When Someone Is Missing At Christmas Time

missing at christmas

I love Christmas. I love the planning, the shopping, decorating, baking, everything (except the elf on the shelf but that is another story). But… every Christmas for the last five years I have that little bit of sadness too that I am spending another Christmas without my Dad. I am sure that many of you reading probably get it too, that twinge of sadness when someone is missing at Christmas time.

The last few year of my Dad’s life I didn’t always see him on Christmas Day but often Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas. The last Christmas celebration with him was difficult as he was not able to talk much and it was heartbreaking to watch. I felt that it was our last Christmas with him alive and that was very sad. He passed away less than five months later.

This will be my sixth Christmas without him and while the first year was the most difficult, I still feel that grief when I gather with my family to celebrate and realise that he is not here anymore.

Every celebration or time that I want to feel close to him I wear a special ring that I brought myself a few years after he passed away to remember him with. So, this Christmas I will put it on and pause to remember him and all of the Christmas’s I did spend with him. I will pause during the day and silently tell him about my day. I will shed a few tears when I think of how much he would have loved seeing his grandchildren grow up. I will be grateful the Christmas’s we spent together and all of the good things he brought in to my life.

I will also stop and remember my Grandmother who passed away two years ago, a few weeks before Christmas. I will think of her as I use her gravy boat to pour our gravy from at the Christmas table.

I know some of my beautiful readers and friends will be missing someone from their celebrations this year. Maybe your parent or someone close to you has passed away, or someone you care about can’t be there to celebrate. Maybe there is a rift in the family causing you to be apart from your person that you are missing. I know it hurts, I know that you will shed some tears, I know that it can feel a little empty without that person there.

My hope is that you can remember the good times with your loved one, do something to honor them but also enjoy your day. I am sending my love your way xoxo.

Gran’s Chocolate Biscuits

 

Tomorrow it is the two-year anniversary of my Gran’s death. When we were kids, she would always have biscuits, cashews, dried ginger, flavoured mineral water, and hot chocolate waiting for us for snacks. In her nineties, she still frequently kept these things as staple snacks for guests. My favourite was always Gran’s chocolate biscuits.They were always adorned with an almond or ginger and she would always have them in the freezer for her ‘midnight snacks’ that she was famous for. My Gran told me that her mother used to make them for her.

A few years before she passed away she gave me the recipe and until this week I had never managed to perfect them. They are almost like a chocolate shortbread, crumbly and delicious. The trick is to use ground rice not rice flour and pop something on top, the pecans are my favourite. I have tried them with Nuttalex for a dairy and egg free version and they are OK, not as crispy though. I have also tried them with gluten free flour and they work well too.

I hope you enjoy them! I will be enjoying them with a cup of tea looking through some photos of my Gran. The photo above are my biscuits on a plate that my Gran was given when she got married and passed on to me. The picture next to the plate is my favourite photo of me and my Gran.

 

Gran’s Chocolate Biscuits

4oz butter (approx. 113g or ½ cup)

4oz caster sugar (approx. 113g or ½ cup)

4oz Self Raising flour (approx. 113g or 1cup less 1tbspn)

2 tbsp. cocoa or drinking chocolate

2 tbsp. ground rice

A few nuts, small pieces of ginger or other dried dried fruit to put on top (Gran’s favourites were blanched almonds and ginger)

  1. Set oven to 160 Celsius.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar.
  3. Sift in flour and cocoa. Add ground rice. Stir or beat it together.
  4. Roll in to balls, place on to tray lined with baking paper, flatten with the back of a spoon
  5. .Press in a nut, small piece of ginger or other chosen topping.
  6. Bake around 15 minutes.

Note: This recipe was given to me in ounces so I have tried to convert it to grams and Australian measurements. An Australian cup is 250ml, Australian tablespoons are 20ml.

Attitude of Gratitude

20161201_130432I have mentioned that I keep a gratitude journal in previous blog posts on my morning routine and my weekly essentials. Practicing gratitude daily has been an attitude game changer for me. I really think it has been the number one thing to change my negative mindset to a more positive one.

For me practicing gratitude began with starting a gratitude journal and writing five things in it each day that I was grateful for. Some days this was easy, some days it was harder. These are the days that it was extra important for me to find something and write it down. On these days it was often simple things like: I am grateful that I have healthy children, I am grateful that I have a house, I am grateful that I can go to sleep now!

In a short time, I found that I could easily come up with things that I was grateful for when I wrote in my gratitude journal each night. I found that I was noticing feelings of gratitude pop in to my thoughts during the day. My mind started to focus more on the positives and less on the negatives in my life. It is a little like how getting back in to exercise after a long time of no exercise feels hard but after you get in to the habit of it feels good, becomes routine and you look forward to it. You just need to reawaken those muscles by using them and it comes back to you. The more you focus on the positives, the more positive neural pathways are made in your brain, resulting in a happier you.

Practicing gratitude does not mean life is always happy and positive. It isn’t, life will always be full of lots of up’s and down’s. At times, it can feel like more down then up. But by focusing on a few small things in our lives that we are grateful for it can shift our perspective of our lives and allow us to see that there are lots of little (or big) good moments. Lots of things we can be grateful for despite whatever else is going on in our lives.

There are a lots of different ways you can begin a gratitude practice:

  • Keep a separate notebook or journal to specifically write down your three to five things each day that you are grateful for.
  • Type your gratitude’s in to a notes app on your phone or a Word document on the computer.
  • Writing them in to your diary/planner each day.
  • Using a specific smartphone app made solely for use as a Gratitude journal. I have never used one so cannot give a recommendation however I have heard of many such as Gratitude365 which also allow you to upload a photo.
  • Write in your everyday journal if you have one.
  • Spend a few moments when you wake or before you go to sleep, thinking about all the things you are grateful for that day.
  • Make it part of your family routine, ask each person to talk about a good part of their day during dinner.

I began by listing the things I was grateful for on the notes section of my smartphone. I then purchased a separate notebook to use solely as a gratitude journal. Currently I write five things I am grateful for in to my Daily Greatness Journal * each morning. I often add a few in at night before I go to sleep when I am reflecting on my day. I also involve my family by asking them to tell me three good things about their day, particularly if one of them have had a bad day!

Do you already keep a gratitude journal? How do you prefer to do it? If not, I really urge you to give it a go. I promise it will be life changing if you do it consistently.

*This post contains an affiliate link. I only recommend products that I use and love. If you chose to purchase via my link I will receive a small commission to help support this blog for which I am greatly appreciative. This does not affect the price you pay in any way.

Is it just me that finds 3-year-old’s challenging?

3-year-olds

Is it just me that finds 3-year-old’s challenging? More challenging then 2-year-old’s? After three children I can 100% say that I find three the most challenging age. I don’t mean to be negative, I just mean to be real! I really, really struggle with this age!

Three year old’s have such a drive to be independent and learn and experience on their own, much like teenagers. I guess that is where the THREENAGER label fits in. Unfortunately they don’t have the life experience or cognitive ability to understand that running out on to the road is dangerous! I guess that is our job right? To guide them, teach them, keep them safe and love them through it?

Last week I wanted to just take a 24 hour break from parenting. I almost booked myself a night away at a hotel. I probably should have. Some days, parenting feels so hard. Chasing after the 3-year-old as he runs away from me down the road, trying to stop him from hitting and kicking me when he doesn’t want to do something, convincing him to get in the car, convincing him to get out of the car, convincing him to get up off the road that he is sitting in the middle of, trying to buy groceries while he is climbing out of the pram or trolley. The list could go on and on. Exhausting! Lucky I have done it twice before and know that this stage ends, sort of.

Last week, what saved me from booking that time hotel room was going out and being me, being Brielle not mum. We went out for drinks and dinner with a friend and it was so nice to relax and enjoy adult conversation and forget about the challenges of parenting a three year old. I still plan on booking that hotel room soon thought… before desperation hits this time!

So… is it just me that finds 3-year-old’s super challenging?

My Essentials For The Week Ahead

essentials-for-the-week

For the last two weeks I have struggled to write. I have started a few things and then given up because I cannot concentrate. My mind has not been quiet enough for me to write.

Part of the problem is that there have been a lot of things going on in my life for the last two weeks. Part is that I need quiet space to write, not ideal when you are the mother of three, two of whom are pre-schoolers.

We had our pool filled in which meant a lot of time out of the house due to the extremely loud noise, my eldest daughters final exams, my son’s 3rd birthday, a charity walk, a whole lot of tiredness and grumpiness (not just from the children) and a several appointments this week.

I know that I am a person that needs a slow life, I need quiet, I need time at home, I need time outside, I need my early morning alone time, I need to move (gym) and I need a bit of a routine to feel grounded and productive. These last few weeks very little of these needs have been met. Life has felt messy and chaotic because of this and I need to get back on track.

To keep myself accountable I am going to write my commitment to myself here. My Essentials for the week ahead are:

  • Wake early every morning
  • Go to the gym or walk on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
  • Meditate daily
  • Write in my gratitude journal daily
  • Go outside every day and feel my toes in the grass
  • Schedule two days where I am home all day
  • Play with my kids
  • Watch something that makes me laugh out loud
  • Prepare for the next day the prior evening
  • Ask for help with looking after my children for an afternoon so that I can write
  • Minimize my Facebook scrolling
  • Eat well and drink more water!

I am going to go grab my diary right now and write them in!

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone (and how it led to more coffees)

stepping out of my comfort zone

This morning I was chatting to another mum at kinder and I told her that I have always been introverted, I never used to initiate conversation with others, I used to almost wish people wouldn’t talk to me because I feared I would not know what to say. She asked me how I had changed this to get to where I am now.

I told this mum that I realised that I didn’t have many friends and that I wanted more.  And that it happened slowly, it had been a process. While I was walking home I reflected more on what had changed and how that change had come about. It is funny that sometimes it takes a question from someone else to realise how much things have changed for you.

 Accepting who I am and my introverted nature, but also pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone.

This year I have felt much more comfortable in talking to people, initiating conversations and connecting with others. I no longer (well, most of the time) shy away in to the background where I used to be most comfortable.

So, how did I get to this point?  I realised a few things: that I wasn’t gaining anything from standing back and not participating, it was holding me back from making friendships and feeling connected, and that I wanted to have more friends. I wanted to feel more connected and I wanted to feel more confident.

In 2015 I completed an online course The Abundant Mama Project. After the course was finished I joined the ongoing membership program for mothers who have completed the program. Each month we focus on a new topic. I think that this monthly work, along with a lot of reading on personal growth, has helped with becoming more confident. Some of the key things that I have worked on are:

  • being brave and stepping out of my comfort zone
  • letting myself be ‘seen’ in the world rather than staying in the background
  • challenging the thoughts and feelings of not being enough

At the beginning of this year I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in 2016. Some of the things on this list were:

  • to step out of my comfort zone in lots of areas of my life, challenging myself to initiate a conversation with a mum I felt I could have a friendship with
  • initiating conversations with other mums I did not know, setting myself the goal of having coffee with at least one kinder mum (I have had coffee with  more then one kinder mum this year)
  • make sure I stay connected or reconnect with long term friends. In all honesty, I probably haven’t spent as much time as I would have like with my longer-term friends but there are still almost two months left of the year!

Setting myself some challenges or goals around talking to people and building friendships might sound weird but it worked. Scary at first but easier the more you do it. The reward has been having more conversations with people, more friendship with people, more confidence in myself, feeling more connected to the community in general and yes… more coffee! Worth every minute of feeling uncomfortable and nervous.

The Importance of Self-Care in Motherhood

how-i-fit-in-self-care

I used to think self-care was sitting on the couch watching TV, mindless internet browsing and Facebook, or time away from the kids (once I was at the point of desperation for alone time). I now recognise that while there is a place for watching TV, Facebook and browsing the internet none of these things are what I need to feel refreshed, nourished and have a healthy mind and body.

Self-care is about consciously making time in our day to prioritise ourselves. As mothers, we need to look after ourselves so that we can look after others. I know that prioritising self-care can feel like we are being selfish but believe me, it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our families. When I don’t look after myself I get grumpy, resentful and yell more. When I am looking after myself I am calmer, happier and a much nicer person to live with!

WAYS THAT I FIT SELF-CARE IN TO MY LIFE:

  • Waking up before the children get up to have time alone.
  • Meditation. Sometimes it is 3 minutes, sometimes 10. Usually I use a guided mediation but other times I will just sit and mediate without any guidance.
  • Gym membership. Generally, I go two to three times a week, jump on the treadmill for an hour and then have a coffee alone. The kids love going to the child care centre at the gym and I get some time out, win-win.
  • Getting outside. Feeling the grass under my bare feet, the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair. I try to do this every day and with young children it is a way of fitting in some self-care while I am with them.
  • Slowly drinking a cup of tea or coffee, holding it with two hands and enjoying every mouthful.
  • Journaling. Generally, in the evenings before bed I grab my journal and write. It might be about my day, it might be a list of everything on my mind, I might just write and explore something that is on my mind, or I may have a journal prompt to answer.
  • Reading
  • Going out for a coffee alone.
  • Colouring in. Yep, I occasionally grab an adult colouring book (Mandalas are my favourite) and my coloured gel pens and get colouring. Another one that is great to do while the kids are around.
  • Spending a night alone at a hotel twice a year. Pure bliss. I swim, read, eat, enjoy a big deep bath and sleep in. Oh and eat some more, did I mention eating uninterrupted?

Everyone will have different ideas of what type of activities feel like self-care to them. And it can change with the seasons too. I like walking outside and chatting with a friend when the weather is warm, but when it is cold we never go walking. When it is wet and cold I don’t sit outside barefoot either! I might sit under the pergola where I can still get some fresh air but not get rained on.

OTHER IDEAS ON HOW TO INCLUDE SELF-CARE IN TO YOUR DAY:

  • Having a bath.
  • Daily walks outside.
  • Exercise.
  • Go to sleep earlier.
  • Catch up with a friend for coffee.
  • Put your favourite music on and dance.
  • Afternoon nap.
  • Take a few minutes to massage lotion in to your hands and feet before bed.
  • Being creative – craft, painting, drawing, making something, colouring, baking.
  • Take a long shower and use your favourite body wash then rub in your favourite body lotion.
  • Getting a massage, facial, pedicure or manicure.
  • Buy yourself flowers.
  • Sitting in silence.
  • Watch something that makes you laugh out loud.
  • Light a candle.
  • Girls weekend away.

The list could go on and on. The important thing is to choose things that make you feel good. Make them things that you can realistically do so that you can fit them in to your day and week. If you decide that the only thing you want to do as self-care is to get a massage or to go shopping without your children but you can only do that twice a year, then you need to find things that you can do EVERY DAY and week. Schedule it in to your diary if you need the reminder to do it. Make it part of your everyday life, not something you save for when the kids aren’t home or when you have ‘more time’.

I am curious… do you currently have a self-care practice you love? Leave a comment and let me know.

A Letter to My Daughter on her 18th Birthday

2016-10-27-14-06-44

To my beautiful daughter

Wow. You are eighteen now. You are legally an adult. You can drive, drink, vote, sign legal documents, get a tattoo. Where did the time go? I may not be legally responsible for you anymore, but you will still always be my baby.

I remember having a dream early in my pregnancy with you where I saw myself giving birth to a baby girl. From that moment I knew I was having a girl. I think I felt connected to you from that dream onwards.

I clearly remember feeling you kick and move inside my belly. I used to watch you move, kick and roll around inside of me. Often I would see little elbows and feet jutting out of my belly.

When you were born, I held my breath as you paused for what felt like forever before you cried. You were a little blue but soon turned pink. When you were placed on to my chest and we were skin to skin I fell instantly in love with you. You were perfect and truly amazing. I used to just sit and look at you, taking all of your beauty in and feeling so grateful you were in my life.

I treasure every beautiful memory of being your mum. The early morning feeds and snuggles we had in bed when you were very tiny. The sleepless nights. The tantrums on the floor of the supermarket. The way you used to like me to tickle your back before you went to sleep. Cuddles on the couch after school. Watching all your firsts: first time walking, first tooth, first day at school, first job. Wiping away all your tears. Watching your excitement opening presents on your birthdays. Family holidays. All the little handmade gifts and art you made me. The interesting Mother’s Day presents you would select for me from the school stall. Watching you graduate primary school and now high school.  The basketball games. Watching you with your little sister and brother and seeing how much love you have for them. Watching you dance at your debutante ball. Celebrating each birthday and Christmas. The list could go on and on.

I am so proud of the strong, happy, kind, generous, intelligent, beautiful woman that you are now. You are one of the kindest, most caring people I have ever met. You are such an amazing big sister to your siblings and seem to have endless patience with them. I know that they absolutely adore you.

You were the best surprise I have ever had and I am so grateful that you chose me to be your mum. Thank you for teaching me how to be a mum, how to love unconditionally, how to be more patient and how to let go.

As you move forward in to a new phase of your life as a young adult (and always), I will continue to love you unconditionally and support you. I will be here when you go through hard times and good times, for celebrations and tears, for all the everyday moments when you just need to talk about your day.

You will shine your light bright in the world and make a difference to those around you, I can feel it.

I love you with all of my heart, Mum xoxo

Graduation Reflections

Graduation reflections

Last week was my eldest daughters last day of high school. Thirteen years of schooling over. This past Monday we attended her graduation. The time has gone so fast. She has grown in to an amazing, beautiful young woman. I watched her walk proudly across the stage and accept her Certificate and her Achievement Award for Math and join her class of 2016 graduates. Tears welled in my eyes from the rush of love and pride I felt. This season of her life is over and now she will move in to adulthood. Wow.

My daughter’s graduation has reminded me of how eighteen years ago I was finishing up thirteen years of school. It doesn’t seem long ago, and yet it does. Eighteen years ago I was waddling up on to the stage to graduate high school while nine months pregnant.

My last year at school was unlike most peoples. A few weeks in to Year 12 I found out that I was pregnant. A shock and completely unplanned but from the beginning I knew that I would continue with the pregnancy. I did the sensible thing and looked at all my options but I always knew what my decision would be.

I was told initially by mum (when she was still in shock about my news) and by my English teacher to leave school and get a job until the baby was born. I have to say I never really contemplated that as a possibility. Why would I do that? I knew that if I wanted to give my baby the best chance in life, and if I could physically do it, I needed to stay at school. So I stayed.

I dropped a class (Math… because my brain did not work mathematically anymore once I was pregnant!) and I worked super hard during class time to complete my work. I completed my homework during my lunchtimes because I was too tired after school. I was lucky that I had an amazing group of friends who supported me during this time.

I worked during school holidays at Myer to complete the required hours for my Certificate II in Retail Operations that I was completing in conjunction with my VCE. I continued to work a few shifts a week at McDonalds every week. I worked bloody hard that year to set myself up to be able to give my daughter and myself the best future I could.

I was very, very lucky that I had the support of my parents during this year, and after my daughter’s birth. Without their support it would have been very difficult to have done all that I did that year. Oh yeah, did I also mention that my parents separated two months before I gave birth and we moved house. It was a crazy year!

I barely took a day off school that year and was at school right up until the last day of classes. The following day, a Saturday, I was induced and after two days of labour I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl on the Monday evening. She was truly amazing.

On the Wednesday, the day my fellow class mates were at school celebrating the end of high school with fun and pranks, I took my baby girl home to begin our new life together. And study. My first exam was on the Friday, 4 days after I gave birth. Yep, I sat my English exam while my little baby was downstairs crying. It was hard. But I had complete faith in myself that I could do hard things. I felt this new strength in myself from the time I learnt that I was pregnant. For me, motherhood showed me how strong and resilient I was. It showed me that I could get through hard times and it gave me the motivation to get through the hard and challenging times that inevitably came along.

Watching my daughter graduate on Monday I felt such immense pride in her. And in myself. I don’t often give myself credit but I am so proud of myself for bringing her in to the world, for graduating high school when many thought I couldn’t, for being a single mother for many years, and for raising such an amazing daughter.

Back to the Gym : My Mental Health Is Thanking Me

runners

This week is Mental Health Week. I thought I would share one of the main things I do for my mental health. I have suffered with anxiety in the past, and it is still always there in the background, occasionally flaring up as if to remind me to take better care of myself.

Last week I went back to the gym after a month, and if I am honest I have barely been there at all in the past three months. The moment I walked back in to the gym I felt the guilt about not prioritising my health. I felt like everyone was looking at me knowing that I hadn’t been there for so long. I couldn’t help but feel self conscious.

I jumped on to the treadmill and started it up, I started walking and felt my shoulders drop, my face relax, my tension slowly melt away. I am fairly sure I let out a sigh of relief to be back there. The hum of the treadmill is my happy place. It felt hard, my fitness had diminished quickly. I reminded myself that I must make the gym, or any type of exercise, part of my routine again.

Treadmill

Jumping on the treadmill a few times a week has been such an important time out for me over the last four years. I started going when second daughter was around 8 months old. The gym has a great creche and so I used to leave my daughter in the creche and go to a weekly yoga classes and the occasional treadmill walk, followed by coffee at the gym coffee shop with a close friend. If I hadn’t had my friend to have a coffee with afterwards I am not sure I would have ever got in to a routine of going. I continued going throughout my pregnancy with my son and started back again when he was 12 weeks old. It gave me the space I so desperately needed in the early months.

I can always tell when I haven’t been to the gym for a while. I get irritable, I find my anxiety flaring up and I feel restless. The gym gives me some time to be alone. Time for me. Time to let go of stress. Time to be able to let go of having to be constantly watching and listing out for my children. Time to have a coffee alone afterwards!

Last week, going back after a month long break felt like coming home, like a big release of energy. I am sure my mental health thanked me for getting back to it, for prioritising my health and my mental health again. I am guessing my family are thankful too.

Do you do any exercise? How does it help you?