Rhythm, Reverence and Repeat

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A few weeks ago, I was really struggling with parenting three children, two dogs, looking after the house, homeschooling, attending playgroups and managing my own work. A lot of it was because RoRo was going through a developmental stage and there were a lot of changes in his father’s work schedule. Reuben starting school took a toll on all of us. RoRo missed his big brother, who played a very important role in his morning play time. There were too many abrupt changes in our lives and toddlers often struggle with abrupt transitions.

I was exhausted, I could never keep up with appointments or schedule and was struggling to get on top of things. So I started reading and implementing rhythms into our lives. Introducing rhythm is inspired by the anthropologist Rudolf Steiner or well known as Waldorf. My husband is Waldorf educated and we have a a lot of influences and resources of Waldorf in our household. So Rhythm was not a new concept but now felt like a good time to introduce rhythm into our lives.

As soon as I introduced rhythm into our lives, I started to get more sleep or rest, RoRo was enjoying independent play for longer periods of time giving me enough time to have a cup of tea, sometimes while it is still hot. We feel a better connection which leads to better cooperation.

So what is a rhythm?

Rhythm is everywhere. Our nature works rhythmically like the sun rises and sets, the seasons change but gradually, our heart beats rhythmically, we breathe in and breathe out in a rhythm too. We, as human beings function better if transitions happen rhythmically and not abruptly. This is truer in cases of children. Children thrive on predictability and slow transition from one thing to another.

We can add rhythm in our daily lives or on a weekly basis, we can add rhythm monthly or seasonally. Introducing rhythm throughout the year is incredibly beneficial for the kids.

What is a difference between rhythm and routine?

Rhythm inspired slow transition from one activity to another whereas routine or scheduling adds stressful and abrupt jumps from one activity to another. Rhythm is influenced by our mood and sensibilities whereas scheduling is dependent on the clock.

Rhythm is calming whereas scheduling is full of anxiety and rush.

How to apply Rhythm in our lives?

One of the key things to remember – rhythm is about enjoying and living in the moment. How long the moment lasts is up to you and not the clock. So for instance, in your daily rhythm breakfast is followed by reading and reading is followed by a nature walk. When it comes to rhythm no two days will look the same.

Today breakfast might have taken a bit longer than yesterday and you may have read four books instead of two. If it is raining outside, perhaps your nature walk was very short whereas on a sunny day it might be a bit longer. Because you are not scheduling your day, it gives you the sense of freedom to do things at a natural pace.

Our Autumn Weekly Rhythm

We have a lot of mini rituals that help us transition from one thing to another. We have a morning ritual and a night ritual. And everything else fits in the middle very gently. I don’t have it written down but it is far too predictable for us now.

But I do have a weekly rhythm. I introduced a weekly rhythm to ensure that I find enough time in the day for some deep connection with my children.

Weekly rhythm is easy to introduce. Weekly rhythm basically means introducing one special activity to each day of the week. This activity can take place at any time in your day depending on how your day is flowing.

If you think about it, the days of the week make no sense to a toddler. It is a totally abstract concept. But by adding a special activity to the day it becomes more relatable and it grounds the child, thereby making the household a bit more peaceful.

Here is how our weekly rhythm currently looks like:

Monday: Baking day

We bake a cake or a bread. We sometimes bake cookies. Sometimes this happens after roughhousing with the siblings to calm down or before a long walk, so that we can enjoy the baked goodies as a snack on our return.

Tuesday: Arts & Craft

I work on tuesdays. So my mind seems preoccupied. My work is pretty physical too. So I feel very tired at the end of the shift.

A rhythm is most helpful on this day. I run my own dog walking business so I spend the afternoon walking dogs. I bring my children along with me. So when we come back home we sit down and do some art work. This activity is brilliant because Irene and RoRo can happily do this together whilst I can choose to sit with them or carry on with chores.

Wednesday: Swimming/Park

Wednesday Irene has violin lesson in the middle of the day. There is a park outside the violin teachers house. RoRo absolutely loves going to that park. It is a bit of a novelty. So wednesdays we call it park day. In the morning we go swimming. I added two things on a wedneday because currently we have taken a break from swimming. RoRo’s friend has broken his leg and it is something they do together. We will resume swimming as soon as his friend is healed.

Thursday: Allotment Group/ Stone Soup

Thursdays we go to a local cabbage patch group. It is a playgroup in an allotment as the name suggests. Two hours of outdoors play. We also make stone soup on this day. The idea of stone soup is that everybody brings in a veggie and we have a special stone we put in a pot and we make soup. RoRo and Irene pick a veggies either from the allotment or from the green grocer and we make a soup with it. More on stone soup in a separate post though.

I forgot to write down stone soup in my chart but I incorporated this into our rhythm because the allotment group is very exhausting. It is fun but it is also high intensity and there is nothing more calming and soothing than a pot of soup. It slows us right down and makes us all feel connected all over again.

Friday: Playgroup

Friday we go to another playgroup. And rest of the day is kept free because playgroups are intense. I do not like to do indoor playgroups more than once or twice in a week. I think it is important for younger children to spend a lot of time outdoors and also do activities that are earthly, spirited but not very high in intensity.

Saturday and Sundays: Family Time

We keep our weekends free. Those are the two days daddy is home and we do as he pleases.

Do you have a rhythm in your household? Let me know in the comments what do you think about rhythms.

 

 

 

Vegan Pumpkin Risotto

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This autumn is the first time that RoRo has actually noticed pumpkin and expressed a desire to eat it. My oven isn’t working very well so I couldn’t roast it but the weather was asking for something comforting and my busy schedule desired a one pot dish. We hadn’t eaten rissotto in a while. My kids couldn’t even remember what it was , so it was the perfect thing to cook.

Ingredients: (served 4 – 5)

300-400 grams of pumpkin, diced

2-3 sprig of fresh thyme

1 cup of risotto rice

5 cups of water

3 tbsp vegan stock powder

1 chopped onion

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp sugar or maple syrup (optional)

5 tbsp oil

handful of freshly chopped coriander

Method:

In a pan, heat 3 tbsp of oil and add the thyme. Let the thyme cook for a few seconds and then add in the pumpkin. Add some salt and turn the heat down and put a lid on until the pumpkin is cooked. Alternatively, you could roast it.

Once cooked, mash it up roughly with a bit of sugar. My pumpkin wasn’t quite as ripe. So I thought it needed sweetening. Remove all the sprigs of thyme at this stage.

Now in another saucepan, heat the rest of the oil. Cook the onion and the garlic until translucent. Once the onions lose its raw smell add the rice. Let the rice cook for a few seconds and then add one cup of hot water. I mixed in all the stock powder in that cup of water. Keep stirring the rice and when the water dry out, add another cup of hot water. Keep adding one cup of water at a time. By the time your fifth cup of water starts to dry out, your rice will be perfectly cooked. Soft with  bite to it. At this stage add the semi-mashed pumpkin and a handful of coriander. Stir and cook for another minute. Serve hot with some freshly baked garlic bread. We also sprinkled a good spoonful of nutritional yeast but that is optional.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Let me know in the comments below.

 

Our Morning Ritual – Gentle Waking Up

We like to ritualise as many things in our daily life as possible. It brings a sense of peace, joy and spirituality within us. Gentle waking up ritual is not only beneficial for children but also for the adults.

We all know how important it is to get a good nights sleep, but we also know the importance of waking up on the right side of bed and how it is crucial to setting the tone for our day. A lot of the times, toddlers wake up earlier than the adults. Toddlers might be jolly but the grown ups feel tired and are very unwelcoming of the joyous spirit the child wakes up with. It is a common and a natural response. But with a morning ritual, you can change your mood around.

If RoRo wakes up grumpy or scared because of a nightmare, this ritual transitions him back to the reality very gently and if RoRo wakes me up without my will, this ritual helps bring positivity within me and also helps me connect with RoRo and sets a nice gentle tone for the morning.

So here is what we do:

1. Morning Verse

I quite often sing a morning verse on repeat. It goes like this

“Good morning dear earth

Good morning dear sun

Good morning dear flowers 

and fairies, everyone

Good morning dear beats

and birds in the trees

Good morning to you

Good morning to me”

A song provides a rhythm to a child’s breathing. It helps them to stay calm and transition from one thing to another without any stress. Verses and songs really really work for us in any given situation. We have a song for everything.

While I sing this verse to RoRo, we make a trip to the toilet and we clean our teeth. We come downstairs and open the curtains. We see where the sun is rising from and appreciate the colours of the sky. We point out at the birds and the planes. We also wave at the neighbours off to work.

2. Light a candle and an incense

Next thing we do is we light an incense stick and a candle. Lighting a candle symbolises a beginning of something. We light a candle after dinner which is when we start our night time routine. And without any word, the candle speaks and informs the child that we are about to begin enjoying our morning.

I just love the smell of incense stick, it brings a lot of childhood memories back and it also comforts me and soothes me. I am hoping my children will grow up associating incense with it being a positive and happy, and a cosy feeling.

3. Reading a book

After we light the candle, I make myself a cup of tea and RoRo brings a couple of books to read. He sits on my lap with a fruit or a breakfast snack while I read to him and sip on my tea.

4. Independent Play

After reading, RoRo either carries on looking at his books on his own or brings a couple of toys to play with whilst I wake up Reuben for school and pack his lunch.

5. Breakfast

After Reuben is all dressed and ready, we sit down to eat our breakfast. Irene sometimes joins us or else we wake her up for breakfast after Reuben leaves for school.

6. Play with Irene

Once, breakfast is taken care of, Irene and RoRo go upstairs into the toy room and spend a good hour or so playing. In that time, I wash up and tidy up. I get some emails taken care of and then I get dressed.

7. Dog walks

The last activity of the morning is usually a dog walk. We go on 2 hour long walks into the woods or the beach everyday. RoRo quite often has a nap on the way back.

8. Special Activity of the day

We also have a weekly rhythm. We have a special activity for each day of the week. For instance, mondays are for baking. So on Mondays, we would bake something before dog walks and savour it after we come back. Cakes and Breads are often still quite warm on our return and make for a perfect pre-lunch or post-lunch snack.

This morning ritual has been the same since RoRo was only a baby. The predictability of how the morning is going to look like makes a toddler feel in control of his environment and he doesn’t depend on an adult for any instructions. So if you find yourself in our household in the morning, you will see our mornings are not very noisy. We don’t have to constantly say what is happening next or shout out instructions. Actions and the slow transitional movements that this morning ritual creates guides RoRo enough to do what is needed at that particular moment. Ofcourse, after the candle is lit, sometimes the routine of things flow differently. RoRo may not want to read or want a snack but simply start playing. If we are running a bit late for school run then the order of things may change but the idea that all of these things will happen is empowering. For RoRo, it really helps if he has one to one time with me (reading), one to one time with big brother (eating breakfast) and some one to one time with Irene (play time). As long as all of these things take place, order of things don’t matter so much. We try to stick to the plan though. There is always room for flexibility but it more or less looks the same.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if your mornings feel chaotic, perhaps creating a ritual will make it less stressful. Children will not ask for constant attention because they know exactly what is going to happen. Ofcourse weekends and holidays are different. But if one practices gentle waking up for a long time, waking up gently becomes second nature.

 

Mental Health Day – Post Adoption Depression

Today on World Mental Health day whilst all mothers talk about post natal depression let me introduce to you something new, something not spoken about at all and something that is so uncommon that speaking about it brings the fear of looking absolutely ridiculous and therefore be shamed for it.
Let me introduce to you what I call, ‘post adoption depression’. Post Adoption Depression, in my experience is a sort of space you reach after adopting a child where you feel very unattached, angry, sad or sometimes absolutely numb. You may feel anxiety, insecurity and loss of pride ultimately leading to depression.
Becoming a parent is bloody hard and adopting a child that you didn’t even grow in your own womb is much harder.It is especially hard when those kids were strongly bonded and close to their biological mother. Oh and when you are the girlfriend of their dad, who is dealing with a lot of emotions himself after a broken marriage is just the cherry on top.
Whilst, I drank my sorrows in to a bottle of rum, I tortured myself by secretly reading all of my husbands personal diaries, I even tried to cut myself….and guess what? No one, not even my loving husband knew about any of that. Everybody including my in laws would call and check in on my husband and their grandchildren. No body ever asked how was I holding up?
They all labeled me , ‘brave’, ‘god sent’ ‘angel’, thereby closing all doors to communication and it took away my freedom to speak up and ask for help.
Today I speak about it because like me there must be a lot of step mothers or adoptive parents who may struggle but wouldn’t know what it is …they may think something is wrong with them….i don’t know if like PND there is a chemical reaction in our body, if hormones act out. There is not much information out there about this, but all I know is, it is possible and everybody who knows a new parent biological or not, must check on them and offer support just like you would to a new biological parent.
I never suffered post natal depression but I post-adoption depression was a killer. It took me 8 years to feel like myself, it took me 8 years to speak up and to tell my husband how I felt. I feel content and within my own body all over again. For my husband, knowing and realising that I went through all of that has changed his perspective and his support towards my mental health has helped me so much that I can now own parenthood with pride. I don’t even feel the anger I felt for all around me for not noticing me. I don’t feel ashamed about speaking up and I urge for you to speak about your struggles too. Sometimes, people need to be told explicitly that you need support.

Vegan Apple & Cinnamon Cake

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When I was not vegan, I used to bake a lot. I was actually a very good baker of cakes and bread, particularly Apple Cake. It all went pear shaped since going vegan. My cakes have been, hit and miss.

Yesterday when somebody put up a recipe of a “no egg” cake, I had hope. I thought, I could easily replace the dairy and turn this recipe vegan but when I looked at the ingredients I lost all faith. It had no rising agent or binding agent in the list. And I did not fancy a stodgy plate of cake.

Anyhow, the recipe inspired me enough to make one of my own. I was having a nurturing and slow day with my toddler at home. And what better way to nurture a child than to bake. We had been apple picking at the weekend, so there was no problem in the apple supply department. So we began experimenting with a new recipe. And guess what it couldn’t be perfected any more. I am assertive!

And when good things happen to me, I like to share them. So here is the recipe. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! Trust me!!

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Ingredients:

2 Apples (one sliced length wise, one chopped into bite sized pieces)

1 tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 5 to 6 tbsp of warm water.

1 1/5 cup of plain white flour

1 cup of demarara or brown sugar (I put a little less because we don’t like it too sweet)

1/2 cup of coconut or any oil of choice

1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/4 tsp of bicarb

1/8 tsp of salt

1/2 cup of almond milk or any other of your choice

a few drops or a tsp of vanilla extract/paste/bean; anything or nothing is fine too

2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 to 4 tbsp of soy yogurt or any yogurt of choice

Method:

Preheat the oven at 160 degrees (Celsius). Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl nicely with a wooden spoon.

Then add all the wet ingredients along with the chopped apples, and combine together.

Spray the baking tin with some oil, pour in the cake batter, level it well. Now start placing the sliced apples lengthwise along the edges slowly filling in the middle to resemble some sort of circle or a spiral if you may.

Now, I added a tbsp of sugar on top of the apples to caramelise them but it is seriously optional.

Bake it in the oven for about 35 mins and check by piercing a skewer. Cook until the skewer comes out clean. Take it out, cool down the cake and serve. (Don’t forget to take a picture).

Going apple picking for this recipe is not compulsory but if it is autumn where you are, try and go apple picking with your fam-jam. It is great fun. Hope you enjoy it and let me know in the comments if you like it.