on your teeth. You manage to find time to text your friend that you're running late, but even this takes three attempts before you can hit 'send'.
 
What to wear
Before kids: You probably just bought something new and fabulous to wear, which you can't wait to parade around in. You feel very excited about wearing heels, which are worth the pain for the extra inches they give you. You also carefully select the right underwear for your outfit to avoid VPL. VPL matters.
After kids: The top you plan to wear has baby sick on it. You don’t have time to change so you drape a scarf over your top half. Shame it doesn't mask the smell. As for VPL, you couldn’t care less. There’s no way you’d inflict a G-string on your privates. You’re too old for that shiz. It's all about the full briefs these days, which make you feel 'held together'. And when it comes to heels, forget about it. None of yours fit anymore because past pregnancies have inflated your feet and they never went back to normal. Flats are your friends now. Comfort matters.

social life when you're a mum
Drinking behaviour
Before kids: You drink alcohol to get drunk. That's part of the fun. Tequila shots find their way into most Saturday nights. You don't mind dealing with the hangover - it's a great excuse to laze around on a Sunday.
After kids: If you so much as sniff a tequila shot, your stomach lurches. You feel tipsy after two wines, at which point you stop drinking because if you dare have another, a child will punish you for it during the night. Plus you might get a HANGOVER. Nothing in your life now is worth the HANGOVER. There are no lazy Sundays, just Sundays filled with noisy playdates and chaotic kids' parties.

Conversation 
Before kids: You quaff wine and talk life with your girlfriends.  Relationships, work, current affairs, the state of the world – you love getting passionate about the big topics. You gossip about your friends and who’s seeing who. Together you make exciting plans for travel and future nights out.
After kids: You talk about your kids. You talk about current affairs if it involves kids. You gossip about your friends who have kids. You make exciting plans for future play dates and upcoming kids’ parties.
 
The next day
Before kids: It's all good. Bad hangovers are managed with a day on the couch and plenty of greasy food. Anyway, don’t they say a hangover is a sign of a great night?
After kids: You only had two Chardonnays, but because the baby got you up at 4.30am, you feel HUNGOVER. When you’re a mum, a HANGOVER is a sign that the day is going to be l-o-o-ong. And all the comfort food in the world can’t save you from that. I'm really sorry.  

I'm right, aren't I? Keeping up some form of a social life when you're a mum is a tough gig. Even thinking about it makes me want to get my pjs on.  

So, tell me - what's your social life like these days? Do you find nights out easy, or exhausting? And are you tempted to wear your pyjamas to the pub??

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Friday, 15 May 2015

Breaking news: mum of four seen out in daylight. No kids in sight.

When we realised we'd be having four kids, I was highly doubtful that we'd ever get a babysitter brave enough to let us go out before the kids were all in bed. But despite that, months ago I purchased tickets for Mr Laney and I to see a matinee performance of Les Miserables, thinking that we'd save up for a brave and enthusiastic babysitter in the meantime.
 
In the end, my mum and a friend of ours looked after the kids together, so we could get out the door at midday. This was a huge treat for both of us - to be freed from the shackles of the dinner/bath/bedtime madness, just for one night! Not only this, but the hours leading up to it belonged to us. As you can imagine, I was beyond excited in the weeks leading up to this.
 
On the day, I buzzed around the house getting things ready for the kids and tried to doll myself up a bit for the occasion. I love to wear make-up, but there's not a lot of call for it when you stay in most nights in your pjs with a glass of red. So I used the opportunity to get a bit dramatic with the eye-shadow. Afterwards, I went downstairs for appraisal from the big kids, who did a double-take when they saw me. I'm not joking, this is what came out of each of their mouths consecutively:
  
Mr B:     'You look like a zombie'

Miss P:   'You look like Frozen'

I stopped in my tracks, wondering if I should rush to a mirror and start over.

As I panicked slightly about overdoing it in the green eye-shadow department, Miss P came over and started feeling my face and eyelashes in wonder. Then I thought, hey, Elsa and Anna might have been freakishly big-eyed, but they scrubbed up ok.

I wasn't sure what to do about the zombie comment, so I filed it away under 'Boys Don't Know Anything About Make-up' and just got on with it.

As an aside, you should know that I've been slightly obsessed with Les Mis since high school days. I sing this stuff at karaoke. I don't even have to be drunk (but spectators should be). So picture me very excited at this point. See, like this:

After I made Mr Laney take that photo, I hurried us inside to down a champagne before the show started.Then I tried to go to the toilet at the same time as 200 other women, so I decided to hang on for the interval instead, which arrived over two hours later. Wow....that was tough. Let's just say that my pelvic floor was pushed to its maximum limits.
 
So, how good was the show? OMG. Put simply, it was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The songs have been in my head all week, but it's different to just having a tune from the radio stuck in there. I've got all the emotional and angry duets, the accents, everything going on in there. It's actually a bit intrusive.

But I loved it so much I want to see it again.

It's gone straight into the top 5 Best Things Ever. Which goes like this:

1. Birth 1
2. Birth 2
3. Births 3 & 4
4. Les Mis
5. Wedding (love you hubby x)

Anyway, after the show, we went out for drinks and dinner, and though I tried to party hard, after two drinks and a full stomach, I was home and ready for bed by 8.30pm.

The moral of the story is, having kids doesn't have to rule out those dates that start before bedtime. It was brilliant being out and about with the rest of the world and not yawning for my bed.

And see Les Mis. Do it. If you need someone to go with - let me know.

Is it a huge drama for you to get out with your partner for a date? Do you secretly prefer staying in with a glass of red? Been to the theatre lately?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

How to wait around with kids

This week we had a trip to the hospital for an x-ray and consultation for Baby A's hip. Back when the twins were six months old, they were given x-rays to check their hips for signs of hip dysplasia. Baby J was breech, which was a risk factor for HD, but weirdly he was completely fine and it was Baby A that came up with a questionable result. We have since been for follow-ups and so far all has been fine. However he is strongly pigeon-toed and bow-legged, which has always had me a little paranoid about a hip development issue.
 
So the twins, Miss P and I headed to the hospital, where I figured it would be similar to the last time we attended - about a 20-30 minute wait, which I planned to wait out patiently with plenty of snacks for the babies and the iPad for Miss P. I thought I had it covered. Miss P would be lost in her games and the babies would eat and chill out in the pram.

It took us 20 minutes to get the x-ray done. No problem, we made it intact. Just.

Then we had to 'check-in', to see the specialist, which took another 20 minutes. By this point, the babies had started to get very whingey, because they were desperate for an explore. I continued pressing sultanas into their hands, a bit gutted that they weren't happy just to sit and watch the busy ward so I could play with my phone.

When we were finally able to check-in, they told me we could be waiting an hour to see the doctor, which is where it got a little hairy. We'd already been there an hour by this point. How on earth was I going to keep these bored, restless kids happy for another hour? I silently fumed and felt my face tighten up with stress. The kids had all had enough of being there and I was running out of ideas to keep them amused.

I pushed the pram around the lounge, hoping this would provide enough entertainment. I tried to let each baby out of the pram for a quick wander, but this was a pain in the arse because they thought it was funny to run off down the busy hospital corridor with me chasing them and leaving the other two kids behind. It was all very hairy.

Thankfully, we were ushered into the doctor's room well before the hour had passed, maybe because they couldn't take the noise from my kids any longer - which admittedly was part of my secret plan.

Once in the doctor's room, we again had to wait. The babies continued to cry and strain against their harnesses, while I desperately hunted through my nappy bag for something interesting for them to play with.

And then I found it. This:


I could have cried with relief. I can't believe I'd forgotten about stashing this little gem months ago, after we'd got it in a party loot bag. I started blowing bubbles and they instantly began to giggle and laugh. So simple! And that reminded me of all the other miniature things I had stashed away in the little pockets of my nappy bag (my memory is a complete sieve these days). I had miniature notepads and tiny packs of pencils and crayons. Specifically for moments like these, when I had to wait around with kids.

So, next time you go to a kids party, go through the loot bag and stash anything that the kids won't immediately miss in your nappy or hand bag for occasions like these. Because let's face it, the stuff you get in party bags is typically going to last ten minutes before it breaks, gets lost amongst the other toys, or rolls under the couch and is never seen again. Don't let the little vials of bubbles and tiny toys go to waste - stash them away and dig them out next time you and the kids are waiting in a cafĂ© or at the doctors. Even if they only buy you ten minutes of time, that is still ten minutes of sanity for you. The same goes for the miniature pencils or crayons kids tend to get in restaurants. Don't leave them on the table at the end of your meal, fill up those tiny internal pockets of your nappy bag! What else are we supposed to put in those sections?

When the doctor arrived and I had to put the bubbles away, the kids reverted back to their noisy, whingey selves but amidst all the commotion I heard him say to me that the x-rays looked absolutely fine. Unfortunately we have to go back in nine months for a final follow-up, but next time I think I'll try to bring just the one child along.....and the bubbles.

What about you - got any great tips to keep the kids happy while you're all waiting around? Do you have any secret weapons stashed in your bag for these moments?

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