Monday, October 26, 2015

Becoming Mum: Everything and Nothing

Well, it's official. Thanks to the arrival of the cutest little man in the whole wide world, I am the stay-at-home-Mum that I've been dreaming of becoming all year. When I was working half a day short of full-time, I looked ahead to this life stage in wonder... what would it be like actually staying at home every day while the rest of the world works? The concept seemed wonderful, but bizarre. Now when I look back to my days of being a worker just a few short weeks ago, it feels like it was a whole other lifetime.

So, what do stay-at-home-Mums of newborns do all day? If they're anything like me - everything and nothing. Five weeks into this new life, here is what I have learned. It turns out that babies are every bit as hard work as people say they are! One day I can do dishes, bake pumpkin bread, smash out a big batch of chicken pies for the freezer, take out the trash and prep a week's worth of salads for lunches in the time between feeding, burping and playing with my little man. Other days just one tiny thing can shift, and that load of laundry I feebly threw into the washing machine as I heard the sounds of my baby starting to stir is still sitting there, unhung, hours later. There have been luxurious days where I've managed to squeeze in a morning AND an evening shower. There have been days where I've scheduled a trip to the toilet "after this feed is finished" and halfway through the next feed, I realise I never ended up going. There have been nights when I have only had to get up once, for an hour or so. There have been stretches in the middle of other nights when my baby hasn't let me put him down for hours. There have been mornings where I have had time to put together a proper cooked breakfast. There have been other mornings with cold cups of tea, and no possible chance of squeezing in breakfast before 10am.

On the days that fly by with little more to show for it than a half-emptied dishwasher, I feel like I'm failing. On the magical days when I spend the day on my feet and still have a happy, fed baby, I feel like a super hero. When I worked, I was in a routine of ticking boxes and achieving tasks to a schedule. In comparison, this life is chaos. Each day is different, but one thing never changes. This life is good. Every time I pick up my little boy from his bed and hold him to me, every time he looks up into my eyes during a feed, every time he gurgles and does his funny not-quite-there chuckle as he lays kicking on his play mat, my heart is full. I am so, so lucky. I'm already so aware of how fleeting this time is, and I'm embracing all of it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Becoming Mum - Leaving Work

All of a sudden, my desk at work isn't my desk any more. I'm 4 weeks from finishing up at my job, and a replacement has started. A replacement that I dearly hoped that we would find in a timely manner, yet whose presence has me feeling unsettled and leaving me to hop between empty desks for the remainder of my time. Am I excited that in 4 short weeks I'll be starting a new chapter (at least for the foreseeable future) as a stay-at-home Mum? More than anything. But it turns out that the process of closing the previous chapter isn't actually as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, I'm more than a little bit heart broken to be leaving. This job and I have had our ups and downs - it started as my former boss warning me that if I wanted to come back and work for the Church after a 2-year break, I would need to do "a little bit of finance" as part of my role (knowing that last time, finance was the thorn in my side) but it became my heart beat, a job that I gradually built myself, that I loved, that I learned so much from, and that I'm damn good at. Not to mention the amazing work environment, and some of the fantastic people that I work with.
For the next year, I won't be unlocking the giant creaky gate at the side of the building at 7 in the morning, flicking on the lights and putting together a breakfast of porridge or avocado toast and tea to gulp down while I check my emails in the quiet, empty office. I won't be watching the clock, waiting for the different time check-points when I expect each of my colleagues to arrive. I won't be taking screen breaks at reception to clear my head or keenly watching the office kitchenette for the arrival of home baked cakes and biscuits. I won't be whipping through data entry or feeling the immense satisfaction of an empty filing tray. I'll be in my house, catering to our little boy, re-heating cups of tea that have gone cold and missing the extra income that my job provides. But I have no doubt at all that I will love every moment of it.
It's a strange thing to face a big gap in work, when I have worked in some capacity or another since my first job at the age of 16, washing dishes in a tea room. I've never committed fully to study (two semi-baked degrees to my name, baby) but I've always been a dedicated worker. And now? I won't be - at least not in the same way. The more I come to terms with it, the stranger a reality it's becoming.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Advice to my high school self

I was awesome

Today a friend (high school teacher) sent out a group message in which I was included: "Good afternoon wise ladies. I want to do some work with my year 11s. If you could give a girl one piece of advice that you would have loved to have received when you were 16, what would it have been?"

I sifted through ideas... thoughts on boys growing into men, on treasuring your families, on not taking friendships for granted, on forming good habits with your health now rather than in 10 years when you've had a chance to do some damage, heck, even on peer pressure. But then I wondered, seriously, what pearl of wisdom would I have truly benefited from? I thought back to my childhood, in which every need and want was met by my loving parents, in which I was privileged to attend an elite school, and whatever struck my fancy at any given time seemed achievable, easily. It seemed that I barely had to lift a finger, and I got what I wanted. The simple act of wanting seemed to achieved its own end result.
Granted, the things I wanted back then were generally easier to achieve than the things I want now, but I'm sorry to say that the principle stuck with me, and I think a lot of adults find themselves in the same position. We want for a new career, a more beautiful body, a nicer house, a new skill that has always interested us. But do we find ourselves working to achieve it? Do we think logically, plan the steps that it will take to get there, and make our move? Some do. Regrettably, I don't.
So the advice I think I will respond to my friend with, the advice I would love to go back and give to myself in high school, is this: "Nothing worth having will fall into your lap. If you want something, you need to work for it. Set your mind on it and make it happen, because unless you do, it won't. People who influence you and even help you may come and go, but the only one who is truly responsible for building your life is you." I figure there is just no such thing as a whimsical life in which you spend every day getting exactly what you want - unless what you want are very simple, basic things. And I guess if that's satisfying for you, then that's fine.

Occasionally I harp on about the fact that more than anything, I want to write. The amount of times I have voiced this desire though is just the tip of a monster iceberg. I think about it every day. Every day, stuck in traffic on the way to my job (which I love, by the way) I think "I wish I were a writer". I imagine stories, Google freelance writing jobs, read books while thinking about penning my own, dream of getting back into this blog, but it's always "as soon as life slows down/I have more time/I feel like committing to it/etc". Has that worked for me over the years? Amazingly, no, it hasn't! I am no closer to my writing dreams today than I was years ago when they first began popping into my head.

I'm not going to end this post with a decisive "So today I commit to writing something every day!" or anything like that. But I would like to think that following this little epiphany, I might shift my mind-set and start becoming more practical in the way that I look at my hopes for my life. I don't want to reach the end of my life and regret not pursuing something that I believed was so important to me. Maybe this will resonate with you, too? I'll leave you with that thought.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Healthy Girl Project: Check It Out!

Have you got a niggling issue that you keep meaning to get checked, but just never get around to it? Maybe you have a sore tooth, or a bad knee, or a weird bump that you're monitoring but not committing to seeking medical advice for yet? Oh, my friend, you are in fine company. This is a thing. People just don't make the time to check things out. Here's my story. Two and a half years ago, while doing data entry at work, I started noticing that I needed to squint my left eye every now and then. A few months later, I was needing to close my left eye when reading small writing below me on the desk. Not longer after that, I realised that anything that wasn't a few feet in front of me was blurry because my left eye just couldn't focus on it. My once-perfect vision was no more. But do you think I did anything about it? Nope. I battled on through the data entry, squinted at the screens at Church when I sang, and kept telling myself "next week I'll book that eye test". I can't even use money as an excuse because we have health insurance, and I knew that I was entitled to a free pair of glasses every year.

Well, finally, as you can see in my stylish photo above, I did it. I booked a test at my local spec savers (bulk-billed, FYI) and within minutes I was told I have an astigmatism and... what do you know... I needed glasses! A couple of weeks later my glasses arrived, and my life changed for the better. Just like that. Because I took 20 minutes out of my life and finally got an eye test.

The moral of the story is - go to the doctor/dentist/optometrist/allergist. My tale is fairly harmless, but there are some pretty devastating stories out there of people with serious illnesses who put off going to the doctor until it was too late. This one caught my attention just this evening, and after a quick Google search there are too many accounts just like it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Healthy Girl Project: Keeping It Clean

Well, today I accepted the fact that I am not going to keep counting Weight Watchers points. Before the Weight Watchers haters out there roll their eyes and say "Took you long enough to work that out" I want you to know that I believe in Weight Watchers as a program. It is sustainable to people who are disciplined enough to keep counting their points, and it's an amazing program which allows you to eat anything without 'breaking the rules' provided you track it - to me, that's a healthy outlook on living a healthy life-style, because it's realistic. Even the healthiest, fittest people I know want to have a piece of cake every now and then, and Weight Watchers says "That's totes fine!"

Anyway, the point of this post isn't to talk about Weight Watchers, but rather to let you know what I'm trying next - Clean Eating! Like Weight Watchers, Clean Eating is a lifestyle rather than a diet/strict program. Without going into too much detail (my knowledge is a bit limited at the moment), Clean Eating embraces whole, non-processed foods, lean meats, less dairy, etc - basically eating foods that are as close as possible to their natural state.

I've been following the Clean Eating Recipes page on Facebook for ages now, and decided to download their app this morning. The app offers recipes, helps you understand the concept of clean eating, and provides a list of suggested things to keep in your pantry to get you started. As I was planning a shopping trip today, I decided to check this list first so I could start stocking up. Scrolling through, overwhelmed-ness hit me. Items like spelt flour, quinoa flakes, almond milk, grape seed oil, cauliflower rice and coconut sugar smacked me in the face as I scrolled through, and I decided right then to give up because there was no way I would be able to find all this stuff at the store and make all these crazy substitutions! So I promptly closed the app and made my usual weekly meal plan.

Going through the recipes for my meal plan, I realised something. Most things that I was planning on cooking with were actually already clean - things like chicken breast, chick peas, fresh vegetables and greek yoghurt. Curious, I re-opened the app and realised I would only need a couple of extra things to keep my already-planned meals completely clean. Hallelujah! Of course, I wasn't necessarily sure I would find those things, but I noted them on my list anyway. And you know what? My shopping trip went better than I expected! I'm so used to picking up the products that I am familiar with, that I haven't even noticed the clean/healthier alternatives sitting right there next to them! Things like wholemeal cous cous, spelt pasta, grape seed oil, buckwheat - right there on the same shelves I've been shopping from for years!

So as you can see in the photo above, today I bought some clean things. I have to issue a disclaimer right now and let you know that I'm not completely 100% eating clean yet - there are some products that I won't be able to get without visiting a health food store, and I still need to put in some solid research before I know enough to do it completely. But I'm happy to do it a few small changes at a time.

Amazingly, this blog post isn't intended to pull you onto the Clean Eating band wagon with me! But if what you're doing right now isn't working, I do want you to broaden your scope and try something new. It might be something small, like a new exercise DVD, or like me it might be something big like a complete overhaul of your eating. But don't stay stuck in a rut! There's just no reason to be unhappy with yourself in an area that you have the complete power to change.

If you are interested in checking out Clean Eating, these are some resources that I'm going to be burying myself in over the next few days:
- The Complete Idiot's Guide To Clean Eating
- Clean Eating Magazine
- Ashy Bines (if you haven't seen her ads pop up on Facebook, you're living under a rock)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Healthy Girl Project: Let's Go Nuts!

Recently I've started adding raw nuts and seeds to my diet... admittedly, I wasn't super keen on consuming them in their raw form when I've grown up snacking on their tasty salted & roasted cousins! But knowing they were good for me (I'll explain in a sec!) I resolved to make myself eat a handful now and then... and amazingly within only a couple of days I started enjoying them. Heck, I'm craving them right now just writing about them!
So here's what I've been learning about nuts and seeds (the following info is from this website - visit it for a more detailed description):

- They're the NUMBER 1 source of plant protein!
- They are high in fat - but it's the good kind. While they can contribute to weight gain and should be carefully portion controlled if you're trying to lose weight, they're great for your heart. A study showed that people who consumed a serve of nuts just 5 times per week reduced their risk of heart disease by 35%! What!?
- They're an amazing source of energy (hence why you should be careful if you're trying to lose weight)
- They're filled with a whole bunch of minerals and even a couple of vitamins!

And check this out (from the same website):
"A study published in the April 2002 Journal of Nutrition had people replace half the fat in their daily diets with almonds for six weeks. Researchers found that the almond eaters’ bad cholesterol went down six percent, and good cholesterol went up six percent. In addition, blood fat dropped 14 percent." [source]

So what's a good portion size? According to a couple of websites I browsed through, a good daily serve is 1 ounce (30g) - I measured it out and it was a little less than a 1/4 cup. Nuts and seeds are super versatile - you can mix them through your muesli in the morning, snack on them at work, sprinkle them on a salad... get creative! The important thing to remember is that they're at their best in raw form.

I also found this site which has a list of nuts and seeds and an extensive look into each individual one... seriously each nut and seed has its very own page packed with information! Worth a look.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Healthy Girl Project - The Sheepish Face

Is this sheepish enough for you??? It's been a while since I blogged, and honestly, the reason why I'm dusting it off and jumping back in is because of the people who have (sometimes forcefully!) been suggesting I get back into it! I'm really sorry I got so slack... I think that making this project a 365 was a terrible idea! I started running out of ideas, losing motivation, putting way too much pressure on myself, and once I'd skipped blogging that first week I thought to myself "Well, I'll never catch up on that 365 now" so I stopped trying. For that reason, while I do plan to blog as regularly as possible, I'm taking the pressure right off, ditching the "365" and renaming this the "Healthy Girl Project". Now I can blog every day... but I don't have to. And probably won't.
Anyway! What have I been up to? Have I been sticking with it? No. No, I haven't. But you'll be pleased to know that I'm not completely off the band-wagon. Some of the things I've been keeping up:
- Eating more fruit
- Avoiding coffee. And it's amazing how well I've been sleeping!
- Eating avocado on an almost daily basis
- Drinking more water

Yay me! But, let's be real. I've also been travelling terribly in other ways, or I wouldn't have gone into cyber-hiding all these months. For one thing, KFC just opened up at our local shops. You know I love my KFC. Some nights I can smell it from my front yard. Resolve, I need you! But I can't pin the blame entirely on KFC either. I've been planning some pretty atrocious meals*, letting my portion sizes slide back up there, and don't even talk to me about exercise... But guys, from tomorrow it's back on. I'm crawling back asking for another chance. Have your good intentions slipped since the new year? Is the colder weather inspiring you to load up on carbs and plop down on the couch with little other plans than to watch My Kitchen Rules**? Make this your week to start fresh too!

*Example: tonight's dinner was chicken stuffed with bacon and cream cheese, wrapped in puff pastry. I think that roughly equates to 500g weight gain per bite!
** Seriously babes.