My History with Japan

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My heart is deeply connected to Japan. It’s not that I am a keen ‘Manga’ person, entranced by the sub-culture of ‘Anime’ that exists in Japan. Nor am I only besotted with the thought of the East meeting the West in one big melting pot of cultures colliding. I don’t have any Kanji (Chinese characters) tattooed on my body. I’m not a culinary artist convinced that Japanese cuisine is food in its purest form. I am not any of these things, and yet Japan is encased warmly within my heart.

An Education Begins

When we moved house from the city to the country when I was 10, I found myself in a class studying Japanese. Everyone else could read and write Hiragana and Katakana, but I knew nothing. And I didn’t like it. So I got some flash cards and as a 10 year old I taught myself the two alphabets one weekend. This was the first place that Japan started becoming a part of my life – an elementary introduction to Japanese.

In High School I continued studying Japanese. We had some less than brilliant teachers, until Year 9 when we not only had a great Australian teacher, but also had the first of a stream of Japanese assistant teachers, who were in fact, Japanese. I had actually now met a Japanese person! Or two or three. As I continued studying, my interest in Japan grew. I did well in school, despite probably not being able to have much of a conversation in Japanese. There were numerous opportunities to travel to Japan during my teen years, but I was never able to go myself.

As I graduated and began studying Podiatry at University, the opportunity to continue studying Japanese passed. I was unable to fit Japanese classes into an already hectic study schedule. This didn’t sit well but it seemed to be just the way things were.

At University, partly due to my involvement in the Christian Union, I began to have a significant interest in Missions. I wondered if this was something I could do in the future. God continued to impress upon me the need for the gospel to be proclaimed amongst the many hundreds of thousands of people groups who are yet to know Him.

After my first year of Uni my heart was not in Podiatry. Neither was my head – my brain struggled with the scientific and mathematic side of things, which was not a surprise to me at all. And so I followed my heart (and my head) and began my Arts Degree, hoping to major in Japanese. So my study of Japanese continued, but it was off to a difficult start. Despite having taken a year off from Japanese and being incredibly rusty, I had no choice but to be placed in the advanced class and I struggled my way through that first year. But I made it and was hopeful of making Japanese my major. Until I learned that you needed a certain grade to continue, and I hadn’t made it. I was unaware of this during the year, and was quite devastated when I realised my plan was not going to work! As much begging and pleading as I did, the Faculty would not be persuaded. And so it seemed that despite having lodged itself firmly in my heart, I was unable to pursue my interest in Japan and Japanese through my studies.

Although my studies had ceased in a formal way, God definitely knew what I needed to keep my interest going – people. He brought a few Japanese friends into my life and my heart was slowly, almost imperceptibly being changed. Ayako, Kazumi and Wakako have a lot to answer for! Their kindness ,fun and generosity of spirit gave me a glimpse into some of the positive aspects of the heart of Japan. And as this love for a people grew (rather than a language or idealised culture), my heart for Jesus and for seeing his Word proclaimed grew as well. But strangely enough it took me a while to join the dots – until I was faced with the decision of what to do when Uni finished. Having studied an interesting yet perhaps directionless Bachelor of Arts I had some thinking to do. And my thinking wasn’t working – I still had no thought as to what to do. So when the opportunity arose to combine my love for Jesus and my love for Japan, I accepted it with wide open arms.

An Adventure Begins

I moved to Japan for a commitment of two years only about six weeks after finishing University. I had an opportunity to work for a small Mission organisation in Japan, teaching English in various churches each week. The time had come when I was finally able to taste and see what Japan had to offer and was really about. And while I most definitely had my struggles (“What am I doing here?” thoughts about 2 hours after getting off the plane for example) it was an overwhelmingly positive time. I took to Japan like a duck taking to water. Occasionally I may have felt like I was swimming in circles and stuck in a dirty, algae covered pond, but mostly the swimming was good and the water was clear.

I only had two major episodes of culture shock. One is probably a normal experience: Picture me in a meeting with only Japanese people, trying to plan some ideas to move forward with our organisation. We’re sitting in a circle and after about an hour of quiet time to think, pray and prepare, we begin to share. I’m the last to share. As we go around the circle I begin to think that perhaps I got something wrong  – that something must definitely have been lost in translation. Everyone else had made fairly vague suggestions of what might possibly be an OK idea (their wordings), whereas I had a list of actions to plan from here on – very concrete, direct thoughts. It was at this meeting that the full strength and impact of Japan as a communal society became obvious, and where my inclinations for individualism came to the fore. I hadn’t misunderstood the language, I had misread the cultural situation. I had not waited to “feel the air”, as some Japanese have expressed this to be. I was confident in my suggestions, and was not considering if I would cause someone to lose face by having to disagree with me. I had a lot to learn! Actually, I still have quite a long way to go!

The other episode of culture shock may have just been plain old shock – I’m not sure. I had been invited to spend two days with one of my students. She was an older married lady who had no children and lived in the countryside. She and her husband had such kind hearts, and were so generous to me. But I struggled through the whole time. Culture shock is indiscriminating like that – it appears out of nowhere and sticks to you whether you like it or not. It began pretty much as soon as I arrived. A couple of other ladies from my class and I arrived together. I had not brought a gift. That was a big cultural faux pas right from the get go. And this was followed by dogs. Yes, dogs. The shock was great. Her front room, where I was staying, was full of dog memorabilia. Statues, figurines, soft toys, photos, pictures – whatever you can think of, she had it. It was, to say the least, overwhelming. And then there were the real dogs! She had two miniature poodles that were like her children. They ate at the low table with us, barked nonstop the whole time, and they kind of smelt too. But I guess they why is not so important – either way the culture shock was terrible. I wanted to be gracious and thankful to all they were doing for me, but this nasty thing clinging onto me made it a real struggle.

Anyway! Other than that, I had a pretty easy cultural transition. There were moments of loneliness, frustration and struggle, but those things can happen anywhere. God used the two years that I was away to grow deeply within me a love and a passion for Japan and the Japanese people. So much so that I really wanted to stay and not come back after my two years there. But some wise friends from my church at the time encouraged me to come back, get some perspective and perhaps prepare a little more if I wanted to stay longer. I somewhat reluctantly took their advice, knowing that it was the right thing to do. I had a plan to do a year of study at Bible College, and then head back to Japan as soon as possible after that. And while I did do my one year of study, and still intend to go back as soon as possible, it was five years ago that I returned. So sometimes plans can look differently to what we expect, while still being faithful to the Lord.

I will stop there for now, with another post in about a month continuing from when I got back to Australia, to my (current) plans for the future. Thank you for reading a part of my story, a journey into Mission and a record of the way that God has been working in this particular way in my life.

 

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My Own Beautiful Love Story: A Marriage From A Friendship

Happiness!

My husband and I knew each other for about 6 years before we got married. For probably 4 of those years we were really good friends. Not the kind of friends hoping for more, or just waiting to start a relationship. We were just good friends. We saw each other at Uni, hung out with the same friends, traveled on mission trips together, were in Bible studies together, and enjoyed catching up here and there. But one of the moments of our friendship that I treasure (albeit a long moment) was over the time that I lived overseas. We emailed at least monthly – more often fortnightly –  for two years. Those emails were often long, sincere and encouraging. And still just as friends.

On our first Wedding Anniversary, I had the ingenious idea to compile all of our emails over that time into a bound book. You know, year #1 about paper and all, I thought that would be pretty cool. Paul loved it. And I loved it when he handed me the exact same gift. I am not kidding. Somehow, we had both thought of the same, somewhat abstract gift and secretly made it and gave it to each other without having a clue about the other persons identical idea. We laughed. And we read. It worked out really well, as we had each included some emails that the other didn’t have, so when you read them side by side, there is a very comprehensive record of our correspondence.

Today, as I hunted for some Superannuation details in a box in a cupboard, I stumbled upon our books. I pulled them out and read through them. What precious memories. And I couldn’t quite believe the things I was reading. We wrote about relationships – who we had crushes on, who we were dating, how we were feeling post-dating. We wrote about Jesus – the passion for the gospel that we shared, but looked very differently as I lived and served in Japan, and as he worked in a secular, financial, government area. We wrote about the future, and the dreams and hopes we had. We joked together. We encouraged each other about the greatness of the God we both shared a relationship with. We wrote about challenges we both faced. And more.

As I read through those emails, with some passing of time and changing of circumstances, clarity descended. We were fundamentally passionate about the same things. We shared the same desire to see Jesus proclaimed wherever we were. We helped one another to focus on Jesus when others things threatened to consume. We laughed, joked and enjoyed one another. We were good friends to one another – speaking hard words in love when necessary, keeping in touch well, catching up and visiting when possible. We appreciated one another.

And it’s these things that haven’t changed. And it’s because of these things that we enjoy a special, meaningful relationship as husband and wife. We have the same passion. We keep Jesus as our focus. We help each other when that is threatened. We have fun together. We are friends. We speak lovingly, even when the topic is difficult. We touch base, and connect with each other. We value and appreciate each other. We are by no means perfect, and fail at these things at times (too often). But with a foundation of friendship, our marriage is a gift from God. It is a beautiful love story that only God Himself could have orchestrated. Neither of us would have believed it all of those years ago, and I certainly hope that we can look forward to what God will do next. Because He certainly does some wonderful things.

The 19 Month Age Gap

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Poor sick Pippa in this photo. I was so glad to find one of the ever elusive double seat trolleys!!

As Pippa gets closer and closer to walking, as she and Heidi begin to ‘play’ more together, as the threat of constant danger from Heidi squashing her decreases, and as they clearly enjoy each others company more and more, I am so glad that these two girls are close in age. Heidi was 19 months and 2 days old when Pippa came into the world. It’s not super close, but I think it’s definitely close enough for us.

Age gaps between children can, of course, be viewed differently from one person to the next. Whether that is due to life circumstances, ones own experiences as a child, the ‘ease’ of a particular baby when thinking of the next, we each have formed our own thoughts, ideas and opinions as to what is best for our own family. And even then, things don’t always go to plan anyway! Our lovely gap was relatively planned (which really is only thanks to God, because He is the one who brings all of these things together), and I saw positives from day one, and am now beginning to see some more lovely benefits. Here are some of them:

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No huge issues with jealousy/rivalry

Various Maternal Child Health Nurses (MCHN) mentioned that the age under 2 and over 3 is the best time to introduce a new sibling. This is largely due to sibling jealousy being at its peak in what is commonly known as ‘the terrible twos’. Our experience of Heidi being only 19 months when Pippa was born was largely jealousy free – or so we could tell! Heidi was mostly just excited about the new baby, and was affectionate and interested from the beginning.

Of course, as Heidi has grown, and continues to assert her independence and push boundaries in a normal, healthy, two year old way, we are mindful that we give her the attention she needs (a lot!), and encourage a kind, loving, fun relationship between the two girls. Rather than a relationship marked by comparison, competition and rivalry – all of which can occur much more easily than you would think! That innocent comment that so easily slips out, of “Look! Your sister can do it…” might come from a mostly innocent place, but can quite be detrimental in the long run. And so we keep trying!

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They like playing with similar toys

We didn’t have to buy new things for Pippa, or dig toys out of deep, dark storage boxes for Pippa. Sure, we had to move some around, take away some little bits-and-pieces toys, but overall Teddies & Dollies, blocks and musical toys, they are winning toys for both girls. Which means less financial waste on two sets of quite different toys, less mess (although I don’t feel that so much!), and more ways for the girls to interact well with each other. What’s that Heidi? You want to build a tower for Pippa to knock down? What a great idea!! And so on…

 

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They are able to entertain each other 

This is only a relatively new thing, and one that still needs to be fairly closely monitored, but if the girls are in the same room, just the two of them (picture me about half a metre away in the kitchen spying on them), they can actually interact with each other in a way that actually looks like play! Pippa will follow Heidi around the house, at Heidi’s “Come on Pippa!” We can put a CD on, and break out the dance moves together. Pippa’s trademark move of shaking her head like a vigorous ‘No!’ sees us all follow suit in a crazy family dance party. Heidi’s dinosaurs have two people to bring them to life, even if mostly Pippa just chews on Steggy. It’s all so beautiful to watch.

I don’t mean to gloss over the very obvious difficulties and challenges of having two kids close in age. But today I just wanted to reflect on the a few of the positive aspects that we have experienced in our family. I think we can often wish things had been different, or that we would change things if we could, but it can be helpful to stop and think of the good things sometimes.

I am one of four siblings. I have a twin brother, who I am older by 3 minutes. We always had someone around to play with as kids, and I think I was always pretty relaxed at relating to guys because of relating to my brother. My sister is 5, nearly 6 years younger than me. Growing up, I was super happy to have a sister! We shared a room for a long time, shared clothes for a little while, and enjoyed doing things together around the house. Now, although we are different, it is great having a sister a bit younger than me, as we are in quite different life stages, and it’s exciting to see what she does, and what her hopes are for the future. My youngest brother is 8.5 years younger than me, and was always (and still kind of is) like a baby brother. Our relationship was not built on irritating years driving each other mental at home, as I moved out when he was only 10. Rather, it’s one of getting to know each other better as adults, and (I think) of mutual respect and love. While we are all very different, and I don’t think any parents plan for twins straight of the rank, our gaps (or lack of gap!) all have some positive aspects to them.

And let’s face it, we don’t know any different anyway! 🙂 And even when there are significant challenges or difficulties that arise, particularly due to the spacing of us and our siblings, or our children, it is so comforting to me to know that the Lord has made it so. He gives life and breath and everything else. There is no child that is a surprise to Him. No twin-set, no single baby, no age gap that is a surprise to Him. He ordains it all. Isn’t He good?! So very good. As one of the memory verses on a Colin Buchanan CD sings, “We give thanks to you oh God, we give thanks to you! Psalm 75:1”

What are the age gaps between your children? Or perhaps between you and your siblings? And for today, what were some of the positive aspects of those gaps? What would your ‘ideal’ gap be, if it was so simple as to just plan it?

 

 

 

The Marriage Course

We love being married!

We love being married!

Paul and I have welcomed two beautiful children into the world, moved house three times, travelled to Japan four times together, been to WA, NT, ACT, NSW, VIC and SA on trips, shared only one car, studied full time and part time, worked and stayed-at-home, yet have still only been married for four years. Four years! It seems so much longer than that…in a really good way. I mention this not because it is our anniversary (no, that was a very busy day on our recent Japan trip which sadly had not a lot of celebration time worked into it), but because we are currently doing ‘The Marriage Course’.

Don’t worry, we are not in any way facing crises or difficulties that require counselling or therapy. We are very much in love and enjoy being married to one another – praise God! Our church runs the course every year as a way to nurture and strengthen marriages. People in all sorts of marriages can participate. And until now we haven’t been able to join in, as Paul always played basketball on the night of the course. As he is no longer playing, we were excited to give it a go!

The course we are doing is officially called ‘The Marriage Course’, created by Nicky and Sila Lee, and is a part of Alpha International. We have been heading out each Monday night once the girls are in bed and in the capable care of various, generous babysitting friends of ours, looking forward to some time together, delicious dessert, and time to really invest into our marriage.

Each week has a different topic, and so far we have done ‘Building Strong Foundations’, ‘The Art of Communication’ and ‘Resolving Conflict’. Overall, I have been quite impressed by the quality of the course. Each week we watch a DVD, where Nicky and Sila, along with other couples who have been interviewed, discuss the particular topic. You are given moments where the DVD is paused, where each couple talks only to each other about a particular issue, or attempts a particular exercise (listening etc). There is no group discussion about issues, and you can’t really hear the other couples talking with each other. It is definitely less corny (hokey for my American friends) than I was expecting. Nicky and Sila have a very genuine, comfortable presenting style, with warmth and laughter that I really appreciate. I have to try  not to giggle fairly often. I think that’s a good thing.

I don’t think we have come across any new, amazing information that we were completely unaware of before, but it is great to remember some things we may have forgotten, and to try and implement some of the suggestions just to see how they go. Doing our homework together has been really fun too! So far for me the two most significant things have been:

1. Remembering again the ways that Paul feels most loved by me

In the first week of the study, we are encouraged to make time for each other and to nurture each other. And how can we nurture each other if we don’t know each other? So we took a look at the things that we felt most loved by, and discussed those things with each other. We already had a fair idea about what those things were. Paul loves ‘Practical Help’, or as the Five Love Languages book describes, ‘Acts of Service’. Which in an extremely unfortunate turn of events, probably is just about the lowest for me. I am no good at this. And so enter difficulty number one.

Every day I want to show Paul that I love and care for him in ways that mean a lot to him. It just happens that it does not come naturally to me at all, and is a struggle sometimes. OK, often. But Paul is a really very wonderful husband who encourages me, is gracious to me, and understands that most of the time I am doing my best. I don’t feel pressure from him. It’s just one of those battles with sin. It’s easy to do only what is easy and comfortable. But I want to love in a selfless, sacrificial way. A Christ-like way. But it is hard, a lot of the time. But isn’t that what marriage is? Loving each other even though it’s not easy? Committing to do our best for one another, even when we are so inclined to be ugly, mean and selfish?

So it was a good reminder for me.

2. Practicing better listening skills with one another

This has been excellent! For those of you who know Paul and I well, you won’t necessarily be surprised, but one of the unique attributes to our marriage is that we don’t suffer from that typical problem of a quiet, closed, un-talkative husband. My husband is a great communicator. Truly. It’s just that sometimes I need a bit more talking room. And through doing this course we have both realised significant ways that we can improve our listening. I need to stop “giving advice” – and I thought that was just what men did! I was wrong! When I realised that…ouch! And don’t mention interrupting. Oh boy!

Since we have both been trying to stop doing the wrong things (interrupting etc), and do some active listening skills, our interactions and conversations have really changed. Deepened. Opened up. We are learning about each other more than before. And it’s lovely.

We are by no means perfect, and we definitely don’t have everything figured out. But it is great to be investing in our marriage both for the future, but also for now. It is definitely not easy to take the time out for each other. Having two little ones means that we could just collapse in tiredness at the end of the day. But it has been worth it, even if we are tired and grumpy in the car on the way to the course! It’s a great thing to do, and if you have the chance to do it one day, I would encourage you to give it a go. Your marriage is precious, important and worth investing in.

And a big thanks to Russell and Helen who host the course at their home. The yummy desserts and lollies really help get us there some weeks!

Stay at Home Mum: Taking my own advice!

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Mummy. Mama. Mum. Mom. Mumsy. So many different words to express that one special relationship. What is it in your household? I am currently known mostly as Mummy, occasionally as Mama, and frequently (by Pippa) as Mumumumum. It’s amazing though how just one word, one concept, one relationship, can effect your life so wholly, completely and utterly. While I worked part-time when Heidi was a baby, I am currently a Stay-At-Home-Mum (SAHM) with the desire to continue being one at least until our hoped-for move overseas in maybe 18 months. It is an absolute privilege to be able to do this. Many women (millions, I’m sure) have no such option. The choice is, well, not even a choice. No work? No money. No money? No food. I am entirely aware that pretty much primarily due to being born into this wealthy country, Australia, that I have even an option here. And it is one I am truly grateful for.

This does not make it an easy task though. And it is one that has been a little challenging lately. I feel like I am going through the crazies associated with being at home with small children a lot, mostly for the first time. Considering my oldest is not quite two and a half, I feel like this is not such a bad effort. But in saying that, maybe it’s happened before and I am simply choosing to suppress and forget those feelings! Either way, it feels fresh for me right now.

I’m feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of bringing these two little people up into the world. I’m feeling underwhelmed by the prospect of another day trying to get a baby to sleep and needing to entertain a toddler. I’m feeling frustrated by my lack of enthusiasm for getting out and about. I’m bored from being home a lot. In short, it’s a conflicting time!

I spent some time thinking about the advice I would give to myself, if I was the giving advice to myself kind of girl. Here is that  advice:

Don’t be ruled by the routine. Even though babies and toddlers need to sleep and eat, try not to be controlled by their routine. You are the Mama, you make the decisions. If you need to get out of the house even though it’s in the middle of nap time, just go out anyway. You will feel better, and more able to care for the kids if you are feeling good, calm and present.
My rebuttal: But the kids’ sleep is way more important than my sanity. If they sleep they won’t notice my crazies. Until they wake up…oh…then they might notice the rubbish in the fridge and the vacuum up the tree. Hmm.

Enjoy the little joys in the day. That first wobbly moments of standing alone for a few seconds won’t happen for much longer. That tender stroke on the face and whisper of “You’re so precious Mummy” will spark a fire of affection for your toddler that can keep you going in the middle of the next tantrum. Hold onto the good moments like they are a life jacket in a stormy gale – they may just keep you afloat the next time you think you are going under.
My rebuttal: Sometimes good moments are nice, but what I really need is a 10 minute break and a hot chocolate. Oh. Maybe I could do that. Yes. Good idea me. (So here I am!)

Pray together. With the kids. Even the little ones. Remember Mel, those times when you were having a grumpy morning and you could feel those frustrations rising and your patience decreasing (why not the other way around) ?You should sit and pray with Heidi. Out loud. Thank God for her. Ask God to help.Think of the wonderful things about Heidi and thank God for them. It really helps. God really helps.
My rebuttal: But I like being grumpy. Self-pity makes me feel worse. And I love revelling in my disastrous life. It’s awesome down here. Or maybe not so much.

Have a plan. Even though you are not a naturally super organised person, it can be helpful to have just a few things roughly in place. When you might have lunch, and what you might do before lunch. Stop looking at Pinterest and feeling crap. You don’t need a perfect morning filled with crafty creations that cost a fortune and make you lose it because it’s not quite working. Say something like “Let’s draw” – with blunt pencils on crumpled paper. Or “Let’s go for a walk” – which consists of the baby being popped in the Ergo and the toddler walking about 50 metres over 20 minutes, examining each gumnut, crack and leaf on the ground. The walking part of “Let’s walk” is so insignificant it can’t even count as exercise!
My rebuttal: But I can’t be bothered. And my kids are bored which is so annoying. Oh…

Talk about it with your spouse. There is nothing like bottling up feelings, seething resentment and bubbling bitterness to make life suck. Talk, listen, specifically explain your feelings. Remember that generally guys have a harder time hearing the feelings we are saying, and not just listening for the problem. So to help him out, be clear. And then clearer. And then add some clarity. Getting it out of the system is half (if not more) of the battle.
My rebuttal: But I like Paul to walk on egg-shells around me wondering about what is wrong. Then we can snap and argue ALL the time. I love that.

So I think I may have just convinced myself to take some of my own advice. I might just have to let you know how it all goes. Next week is looking better already!

 

Sleeping Like A Baby…Finally!

Being a baby is really tough...

Being a baby is really tough…

Babies and sleep, how much sleep they have, how to get them to do it, and how long they do it for are all hot topics for parents-to-be, new parents, and weary-eyed parents. Other people also seem to be interested in babies and their sleeping habits too. A baby is often deemed a “good” baby or not in regards to how much they like to sleep. And I have to admit, a sleeping “good” baby contributes significantly to whether you feel like you are a “good” parent or not – untrue as that may be. So please join with me as I jump for joy with excitement, enthusiasm and, well, joy (!) as I announce to the world…Pippa has finally worked it out. Yes, that’s right. It only took about 8 months of practice but she now knows how to sleep. And an extension of that is, you guessed it, that now I (and Paul) can get some rest and sleep too. Mind you, it still feels like there is a possibility that it may all just change again, but here is what happened and why I am currently enjoying the benefits of a sleeping baby!

Cracking down on routine

During the Semester break, sleep was getting worse. After our tiring (yet brilliant) trip to Japan, and with Paul and I both being at home, there was not much of a routine for Pippa. We had always been fairly strict on an eating and sleeping routine with Heidi when she was a baby, and she always did sleep well, but we had let things slide a bit with Pippa. So as we headed away for some family time for 5 days at Phillip Island, we decided to really make a big effort to help Pippa sleep during the day. She generally has slept well during the day, but only when at home. She isn’t such a deep sleeper that she nods off the moment the car or pram moves. Which makes for some hard decisions: go out, have fun and Pippa misses her sleep, or stay home, be bored and at least Pippa sleeps. Up until the time away I had generally been choosing the first option. But when, as we intentionally gave Pippa solid time and opportunity to sleep, it really helped. She began having 2 naps each day of about 2 hours each. That’s a good amount of sleep! But the big change was a baby who slept in the evening!!

Evening sleep had been ever elusive

Pippa had never slept well in the evening. Prior to the recent ‘crackdown’ I could have literally counted on one hand the amount of times she had slept for longer than 30 minutes in the evening (roughly 7-10). This might not seem like a big deal, but when you are up with your toddler and baby from 7am or so everyday, and then you put said children into bed around 7pm, that evening time is precious. Time to yourself, time with your spouse, time to clean, time to relax…oh those few special hours before bed are golden. And we had been enjoying them for quite some time when it was just Heidi in the picture. And then picture all of those golden moments of blissful peace and quiet being snatched away…that’s right, go get some tissues! The first half of this year rather than enjoying that time of the night, it was the dreaded black hole of the day. Time no longer existed, life just seemed to get sucked out of me, of Paul, and Pippa just whined and cried and whinged and…you get the picture. And then it happened! Once, then twice, and then, most of the time! We found that the old adage is true.

Sleep is conducive to more sleep

When Pippa began getting good sleep during the day, she began to sleep well in the evenings. And, she also began sleeping well overnight too. As did I! I am not really sure at what age this principle ends. I am guessing there comes a point where too much sleep is just too much sleep, but for babies it seems that the idea of keeping baby awake so that they will sleep at night would be a disaster. They need sleep to sleep. And Pippa definitely proved this point!

Food and more food!

Just keep eating, just keep eating.

Just keep eating, just keep eating.

Just after we began seeing some amazing changes in the way that Pippa was sleeping, they stopped again. It had maybe been 6 nights and then she began waking up a couple of times each night, screaming and screaming. We tried letting her cry a little, but nothing helped except for a drink of milk from Mummy. We couldn’t work out what was going on. Then at our routine Maternal & Child Health Nurse appointment, the nurse noticed that Pippa hadn’t gained quite as much weight as might have been expected. She recommended more food. And then I thought about it. Yep, she was a slow eater. And we weren’t giving her enough time to eat. The next night when I really paid attention, she ate for at least an hour at dinner, and ate more than I had seen her eat before. Way more! And she began sleeping again.

So it continues

The drastically improved sleeping has continued. She sometimes wakes for milk in the evening around 9 or 10pm, but now she often sleeps from 7pm-7am. It is like we have a different baby, and it has given me new energy, new enthusiasm for life! I feel fresh and ready for the day when I wake up! Well, maybe not everyday, but definitely a whole lot more than I did before. Pippa is a happier baby, and I am a much happier Mummy/wife/human being!

Happiness!

Happiness!

My Disclaimer

In saying all of this, I am not giving specific advice but merely sharing with you what has helped my family, specific even to Pippa. She has settled into a great routine, and sleeps well consistently now, rather than consistently badly as she did before. There is often no easy solution for helping your baby to sleep, but perhaps trying a couple of the things that helped us might help you too.

Run Melbourne 10K

Me and the nearly 9 month old Pippa post race!

Me and the nearly 9 month old Pippa post race!

Last Sunday was the BIG day.

I had been nervously anticipating Race Day for a little while, and when I woke just before 7am I was considerably pleased that the original forecast for rain & hail had indeed been incorrect, as the skies greeted me with frost and sun. I ran around getting ready, and decided to only eat two pieces of toast for the fear that my usual breakfast of porridge would not sit well in my stomach during the race. I had put my clothes out the night before, pinned on my race number, even making sure I had the right underwear. I didn’t want to run around disorganised in the morning and miss my train. After breastfeeding Pippa, and saying goodbye to the family I headed off to the train station. It really was a beautiful morning, albeit cold!

I arrived at Flinders Street Station at around 8:30, and with my wave of the 10K starting around 9:30 I was fairly confident I had enough time to do the things I needed to do. First stop, like just about every other female in Australia, was the toilet. The line at the Station was huge, so I ran around and found some at Hungry Jacks. There were even lines there! The solidarity of a group of ladies, clearly in their running gear, standing at a Fast Food Restaurant toilets early on a cold winters morning was great. We smiled knowing smiles at one another, and laughed about the hunt for a toilet, and trying to avoid queues, all the while standing in one.

The next step was bag drop-off, so I headed back to Flinders Street, trying to get to Federation Square. It was so congested. Due to safety, we couldn’t simply cross the road at Flinders, but go down via an underpass and there was a terrible bottleneck. It took maybe 15 minutes simply to get over to Fed Square. I was really glad that Paul had decided to come in later with the girls and the giant double pram (which I love by the way), and would be able to miss the worst of the crowding.

After finally getting across to the bag drop off area, and convincing myself that despite the chilly temperature and icy wind, that I was not cold and didn’t need a jumper, I still had about 20 minutes or so until the race, so I had a look around the place.

I have only done a few Fun Runs – maybe 5 all together. But I think this one might have been the biggest! There were stands for all different kinds of things – charities, companies etc. There were bands playing, games happening, and the atmosphere was generally quite exciting. I tried not to get carried away in it too much, not that I could really as I was feeling increasingly nervous as the time approached.

But before heading over to the Start I made my way down briefly to the World Vision tent to say hello to some friends, who had finished the Half Marathon already (!!), and then off I went.

There were a lot of people doing the 10K (about 7,000), and so that meant that despite having 4 waves of runners, it was still very crowded. I began running with a wave and a smile to a photographer, guessing that I might not want to smile in any of the other photos! Those of you who run a bit will know that some days you step out and feel good from the start. Some days every step you take is hard, and your body seems to fight it the whole way. Unfortunately, I felt pretty rubbish the whole run. I’m not sure why – maybe I was a little hungry, hadn’t gotten enough sleep, was not hydrated enough – whatever it was, it was yuk. So I knew I wasn’t going to be making a good time. So I focused on getting it done as well as I could, and tried to have a good time.

Around the 3K mark my knees were feeling sore (sometimes happens, sometimes doesn’t), so I had a short walk break, but no longer than 30 seconds. I did this a couple of times during the run, as my knees respond well to just a little break and then I can keep on going.

The kilometres felt loooonnnngggggg. Each time we came to a distance marker I felt as though I had done double! Not knowing the course well, or ever having run that way, might have contributed to it.

Towards the end (last few K’s) I was keeping my eyes out for Paul and the girls, but wasn’t sure if I was see them. So I was super excited when I heard “Melly!” and say Paul next to the road with the girls. A big smile and a wave made my day. And as I cam back past them, Heidi was out of the pram and waving too, and that really helped me keep going. By that stage of the run I was just trying to finish and have fun. I spoke with a few people running alongside me, encouraging them to keep going, and that they were doing a great job. I would have been thrilled had someone done that to me, so just figured it would help some others along too.

As I neared the finish line (gotta love a downhill finish!) I was quite eager to stop running! I got across the line and moved on through the crowds, collected my medal and show bag, had my tag taken off my shoe, and slowly (gingerly) made my way to the World Vision tent where I had planned to meet Paul. After a little stretch (not enough!), a banana and some water, Paul found me and I chatted with some friends.

It was a great morning, and although I didn’t make the 60 minute time that I had originally hoped for, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I was happy to finish in 1:13 – a time that I can hopefully improve on one day! More importantly though, I am so proud, with the help of family and friends, to have raised over $400 for World Vision and the amazing work that they do around the world to help vulnerable and impoverished people. If I had walked the whole thing I would still be proud to have raised the money. What a joy it is to give to others!

I am also so glad to have reached my second (of two) major fitness goals for the year: To run a 10K before Pippa turns 1. Pippa is almost 9 months old, so I have beaten my deadline by 3 months! Yay! And I am happy to be an example of a healthy lifestyle to my two little girls. I love it that when I put on my running clothes Heidi says, “Mummy’s going for a run!” I am FAR from perfect, but I hope to encourage them towards an active and healthy lifestyle.

Finally, thank you for all of the support, encouragement and donations that you have given to this great cause. May we do what we can to make a difference, somehow. Thank you for giving your change to make a change.

PS. In case you were wondering, donations can be made up until the end of August…