Sunday, 30 July 2017

Currently... July


Written in bits and pieces throughout the month of July.

I’m currently sitting outside, yes outside, on this lovely winter’s afternoon, drinking a cup of tea and enjoying the feeling of sunshine on my back. Ella is napping, Andy is at football, and so the house is blissfully calm and quiet. Here is a peak of what we’ve been up to over the last month.

Reading a few books at the moment. I find I can read more than one book at a time if they are non-fiction; I don’t really have a problem flipping back and forth between books on different topics. That said, I do prefer fiction as a means of relaxation or escapism. I love that feeling of being totally engrossed in a book, or looking forward to when I have some time to read. I don’t get that same feeling with non-fiction, even though I find it interesting to learn about new things. This is a big section as I got through more books than usual during our school holidays at the start of the month.

I finally finished Shantaram at the end of June. I really wanted to love this book, but I just didn’t. I found it overly descriptive and therefore unnecessarily long. It took me about six weeks to read and I really wanted it to get better, and there were parts that I did enjoy. But overall… I would have preferred to spend that six weeks reading something else.

I read two other fiction books this month once I’d finally completed Shantaram. The first was I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid, which I randomly picked up from the library. It was good, with a crazy twist at the end that I did not see coming. But it was a complex twist, that probably would be better understood with a second reading of the book. I didn’t like it enough to read it twice though! I also read The Cows by Dawn O’Porter which I devoured in three days. It was like reading all of the best episodes of Sex and the City. There were parts and themes that were super cringy and I didn’t always agree with, but still I found it completely addictive and could not put it down.
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a fantastic collection of parenting techniques based on neuroscience. In reading the book you gain a (simplified) understanding of how the brain works, so that you can help your child successful navigate difficult moments. Some of the techniques are more suited to older children, but one that we have tried quite successfully is called “Name it to Tame it” and is about telling stories to help children calm down after something scary, disappointing, or painful happens. Say something traumatic happens to a child - in Ella’s case this has been limited to a bad fall - while comforting her we say things like “You were running and you tripped. Then you fell down and hurt your knee. That must have hurt. But then mummy picked you up and gave you a cuddle”. It has definitely helped Ella calm down quicker than when we say “Shhhh, it’s ok. Don’t cry”, which is closer to what we used to do.

I also read Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I read her first book, The Happiness Project, years ago and found it very relatable and easy to read. This book is similar in terms of readability - the author inserts a lot of personal examples and I find myself nodding along having had similar thoughts or experiences. The book is all about creating and keeping habits, and there were some useful takeaways for me. For example, the beginning of the book talks about how differently people respond to internal and external accountability. It was not only interesting to reflect on how I respond to these things, but to also realise why other people respond differently. Very helpful when considering teams of people I work with, students I teach, and also Andy! The author also talks about “treats” and reframing what we consider a treat. Right now, sitting outside on my balcony writing this post, with a cup of tea, is definitely a treat!

So as you can see, I’m hugely into reading at the moment, and it is definitely one of my favourite “treats” when I have a quiet moment to myself. I’ve even started following Instagrammers who recommend books to see what others are reading. So if you’ve got any recommendations let me know please!

Watching House of Cards season 5. I was a bit disappointed with the first few episodes, they were pretty slow and the plot is simultaneously unbelievable and scarily similar to current US politics. But the series does pick up and it gets as dark and shocking as ever. I just finished it last week so searching for a new series to get stuck in to. Oh and we are obviously watching the new season of Game of Thrones. Obviously.

Andy and I also watched a few documentaries over the school holidays: What the Health and Forks over Knives. Both advocate a plant-based, whole foods diet for optimum health, and tie eating meat and dairy products to higher rates of illness; mainly cancer and heart disease. While I know that research is cherry picked to support this message, it has given us a bit to think about when deciding what to eat. More compelling than the health risks for me are the environmental effects and humanitarian issues around eating large amounts of animal products. So we’ve cut back on the meat, dairy and eggs that we eat at home. I don’t think we are ready (and we may never be) to cut out animal products completely, but it is not difficult for us to eat them minimally. The hardest part for me is cheese, glorious cheese, which I am just not willing to give up right now. And Ella is definitely a carnivore, the girl loves her meat, so I don’t want to remove that from her diet when she is not old enough to choose for herself.

Loving the Yoga Nidra full app. I know I’ve talked about this app before, but I have been using it a lot lately, so just had to share again. Yoga Nidra is a “yogic sleep”, where you are both conscious but in a state of deep relaxation. I came across it through a workshop at my old yoga studio. I left that workshop feeling extremely refreshed and energetic after a terrible night’s sleep with Ella, so I investigated different apps that I could use to practice Yoga Nidra at home. I initially started with the free version, which is a 10 minute sequence. I listen to it almost every night before I go to bed, and almost without fail it sends me off to sleep. This is amazing considering that every since I was young I have had a hard time falling asleep. I then read this article about Yoga Nidra, and how a 20-30 minute session can make you feel as if you’ve had an extra hour or two of sleep. I downloaded the full version (which has 20 and 30 minute sessions, as well as a few extras like nature sounds to play in the background) and it was definitely $5.99 well spent! A few times when I have felt tired in the afternoon I’ve done one of the longer Yoga Nidra sessions instead of taking a nap, and I definitely feel so much better after. I highly recommend it!   

Drinking a lot of Peppermint Tea. The nights are cold and it’s such a cozy drink to have after dinner, once Ella is asleep and Andy and I have time to relax. Due to my recent sore throat and dry, hacking cough, I’ve temporarily replaced this with hot water, lemon and honey. I’ve also tried switching to coffee with almond milk in a bid to consume less animal products. I don’t mind it at home, but a few times I have asked for almond milk in my flat white in a cafĂ© and have not enjoyed it. So I will probably continue to have almond milk at home, and regular milk when I’m out for now.

Trying to cook healthy, delicious meals for my family during the week. It is hard work! By the time we pick up Ella from work and get home it’s 5pm, and then it’s balancing act of Andy amusing Ella and distracting her from having a snack and me cooking. I’ve been using my day off during the week along with weekends to try and get some meal prep done, so there is less stress the other four days that I’m working. This soup is my favourite quick, healthy meal, I need a few more recipes like this up my sleeve!

Enjoying playing new games with Ella. She loves hide and seek (though she often runs out of her hiding spot while you are looking for her), and also drawing and playing with play doh.

Feeling cold and sick. Hello winter! I shouldn’t complain, we’ve actually had mostly beautiful winter weather so far this year, with bright, sunny, warm afternoons that don’t even require a jacket. But the house is cold at night, and all I can think about is the electricity bill when the heat is running non-stop. I’m also currently sick for the second time this month which has been pretty crappy. (Update: a few days after initially writing this, I’m happy to say that I’m feeling much better and as mentioned above it is decidedly not cold today, so yay, things are looking up!)

Wanting my mom to come back! Life was so much easier when we had some help with Ella.

Considering getting an activity tracker for the first time, like, ever. I primarily want to track my sleep. For the past three weeks I’ve been having terrible sleep, waking in the middle of the night and taking hours to fall back asleep (hence the love for the Yoga Nidra app, but even that has not worked sometimes). I’m sure this lack of sleep has contributed to me getting sick, and it’s also making work seem like a bit of a slog at the moment. I think that one reason I’m not sleeping well could be that I’m not getting as much exercise as usual. Now that Andy works with me, I drive to school with him instead of riding my bike. That is about an hour a day of exercise I’m missing out on. I’ve also only been making it to 1 or 2 yoga classes a week, where I used to aim for three. So it feels like I’m in a bit of a negative cycle: less exercise and less sleep, leading to getting sick, and therefore not feeling like doing exercise and not sleeping well. And repeat. So maybe an activity tracker will help to motivate me? I’m thinking of the Fitbit Charge 2 or the Fitbit Alta.

Writing a job application. My school have decided to overhaul the curriculum structure, making my current position non-existent next year. The proposed changes make a lot of sense, and I agree with them fully, but it does kind of suck to have to reapply for a new position. Especially as my current one has been working well with being part-time, and I’m not sure if I get a new position that I will have the same level of flexibility. I’ve actually considered just stepping down from having a leadership role but I’m not sure if that is what I really want, or if I’ve just been too ill and tired to think straight the past few weeks. There is no guarantee that I will actually get a new position anyway, so I will just try my best, and if unsuccessful I don’t think I will be too upset.   

Wearing a few new sweaters that I’ve treated myself to for winter. I splurged on a cream, wool Country Road number, which I love, love, love. I can’t find it on the website anymore so they must have sold out of them, which makes me happy I bought mine when I did - after thinking about it for weeks. I also love the fit of these Cotton On sweaters, which aren’t warm at all, but perfect autumn/spring, and look really nice on. I have the grey and cream colour, and for $30 could justify a few more colours. (I’ve just seen they are now Buy one, get one 50% off… tempting!)

Wanting these boots from Country Road. I haven’t bought a pair of boots since our first winter in Melbourne, four years ago, so I think I am due a new pair. My other two pairs are both flat, so I like the low heel on these, making them feel a bit dressier. Plus, I complimented a co-workers boots the other day, and she said they were from Country Road five years ago, and they looked almost new. So if I take care of them they should last me a long time.

Grateful for my parents, who are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in a week. 40 years! They are truly inspirational.

Pic of the Month Ella with her Aunty Charlotte, drinking a babycino. So glad Ella has people like this in her life!


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