How I Learnt to Love Exercise

Here is my latest post on the MOPS blog…


The burn and how I learnt to love it.

26 June 2017

What had sounded like a fun date together during our blossoming romance ended in tears (mine) and bewilderment (his).
“I never want to do that again!” I said, with more drama than a room full of five-year-olds in Elsa costumes.
I sat there, my chest heaving with each breath and pain shooting through my lungs. My (then) boyfriend sat there next to me, looking at me like I was dancing the Macarena while speaking Klingon.
What was this terrible date we went on? A bike ride. To the end of the street.
But I was so unfit at that point that I (quite literally) felt like I was dying. Exercise was torture. And people who enjoyed it were very, very strange.

Fast forward 10 years, and we are now married (I guess he overlooked the crazy) and I thoroughly enjoy getting my heart rate up and getting a bit sweaty.
So what changed?

 

Continue reading here: http://mops.org.au/archives/7750

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Do You Need a Mummy Reset Day?

27 March 2017

Do you ever stop and wonder when was the last time you just sat and cuddled with your kids? When was the last time you gave them a really good tickle – you know, the kind that makes their little bodies hunch over in spasms of laughter?
I have moments when I feel like life has just turned into one event after another. The days start to look like this: meal time, get in the car, activity, meal time, back in the car, nap time, meal time, get in the car, activity, etc.

Instead of cultivating my relationship with my kids, my engagement with them becomes all about the hustle.

“Okay, go to the toilet. Get your shoes on. What’s that in your mouth? Come on – we’re late!”

Now, we all have busy days, but when they start to accumulate, one after the other, relationships suffer.

When I start to feel constantly frazzled by my kids, instead of delighted by them, I know it’s time for a “Mummy Reset Day”.

Read the rest of my post on the MOPS blog: http://mops.org.au/archives/7349

Kids Will Ruin Your Life

… and other reasons you should have them.


It’s true.

My life now is nothing like it was before I had kids.

I have much less freedom now. There’s no such thing as “just” leaving the house or “popping over” anywhere. I used to pop around all the time before I had kids. “Ducking”, too – I used to do that a lot! Now going anywhere takes more planning than a royal wedding. It requires trips to the toilet, nappy changes, packing the food, packing changes of clothes, feeding the baby, buckling everyone into their car seats, then unbuckling everyone, opening the pram, holding hands, navigating roads safely, scouting out the location of the nearest toilet, etc.

Life is hectic. Truly. Just the other night I had a dream/nightmare that I was at some kind of giant airport/movie theatre/entertainment park with all three kids and we had to stay there for two hours. It had different levels, but there were no escalators, only giant slides. And I had to send my daughter down one of them ahead of us, and she fell off the bottom and got knocked unconscious, but the slide attendant just shrugged and said “it happens all the time”. Then the baby started screaming and then my son had to go to the toilet… then I woke up.

I say it was a dream, but you don’t have to read into it too hard to see why I am dreaming about things like that!

I can’t go to the toilet when nature calls. This too requires special planning! Okay, baby’s asleep, the kids are happily engrossed in building duplos… now’s my chance! Even then, the kids seems to have inbuilt sensors that detect when I’m on the loo so they can all rush at me with their urgent questions like, “Mummy, when is it my birthday?” and “Can you read me this book?”

Physically speaking, my body is not my own. The baby still relies on me for breast milk. And even though the older two are becoming more independent by the day, they still need me to physically do so much for them, like make them food and tie up shoe laces and wipe their bottoms. And they all need my physical presence emotionally; my hugs and kisses to show them they are loved.

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So, in a sense, having kids has well and truly ruined my life, the life I had before. It’s not the same, it’s never going to be the same.

But I’m so thankful.

And not just thankful despite all of the above, but because of it.

Because of all these struggles that come with having kids, I have grown and am growing in ways I never would have without them.

The Bible talks about this concept often – that God uses our struggles and our sufferings to grow us and make us more like Jesus.

 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

Not that having kids is suffering, at least not all the time. But it is definitely hard. And in this way, I think this passage from Romans can be a great encouragement for us mothers.

It’s not hard for no reason!

If we don’t give up, mothering our children through the good and the hard times will produce endurance, character and hope in us.

And this (among other things) is why I think young women should be intentional about pursuing motherhood.

 

At this point, let me pause and say I know this will not be possible for everyone, and that this can be a very painful subject for some. Some of you desperately want to be a mother but you can’t because of struggles with infertility, or you haven’t met someone you want to marry yet, or you are married but your husband isn’t ready for kids, or any other number of reasons it hasn’t happened. I’m so sorry you’re in that position, and I hope this post doesn’t add to your burden – I am speaking here to young women who have a choice to make about which direction they will take.

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So, here’s what I think is fantastic about the task of raising children:

  • It teaches you selflessness. I used to think that it was impossible to be selfish and a parent, but the astounding need for foster carers says otherwise. I do think it’s impossible to be selfish and a good parent though. When you have kids, you have to consider their needs above your own. As kids get older, of course we teach them how to put others first and to wait before having certain needs met. But they enter this world completely dependent on us, and for good reason. I’ve found that as I lay down my own desires day after day, and commit myself to the good of these little ones under my care, I learn more about the love God has for me. I learn that Jesus was driven by pure, unselfish love when he gave up his life on the cross, for the good of all who would follow him. And I see that God is equipping me with the selflessness of Christ that I need to live out the life of sacrifice He has called me to.
  • Raising kids has eternal value. Everything that we do on this earth has value, if we are “doing it all to the glory of God”. But still, most of it will pass away. What we invest into our children, in the way of teaching them about the Lord and shaping their characters, will last for eternity. We don’t have control over their eternal fate (whether they go to heaven or hell), but we do have great influence. This eternal significance of mothering is something I often come back to on the mundane or difficult days. I remind myself that the little choices I make in how to speak to my children, how I behave around them and what to teach them will add up to big aspects of their character later.
  • Raising kids is a lasting legacy. Similar to the above point, it helps me to know that I am spending my time doing something of value. I often think about the career I may have one day – I would love to be a paid writer, that would be my “dream job”. But if that never happens, I’m okay with it. I know that I have spent (and will spend) my time doing something of great value.
  • It’s so much fun! Seriously, sometimes I look outside and see the big kids helping each other climb a tree or I hear the baby happily shrieking about a piece of cloth, and I just have to pinch myself that this is my life. Every day I get to watch each child learn new skills or new facts about the world. Every day I have the chance to enjoy the company of these three little entertainers, who find so much joy in simple life it’s contagious.

 

Those are just a few of the amazing things about being a Mum that I can think of now – I’m sure more will come to me later.

I hope it inspires you and encourages you. 🙂

 

Ecclesiastes for Mums

The book of Ecclesiastes is so rich with meaning for this season of motherhood. Often my work can feel “meaningless” – doing the same things over and over only so they can be undone and then redone the next day.

The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 1:5-8

To be honest, motherhood is kind of kicking my butt at the moment. I won’t go into the details, but this is the hardest it’s ever been for me as a Mum and as a Christian.

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I’ve had a go at writing a poem about the different “times” of motherhood, inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to give birth and a time to lay our lost babies to rest,
a time to plant your vegetable seeds and a time for the toddler go and dig them all up again,
a time to kill the baddies in their imaginary forts and a time to heal the booboos with a kiss when the game gets too rough,
a time to tear down your sister’s duplo tower (because that noise she makes is sooo funny) and a time to build it up again when your brother is occupied elsewhere,
a time to weep because the toddler spilt flour all over the kitchen floor you just swept, and a time to laugh because his look of flour-dusted shock is just priceless,
a time to mourn because your husband just texted to say he’ll be home late and you really need a hug and another adult in the house, and a time to dance for joy because you just heard his bike come down the driveway and the gate close,
a time to let the toys be scattered joyfully throughout the house and a time to gather them back to their boxes in the quiet of evening, while little eyes are peacefully closed,
a time to give just one more cuddle and a time to say “no more, go to sleep”,
a time to search for that beloved bedtime toy, Sharkie, and a time to give up because “Sharkie must be on holidays”,
a time to keep that favourite, annoying toy with a million parts and a time to throw it away secretly and hope they don’t notice,
a time to wear holes in those little baby pants, from little legs learning to crawl and a time to mend the holes so you don’t have to buy new pants when the season is almost over,
a time to be silent because Mummy is settling the baby and a time to “tell me all about your day!”,
a time to love being a Mum and a time to hate how tired it makes me,
a time to make war against the sin in my heart and a time to be at peace with the fact I’ll never be perfect this side of heaven.

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My Village

Our newest little one is now about 10 weeks old, and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on life since he arrived.

I still feel absolutely run ragged most days, but I feel like we have hit our new normal. Life is moving at a fast pace, but at least it is becoming consistent and somewhat predictable (I know, that probably jinxes it).

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and honestly, I don’t know how I would have survived this last 10 weeks without my own village of caring people.

I wanted to be really intentional about resting properly in the postnatal period this time (after probably pushing it last time), and I really feel like it has paid off.

I had people here helping out a lot for the first 6-7 weeks – my husband for 4 weeks (off work), then my Mum and Dad, then my Sister and Brother-in-law.

My husband was amazing – looking after the older two kids and running the household the whole time. I pretty much got to just look after the baby and sleep, doing other bits and pieces as I could manage.

In fact, I don’t think I washed a single dish for one and a half months! That was almost as good as a holiday! 😉

Many people from church made us meals in those early weeks.

I’ve also had to learn to ask for help from friends, which is really hard for me.

But after many repetitions of my husband saying, “Call someone to come and help you!” and my friends saying “Call us if you need help!”, I guess it is sinking in.

One day, my second child was sick and I had to pick up my eldest from preschool in the middle of the day. So I called a friend to ask if she could pick her up for me, which she was happy to, and then when she brought my daughter home she also gave me a meal she had in her freezer – I was so blown away by her kindness!

The other week, I called my friend over to come and watch the kids while I washed my hair. And yeah, I did feel a little ridiculous asking her to do that, but well, it was almost two weeks since the last washing, so I was getting desperate! She totally understood, of course, being a mother of older kids herself.

One time, my husband had to work on the weekend and as the end of the day approached, he told me he had to scrap everything he’d done that day and start again. So it was clear that instead of being home within the hour (like I’d been expecting), he was actually not going to be home any time soon. At that point, I felt like locking myself in a small space and assuming the foetal position. Or calling my husband back and applying some combination of sobbing/begging/pleading him to come home. But I didn’t. I contacted two of my closest friends to have a quiet vent about it and ask them to pray for me. Then one of my (non-local) friends contacted another (local) friend, who then showed up on my doorstep unannounced with a meal to heat up for dinner, her daughter to entertain my kids for an hour, and willing hands ready to do the dishes and tidy up my house. Yep, my friends are kind of amazing!

These are just some examples, but there have been many more instances of practical help people have given me and our family.

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They’re kind of cute when they’re not killing each other…

And it’s not just practical help. There’s also been much good advice given to me. I kind of feel like I’ve got the baby thing down pat now. I don’t mean it’s easy. But I’ve got my systems and I know what to do.

But the three kids thing? I have no idea what I’m doing…

The other day I read this article: Motherhood 101:The Class We Never Got.

It’s really long, but I highly recommend reading it. Anyway, Jess Connell talks about the importance of seeking out advice from other mothers who have demonstrated success in the areas we lack in motherhood. She lays out how you do this – identify your most pressing need at this time, find someone who does it well, ask them for their advice, listen and apply what they suggest, then evaluate how it worked for you.

Well, I did this the other week. I was finding it a real challenge breastfeeding the baby with the older two around. They were either climbing all over me and the baby or fighting with each other each time, then I would get stressed, then the baby wouldn’t feed as well.

So I asked a Mum from my MOPS group how she managed it. She suggested I go to the Kmart craft section and get a bunch of stuff for the older kids to play with just when I’m feeding the baby. Well, I did that and have been applying that method for almost a week now, and most of the time it works really well! Not perfectly, but it’s way better than it was. I’m so glad I asked!

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Sometimes I feel guilty about asking for help so much (or maybe just prideful?), but it helps me to remember there are different seasons in life. I am just in a season where I happen to need to receive more help, and one day I will be in a season where I can give more help to someone else.

In a way, I feel like all these people who surround me with love and practical support are training me to be a good friend. I’ve been helped and supported in ways I never would have thought of on my own.

So, if there’s anything I could say to my fellow Mums, it’s this:

Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Don’t let fear of getting in the way stop you from giving help.

Receive help. Receive advice.

Give help. Give advice.

Embrace the village – we need each other.

Contentment in Mothering

“It’s all going too fast,” is the thought that has been consistently occurring to me over these last few weeks. Something about having a new baby in the house makes life slow down and speed up all at once.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him looking, once again, just a little bit bigger; his cheeks a little fuller. And I think, “How did that happen? Haven’t I been watching you this whole time?”

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Heart to heart in the baby carrier, AKA, Mummy’s Sanity Saver

It’s a thought that must resonate with many of us mothers, because this video recently went viral on social media:

It’s a touching reflection on the fleeting years of motherhood, and the desire to go back to previous years when our children were younger. It’s a tribute to the feeling that life is passing too quickly before us.

 

For me, there is often also a sense of “I wish I had done this differently” or “I wish I hadn’t been so focused on that“. It’s not a strong sense of regret, but it is regret nonetheless.

 

A while ago I read an article by Jess Connell about intentionality in marriage, and one part particularly resonated with me, regarding more than just marriage:

This is my real marriage. This is my real family.

THIS IS MY REAL LIFE. THIS IS MY REAL MARRIAGE.

I won’t get these moments back; I won’t get a re-do.

 

The way I’m living now can’t be altered later. The way my marriage is now can’t be erased and re-written. I need to walk in the way that I will want to have walked when I am old.

I need to walk in the way that I will want to have walked when I am old.

How do we do that, when it comes to mothering?

How do we live in a way that we will look back on and feel content with how we lived? To do away with the regrets and the “if only I could go back” feelings?

I’m not talking about a bumper sticker type of “no regrets” attitude, where you live recklessly and pretend your mistakes are not mistakes.

Obviously, none of us are perfect, so we will all make mistakes. But I think we can get to a place of contentment with our mothering through God’s grace, as we seek to grow daily and live in a way that honours Him.

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Here’s how I’m trying to do that:

  • Be fully present in each moment. Banish all thoughts of “I can’t wait for this to be over.” This means, admiring the perfect chubby cheeks of my baby as he nurses in the night, instead of watching the clock and counting the hours unslept. It means being a bit more hands on with my daughter getting dressed, even though she can do it all by herself, instead of huffing and puffing about the time and issuing ultimatums. Even in the crappy carpet scrubbing moments, there is joy to be found in the satisfaction of the filthy made clean – I shouldn’t wish these moments away, no matter how hard or horrible they are.
  • Take the time to teach and train. Sometimes I forget that children don’t automatically know how to do things, and I expect them to “get it” the first time I give them an instruction. But this just results in frustration and missed teaching opportunities. When I slow down and properly explain things, they learn something new and we all enjoy each other more. This can mean explaining anything from how to bake muffins to why we need to wear seatbelts. Every day is filled with opportunities to teach and train our kids – I want to be careful not to miss them!
  • Respect and submit to my husband. As children grow up and into the world, they are told from multiple sources – TV shows, school, peers – that authority is a bad, bad thing and sometimes a necessary evil (at best). Within our families, we have the opportunity to model first-hand that authority is a good, God-designed concept. Obeying God is a good enough reason to submit to my husband, but modelling this for our children is a huge motivator for me here.
  • Show my dependence on God through conversation and prayer. I try to season our conversation throughout the day with comments about how God can help us to do things, or what He would want us to do in given situations. We often talk about asking for His help to do the right thing, even when we don’t want to. In fact, I didn’t realise how much we must talk about it until the other day when my daughter said one morning, “Mummy, maybe you should ask God to help you not be mean to us.” I’m ashamed to say I’d been yelling at them more lately due to stress and frazzled nerves. But I think it’s good for them to see that even Mummy needs Jesus, as humiliating as that was to hear.

Anyway, I have a long way to go and to grow here, but these are my thoughts at the moment as far as contented, no regrets mothering. What would you add?

 

 

Count it all Joy

I’ve got more joy in my life at the moment than I can count on one hand. Joy of the James 1:2-5 variety, that is:

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Mum and Dad are going home tomorrow.

As if that wasn’t enough to make me feel like crying (it is!), there’s also the fact that Mr H is sick with a cold and an ear ache. Baby T has an infected belly button and a cold, which makes feeding him difficult. And the company that collects the garbage is striking, so now we have a bin full of rubbish and, with 2 and a half kids in nappies, our household waste is fast accumulating.

Honestly, it’s too much.

It’s too much going wrong, too much hardship, all at once to be a coincidence.

Neither is it a coincidence that James 1:5 is the passage Mum quoted to me yesterday when I asked her (semi-rhetorically), how am I going to cope when you leave?

“If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God,” she answered me.

Nor is it a coincidence that James 1:2-5 was the passage on the cards for me to memorise today.*

 

No, these trials are gifts, straight from the hands of God, sent to test and strengthen my faith. Sent to develop my character. Sent to drive me running, desperately, into the arms of the Father who loves me, again.

Some of you may read that and think it’s really messed up. You might think, why would you want to follow a God who makes you suffer so that you think you need him? Who breaks your legs and then provides the crutches?

But the truth is that I do need God. We all do.

Even when life is going so well, and things are falling into place and I start to think “Look how good this life that I’ve created is!”…even then, I still need God. Even then, he is the one who sustains and prospers me.

But the thing is, if we’re just cruising along, thinking we don’t need God (or, in all likelihood, not even thinking about God at all, really) we are actually in denial of reality. We are living a lie.

So, for God to send us trials is actually a loving, merciful thing to do. Because these trials shake up our false perception of the world and make us see the reality, that we do actually need Him.

It’s in this spirit that I am graciously receiving these trials, and counting them all as joy. Sure, I will probably shed a few tears over the next few days (and I don’t mean the happy kind).

But you can bet I will be clinging to Christ with all my limited strength, and He will be clinging to me with all His limitless strength.

And I will get through the next day and then the next, with a strengthened faith and a steadfast heart.

I am so thankful for a God who loves me enough to give me just what I need, whether trials or blessings.

 

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Gratuitous baby picture.

 

*I’m currently using Jami Balmet’s “A Heart Prepared” to memorise and meditate on the Bible, particularly during those late night feeds. And the wonderful thing is, she is offering it free to email subscribers at the moment! Get it here: https://youngwifesguide.com/free-scripture-memory-card-ebook-printable-cards/