I may have mentioned this before, but I had never enjoyed cooking prior to having kids. Since then I have found healthy alternatives to foods that we love and of course keeping the cooking component relatively simple.
These would have to be at the top of the list of favourite snacks in our home for kids and adults alike.. it’s a matter of who gets to it first! I love just how many veggies we manage to fit into the recipe and the kids love them!
Method Cook onion & rosemary until softened. Add carrot, lentils & broccoli to the pan. Once cooked (approx 5 mins or so), take of the heat and cool slightly. Mix (we use a blender) with cheddar, breadcrumbs & most of the egg. Leave some for brushing the pastry. Spread the mixture along one side of puff pastry sheet and roll. Brush with egg & you can add sesame seeds (optional). Cut to desired size pieces and cool in the over for 20mins at 220 degrees Celsius.
Please tag me in your recreations, and hashtag #byirina_m as I’d love to see you guys enjoying them as much as we do!
The purpose of this challenge is to help train your brain, re-wire the neural pathways that will allow you to develop a mindful mindset. For me, a mindful mindset means letting go of the need to be perfect, letting go of judgement and truely witnessing the emotions we are feeling within us. When we are able to process our emotions, they have less control over our life, so essentially I’m hoping that this can help you, like it did me, take back control of your own mind and body!
The reason this is a challenge, is not because the tasks themselves are difficult, but because finding the time; and remembering to do this often is the hardest part. So I’ve challenged you all, along with myself to try and incorporate one simple mindfulness exercise everyday for the next 6 weeks.
WEEK 1: Mindful Breathing
I used to say things like I can’t meditate because I don’t know how to breathe properly.. Is that ridiculous or what? I put so much pressure on clearing my mind and forcing myself to “stop thinking” that I would avoid it altogether. What happens if we allow ourselves to have thoughts; acknowledge our thoughts without judging, labeling them as good or bad, or without trying to change or avoid them?… Acceptance!
Throughout the day, take just one minute (or 6 breath’s) to focus on some slow, deep breathing. Breathe out until your lungs are completely empty, and breathe in using your diaphragm.
It can help if you put your hand on your stomach and feel it rise as you inhale, and shrink back in size as you exhale. When thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, and try to bring your concentration back to your breath.
If your not a fan of deep breathing; there isn’t a necessity to breathe a certain way (deep diaphragm breathing just my preference) just notice your inhales & exhales however you prefer, and focus on the space in-between each breath.
This used to be my most dreaded exercise to do… but once I tried it for one week I honestly found it helped me at times when I felt anxious or was faced with challenging situations (enter toddler tantrums) and just needed a minute…
Try this for only one minute everyday this week (its a great way to start the morning or end a long busy day), you can be sitting, standing, at home, at work it really doesn’t matter. Give it a try and let me know how you go!
WEEK 2: Mindfulness in your Morning Routine
As creatures of habit, we all tend to have a routine in the morning, or a standard activity we perform such as brushing teeth, taking a shower, making breakfast and so forth. Chose one activity that you’re going to do this morning, and when you do it, pay all of your attention to the task at hand. For example: when brushing teeth, notice the temperature of the water, taste of the toothpaste, sensation of the brush on your gums, the smell, sound etc..
If you’re anything like me, your thoughts will wander to other things throughout the task (like the endless to do list for the day). Try to acknowledge those thoughts, let them drift off and return your attention to what you’re doing. Thinking about the different sensations can help you maintain the focus.
Don’t worry about the thoughts interfering as being good or bad etc. You can literally say to yourself, “I can hear these thoughts in my mind, but for now I will continue with acknowledging the sensation of the task at hand” and revert back to what you’re doing.
Try this out every morning this week with either the same or a different task each day; and notice if it gets any easier throughout the week. It seemed a bit strange to me at first, thinking about all the small and insignificant elements of a routine task, however it’s the process of retraining your mind to revert back to the present and appreciate the current moment in time (that we so rarely get to do in the chaos of our lives) that is most beneficial to us.
Let me know how you go with this activity, or tag me in a photo of you performing your morning tasks on instagram. I would love to see how these exercises are working for you!
WEEK 3: Mindfulness in Domestic Tasks
It goes without saying we all perform some kind of domestic chores daily either as part of a routine or just ad-hoc. How easy would it be to pick one task everyday this week, and use this time to create a mindful mindset. It doesn’t take any extra effort out of your day; you can literally incorporate it into something this simple.
Instead of labouring through and thinking about how long its taking to finish the task and how you’d much rather be elsewhere, make yourself aware of every step and fully immerse yourself in the process.
Take vacuuming for example. Notice the sound of the vacuum, notice the body movements required, the force you’re applying, the grip of your hand on the vacuum, the sound of the vacuum picking up bits from the floor as they trickle through the hose (it’s surprisingly satisfying…isn’t it?)
Your mind will likely wonder, especially as it’s not the most exciting thing you could be doing. In order to keep training your mind to stay focused on the task at hand, don’t get caught up in the thoughts that come to mind, acknowledge them and bring your attention back to what you’re doing.
Let me know how you’re tracking with these exercises after doing them mindfully. I’d love to see this working for you guys like it has for me!
WEEK 4: Mindful Eating
Let’s be real.. how many of us would usually eat in front of the TV, whilst scrolling through your phone or almost eating unconsciously & sometimes so quickly before your toddler either gets to it first, or demands your attention thereby requiring you to stop eating altogether and do a million and one things for them!? 🙋🏻♀️ When was the last time you actually enjoyed what you ate?
I for one, am very guilty of eating in front of the TV after a long day, or eating on the go which is often unavoidable with kids!
Take some time during at least one meal every day this week, to sit down and savour every mouthful. Taste every bite, chew your food properly and engage all the sense to fully appreciate your meal.
Eating mindfully is also a great way to monitor your diet as it encourages eating when your actually hungry, allows you to eat slower, digest your food properly by chewing it more thoroughly before swallowing, and as a result your brain will actually tell you when your full which may be a lot sooner than you would normally realise.
WEEK 5: Mindful Walking
Personally on the days that I’m not home with my little one I find myself being quite sedentary at work. Sitting and being static for long periods of time can cause all sorts of pain and discomfort… And having a back injury from a previous trauma, I know all too well the need to get up and move frequently.
This is where mindful movement can be even more beneficial. Whether you’re at home or at work, or working from home, make some time to step out and go for a brief walk. When doing so, check in with how your body feels (this is great to do before any exercise in general especially if you have any pre existing injuries). Notice how you body feels, how the soles of your feet feel as they hit the floor, and the way your bodyweight is distributed as you take each step.
Focusing on your walking is a great way to remain present in the moment, whilst helping you to reduce your overall stress and anxiety. Not to mention that seated “meditation” isn’t for everyone and sometimes you may just not be in the mood for it, so I find walking such a great alternative.
Look out for next weeks exercise!
WEEK 6: Mindful Appreciation
Gratitude is a word I’m seeing more and more these days especially on social media. It’s great to see people sharing their appreciation of their lives on social media with others.
Showing gratitude can help you remember to focus on the positive things that we are so fortunate to have which may otherwise go unnoticed.
So for the final week, I’m challenging you to note down five things that would usually go unappreciated throughout your day. This can be anything from an appreciation of your self, appreciation of a loved one who makes your heart happy, or simply anything around you that you might take for granted on any given day but makes your life so much better!
I should start by saying mindfulness is not a relaxation exercise despite what you make think.
For me, it was a way of making over my mindset, helping me stay in control of my emotions, letting go of the need to achieve perfection, coping with anxiety, managing difficult situations and allowing myself to enjoy the present moment.
I was never one for meditating in fact I’ve never been to a meditation class because the thought of sitting there and trying to stop my mind running was impossible and I knew I’d never be able to switch off. I would be that person who keeps opening their eyes to see what everyone else was doing. It wasn’t until I actually decided to practice what I preach in my work-life and downloaded a mindful meditation app and made a conscious decision to try it out for a week and see how I felt.
After a brief period of consistency, spending 3 minutes every day (usually in the evenings after I put my baby girl to sleep) trialling the mindful meditation apps I started enjoying it. I realised It was okay for my mind to run off into a different thought.. And instead of judging myself for it and being annoyed for not being able to “switch of” I started acknowledging that yes my mind wanders, and yes, I have various thoughts running through my head, but I’ll leave that thought where it is and focus back on my breathing for example..
If meditation is not for you (like it wasn’t for me) you can easy incorporate mindful practices into everyday activities. I was able to teach myself how to be present and better deal with challenging situations just by incorporating super simple techniques everyday.
I started doing this in an attempt to be a more present mum, take in and enjoy the small moments with my baby girl.. Because the days may feel long with kids at times, but the years are so short! I don’t want to feel like I missed any moments because I was too caught up in my own anxious mind, or worrying about my endless to do list.. your children wont be looking back and thinking how tidy your cupboards were growing up, they’ll be reminiscing on moments with you.
How mindfulness helps me:
Bring presence into everyday experiences
Not judging whatever is happening as being either “good” or “bad” & not judging myself
Allowing me to deal with unpleasant situations better (manage my anxiety)
Processing my emotions and focusing on thoughts that feel good
We are officially half way through 2019, and why wait any longer to start a new mindset journey. There really is no better time than the present when it comes to your mental health.
Each week we will be using really simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routine. Theres a new approach to it every week so that you can try different things and see which works best for you. This can honestly be a game changer in managing anxiety, stress and learning to control the way you respond to different environments and situations.
it about going back to work that is so anxiety provoking for so many of us?
lucky enough to be able to take an extended period of leave, as I just didn’t
feel ready to return to work when I had originally planned too. My anxiety
kicked in not only around all the changes and uncertainties in the workplace
that I was coming back to, but also around how my return to work would impact
Alessia; how she would cope with childcare; not to mention all the sicknesses
that were looming around the corner.
realised I wasn’t alone when I spoke to other new mums and noticed a trend of
concerns including but not limited to:
Have I compromised the career which I spent so long working to build?
Will my professional life have to take a backseat?
What if the person covering my maternity leave will be better at my job than I am?
Will my workplace understand my need for flexible working arrangements and allow me to work in a part time capacity?
the home front:
The challenges faced in the practical adjustment to a new routine for the entire family;
If I’m putting my all into work, will I have the energy to give my child everything he/she needs at the end of the day?
How will my child adjust to childcare or being cared for by someone other than me or my partner?
It seems like women are expected to work as though they don’t have a baby, raise a baby as though they don’t have to work and put on their lipstick and eyelashes as though they have the whole work/life balance thing sorted.
since I returned to work I felt pulled apart in every direction possible. I was
trying to find myself again as a professional working woman, whilst maintaining
my supermum role after hours.
Trying to wrangle my baby up and out of the house in the mornings, early enough to beat the traffic and make it into the office at a reasonable time;
Leaving work early enough to pick her up from childcare before she gets upset seeing the other kids leaving;
Feeling the need to prove myself at work and integrate into an almost entirely new team, whilst also trying to retain my status as a supermum who can cook a perfectly balanced dinner after a long day at work and maintain a perfectly clean and tidy household;
And finally, finding the energy at the end the day for a bit of bonding time with my baby before passing out myself.
The struggle for me was real! I reached a point where I decided I had had enough of being a martyr, and it was time to take my own advice. I wrote down a plan that allowed me to share many of the responsibilities with my partner, and started asking for / accepting help from family when I felt I needed it. I have put together some of my tips when it comes to planning for your return to work. These are based on my professional and personal experiences and I hope you find some benefit from it.
Returning to work:
Reach out to your employer 6-8 weeks before your due return to work date to confirm all of the details and let them know that your ready and looking forward to being back.
Plan your child’s care arrangements in advance. If your baby is going to be starting at a new childcare centre, or will be under the care of a nanny or grandparent, try not to leave this to the last week prior to your returning to work. Starting the transition in changing your carer arrangements a month earlier can help both you and your baby in adjusting to their new routine and environment. It can take longer than anticipated for them to settle in and the last thing you want on your first day back at work is being called to pick up your unsettled baby. Starting the new childcare arrangements in advance will also give you the peace of mind that your baby is comfortable, in good hands, and well adjusted, thereby allowing you to focus on reintegrating back into the workplace. You might also need a few days in that first month to stay home with your baby if they’ve picked up any sicknesses after their first few days (like mine did).
Develop a plan and delegate! Plan your week in advance where possible (this includes dinners, packing your babies bag for childcare, setting out a cleaning routine and finding time for yourself – let your husband / partner / family member assist you in areas where you need assistance – you don’t have to do it all! Sometimes accepting help can be the hardest thing to do, but I found when I finally allowed myself to do so, it was a huge relief and felt a bit like coming up for air.
Enjoy the new perks: That’s right mama’s, there are perks of being back at work! Whilst you will probably miss your little bundle of joy even more than you could have ever imagined, you will once again get to enjoy a peaceful stroll for your morning coffee (and drink it hot); A conversation that doesn’t revolve around breastfeeding, teething or birth stories; A trip to the bathroom without a little person running after you and climbing at your feet; And finally being able to wear white or silk or whatever item of clothing you’ve hidden at the back of your wardrobe in the fear of getting snot, milk and vomit all over it.
being a stay at home mum was one of the most rewarding and amazing things I
have ever done, It certainly had its own challenges, and that is why personally
I felt I was able to be more present and appreciate every moment with my baby
once I had started back at work part-time. In saying that, there’s no one-size
fits all plan which is guaranteed to work for everyone, so take the time to
think about your individual needs, priorities and the balance you need to enjoy
the best of both worlds.
I hope this has been helpful in assisting you to plan your return to work, and knowing that you’re not alone when it comes to feeling lost or anxious about it all.
having a baby in this day and age does not equate to career suicide… Or does
I recently came across a study which showed that having children can set a woman’s career back up to six years!
was pregnant with my first baby and planning for my leave, I was so surprised
as to how little resources and supports there are for new mothers planning for,
and returning to work after a period of parental leave. The transition from an
independent working woman –> to a full time mum –> to a working mum is
HUGE, and navigating through that change can be so daunting.
For those of you who may have read my previous blog about my
journey, you’ll know I am an Occupational Therapist and have been helping
people return to wellness and resume meaningful activities, with work being one
of them! As I was going through the
process myself not too long ago, I then realised that returning to work after
an illness or injury is not so different to mothers returning to work after
having a baby and taking a period of leave.
been out of the workforce for a lengthy period of time, you’ve been through
physical and psychological hurdles which you’re potentially still adapting to.
Your identity and most likely your priorities have changed, and you’re
de-conditioned from the 9-5 lifestyle (although really that should be
considered a strength since you’ve taken on a 24/7 on-demand P.A. job working
for the neediest boss you’ll ever have).
met so many amazing women who have found themselves through motherhood. The
journey has given them a newfound sense of confidence, and enabled them to chase their dreams.
Whether that means leaving their day job in the realisation of a new purpose, a
new role as a stay at home mum, or pursing their dreams in a side business
which they never before had the courage or opportunity to pursue. For those of
us who wish to return to the job we once loved or continue our journey in
climbing the corporate ladder it certainly also isn’t without challenges.
are there still so many uncertainties when it comes to planning for parental
What I have found is that a lot of employers are poorly prepared to assist you in planning your leave, so I have developed a guide in the hopes that It may help you in taking control and developing your own leave plan.
Before Baby arrives:
Do your research: Start with the basics by researching your companies parental leave policies. This is usually found through an online portal/intranet. If you are unable to locate it yourself, speak to a trusted co-worker or contact your HR representative to obtain a copy.
Expectation setting: Open up the communications channels and set expectations with your employer around the length of leave (both paid and/or unpaid) you are wanting to take; don’t be afraid let them know what your needs are. The earlier they are informed, the higher the chances are they will be able to accommodate you.
Develop a “stay in touch plan”. A stay in touch plan is a way to notify your employer that: a) you do want to stay in contact whilst you’re on leave, and your workplace is still important to you; and b) the way in which you prefer to be contacted. Provide them with your personal mobile and email address so that they know how to reach you whilst you’re on leave.Ask to be updated on any major changes and invited to major social events, or sign up to receive monthly newsletters they might send out etc.
SELF CARE! If you have the luxury of time between your last day of work and your looming due date, take this time to put yourself first (as this may be the last time for a while where you have the luxury in doing so). I was fortunate enough to be able to start my leave around 37 weeks which allowed me two precious weeks to myself (which at the time I didn’t even know I needed). Use this time to rest, put your feet up, read a book, watch Netflix and take in the beauty that is silence.
Limit the nesting. I did a lot of shopping & endless cleaning/organising which as we all know can be quite exhausting but I just couldn’t help myself as I was not used to sitting around with nothing to do. I would suggest that you find a happy medium between nesting, fitting in some last minute preparation for the baby and getting some much needed rest.
Organise a workplace visit. Once settled and comfortable at home with your gorgeous baby, organise a time to come into the workplace to show off your proudest new accessory. This will remind your colleagues and management that you’re still around, your still interested in maintaining your relationships and you don’t want to be forgotten.
Find your balance. Determine what working arrangements will provide you with the balance you need to feel like you’re kicking goals on both ends! You might want or need to be back at work in a full time capacity, or alternatively, if you have the financial freedom to explore part time work this might provide you with the flexibility to beat the working mum-life juggle.
I’m not going to lie, the mum guilt really peaks when you start back at work (or at least it did for me).. Seeing their sad little faces when you drop them off at childcare in the early mornings and the late pickups can be tricky to manage.
For some reason or another (enter: mum guilt) I felt this need to drop of my baby super early in the hopes that it would allow me to beat the traffic into work, and manage to get everything that I needed done early enough to leave work in time to pick her up by 3-4pm. I suppose it was the pressures of seeing other mums picking up their babies by 3pm and this was just not realistic for me. The guilt of being the first to leave the office was overwhelming and the guilt of arriving to childcare late after majority of the babies had been picked up was even worse. It was a battle inside my own head that I could not win. So I learnt to stop comparing myself to other parents out there because everyone’s circumstances are so different. I wrote down my priorities, my must haves, my non-negotiable’s, and started developing a plan of how this would work for me and my family so that I could drop the mum guilt. Somehow putting pen to paper made me feel like it was achievable, and I could find a happy medium for my circumstances by allowing myself to ask for and accept help where needed.
is finding the balance that works for YOU!
the groundwork for your maternity leave as early as possible will hopefully
allow you to focus on the most exciting new chapter yet to come: motherhood.
I hope these tips are helpful for those of you that are planning for your upcoming leave! On the flip side, planning for your return to work is equally as important. Stay tuned for Part II, my guide on a smooth transition back to work
This is my go to morning tea snack for Alessia, or a great option for a ‘breakfast on the run’. Some days she wakes up wanting breakfast immediately and does not have the patience to wait for me to make anything so these Oat Bars are a huge hit in our household! I actually enjoy these myself, I used to spend a lot buying muesli bars which contain a lot of added sugars and preservatives, so this is a great home made and super easy alternative.
Prep Time: 10mins Cook Time: 45mins
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cup rolled oats 1/2 cup wholemeal flour 3/4 cup sultanas (you can use any combination of dried fruit such as sultanas, cranberries, or apricots) 1 ripe banana mashed 1 cup milk 2 tablespoons coconut oil (softened) 1 egg (bring to room temperature before mixing with coconut oil so as not to harden the coconut oil) 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Method: Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius Mix wet and dry ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined Pour mixture into a baking tin Bake for 40-45mins or until firm
Cool, cut and enjoy 🙂
These can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days, or frozen individually.
Please tag me in your recreations, and hashtag #byirina_m as I’d love to see you guys enjoying them as much as we do!
“More, more…moreeeee’ these are the words heard one too many times before attempting to put our last book down.
Ever since Alessia was a little baby, probably towards the end of the newborn phase when I could see straight again, we have loved reading books together. Whilst she was too young to understand what the pictures meant at the time, she was able to focus on the different colours, contrasts and patterns throughout. I also found that reading nursery rhymes or singing them aloud was quite soothing and comforting for her. The entire process of cuddling up and reading together was also a beautiful bonding opportunity for my husband which I know he enjoyed after missing her all day at work (not to mention it gave me some much needed time to myself).
Reading very quickly became our favourite activity and a huge part
of our “play time” within our feed, play, sleep routine. Keeping to
this consistently really helped Alessia’s sleep which in end allowed us both to
function better throughout the day.. But that’s a topic for another time.
The best time to read with her was when she was fed and dry, so we
did this towards the end of our ‘play time’ as a way to wind down before her
next sleep. And since babies love repetition, we started with simple books that
often rhymed or had repetitive text. These are some examples:
Ten little fingers and Ten little toes by Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury
You… by Emma Dodd
Wish by Emma Dodd
Hello Baby! By Mem Fox
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
The Usborne Nursery Rhymes Picture Book
Over time we noticed that she was able to pay attention for longer
periods and became increasingly interested in grabbing things. At this stage we
explored board books (to make it easier for her to turn pages) with familiar
objects and animals. She also loved books which allowed her to interact such as
those beautiful lift the flap books. Some of our favourites included:
Noni the Pony by Alison Lester
I love my daddy and I love my mummy books by Giles Andrae & Emma Dodd
Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox & Patricia Mullins
Where is the green Sheep? By Mem Fox & Judy Horacek
A Lullaby for Little One by Dawn Casey
Our favourite Interactive books included various touch and feel books with different textures, as well as the Lift the flap books for an element of surprise (especially those with mirrors):
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see by Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle
Dear Zoo, and Oh Dear! By Rod Campbell
Where’s Mr/Mrs series of Felt Flap books by Ingela Arrhenius
More recently (towards 18 months of age), when she began talking a lot more, we looked to books that allowed her to repeat simple words or phrases. She began showing an interest in describing everything on the pages – so sometimes we don’t worry about reading the entire book, or reading out the exact text (we improvise A LOT) and just describe the images on each page.
She also really enjoys books she can relate too or those that have familiar images. For fathers day, I customized a book for daddy, and incorporated photos of them carrying out various activities together. I cannot express to you enough how much she has loved this book, most likely because of the familiarity of seeing herself, her dad and activities she does regularly.
I’m a strong believer in child-led play, and so we scatter books throughout the house, allowing her to walk over to her box of toys and pick out a book at any time if she wishes. I have definitely noticed the benefits in reading so regularly and consistently with her. Not only does she love it, but it has provided her with the tools to express herself, and she continues to show an interest in exploring different books so its definitely a path we will continue on!
A few of our ‘on repeat’
books currently include:
Peepo! By Janet & Allan Ahlberg (this has been a strong favourite for the longest time)
What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Anything with Peppa Pig in it…
I’ve recently started introducing books that might help her
understand feelings and adjust to some upcoming changes including the
transition out of her cot and into her big girl bed; along with becoming a big
sister and welcoming a new baby into the family! I’m hoping this will be
helpful, but I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes…
Mr Panda’s feelings by Steve Antony
In My Heart, A book of feelings by Jo Witek
Hello in There! A big sister’s book of waiting by Jo Witek
Princess Polly’s My Big Girl Bed.
Alessia has also really enjoyed attending ‘baby time’ or ‘story
time’ at our local library. This allows us to get out of the house because god
knows we need a change of scenery sometimes, and gives her a chance to interact
with books in a more social environment, sing songs, and learn about the
concept of borrowing and returning books.
I hope this has been helpful as to which books are useful for different stages, these are just some recommendations based on what we loved. Just remember to enjoy snuggling up together and take in the bonding time that reading brings.
There are some more great tips on reading with your babies from the raising children website.