Wanting more ‘stars’

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I read ‘You are Special’ by Max Lucado over ten years ago and its story has stayed with me ever since.  For those who are unfamiliar with the children’s book, it follows a wooden puppet living in a puppet village.  Puppets would stick stars on others they thought were pretty, smart, popular or just for having lots of stars on them whereas those who were not liked as much or at all, received dots.  Some puppets had heaps of stars on them and thought they were above the others who only had a few stars or lots of dots.  The main character soon meets a puppet, Lucia, with no dots or stars on her.  The stickers don’t work because she doesn’t care what others think – only what her creator does.

I remember thinking what a terrible world to live in, for the majority to want as many stars as possible and have others see them.  The sad thing is, that’s the world we live in now via social media.  You can track people’s popularity by the number of followers they have, the number of likes they have.  Unfortunately, we also live in a world where almost anything can be bought, including fake followers and likes.

Since the birth of Miller, I have taken a step back from actively blogging and posting on Instagram.  I started to think about the real reason why I’m on a public social media platform and what I wanted to achieve from doing so. I started publicly blogging with the hope to share my motherhood journey, the ups and downs and everything in between.  Even though I didn’t have a clear idea of what my brand would be, I knew that I would be very selective on what I shared about my family, details and even faces.  I had heard stories of people stealing other people’s photos, especially ones of children and I never wanted to put my kids in such a position.

However, since taking a brief pause from social media, I started to fret over my account’s declining ‘engagement.’  In truth, I wondered why I was receiving less ‘stars’.  I read that people don’t like green on their feed (I post lots of photos from our park outings or in our garden), they like consistent pictures (my life is all over the place so why would my Instagram feed be any different?) and similar colours (but I’m not one to add filters to all my posts).

What I’m trying to say is, I’m going to stay more true to myself and focus on what is meaningful to me.  While it is hard to not care what others think (one of my many weaknesses!), I will refuse to let it drive my behaviour.  We all need to be less like the puppets of ‘You are special’ who go around handing out stickers to others they deem popular or not, and more like ‘Lucia’ and not let the stars and spots stick to us and affect us.

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Being my true self

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I recently caught up with a group of friends at work and the topic of conversation turned to the various people we all work with.   Since I don’t work in the same business unit as most of them, I was surprised that I knew certain names my friends mentioned.  They looked at me with a confused at why I knew these people as my line of work requires no association with them.  As the conversation progressed, it was me with the confused face as my friends recounted their interactions with the people I knew outside of work, since their work behaviour was the complete opposite to what I was used to seeing from them.

When I expressed my disbelief that we were talking about the same people, I also suggested that maybe work brought out the stressed side of their personalities and thus certain behaviours were expressed on a regular basis.  While they agreed that work does bring on stress, the fact that they were known to act a certain way in meetings meant they were known as certain type of people.  I refused to let their opinion affect my personal opinion of these people, as I was used to seeing their constant kind, generous side.

This conversation, however, really played on my mind as I started to question if I was completely different at work to how I am at home.  While I understand that we adapt our behaviour given the situation, I ultimately want to believe I am the same person at home, work and play.  To think that I act the complete opposite to how my children, family and friends see me to how I act at work really made my stomach turn.

During my last few days at work before maternity leave, I was really lucky to have some people say very nice things about me.  Three people used the same word to describe me – genuine.  That made me realise that was the key.  As long as I was genuine in all I do, then I would act the same wherever I was and whatever situation I was in.  I am perfectly aware that I will sometimes put on a fake smile or politely endure a conversation I don’t want to be a part of, but as long as I am known for the things I want to be known for wherever I am, then I know I am being my true self.  And that is exactly what I want my children to understand and practice.

My evolving relationship with Motherhood

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Image by Marie-Luise

I knew being a mother would be one of the hardest yet one of the happiest phases in my life.  I read lots of parenting books while pregnant with my first child, I listened to all sorts of advice the people around me freely gave and I constantly asked the hard questions to try prepare myself for the impeding change a little one brings.  I honestly thought I had prepared as much as I could for the new and exciting role.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would pull, prod and stretch me in directions I never knew possible.

We eagerly anticipated Grace’s arrival so when she finally arrived, she brought immense joy into our lives.  The days that followed were difficult, but we knew they would be.  However, the degree of difficulty overwhelmed me.  Sure, there were factors and issues which were beyond our control which didn’t help but I vividly remember sitting in Grace’s nursery fully immersed in an intense emotional roller coaster ride.  One moment I would be crying because all I wanted for my baby girl was to marry an amazing man like her Daddy and to have a beautiful child like herself to hold in her arms so she could feel the joy I was experienced.  The next moment, however, I’d be in tears again because all I wanted to do was put my suit on and go to work because I craved to do something I was familiar with, do something I was good at and have people appreciate my work and give my positive feedback.  The new routine, sleep deprivation, not understanding my baby, absolutely everything was so foreign to me.  I was so ready to go back to work despite advising my employer that I’d be taking 13 months off.  Luckily, I had a caring and understanding husband who lovingly helped and guided me to increase in confidence not only in myself but in my own abilities as a mother.

I thought I was better prepared when Xavier came along and in many ways, I was.  But again, after a few weeks following his birth, I felt myself wanting to return to work early, not because I wanted to do something I was familiar with but because his high energy and personality was such a big shift from what I expected after having a gentle, sweet girl. There were many days where I would hide in the toilet, needing just a few moments to myself while a screaming toddler stood outside the locked door.  After 13 months of maternity leave, I had no shame in enjoying the opportunity to eat in peace, pee in peace and even work in peace.  Going to work felt like genuine breaks in my week.  I would look at other full time mothers and wonder in awe at how they could do it 24-7.  I was perfectly aware that my mental capacity to do so was not as strong and I beat myself up for that.

Now I am pregnant with number three, I can honestly say I’m in a good place with my relationship with motherhood.   I definitely experienced joy with my first two but I feel that I don’t have glimpses of happiness anymore – I have many instances where I go to bed at night and look back on my day with such joy.  I really feel at peace with being a mother and most of the time, I love it so much.  When I had this realisation, I was so excited to tell my husband this – that I feel like I’m at a stage in my life where I could do this motherhood gig full time and even he was so surprised.

I’m not saying I won’t return to work.  They treat me incredibly well and I feel that my career defines a part of who I am.  But it has been such a journey for me to reach this point, where I can say even though some days are long and hard, I still find the joy and happiness motherhood brings.  Motherhood means I have two little people who genuinely think I am the funniest person on earth, even if my husband tries to persuade them otherwise.  Motherhood means I have magic kisses which can heal a sore that just moments ago, was incredibly painful.  Motherhood means I have little people who love me so much, and unconditionally.  And I know my relationship with motherhood will continue to change as my children grow up.  But I know one thing will remain constant.  Motherhood is joy.  My children really bring me so much happiness.  I have never experienced so much joy in great intensity as I have as a mother.  I know the tough times motherhood brings only makes the happy moments all that more sweeter.   My relationship with motherhood, at the end of the day, really is joy and I’m so excited to not only fully understand this, but experience it as well.

The importance of play and our Sudio Sweden review!

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Good old ‘mum guilt’ has constantly got me thinking of the long list I need to work on, not only in our routines, the house, the food, etc., but also in my behaviour.  One thing I’m currently working on is making more time to ‘play’ with my children, especially Grace.

Grace usually enjoys playing by herself when she’s at home but lately, she’s been asking Joel or I to play with her on a frequent basis.  Usually, it’s during dinner prep time, when I’m ironing, cleaning or even when I’m dying for a Sunday nap.  I want Grace to have fond memories of us playing together so when possible, I comply.

The more chances I’ve had to play with her (it’s usually Shopkins, Barbies or Lego Friends), the more I’ve realised that these moments are also great teaching opportunities.  One time, her dolls were being mean to one particular doll (I think Disney movies have made Grace think every situation needs a bad guy!) so instead of being mean, the doll I was playing with stood up to the bully and helped the sad doll.  Another time, some characters were commenting on how beautiful the dress was on my character.  I thanked them their kind comments, but then steered the conversation towards other topics like our favourite subjects at school, how we love to be kind and help people.

The last time Grace and I did something she wanted to do, we did a sticker activity book.  Part of the activity was to describe the picture so Grace proceeded to do so. I challenged her to think of it as telling a story to a person who cannot see the picture, to describe as much as she can so the person listening, can visualise the picture.  By the third time, Grace improved so much and I loved seeing how her sweet mind saw the picture at hand.

Another activity we love to do together is playing different educational games together on the iPad.  I gain so much joy watching her love for learning and from time to time, I do help her in certain games.  Since receiving my Sudio Sweeden earphones though, Grace sometimes likes to use them instead of her own!  I usually let her wear earphones since I’m fine not listening to kid game music! I must say, the Sudio earphones have been great.  Not only are they cordless (which I know why Grace loves them), they have amazing sound.  I primarily use them when I’m at work (I have the Vasa Blå which have an in-built microphone so I can easily go from listening to my favourite music to answering calls).  I also love how they are discrete as they easily hide behind my hair but most of all, the sound quality is amazing.  Sure, I am used to my earphones which come with my mobile, but the difference is extraordinary.  Either way, when I’m at home, Grace always requests them if they are needed!

I’m so grateful that Grace is at an age where she wants to play with me.  I know, all too quickly, that this will change so whenever possible, I should grab these opportunities not only to spend some quality time with my baby girl, but to teach her things I want her to learn.

On a side note, I’ve decided to team up with Sudio Sweeden and offer you guys 15% off your first order!  All you have to do is enter ‘LITTLEBLUELIVING’ at checkout.  Oh – and shipping is free!

Gratitude discussions

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During an especially hard stage in my life, Joel suggested we share three good things that happened to us each day before we went to bed.  At the time, I knew it was a good idea but I complained and dismissed the thought.  After some encouragement, I eventually submitted and so we commenced a ‘gratitude’ discussion each night.

At the start, I gave very short answers.  I got a seat on the train.  I ate my favourite meal for dinner.  Soon, however, I found my attitude shifted because I identified all the good in my life.  Even though times were tough and things were not going my way, there was still so much to be grateful for.

Recently, a quote by reiterated the good that comes from being happy with what we have:

“A Spirit of Gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness.”

It’s so true.  That hard period of my life six years ago not only taught me many things and has helped shaped me and my life, but also, thanks to Joel, helped me develop a thankful heart.  And with gratitude, I can honestly say that despite the many bumps in the road, I can still find joy and great happiness.  All I have to do is look in my children’s eyes and I am reminded.

A friend recently shared that she encourages her son to list three things to be thankful for before he goes to bed.  Not only is this teaching him to be grateful for what he has, she also gets a snippet of what has happened in her five-year old’s son’s day and the way he has thought about the situation.  She reminded me that this is something I too, should teach my children.  And what better way than to start gratitude discussions each night, like my husband suggested all those years ago.

Why we love Daddy

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Here is our belated post on Father’s Day!  Grace’s primary teacher encouraged her to write down why she believes her Dad is the best and here are her answers:

My favourite memory of my dad is: him helping me

This is what he ALWAYS says: stop

Here is his favourite thing to eat: [Grace drew a picture of a cake]

My dad’s pockets are full of: wallet, phone and keys

My dad is 15 year’s old

When he comes home from work, he likes to: work on the computer

This makes my dad laugh: my funny faces

I had to laugh at her honest answers.  Joel does say ‘stop’ a lot, but mostly to X man as he does something cheeky!  I also asked X man why he loves his Daddy and the conversation went something like this:

“Hey X man, why do you love Daddy?”

“Coz”

“Coz why?”

“Just coz, Mama”

“But why do you love Daddy?”

[fart noise]

“I fluffed, mum”

“X man – why do you love Daddy?”

“Hehe… it’s stinky”

I gave up after that.

For gifts, the children both chose a book each (about Dads, of course) which they presented to their Daddy.  These books have already been read numerous times!  We also got him a Frankie watch from JORD watches and it seems like a hit!  I have known Joel for almost 12 years and he has never worn a watch but he recently mentioned that he would like one.  He seemed to like my unisex JORD watch because not only is it very light, it is extremely versatile.  Since receiving his JORD watch (we let him open this gift early since he was eager to receive it!), not only does it suit him but he’s worn it every day!

So Happy Father’s Day, Joel – we love you very much xx

This post was sponsored by JORD watches


Mens Wooden Watches
//www.woodwatches.com/widget-article/littleblueliving

Thoughts on simplicity

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As the children get older and as careers and life in general progress, the pace of life has really started to overwhelm me.  How are my babies so big?  How is it almost Christmas?  Seriously… I need to get my Christmas shopping started.

One thing that prevents me from living a more simple life, is the feeling of wanting to do more and then feeling like I need to justify my choices.  Just like I explained here, if I’m talking to a stay at home mum or her husband, I feel like I need to explain why I work.  That’s why I don’t do this, that and that, whereas others with more time can.  Is it because I want to keep up with others?

Another weakness is sometimes, I think I enjoy being busy, like I explained here.  I love accomplishing as much as I can in one day and ticking tasks off my to-do list but sometimes, I run around unnecessarily.  Is it because I have something to prove?

I recently re-read one of my favourite quotes which put reminded me about perspective:

“We… have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.”

Marjorie Pay Hinkley explained it perfectly.  I’m all for simple living but it’s not just about de-cluttering our schedules and our homes.  I also need to de-clutter the negativity in my head – my thoughts.  It’s so easy for me to compare how much others are accomplishing, how much progress they are making.  I do believe I’m an optimist but it’s also about having a positive and mature attitude.  Because really, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and our little green garden ain’t that bad =)