Hosting a great coffee group

20140715-103239-37959056.jpgIt’s your turn to host your ante natal coffee group and the thought is sending you into a slight panic. Getting yourself and baby out the door in less than two hours is a big enough task – let along preparing your house and hosting a group of mums you don’t quite know yet.

Due to being an extrovert and a stay at home mum I have managed to have had some type of mums’ group in my house most weeks for the past 3 years. I’ve had a couple of great moments such as forgetting I had invited people over and arriving home to 3 mums with newborns sitting on the front step. But generally things run well and nothing makes me happier than my lounge full of mums drinking coffee and sharing life together (just yesterday I had 10 mums and 14 kids over and it was incredible!).

So as a mum who can now get a group going with a 3 year old and a baby in tow – here are a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way that might help you out.

1. Don’t stress out

The goal is to have people feel comfortable in your home – not to impress them with your stunning hospitality and  impeccable housework. If you’re relaxed when people walk in the door then they will be too.

2. Choose a time to host that suits your schedule 

I’ve found there’s usually a time of day that my babies have been most settled and I try to have people over during this time. 10am tends to work well for me  but I have also run groups in the afternoon when things have changed for us.

3. Prepare what you can the night before

Because, one thing is certain, if you have people coming around the baby will vomit all over you and have a nappy explosion about 20 minutes before they are due to arrive. Tidy the house, clean the bathroom and toilet and organise the food you are going to serve before you go to bed – the bonus is you’ll often have someone else around to help too.

4. Set out your lounge intentionally

Set out furniture so there are the right number of seats for those coming and plenty of room for car seats and nappy bags etc. If it’s going to be too tight you may need to get people to put unneeded things in the hall or a spare room when they arrive. Put tissues and/or wet wipes in easy reach – trust me on this one!

5. Think about the atmosphere of your room

Before people arrive check the temperature of the room and make sure it’s nice and warm in winter or cool in summer.  Choose some music to put on quietly in the background as this will help give some atmosphere in the room (and help cover any awkward silences).

6. Ask people to bring food to share to take the pressure of you

People love to bring something to contribute so don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. However, it is also nice to have something out when people arrive. Don’t worry if you’re not a baker either. Presenting a plate of shop brought food works just as well – especially if it’s chocolate!

7. Plan things out if you’re nervous

If playing host makes you nervous then plan when and how things are going to happen. But do keep in mind anything involving babies will be unpredictable – you may need to pass your baby over to someone to go and make drinks or help someone find something in the kitchen. You could even invite one of the other mums you know well to come early to help you out. This helps avoid the potentially awkward conversation with the first person to arrive and means that when people walk in the door the atmosphere is already comfortable.

8. If it’s not going to work think of another option

If your house is too small or having people over is just too much then don’t be afraid to suggest having your turn to host at a cafe or park. Some of the best groups I’ve run have been a picnic at the park or a trip to the museum.  Just make sure you scout the place out first to make sure you can fit and get there early on the day.

And in the end keep in mind that people don’t remember how clean your carpet was but they do remember turning up sleep deprived to a group of mums who can sympathise and encourage them. So set up your lounge, relax and enjoy the craziness!

The Hazards Register (mums’ edition)

warningSeveral times I have been part of an over-the-top office health and safety culture which requires employees to fill out a hazards form for absolutely everything – including paper cuts. However, being a mother seems significantly more risky to my health and safety than an office job. So I thought it might be helpful to produce a comprehensive hazards register with my top 10 occupational hazards of having small children (just in case the Department of Labour ever asks for documentation as I’m rushed to hospital after tripping on a matchbox car).

1. Mental instability due to constantly having The Wiggles, the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song or other such music playing in your head. This is dramatically increased when you have more than one child and you are awake feeding for hours in the middle of the night singing to yourself “Barney is a dinosaur….”

2. Speaking of being awake all night… I think tiredness needs a post of its own but many of the risks include:

  • dropping things constantly (thankfully not usually the baby)
  • kitchen confusion – namely placing items for the fridge in the pantry (or any other random place).
  • walking into things (especially during the middle of the night – I can’t remember how many times I walked into the closed door).
  • making poor driving decisions (I may or may not have nearly driven into a car in a car park I never saw driving towards me after being up 6 times one night – I swear it had nothing to do with me driving the wrong direction).

 

3. In fact driving with small children in the car must surely be more dangerous than driving drunk. “MUM I dropped my toy!!!” MUM he’s hitting me!” “MUM I need my crackers! Now!”

4. Risk of falling due to jumping out of shower to rescue screaming newborn whilst still wet and being too tired to remember to put out bath mat. Only to discover baby is not in fact screaming but instead you have been fooled (again) by the phantom shower baby crying noises (any mum of a newborn will understand this).

5. Razor sharp new teeth; grumpy teething 9 month old; breastfeeding… Need I say more. Other than that we now have a fully formula fed 11 month old.

6. Whilst we’re discussing teething; comes the unusual risk associated with thinking hungry baby has in fact got sore gums. The application of bonjella followed by breastfeeding has to be tried to be understood.

7. Unintentional weight gain (or lack of weight loss) – due to copious amounts of cake and muffins consumed at mums’ “coffee” groups. This is in no way aided by the constant consumption of (often cold) toast and chocolate in substitution for decent meals.

8. Tripping over small toys – I no longer judge the benefits of a toy solely based on how much joy it brings my kids; but instead on how fast and how far it will spread through my house. My sixth sense for avoiding matchbox cars unfortunately only stretches so far.

9. Carrying heavy things – this danger starts when you’re pregnant but I am fairly sure it never goes away. Nothing beats attempting to carry a car capsule, a nappy bag filled with 10kg of necessities and a freshly baked cake up a steep driveway in the rain. Except maybe doing it with a preschooler in tow who needs you to carry their drink bottle/teddy/backpack as well.

10. Post baby exercise – I think a whole category of underwear needs to be invented for post baby exercise. Whilst there are obvious risks around injuring a body which hasn’t exercised for a year; attempting to do anything which requires bouncing, jumping or generally moving more than walking pace should probably be avoided for as long as possible (or at least until your maternity jeans are worn through and something needs to change).

However, despite all the risks and damage (to both property and person) there is nothing I would prefer to be doing than being a mum. And, if it gets too dangerous, I just need to keep reminding myself – at least it’s not another paper cut.

The Road

20140528-105326-39206216.jpg

Do you ever worry about the road your kids will walk? What will it look like? What will they face?

I admit I used to be quite like this (and sometimes still am!) But one day I clicked that this worrying was pointless. Not only could I never foresee what they would face, trying to fix their problems would only turn me into one of those crazy helicopter parents!

But what I decided I could do was try to prepare them for their road.

My moment of realisation came the other day when I was setting the table for breakfast. I realised I had forgotten to buy more brown sugar. Now my 3 year old has half a teaspoon of brown sugar on his porridge every morning. Every morning it’s the same (he actually has half a teaspoon of brown sugar, lots of cinnamon, a little honey and some peanut butter – go figure!).

So I started feeling bad that I’d forgotten something he was certainly going to notice and not be too happy about.

Then it dawned on me – it was obviously just sugar (that, and how dumb some of the things mums feel bad about are!). Many kids don’t know if they’re going to even get breakfast, let alone have all their condiments organised!

What I was trying to do was shield him from disappointment – I was trying to smooth out his road rather than teaching him how to step over the bump.

So this got me thinking about the things I’d like to teach my kids to help them walk their roads successfully. Our default can often be to teach the measurable things like how to count and how to read. Whilst these are important it’s sometimes too easy to forget to consciously teach the less measurable traits

So here’s the list I’ve come up with so far. For my husband and me these fall naturally out of teaching our kids that loving God and loving others is most important. But what I like about these is that I’m hoping we can keep teaching them when they’re teenagers too.

1. Thankfulness – why is it a 10 year old in Sudan sitting in a dusty classroom with 50 others and one textbook between them can be happy and excited for school each morning; whilst a 10 year old in New York paying $1000 a term for school is struggling? One values education and is thankful for any opportunity to learn whilst the other only feels the pressure to perform and live up to expectations. Teaching our kids to default to thankfulness for what they have rather than longing for what they don’t will mean they can always see the bigger picture and be content in whatever senario they find themselves in.

2. Persistence – our children’s generation is the one offered the most distractions ever. I think that the ability to put things aside, to get past challenges and to finish what was started will be a defining trait of those who succeed in the coming years.

3. Delayed gratification – this one trait is the key to success in finances, romantic relationships, physical health and careers. To consciously teach our kids to delay short term pleasure for long term benefit is one of the greatest things we can do for them. Short term pleasure is everywhere – from credit cards to affairs – and the more our kids learn to make good decisions for the long term the more successful their lives will be.

4. Dealing with disappointment – one thing is certain in life – there will be disappointments. Whether it’s people letting you down or things not turning out how you anticipated; learning how to move on and forgive others (or yourself) is just so important. Living unconfined from yesterday’s disappointments is living a life that’s really free.

5. Having fun- because life is to be enjoyed, not endured!

So next time you’re worrying about the road your kids are walking – don’t stress. Much of what they face may be out of our control but we can teach and equip them to make the best decisions they can – and teach them to have fun along the way!

 

 

 

What I wish I’d known before I had kids

long_stem_red_roses-t1I’ve read a number of great ’10 things I wish I’d known before I had a baby’ or ‘what I’d tell my pregnant self’ type articles lately. Some had some really great ideas in them so I thought I’d have a go and write one myself.

But the more I thought about it the more I realised I couldn’t get beyond a list that looked something like this:

1. Nothing.

I’ve realised there’s actually nothing important I wish someone had told me before becoming a parent. Ante natal classes were useful, as was learning how to change a nappy; but the further I’ve gone on this parenting journey the more I’ve learned that parenting is a fun journey of lessons learned and things discovered that can’t be fast forwarded. Learning about childbirth when you’re pregnant is important, but worrying about toilet training when you still have a 3 month old isn’t going to help!

My husband and I have certainly learned many lessons along the way. We have learned that you can’t have a baby according to your own time frames; we know a lot of baby things you don’t need to waste money on; and we also know the total joy a baby’s smile can bring after a sleep deprived night. All these lessons are priceless and learning them has enabled us to bring a depth to our parenting that only experience can give.

Sometimes the more we try to prepare or worry about the things that are ahead, the more overwhelming things become. I am forever grateful that we don’t get given a 3 year old before a newborn and we can instead learn and grow along with our kids.

So rather than reading every parenting book under the sun and trying to prepare for every eventuality lets just relax into what should be a fun journey. Lets enjoy each moment as it comes along and make sure we stop and smell the roses before trying to plan the next 5 stops on the way!

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

Rocking the Tired Zone

20140408-201724.jpgSleep.

Precious sleep.

I don’t think I ever really appreciated the saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone’ until my bundles of joy sent my sleep schedule out the window.

When you have a baby the advice you get on dealing with tiredness is usually twofold – either ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ or ‘don’t worry, this is just for a season’. These are both useful pieces of advice, but are somewhat limited when it’s 3am and you’re still awake trying to remember why you thought having kids was a good idea.

Now, for me, my first baby was a dream sleeper; he was sleeping through the night by about 5 weeks so I had a little experience with the new mother zombie state, but not much. I thought I had this thing sorted.

Then came baby number 2.

Now he certainly wasn’t a colicky or reflux baby (mums who have dealt with these are my total heroes), but sleep has been challenging. But the funny thing with this was that second time around I was actually able to handle things much better. I’d matured as a mum and learned a lot on the way. It came down to this one fundamental truth:

I realised I don’t need sleep to enjoy my day.

Enjoying my day was a decision I made, rather than a consequence of how many hours I’d been asleep (or not). It’s a bit like money really. You need a certain amount to get by in life but if you let it dictate your life or make acquiring it your main goal then you will always be left feeling empty.

In these first few months with baby number 2 I certainly haven’t been immune to the random tears or making no sense when I open my mouth but I learned that these were part of what happened when you were up several times in the night.

So I thought it could be encouraging to share a couple of lessons I learned (usually the hard way!) for doing tired well:

- Know you are an amazing mum. How much your baby sleeps is never a way to measure how well you are doing as a parent.

- Aim to do as much on auto pilot in the night as possible. Whatever you do, don’t make any decisions at 3am (especially if they involve a discussion with your husband!).

- Do some nice things for other people. This helps take your focus off yourself and your sleep deprived state. Even if it’s just sending an encouraging text to a friend.

- Be realistic – if you’re exhausted, set your aim for the day at having a shower, getting dressed and eating. Aiming to have the house clean and do some exercise will only leave you feeling like you’ve failed when it inevitably doesn’t happen.

- Find moments to enjoy. Especially try and enjoy your baby as much as possible. Sometimes all it takes is telling your baby why you love them so much to remind yourself why you’re doing it all.

- Go to bed early!! My world changed when I started going to bed at 9pm. It’s so tempting to want time to yourself at the end of a busy day, but the time from 8:00 – 10:30pm disappears into nothing very quickly. If you know you’re going to be up several times in the night do whatever you can to get to bed as soon as you can.

- Keep check on your thoughts. When we ‘re tired it’s too easy to think negatively. Sometimes I literally would tell my brain to shut up as I noticed I had just mentally complained about everything that was currently wrong in my life (I also learned never to open my mouth before I’d had breakfast and my morning coffee!).

- Ask for help – don’t be a martyr! It can be so tempting to feel like we’ve failed if we can’t do everything ourselves. But this child growing thing is meant to be a team effort. Get your husband, mum, sister or friends involved however you can.

And finally, if you get a baby who sleeps like a dream or one that keeps you up every night, one thing is for sure – when they’ve turned into teenagers who wont get out of bed, we’ll all be looking back with fond memories of a baby snuggled in our arms and won’t for a moment remember last night’s 3am wake up!

The good things

dishesI’ve always said that I’m never going to get to the end if my life and wish I’d done more housework.

Now no matter how exciting I make my household chores, I’m fairly sure that this will always remain true. However,  I’ve recently come to a realisation – thinking like this has made me demean what I spend a large part of my life doing.

The other day I was having a little moan to myself as to how long it’s been since I’d had the kitchen totally clear of dishes. In that moment God opened my eyes to what those dishes actually represented; coffee cups from my friends over for a play date this morning, a porridge pot from our family breakfast around the table; a plate from a chocolate cake in celebration of a friend’s birthday at life group; playdough toys from playing with my little boy yesterday; pans from the new meal I’d had fun trying to make the night before.

We can so often get caught up in frustration at the very things that enable us to enjoy the good things in life. Whether it’s complaining about our job, or bemoaning the piles of washing our kids create – we are all guilty of seeing the bad more easily than the good. However, if we focus on the negative we will always feel like our days are wasted on pointless tasks rather than spent building towards the things we most love.

It can be so easy to feel the pressure that our lives should be in a state of constant enjoyment – but real life just isn’t like that! In order to enjoy the good things (like a great shopping trip) we usually need to embrace things we’d rather not do (like working to pay for it). In the same way we can’t have the joy of kids without clothing, feeding and cleaning up after them. The key is to remember why we are doing things (e.g. we love our kids) and understanding it’s entirely our choice as to whether we feel enslaved to the mundane or we chose to embrace things in their entirety.

So next time you’re gearing up to conquer Mount Washing or wiping toddler snot off your clothes while thinking other women are surely doing more exciting things; just take a moment to acknowledge how much you love your kids and remember – you’re living the good life.

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The aim of this blog is to encourage and inspire. Feel free to share this post if you think others may enjoy it too.

Don’t worry

When the house is a mess and you have nothing to cook for dinner;

Don’t worry, you are competent.

When you look in the mirror and see stretch marks and a tummy that wobbles;

Don’t worry, you are beautiful.

When its 3am, the baby is screaming and you just want to hide under the duvet;

Don’t worry, you can get up one more time.

When you are in tears and you don’t even know why;

Don’t worry, you are stronger than you think.

When it seems everyone else has it all together and you’re the only one struggling;

Don’t worry, they don’t!

But whatever your day today brings;

Don’t worry. For you are a great mother!

Making moments

Everyone remembers the big moments in life; their wedding day, babies being born, the crazy Christmas celebrations.

But our everyday lives are made up of moments too. Most of these slip by unnoticed – daily routines and events that make up the pattern of our daily existence. We can see these times as necessary – even boring. But just because it’s our daily lives doesn’t mean there’s not space for something more.

We don’t need to wait for special occasions to make special moments. What our family is discovering  is the ability to insert them into the middle of our daily routine – the power of ‘making moments’ in the everyday.

I’ve started to take a moment to give my 2 and a half year old fun attention when he’s least expecting it. I chase him around the lounge until he collapses in the bean bag in a fit of giggles; I invent new ways to carry him down the stairs to get his nappy changed; I do a silly dance each time he wakes up from his nap.

I’ve also started to make moments with others too. Like taking 2 minutes to stop and chat with the barista making my coffee or the lady who delivers our circulars. I’m learning how to compliment people without feeling awkward and how to encourage others when it looks like they need it.

What’s funny is that this is not rocket science; but it can be hard to do. It’s too easy to keep moving from task to task without taking time to stop and see beyond what’s in front of us. We miss opportunities for making moments because we are stuck in our routines, unaware that there are opportunities everywhere for a bit of brightness in our days. However, making moments is worth it! My life is becoming far more fun. The atmosphere of our home is much lighter and our kids seem happier.

So here is a little challenge for you. Why don’t you go out and make a moment? Stop and play a silly game with your toddler when you really should be doing the dishes; kiss your husband like you haven’t seen him in a month; send a text to your mum and tell her why you appreciate her so much.

Finally, why don’t you share an idea and inspire us with some moments you’ve made?

Super Mum

There is a mythical creature out there somewhere called Super Mum.

Her house is never messy

She has happy children who are always entertained by educational games and clever crafts

She only feeds her children healthy, organic food

She exercises regularly and would certainly never eat a block of chocolate in an evening

She is always on time

And she never forgets a thing.

We know Super Mum doesn’t exist. Yet we can’t help compare ourselves to her.

Each time we fall short in an area we immediately think of what a ‘good mother’ would do instead. Good mothers don’t give their kids toast for dinner because they’ve run out of energy to cook; good mothers would mop their floors once a week; good mothers don’t leave their kids in front of TV; so we tell ourselves as we do each of these things.

I’ve recently come to this profound realisation – I can’t do it all.

I’m coming to accept that except for the odd playdough or colouring in session my gifting is not in doing creative activities at home. I also don’t use cloth nappies, or even hang my clothes on the line that often. Yet all these things are actually ok.

What I do well is having a home that is constantly full of people. I go to church every Sunday; I love baking and cooking for others; I even like reading The Economist. And because these things are important to me sometimes that means other things will naturally slide. The trick is accepting this process and seeking after what is best for my family rather than sitting around comparing.

Comparison will always be futile. We need to remember that our worth as a mother is never determined by the standards we see around us but in our belief in our children and our unconditional love for them.

You are a great mother when you take time in your busyness to give your child a hug; each time you encourage them; and by doing all the little things each day that make up being a parent. So lets stop focusing on Super Mum and instead focus on doing what we love and enjoying our kids. Cause let’s be honest, lycra and a superhero cape isn’t going to look good on most of us anyway!

Changing the world

When I was a teenager I was certain I was going to change the world. Inevitably this meant moving to Africa and fixing world poverty. Quite how I planned to do this I’m not sure, but I think it must have involved discovering some unknown key to solving world hunger.

Either that or I was going to join the United Nations.

10 years later and I’m now a stay at home mum of 2 gorgeous boys and living in suburban Wellington. This is most certainly not what I had pictured. Sure I thought I’d get married and have kids, but that was after many grand international adventures changing the world.

When I had my first baby at 25 I felt quite disillusioned. How am I going to change the world if I’m stuck at home every day? I’m not going to get back to my career for 10 years, how will I get anywhere? What about my dreams?

It was at this point I felt God tell me “It’s not about changing the world, but it’s about changing your world.”

This world of mine now consists of coffee groups, kindy pick ups, nappy changes, baking cakes, sleepless nights and play dates. But through all this I’m learning what it really means to change the world – loving others at every opportunity.

Looking back now I realised my old dreams were actually selfish. It was all about me. I was going to be the hero (and probably get all the credit too!). However, making a real difference requires not just passion, but humility too. As any parent knows; there’s nothing like having kids to teach you what’s really important in life.