Thursday, 23 March 2017

An Intentional life

It's been months since I've written. Actually that's not true- my blog feed is filled with un-published, half written posts. Perhaps thats symbolic of life right now. So busy and full and no time to sit and mull over ideas. Time only to get the crude ideas down and no time to refine. 

This is a reflection of life generally. Somewhere between having no kids and having two, I've started living life on a 'minute by minute' basis. I do things, they have to be done, I work, I cook, I drive, I sleep, but none of it is done with much thought. It's like living on autopilot. 

I've become so overwhelmed with multitasking to get everything done, that I never stop and pause to think of the 'why' behind everything.

Lately though, in those moments when I am feeding the baby to sleep, or have 5 minutes on my computer, I've been reading blogs from other mums about intentionality.

Intentionality comes out of the minimalism movement. The minimalism movement is based on the idea of controlling your 'stuff,' not letting your stuff control you. De-cluttering, getting better household systems, freeing up your time, mind, money and worry to focus on better things.

Out of this comes the idea of intentionality- doing things on purpose. With purpose. I've started incorporating this idea into different areas of my life

Parenting
Recently Matt and I have been discussing the bigger picture of our parenting. Our vision for our kids, our values which we want to impart. For example, we want our kids to be self disciplined. At this age, (3) that means encouraging Ada to do some of her own care- putting her shoes away, brushing her own teeth and doing her own toileting. We want our kids to be kind, this means being kind ourselves and showing kindness in action.

There is still so much more I want to think and mull over here, but the irony is that parenting means I'm so busy I barely have time to. I do want to make this a priority, as I've found that having a clear 'big picture' can help in those trying 'little moment' times.

Finance
The biggest area of change for us has been finance. I'm not going to get into too many details, but last year because of the way our bank accounts were set up with our mortgage, we couldn't really see how much money we had left till pay day, this resulted in overspending.

We asked out broker to change our accounts so we can clearly see how much money we have. This has resulted in much better finances! I've also started reading Dave Ramsay's baby steps and thinking about the future of our finances, rather than just living week to week.

Money is so tight with two kids and a mortgage, and now is the best time for us to start being careful with every dollar. I am trying to cut down on needless spending. A friend had a good saying. 'Every dollar costs you three dollars. The dollar you spend, the dollar you have to earn to get back to where you were before spending, and the dollar you need to earn to get ahead of where you were.'
This certainly helped me think more carefully about money- especially those small purchases like coffee or chocolate milk (total addict to milk here!)

Food
We want to be more frugal and clever with our eating- throwing away less food. It's almost impossible to achieve this at the moment, with a 7 month old who loves to try food but doesn't always eat it and a 3 year old with a varying appetite. I guess we recognise that food waste is at an all time high right now, but this will change.

I'm aiming to be more intentional with leftovers- using them instead of chucking them (the book 'Love your leftovers' has helped me be creative around this.)

I meal plan every week so we can budget and get the exact food we need. I have even made a spreadsheet of 'cheap/easy, easy/gourmet, gourmet/slow, cheap/slow' meals (!!) so we can have a balance of food quality through the week.

As for lunches, I am trying to make sure that we all eat well. It's so easy to pack a lunchbox with peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn and fruit. But I am trying to be more creative. I don't have heaps of time so I try and cook some lunch food while making dinner. This week our lunches (adults and kids) have included banana oat pikelets, baked pikelets, chicken sausage rolls, chocolate brownie (side note, these are the BEST brownies, and I've tried a lot, second side note, the baby did not get this in his lunch) and fried rice cakes (made with leftovers- win win!).

I follow a lot of kid cooks on Facebook for ideas, and I have a chart of ideas on the back of our pantry door, to give me inspiration.

For dinner- we are not able to eat as a family, as Matt is home too late, but like lunch I try to cook the kids something healthy, yet easy (I can't be bothered cooking two separate full meals!). I try and freeze little portions of meals for dinners, or I whip up something quick like an omelet with noodles, courgette and chicken.

Household
A lot of what I have mentioned above comes into this category. Setting up household systems (meal planning, lunches made the night before, clothes ready to go etc), to intentionally make life simpler and less rushed. I am always looking for new rhythms (it's the cool new term in the minimalism world) to make our family life easier. My new area of interest is time blocking- I'm hoping to use my time more effectively, but this is so new I can't write about it yet.

Under household is the area of clutter (where the concept of minimalism was born). I am constantly looking at areas of clutter and mess in our homes and asking if these items are really worthy of space in our home. I often take a boot load of items to the second hand shop. I am not following a specific program like Kon Marie, but taking it slower. I would love an instantly clutter free house but I simply don't have the time! So bit by bit we go.

Clothing comes under this heading too and I have written a post on kids capsule wardrobes- this has made life so much easier, and I have been able to be so much smarter with buying winter clothes for the kids.

Work
I work as a freelancer, so I can accept as much or as little work as I like. I am also constantly getting texts, emails, messages and calls about work when I am at home. In the past, pre kids, the only consideration around accepting work was 'am I free at that time?' 

Now it's 'am I free?' 
'will that make a crazy busy week even busier, with more time in care for the kids?' 
'Is it worth getting everyone out of the house at 7.15am to arrive at work for a 1 hour job at 9am?,' 'Was last week busy, and would it be fair to put my kids in car again for lots of hours this week?'

Basically I am trying to be more intentional and mindful of my family (especially my baby!) when accepting work. I also need to set up better systems in terms of not needing to check or be on my phone all day in regards to work. I am still thinking on this one! Perhaps only checking work related messages twice a day?

Phone/Technology
This is a biggie, and the area I am definitely least intentional in. I keep having thoughts that I need to really make some decision around how much I use my phone or my laptop, but I have yet to get time to really sit down and make myself some boundaries. I get so little down time that when I do I often end up mindlessly scrolling facebook or instagram. This is not how I want to spend my time and I know I need to be more intentional.


***

I have re read this post and it reads like a mash up of half thought out ideas- which is totally where I am at right now, so I'm going to leave it as it is. I hope this post will be something I can look back on as a beginning time in my thinking around intentionality. I also hope this post is helpful to others who are feeling frantic and busy with no time to actually think about the 'why.'

Some blogs that I have read and found really useful in this area are:

http://alliecasazza.com/

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

https://nosidebar.com/

(They are great and explain the heart of minimalism, rather than the 'aesthetic' of extreme minimalism that is also popular, but unattainable.)

Here are some of the kid recipe Facebook pages I follow:







Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Tips for a capsule wardrobe for kids

What is a capsule wardrobe?

Capsule wardrobes are all the rage right now. The goal behind them is to declutter your wardrobe, which makes it easier to pick outfits- as all your pieces should go together. It also means you think about your 'style' a lot more, meaning any pieces you do buy are more intentional. Then you end up with less 'random' pieces in your wardrobe that never get worn (I am so guilty of this.)

I've been doing a capsule wardrobe for myself for only about a month now, but it has made getting dressed much easier! In that time, I've had to buy one item (my only pair of jeans ripped!!) and instead of going for my usual bargain hunt, or two for one deal, I bought one good pair of quality jeans. Time will tell, of course, whether spending more upfront is worth it down the track, but I think it will be. I would rather have one pair of quality jeans than 3 of cheaper ones which go baggy at the knees in a few weeks (the worst!).

Why a kids capsule?

I wanted to make getting dressed easier for Ada. She is getting to the age of wanting to pick her own clothes, so I wanted to have outfits that go together easily.

The situation

Ada has a full wardrobe, drawers, and a 60l box of clothes that could currently fit her, for all four seasons. Then there is a box for size 4 and 5! (but I am not focusing on those boxes at the moment.)

We have been so blessed to receive many hand me downs. I also tend to buy items on sale for the next season. Add to that those 'can't resist, it's so cute!' items, and she has a LOT of clothes in differing styles.

Now, if you are doing a capsule wardrobe like many other bloggers, you will start from scratch and buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes for your kid. The benefit of this is that you can buy pieces that go together seamlessly. But of course, this doesn't really gel well with the minimilist lifestyle values which the capsule wardrobe has emerged from.

For me, my goal is to spend no (or very little) money. We've got to work with what we've got, which means it's not going to be a 'perfect' capsule wardrobe- and that's ok.

The steps to a kids capsule wardrobe

Step 1- Choose 2 or 3 of your favourite items of clothing for your child. For Ada, I chose 3 of my favourite pieces for her. I decided to choose the rest of the items based on these colours


Step 2- Think about patterns. This blogger talks about how she builds prints into her capsule- she adds prints into one of three sections- tops and dresses, layering pieces (coats, cardigans) or bottoms

I love this blogger and her philosophy. She is building a wardrobe from scratch though, so she can buy items with patterns in just one category easily.

Working with what we already have is a bit trickier, but I aimed to just have patterns in tops and dresses.

Step 3- Think about the weather. Here in Wellington it's summer (you wouldn't really know it though!). So I added a few short and long sleeve tees, and a few dresses. All of these items can be layered for colder or hotter days. If it had been a truly hot summer here, I would have chosen more short sleeve items.

Step 4- Think about where your kid is at. Ada has just toilet trained and can take herself to the toilet (wohoo!!) this ruled out all the jumpsuits and dungarees, as toilet access needs to be easy.

Ada doesn't get into too much mess at daycare, so can just have one wardrobe for all occasions. A lot of kids tend to ruin their clothes at daycare though. In this case I would suggest two mini capsules- a 'playing' one and a 'good clothes' one. Many items like coats or tights may cross the two collections. Keeping both capsules in different areas, or separate drawers will help with dressing your child.


Step 5- Go for it- pick your items! This is the most fun part. As you can see in the capsule below, I started with a base of orange colours. However, Ada has a lot of pink, in necessary items (like cardigans) so I have added some pink too. Greys and blues were added for neutral colours. In the process I discovered Ada had about 5 long sleeve grey tops, and the same for blue. She doesn't need that many! I was able to put away a lot of redundant clothing.

We also had a lot of 'random' pieces in her drawers. These would be the ones I pulled out, then searched for that one pair of leggings they go with. Those leggings were in the wash, so I stuffed that item back in the drawer, and in reality it was never worn. These random pieces were easy to remove from her wardrobe.

I didn't focus on a certain number of clothes. I preferred to focus on a few of each category of clothing. You may look at Ada's capsule and think it's still a very big amount of clothes. Each childs wardrobe will be different, and I am looking forward to refining Ada's wardrobe, and seeing if we truly need this many clothes as we move into the winter capsule.

Step 6- Involving your child. Ada is a little young at this point to care about her clothing. I imagine in the coming months or years she will want to be involved in this process. Ask your child about their favourite items of clothing, or colours, and go from there.

What's next?

Now that I have begun this process I think it will make buying clothes, and sorting through hand me downs a lot easier! Once you have a clear vision of colour, style and pattern, you can immediately know whether a piece of clothing will fit in the wardrobe. This will save you money in the long run!

I am aiming to review Ada's capsule every season, or every time she has a growth spurt, so a few times a year.

I hope this post has been helpful! I'm at the beginning of doing this too so I would love to hear any tips you might have







Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Three

Today Ada is three!

I have felt a sense of wonder and nostelgia at every one of her birthdays so far, and I'm beginning to think that feeling is going to stick around at every birthday.

It must be so common for mothers to reminisce, to look back at how far their child has come in the past year, and then to look forward and wonder about the next at birthdays.

In her third year Ada has grown so much. Most noticeably in her language- when she turned two we were still on basic toddler conversations, these days we can converse in much more depth. Most nights Matt puts Ada to bed now, as I am seeing to Hunter, but I like to pop down when I can and chat to her. We talk about the day that has come, then talk about what tomorrow will hold, then say a prayer. I love these conversations- I can see her brain whirring, and it is lovely to talk to her about real life things.

Ada has grown in size too. She never had much baby fat, but she has slimmed out even more (if that was even possible) and now looks like a pre schooler, not a toddler. She has gained some good weight and height this year, and she feels heavy when I hold her. She is long and gangly and full of spirited energy.

My snuggly cuddles with her are few and far between now, so when I do get one I hold on tight- even if it is straight after a nap so she is a little sweaty. My little girl is fast becoming a big girl- and while it's my joy to see her grow, I still want time to slow down, to hold her a little more.

Ada is such an outgoing and friendly girl. She was always like this, but starting daycare this year, plus having people in and out of our home for airbnb has brought out this trait in her so much more. She is a friend to everyone.

She is also capable of great independent play, which has been a lifesaver with a newborn baby around. She is content and happy in her own company.

Like all kids we have our battles and struggles, but overall she is the sweetest girl. We are so blessed to be her parents. And proud as ever of her on today, her third birthday.

Happy birthday Ada, my sweet girl! We love you more than you will ever know. Enjoy being 3 xxx

Sunday, 9 October 2016

In a dark room


I feel like I spend the majority of my life in a dark room. The blackout curtains are closed, white noise is blasted, the baby is swaddled tightly and fed and I'm trying to get him to sleep.

Or, it's the middle of the night, I sleepily wake up and I hear the familiar squawks and sighs which escalate into 'I'm hungry!' cries. I switch on the very dimmed light, look at my phone and sigh and want to cry- he's only been asleep 1 or 2 hours and he's hungry AGAIN.


It's daytime again and it's time for his nap but because I was distracted with the toddler (the other small child has needs too), he is overtired. I am rocking and shh-ing in the dark room, all the while the toddler is running in and out wanting attention too.

Friends tell me their babies woke 2 hourly until they were one or two. I inwardly shudder and feel sick at the thought of that long without sleep. Other friends with babies the same age share that their baby 'slept through!' or 'slept 7-3am!' I am happy for them and wistfully remember that one time he slept 6 hours. What a dream.

Everything we could try, we have tried. We have got him onto a good daytime routine with the help of a sleep consultant, but that has hardly improved the night wakes. The routine says 'feed at 10pm, then baby will sleep till 4 or 5am.' Yea right!

We've tried to 'resettle between sleep cycles' to the high heavens, I've whispered 'shhhhh' more than I care to remember lately. Dummy, bottle, burping- tried it.

We've seen a lactation consultant who has helped teach me how to get him to feed better, and to get the fattier milk, to help him sleep longer. It hasn't helped much. 

Even though I know it's ridiculous, I nostalgically remember when the toddler was a baby. She was tube fed, and my memory takes away all the bad bits, and reminds me how we could feed her in her sleep, make sure she was completely full, and she would sleep through! Oh those days....
I know it's bad when I'm remembering that time fondly.

I'm so tired and focused on the routine that even when I have an opportunity to socialise, I just don't have the mental strength. This just furthers the 'hermit' feeling I have. I can't talk to 'real people' right now- my brain is too fuzzy with sleep routines and tiredness. I wish I had an interest in the wider world but right now I can't comprehend it.

And so, I'm just another sleep deprived mother, writing about sleep deprived woes. I know this will pass, but I also know sleep dep (see, I know it so well I even have a short name for it) is used as a form of torture. And I can see why. Signing off now, time for another coffee.

Friday, 2 September 2016

It's different, this time

I've read a few articles and seen discussions online about whether it is easier to go from no kids to one kid, or from one to two.

Well, a month in, I've gotta say that going from one to two has been much easier for me than the first time around!

That's not to say it isn't hard. Sleep deprivation, no time to rest like with the first, juggling toddler energy with newborn needs, it can be a real struggle. Yesterday I barely managed to eat lunch. Sometimes I feel like I've got octopus arms as I focus simultaneously on a baby who refuses to latch and a toddler who might wee on the floor at any moment. My attention span is short as I'm constantly trying to keep up with what is needed in the moment. I try and do bits of housework in the spare minutes I have between tending to my kids, so nothing is ever finished. I won't tell you how many times I stopped and started writing this post.

Juggling two. This is my life now.

But my stress levels are way down, my expectations are more realistic and my emotions are much more in check this time, leading to an easier experience all around.

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting, first time around, was my feeling of purposelessness as my days changed from work, adult interactions and goals achieved, to a baby on a 3 hour feeding cycle, with medical issues that didn't seem to be getting better. It seemed like I'd be stuck in the roundabout of newborn days forever.

This time I'm much more used to spending time at home, and bringing my own purpose to my days. I'm also much more aware that things will change, and these newborn days don't last too long.

Also, Hunter seems to be a *whispers* easy baby.

Gosh, I know you're never supposed to admit that. Perhaps he is easy in comparison to the early days with Ada. Perhaps it's in contrast to the full on and emotional world of a two year old.

All I know is that, so far, his needs seem pretty simple and he is not hard to please. He feeds well and generally self settles. He is gaining weight like a champ and is very healthy. He does wake every 1-3 hours in the night, but I can cope with that as I know it's just a stage.

I am finding my capacity to parent two kids is bigger than I thought. Two months ago I wrote these words:


I am completely terrified of being a mum to two small children. I love my kids, but I am not one of those natural mum material types....

When thinking about the months ahead, about adding a baby to the mix, I am equal parts excited and terrified. How can I share my time and love fairly between two kids? How can I be the mum they both need? I don't know at this point.

We're only one month in, and I'm aware the road ahead is up and down, but I've surprised myself with my capacity to manage, to love, to parent two kids at once. It's not quite the big drama I thought it might be.


Rocking it at the park with two kids like a bad ass. Please note, copious amounts of coffee was consumed to make this happen
It helps that Ada is a lovely big sister. We weren't quite sure how she would react, but she is incredibly kind and loving with Hunter- always kissing and cuddling him. She can be a bit rough as she doesn't know his limits, but it's all done with love. She has had moment of adjusting to having less attention from us, but overall she is handling it better than I ever could have expected.

A kind and caring sister
I make an effort everyday to get up in time to get a quick shower, to pop on a little makeup and a bit of colour on my lips. Getting dressed and feeling 'presentable' makes me feel like I can take on any challenge the day throws at me. Being in my pj's at midday doesn't give quite the same sense of empowerment.

I'm well aware that in the months ahead, things could become more challening than they are now. I'm anticipating some sibling struggles once Hunter is mobile and into Ada's toys. However, I am much more confident in my ability as a Mum than I was 2.5 years ago with Ada's arrival. I also know, despite my worries about how I parent them, that they will be ok.

I've been constantly marvelling at how this experience with Hunter has been different to that with Ada's. 

Ada made me a Mum. She made me strong and taught me fierce love and protectiveness. She taught me to fight and be brave.

Hunter has introduced me to a side of motherhood I was never sure I'd see. Enjoying things more 'naturally,' appreciating every moment of this placid wee guy. He is teaching me to relax and be confident as a mother.

Here's to mothers of two (or more!) everywhere. It's a struggle, but also a joy and I'm so grateful to be on this crazy ride.

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