Focus in 2015

Quite by accident in December last year I found out about Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word mini-course via some planner addict friends and I found it to be a really helpful process to go through in terms of defining some personal goals for myself in 2015.

Focus in 2015

My word is FOCUS, there were other words that really appealed, including connect, and simplify but focus is what I need to get to and focus is not where I am right now. I also felt that this word was sufficiently action orientated to be encouraging – I will ask myself “am I focussing on being present in this moment?” “is my focus elsewhere or where it needs to be?” “how could I focus better on switching off?”

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Through counselling last year I’ve learned to expose myself to experiences I find uncomfortable and I also learned a lot about anxiety and how it holds me back. Managing anxiety takes focus and practice and this is increasingly becoming important to me as I have a lot less time to myself, and a lot less time to practice, now I’m back at work, working longer hours and nap times are a thing of the past.

I arrived at FOCUS after exploring my anxiety further last year. I learned that at its root, for me, is a desire to be productive, it’s in the quiet moments when I have nothing to do that I find a disquieting voice creeps in and I start to worry (hello ‘what ifs’ goodbye ‘calm collected’ self, if you will). I’ve learned a lot about managing this; if I step up my productivity I risk taking on too much and burning out, but if I listen to the disquieting voice, and just learn to let it be, paying it a low level of attention and moving on I find I start to enjoy life more and the noise in my head lulls again. So focus is a good starting point.

I am not a very focussed person, I flit from one thing to the next. I have lots of ideas, so many that I struggle to prioritise them, and I take too much on to fill the gaps. I’ve always done this, at primary school when the teacher gave out ‘jobs’ to do I’d always have my hand up, not just for the first job, that too, but also for anything that came later, I have an acute ‘fear of missing out’ and that can be disruptive; it’s where I lose hours to Pinterest or flitting between the open tabs of the desktop that is in my head, planning, thinking, being productive.

I’m sure I’m not alone in browsing pins for inspiration, but it’s more than that. It’s getting caught up in something and suddenly realising it’s 11pm and that book I’d been looking forward to reading hasn’t been read, I’ve distractedly binged on food I didn’t want or need and all that would be OK if I even enjoyed the browsing but there was just something driving me on, a compulsion, and one I have been working hard to get under control. I’m getting there, last week I sat for an hour and had a cuppa and just sat alone with my thoughts, not trying to collect them, but just let them be there.

So in 2014 I learned to control this to a degree, but in 2015 I need to start to focus myself further. In 2014 I achieved two big lifelong aims, I finished my Masters after many long years of part-time study, and I had a research report published that I feel really very proud of. In both cases I showed my ability to focus, but it was at a cost to other areas of my life where procrastination reigned supreme again.

I’ve started 2015 with a renewed energy, and took this focus into this weekend taking a trip to the beach despite the blustery weather.  We probably chose the coldest day of the year for it and were all blue after 15 minutes but man it blew away the cobwebs, it’s hard not to focus on the moment when your toes are freezing!

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The word ‘focus’ came to me when I was at my computer. I saw a photo on my desktop, a piccie of my darling girl in the sun, I was at work but wanted to reach out and hold her hand. I wanted to go back to that day, a day where I was really present in the moment and bring that presence into all aspects of my life, so that is why I now have a small card in my planner, and another on my computer screen with one short five letter word, I’m ready for the challenge, let’s see what FOCUS is all about in 2015.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Mumslist: the Easter buddy came to town

Real Life

Last week was Easter and a really lovely family time that extended into Joss and I having a lovely afternoon out on Tuesday too.  New shoes for her and a treat or two for me! She loves her sparkly shoes so much that she keeps stopping to take another look!

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Joss was pleased that the ‘Easter buddy ‘ remembered her!

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Today also saw the Great Cloth Diaper Change so we headed to Newcastle along with 25 (may have been more!?) littleys to take part in the international world record bid, aiming to get as many people as possible changing a cloth nappy, we caught up with some friends, met some new folk and created a work of art too!  It’s Real Nappy Week next week so I’ll be blogging some cloth bum tips again.

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(Photo by Mandy Charlton Photography event in Newcastle organised by Grow Up Green)

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Work life is getting interesting, I have a jointly written paper that’s being published next week and I’m exploring blogging research findings for other outlets too, so work and home are taking some interesting converging routes, more on that in the next few weeks

Blogging Life

I’ve published a post this week that has really pushed me in terms of honesty and writing, but I’m glad I finally pressed publish on my birth story part 2 and although its focus on a very bad time in my life made it hard to write sharing it is a big part of my recovery.  I also really enjoyed writing a bit of a forward plan for my blog to pin down the direction I want to go in, and this post about bloggers using research skills to generate content has been crazy busy in terms of hits!

I am pleased to have a few review posts coming up, and I’ve finally sat down and written out a day by day list of the linkys that I like to enter so I don’t forget to join in, and have put aside an hour a week to reply to comments and do some wider blog reading around parental mental health and wellbeing.

Inspiration

An oldie but goodie I’m trying my hand at Flylady’s cleaning routines again after reading this post

I’m exploring Vines as a canny way to include a short burst of video into my blogging, I’m not really up for vlogging but this is a good compromise for those moments where Joss is singing etc, so far so good!

Mums' Days

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Maternal mental health and moving on mumslist

Real Life

Spring is here and isn’t it grand!?

This week has seen a lot of sling action, getting out and about and enjoying the sun.  It was a different sort of work week for me, two days of media training but the chance to pick the brains of the experts about blogging and tweeting too, this has given me a new strategy that I’ll talk about in a bit.  I also finished my two week wardrobe challenge, and now have a capsule wardrobe of just 30 items, scary but freeing too!

So maternal mental health, this week I blogged about two big issues, bottle nursing, which I think doesn’t get the coverage it deserves and was probably my toughest blog post yet, and I also wrote a piece trying to unpack and ask some questions about mother’s guilt, working and the media.

All this is building up to a big piece of news and some more posts around maternal mental health.  This week I became affiliated with PANDAS Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support. 

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In short I am setting up their first North East group, the Newcastle Upon Tyne PANDAS Support Group.  I feel really well of late, I have enjoyed several months anxiety free and have been feeling strong for a while now.  I want to bridge a big gap between formal mental health services and community services, there is very little available to new mums anyway following the cuts and being lonely and frightened with dependents can be a very dark place.  I approached a group of friends some of which I’ve met some I have yet to meet looking for others who can help me get set up, I was blown away by their honesty and sadly by their numbers, but we all want to offer our support to other parents and that makes me feel so proud of them, and of how far we have come on our own journeys.  I look forward to sharing experiences, offering support and maybe making some friends along the way too.

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Blog life

Two new things, 1) to devote an evening a week to building up content on a range of ideas and 2) to blog daily where possible about topical issues in the media linking into twitter and facebook feeds on ‘big issues’ around parenthood, politics and media.  I did this with my post on maternal guilt, it came out of Mumsnet stats that were released that day and I tweeted my response and linked into discussions on Facebook which drove more traffic.  I would also like to see my Tots100 score continue to increase, currently at 549 I have worked hard to get to this position and would love to understand more behind the metrics too.

Inspiration

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We’ve been yardening again so I’m about to blog another How Does Your Garden Grow but also found inspiration here:

http://rubiesandduels.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/shabby-chic-in-the-budget-yarden-its-not-a-back-yard-its-a-garden/

http://www.growsonyou.com/

Mums' Days

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Misheard lyrics

I love when people totally mishear lyrics, this list by Clash Music is brilliant, of course at number one is Hendrix’s Purple Haze, “scuse me while I kiss the sky” often heard as “scuse me while I kiss this guy”

It seems we have our own little mishearer of lyrics, thinking about it, some of the words in songs are so complex that children must pick up the rhyme and rhythm way before they understand the words, hence this beauty of Joss’ that I’ve tried to write word for word – ladies and gents, I give you, the Grand Old Dupalork!

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This cracked me up as I had been having a rough day and needed a good chuckle but I was so proud to hear her have a bash, it took place whilst she was wearing these excellent pipecleaner glasses Daddy made, couldn’t get a good pic though as she was marching up and down again!

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What about your little ones, any good misheard lyrics from nursery rhymes?

Ethans Escapades

the outtakes

Wot So Funee?

PND and Breastfeeding: Why is bottle nursing not talked about? A guide for expressing, donor milk and formula feeding mums

I struggled to write a post about my breastfeeding journey, I’ve tried many times but it’s something I have yet to fully make peace with, I decided to post something positive and instructive instead, something that would have helped me.  I am not saying this is an alternative to breastfeeding or comparing the two, but it is a method of infant feeding that is not really talked about and I would have liked someone to have told me about it earlier.

Our journey

They say ‘never give up on a bad day’ – I gave up on the worst day, day six, just as the baby blues should have been lifting I hit rock bottom.

My journey in a nutshell went awry because a) Joss was not terribly interested in feeding, b) I didn’t sleep for three days solid and started to lose touch with reality and c) we struggled to access good support for PND.

Truth be told I was pretty unwell with an infection and a serious bout of mental ill health, when I should have been resting I was experiencing manic highs and frightening lows.  There’s a narrative to all of this that I will blog about when I make more sense of it, but generally I stopped feeding Joss because I was terrified, frightened and not coping.

This one precious photograph is so special as it reminds me she had six days of my milk, its the only one I have, a keepsake if you like.

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Formula feeding was not easier, I was anxious about hygiene, sterilising, and scrubbed my hands til they were sore, but I knew how much she was taking in, and that was very important to me.

Whilst wrestling with my guilt I came across the idea of bottle nursing, associated with attachment parenting.  It took time to feel that I hadn’t failed, I had tried and it didn’t work out, we do the best we can for our children and whether by choice or necessity we nurture our children in different ways.

I chose to see nursing as something that was not exclusive to breastfeeding.

I chose to tell those who said nothing compares to mother’s milk and that they just tried harder than I did that my journey ending at day six broke my heart and my spirit

But I have to point out that I am pro breastfeeding and defend mother’s rights to feed in public just as fervently as breastfeeding mothers do and it upsets me when mums row over feeding, you never know someone else’s back story, what’s in the bottle or how they came to this place (this is important as I did receive some very negative comments, being told J and I couldn’t go to a Christmas party with friends because it was for breastfeeding mams only really hurt)

So what is bottle nursing?

It’s feeding on demand close and instinctual bottle feeding, in a nutshell its emulates breastfeeding with a bottle of formula, pumped milk or donor milk.  It is feeding on demand rather than on schedule, often by mum, or mum and dad alone, with skin to skin contact, changing sides as a breastfeeding mother would do support eye development, and maintaining physical closeness.

Why bottle nursing?

The benefits are many:

  • Skin to skin with baby fed close to its mother
  • Lovely eye contact
  • A calm time to nurse and rest
  • Closeness and smell to build a strong bond
  • Perhaps deciding that only mum, or only mum and dad feed baby to build and maintain a nurturing bond

Deciding to feed in this way was not without its challenges, insisting that only Dad and I feed Joss was hard, the grandparents perhaps found that tough and friends would offer to feed her so we could have a cuppa etc and it probably seemed odd that I turned that down, but it was important to me to see formula feeding as just as nurturing as breastfeeding, a special time for us to enjoy, so often I would take myself away somewhere quiet to feed Joss and spend some quality time together.

In time when she could feed herself I still tried to insist on feeding as quiet time together, I think that this photograph shows that bottle feeding is no less close than breastfeeding

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I wanted to share my experience in the hope of helping others to understand this option for infant feeding, it was not what I expected but the benefits for both of us were great.

 

Mum Of One

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Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside…

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I’ve been posting some of the Action for Happiness resources here in the hope they might inspire others to explore positive mental health. What does this one mean? It could be that we never really know what is going on with someone else on the inside, they might be like a swan, serene on the surface, paddling like mad underneath. When I am feeling anxious I’ll often think ‘why does everyone else have it so easy?’ Well, maybe they don’t? Acceptance is what this one’s about.

The outside can be very different from the inside, this week’s What’s the Story demonstrates this really well. When we were on honeymoon we’d heard that St Chapelle monument was a must, it was pretty uninspiring outside, should we queue?

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Pretty glad we did!
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Fancy a new hobby? How to get started with crafting

My craft space is coming along nicely and I was telling a friend about it this week, she said she’s always wanted to do something crafty but doesn’t know where to get started.  I thought I’d blog about how I fit crafty activities into my daily life, something I managed to do with a newborn, whilst studying and now whilst working and parenting, as it’s important to me to do something that I find relaxing, productive, fun and that brings some colour into my life!

1) Start with a small project

You can dip into a small project over short periods of time, nap times are great for small projects as you are also closer to a sense of satisfaction at having finished something!  This felt baby mobile was the first thing I made after I had Joss, it gave me a small sense of purpose during nap times when I didn’t want to sleep and occupied my mind which I sometimes needed when I was feeling anxious as a new mother

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2) Wrap it up

Package up your project in a zip lock bag so you can quickly pop back to it, I sometimes have a couple of bags on the go and take one to work to spend time on over my lunch breaks

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3) Re-use and save

Try to use what you have at your disposal, you don’t need to spend as lot to find a cathartic hobby! Take these greetings cards I blogged about last week, made from recycled wrapping paper I didn’t need a lot to make something special

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4) Take to a book

Look at craft literature, magazines are great, they often come with a project inside, like this month’s Homemaker. I made this cushion using materials that came with the magazine, Joss loves it, I got loads of inspiration from the book and learned a new skill, soft toy making! Better still, visit your local library, many have a craft section and with a photocopier on site to copy and enlarge any patterns you may find a gem!

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5) Try to make a little time every day

You’d be surprised how a small project works up pretty quickly with even just ten to fifteen minutes a day, and by how relaxing picking up a project can be!  This is a longer term work in progress of mine, the crochet blanket in the background, so far I’ve put about three hours in over many days, it’s so colourful it’s a joy to return to after a busy afternoon with Joss!

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What craft would you like to try and why?  Or if you’re yet to dip your toe in the water what’s stopping you?

International Day of Happiness Inspiration

Today is International Day of Happiness. I shared some resources from the brilliant Action for Happiness recently here and received positive feedback so I thought I’d share some things that I find help keep me on track, you may just find them all very obvious, but I like a little inspiration from time to time and its easy to get caught up in thoughts, worries and habits.

The first photo is one I took on my way home from work, the others are pins from my happiness board:

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Eat, Sleep, Play: Unfounded Worries in Motherhood

Yesterday was World Sleep Day, as a mother your usual concern is that you and your family are not getting enough, and the idea that other folks are getting ALL THE SLEEP kills you!

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In a previous life I was probably a sloth…

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Truth be told, when I was planning my return to work I couldn’t see a way to go back, how could I put a decent day at my desk in after a run of bad nights?  Knowing that sleep has a huge impact on my productivity and mental health and my job involves more than just saying ‘pass the damn coffee’ all day I couldn’t see how it would work.  But it does,  and I do.

This got me thinking about some of my unfounded worries and anxieties as a new mother.  Now that I have a rapidly-approaching-two-year- old (RATYO?) my anxieties about “what if…x,y,z” have calmed a lot.

They usually focused around three key issues, Eat, Sleep, Play (see what I did here?)

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Weight gain and weaning… I drove myself to despair over Joss’ slow weight gain, when she started to fall off her line in the red book of wisdom I was told to bring her back to be weighed in two weeks.  I started to believe that I was somehow supposed to get her to eat more in those two weeks and meal times became awful for both of us, I’d obsess over her food intake.  I knew people said “food before one is just for fun” – ITS TRUE PEOPLE!! I didn’t believe this at the time, but eighteen months on Joss has a healthy and sensible appetite, still loves her fruit and veg and once I started to become much more patient we all started to enjoy mealtimes.  Most of my fears about weaning were unfounded too, hey look, she’s eating a meal of food like any regular human child, to me it was a revelation that baby led weaning existed, surely it was all about purees and spoon feeding?  See this muffin?  She didn’t really eat it, but she did mouth it and enjoy sharing a meal time with us, and that was more important than volume at that stage, lesson learned right there!

Sleep

You don’t need as much as you think you do.  Well I do, no really, I do.  In the early days once a routine was established about five months into our parenting journey I started to get a bit desperate about sleep, those what ifs? again, what if she wakes really frequently?  What is causing the disturbance?  Am I getting this routine thing wrong?  I started a sleep diary, we learned that Joss has a unique cycle every eight weeks moving from sleeping 10 hours straight to reducing that by an hour a night til we hit on a 4am wake up then increasing back to sleeping ten hours again.  Erm, how fascinating, but what would we do with this amazing data we had gathered?  Put it into a computer and make her sleep again?  It’s her cycle, we learned to live with it, it’s easier when you accept it and know that good days will follow bad again.

Play

The old will she won’t she walk soon?  Will she won’t she talk soon?  Is she getting the right kind of play?  Is it bad that she asks for Tombiliboos first thing in the morning and knows the names of most of the Cbeebies presenters like they’re our friends and family?  Again all unfounded worries.  All normal worries I hasten to add!

I guess this post is just a gentle reminder to me that phases are just that, they ebb and flow, and to anyone having a wobble, this too shall pass!

Team Honk Relay

This week Hannah from Mumsdays was very proactive in organising a NE parenting blogger (pblogger) meet, we overcame challenges of geography and parenting to get together, we lucky three, Hannah, Rita from Three Boys and a Cat and I to get the ball rolling and talk about a very important endeavour.

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The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people both at home in the UK and across the world. An example close to my heart is that £500 could provide six months of support for a young person in the UK with mental health issues.

The Team Honk Blogger Relay starts in Lands End on the 12th January 2014 and finishes in John O Groats on the 23rd March 2014. We aim to raise over £20,000 for Sport Relief. #teamhonkrelay involves over 200 bloggers, their friends and families in a route that zig zags up the UK taking in 38 regional teams and a range of non-motorised transport, and Joss and I are part of the Durham team, getting the Team Honk relay baton from Durham to Alnwick, my girl and I will be taking the baton from Gateshead to Newcastle along the route.

Our plan says that on the 16th March Rita will collect the baton from the Darlington Team Honk team, on the 17th of March Rita will be braving a 20 mile walk in a onesie from Durham to Gateshead via Mammybear in Washington for cake (we like cake, we bloggers!) At the Angel of the North Rita will meet Joss and I for a photo opportunity and then we will carry the baton on foot with Joss in our toddler carrier from the Angel to the Sage in Gateshead and it is hoped that other slingy mams will join us on our walk!

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I will take the baton back home with me that evening and then 18th March we’ll be passing the baton on to Hannah who will cycle it from Blyth the 30 miles to Alnwick, phew! If you are a NE blogger who could take the baton from Newcastle to the coast at Tynemouth or further North then do speak up!

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How can you help? We have a local target of £500 to raise, and if you’d like to sponsor us you can do, here

You can also spread the word on social media:

Team Honk Twitter & Hashtags: @team_honk #teamhonkrelay

Sport Relief Twitter & Hashtags: @sportrelief #SR14

TeamHonk facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teamhonk

TeamHonk pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/LoveAllBlogs/teamhonk-2014-relay-teamhonkrelay/

Honk honk!