Category Archives: anxiety

As easy 1.2.3 cake

How to survive your baby’s first birthday party

My nerves have never survived a party.

Birthdays, babyshowers, farewells…. whatever the occasion, I find myself wound up tighter than a two dollar watch.

My parents, bless them, are great entertainers and have covered the vast majority of my birthday milestones with aplomb. But when I ventured forth into the big bad world of adulthood I realised something was wrong with the “hostess with the mostess” scenario inflicted upon me. It left little room for failure in my anxious mind.

I used to have one fail-safe way to survive my own parties. I would drink my way through them.

But that tactic doesn’t really work when it comes to your children’s birthday parties, now does it? 

I used to think baby parties would be a piece of cake (pun intended) compared to adult ones. But when I actually started attending these parties I realised I was a whole bucketload of wrong. I was way, way out of my league.

My daughter’s second birthday was a stand out, Oscar-worthy “worst party experience of the year” moment for me.  I ruined two batches of cake before I finally gave in and bought packet mix, furiously trying to finish off the cake ahead of the guests’ arrival. If my neighbour had not literally rescued me at the 11th hour, I’d have been a crying mess on the floor, covered in flour and threatening to slit my wrists with the nozzle of a piping bag. (I don’t know if I ever truly thanked you for saving my life, Gemma?). 

2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!
2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!

I was a wreck when my guests left that day and vowed “never again”… Only to have another party for her 3rd birthday, this time with a six week old baby in tow.

(Yes, at this point you can officially call me an idiot.)

Maybe all you awesome mums out there can do the cooking, baking, cleaning, gift wrapping, music sorting, and game inventing for your children’s birthday parties with no sweat, one hand behind your back, and the other wrapped around a margharita. Or maybe you just have more help on hand than I do. Alls I know is that I throw a lousy party, and I think this – along with driving and making phone calls – must be one of my biggest anxiety inducing events.

So, having just thrown the first successful birthday party of my life for my son, I have learned a few tips that some other anxious mothers out there may find useful.

HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR BABY’S FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY 
1) Don’t throw  a party. This year, I had the best non-party party ever. I “surprised” my neighbours on the day of his birthday, inviting them to the local park with their kiddies for cake that afternoon. That’s it. There were no invitations, just a chat across the driveways. We supplied cake, one balloon, and free entertainment (my energetic 4 year old). Maybe you think that’s tight of us?  I think it’s perfect. A run outdoors for the kids, a bit of a sugar-fix, then home in time for tea. Winner.

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2) If there must be cake, make peace with packet mix. There are two rules to cake. First, make it the day before. Second, use packet mix. Freeze it. The Australian Womens’ Weekly birthday cakebook, ahem, BIBLE, says it’s OK to use packet mix. It actually says that. So no guilt required!

As easy 1.2.3 cake
As easy 1.2.3 cake

3) Get out of the house – Host your party anywhere except your house. Even your local prison yard’s exercise park is probably going to be less trying on your nerves than hosting it at home… Forget cleaning to the point of madness, and go out and soak up the fresh air. Ain’t no one going to judge you if there’s a spot of dirt on a playground picnic table!

4) Buy your kid a gift. One gift. When my daughter was born, we weren’t in a great financial situation. I looked at beautiful toys (and pined for those soft, flat koalas you see in every inner city Sydney suburban home) and knew I couldn’t buy them for her. I was very grateful for the generosity of the gifts she received from others, but was truly unable to buy a “wow” present from myself. It’s only in hindsight that I realise it doesn’t matter. It does not mean you love your child any less. They’ll never remember anyway. So this year I gave my son a letter. I posted it to him, and it will remain sealed for decades to come until I finally decide for him to have it. The card, and postage, cost me a whopping $6.50 and I am sure he’ll cherish it when he’s old enough to appreciate it.

5) Avoid Instagram like the plague. Pinterest too. These sites will only have you obsessing over the exact shade of bunting to coordinate with your cake-pop icing and sooner or later you’ll collapse with exhaustion. Or…. if you’re like me, these sites will just make you feel like a complete and utter party-cripple.

Follow my steps above and you’ll have a ball!

I didn’t even NEED alcohol to cope!!

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Introducing affirmations for my anxious preschooler

It’s probably no surprise that I’m anxious about my daughter being anxious.

From the varied media that I’ve consumed on the subject matter, the common consensus seems to be that my children are more likely to suffer anxiety compared to the norm. If it  doesn’t slip through via genetics, then they will probably pick it up through learned behaviour anyway. Great. 

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I’ll admit, I’ve been watching her like a hawk over the years, keen to pick up on any telltale anxious-child signs. I have heard all my life that the sooner you pick up on it, the easier the management, so I’m watching vigilantly (ok, so maybe somewhat neurotically. Go figure).

I’ve noticed my daughter is quick to say “I can’t” and give up when she can’t do something perfectly. (These two words are probably the most common words that go around inside my anxious brain alongside “not possible”, and “never”). Uh oh – is this a warning of things to come with my daughter?

She also tells me she feels shy. While I’m super impressed by her emotional intelligence, I do worry about her shyness at times because I fear she experiences anxiety alongside this shyness. In new situations involving other children she will often tell me “no one likes me, mummy”. Maybe I’m being paranoid but these words seem more significant than “typical three year old stuff”.  Uh oh. I think she is already worried about what other people think of her.

Noticing these things about her, I’ve decided to add two anxiety-busting tools into our bedtime routine. Tools she has started to absolutely love, without knowing my hidden agenda. Sure, they might be a bit new-age, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to fighting anxious thoughts and building firm foundations in terms of self-esteem.

(1) I’m happy for…

This “game” is basically a gratitude list. I demonstrated how to do it for a few nights, but after that she took to it with gusto! It’s not so much about what she is saying, but THAT she is saying it. It’s a subtle reminder before she goes to bed of the many positive things in her day. It puts her into a calm and happy frame of mind before sleep. And hey, if she is happy for “our big garage” and that “she touched a lizard!” then that’s just grand! (I love having a window into the inner workings of her mind when we do this game!)

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(2) The repeat game

I start with some basics, as she repeats her name, her age, where she lives. I then launch into some positive self-worth stuff – easy affirmations for preschoolers. It sounds like this:

You’re great at somersaults.

You are an excellent soup maker.  

You love cuddling your baby brother.

It’s funny, but she always calls me to task on any affirmations that are inauthentic. Her corrections are beautiful and evidence of self-awareness. “No mummy, I don’t love cuddling my brother. I love kissing him. On his tummy. Not on his eyes though”. (Ok, good to know then!)

I always include the famous lines from The Help somewhere within our ritual:

These are some of the most powerful words I’ve ever heard, and I think they’re so important for our daughters.

I must admit that I also tell her she is beautiful as part of these affirmations, but I stress that being a beautiful isn’t as important as being nice. I incorporated this lesson after feeling irrationally upset when my daughter casually mentioned she wanted to be Elsa because she was the prettiest one (of all the princesses). I wanted to get into that brain of hers nice’n’early and tell her about what really matters!

These affirmations and gratitude lists are now every bit as important in our bedtime routine as the book reading and song-singing, and I hope they are doing some good in terms of creating a calm, happy, and healthy three year old mind.

I might not be able to prevent anxiety in her life, but I will do my absolute darnedest to help her manage it!

Do you do any affirmations or meditation with your kids? Tell me about it! 

Actually, quinoa porridge doesn't look so bad! Source taste.com.au

Heal thy family’s gut – my ambitious plans to cut out wheat, dairy, gluten and sugar.

I’ve been on many a diet before, but this is the first time I’ve embarked on one where the goal hasn’t been to lose weight. This time, I’m in it for the kids. For their welfare, as much as my own. I’ve been hearing rave reviews about the “Heal Your Gut” craze, which treats food as medicine and proports to help ease things like auto-immune diseases, food allergies, and – of particular appeal to me – anxiety.

Lee Holmes, www.superchargedfood.com
Lee Holmes, www.superchargedfood.com

I’m on a mission to manage my anxiety medication-free. I don’t know if it’s possible yet, but I have to experiment before I will know for sure. So here I am – about to radically change the current eating regime of myself, my partner, our three year old and new baby. Why I’m doing this so close to the Christmas period is just plain daft, but I’m not going to leave it until the New Year’s resolution stage incase I talk myself out of it!

So what does a good-gut-health diet look like? Let me break it down for you. It looks awesome!! If you don’t like wheat, dairy, gluten, or sugar that is.

And if you never buy artificial or processed foods.

My family eats lots of fruit, protein and vegetables,  but we also gorge ourselves on dairy (hellooooo – we have a three year old!) and gluten (yup, the three year old again with a love of pasta that rivals her love of Elsa).

I don’t know what’s going to be harder. Listening to my tummy grumbling for the first few weeks, or putting up with my daughter’s tantrums as she fails to believe me when when I PROMISE her that quinoa porridge is more yummy than cupcakes.

(Seriously though – what I am I going to bribe her with when sugar is off-the-cards?) 

Anyhoo – eye on the prize, right. I want a healthier, happier, more mentally-stable life and I have to work to create it. There’s no arguing with the science anymore. I used to work at the University of Sydney where I was blessed to have access to some of the world’s smartest people at my fingertips. Like this bloke, Professor Stephen Simpson. He’s a big believer that good health (and this includes good mental health) begins with the teeny tiny microbiota in our gut. And all around the world, researchers are agreeing with him. It would seem that a leaky gut can be the root of many a health problem, as it lets toxins and particles into our  bloodstream that our body tries to “fight” (read about it here and here), but all is not lost… We can repair our gut through what we eat. Wahoo!  The irrefutable science is giving me the confidence to start this program – no matter how daunting it may seem.

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Prof Stephen Simpson – Academic Director, Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney

It’s day two of the new regime and I’ve already hit some stumbling blocks. I didn’t realise that my gluten-free bread had a list of ingredients greater than Kim Kardashian’s twitter following. Rule number 1 – do not get fooled by ‘healthy’ packaging. Damn you advertising industry…DAMN YOU.

I hastily rustled up some eggs and grilled mushrooms to feed us all in lieu of said bread. I don’t think my daughter clocked that her peanut butter toast was off the menu this morning, but I wonder just how long it will take?

I also forgot that I probably shouldn’t be eating canned food, but thought because my tuna was in oil I’d be ok. Wrong again. It was canned in sunflower oil. Oops. Not extra virgin olive oil (or better yet, the wonder of wonder oils, Coconut oil). Never mind, I ate it anyway knowing I can’t be perfect on this regime. The modern world, with its processed, chemical-laden food is against me and it’s going to be hard to be perfect 100% of the time. Even Lee Holmes would agree with me on that one. I just have to do my best.

So here I am, soaking walnuts (don’t ask!) and doing more and more research on gut-friendly recipes.

Soaking walnuts ... as you do...
Soaking walnuts … as you do…

I’m still in two minds about whether to keep my three year old drinking her full-cream milk. I have to do more research because this is going to be the singularly hardest change I will need to make in her lifestyle, and I’m not prepared to do it just yet.

Have you ever attempted to change your family’s diet? Have you tried to heal your gut and succeeded? Tell me your stories, warts and all.  (I really like these tips about gluten-free living with kids from the Finding Joy website)…..

wish me luck! 

Actually, quinoa porridge doesn't look so bad! Source taste.com.au
Actually, quinoa porridge doesn’t look so bad! Source taste.com.au