Friday, 14 August 2015

Fashion sense, or nonsense?

I have found it hard to care about fashion over the years. I was not confident enough to dress above a certain level of "niceness" (whatever that is) because I didn't feel I deserved it, or I didn't feel pretty enough, or I was too big.

The irony is, I would have felt pretty and worthwhile and happier in my appearance had I made more of an effort. It's taken me a few months of really working hard at appreciating my body's capabilities through yoga, meditation, healthy eating, and purposeful prayer to really get the idea that how I feel on the inside affects how I look on the outside; consequently, how I look on the outside affects how I feel on the inside. The two can't be separated.

So here I am, in the slightly awkward position of wanting to wear nicer clothes and dress up a bit more, but I almost literally have nothing to wear.

Until I reach a stable weight, which is who knows when because I'm kind of doing this without any measuring, weighing or firm idea of what my end point should be. I can't really use sizing as a guide, because I have clothes in all manner of sizes that fit me. One of my favourite shops seems to have suddenly succumbed to vanity sizing (Next - anyone else noticed this?), so I can't reasonably extrapolate what would fit me in other stores.

I am mostly planning to ride it out over winter and see where things shake out in the spring. Layers can save me from needing to own very much variety, so a couple of sweaters/jumpers over t-shirts should be okay.

In the meantime, I have dusted off my Pinterest account for window shopping purposes, and watched a few old episodes of Trinny and Susannah. I came across a fabulous idea on some other blogs about creating a new wardrobe themed around a simple colourscheme. The colour wheel is a great help with this plan. Basically, choose two colours that are opposite each other on the wheel, and base your clothing choices on those two colours. They will naturally match, and you can expand your mix-and-match options exponentially. Obviously, not everything in your drawers need to be those two colours; there can be a wide variety of shades of each colour and you need a few neutrals thrown in.

My plan is to have tans, camels, whites and creams as my neutral shades, with all manner of blues and oranges as my main colours. For many years, I loved purple, but recently I've gravitated towards blues. I am a warm spring, and wouldn't you know it, blues and oranges are on the list. All right!

I'm actually getting really excited about fashion now. Before, I would just randomly choose clothes based upon if I liked them at that moment or if they fit a basic set of criteria - fits without flashing, comfortable, and easy to wash. That gave me a wide variety of clothes, or sometimes all of the same style, but very few items mixed and matched, so it actually limited what I could wear each day. This plan seems to make so much sense - I can throw on whatever (is clean..ahem) and have a high probability of looking put together and NICE. Amazing!

This is my Pinterest board, in case you are interested. I will be buying my clothes a little at a time, because replacing everything at once is insanely expensive. I'll still be hitting the charity shops for sure!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Losing it

So I've lost a bit of weight recently - no idea how much, since I point blank refuse to weigh myself - and have needed to buy some new clothes.

Lucky for me, I've hit upon a few charity shops (think Goodwill type places) that had sales on and I've bought new items for £2 each! So far I've purchased 2 trousers, 2 tops and a skirt for a grand total of 10 pounds. Not bad at all.

I've only dropped a size (ish, it's hard to say, considering one top is two sizes smaller than normal and I don't think I'm out of proportion all that much!!), but it's enough for me to notice and a few other people, as well.

I haven't joined a gym or subscribed to a specific weight loss regime, as such. I stopped eating sugar and all processed foods, and ate mung bean soup for 40 days as my main meal, along with all the fresh fruits and veg and hummus and nuts and a bit of cheese that I could stuff in me. Turns out it is really difficult to overeat when everything you put in your mouth is real, whole foods.

The mung bean soup thing is over (it was a way to kick my sugar addiction to the kerb and help me reset my taste-buds), so now I'm eating the same meals as my family now and I'm kind of wondering how things will go from here. I ate bread today (dun dun duuuun), which was the first time I've eaten any bread products for over a month. I love bread! It was a whole wheat pita bread stuffed with veggies and cheese so very filling and not at all triggering the way white toast slathered in butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar would be (yikes, I could eat at least 4 slices of that stuff).

I have spent years trying to convince myself that being overweight wasn't a big deal - haha - and that my self worth wasn't down to my size. The thing is, I do believe in health at every size. I do NOT believe that someone's body size is a good way to judge their health level or their worth as a human being (such a crummy thing to do). But I don't like being too big for normal shop sizes or struggle to fit in those far to tiny airplane seats. It just sucks all around, really.

I've been doing yoga daily in addition to changing my eating habits, which has been wonderful. I have watched my body get stronger over time and have marvelled at its abilities. So cool! Yoga is amazing.

I'm assuming my weight will continue to go down, although probably slower if I continue to eat cheese at the rate I've done today! I do love a bit of vintage mature cheddar, nom nom. But anyway, I expect I will lose more weight before I even out. I would be happy at a size or two lower than I am now, but that goal is rather hazy, since sizing is whack. What I really need is to be able to wear my wedding rings again. :) That would be fantastic, since my fingers swelled up with my first pregnancy and never seemed to get smaller again! Several weeks ago I couldn't even get it over my knuckle and now it can slip beyond the knuckle but I haven't pushed it all the way on lest it gets stuck and my finger turns purple!

So I guess I'm writing this for the accountability aspect? I have always steered clear of dieting conversations because I found them excruciatingly boring - people going on and on about the amount of calories in this packet of crisps vs that packet of crisps when you should really not eat them in the first place, eh? My view points are not what you would call conventional or popular when dieting comes up, "Just stop eating sugar and processed foods!!" yields a resounding chorus of crickets.

But whatever. I feel great, which is the main thing I guess. I'm free of my food addictions and it's really liberating to feel like everything I'm eating is benefiting my body in one way or another.

Everyone likes a before and after picture, eh? The pictures were taken about 4 weeks apart. I would have worn the same top (I'm wearing the same shorts, or at least the same brand and size) but I can't find it. It's too big now anyway.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

19 months old and out of nappies!

Ever heard of Elimination Communication / EC / Infant Pottying? I first heard about it 12 years ago and thought it was kind of mental. How does that even work? Magic or something?

Babies are pretty smart, it turns out. I never bothered to try EC with my older children, but by the time my four year old was seven or eight months old, I made a few friends who successfully practised it with their babies so I picked their brains. I attempted a modified version of EC with my then-toddler and by 22 months old, she was in undies. Huzzah! She wasn't dry at night for another year +, but I was cool with that.

When I had my fifth baby, I really wanted to start from birth. The little dear had some feeding problems we needed to overcome and I didn't have the headspace for it, so we didn't actually start until she was 3 months old.

So... how does this work, exactly? My baby was showing some signs of straining to poo one day, so I held her over a potty and hey presto. No stinky nappy. At first, I would focus on holding her over the potty or toilet when she woke from naps. Eventually, I noticed that when she was breastfeeding, she would pop off and on the breast and couldn't settle down to feed, so I held her over a potty. BAM. Pretty soon, I noticed that she would tense her body up in a certain way, or wiggle around a bit when she needed to "go". She sometimes would cry and get frustrated if I didn't help her to a potty quickly enough.

Basically, she trained me. But that's okay! I liked not having dirty nappies to change, and less laundry to wash. (we use cloth)

Much to my dismay, once she started solids and crawling in earnest, the idea of using the potty was totally uncool. She completely refused every effort for me to hold her over a receptacle, even when it was obvious she needed to go.

Okay then! I left her to it. Back to nappies full time, but I kept up with the "communication" aspect of Elimination Communication. I pointed out when she was doing a poo or wee, and when she got older, she would point to herself and repeat after me.

Fifty or sixty years ago, most children were potty trained by 18 months. When my daughter reached a similar age, I started noticing her morning nappies were bone dry. As an experiment, I started leaving the nappy off her in the morning, and one day when I was in a different room, I walked by the potty to see it was full! The little munchkin had taken herself to the potty with zero assistance, and we've had plenty of success since then.

To be fair, what I'm describing as a nappy free 19 month old is really not even close to a fully toilet trained four year old. She can't pull down pants on her own, so I have to help her with clothes (she's normally half naked at home to facilitate quick dashes to the potty). She doesn't really tell me in advance when she needs to go, so I still rely on cues to help her focus on the potty. She's mostly happy to stop what she's doing to go potty, but not always. I have to make a little game of it.

She has accidents most days, but it really is all about my attitude towards them. I don't coerce her or shame her if there's a puddle, and in actual fact she is more upset about messes than I am ("eeeewwww!" I hear her cry - sends me running!). To be fair, we have no carpeting downstairs where we spend most of our time, so that helps with a relaxed approach!

Still. She is in underwear when we go out, and it hasn't been a big deal. Hopefully I'm not jinxing anything, but I think she'll be much more independent in a few months when she turns 2, and until that time comes, I'm here to help.

EC is more of a long haul process than those "train in 3 days" programmes, but so is weaning and independence in general. Nobody expects a six month old to be cutting their own steak dinner from the beginning - there are stages to independent eating, sleeping, walking, playing, and toileting. I am very happy (and surprised, to be honest) at our progress and quite proud of this little girl of mine.

Feel free to ask any questions about EC in the comments. I'm happy to help where I can!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

It's not about the icecream

Being a parent is crazy hard work. A lot of the time, I am planning ahead - dinner, dishes, laundry, sweep this and tidy that, take him there, her here, rush rush rush, collapse on the sofa, wake up with a jerk, collect people from school, start it all again tomorrow.

There are moments of clarity, when through my haze of here and now, I see my children for who they are and I understand the way they see the world. Not through my eyes, the eyes of an adult who has a myriad of responsibilities with a list so long it doesn't fit in her head before coming out the other side.

A few days ago, we came home from church and gave the children ice cream. My seven year old started sobbing  because the type of ice cream she wanted was all gone. She had to make do with an ice cream sandwich, not a cone.

But she wasn't upset over the ice cream, not really. Earlier that day, she had been complimented by several adults about her behaviour. She is a rule-follower, a people pleaser. She smooths the rough patches of social interaction and wants life to be enjoyable for everyone around her, even at the cost of her own comfort. This is hard work. So when she and I were lavished with these compliments, I had a feeling that she was probably worn out from her efforts that afternoon.

She wasn't really able to cope with disappointment at that moment. The missing cone was just too much. But it was more than that - the ice cream cone represented not only what she couldn't have, but that someone else got to it first. Other people enjoyed the ice cream cones without her, they ate them before she could. It wasn't fair! Here she was, trying so hard to be "good", and what did she get for her efforts? A lousy ice cream sandwich!

I think we can all recognise this feeling. We still have a good life, there isn't any major disaster or tragedy to speak of, but the ice cream sandwich just isn't what we wanted. It isn't the same as a cone. It's okay to feel disappointment or even sorrow over what we're missing.

This little girl was in tears, and instead of me losing sight of what was important to her, and focusing on what was important to me (dinner prep, baby care, sitting down for once!) I looked into her eyes and talked her through it. I made time to connect with her and helped her name her feelings.

And wouldn't you know it - she calmed down and was her happy, bubbly self for the rest of the day.

I often have to remind myself that I have two choices when my children are upset. I can take the time to connect with them, to hear their words and work through their feelings, or I can railroad over them and demand silence or "good" behaviour. Either way takes time before the child calms down. But with the first choice, I will have strengthened our relationship and topped up their emotional bank account. The second choice depletes their stores and slightly fractures our relationship. It's just not worth it.

That's not to say that I am perfect at this parenting gig. In all honesty, the mere fact that this incident sticks out in my mind so much is probably proof that I don't use this method often enough. I have six children living in this house and my brain is fizzing while I rock in the corner on some days. But I think I get it right pretty frequently. We went to the park yesterday afternoon instead of staying at home, which meant no time for me to make dinner. We had fish and chips instead. Would it have been healthier for me to make a meal? Yes! But it was worth it to spend time with the children outdoors and just "be" together. I don't regret it for a moment.

Friday, 18 July 2014

a writing exercise

Last week, my 11 year old daughter and I did a fun writing exercise. We gave ourselves 10 minutes to write a short story and then swapped to read each other's work. I haven't written any fiction in a long time, so it was a challenge. I loved how the story unfolded as I went along, and when I stopped trying to think of ideas, they just flowed out of my pen without effort.

This is what I wrote.

Once upon a time, there was an old woman. She was a happy person; kind and generous with friends and strangers alike. One rainy afternoon, just as she settled down in front of the fire with a steaming cup of cocoa, a loud knock pounded on the door. Startled, she spilled her drink on the floor. "Drat!" she muttered, as she shuffled to answer the door.
Standing on the mat, soaked to the bone, was a bedraggled dog. Its poor face clearly asked her to come in, as it slightly shivered at the door.
"Oh, you poor thing!" the old woman exclaimed. She grabbed a towel as quickly as she could manage and ushered the dog indoors. It happily settled in front of the fire and was soon contentedly licking up a dish of warm milk and bread.
The old woman was saddened to think of someone abandoning this animal on such a wet day. "Don't worry, little one," she whispered as she stroked its head, "I'll look out for you."
Soon the dog - Brandy was the name she gave him - was settled into the house and the old woman couldn't believe she ever managed without him. She always exclaimed over his manners and helpfulness - for who ever saw a dog that wiped its feet before entering, or could make a delicious cup of tea, exactly as she liked it? It was astonishing.
Time passed. Winter turned to Spring, then Summer. The old woman began shuffling about more and more slowly. Her garden grew neglected, weeds choking the vegetable plot. She always had a smile or kindly word for all she met, but she didn't get out much. Brandy helped her more every day.
Without her even noticing, Brandy started looking more and more like a man in a fur coat, rather than a dog on all fours. As winter crept in, the old woman grew sleepy. She barely got out of bed these days. Brandy took care of her every need - now as a fully realised human. A Prince, in fact. Cursed with animal form for selfish behaviour, he was required to show unconditional love before the curse was broken.
As the old woman sighed her last breath, the Prince stroked her hand and cried.

It's not breaking any new ground or the beginnings of an epic tale, but it was kind of exciting to see what would come out next. If I was going to edit it, I would likely give the "old woman" an actual name, and turn the tale on its head a bit by making the dog prince into a princess. Or perhaps just an ordinary girl who got on the wrong side of a Faerie. The basic premise could do with plenty of tweaking to make the story more original and interesting.

I did like that it had a melancholy ending, however. Sometimes life is like that - good can come out of sad situations, but in order for the good to happen, you have to feel and experience the sadness.

In other news, I'm still tired all the time, but whingeing about it in my last blog post didn't actually accomplish anything. In some ways, it made me feel even more sorry for myself! So whatever. I'll just keep on. Only three more days until the summer break, and we can all lounge about in our jammies whenever we like! I think we all need to rest and recharge a bit.

Saturday, 12 July 2014


I'm afraid there's something wrong with me, that I'm getting too tired to function. I need two naps a day now, and that doesn't seem right?

I gave up our allotment, that we shared with a friend. They have five children, and so do we. When I explained to someone why I couldn't handle it anymore, I said "we have 10 kids between us" and it kind of hit me anew. That's a lot of children.

No wonder I'm tired. I have a nine month old baby who I love dearly but she really enjoys waking at dawn. Dawn in the summer means 4am, so that's not always easy.

I am not giving my all to my family, because I am tired. I am grumpy and short-tempered, I don't have the energy to cook, and cleaning? Well, if you can walk without crunching something underfoot, I call it a win.

They are healthy and happy, for the most part. But am I? I worry that I'm too tired, but then I remind myself that I don't go to bed before 11pm most days. Can anyone really function on five hours of broken sleep for months on end?

Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself. Perhaps I need to take more naps.

I once read about how humans naturally had a segmented sleep cycle in the days before electricity. Everyone would go to bed at sundown, sleep for five hours or so, wake up for two hours, and sleep again for another three or four hours. They called it their "first" and "second" sleeps. It sounded amazing, so I tried it. I never saw my husband, since by the time I woke up from my first sleep, he was off to bed for the rest of the night. I then got anxious and struggled to get to bed for my second sleep, worrying that I wouldn't get enough rest before the children woke up.

Modern ways of sleeping fit better into our modern lives, funnily enough. But I still feel tired.

Am I anemic? Do I have a B12 deficiency? Why do I want a third nap, and still feel like I'm living in a fog of slow thoughts?

My children have started finishing my sentences for me. Am I really that difficult to chat with? Do their minds move so quickly that they can't even wait for the words to come out of my mouth? I think it might just be a bad habit, rather than an assessment of my state of mind. I hope so, at least.

I didn't take a nap today. I stayed up too late, my husband out of town and the tv viewing all to myself, while the baby slept and slept. She woke up at dawn, her usual happy self, while I grumble and try to go back to sleep with her pootling around on the floor.

It is 7pm and I feel leaden. My eyes blink slowly, my mouth slack. We had cereal for dinner, because it's hot and I just can't think of anything to cook. We have cupboards full of food; dried pasta, rice, beans, lentils. Sauces and tins, packets and jars. Plenty of ingredients, but if I chopped any vegetables tonight, I think I would regret it.

We had a good day, despite my tiredness. A morning at a soft play centre, with the older ones playing laser tag, coming home for lunch and a Doctor Who marathon. You really can't go very wrong with the tenth doctor. We take breaks for ice lollies and snacks. We finally took down our canvas tent (it was drying out, then got rained on twice, and was finally completely dry again) which was a wonderful acquisition that will make a great story to tell. Perhaps on a day when I'm not so tired.

My husband still isn't home. He went to pick up a car we bought, and has experienced an epic journey of false starts, possible money laundering, unexpected overnight stays, dodgy engines and a tour of the countryside. It sounds much more exciting than what it was, although I was pleased to hear that the takeaway order I placed for him was delivered successfully to his pit-stop at the park and ride next to the motorway. I ordered 4 bottles of water at 500 ml each. I think 2 litres of bottled water is overdoing it, really, but it is hot today and I was worried.

I haven't been eating right. When I'm tired, I don't want to put any effort or thought into meals and snacks, which results in my fall back option of quick-but-unhealthy. It's frustrating to get into this cycle, but I don't know how to break it. Perhaps if I spent a week of going to bed at 8pm. Somehow that doesn't seem very realistic.

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, or just a flaky goofball, but I am glad my 4 year old is attending school in September. I'm too tired to do fun things with her anymore. Well, I take that back. We do go out, and have some fun, but I am only good for a couple of hours before I have to come home and collapse. At least when she starts school, the baby will still be taking naps (pleasepleaseplease) and I will get some rest without the guilt of not being engaged and "present" for my family.

What if there isn't any deficiency? What if exhaustion is my version of normal? I try not to worry, and remind myself that five children is a lot of kids. Maybe that's why I'm so tired.

The tent was up for a long time.

Friday, 20 June 2014

this is what I believe.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is pretty plugged into the internet, it has been hard to miss the slew of blog posts, major news outlet articles, and general chatter on social media about the controversial Ordain Women movement.

For those of you who don't know, there is an organised group of (mostly) women who feel that the Church needs to extend Priesthood authority to women as well as men. At this time, only men are conferred the responsibility to perform sacred ordinances in God's name, through His power and authority, namely the Priesthood. Hopefully that makes sense to the non-initiated.

There are many reasons why Ordain Women feels that the Priesthood should be extended to female members of the LDS church. I haven't read up on all of it, but from what I've seen, I think one of the main reasons stems from painful interactions with men who feel that a little bit of authority to administrate gives them a lot of power to dominate others. In short, abuse can and does happen when there is an imbalance of power, whether it is in a parent-child relationship, an abusive marriage, a work setting, or an ecclesiastical relationship. We are all imperfect beings living in a fallen and imperfect world. We all do things that we shouldn't.

While I understand a few of the underpinning ideas behind Ordain Women, I don't feel the need to support them. Their concerns, their pain, their world view, is not the same as mine. Their stories aren't the same as mine. And that's okay with me. I do not feel threatened by their agitation and don't really feel the need to rail against their leader, who is rumoured to be facing church sanctions and possible excommunication.

Here is what I believe. I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ as set out in the New Testament is the same in structure and content as the gospel preached in the Mormon church. The structure of prophets, apostles, priests etc, is the same. The ordinances of baptism, the sacrament, temple worship; all the same. I believe that Jesus Christ structured His church in this way, and I am a grateful recipient of these saving ordinances.

I don't feel good or happy about the Ordain Women bashing that I see online. It hurts me to see the almost gleeful, self-righteous back-patting that's going on. Aren't we all imperfect? Don't we all have the need for the Atonement, the need to repent?

I think that we as a people, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are closer to the ancient Israelites than we'd like to admit. We study the Bible and the Book of Mormon, stories of people who stoned their prophets and twisted the words of God to their own ends, and we say "How could they do that? They have the prophet right there! He just came down from the mountain, he just saw God face to face! They saw an angel for themselves! How could they do that?!" And then we busy ourselves with measuring hemlines and only take the sacrament with our right hands -- and I wonder. I wonder if we are all to blame. I wonder, if we would just be anxiously engaged in a good cause, in serving, in loving, if we invite the less fortunate to our tables, if we focus on that beam sticking out of our own eyes, well. I think everything else would sort itself out. I think life for everyone would be much better.

Are Mormons Christian? Do we serve, do we love, do we bless other people's lives? Or are we too busy pointing our fingers at people not living as we would live, who interpret the world through a different lens, who choose a different path (or have one forced upon them?), who should be our brothers and sisters in Christ?

It is easy to be deceived. It is easy to get confused, to get puffed up and to feel "safe" in our choices.

I believe that this furor over Ordain Women should end. I believe that the decision over excommunication or not should be left to those in charge, and we, who really have no horse in this race, should remember that we covenanted to lift each other's burdens and love each other. Regardless of that other person's choices, or whether those burdens were "deserved."

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this is what I believe.