Wicked Wednesdays #9: A Mindful Multi-tasking Mummy

Mindfulness and multi-tasking are incompatible – so say  Mindfulness Gurus like Jon Kabat-Zinn and Mark Williams.  And of course they are right.  Who am I to argue with eminent professors from two of the world’s leading universities?

However if you are a busy parent like me (and I’m guessing you are otherwise you probably wouldn’t be visiting this blog) trying your best to approach the craziness mindfully, then sometimes we have to deviate from the ‘purist’ approach.

So this week’s Wicked Wednesday post are some old photos that I have dug out to show a Mum simply trying to be mindful of all her children’s needs and focusing on meeting them all at the same time.

Excuse me that I’m not staring into the eyes of any of my children lovingly or indeed mindfully (and also excuse just how knackered I’m looking – these are certainly not glamorous photos of motherhood) but this was ‘feeding and reading’ time that took over our lives for the first half of 2015.

Every few hours life would stop so that I could breastfeed a baby, bottle feed another and  read to my son.  We hit upon ‘feeding and reading’ as I was acutely aware of the need to somehow include our eldest in this important but potentially tedious time (in his view) and to therefore try and stop resentment of his baby twin sisters building up.

Empathising with our children (or anyone for that matter) when we’re ‘running on empty’ is certainly a challenge.  However it is something that Mindfulness can help us with (basically by being as open as possible to considering situations from someone else’s perspective).

Hence why I think these pictures demonstrate how mindful multi-tasking does have a place in busy households!

NB:  My Wicked Wednesdays posts are inspired by the fabulous Brummy Mummy of 2 and her encouragement of us to share‘real’ family photos and this week’s is extra special.

Not only is it demonstrating how mindfulness and multi-tasking can’t always be separated.  It is also reinforcing Brummy Mummy of 2’s point made in her superb post in response to the Guardian that Mums are not to be categorised or pigeonholed.

You will see from these photos that I was a bottle feeding Mum as well as a breast feeder, a ‘slummy’ Mummy (look at the state of me after all) and a ‘smug’ Mum (look at the proud smile across my face – I felt like Supermum at times during those sessions!)

Nothing is ever as black and white and this applies to any attempts by anyone, including the media, to try and divide parents into different and conflicting camps.

 

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24 Mindful Hours in London

Ok so the title of this post is misleading in two ways.

Firstly, a few weeks ago my hubby and I went on a extended ‘date night’ as per the intention I outlined in a previous post about the summer holidays.  If truth be told it wasn’t quite 24 hours (maybe it was about 21 and a half hours to be exact!) but, however long it was, it was a much needed rest. We had a lovely relaxing time together staying next to the Tower of London (the photos below were taken from our ‘lastminute.com secret hotel’ which proved a great way to get a decent hotel at extremely good value) without being interrupted by extremely cute, but extremely demanding children.

Secondly, there was no way I was mindful for the whole of the time we were away.  Yes, I was ‘in the present’ for a good many moments of the little trip (‘little’ being an understatement as we took a train journey less than 20 minutes away from home and ended up staying about 10 minutes walk away from hubby’s place of work!).   AND the fact that the accommodation was only a short distance from the kids meant I could rest easy that we could get back if necessary, therefore helping me to stay grounded and not let my mind get hijacked by anxious thoughts.

I think I even managed to take a few sips of wine mindfully too – something I rarely achieve at home.   I even tried my hardest to engage in mindful eating (read about my struggles with this here) and succeeded with a few savoured mouthfuls.

twins-wine

 

It was lovely to take some time to take in the amazing view from the hotel and surrounding area – especially the beautiful view of the Thames we had at breakfast time.

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However, of course my mind wandered – especially to thoughts of how the kids were getting on – the eldest with his grandparents and the twins with our fantastic nanny.  I struggled to keep the ‘Mummy Guilt’ in check and so sought solace in a relaxing couple of hours in the spa.  After all, everyone deserves a little bit of ‘me time’ I reminded myself and I did desperately need to recharge my batteries in order to be able to give the kids my all during the rest of the summer holidays.  It is true what they say – to be able to look after others, one must first look after oneself.

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My husband was given my full attention when we were chatting and it was definitely the right time for a Digital Detox.  All too often he gets me nodding along to him while I’m doing other things – playing with the children, cleaning up, doing the washing, sitting on the laptop in the evening or flicking through my phone…. this day and night away reminded me how healthy it is to build in time for each other and we had a fab time together chatting, eating, drinking and wandering around a lovely part of London without any distractions.

As we started our (short!) journey home – on checking out the receptionist told us how she lived very close to us in south-east London (!) –  we agreed that we would definitely not leave it two years until we go on another night away that was just the two of us.

You never know we may even leave our hometown next time🙂

Have you booked a night away with your partner recently?

Is it something that you think of as a luxury or a necessity?

 NB:  it goes without saying that little old me and my teeny blog have not been in cahoots with lastminute.com for a freebie  – I just included this information for the purposes of authenticity!

 

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Wicked Wednesdays #8: You can’t make an Omelette without breaking some Eggs…

…or so the saying goes.

So I guess that it was to be expected that one day my ‘angelic’ helpers, who love to unpack the shopping after a trip to the supermarket or, more likely, a delivery from our favourite online store has arrived, would be tempted to explore this idea.

And so here are the pictures to prove it.

 

I love that the twins want to ‘help’ me lots at the moment and I’m trying hard to give them as much independence as possible having fallen into the ‘helicopter’ style of parenting on more than one occasion with my eldest.  Therefore I guess that with this more ‘free range’ (excuse the pun!) approach there is undeniably more chance of this kind of thing happening.

Ultimately it is true that if we want to encourage our little ones to grow up into helpful individuals who can do things for themselves then things like this are to be expected.

So after I had muttered some choice words under my breath and reacted with a raised voice, I tried to remind myself that this is all par for the course and responded with a little more calmness and patience as per my mission to  be a more mindful mummy.

After all I can’t stay cross with these two for very long anyway🙂 .

mischief

 

So from now on I will try my best to keep in mind that:

In order to achieve whatever goals we set ourselves it is inevitable and probably even necessary that some havoc will be wreaked along the way.

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NB:  My Wicked Wednesdays posts (where I basically divulge to anyone and everyone just how messy our house is) are inspired by the fabulous Brummy Mummy of 2 and her encouragement of us to share‘real’ family photos.

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Where will you be at 4pm this Tuesday? – An Open letter to local MPs

 

Dear Ms Alexander, Mr Efford and Mr Brokenshire

I am writing to you as the MPs who either represent my constituency and/or the constituencies where many of my students live. It has come to my attention that Nic Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe County has been successful in securing a half hour debate on Mindfulness in Schools in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 6th September at 4pm and I implore you to attend and if possible promote the need for a specific budget to teach mindfulness in schools.

As a secondary school teacher who has taught for fifteenth years in schools in and around London I would like the government to understand just how important teaching Mindfulness is to our young people.  For too many years an assessment driven education system has been narrowing the skills taught to, and the experiences gained by, state educated children in the UK.  The effects are acute.  More and more of our young people are suffering from anxiety and teachers see many lose their ‘sparkle’ as their school career progresses and the academic pressures mount.  As Grace Barrett, Natasha Devon and Nadia Mendoza from the Self-Esteem Team emphasise, suicide is the second biggest killer of 10-24 year olds in the UK.  The Mental Health Foundation also suggests that 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.  Clearly something needs to be done.

And yet since the Daily Telegraph wrote nearly a year ago that:

“Social media and NHS waiting lists are driving a mental health epidemic among our children”

and it appears that with campaigns like #letters2tess little has changed.  In fact anecdotal evidence from people in the service and also young people being helped by CAMHS suggest it is nearer breaking point now then it was last September.

So why do I think Mindfulness may be the answer?  There is a growing body of research that shows it has a very positive effect on many of the young people who are taught it.  Dr Martin Segilman of the University of Pennsylvania proved, in his 30 year study, that teaching 10 year-olds the skills of optimistic thinking (which can be linked to the ‘gratitude’ principle of Mindfulness) cut their chance by half of becoming depressed in adolescence.  Katherine Weare, Emeritus Professor, Universities of Exeter and Southampton, who does extensive work with the Mindfulness in Schools Project states that:

“Mindfulness is…likely to have beneficial effects on the emotional wellbeing,
mental health, ability to learn and the physical health of school students.
Such interventions are relatively cheap to introduce, have an impact fairly quickly, can fit into a wide range of contexts and are enjoyable and civilising, for pupils and staff.”

 

As the ‘Mindfulness in Schools Project’ point out it is extremely advantageous for everyone to be taught accurate information about mindfulness so they can choose to integrate it into their lives if they wish.  This was also supported by the report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group in October 2015.  Experts concede that mindfulness is not only an excellent way of helping students well-being but it is also extremely helpful with other aspects of their life and learning too.  It is so much more than a way of treating mental illness, helping character and confidence too as well as having lots of other positives.

This year, with all of this in mind, and as someone who had found mindfulness extremely beneficial personally, I paid for myself to become qualified in teaching MISP’s .b course.  Since introducing some of my students to mindfulness I have had  extremely positive feedback.  For example two of the students said:

“These sessions were extremely helpful and I think that it would be so beneficial to try to introduce them formally into our school. The sessions helped us find methods to deal with exam stress in a much more effective way than anything I’ve come across in school.”

“Mindfulness is a skill which I think all students should learn.”

However, having a few highly-motivated professionals paying for their own courses is not going to make a real difference.

We need courses to be run for teachers to learn mindfulness for themselves as they need to embody it before it can be taught effectively, and we then need teachers to be taught how to teach it.  Only then can it become a normal part of the school day (just as it is in many independent schools across the country like Wellington College, Dulwich College, and Tonbridge School).

The issue is that this all takes money.  Though the point of this letter is not to dwell on the current financial pressures being put on the education system (I think it will surprise many parents to know that according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies “secondary schools face sharpest cuts to funding since 1970s.”) it must be acknowledged that this is a barrier to implementation.   It is understandable that senior leaders and school governing bodies will not priortise spending money on Mindfulness courses  when they are stuggling to cover staff salaries and textbooks.  So why am I asking for your help?  As I have already alluded to the only way that we will integrate mindfulness in schools is to have a specific ‘pot’ of money allocated to promoting it and for this to be made available to schools to access it easily.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  I look forward to reading the transcript from the up-coming debate on 6th September and sincerely hope that with your help progress in funding mindfulness in schools, is made.

Yours sincerely

H.S

Secondary school teacher of Humanities and Mindfulness

cc: Justine Greening, Minister for Education & Nic Dakin, MP.

An update:  Nic Dakin MP referred to this in his speech in the parliamentary debate on 6th Sept 2016.  He said:

“Teachers need the training to deliver the courses. This week, one teacher contacted me to say that she had paid for herself to become a qualified mindfulness teacher, and she has seen a remarkable impact on her students from the courses she teaches. As she rightly points out, however, we need courses to be run for the teachers themselves, because they need to embody mindfulness before it can be taught effectively. We then need teachers to be taught how to teach it.”

Read the full debate here.

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Being Mindful about Mindsets

September is a month I always greet with excitement…and trepidation.

Being a teacher this is the time when I get to meet all my new classes (which, after 15 years, I still find thrilling and nerve-wracking in equal measure) and I set myself all my targets and resolutions for the coming academic year.  Things like:

I WILL keep on top of  my marking this year, I WILL keep on top of my my marking this year, I WILL keep….you get the idea🙂

 

marking-funny.png

However, this is not going to be a post about how I intend to be a better teacher in 2016/17.  Instead, it’s about the need for us all to take advantage of the extra bounce and energy that kids tend to bring to the classroom after their summer holidays and to build on this by encouraging them to approach learning (and other aspects of life too!) with a growth mindset.  For those of you who this is new to this means:

“…people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”  (Mindset Online)

Mindfulness links beautifully here in two-ways.  If we as parents, carers and teachers are mindful of our language we can have a positive impact on an individual’s mindset.  Secondly, if individuals (children or adults alike) are observing their thoughts in a mindful way then they are much more aware of when they switch from a Growth Mindset to a fixed mindset (the opposite of a Growth Mindset).

growth-mindset.027

Have a think.  How many times a day do we say “well done”, “good job” or “clever boy/girl” to our children?  And yet science shows that this is pretty unhelpful praise.

Much better to be trying to work more comments along these lines into our conversations with children:

  • “Wow you found….[writing a postcard or that Maths homework] really hard and still kept at it”
  • “I love the way you are putting so much effort into practicing your….[reading/writing etc…] “
  • or “that bit of your…….[picture, creative writing, performance] is particularly good because….which bit do you think could be improved?”

I’ll hold my hands up – until about 2 years ago I was very much in the “well done” camp of praise when it came to both parenting and teaching.  I used (and still do) positive praise effusively to motivate my and/or other people’s children to do as I directed.  Don’t get me wrong I still do this, just not as much.  Also, I recognise it for what it is now – a verbal reward in order to encourage the child to repeat whatever it was that they did to gain the praise.  That seems pretty harmless right?  So why am I trying to be much more mindful of the praise I dish out these days then?  dweck mindset.jpg

Because in 2014 I was lucky enough to hear the Stanford Professor Carol Dweck speak at a conference.  What she said blew my mind.  She managed to put her finger on what had been troubling me about my use of praise and also to understand why I, students in my classroom and lots of other people too, shy away from challenges most of the time.  I bought her book ‘Mindset’ which is hugely readable and found it useful not only in the classroom but for other aspects of my life too.

The bottom line is that if you keep telling a child ‘what a clever boy/girl’ from an early age or ‘well done’ for doing something that is really quite easy anyway, they start to subconsciously believe that they oughtn’t do anything to disprove this opinion.  Thus these kids end up avoiding risks, challenges and learning new skills for fear of being shown up.

So what can be done?

Firstly , do NOT (like I did initially) use this as another stick to beat yourself with for being a ‘bad parent’ and for somehow detrimentally affecting your child’s development if you have heaped ‘fixed mindset’ praise on your child over the years.  In the end I told myself that no great harm will come to them as at least they know they are loved and valued.  However, I have tried to be more aware of the praise I use day-to-day in order to help the children I engage with build their confidence, resilience and a love of learning.  For example trying to:

  1. champion mistakes and (where appropriate) failure.  Discussing things like the fact that scientists spend 90% of their working life ‘failing’ or getting the children to research people like J K Rowling, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson who all faced huge challenges and knock-backs before becoming successful in their particular field.
    Failure-quotes.jpg
  2. celebrate effort, hard work, and process.  Explain how Darwin and Tolstoy were considered ordinary children.  It was their effort and hard work (and the team around Darwin) that helped them with their extraordinary achievements NOT a natural genius that they were born with.  effort
  3. Focus chats more on strategies, persistence, progress and improvement instead of commenting on intelligence and ability.  Dweck talks about the ‘power of yet’.  Young people should be encouraged to add ‘yet’ to their statements.

Not:  I can’t solve this Maths problem.  Rather:  I can’t solve this Maths problem YET!

So this month is definitely about setting our youngsters on the right path for a fulfilling academic year.  If this means we start to moderate our language a little more so that we can help them to understand that “the hallmark of successful individuals is that they love learning, they seek challenges, they value effort and they persist in the face of obstacles” then that would be no bad thing.

slave to praise quote

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Could Olympians inspire our young people to give Mindfulness a go?

Rio 2016.  It’s not London 2012 (my Dad isn’t proudly modelling his volunteer’s uniform for a start) but you’ve gotta love having the Olympics back on our screens this summer.

We’re only on about day 6 (I’ve lost count already!) so I’m sure there is still lots of excitement ahead of us (especially when the athletics gets underway) but my favourite moment so far was undoubtedly Tom Daley and  Dan Goodfellow winning Bronze in the synchro 10m diving.  As they were interviewed afterwards they both spoke of staying “in the moment” at crucial times in the competition and it struck me how mindfulness may have played a part in their success. Daley particularly seemed to emphasise this point of staying grounded in the present.

A bit of googling and I was patting myself on the back for spotting Daley’s new mindful ways.  In an interview with the Telegraph last month he said:

“Every morning I do 10 minutes of mindfulness where I do meditation and I use that in competition and every day life…I started doing it at the beginning of this year and I’ve done it every day since. It’s helped me massively and I feel like that’s one of the reasons why this year I’ve been the most consistent that I’ve been in competition. I’m getting better and better in being able to zone in on what I need to focus on.”

Now mindfulness in sport is not a massively new thing.  As a US track and field athlete once said “you have to train your mind like you train your body”. I love telling my students that English rugby player Jonny Wilkinson has described mindfulness as his “secret weapon” (something I learned when I did my Mindfulness in Schools Project .b teaching course earlier this year – learn more about this excellent organisation here ).  Ditto Novak Djokovic who said in his 2013 book ‘Serve to Win’ that he practices mindfulness meditation for 15 minutes every day.

Djokovic says that meditation has enabled him to let go of negative emotions such as self-doubt, anger and worry, and that this has made all the difference to his mental approach on court. He sees mindfulness training as just as important as his physical training, and believes that dedicated regular meditation practice leads to consistent positive rewards (cited in Huff post article here).

However, it’s always nice to talk to the students about people practicing mindfulness who they can really relate too and Tom Daley definitely fits that bill.  Kobe Bryant is a famous NBA basketball player in the States and another athlete who in happy to talk about his mindfulness practice but many of us in the UK don’t know much about him and so his story, though interesting, is not so inspiring to our youngsters.

So which other mindful Olympians may you wish to point out to your offspring over the next couple of weeks?

  • The US cyclist Kelly Catlin has said that she wishes she had learned to be mindful along time ago.  In a recent interview which you can read here she says:  “Next time you’re doing something painful or unpleasant, don’t think about how much you’d rather be doing something else, think about the sensations. I guarantee the time will not only go by faster, but that you’ll get that extra ten-percent out of whatever you’re doing.”
  • The British tennis play Johanna Konta who is currently the UK’s female no. 1 is also said to use Mindfulness techniques to help her with her game.  Last year she spoke to the Times journalist Barry Flatman (article here) about how her success can be attributed to “living in the present”.
  • The US Volley Ball pair Kerry Walsh and April Ross believe they are “a different team” since picking up this meditation habit. According to comments recorded here Walsh says “In the most competitive moments where you can tighten up and kind of separate from your partner, we just paused and breathed. And now there’s a patience to us even when we’re playing great”.

 

 

As I’ve mentioned before there is nothing new about bringing Mindfulness to Olympians; for instance Jon Kabat-Zinn worked with the US Olympic rowing team in 1984.  However, what is new is that people are increasingly willing to talk about it.

So I would hazard a guess that there are lots more professional sportspeople engaging in Mindfulness practice in Rio right now, they’re just not telling us about it…. yet.

questmarks

So what can we do with this knowledge?  Exploring mindfulness in sport and discussing some of the case studies outlined above with our children is an important way of normalising a practice that is so alien to so many of us in the 21st century.  It can also help to remove the  stigma that may be connected with Mindfulness and the misconception that it is only used for the treatment of mental health problems.  Knowing that people like Tom Daley are engaging in mindful meditation everyday can only encourage more of us, including the younger generation, to give it a…don’t you think?

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Meeting the Summer Hols with Mindfulness – part 2

Part 1 of my ‘Meeting the Summer Hols with Mindfulness’ post was a look at my attempt to be more flexible day-to-day and to respond to the needs of the children with empathy instead of ploughing on with our my plans regardless.

Looking back at the first couple of weeks I think this has gone OK.  Last Wednesday we had planned to go to a Museum in town but we ended up going to the library and the park instead as the kids seemed tired after a trip to the farm on Tuesday and swimming on Monday.  Swimming was a last minute decision based on my son wanting to show his 16 year old cousin what he’d learned in his lesson in the morning and it was a good chance (while I had help) to get the twins in the pool too so I guess this was me being flexible.

And guess what? It all worked out well.  Twin 2 particularly LOVED her dip – jumping in A LOT.  Also, I didn’t panic when they both started to climb out of the beloved twin float we’ve been using with them since they were 5 months old.  Instead I realised that my niece was more than capable of being in charge of one little lady, me with the other and as we were in the teaching pool the eldest could always touch the bottom and had his ‘noodle’ with him – phew!!!  I didn’t even ruminate unnecessarily what a waste of time it had been  spending about 20 minutes blowing the damn float up :-)!swimming

Anyway, I have still packed rather a lot of outings into our days and so still want to get better at home entertainment (the good old fashioned sort that doesn’t involve screens!).

In my bio on Twitter (@mummy_mindful, follow me here ) and on Facebook (please feel free to like my page here if you want to read lots of interesting articles and posts from other people that I regularly share) I describe myself as a mum, wife, teacher and sometimes just ME and so I thought it may be good to set out some secondary intentions for the summer holidays based on these different areas of my life.  You never know you may wish to copy one or adapt one.

  1. My Mindful MUM intention:  build 3 minute breathing spaces (described further in this post) into the day.  This will benefit me and the little ones as I find the practice relatively straightforward to fit into my day and also still extremely restorative.  It will probably fit best while the girls are napping.  My eldest is aware that ‘Mummy meditates’ so he will be happy to amuse himself, or even better may sometimes do it with me!3-step-breathing-space
  2. My Mindful WIFE intention:  ensure I don’t just jump straight on to the laptop when the kids are in bed and the chores finished.  Sit, chat, listen and find out about the hubby’s day and tell him about ours too.  Ensure Saturday night still remains an NO devices night and maybe add another night to this too.  Book a date night!date night.jpg
  3. My Mindful TEACHER intention: I desperately need to spend some time de-cluttering my classroom and office (both at home and at school).  As soon as I walk into these spaces and there are papers everywhere I am increasingly aware that my mood changes for the worse.  Tackling this now will have a positive impact on the coming year.classroom
  4. My Mindful ME intention:  I feel like my own mindfulness practices has slipped a bit of late.  I would like to get back to doing formal meditations most days and would like to lengthen the usual ones of 10 – 15 mins to 15 – 20 mins.  I am also excited about booking myself on to some sort of refresher course or a weekend day retreat.meditation-cartoon-263x300.png

I realise that these are fairly personal intentions but I wonder if they strike a chord with anyone else who is reading them.

Do please let me know what your intentions are over the next few weeks (and if they have a link to mindfulness all the better!).

 

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Wicked Wednesdays #7: Mess = Fun

So it appears that most of my Wicked Wednesdays posts (inspired by the fabulous Brummy Mummy of 2 and her encouragement of us to share ‘real’ family photos) just seem to highlight what a messy home we live in!

However, in lots of ways this is  a healthy development as I have spent many years rushing around the place tidying and wiping ‘just in case’ someone pops round and finds out just how messy we really are.  No more.  I am definitely much better at adopting the ‘take us as you find us’ mantra these days.  Generally, the norm is that our house gets messier and messier as the day progresses and then there is a massive clean up operation at the end of the day.  This works for us but I understand it may not be everybody’s cup of tea.

Anyway, I digress.  Today has been a good day.  It may not look like it from the photo.  In fact it may look like we’ve been burgled which is how I think the place regularly looks when I leave it for the school run.  However, this is ACTUALLY the sign of a good playdate – fun was had, games were played and drawers were emptied.

playdate mess.jpg

Actually the playdate was an impromptu arrangement that was sorted at the request of my eldest.  This was our first real day by ourselves (we’ve had lots of visitors in the early part of the hols) AND with no plans in the diary,  so what started out as a day that I was feeling a little anxious about (my need for plans is explored in this recent post)  ended up as one I am feeling very content about; lots to be grateful for and some mindful moments to remember too.  For example:

  •   the 4 of us (me plus the eldest and the toddler twins) found a new park that we can walk to.  We’ve lived in this specific pocket of south-east London for four years now  and had never visited it before.  It had sand to play with, a teepee to hide in, a HUGE climbing frame for the eldest to tackle, a zipwire and a little nature trail too.  It catered for the needs of all 3 kids and was safe too as it was enclosed.  We spent a happy couple of hours there and I know that we are very lucky to be able to add this park to the list of three other faves that we can walk to in the area.
  • I enjoyed listening to my eldest son read his first ‘reading challenge’ book to me and his sisters.  I marveled at how far his reading has come in a year at school.  It was great to cuddle up with him as he read to us and to see the pride in his face when he finished the book.  A real mindful moment.
  • A similar moment occurred when twin 2 started to spontaneously give coy kisses and cuddles to everyone this afternoon – she went round the room giving little nuzzles to our guests and to me, her brother and twin sister.  An extremely sweet interaction to watch and to be a part of.

So there you go, yes clearing up the house at the end of the day can be a bind, but it doesn’t feel so tedious with thoughts like these to observe🙂.

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Books by my bedside

Usually the summer holidays is a time for me to catch up on some reading.  In 2016 I certainly have a lot more catching up to do than usual as I am finding that my new hobby of blogging is detracting from my old hobby of reading good old fashioned books.

While I am relishing working on my blog and hopefully raising some awareness about mindfulness, I am missing those evenings when I would curl up with a good book.  good book.jpg

Since I was very young I have always loved to read and was often called a ‘bookworm’ needing a separate hold-all for all the books I would take with me on my holidays when I was younger (and then stealing my sister’s and my mum’s to read once I’d got through mine).  You name it I read it – an eclectic mix ranging from Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s series and tonnes of other books about schools (no wonder I became a teacher) to Jane Austen’s classics to Puffin books like Charlotte’s Web to trashy novels by Danielle Steele and Jilly Cooper (I was WAY too young for these in reality but like I said I read other people’s books)…

Anyway, I digress, you see the thing about reading a book is it is a very mindful activity.  You feel the pages, the weight of the book, the texture of the front cover.  Some books (especially new ones) even have a distinctive smell.  The sound of turning the page can be very reassuring and, just as with meditation, I sometimes fall asleep with a book in my hand as the by-product of both activities can be relaxation (though I know I shouldn’t really fall asleep when meditating but sometimes it is just what my body needs).

Unlike reading blogs on the laptop when there are loads of tabs open on the browser, there’s no flitting between different books and therefore you generally fully immerse yourself in the particular text you are reading.

In fact according to this infographic (origin of data unknown)the research shows just how good reading can be for us .

readingstressbuster

 

So  this is the pile of books by my bedside which I am currently attempting to tackle.

reading

I am very much looking forward to finding the time to read all of them slowly and mindfully.

Any suggestions on which one I should start with?

What are you planning to read this summer holidays?

Two Tiny Hands

 

Diary of an imperfect mum

 

The Pramshed
My Random Musings
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Meeting the Summer hols with Mindfulness – part 1.

Today my son broke up from school and tomorrow I do the same.  This means that, in theory from now until 5th September we can do, pretty much, what the heck we like…. as long as we can accommodate two spirited and curious toddlers in our plans too🙂

3 monkies

It’s fair to say that I am meeting the summer holidays with a mixture of emotions.  In fact even writing this post my hands are growing clammy (or CLAMMIER – it’s blooming hot at the moment) and my chest is tightening a little – all the signs are that I’m feeling a little nervous of the  impending doom challenge that is about to beset me.  So I’ve been trying to unpick what I am nervous about.

In no particular order I am aware that I am concerned about:nervous-sweating-woman

  • making sure I keep my ‘eye on the ball’ so everyone is safe and well
  • making sure the kids don’t notice that I’m worrying about ‘keeping my eye on the ball’ so they enjoy a playful, fun and carefree summer
  • making sure I get enough downtime/sleep/rest to be able to be a cheerful and fun mum and enjoy these weeks together (and to continue to keep my ‘eye on the ball’)
  • minimalising how irritable I can get when I am sleep deprived/knackered/running on nervous energy.

However, call me naive but there is also the ‘Mindful Mummy’ who is feeling excited, (almost giddy) about the weeks ahead of us.  I’ve been inspired by lots of the lovely summer holiday ‘bucket list’ type posts out there at the moment including this one from Fi at www.amumtrackmind.com and know that these are the times when memories are made (hopefully good ones) and I will get to spend heaps of time with my fave people.

Interestingly my  feelings of excitement are combined with very similar physical sensations to the ones I sense when exploring my anxiety (see this excellent article from Marie Claire about dealing with anxiety as excitement and how this can help us with our stress).  So what am I feeling excited about?

In no particular order I am really looking forward to:

  • spending lots of time outdoors with the 3 kids and our/their friends – at the park, at the seaside, in the garden
  •  not having to watch the clock so much – for school pick-up, drop off, for my own lessons on the days that I teach and for bedtime
  • spending time as a five – my hubby has 2 weeks off and it will be great to hang out together and to be a bit more adventurous with our outings when it is not just me by myself with the tots.  We are so lucky to live in London with all that it has to offer, as well as having the north Kent coast on our doorstep, having family on the Lincolnshire coast to visit and having a short break at Center Parcs booked too. We may even finally make it to Peppa Pig World as we’ve been threatening to for years!
  • having rainy day craft sessions at home.

 

Greenwich

We are so lucky to have a World Heritage Site on our doorstep and so are never short of things to do!

 

I anticipate that there will be ‘ups and downs’ over the next few weeks but as long as I keep things simple and resist my urge to plan too many activities into our days then hopefully I will be able to live by my over-riding intention for this summer – of being as flexible as possible.  What I mean by this is that I am going to try really hard to take into consideration the children’s changing moods, needs, wants and adapt accordingly rather than having a fairly rigid schedule that we stick to NO MATTER WHAT. And let’s be honest we have this ‘busyiness’ in our days because it makes ME feel more comfortable when I look at my calendar and see it filled with STUFF – it’s not always about the children.

So, so far I have roughly two days per week where we can get up and be spontaneous.  This means we can see what the weather is like, see how well we all slept (or didn’t), monitor everyone’s mood, see who else is around and see where the day takes us i.e. live more in the moment.  I hope to keep it like this from now on so I will try super hard not to make too many more plans to fill the summer’s days.

My secondary intention is to try really hard not to have the TV on too much on our ‘free’ days.  I’ll let you know how we get on!

Let me know what intentions you have for the summer break.

Planning or spontaneity –  what works best for you and your family?

 

 

 

Two Tiny Hands
You Baby Me Mummy
The Pramshed
Petite Pudding
My Random Musings
Pink Pear Bear
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