Can you relate to this? I have been up for what feels like days. I am covered in milky vomit, there is a persistent smell of poo and I simply cannot find the source (maybe it’s up my nose), the house is in disarray, dinner is half cooked, both little people are asking for me to fulfil their needs, I haven’t showered today. There are dust bunnies against the walls that I will soon have to name if they don’t meet the vacuum.
Then my toddler starts “acting out”. I know it’s to get my undivided attention. I know she has big feelings and needs connection. My infant needs some mummy love. I feel upset, overwrought and frustrated. All I feel like doing is opening the nearest door and running up the street like a screaming banshee.
I went to a parenting seminar that basically instructed me to use a naughty spot, followed by a time out if my child didn’t comply with my requests. This didn’t work for me. What works for me is love, just love. I know it sounds unbelievably simplistic. When I want to run, or cry, or get angry, I am teaching myself to take a deep breath and give love. My goal in the moment is to get through it with empathy and love. My goal for each day is to go to bed with a happy heart.
You know what? I can see the difference my unconditional love makes to my children. They open up, relax, share more of themselves with me, tell me things, “act out” less, want to make me happy and sleep better. When a moment gets a bit too tense the following is working for us at the moment:
We breathe like Puff the Magic Dragon. Big breathe in through the nose and a slow exhale out through the mouth. In the early days we practiced this when we were all happy and relaxed. I have noticed that my toddler is now doing this herself without my prompting. It works for me too and we all feel better.
I get down to their height and tell my children I love them.
I offer some physical affection. I say “Can I please cuddle you?” Note the language of me giving love, not requesting it…
I take it easy on myself and prioritise for a better moment. I have been known to call their father at this time and say “What would you like for dinner, thai or fish and chips?”
Not all my parenting challenges can be solved with a cuddle and a chat, but genuine interest and love gets me most of the way there. The only way I can give unconditional love to my children is to give it to myself. Being a parent is challenging. Some days I approach it with zen-like mastery, others I have to remind myself to breathe. Yes, I am flawed, but I try to remind myself that my family deserves the best of me. I must love myself (more on how I am trying to achieve this in the Journey of Wellness series- stay tuned). So really, I think maybe yes, all you need is love…
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This pie is an amazing collaboration of my favourite pastry and crumble recipes of all time. It is a real crowd pleaser. I recently served this to my chef brother who was singing its praises! It didn’t even last long enough to get photographed whole. Delish…
Shortcrust pastry (Thank you Stephanie Alexander) Ingredients
180 g unsalted (or salted) butter
240 g plain flour (can be wholemeal)
3 tbsp water
Remove butter from fridge 30 mins before making pastry. Place flour and salt onto clean bench. Chop butter into smallish pieces and toss in flour. Lightly rub to partly combine. Make a well in the middle and pour in water. Using a pastry scraper work paste into buttery lump of dough. Using the heel of your hand, quickly smear pastry away from you across bench to combine lightly. Gather together quickly, press into a flat cake and dust with flour. Wrap pastry in plastic film and pop in fridge for 20-30 mins. When ready, roll out flour and lay in 28 cm flan tin that has been sprayed with spray oil (or whatever size you have). Bake blind with greaseproof baking paper and pastry weights for 10 mins if desired (not essential if eating same day).
2-4 x 480 g tins of pie apples depending on how deep you want the pie to be. I am a mother of two small children so this is my shortcut!
½ cup plain flour (can be wholemeal)
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup desiccated coconut
½ tsp cinnamon
90 g butter
Mix to combine flour, oats, coconut and cinnamon. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Assemble pie Fill prepared pastry case with pie apples. Sprinkle topping over fruit. Bake 180 degrees Celsius 25-30 mins.
I make triple batches of the pastry and freeze in pie sized portions. Defrost overnight in fridge. Work quickly with the pastry or it will be difficult to work with.
I have a wonderful life. Unlike most of the worlds’ population, I have secure housing and food at every meal time. My children are healthy and well cared for. My problems are first world problems. Some days though, I catch myself feeling like a caged animal and all the good stuff seems to disappear from my mind. I start to care about inconsequential crap. So as a long term solution to some short term “problems” I am in the process of enriching our habitat. Yes I am attempting a treechange in the city.
Granted, I am extremely lucky to live in the suburban outskirts of a well-placed city, Brisbane. There are plentiful options for day trips and weekends away to beautiful locations that are very low cost (more on this soon). So, how does one attempt a tree change in the city I hear you ask? I am incorporating the following steps into our life. So far it’s been really fun.
Enrich the indoors by incorporating natural elements for play. We have a treasure branch. On our journeys into the world we collect little “treasures”. When we are home we string them onto the treasure branch. I believe it links my toddler’s little world at home with the bigger world. I approach it as a way of being grateful for our little adventures and my toddler gets to remember and link places together.
Enrich the outdoors at home. There is no need to install an animal sanctuary in the back garden for a space to feel engaging and natural. I have so far avoided plastic play equipment. We have just installed some new logs for balancing acts and tactile engagement. I suspect these will soon be painted!
Get tree planting! This can easily be herbs in a plant pot that are brought inside to live if you have no outside space. Our current plantings are edible herbs and cat grass. My toddler has her own garden of herbs and flowers in pots that she waters and tends to. This is a wonderful time for all involved, especially if you like playing with water…
Tell joyful stories at bedtime. I incorporate a made up story each bed time along with her usual favourites. My toddler is the main character and she has wonderful adventures through the bush and beach. Last time a cockatoo taught her how to fly after she’d made wings of branches and discarded bird feathers. You get the picture.
Make time for gentle reflection. I like this in the afternoon. If I’m a bit pressed for time this also has been known to occur in the bath or shower!
Incorporate a visit to a natural area once a week if possible. The benefits to children and adults are widely published. Our family enjoys getting getting out and about together. It builds and reinforces connection with each other and establishes gratitude towards the natural world.
I guess this last item is the one that has helped me reduce my everyday stress levels and contribute towards the “feeling” of having a treechange. I just do one thing a day. I get in and out of the car once with the children. I don’t run around town anymore. Sure I compensate by doing more online when they are asleep but the difference to our lives has been profound. Of course, this is not always achievable, but a nice goal!
Hooray for muffins. Portable finger food is a specialty of our household. Our toddler loves to cook with me and make a variety of sweet and savoury delights. So recently we made these citrus almond muffins. Credit for this recipe must go to Dreena Burton and her wonderful book “Let Them Eat Vegan”. My adaptation of her recipe used store cupboard ingredients we had on hand, so I used wholemeal self raising flour and eggs as I didn’t have oat flour or chia seeds. Still delicious and dairy free. My darling sits on the bench to help stir and fill the muffin tray. Yes there is mess, and a scrumptious little face to wipe afterwards!
1 cup soy milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups wholemeal self raising flour
2/3 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 mandarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Combine dry ingredients.
Fold through wet ingredients. Fill muffin tin. Makes about 10 muffins. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 18 – 22 minutes. Cool in pan for a couple of minutes then transfer to wire rack. So easy and yum!