Mission: Accomplished

Last year, when I embarked on my Journey to 35, I had no idea how it was going to go, or whether I would even complete it. I thought I might lose interest, or I might find it too much of a struggle each month, but here I am, one year on, and there’s a part of me that’s a little sad I’m finished.

It’s been an interesting 12-month exercise, and one I’ve mostly enjoyed. Some of the challenges I set were much easier than others, while some were really hard to stay focussed on, but the end result – for me – is what was important.

Some months went better than others. The month I decided to get back into running didn’t go so well; at the time, I thought it was due to my own laziness and the mental block I always get when I try to run again, but now, I realise my lack of motivation and energy was more to do with incubating this little guy:

(Do you like my blatant excuse for popping in a recent photo of Pickle??)

Some months’ intentions have also been easier to continue on. Taking Tiny to swimming lessons, in a bathing suit and right up until 36 weeks pregnant, tells me I got over my body confidence issues, and having a few crafty projects on the go tells me I’ve got my creative spark back again.

It’s been a really interesting journey, and having something to focus on each month has caused me to stop and take the time to respect myself, and feel thankful for what my body and mind can do. It’s made me think about my flaws and my good points (anti-flaws??!), the things I want to teach my kids, the memories I want them to have of me.

It’s also had a huge impact on my relationship with Tiny; I think one of my favourite months was when I concentrated on him, on making good memories with my big boy before my baby boy arrived. This has also been the easiest one to keep in the forefront of my mind, and I am still in that frame of mind now. In fact, I recently swallowed some snobbish pride and took Tiny to Chipmunks (albeit in the safety of some friends!)…he loved it, and it made me realise that I need to do more things that I might not necessarily want to do but know he will enjoy. And if I’m honest, it wasn’t as chav as I expected!

Fun times at Chipmunks

Maybe I’ll re-visit this in a few years time. Maybe I’ll find a new set of goals to work towards. But for now, I’m going to relax and just enjoy life, secure in the fact that I did it, and that it has made a difference.

Thank you, too, to all the lovely people who left encouraging words and supported me through this journey. Knowing I was accountable to more than just myself helped keep me focussed, and I really did feel buoyed by all your kind comments


Journey to 35: The End of the Last Month

This month, I set out to achieve some random goals, ones I’ve sneakily been working since I found out I was pregnant. I knew that regardless of when Pickle arrived, I would probably not have the same energy to devote to this, so figured you’d cut me a bit of slack 🙂

Goal One was to spend time exploring our city and country, to play at being tourist and see things through Tiny’s eyes.

~ I’ve made a concerted effort to find new playgrounds (with a bit of help from my friend’s website, New Zealand Playgrounds) for us to explore, and it’s been so much fun. There’s one with a cool fort just a 10-minute walk away, and I never even knew! We’ve been for loads of walks, and have enjoyed exploring the Botanic Garden – places we’ve been to before, but have always rushed through.

~ Over the summer, we went on a two-week road trip: Dunedin – Wanaka – Hokitika – Nelson – Blenheim – Hanmer Springs – Akaroa – Dunedin. It was awesome, and Tiny was such an easy traveller (he had a meltdown on the last day, on the drive from Akaroa home, but by then, we were all over it!). We had so much fun doing touristy things like visiting ShantyTown, and going on a harbour cruise to see dolphins, and it really made us appreciate even more this beautiful country we live in.

Goal Two was to stop saving things for “good”, to wear nice clothes, use the good cutlery, drink the nice wine and enjoy what we have.

~ When we’ve had people over for dinner – even if it’s just my parents – we’ve been using the nice cutlery set we were given as a wedding present. It’s so lovely and weighty, and I love the feel of it; it’s amazing how it made our simple home-cooked dinners seem all the more special.

~ Tall’s mum has been staying with us for a few days and we decided to open one of our “good” bottles of wine: a Chard Farm Finla Mor Pinot Noir. We bought it from the winery in 2010 and I’m not sure what we were saving it for, but knowing how much Nana enjoys it, we decided it was the right time to drink it.

~ Breastfeeding and wearing “good” clothes doesn’t really work, but I’ve recently purchased two lovely breastfeeding tops, and instead of saving them for days I’m heading out, I’ve been wearing them whenever I like. I might be wearing slippers and jeans that have been peed on by someone with very good aim, but they’ve made me feel pretty, and that’s been cool.

Goal Three was to keep our home clutter free, and to think about what we bring into it.

~ Our dining table was once a dumping ground for everything you could possibly imagine. Before Pickle arrived, I filed away all the papers we needed to keep, and found homes for all the random items that had been breeding there. Since then, I’ve been keeping the surfaces as clear as possible, and filing as things arrive. I need order and neatness in my life, and while I’m happy with toys spread all over the lounge while Tiny’s awake, they are all tucked away where they belong at the end of the night, before I can relax.

~ I’ve started an Op Shop box of clothes, books and toys that are in excellent condition that we don’t wear anymore, and this has made much more space in drawers and on shelves, plus it makes me feel good, knowing that someone else can use our unwanted items.

Goal Four was to stick to a budget.

~ We’ve never been very good at keeping track of our spending, but with the constant rising prices for groceries and petrol, I’ve started to think seriously about it. I’ve noticed that our weekly groceries are about $30 more than six months ago, and therefore have been trying to buy more wisely. I’ve been thinking about what’s in season, what we have in the freezer and pantry, and how far we can make things stretch. It’s been a fun little challenge (anything to do with food, I love), and I think I’ve done pretty well with sticking to our limit.

~ Being at home with a newborn and a toddler has curtailed my spending somewhat too! It isn’t so easy to pop into a store with two children, and this has helped with all the unnecessary spending I had fallen into.

So, there it is. The end of the last month. I think I’ve done okay; I’m happy with how this month has gone, and I’m happy with those goals I achieved through a little bit of forward planning.

Now I’m off to think about my year as a whole, and I’ll be back – there’s a lot of concluding to be done!


A brief debrief on my month of being more decisive (typed with one hand, while the other supports my little burrito baby):

~ While my fuzzy brain can’t think of specific examples, I know I’ve been more decisive over the past month.

~ Each weekend, I had thought ahead about things we could do as a family, or that I could do by myself while the boys hung out together. Simple things, like a visit to the local playground or to the Farmers’ Market, but things I thought would be enjoyable for us all. And even though they are things we’ve done before, it was the act of thinking about it beforehand that made it successful for me.

~ I still discussed any big decisions with Tall, but had my own opinion ready first. And he seemed to really enjoy the “new” me.

~ Perhaps the biggest decisions I had to make were during my labour with Pickle (more on that at a later date); this time, instead of uttering a pitiful “I don’t knooooow!” when asked a few simple questions, I really felt like I was in control, that I owned the decisions I was making, and that my experience was better because of it.

This will still be an on-going thing for me, but I’m happy with the way the month has gone, and the sense of achievement I’ve felt while taking charge of my own decisions.

Decisions Decisions

My husband likes to tease me profusely (and lovingly) about my decision making skills….or lack thereof. He finds it immensely amusing to give me a number of options – or none at all – and watch me flounder in a sea of indecisiveness and confusion.

Want an example? I could give you a thousand, but I won’t. A couple will suffice.

* A common conversation heard around these parts:
“What shall we do this weekend?”
“Um….I’ll have a think.”
“Sooo, what are we doing this weekend?”
“Um, I’m not sure. What do you want to do?”

* A common occurrence when we’re travelling:
“Where do you want to eat?”
(Me, wailing) “I just don’t knooooooow!”
“Just choose somewhere. They all look about the same.”
“I know. I just…don’t know.”

Well, dear husband, no more! This month is going to be aaaaaall about snappy, profound, spur-of-the-moment decisions. Made by me.

Yeah, that’s right. Me. Mrs I’m-Not-Too-Bothered-Either-Way-What-Do-You-Think? ME.

I’m going to:

  1. make decisions based on what I want, not what other people want (or what I think they want);
  2. learn to say a simple “yes”: stop over-thinking and just start doing; and
  3. stop saying “I wish I could…”: I’m going to make things happen!

Starting right now, by deciding that we’re going out for a coffee tomorrow after the Farmers’ Market, whether you like it or not!

(If that’s okay with you, honey?)

Bottling vs. Bursting

Hmmm, guess who set themselves a pretty tough little challenge this month??

Changing the way I react and express difficult feelings was never going to be an easy task, and trying to work on this when pregnant and hormonal was never going to be the best timing, but hey, that’s just the way this has all worked out.

Thankfully, there haven’t been many instances when I’ve needed to consciously think about it….or maybe, just maybe, I’ve been preempting these situations and not letting myself get worked up in the first place?

At the beginning of the month, there were a couple of hairy moments which saw my eyes prickling with hot tears after particularly rough nights with Tiny – on each instance, I threw* myself back into bed at repeatedly ungodly hours, and when Tall asked if I was okay, I muttered a curt, “No,” and then proceeded to have a quick, quiet, unnoticed cry. The only positive thing is that the tears were over within a minute, and in the morning, I was able to very calmly discuss Tiny’s sleeping “mishaps” with Tall.

I don’t feel like I’ve failed at this challenge as such, more that I haven’t had the opportunity to really focus on it. That’s not a bad thing; I’m pretty sure the next couple of months will provide many chances to work on this!

I completely-and-utterly acknowledge that I am a bottler, and that there will always come a day when it gets to much and I burst into unexplained tears (or “explode” into tears, as my beloved likes to say. “Are you okay? You’ve got your explosion face on…”). The idea that I need to do something about it is always there, but this month has pushed it a little further into the limelight than before.

The technique? To stop (and possibly walk away for a moment), take a breath and think instead of simply bursting into tears.

Will it work when I’m extra-tired, extra-frustrated and extra-busy with a newborn thrown into the mix? Who knows, but I’ve got to keep trying, and I feel as though having thought about it all this month will help keep me on track in the future.

Express Yourself (hey hey hey hey…)

(Ahem. Apologies for the 1980s Madonna reference there. I couldn’t help myself.)

When Tiny throws a tantrum (which isn’t often, thankfully) or gets upset, we usually let him have a quick cry before encouraging him to use his words to tell us what’s wrong. He’s the kind of kid who responds exceedingly well to reasoning and explanation, and most times, having the opportunity to talk about why he’s grizzling helps to calm him down.

Tiny – aged 5mths

Great advice, right?

It’s just a pity that I don’t follow it myself.

I am terrible – absolutely terrible – at dealing with my own feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment, being proven wrong….you get the idea. I tend to internalise everything, and try and deal with it in my own mind before expressing my feelings to other people. Over the years, Tall has learned that when I’m ready, I’ll share, but not a moment before. He’s also expressed how frustrating he finds this trait, because if there’s something up, he wants to know and to help get it sorted if he can.

My biggest problem with not being able to express negative emotions is that if I try, I cry. I am the worst person to try and have an argument with, because I will always, always start to cry. It’s not a tactic to get the other person to feel sorry for me, and believe me, I find it incredibly frustrating – I’d love to be able to strongly disagree with someone, or express my anger or disappointment without the leaky eyes – especially as this just compounds the issue.

BUT – this month seems like the time to start figuring out a way to express myself in a healthy way. I’ll admit that this is the one challenge that I’ve been putting off, because it is not going to be easy – but if I leave it any later, I’ll be dealing with the last month of pregnancy, birth and a newborn, which will just be messy!

The timing also seems right because I’ve been feeling irritable, anxious, tired and grouchy recently (heyyyyyyyy, low iron levels and pregnancy hormones!), but instead of dealing with it, I’ve been throwing myself into a frenzy of Other Stuff. I didn’t really think about what I was doing until a friend asked last week if everything was okay because I didn’t seem like myself, and then I realised I was bottling again. So I admitted I was tired and grouchy, and it felt good.

In May, I am going to [attempt to]:

  1. stop bottling things up: learn to express frustration, anger, sadness and disappointment in a constructive, tearless way;
  2. learn to tell people when I’m feeling less-than-100%;
  3. ask for help when I need it: from family and friends; and
  4. admit to being wrong, without adding any “but…”s


Linking up with Simone‘s Best in Blog Monday linky

The Past is the Past

April has been a month of learning to let go – of silly mistakes I’ve made in the past, of silly things I’ve said and done, of misunderstandings and misconceptions (both mine and other people’s), of things which rear their ugly heads in my memory every so often and make me cringe inside.

It’s been tough. When you’ve spent most of your life mulling things over and reliving the negative moments and letting those feelings resurface, it’s hard to suddenly say, “No more!”

But that has been my tactic. I have faced all these memories of events and conversations head-on, and told them straight out that it’s time for me to move on; that they can stay for as long as they want but that I will be ignoring them, despite their best efforts to get my attention.

I have spent time:

* accepting that everyone does and says stupid things;
* acknowledging that these things have happened;
* forgiving myself for whatever I’ve done, and forgiving others too;
* acknowledging the way these things made me (or others) feel at the time; and
* tackling any new instances immediately, and either making them right, or laughing at my foolishness and moving on as quickly as possible.

Want a recent example?

I was out for a coffee with a friend and her 5-week-old baby. The baby needed a nappy change (which she doesn’t like), so my friend toddled off to the bathroom to sort that out. When they came back, the baby was a little distressed – probably hungry and a bit p*ssed off about the nappy change. As a joke, I said, “Oh, do you have the worst mummy in the world?” (meaning, “You’re okay, little baby – mummy was just making sure you were nice and clean and comfortable.”), but the expression on my friend’s face instantly told me I’d said the wrong thing. I suddenly remembered those early weeks of parenthood, where sleep is a distant memory, hormones are still a-raging, and sensitivity is at an all time high.

I felt terrible, but didn’t know what to do to make it right at that moment. I quickly changed the subject, but all the while all, a big neon light was flashing **DUMB DUMB DUMB** in my head.

After we’d parted ways, I mulled this over for some time. And suddenly it became clear that I needed to do all those things listed above. I accepted, acknowledged and forgave, and then I sent my friend a text message to tell her that I think she’s doing an amazing job (which she is), that motherhood suits her (which it does), evident in the fact that her daughter seems very content (which she does).

I didn’t directly come out and say that I hadn’t meant my comment to be hurtful – perhaps I should have? I still don’t know, but I feel like immediately addressing it made it easier for me not to beat myself up about it, and hopefully it made her realise I hadn’t meant it in a cruel way.

Only time will tell as to whether I can maintain this way of dealing with these things, but so far, so good. I’ve got the points above etched into the door of my Old Memories vault, and for now, the bolt is firmly fastened.

Oh, and how apt is it that I stumbled upon this quote this month??

Sleeping Dogs…

As I lay awake at some point last night (hello, pregnancy insomnia, welcome back…), my mind began to wander as only a sleep-deprived mind can at two o’clock in the morning.

Many of the thoughts were meaningless and inconsequential, and just flitted in to say a quick “Hi!” before flitting out again. Some hung around for a while, obviously waiting to be asked in for a cup of tea, and others….well, they just barged their way in and made themselves quite at home.

Some of them were baby-related, and when baby is doing the jive in one’s abdomen, that’s okay. Some of them were food-related, and when one is pregnant, that too, is okay. Expected, even. Some of them were husband-related, and when one’s husband is out at his end-of-season cricket shindig (you can read about what happened two years ago here), that’s okay as well.

Others were more obscure; memories from the past. Not nice, pleasant, warm-fuzzy memories, but reminders of the times I did something really stupid or foolish or potentially dangerous.The memories that mostly stay buried in the dark, cobwebby recesses of your brain, but always emerge when you least expect it.

You might have heard of the Hyde Street Keg Party, held in Dunedin every year? About seven years ago, Tall and two of our flatmates headed down to Hyde Street to join some other mates in drinking all day long. At three o’clock in the afternoon, Tall called and asked me to go and pick him up; no problems, as he’d left me with his big Holden Commodore (an ex-police car…a bit of a tank, really). I headed down to the student area of town, but for the life of me, couldn’t find the entrance to Hyde Street where I had thought it should be. So I circled around the block, and found the other entrance. Great, perfect…started to drive down the street. Realised that it’s a one-way street, and that I am driving into the midst of the party. In a bit of a panic, I consider reversing or doing a sneaky u-turn so I can get out, but there are police everywhere, and I don’t want to get into trouble. So instead, I keep on driving. Right through the middle of the biggest, drunkest, messiest student party imaginable. People start banging on the car and standing in the way, jeering and cheering, pouring beer and who-knows-what-else on the car. The police push them aside and wave me on; the crowd parts as I drive slowly on, my face a deep crimson. I’m shaking my head, imperceptible to anyone else, telling myself what an idiot I am. I finally make it to the end of the street where the party hasn’t migrated to, and find an astonished Tall waiting for me. He’s partly impressed, and partly surprised, that I drove through the party; I’m about ready to cry because I feel so foolish, and I snap at him all the way home.

Seven years have passed, and this memory is as clear as anything for me. It doesn’t surface often, but when it does, it brings with it fresh feelings of stupidity and embarrassment, and I find myself back there, in that big car, in amongst all those partying students, feeling like a right wally.

I know that I should just forget about it, laugh it off, and let it go, but I can’t. As the years have passed, the feelings it conjures up have weakened, and I don’t dwell on this memory for as long as I used to. However, what I want to be able to do is accept moments like this, deal with them at the time, and then move on as smartly as possible, without being haunted by them forever. Because this is just one of many, many moments in my life that I can not seem to forget, regardless of how inconsequential they are.

After all this waffle (have I mentioned my propensity to waffle??!), I’ll get to the point: this month’s Journey to 35 task is to work on letting things go…

  1. let go of past mistakes, misjudgements, misinterpretations (mine or otherwise)
  2. focus on the present instead of dwelling on things that really aren’t important anymore (and probably never were)
  3. let sleeping dogs lie: don’t re-hash the past – move on!

Wish me luck – and if you’re one of those lucky people who can let things go quickly, tell me how you do it!!

My Little Family

This month, my Journey to 35 intention was to spend time focussing on my little family, before Pickle joins us in around 14 weeks (give or take a few – eeeeek!). Just to remind you, my goals were to:

  1. pick my battles more wisely: let Tiny be a toddler and don’t expect him to grow up too fast;
  2. remember that Tiny is only 23-months-old: because his language is phenomenal, I often forget that he’s still so little, and need to adjust my expectations accordingly;
  3. discuss parenting with Tall, rather than dictate: trust his instincts and let him do things his way, not mine;
  4. do something special for Tall: show him and tell him how much he means to me; and
  5. spend time creating special mummy-and-Tiny memories: when Pickle arrives, we won’t get these opportunities again.

The first two are hard to quantify, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say I have been making a real effort to let Tiny be a busy, bustling, occasional-tantrum-throwing, affectionate, playful two-year-old boy. I’ve found myself sitting patiently with him while he picks at and plays with his food before eating it, and haven’t felt the need to rush him. I’ve let him try to do things for himself, and learn from his own mistakes and limitations, because now I know he’ll ask for help when he needs or wants it. I’ve been patient (most of the time…tiredness causes a bit of frustration at times!), and I’ve enjoyed just watching him be a little boy. It hasn’t been easy all the time, but our days have been so much fun since I’ve stopped and really not been worried about the mess or the time or how long something is taking. In fact, I’ve enjoyed letting some of my OCD-neatness go, and in doing so, Tiny has become really good at tidying up his toys before bedtime!

I didn’t tell Tall that I was going to sit back and let him parent instead of do what I told him to do, but he has noticed that I have been asking his opinion, and saying, “What do you think?” instead of just telling him that my way is the way that works. We’ve been sharing putting Tiny to bed at night, too – we alternate nights with who takes him through and tucks him in, and also who responds if he grizzles during his nighttime wind-down – and I think Tall has really enjoyed being part of something which, for the past 23 months, has been solely my domain. I have bitten my tongue a couple of times, and let Tall take the lead with making decisions, and it feels like we’re really doing this parenting thing as a team. I’m conscious that when Pickle arrives, I won’t always be available for Tiny, and it’s lovely to see Tall’s confidence growing with the decisions he makes regarding our son.

With regards to telling and showing Tall how much he means to me, my approach has been little and often. Like letting him have two sleep-ins on the weekend, instead of us having one day each, because he works blimmin’ hard during the week and deserves to take it easy. Or making his favourite meals and ensuring there have been leftovers for his lunch at least four days a week, and encouraging him to organise playing squash with mates. He’s also in the process of organising a poker night at our place, and I plan on making the boys some manly food, and making myself scarce so they can have a really good boys’ night in. These may sounds like insignificant things, but they all add up to me ensuring my beloved is happy and getting the time to do the things he enjoys.

Lastly, Tiny and I have been having lots of mummy-and-son dates, at home and away. We’ve got a new tradition now: after one of our regular weekly activities, we go to a cafe for a hot chocolate and a scone. Sounds simple, I know, but Tiny gets so excited about these little excursions, and the other day, on our way home, his little voice piped up from the back seat of the car: “That was a nice cafe, mummy! I loved our scone.” We’ve had some fun around home, too – spending loads of time in the sandpit and digging in the garden, kicking and throwing a ball around, and sitting down for morning and afternoon tea together. We’ve also done some arts and crafts which has been fun, and I’ve got loads of ideas for things we can do when the weather turns nasty. He may be too little to remember it all, but I know that taking the time to spend doing things with him is well worth it, whether the memories are long-lasting or not.

I really feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to this month, and it’s been awesome. I already knew I loved my boys more than anything, but focussing on it has made me appreciate them even more, and now they know it on a daily basis. I also now know that when our second very-kicky-right-now son arrives, we’ve built an even stronger little family unit for him to be born into.


Towards the end of this month, our little man will turn two. I am struggling to think where those two years have gone, but I’m pretty sure they’ve been buried under a pile of washing that needs to be folded, nappies that need to be washed, and toys that need to be tidied away. And naps that need to be had (NOW, small child!).

Our little family - August 2010

This means that almost two years ago, we became a proper little family. A little unit – surrounded by loving bigger units – having to find its way in previously-unchartered waters. A little unit that needed to learn how to function in the best possible way for its three little members, but from day one, a strong, loving, exciting unit.

(Yes, this picture featured in last month's Journey to 35 goals post...but it just screams "FAMILY!!!", doesn't it??!)

In a few months time, we’ll be welcoming another little member to our unit, and so I have decided that now is the time to really focus on us, our family.

My goals for this month are to:

  1. pick my battles more wisely: let Tiny be a toddler and don’t expect him to grow up too fast;
  2. remember that Tiny is only 23-months-old: because his language is phenomenal, I often forget that he’s still so little, and need to adjust my expectations accordingly;
  3. discuss parenting with Tall, rather than dictate: trust his instincts and let him do things his way, not mine;
  4. do something special for Tall: show him and tell him how much he means to me; and
  5. spend time creating special mummy-and-Tiny memories: when Pickle arrives, we won’t get these opportunities again.

Oh my gosh, this was taken a year ago! Scary!