Author: danieller77

Mindful baking

Mindful baking

Baking has always been a go to for me for stress relief, for relaxation and for a feeling of accomplishment. When I am truly caught up in my baking it is the moment that I am most mindful, totally in the moment. I love the process, I love the outcome and I love the happy faces when enjoying what I have made. I love having homemade food there ready for my friends and family and I love knowing exactly what has gone into the food.

Recently I have been baking a lot less due to lack of time and lack of motivation. But I am trying to turn things around and for me baking is part of my self care. So last weekend I put some music on and “got my bake on”. My kitchen bench (which is quite large) was filling with baked goods and the house smelt great. For anyone who has seen the Netflix series Good Girls it resembled Beth’s bench in many episodes – full of cooling racks and containers.

I made pumpkin soup, ham and cheese mini quiches, cheese and zucchini muffins and hedgehog slice. My boys had been with their dad and came home to a lot of food. I felt accomplished, relaxed and prepared for the week.

My youngest has recently taken to baking with me which I love. They both do kitchen at school but now he wants to do things at home as well. So far we have done ANZAC biscuits, chocolate chip biscuits and this week, while he has been on school holidays we made vanilla cupcakes with chocolate icing. He loves it too and it is a great bonding, non screen activity for us. Next he wants to try a cheesecake – not sure why that has popped into his head.

So I love my mindful baking and I love sharing it with my kids. Now I just have to make sure I do it more often and remember that it is not just preparing food for me – it is taking a breath and being in the moment.

Yell out if I can do anything…

Yell out if I can do anything…

How often have you said that to someone? I think most of us would have said this many times. And when we say it we mean it. But what does it mean to the person you are saying it to?

For those who follow my blog you may have noticed that I have disappeared for about four months. My eldest son, who has some very serious health issues, has had a couple of surgeries on his leg over this time and as a result has been in a wheelchair and had many medical appointments. On top of this we had adjustments and processes to go through every day at home. It has been a drain physically and mentally for us and most days it has been doing what we need to do to get through that day. With the knowledge there is still one more surgery as well as rehab etc some days the best you can do is the minimum that needs to be done that day.

To be able to handle all of this, and drop him to and from school each day (bus was out of the question) I have been working from home since mid March and outings have been a lot more restricted. Even things he can do physically have been difficult because of his mental health. So it has been quite isolating on some days and when I write my three points of gratitude each night some days are much harder than others.

So back to my original point – I have heard those words so many times in the last four months. And I know everyone is coming from the right place, just as I am every time I have said it. And I know for a lot of those people if I rang them with a request they are there. However given what I have gone through, and what is still ahead, my approach in these situations will change in the future.

On most days at the moment if you ask me what you can do my answer is either “Nothing” or “I am not sure”. This is not me being a martyr or thinking everything is perfect/I’m on top of everything. It is that when you are in a whirl of physical and mental health issues and are living day to day you often don’t know what needs to be done next or what to prioritise.

So here is what I will try and do differently from now on when I am speaking to someone doing it tough.

  1. Be specific about what I am offering – “how about I come and mind the kids for an hour so you can go for a walk/shop on your own/have a nap”
  2. Think of something the person won’t have time to do that can make a huge difference – “I knew you wouldn’t have time to organise a plate for the morning tea at school because you have been at the hospital so I have made some biscuits for you to take”
  3. Check in occasionally and not wait for them to reach out – a quick text to know you are in their thoughts can make a difference to how a day goes
  4. If they live close enough turn up with a coffee or go and put the kettle on and make them a cuppa – sometimes you want to hear about other people’s lives as well as have a chance to download/vent a little.

These are just my thoughts and I certainly appreciate everyone in my life who has said yell out if we can do anything. I just know that some days I don’t want to think about the next step/priority/thing I have missed and just want someone to say “I’m here and I have done this”

Running in my underwear

Running in my underwear

Last Sunday I ran through St Kilda in my underwear.

Possibly I should add more details to this story!

Running through St Kilda in my underwear was for the Cupids Undie Run which is a fundraiser for the Children’s Tumour Foundation of Australia. This foundation supports families impacted by Neurofibromatosis (NF). This is the disorder my eldest son has – he has NF2 which is the rarer form.

The fundraiser raises much needed funds for treatment, family support and research.

Many people have asked if I was embarrassed to run in my undies or said how brave I was. What they don’t understand is that as a parent you feel helpless when you can’t help or fix what is wrong with your child. So the thing I can do is help with funds. And if embarrassing myself for a short time helps raise funds then I am in. This is the second year I have done this and I will continue every year until a cure is found.

Bring on the embarrassment – I am going bigger and better every year. Because I would do anything to take away the stress and pain my beautiful boy suffers.

Not quite new year resolutions

Not quite new year resolutions

I have never believed strongly in making New Years resolutions.

Don’t get me wrong I believe strongly in improving myself and in being positive. I also love the idea of new year fresh start. But it always feels that New Years resolutions set you up for failure. You start with good intentions and then as life gets in the way it starts to feel like you are failing.

However I was listening to a talk on health and well being a few days ago and they were discussing resolutions and the benefit of making decisions on self improvement (not too specific) and to do it a little after New Years. The thought behind that is doing it once the pressure and business of Christmas and New Years has settled down and life has become a little more normal.

So after a week back at work I started to think about what I want for this year. Keeping in mind not being too specific or setting myself up for failure here are my resolutions for a better me that I will try and focus on.

  1. Stop waiting for things I have no control over. My life (and my boys lives) cannot be out on hold waiting for the unknown. What will happen will happen but we have to try and live for now.
  2. Work on my health and wellbeing. With a very tough year ahead for my son medically, and as a result my whole family unit, I need to be taking care of myself in preparation for what’s coming. Nothing too specific here but this includes more exercise, better food, more sleep and going back to my psychologist (note no numbers here on amount of exercise, weight loss etc)
  3. Try something new every week – this can be big or small – and is about putting myself out there more as well as showing the boys it is good to try new things. Next weeks new thing is donating blood which is something I have thought about for a while, other weeks it could be a new recipe.

And while I was going to add more I am stopping there before I set myself up for failure. The beautiful thing about non new year resolutions is they can be edited or added to at any time. So maybe I’ll review this time next month and adjust, or when my son starts his surgeries. And quite possibly, as I have deliberately kept them open to interpretation – they will still be just right.

Happy new year everyone – may 2019 be the year that you make some resolutions that are just right for you.

Book Review: Simon Sidebottom 2, Too Cool For School

Book Review: Simon Sidebottom 2, Too Cool For School

Nearly six months ago I wrote a book review about “A funny thing happened to Simon Sidebottom“.  My son still lists this as one of his favourite books – although he did draw the line as dressing up as the character for book week.

So I was very pleased when the second book came out and was eager to get it for him.  The second in the series is called “A funny thing happened to Simon Sidebottom 2, Too Cool For School“.  Yes – it is quite a long title.

Now to give a quick update my eldest son is nine, loves technology, science and screens, and most of the time will refuse to do much outside of these topics.  While he used to enjoy reading it is now a battle where I buy multitudes of books and he may read one of them (thankfully my youngest son, aged 7, loves to read).

About two weeks ago I walked up to him with the new book while he was laying on the couch playing his iPod.  To my surprise he put it down straight away and opened the book.  This alone is a massive win and a credit to the author, P. Crumble, of how good the first book in the series was.

As per the first book this one once again is a Choose your own adventure style book with quirky font, funny images, gross jokes and crazy nicknames.  The first thing I heard from him was laughter followed by an explanation that the principal, Mr Smart-Fells, gets called Mr Fart Smells and the teacher, Miss Graff, gets called Miss Giraffe.  This is the perfect sort of humour for my boys who spend a ridiculous amount of time discussing bodily functions and smells, as well as crazy songs and names for everything.

The second massive win, and credit to the author and illustrator, is that my son then proceeded to take the book with him to his brothers karate lesson where he normally stares at his iPod for the hour.  He then proceeded to read the book for the first 30 minutes.  I think I nearly fell over from shock – he chose the book over the iPod.

Now I can’t tell you much about the content as the only things I have gotten out of my son so far were the funny names of the staff at the school, that Simon still calls his sister Snot Face and “it is really good” (his exact words when I asked what I should write in my review).  However if you have children around my kids age who are obsessed with this type of humour then I highly recommend it.  If it can get my son away from screens for nearly an hour straight in one go then it is a big thumbs up for me.

I look forward to any other books released by this author.

Connecting to music

Connecting to music

Growing up I loved expressing myself through the arts and creativity.  I started dancing when I was six and by the time I was in my mid teens I was doing five classes a week.  Looking back now I wonder what my parents were thinking of agreeing to this given the time and financial commitment they made but that is another story.  I played the recorder in primary school (just another way I tortured my parents).  I then moved on to the flute in secondary school and have great memories of being in the school band.  And in both years of my VCE four of my six subjects were based on art, graphics or dance.

Over the years since school my creative outlets have reduced due to many different circumstances.  In the last couple of years when life has felt out of control and the need to control what I can has increased my creativity has taken a huge hit.

However one thing I do still feel a connection to is music.  I have music playing in my house often but what is playing varies greatly based on how I am feeling.  See I have always connected music to memories and emotions.  It can be the lyrics, the tune or just the emotion behind it all.

There are songs that make me think of my years of dancing, songs that take me back to high school and in particular my years in the school band.  There are songs that make me think of my wedding day, my marriage and the end of that relationship.  And so many songs that I connect to my children.

But the feelings attached to the music can change.  Songs that used to make me cry about my marriage ending no longer have that impact.  Songs that I relate to younger years that make me reminisce and songs relating to my kids always make me tear up.

My Spotify playlists are so varied that I am not sure how it continues to suggest songs for me.  However one thing I can guarantee is that there are always playlists for me to sing along to and there are always songs to take away the quietness of the house when the boys are at their dads.

Over time I am trying to get back to some of my other creative outlets and connections but in the meantime music will continue to be a big part of life in my house.

Customer Service – good vs bad

Customer Service – good vs bad

I spent many years of my early working career in front facing customer service roles.  While studying I worked in retail, then a job as a waitress before going back to retail.  After studying my second job saw me go back into a customer service role at my current employer that got me a foot in the door at a large global company.

With all of this experience I think of have some ideas of what the basic requirements are for good customer service.  Recently I had the need to deal with two customer service centres and the experiences couldn’t have been any further apart.

One experience was with a very large global company and was one of the worst experiences I have ever had.  Two days of staying home for the delivery of a very expensive product that didn’t arrive, customer service reps who would say anything to get me off the phone and being advised I could pick up the product from their warehouse but not being able to tell me where that is.

The second experience was with a small overseas company who I contacted to see if I could buy a replacement part for a toy that my eldest had accidentally broken when opening the box.  They got in contact with me quickly and offered to send me a replacement free of charge as they wanted my son to be happy and appreciated my support.

I’d like to think that when I was in customer service I provided support that was more like the latter.  Possibly the large companies need to learn a lesson from the smaller companies who appreciate your business and think every customer is important.

Making memories

Making memories

I have had a week off work this week to spend the second week of the school holidays with my boys.

For the first time in a long time, and much to the boys delight, I have totally avoided work. No phone calls or checking of emails. In fact, as we went away to Phillip Island for four days, we had very little screen time (other than movie nights) and lots of time for making memories. Mini golf and mazes, magic shows, chocolate factories, animals – Phillip Island has so many great family activities. At the end of the four days after much fun, laughter and time for connecting with each other it felt wonderful to hear the boys say how they would miss the holiday and how much fun they had.

Today, being the first day back home, I was doing housework and getting myself organised when I noticed my youngest just sitting in the driveway looking around. I called out to see if he was ok and he ran over and said “come look at the clouds Mummy”. This turned into nearly an hour of sitting on the driveway with him and his brother talking about what pictures we saw in the clouds, looking for planes and endless games of eye spy.

Sometimes making memories can be from grand gestures, holidays and amazing activities. Often though, it is from the simple things that fill us with happiness and laughter. It is so easy to forget how important giving time to our children is – and how simple it can be to make a memory.

Redundant sayings

Redundant sayings

Sometimes a sure fire way to feel your age is to talk to children.

The other day my youngest was repeating the same whinge over and over. I responded with “you are like a broken record” to which he gave me a look and kept going about his day.

About half an hour later he started up again. And I once again responded with “see like I said you are like a broken record”. This time he stared at me and then yelled with exasperation “I don’t understand what you mean”.

After talking to him for a few minutes I learnt that his young mind, that has never used or probably even seen a record, had totally misunderstood what this saying means. To him a broken record is when someone runs faster/jumps higher/does more than everyone else. So he couldn’t understand why me saying he was like a broken record was a bad thing.

Once I explained to him how a record works and what the saying means I could see the lightbulb moment when he said “oh that makes sense now”

It did make me sit back and think. How many other sayings are now redundant and would get the same strange look from my children?

Year of reconnection

Year of reconnection

Today I had breakfast with a friend who I used to work with. We haven’t worked together for many years and lost touch for a little while but are back in touch now. We understand each other, get along really well and catch up every couple of months for breakfast. Seeing her today made me realise this has been a year of reconnection for me.

Technically I have back in touch with this friend for more than a year but it is the last year or so where we have regularly caught up. We are very similar and have similar views and opinions so our breakfast is full of constant chatter, laughter and understanding.

I have also written previously about reconnecting with someone from high school who I hadn’t seen for 18 years. While we have only managed one face to face catch up so far there have been many texts and a few phone chats that feel like when we talked all those years ago. Hopefully he agrees as he follows my blog!

And then a couple of weeks ago I had a fantastic night out with four ladies I worked with when I first started working at my current company 18 years ago. Two of these ladies I hadn’t seen for over ten years. As we caught up over drinks and dinner, followed by more drinks and dancing it was just like old times and not one part of the night was awkward.

All of these reconnections have been amazing and it makes me reflect on how much I have missed having these people in my life. So what makes them amazing? It is that our friendship is easy, and that I can 100% be myself with all of these people. No games, no pretending and no judgement. Whether it has been one month, one year or 18 years we are still there for each other in a friendship that goes both ways.

As an adult and a parent life gets so busy and it becomes so easy to drift apart, but when you find a true friend and support it is worth the time and effort. Even if sometimes it is just a quick check in to say “hey, how are you?”