Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wheel of Life

The Wheel of Life. Another gift from my life-coaching friend. Such a neat tool. The image here is pretty standard, covering the main areas of most people's lives. What you do is rate how happy you are with each area of your life, from 0 in the centre, to 10 if that area is perfection. There are at least a few different ways to do this first step. I do it asking myself, "How well am I performing in this particular area?" Others might think more about the external factors in each category, and how happy they are with them, regardless of their own input. For instance, when I rate finance, I think about how happy I am with how I'm managing our finances, and not the absolute value per se.

Step two is to join up all the crosses so that you get a visual representation of your bumps (good parts) and troughs (less good). The next steps are the real clinchers. Step 3 is to look at all 8 of the categories, and think about what a "10" would look like. Step 4 is to circle the 3 areas that if they were a 10, would make the biggest difference to your overall happiness. The funny thing about this step is that these 3 are often not the areas scored lowest. The final step is to list three things that you can do in each of those area to improve the score. Nice action plan, no?

If you google "blank wheel of life" there are more templates than you can shake a stick at. Recently I did it at our lab meeting (work), and we rated these areas:

1. Writing
2. Networking
3. Research work
4. Skill acquisition
5. Reading
6. Teaching
7. Marking
8. Time management

For the determinants of parenting, one could do:

1. Mental health
2. Physical health
3. Household environment
4. Marriage
5. Finances
6. Work
7. Social network
8. Fun & Recreation

I'm quite sure I could spend the rest of my life rating my life rather than actually living it. The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Favourite Household Organising Books

I am getting really excited at the thought of May's focus -- household organisation. Our house isn't really that bad, but it could be a whole lot better. In prep, I'm re-reading my favourite (and I've read A LOT) organising book, Organizing from the Inside Out. I am so looking forward to getting out my label maker and getting the boys' toys in the kind of order that would make an OCD kindergarten teacher proud. I will start proper on the 1st, but in the meantime, I just might see if I can get rid of a few car loads of rubbish and donations beforehand. I love purging even more than organising.

The second book that I shall be re-reading is Sink Reflections. I think Julie's book (Organizing from the Inside Out) is better for thinking through how to get things properly organised, but the Fly Lady is better at thinking through daily maintenance. I wish I had found this book when I was pregnant with Harry. I had a really rough last couple of months. I came off my anti-depressants and I wasn't working. I wasn't sleeping well, I had no structure, and I was depressed. I wasted the time I had off, and that just made me feel worse. Although not marketed as such, the Fly Lady totally gets that kind of lethargic, stuck in a rut state of being. I would have done really well to follow her routines in those weeks.

Anyway. I am re-reading, and coming up with some daily routines for May, as well as some large overhaul-the-crap projects. This is going to be oh-so-satisfying. I hope some of you will play along!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Good to be Back!

I had 6 days off over Easter. It turns out I find it near impossible to blog about parenting whilst actually parenting. It's super nice to be back to my regularly scheduled programming!

All in all, it was a really great break. The weather was good, plenty of time out and about, and hours upon hours at the skate park. Grandma bought Harry his very own grown-up skateboard. Very exciting. Turns out it takes 5 hours before Harry asks to go home. We also hosted a birthday party for a hamster, and Easter lunch for the Grandmas, cousins, etc. I was pleased with both of those events because I was more realistic about them than I often am. For instance, I made the hamster party 1.5 hours. I did not endeavour to create a treasure hunt with elaborate clues for all the cousins. I'm learning! Maybe.

But that's not why we're here now, is it? I had one day that went a bit wrong. I was bemoaning my failings to a writer-friend, who pointed out that it was all good blog fodder. So true! Where would I be without my periodic parenting travesties?

The problem was that I had scheduled too much into the day. I had arranged for time at the gym (childcare!) 9:30 - 11:30, and to meet up with friends for the afternoon. Sounds fine, right? So of course I offered to take a friend of Harry's along. And when his mum suggested that we all go swimming afterwards, I said sure! Somehow I convinced myself that we could fit in a swim, lunch, and a half hour drive before meeting friends for the afternoon at 1:30. I also hate being late. Was I calm? No. Did I rush the boys at every turn? Yes. Did I shout? Loads. Did they end up eating lunch in the car? Sort of. Most of it ended up on the floor (still there), and hanging off their faces as they slept. Cue crying whilst hauling them out of the car - more rushing - to meet our friends. Late. Each bit of the day was actually quite nice, but the transitions were hellish, and entirely my fault.

Still, one "fail" day out of 6 ain't all that bad.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tuesday Tip: Read Selectively

We usually have a parenting book or two in the bathroom for browsing. Sure, sometimes I flip through looking for answers. But the real reason I like having them to hand is to read sections on challenges that we don't face. My personal favourite is reading about bedtime battles. Our house shuts down at 7:30, and reading about the horrors we could be facing gives me a smug glow that lasts at least 2 minutes. The trick then is to close the book. 

I'm thinking that this could extend beyond parenting. Perhaps I should read books about anxiety (not depression), eating disorders (not garden variety over-eating), and post-traumatic stress! This could be fun.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Appreciating Irritating Habits

A blessing of having a second child is that it highlights some irritating habits you never realised your first child didn't have. I thought teething pain was a figment of parents' imagination before Tom had it. Likewise, I had no idea how blessed we were that Harry would poop on demand for a Smartie reward until Tom point blank refused (still no potty or toilet poop -- sigh).

Of course it works the other way round as well. Every time I put Tom to bed I enjoy it so much. He makes no fuss about getting his PJs on. He sits on my lap for a couple of stories. He stays in bed after you sing him a song and say goodnight. Be still my beating heart. With Harry I used to have to sit against the door to stop him escaping. I sat there with his PJs ready, looking down, not paying him any attention until he came to me. It would take 5-10 minutes. During that time he would run round his bedroom, often screaming, and sometimes hitting me for the hell of it. Age 3 was a hard year.

For the last three Saturday mornings I have taken the boys first thing in the morning to a local skating park. We meet another family there who have 3 boys (a set of twins) the same age. It suits us all so well. Their mum reminded me on the last trip just how lucky we are to have such independent boys. They run free, chatting away, checking in with us from time to time. It would bug me if one or both of them was wanting to sit with mummy the whole time. It's so easy to take for granted the irritating habits your child(ren) don't have.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Parenting Project Update

1. I didn't shout at all this past week. I think I'm out of the habit! Result. 

2. Correcting. I still do it. I don't think this one was a very good resolution. Correcting does need to happen as things go wrong, but I do want to minimise doing this (e.g., it makes no difference if I tell the boys to quiet down in the mornings -- I may as well not add nagging to the cacophony). What I am resolving to do instead is to do think-throughs about speaking in a polite, respectful voice with pleases and thank yous at least a couple of times each day, at a neutral time. I'm sure Harry will find this most enjoyable ;-). (This is from the book I've talked about before, Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting.)

3. Still enjoying 3 good things. 

4. No therapy for the next 3 weeks! How will I cope? 

5. No sugar I found really hard. Like super hard. I was also eating more, in an attempt to scratch the sweet itch. And not increasing my veg intake, so I've eased up. I'm going back to my fruit & yoghurt smoothies in the morning. Yes, I am hungrier before lunch than if I have the same amount of calories in porridge form, but my morning smoothie makes me happy. And it's the only way I've found to get myself to eat two portions of fruit per day. I think I'll allow myself one other little treat per day. Something like that. This morning I had french toast with berries, maple syrup and creme fraiche. YUM. It's a lot of happiness, and on reflection, worth it.

6. Exercise. Not so good. Only twice in the past week. Must do better. I used to use an app called gym pact, now called just "pact." You say how often you're going to go to the gym at the beginning of every week, and then you get fined an amount you specify for any workout missed. I had it set up so that it would charge my credit card £20 for every workout missed (it also links with RunKeeper). Each time you go to the gym, you have to check in, and you can't cheat (very much) because it uses GPS to make sure you're actually at a gym. This worked really well for me. Yes, I got charged a few times, but the cost was far less than personal training. I thought I didn't need it anymore, that the habit was so well established that I could forego the hassle of checking in. Not so much. I've just reinstalled the app. I'm committing to 5 workouts next week.

7. The big winner for this month of physical health has been weaning myself off falling asleep with headphones in my ears. Every night I dread not being able to listen to something as I fall asleep, but it's oh so much better! I like the random thought-surfing as I fall asleep. I'm sleeping better for sure. Nice.

I'm starting to look forward to May. Household organisation!