Saturday 31 March 2012

Covert Co-sleeping

Indigo has a cot. It sits in her bedroom with her wardrobe full of clothes, and some toys she doesn't play with much. Truth be told, as lovely as Indigo's room is, with it's psychedelic carpet in varying shades of purple and magenta, she doesn't spend much time in there at all. Most of her toys are in her playroom, a sun room next to the lounge room, which is closer to us, and allows us to multi-task on occasion. We play in her room while I fold her washing and put it away, and sometimes she stands up against her cot, or wants to get in it for a laugh, to see mummy through the side, or over the top. 

The cot is not conducive to sleep.

We tried, oh we tried. We wanted a bit of grown-up space, so although planning for an attachment parenting style, we listened to the warnings about SIDS and co-sleeping, used sleeping bags instead of blankets, trying (in vain) to get Indigo used to being left to fall asleep by herself when she's nodding off, not transporting her to the cot asleep. None of these things worked for us at all.

From day one, Indigo hated her wrappings. She loved having her hands out to touch, to feel. She grew tall so quickly that we had to abandon the snug bassinette, the little grobags. I love holding her little hands while she nurses, and she loves it too, when she's not trying to pinch me

She also still nurses to sleep. At almost ten months, she doesn't suck her thumb or use a pacifier, and being a chronic nail biter and anxiety-freak, this is the best outcome I could possibly imagine. I couldn't care less what "conventional wisdom" has to say about this: if I can help Indigo avoid or cope with the anxiety issues that I have, we will have been successful in a huge way in the parenting-stakes.

For my sanity, little by little, she has been sleeping in with us more and more. It makes breastfeeding so much easier, and I'm never so deepy lasleep that I've rolled-on or squashed her, nor has my par
tner. Not that death from suffocation doesn't happen in some instances, and obviously if under the influence of drugs or alcohol co-sleeping is not an option, but in my experience co-sleeping has changed our lives for the better. 

Dave and Indigo having a snuggle when she was only 2 weeks old <3

I don't talk about it a lot, because the issue attracts such a mixed bag of reactions, but there it is. I think it's important for families to sleep together, at least some of the time, and bathe together too. These are great bonding experiences for dads - we can't forget that dads need special bonding time as much as mums, if not more to make up any shortfall they may feel if they work full time (or if their partner is breastfeeding a clingy baby, like yours truly).

I know there are lots of pros and cons for co-sleeping, both scientific and personal, but this is the choice we have made as a family. We'd love a bigger bed, but otherwise are as happy as can be with our decision to sleep in a family bed.I love special morning snuggles, when a sleepy Indigo wakes up to see me watching her. It's also a lot easier to soothe a crying baby when they are right next to you, and Indigo's favourite natural comforter, the boobie, is right there for her when she needs it (and she quite obviously and vocally needs it, multiple times a night).

I hope you woke up to awesome snuggles in bed this morning, whether you have a baby, lover, child, cat, dog - someone that you love that loves you back!

Friday 30 March 2012

Xtreme Breastfeeding!

Indigo has been breastfed since birth, and she's approaching the ten month-mark. I never really thought much about feeding with formula, although I have no qualms with its use. I just assumed I'd breastfeed until Indigo weaned, or my milk ran out.

I hadn't factored in Indigo's active feeding style. I like to think of it as Xtreme breastfeeding, to gloss over the frustration and pain it frequently causes me.

She now likes to roll around, pinch my arm/boob/armpit/face/eyeball, attempt to feed standing up, in the bath, upside down, while climbing, name it. I figured she'd get more active when she got older, but I never really thought about how this would affect how I feed her.

A few times now, I've been on the verge of starting formula feeding, even though I know how much she loves breastfeeding, because her acrobatics are causing me immense pain. It's almost like those first few weeks of breastfeeding all over again, minus the mastitis. I cringe when I have to feed her, and find myself crying out in pain multiple times per feed, unless she's falling asleep. I hate this, but don't really want to stop breastfeeding now we've come so far.

Also, I'm lazy. Putting her on formula will require bottles, preparation times, waiting. I can't just whip out a bottle in bed in the middle of the night like I can with a boob, and I'm just not interested in making more work for myself. I'm in no way anti-formula, but after nine months of relative ease with breastfeeding, and knowing that no matter how much she has, she's the right weight and getting all the right things even when she doesn't feel like eating solids (like tonight), I just don't think that I could do it.

So, I guess I'll just whip out the Lansinoh, and treat myself nicely, just like I did after Indigo was born.

Thursday 29 March 2012

The Secret Life of Dogs

Today is a home-focused day. I am baking double choc chip cookies, attacking the mountain of washing, and the pile of washing up that appeared mysteriously and won't disappear without my help. 

I am hoping Indigo is happy with this plan - she's asleep, so I haven't had to ask her, so far. 

We've had a fun morning. We found out that Trilby has a secret life - there was a loose paling in our fence, which he could push aside through which a little boy could pat him. He has removed the panel from the fence entirely now, so we can see what he is up to.

Indigo stood up against the fence, and she and the little boy smiled at each other. He gave her a big kiss, and she cried! She's never had another kid kiss her before, just grown-ups, so I think she got a surprise. We had fun though, we hadn't met those neighbours yet, having only just moved here, so it was nice to get to play with kids and the hound dog.

She's a big sook at the moment, and wants to be carried around like a joey. I wish I was a kangaroo, with a big pouch designed to carry her. She's outgrown her awful baby bjorn thing, and we've never had the money to buy an Ergo baby carrier, which is what I wanted, so now we just carry her on our hip, or on our shoulders. It's not so bad, and I have lost a lot of weight without having to do much more than look after Indigo, so I can't complain.

Indigo wakes, and all plans are thrown out the window!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Literally Tearing My Hair Out - The Trichotillomania Post

My family has always been sick of me fiddling with my hair. Since I was about nine, I've been cutting it short, dyeing it, straightening it, putting extensions in, and cutting my own hair. My mother was especially was frustrated with how fixated on my hair I was, and that I could never just leave it alone, and let it grow long.

And one day, I started pulling it out.

remember sitting on a train home from Newtown, in Sydney. I was fiddling with my hair, possibly matting it into tiny dreadlocks, when I pulled a hair out by accident. I wrapped a single hair around my fingers, and broke it. 


I don't know what about that sound or feeling triggered something in me, but from that moment, my life was changed forever.

I began pulling my hair out and snapping it, at first with stray hairs and then soon afterwards compulsively. It wasn't long before I had sparse patches on my head, almost bald. Luckily, I suppose, I have very thick, curly hair, so no one noticed these patchy bits, and for a long time, things continued on as normal.

One day, family members started to notice me pulling my hair out, and seeing the bald patches. My mum yelled at me: "stop pulling your hair out!" every time she "caught" me doing it, which triggered extreme panic and anxiety in me, which made the desire to pull my hair out even harder to resist. And it only got harder.

This compulsive, often unconscious desire to pull out your own hair (be it from your head, eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic hair, or arm/leg hair) is called trichotillomania. It is often "aquired" in the early teen years, but can strike at any time in your life. Often accompanied by the unwelcome playmates of depression and anxiety, trichotillomania is considered an impulse control disorder, similar to tourettes or chronic nail-biting (another club I belong to).

We "t
richsters" have trouble finding ways to deal with stress that don't do damage to our bodies. I personally (although I'm no scientist) feel it is like a natural grooming mechanism gone awry in a modern world. At least then I feel archaic, not sick.

I have shaved my head, and am now rocking the Very Short Hairstyle. This stops me fiddling with my hair so much, and I've taken to rubbing my short hair with the palms of my hands instead, which is kind of relaxing, and far less damaging.

re are a few online resources for people suffering from trichotillomania, but I find joining support groups makes me feel like a victim, and I relapse, or just get worse. I know this is not the case for everyone though, and some people find these groups to be very helpful. I know I cried when I found out that there were groups full of people other than me pulled out their hair, and it helped me find my own way to deal with trich, and better deal with other people in general.

I hope anyone 
reading this who has trichotillomania, anxiety or depression realises that they are not alone, and although it is hard, the best thing to do is to confide in friends and family. People who know you and can understand what you're going through are your best support network, and can help you find professional help if you need it, or offer a shoulder to cry on if that's more your speed.

Having trichotillomania has made me stronger, and less focussed on appearances, which has carved a large part of my personality. I guess I leave you with that message - remember to love yourself, regardless of the things you perceive as your flaws. Others might just see them as the things that make you unique! 

How to look beautiful no matter what your age, size or shape.

Sometimes it's hard to look in the mirror and like what you see. Women are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about their appearance, and the prevalence of plastic surgery and fad diets attest to our unhealthy fixation with achieving a physique that is not average.

We need to show everyone that beauty does not equal pain, or falsehoods. It is a real thing that real people possess. Real people with stretch marks and imperfect hair and wobbly bits.

Here are a few tips to help you look your best without having to spend lots of money, lose weight, or spend hours in front of a mirror!

+ Smile. A smile lights up your face and makes you look your best. Besides, if you look like you're having fun, you are automatically more attractive than someone who looks miserable. Smile at the world, you never know who's looking, and the smiles you attract in return will make you feel even better!

+ Put on a dress. There's a style for every size and shape, and it will make you feel girly, flirty and happy. Knee-length, mini or maxi, dressed up or down, dresses make everyone look great.

+ Wear bright colours. Whether that's your clothes, accessories or makeup, bright colours will put you in a great mood and make you look fabulous. Wearing bright red lipstick will take your basic black outfit and turn it into something amazing, or slip on some yellow shoes to give yourself happy feet! Choose colours that suit you, not the "fashionable" colours of the moment - this way you will look your best and stand out from the crowd. Nothing says beautiful like originality!

+ Good posture. This is something absolutely everyone can work on, and it's good for you and makes you look slimmer and more elegant. Good posture will help you feel physically better, and radiate confidence to those around you. Stand with your shoulders held back and be proud to be yourself inside your skin.

+ Look after that skin! Exfoliate with a sugar scrub every week to buff your skin to perfection. Use a skincare range that suits your needs - I use Herbalism cleanser, Eau du  Roma toner, and Celestial moisturiser, all from Lush...I love all their products, and they've got something for everyone!

+ Get enough sleep. It's more important than updating your Facebook or watching tv, it's called beauty sleep for a reason! It will help with your mental wellbeing too, being frazzled and grumpy definitely doesn't help you feel pretty. Get seven to eight hours to feel your best.

+ Accept yourself. Even if you don't like the way this bit wobbles, or your scars, or your funny knees, if you can learn to live with them instead of worrying about them, you will be that much more beautiful. There's no need to cover up or apologise, or resort to surgery. Beauty, confidence and acceptance go hand in hand, so enjoy being yourself. There are people out there who find you interesting and sexy, so believe them and act like you're sex on legs! I have a stomach full of stretchmarks, but my awesomeness isn't bogged down by something so trivial! (sometimes acting more confident than you are leads to real confidence!)

Cooking Shenanigans - Beef Ragù

I love cooking so much. My partner Dave does too. We have developed this recipe between the two of us, as an amalgamation of both our existing recipes, plus a lot of experimenting. Now, I'm saving you the hard work, and just giving the recipe away!

We cook this at least once a week, and it usually lasts a few days if we don't eat it a few meals in a row! It's very moreish, but also very filling, and extremely cheap! Either serve as a bolognese sauce with pasta, or put in a oven-safe dish and cover with mashed potato and parmesan cheese for an amazing Shepherd's Pie!

1kg beef shin (usually called gravy beef at the butcher's)
2 pieces of bacon, diced
2 tins whole peeled tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced or chopped finely
1 carrot, grated
2 sticks celery, grated
1 apple, grated
1.5 glasses red wine (more or less - add to taste)
splash balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
large handful fresh basil and oregano, chopped roughly.

Sweat onion and garlic in a large saucepan with olive oil until translucent. Add balsamic, brown sugar, carrot, apple and celery and mix until soft and caramelised.

Add tomatoes, herbs, wine, bacon and beef shin and enough water to cover. Put a lid on and simmer for 4 hours or so. Longer, if you like. The longer the better. The meat will fall apart and taste so tender that you will never make another bolognese with mince meat again!

Vegetarians/vegans: If you don't add the meat, this dish is still awesome. Just add a little less wine and cook for 1-2 hours instead of 4. 

How Many Kids? The Benefits of Growing a Large Family

How many children "should" each family have? Obviously, each person's answer will be unique, and the reasons that lay behind their answers even more so.

I was an only child until I was fifteen. Then, my dad had my half-brother and half-sister with my step-mum. I didn't see very much of them, and don't feel like much of a big sister, even though they are always happy to see me now I'm 24, and they are 9 and 5. It was lonely and insular, growing up living alone with just my mum, and I often wonder whether all only children are similarly awkward with people as I can be. Now I have a daughter, I try to spend as much time around other kids as possible, to counteract the fact that the majority of her time is spent with her mum and dad. I always wanted to have two kids, but now I have one, I am wondering if two is enough!

Dave, Indy, Trilby and I went to the park recently, and had a great time playing with a whole group of kids. Trilby ran around with them for over an hour, and they completely exhausted him. Indy watched all the kids running around with her dog, and talked to me in her babbling way. I felt so happy and it made me yearn for the large family I never had.

I've read some interesting stuff about how after three kids, they don't cost much per child, or take extra time, in a book called Selfish Reasons to Have More Children. I don't know if that's true, but it seems that the benefits would often outweigh the pitfalls.

Having enough money is one of those constant worries for most families. I guess if you have supportive relatives or keep all the kids' clothes for handing down to siblings, having lots of kids doesn't have to be "too" expensive. Buying in bulk, cooking from scratch, growing your own vegies and many other thrifty practices I highly endorse seem to go hand-in-hand with large families. The values taught by practices borne of necessity are important: don't waste resources; be imaginative; know where your food comes from and what goes into it; make what you can; work as play. (I will go into each of these values in depth at a later date, because they are each a post in their own right!)

We also need to keep in mind that kids increase joy, and these personal, emotional benefits are often more important than having lots of money. Material possessions are less important than most people think, and most people own more stuff than they need or want. Kids don't need toy computers and plastic dolls when you can paint pictures, make rag dolls, make a house out of a cardboard box, play with LEGO, dance, kick a ball, sing or blow bubbles. Pets are excellent for using up kids' seemingly boundless energy, and they don't cost a lot in comparison with video games or shopping trips! A camping holiday is more fun for families than an overseas trip that requires oodles of preparing, packing, immunisations, plane tickets, passports...It's easier to save this money for the things that are really wanted and needed. A garage sale of all the stuff that you realise is cluttering up your home might provide the funds to buy the tent and pay for the trip!

So how many kids do you think is too many? I just want more people to play with! It's fun being a mum, most of the time, and I'd like a few kids to call me their mum in my lifetime!

Learning to say no!

My partner is always telling me I'm too nice to people. I mostly only realise someone has been using me after they have already done it, and kind of passive-aggressively watch it happen to myself, debating internally.

The other day I was accosted with my baby by someone trying to sell me something in a shopping centre. I was having a long, hard day, and was wearing Indy on my front. I was enjoying getting out of the house with her, and we were in our own little world, talking to each other as we walked around. I heard some guy call out to me, so I turned around. He then asked me to buy something. I just said no, and kept walking. It felt liberating to refuse to do something, even something as trivial as saying no to a kid trying to do his job.

Accidental Exercise

Most people find it difficult to spend an hour of our busy, over -scheduled days exercising, when there are so many things to do all the time. Here are some methods to fit more exercise into daily life. I gained 35kgs when I fell pregnant, shooting from a size 8 to a size 18 just after my daughter Indigo was born, and haven't stepped on the scales, but I'm back to a size 10 – 12 now, so these are things that helped me.

Walk everywhere. Organise your schedule to fit it in. Allow more time for grocery shopping if you can walk down to get a few things. I carry my groceries home from the store, which is a 2km walk, which is uphill on the way home. Spending too much time inside or sitting down isn't good for humans, we didn't evolve physically with office jobs and computers in mind! While fuel prices skyrocket, a pair of decent sneakers stays at a fairly stable rate, and you cut down on medical bills long-term! 

Take the dog out - tiring it out will be good for both of you, and leave you both feeling great.

Carry a bag full of stuff to add intensity to your walks. Groceries, library books, a bottle of water, whatever. Add a pram or baby carrier, if you've got kids. I am fortunate enough to have a baby who wants to be carried everywhere she goes. She's helping me get fitter than I've ever been, even at my skinniest.

If you drive to work, park further away, take stairs instead of elevators, and feel smug when you walk next to the people on the escalators! This one gets touted around a lot, but it works.

Chores get the blood pumping and the house gets clean! If you can do the chores at maximum speed, not only will your house look amazing, but you will have extra time to do things other than going to the gym, which I find painfully boring! Have a Vacuum Frenzy, or get nude and clean the shower.

Feeling anxious? Instead of sitting around stressing, go for a quick, short run to release all your pent-up energy. Your brain will release endorphins to make you feel better! You will also get a better night's sleep, which is always a plus.

All of this combined will help you become accidentally fitter!

How do you get accidental exercise?

Being Better Than Yourself, For Your Kids

I'm sure that I'm not the only parent who is trying to fix all their problems at once. It feels natural to want to be the best role model for your children that you can be, but naturally it is also extremely difficult.

I find that it's hard to avoid being frustrated when you're lacking sleep, juggling a crying baby with...anything (they don't exactly understand, or care, that you need to clean, or sleep, or eat)

We moved from Sydney to Newcastle, about three hours' drive from where we used to live, because we found it difficult to find a rental property in Sydney where we could keep our dog, have a vegetable garden and a backyard for Indigo to play in that was slightly more affordable. At first it was isolating to move so far from friends (but a relief to get away from family - we've had quite a few dramas with our families, and other than a few individuals they have been particularly unhelpful since Indigo was born), but now we've made some new friends, and living in Newcastle is seeming like less of a punishment for not being able to afford to buy a house!

We'd really like to move back to Sydney and find somewhere in Katoomba or something, not too far from our family and friends, where we can grow veggies and keep chickens. It's a bit of a pipe dream, considering that we need to save money and get everything nice and stable so things will be good for Indigo, but it's a nice dream for sometime down the track, when we can afford to own our own mortgage.

I think I need to focus on the good things about here and now, because even though we're a bit isolated from old friends, we're making new friends too.  we have been fortunate enough to get to spend LOTS of family time together, Due to neither Dave or I being able to find work in the area  yet. Make sure when you move that you're not moving to a city with extremely high unemployment rates unless you're relocating for your job. I know I've taken time off to have a kid, which is apparently a big no-no, but I've never had problems finding work before, and it's getting ridiculous. I'm hoping that one day, I can make a living out of my writing, but until then, it'd be nice for us both to find something that gets me out of the house and gives Dave a chance to spend some one-on-one time with Indy.

Indigo at 2 months old in her rabbit hat. I can't believe she's grown so fast!

I'm also looking into going back to uni, and studying early childhood/primary teaching, mainly with the aim of understanding my own kid better. I want to know what makes little minds tick, so hopefully I can squeeze part-time study into my schedule somewhere. I'm sure all the stress and time I spend jamming productivity into small spaces of time now will pay off down the track, when I reap the benefits, but can gloss over how hard it was to get there.

I want to be a supermum, don't be hating!

Hi, I'm Beatrix, nice to meet you . 

Life is pretty awesome, but I want more.

Is there anything wrong with wanting to try to have it all?

Maybe there's something wrong with me, but now my daughter is almost ten months old, I'm looking for work because I want to earn some money to put us into a more secure financial situation. I'm trying to get back to my pre-pregnancy size 8 from a post-pregnancy size 18 (I'm a 10 - 12 now, so I'm getting there!). I'm hoping to resume studying part-time , because I want to be the best role model for her that I can be. I want to have fun with less “stuff” and more meaningful conversations and play. In short, I want it all.

Is it really not realistic to want your life to be the way you want it to be? Sure, no one's life is perfect, but let's be realistic – even if you have your ideal lifestyle, there will still be times when you feel stressed out by work, upset at not spending enough time with your baby/partner/family/friends, too busy, or too tired, but all of this comes with the parenting package. I am fortunate enough to have a supportive partner, who wants to be a stay-at-home dad, at least some of the time, which will allow me to do all the various things that I think are important to my personal health and well-being.

This is my partner, Dave. He makes music, a webcomic [under construction at the moment!], and is one of those amazing men who listens, cooks, and loves looking after our daughter.

Visualisation of what you want is a key tool to achieving the life you want. I know that the life I have planned for myself will leave me with little free time, but all my time will be filled with achieving my goals: Family, Work, Exercise, Mental Stimulation, Food, Creativity. These are my six pillars of happiness! All of these things will constantly be varying in their demands, and the aim is to keep them as balanced as possible. If I can manage this, there will be satisfaction coming from feelings of true self-worth. I like feeling like I am trying my hardest, and this is a quality I definitely want to pass on to Indigo, so I will lead by busy, positive example!

A full schedule stops me from being bored, which causes me to mooch. Mooching is a killer of passion, creativity, inspiration, conversation and energy. The less free time I have, the happier I am. This doesn't mean I don't relax, but I relax best when I plan for it! Dave, Indigo and I walk a few kilometres every day with our Basset Hound, Trilby. We take him to the beach and throw a ball around for him, and most of the time he finds kids and dogs to talk to and play with. We have a great time as a family, and it is incredibly inspiring and relaxing!

I don't think there is anything wrong with all of this. In fact, I'm sick of being told to cut myself slack. I thrive on pushing myself forward, so all these well-meaning articles I see telling people not to want to better themselves upsets me. Maybe the writer is suffering from burn-out, but there is a definite positive to being busy rather than having lots of time to relax, but not necessarily needing or wanting to do so. 

Maybe I'm a bit mad. 

What's wrong with wanting to be the best person you can be?