Saturday, 17 March 2018

Turning 40

It's been so long since I posted on this blog. I've written about 6 draft posts but not published any, because I've never been back to them again to add images / edit them. Apologies for the radio silence, and hope you are all well.

Blogging in this Instagram-era is tough, we all want quick visuals and don't have the time or energy for longer articles. But I still read blogs, and I want to keep this blog active with parenting / lifestyle content as I still feel it's a great way to connect.

I'm interacting with some of you on social media, whether through Facebook groups, Instagram, or seeing you in person at my self-care events through my business The Wellness Clinic ( So it feels like I'm still in touch with my readers. I know lots of you are keeping an eye on the blog and re-reading my posts, and for that I am really grateful. You can search for all articles of a certain topic (breastfeeding / days out etc) in the search bar on the right (web version) and at the top on a mobile.

I took up roller skating for the first time since I was 20, such a buzz!
If you want to keep up with me more frequently I'm on Instagram as @thewellnessclinic, and feel free to friend request me on Facebook (Niamh O'Connell). Ok, that's the housekeeping out of the way, let's get into the real topic for discussion.

Turning 40.

It still gives me a little shock, seeing the birthday cards, hearing the phrase "Happy 40th", I have to keep reminding myself, yes, I am 40.

My parents had me in their early 20s, so I remember them turning 30, and when they turned 40 I was in college. So to me 40 has always seemed middle-aged, grown-up and yes, over the hill.

While I do feel grown-up (having an almost 10 year old child will do that to a gal), and sometimes middle-aged (getting upset when I lose my slippers), I do not feel over the hill. I still feel 28 or so in my head. I keep wondering where the last decade disappeared to.

Aged 31 (and dh at 28) with our first child

Nearly 10 years later, on my 40th

On paper I've done a lot since I was 30: had 3 children, home-schooled them, closed one business, retrained and started another, travelled a bit, learned lots of new skills (gardening, herbalism, roller-skating to name a few). But I also feel it's flown by in a haze of nappies and baby talk. I have probably only read 50 books in the last decade, compared to about 50 books per year before children. I don't think I've completely stagnated, but I have certainly changed the way I work.

Before children I worked in a linear fashion: set days per week, set hours per day. I switched off on holidays and plugged back in after a holiday. Now I've had children my work revolves around them a lot. I work when they sleep, when they're not needing me, when they're healthy, when they're otherwise occupied. I work through my holidays, being self-employed it's hard not to. I do turn off my phone / laptop one day a week, but otherwise I'm emailing and answering requests every day and night. I arrange my work around my menstrual cycle as much as possible, taking a week off client work every month or so, and working doubly productively when I am feeling energetic. I don't sit and daydream when I'm supposed to be working, I identify a task and get it done. Kids certainly teach you how to best use your limited time.

Ageing-wise I'm pretty ok with being older, though I did pull out a grey hair I found on my head a couple of weeks ago. I'm ok with the wrinkles and keep reminding myself ageing is a privilege, while half-heartedly looking up face yoga to keep myself looking young! For now I'm happy with how make-up works and I don't have the impulse to go working out my face more than I have to, but a natural facelift is definitely on my agenda. I bought Eva Fraser's book when I was 19 and have still not opened it, but will probably do so in the next few years.

Brain-wise though my short-term memory is shot to bits (don't ask me what I did yesterday, every day is so full and the days fly by so quickly, I have to check my phone's photo gallery or my work diary to remember what I got up to) I'm still as eager as ever to learn new things. I attend lectures, do online courses and have taken up a full-contact sport in the last few months. My youngest child is 2.5 years old so I have a bit more physical freedom, and I can get away for a day or a night if I want/need to.

In terms of celebrating my 40th, rather than the pressure of a big party (which would actually be my idea of hell - the pressure! the expense! the social anxiety! the planning!) I'm having lots of smaller celebrations and treating myself a lot this year. It started with a solo overnight trip to London to catch a friend's gig in February. 36 hours of solitude, apart from the night out, bliss after nursing sick kids the 2 weeks previous. I window shopped, walked, ate, relaxed and generally had a ball, plus my first full night's sleep in a decade. Guys, I slept like the dead. It was amazing! I have a blog post coming on how little I packed for the trip. I was pretty chuffed with my minimalism so want to share that!

Solo brunch in my birthday week

Last week I had a meal out with some friends and family, chatting over pizzas and prosecco, reminiscing and catching up. That was fab. Others are joining me for roller disco and drinks this weekend, and I've some more trips and treats planned for the coming months. My actual birthday was a romantic affair with my husband, and a meal with my immediate family.

Turning 40 does feel like a momentous milestone and I did have a bit of existential angst the week before the actual day. Am I ready to turn 40? Can I say goodbye to my 30s? Are they over already?! Where am I going exactly? Will the next decade go so fast? Where will I be then? I've kind of distracted myself from those big questions this week, but I do want to sit down and do some journalling about it all soon. Make some plans, set some intentions for the next decade. Check my overall goals and make sure I'm doing enough to get there. I like having long-term goals, they really help my day-to-day motivation, which is important when you're self-employed. 

My view from work the other day - you'd never know this was Dublin city centre!

I'm really enjoying my work, The Wellness Clinic is a dream job, and the people I meet are all fantastic. I'm seeing private clients for nutrition and self-care coaching, including sleep, stress and lifestyle habits. I'm working with corporate clients on wellness programmes in the workplace, running wellness programmes in schools and doing speaking engagements too. It's never been busier, but I get such a buzz from it I feel energised on my days off too. 

Ok, this has turned out longer than I expected, but it's been great to catch up. I will upload the travel article soon and have lots more to share. Drop me a line at the usual or let me know in the comments what kind of articles you'd like to see this year. 

Enjoy the bank holiday!
Nee x

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Sugar and me

Oh god, this is going to be a hard one.
This feels like admitting to a drug problem or an eating disorder. I suppose in a way it is both.

For as long as I can remember I've been addicted to sugar. Growing up in a house where a packet of Smarties was a once-a-week treat shared among the 4 of us, I craved it like nothing else. I was the one begging the school friend for a biscuit from their lunch box. I was the one collecting random coppers to buy penny sweets. I was the one who in college, my sister laughingly pointed out that when she borrowed my jacket the pockets were full of sweet wrappers. (Peanut M&Ms, Jelly Tots and Minstrels in rotation, or all at once). Sigh.

I'm ashamed and embarrassed about my addiction to sugar. Apparently if it was discovered as a "food" now it wouldn't pass the FDA's approval. It is more addictive than some class A drugs. And yet it's added to commercial baby foods (yes, read the labels, it's classed "grape juice concentrate" and a host of other "natural"-sounding names). It's in nearly every processed food we buy, including crisps. And until last week I'd resolved to a lifetime of feeding my addiction while simultaneously ignoring the issue.

I'm still in denial that I'm cutting down. I'm telling you here, but in my head I'm still telling myself this is just a short-term experiment. If I was to really state the fact that I'm working towards a sugar-free future I'd have a massive piece of cake tomorrow and forget all about it for another few months. So I'm pretending this is just theoretical, ok?

"Always have the cake", "Life is short", "Everything in moderation" are things I regularly say to my clients. I don't do cold turkey, nor self-denial and I have no willpower. So I have to cut things down so slowly, tricking my manipulative brain that it's not really happening. But two weeks ago I was eating the equivalent of a bar of chocolate a day, and sugar at every meal in some form or other.

I'm still not really sure what my diet looks like without it. So I'm working on coming up with substitutes, things to replace sugar which will still interest me without being "rabbit food". Yes I will eat salads, but I'll do so as an educational exercise, I never really crave them.

And yet a week ago, I stopped eating sugar. I still ate a little, but my whole diet changed overnight. I am suffering withdrawals, I have no energy, I'm sleeping for an hour or two every afternoon, I am fatigued. I have felt anxiety and palpitations. I've also had a flatter stomach, I fit better in my jeans and I can't crack my thumb knuckles any more (sugar causes my joints to inflame, part of my autoimmune disease).

I have started intermittent fasting too. It just felt like an instinctive thing for me. I used to justify a carb-loaded, sugary breakfast (pancakes with maple syrup, porridge with sugar and nuts, toast with jam) as I'd been breastfeeding through the night and needed the big meal on waking. Only I didn't. I started noticing I was eating but not hungry for it. So I decided to wait until I WAS hungry, which was closer to noon. I tended to eat a lot late at night right before going to sleep (yoghurt, toast, chocolate) and was then having breakfast around 9am, not giving my body much time to digest and get hungry again. So I've now cut out the late-night supper (I don't count a cup of tea) and I'm skipping breakfast, making a gap of about 15-16 hours between my evening dinner and my brunch.

You can google intermittent fasting for all the benefits, and I have to admit I thought it sounded like an excuse to skip meals / disguise an eating problem when I first read about it. But having tried it I can say it's working for me right now and I'm happy to continue as long as my body wants to. I guess when it comes around to my next period I will be too hungry in the morning NOT to have breakfast on waking, so I might eat early those days, and delay the breakfast again once my period is over. I'm not making any hard and fast rules because I don't do well with rules of any sort.

And sugar, where does that leave you? I'm determined to get back to my pre-baby weight which means losing about 7lb more. It's been over 2 years since I gave birth and I'm just DONE with making excuses. At the end of the day I was eating too much and that's why I'm not back into all my clothes yet.

This is coming at a difficult time for me as we have a family member critically ill and we are under a lot of emotional stress. My usual reaction would be to reach for the sugar, or the bread. Without that crutch I'm having to face my emotions raw, cry it out and feel the weight of grief in my chest for real. It's a tough time, but I'm determined to push on through and not take the easy route and "eat my feelings" which was my default for so many years.

I also want to eliminate the final signs of my autoimmune disease (psoriatic arthritis). When I walk my big toes crack. They always have. I thought it was normal for me. Only once did they stop cracking and it was during my second pregnancy when my diet was really "clean" for an extended period. I think I naturally went off sugar for a few months, or at least cut it down to a minimal amount. Once they stop cracking I will know the inflammation in my body has reduced and I'm at the optimal level of balance.

It's thanks to the I Quit Sugar books lent to me by a friend (but mentioned to me by another friend last year) that I've become aware just how bad my addiction was. For a week after reading them I continued to eat sugar normally, but I mentally clocked each mouthful and was really awakened to the amount I was consuming. Then last week I just seemed to stop it overnight, without really deciding to do so. I think I just went from meal to meal deciding to not choose the sugar option, and to have something else. In the last week I've still had a little chocolate, and made a batch of ginger nut cookies (and ate most of them) but there's a difference in my outlook, and I didn't feel I really NEEDED them.

I'm trying to include more fat in my diet, in the form of cheese, olive oil, eggs and yoghurt, this is a great tip to give satiety and reduce cravings. I bought a large bar of my favourite chocolate today as a movie night treat, and have only eaten half. Before I'd have had it all plus something else.

So things are 'a changin' around here. I will keep you posted. It is early days yet. Oh another big change: I'd had a stubborn deep spot on my eyebrow from about 2 months ago, it's suddenly gone. And I treated myself to a new lipstick today to celebrate, what exactly? Not a week off sugar, because I've still eaten it, but a week in a new phase, feeling finally in control of sugar and of myself.

Where are you and sugar? Please let us know,
Nee x

Friday, 14 July 2017

Home comforts: Summer Hygge

Last winter Hygge hit the headlines, this Danish concept of cosiness, and everyone was going crazy incorporating Danish winter elements to their lifestyles. We are all a bunch of copycats, aren't we?!

Well, I don't know about you, but in high summer like right now, I start singing Christmas songs and wish for cosy winter evenings with all the home comforts of the holiday season.

Don't get me wrong - I do love summer. I love going out without 20-million layers of clothes, being barefoot all day, lazing around on the grass and getting fresh air every day. I love going places on my bike, eating outdoors and walks in parks with friends. But I love the cosy season too. And a lot of what I've come to love about winter are the cosy things I enjoy at home.

So what can a gal do when it's just too warm outside for hot chocolate and wool jumpers? How can we still enjoy the feeling of home as a retreat, somewhere to recharge our batteries in the madness of this life?

I've put together a list of a few of my favourite summer home comforts which might give you ideas. Little things that make me smile, feel a bit more special, or bring me joy in some way.

Years ago when I had no children, I was a crafty soul. I sewed about a kilometre of bunting from thrifted vintage bedsheets.  Ok, not a whole kilometre, but it sure felt like it. Along with a couple of strings of cotton bunting I've bought over the years, this little collection gets pulled out for every birthday to decorate the house, taken along on our camping trips, and is now adorning our garden, brightening up the blank walls and adding colour and jollity to our outdoor space. I highly recommend investing in some bunting, or making your own. Start with simple paper bunting in plain white and see how cool that looks against a colourful backdrop, or even strung across a window.

In my cynical years I told my dh not to buy me flowers, as they are so quick to die, and to buy me chocolates instead. He's been happily obliging for nearly two decades. I would like to officially reverse this flower boycott and have some more around the house. Failing that I will buy them myself. I only have one real vase, the rest are glasses and jars, but whatever you put flowers in they will always look good. I've had less luck with houseplants, though I continue to buy and kill them at a rate of about 4 per year. I will soon be investing in some plastic plants and flowers to adorn the house, but the fresh ones will always trump plastic in terms of style.

I am growing my own herbs in a specific herb garden area of my garden this year. I used to have them in pots and dotted around the gardens front and back. Now they're all together with little paved paths between them. I love going out the kitchen door and picking some oregano for a pasta dish, some rosemary for a stew, or some lemon balm for our drinking water in summer. I am torn between wanting to cut and dry some of the abundant lemon balm, but it's about to flower and I want to attract as many bees as possible to the garden, so I'll probably leave it be. These herbs also have medicinal qualities so are dual-purpose. They definitely make me feel cosy and self-sufficient in the height of summer.

I used not to cultivate any flowers in our garden. I was so into the idea of growing our own food, I just concentrated on fruits and vegetables. But in recent years I've been gifted two rose plants (my girl is called Rose) and I really enjoy seeing them bloom. I'm keeping greenfly off them with my organic garlic spray and a toothbrush (yuck, knocking them in their dozens off the rosebuds). We planted a wisteria in an archway too, and are eagerly awaiting the year it deigns to bloom. There is an abundance of sweet violet in our gardens from the previous owners but that's about it, so in years to come I look forward to growing more and more flowers, hygge for sure.

Home cooked meals 
Even though we're not wearing jackets (most days!) and we're craving water and fresh fruit, a good home-cooked meal is still on the table most nights of the week. The slow cooker is in high rotation as we can have a great day out and then come home to a hot meal. I've been doing curries with rice, a pork stew, also pastas with pesto, pasta bakes, courgette and spaghetti fritters, baked potatoes, toasted cheese sandwiches (totally constitutes a "decent" meal in my house!) and homemade pizza. I'm trying to save a bit of money as we had got into the habit of eating out a few times a week, then our car packed up, so while we shop around for a new motor, the extra euros spent on not eating out will go towards this goddamn huge expense. We are loving slow cooker fruit crumbles with yoghurt for desserts, either made with apple or frozen plums with some berries from our garden to liven it up. Paleo crumble is totally easy too (as my dh can't have wheat or oats) so I make him a separate one using ground nuts/seeds and coconut flour or buckwheat.

Blankets and cushions
For those "child thinks it's playtime just 'cuz the sun is up but it's only 5am" mornings - I bring the baby downstairs so she doesn't wake the rest of the house, settle her in front of goddamn Peppa episodes and cuddle under a blanket to sleep on the sofa for another hour or two. One-eye will open when she gets to the end of a video, I'll blearily find another and go back to sleep. Blankets are equally important for making forts or beds outside on the grass when it's warm. And for cuddling into at night while watching Netflix and eating clandestine chocolate with the dh. We have a selection of blankets gained over the years, both large fleece baby blankets and homemade crocheted ones. So keep them out all year round guys, not just for winter!

Herbal teas
I'm in a caffeine-free phase at the moment, so I'm drinking Rooibos tea and I have a few different varieties I rotate. In the morning I like it plain (organic, Tick Tock is my fave brand for flavour) with a dash of almond milk. In the daytime if I have a sugar craving I will drink vanilla rooibos which is nicely sweet without containing any sugar. Evening times as a treat I love a rooibos chai or masala rooibos. I will make a thyme / rosemary / ginger tea if we're sick or I'm coming down with a case of the lumpy boob/threatening mastitis. The kids will have the odd cup of rooibos with a dash of honey. In general I'm not into chamomile / fruit teas, I avoid peppermint as it dries up breastmilk. I love the ritual of tea drinking and now that my eldest can fill the kettle and switch it on, half the job is done! So it may not be hot chocolate season, but hot drinks are still comforting in summer.

I've been nesting as we're staying closer to home these days. So one day last week I started painting the kitchen at 8.30am and got my fave shades of pink on the walls by early evening. Two coats. The previous day I'd filled all the little holes and cracks and now I am totally in love with the kitchen again. I have my eye on some gorgeous posters (educational AND pretty, what more do you want?!) and will get them framed so the wall stays gorgeous and Instagrammable. Very important for a mama who's a nutritionist who spends so much time in the kitchen. I've great plans for repainting my wardrobe and dresser too, just haven't started yet. I'm thinking blush pink and grey. Mouse bum, or whatever you call it.

Water dispenser
After a few goes of fermenting my own elderflower juice (never got it alcoholic - couldn't wait that long) and a botched kombucha attempt, I gave up and we now use this large jug thing for water. We have reverse osmosis filtering, which renders the water completely tasteless (I know all about the mineral-adding thingamajig, just haven't organised it yet thanks!) so we add lemon balm and it gives a lovely sweet flavour to the water. The kids can help themselves, but have discovered that you can stick your mouth under the tap and pour direct into your mouth, so I'm trying to stamp that out. I'm sick of cleaning up puddles under it. The dispenser makes water easier for the younger ones to drink and I love that they can help themselves.

Nail varnish
I bought some Rimmel 60 second nail varnishes and am rotating them for summer; pale blue, peach and an iridescent shell pink. They have surprisingly great lasting power and take only a little while to dry, though 60 seconds is pushing it. Nail varnish as I've said many a time, is one of my ways of treating myself, and when I've my nails done I always feel well groomed. I've had shellac / uv gel applied a few times but I'm not happy about all the UV exposure over time, so prefer to do it myself without the lamp.

Feeling cosy in summer can be done with the simple addition of a scarf (How 1950s does that sentence sound?!). My scarves are great for a spit ' n' polish on the kids faces, and a patterned one shows very little stains ;)  I've been living in a coral one with blue pattern on it (which my boys use as an "invisibility cloak"), and just today bought a cashmere-like blush coloured one which I fully intend to live in for the rest of the summer. Scarves can moonlight as picnic blankets, kids sunshades, wraps to keep your arms warm, hairbands, a baby blanket, a towel in a pinch... you get it. Don't be without them.

I'm not a big one for synthetic fragrances. I own one perfume (discovered on my honeymoon to New York and reminds me of it ever since) and I don't do body spray / deodorant / fabric softeners / air fresheners / pillow sprays. You get the drift. I prefer to open the windows and just wash regularly rather than overload the scents, plus they can mess with your hormones and your kid's too. But I do love the odd scented candle and have recently been gifted a room diffuser oil. I like mainly fruity in summer and spicy (cinnamon apple) in winter. Lighting a candle in the evenings gives a room a lovely homely feel, even in the height of summer. Alternatively you could go for essential oils in a burner or diffuser, or fresh flowers. Our white star jasmine is flowering at the moment on our patio, and the scent of it as you walk past is magic. I think it's really grounding to surround yourself with lively scents (including your gorgeous children's natural scents) and enjoy them mindfully as you go about your day. Stopping to smell the roses and all that.

So I hope I've given you some nice ideas for hygge in summer, please add any more ideas below in the comments.

Hope you're enjoying your summer
Nee xx

Friday, 7 July 2017

Life Lately

This week we've just had the end of "Birthday season" as I've come to term the month between early June - early July in our house.
In this month my three kids all turn a year older, my husband, my sister, two nephews, godmother and brother in law do too, and my parents celebrate their wedding anniversary.

I am pretty sentimental, the week before each kid's birthday I start thinking "this is his last Tuesday being x years old", gazing at them while they sleep, taking lots of photos and marking their heights on the doorframe. It's a killer. Though they wreck my head every day I still love them being small and cute and needing me to put on their shoes. Someday not so far away everyone will be able to get themselves a drink of water, get dressed and out the door with not too much fuss.

I'm mourning the baby years already. Our baby turned two this week. She is almost potty trained (by herself, I'm far too lazy to do that for her), she picks out her clothes in the morning, her shoes, brushes her teeth (almost), she's copying everything I do and seems to be growing up with no pauses. In contrast to my eldest, who seemed to need a nudge into every new phase of independence.

I don't know if this is a girl / boy thing, or a 3rd child / 1st child thing, but it's scary fast for me. Our girl goes for a walk pushing her own baby in a pram, "reads" books and navigates YouTube like a pro.

We are definitely done with three, and thanking our lucky stars we have them. I'm turning 40 next year (started this blog 6 years ago this September) and I am eager for the next phase of my life to kick in. I have a taster of it at the moment: working at my dream job at The Wellness Clinic (above) -,  getting time out with friends, picking up new interests, reading new books... and I know I'll have more and more time for myself in the next few years as my kids reach new levels of independence. Despite homeschooling.

Which is going great. We don't take a break for the summer, as our approach is built into our daily lives, we see learning opportunities everywhere. At the breakfast table today we were working out a maths problem as it had featured on a radio interview for example. And everyone gets involved, and everyone learns out of the same activity. Later today we had "golden time" which is a phrase borrowed from my primary school teaching years which originally meant "play what you like for a while" but in our house it means "sit quietly and read a book" and it's working! I sat with Nicholas Nickleby, the first Dickens I've read since my teenage years, my eldest sat with an Enid Blyton from my childhood and the younger boy picked The Cat in the Hat as Dr Seuss is his preferred author at the moment. The 2 year old walked around opening and closing doors, but we got a few good minutes peace and reading time after lunch.

In other news I'm on a mad DIY buzz here. I have filled in every crack in our interior walls, and have bought paint to do a kitchen wall pale pink and my wardrobe and chest of drawers pale grey and cream. I'm nesting in the hopes that some year soon I'll have a room to myself to chill out in. Instead of a book-strewn, shoe-filled den of upturned baskets and boxes, and that's AFTER the big clean-up of last week... I just want some SPACE!!!

After my talk at Mum Talks last Tuesday in Leeson Street

I'm meeting all kinds of wonderful women through work, and feeling inspired to add new strings to my bow. A research project I have considered for a while got a good start made yesterday and I'm hopeful that in a year or so I will have it finished to share with you all. I don't want to give any more details, sorry, as A. I don't want anyone to get there before me! and B. I don't want you asking me about it in case I put it on the long finger...

Lastly, I'm re-evaluating my relationship with sugar. Yes, it does require that serious a statement. I think it's safe to say I am a sugar addict. I've made all the excuses for years but I think it's time to cut back. Way, way, back. I want to get to the stage where I can take or leave it, not NEED it every day. I am a big fan of cake, and chocolate, and do try to make healthy versions to eat at home, but I still feel I eat too much sugar. Vanity too wants me to lose the last few kilos and feel as fit as I can be. Also my autoimmune disease is niggling at me and I know with less sugar it would be nonexistent. So lots of good reasons to ditch the white stuff.

I've read the I Quit Sugar books and find them inspiring on lots of levels, so they have been my catalyst for this mental shift. I don't deal well with forbidden foods or deprivation on any level, so this is a change I'm going to have to make slowly, as I did with going organic, so that I barely notice the changes I am making.

Our garden has had a makeover in the last few months. We dumped the 8 foot trampoline after 5 great years, sowed grass over the bald patch and now have a lovely lawn out the back. We planted a wisteria in an archway, laid a patio (don't you love the "we" - it was all my dh's work) and planted a herb garden. We have plans for the front garden too, which we'll get to in time. Now we are able to sit out and enjoy the garden as we'd always wanted to, with candles and visitors and long summer evenings. It's bliss.

We've been camping twice this summer and hope to go twice more. It's a great holiday with young kids, as they run wild all day, sleep all night and we can chill and chat to other adults in the evenings. The fresh air is so lovely and really appreciated when we live so close to the city centre. The worst bit of course is the packing to go, the unpacking when you get there, then the packing up again and the unpacking once home...

I could go on about other random stuff, but if I don't finish here I'll never get this published. Hope you and yours are all well and enjoying the summer so far. Let us know what you've been up to in the comments please,

Nee x

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Red string

Every time I use my small milk pan, for porridge or sterilising my moon cup, I remember:

A late night, everyone asleep but me.
Contractions moving my body, unable to lie still.
A sudden jolt of energy, remembering the last on my to-do labour list.
Downstairs in the kitchen, bare feet on the cold lino. Cutting three lengths of red cotton string.
String which held the full moon's energy, which bound the wrists of many women for mother blessings.
Red, the colour of strength, blood, fertility.
Plaiting the string into a foot-long band.
Placing it in the milk pan, between contractions making me lean over and grab the nearest support.
Boiling it for 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 minutes just to be sure.

Drying it on paper towels, putting it in a sandwich bag in the freezer.

Last thing done, free to birth now.

Upstairs for a long lonely night, just me and my baby, my baby and me.

Refusing all offers of comfort and support, wanting to do this alone.

As alone as I could do it.

The next morning between contractions, telling the bemused midwife about the alternative cord clamp in the freezer.

Her saying she had never seen it before, but she was sure we could make it work.

A party then, in the house, lots of voices, people awake, no longer just me and my baby.

Her entry into the world, witnessed by 3 others.

Her precious cord milked, the last of the blood back into her, it shown to me milky white.

The plastic bag opened, string tied once, twice, knotted so tight.

Cord cut, we were separate at once and forever.

Her lying on me, no hard cold clamp between us, just this string of strength, allowing us the maximum skin-to-skin for days.

Photos of this magic cord as it shrivelled up and died, to be lost in the bed, almost eaten by mistake by a bleary-eyed raisin-searching mama in the early hours.

To be thrown in the bin, it's use over. Not a memento, just a memory.

Baby born. First daughter after two sons. A precious gift of more female energy just when I needed it.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Adult ballet

I've returned to ballet after a gap of (-eek) 13 years!
When I left it I was the oldest, fattest and least flexible in my class of nubile school-leavers (I did a full-time dance course at the age of 26, daily ballet among other dance styles).

Not much has changed.
Though I'm no longer the oldest in my class, there is a lady who could be my mother at this particular studio, which really makes me feel ok about being 39 (-eek again!).

I haven't checked out the other dancer's flexibility / prowess yet, I was so self-involved and concentrated on remembering the steps I only had time to check out one other student.

This girl was poetry in motion, all long limbs moving perfectly, though she'd told me she was new to ballet too, maybe she did it in a past life, 'cuz in my eyes she was as good as the teacher.

Also this style is different to the ballet I studied before, subtle differences in technique. Which doesn't help when you're trying desperately to keep up and add legs, arms and head into a movement.

I'd asked to join the beginner class, because I really want to start from scratch again, but the teacher suggested beginner-intermediate, and the option to move down after a couple of classes. I like a challenge, but don't know yet if this is beyond me.

In the 8 days since the class (there was no class this week due to Paddy's day) I've been stretching and walking a lot, trying to regain my flexibility and cardio stamina. The last 9 years of babies / pregnancy / lactation plus pelvic organ prolapse and general couldn't-be-arsed-ness have really meant that my body is looking decidedly middle-aged. I want to look in the mirror and see a fit mom bod, and that is my goal this year before I turn 40. I figured if I don't do it now I never will.

Don't get me wrong, it was my birthday festival this week (yes... one day is not enough) and there was lots of cake, chocolate, take-aways, prosecco etc) so I'm not starving myself, just eating normally and upping my exercise.
I'm about 10lbs over my previous "fit" weight, and hope to get back to it slowly as I tone up. Today I walked home from town and I did a good walk yesterday, between both walks I covered nearly 11km.  If I did that once a week I'd be delighted.

I'm never going to run a marathon or even a 5k, I have no wish to be pounding pavements in the name of fitness. But show me some pink satin and a mirror and I'm all yours.

Childhood dreams still in the mix, and though I'm the mother now, I'm still allowing my inner child to follow her dreams. It's good for my head and my heart, literally and figuratively.
Are you a secret ballerina? Or a public one? Tell all please!

You're never too old to start.

Nee x

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tips for working from home

Many of you wonder-moms are juggling childcare with working from home too.
(I know many of you go out to work and someone else minds your kids for a while, and that has its own challenges, but in this post I'm talking to our sisters who work around their kids)
Like, literally, around their kids.

Maybe you paint at the kitchen table while your children eat their breakfast.
Maybe you crochet while you're in the car waiting at school gates.
Maybe you bake while they're in bed.
Maybe you write while the baby sleeps.
You step over to the laptop to check emails while your toddler watches Peppa Pig...

In my case, I type one-handed while my baby sleeps on my lap, or breastfeeds.

It's hard, right? Just as you get absorbed in a task, and actually get somewhere, somebody needs a drink, or their bum wiped, you are whooshed into the present moment and you lose your train of thought. That happens once every five minutes here.

I have learned a few tips and tricks in the last couple of years, first while studying, then while working around my children.

I've set up a new Youtube channel for The Wellness Clinic, and I'm posting some videos for female entrepreneurs, so check them out if you are considering a business. Whether a big or small one, my advice is "go for it!" if you are considering adding to your household income. You will only regret the things you didn't do, right?

So here's the first video, it's general advice about setting up your own business, and my top tips for covering all your bases as you begin your exciting journey.

The next one I made today as it struck me that how I dress really affects how I feel, and I wanted to pass that on. I don't think I could send work emails in my pjs. I just don't feel ready to face the world (even behind a screen) unless I'm looking presentable. For me that means dressed to shoes (thanks Flylady for that one!) with my hair and makeup done.

It's a big ask. And these days I'm working 7 days a week, so 7 days a week I get dressed, groomed and hit the computer or meet clients in person. I do relax until lunchtime a couple of days a week, but then I get dressed and start in on my ever-growing list of things that need doing. I'm loving it, so I'm not complaining at all, but it is a commitment.

So being dressed and feeling "ready" is key for me, and it's necessary in my line of work. Maybe yours is more casual, or you are less visible in the business, so you can do things differently. But I would suggest starting more formal, and relaxing as time goes on, as your first impressions really do count.

Here's the second video, if you like please "Like and Subscribe"!
If you have any suggestions please let me know,

Nee x