Wanderers of Mind

Before us, we have this day. This moment. And we are told, over and over, that it is in this precious moment that we find joy. We battle, most of us, with distraction, procrastination, daydreaming and, well… facebook, that keep us from the fullness of the present.

What we’re told is true – this now is what memories are made of, it is fleeting and beautiful and the only thing that is ever really our own. Its flavour is worth savouring.

But a lot of us find that difficult sometimes. We vow to try harder, do better…. to be here more.

The thing is, we are natural wanderers of mind.

Today my toddler tripped – running in circles with both hands down his pants threw him a little off balance – and despite landing somewhere soft he screamed as teething toddlers do, with rage at the insult of it. All the while my five year old HAD to tell me, right at that very moment, a remarkably long Lego related tale. The frustration of being talked over sparked a tantrum mid screaming fit – much flailing ensued – which my Lego enthused boy responded to by talking all the louder. Apparently as a parent you’re not supposed to hide in the cupboard at these times. Nor in the moments when you’re cleaning out the pantry with the kids and turn around to find said kids feeding each other between their mouths like birds do.

Life has moments of exquisite muchness and it also has moments when it’s a bit much. The scrubbing toilet moments, the kitchen dirty again moments, the folding laundry moments, the moments when you’re tired but there’s no time to be.

And it’s normal to want to wander when those things happen. Presence is effortless in the joyful times, the easy ones. The sound of laughter is grounding, a hug from someone you love holds you where you want to be… but other times, you drift a little.

Maybe we need to be more at ease with ourselves. Maybe we need to aim for presence, but acknowledge the preciousness of escape. Maybe the impossible standards we set for ourselves cause more problems for us than our wandering minds.

Perhaps we can acknowledge that life in all its beauty and madness doesn’t captivate us sometimes, and be ok with that. There is so much richness to be found in the moment – whatever that moment is – but there is richness to daydreams as well. There is connection in social media, ideas on the internet, other worlds in books.

Without the “should be’s”, we can venture there for a moment or two, then come back with a new perspective. One of gratitude for our kids or our work, our partners or homes. We might find new ideas, or the urge to question.

Wandering is inevitable, it is part of our journey, but we come back to the present so much easier if we don’t make baggage part of it.

Perhaps, instead of aiming for total presence, we should aim to create more moments that keep us here effortlessly. To infuse our days with more silliness, sing to the radio more, dance in the kitchen, add a little fun to the work we do.

I wish you a beautiful day today – a beautiful now. One that captures you easily and allows you to marvel in all that makes up your present moment… but I also wish you beautiful daydreams and escapes that bring laughter where you wouldn’t have otherwise found it.

Enjoy the journey, wanderer.

wanderer

 

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Jellybeans

There are many “wow” moments in parenthood. Sometimes they’re big ones, other times they’re beautiful bits of daily life that make you fall in love with your family just that little bit more. I had one the other day, and it was all over a packet of jellybeans.

Bodhi had been obsessed with jellybeans for a while. Obsessed in a way that a five year old does so well, with every supermarket trip spent running to the candy aisle and gazing at these mysterious sweets that he had never tasted but frequently imagined. He wanted those jellybeans with every fibre of his little being. 

Sweets are something we do very rarely, so I tried – and failed – to distract him. He asked about jellybeans several times a week, even telling me that he was dreaming about them and imagining holding them in his hand. 

Last week I found some vegan jellybeans – unhealthy enough to be sweet and colourful, but healthy enough to be free of anything artificial. He jumped up and down and cheered when I bought them, but waited patiently until a ‘junk food day’ before he could have them. 

On Monday, my wide-eyed little boy got his jellybeans. He flung himself into my arms bubbling with professions of love and clutched that packet with everything he had. His hands practically shook as he tasted the first one. His eyes closed and he sighed – they were “perfect”.

Then my boy gave me one of those wow moments.

In between savoring his jelly beans he came over to pop a few in my hand, then ran to the other side of the house to give some to daddy. Sebastian had been given four or five, and Bodhi the rest of the pile, but instead of eating his long awaited stash he looked at his brothers high chair tray with those few colourful beans and then at his own pile.

“No, that’s not fair, is it?” he said, then gathered up a handful of his precious sweets, placed them in front of his brother, and sat stroking Sebastian’s hair while he excitedly ate, saying “Here you go brother. You deserve good things.”

 After all his giving, Bodhi ended up with around a quarter of his jellybeans left. And he didn’t care. Not one bit.

After their treat Bodhi sat in the doorway to his room with Sebastian curled up on his lap, head over his heart, chubby toddler arms wrapped around his big brother.

This was my wow. Because it’s in these little moments that he shows me ‘him’. In these moments, while I still have the privilege of knowing him better than the world does I get to see who he is, and I love him all the more. 

I am blessed to have so many wows. Some are like this. Some happen at the dining room table when he announces “Every woman in the world is beautiful when she has heart love.”, or when my husband and I are grumpy at eachother and he walks up to his Dad with the courage of a lion and sticks up for his mum (even when I was probably at fault ;). Some are wows because we help eachother come back to the best of us at the times when we’re frustrated or angry or upset. Some are wows of beauty, others of rawness and trust.

Some push me, some catch me: all humble me.

Thank you jellybeans, you brought sweetness with you.

 

cuddles

 

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

 

I seem to make a lot of desserts…

I did some cooking today. A lot of ‘try and see if it works’ recipes. Some, to put it mildly, did not work. Others did, so I’m sharing those here. I’ll start with my favourite…

(all recipes in this post are gluten, dairy, soy and sugar free. The only possible exception is the museli slice/cookies recipe, as this depends on what ingredients you choose to use)

Baked Raspberry Stuffed Pear with Rice Milk Custard and Toffee Drizzle

(If you don’t like pears this recipe would work beautifully with an apple too)

For this recipe I used a red Anjou pear like this… redanjou…but any firm flesh pear would work fine. I’m listing the ingredients to make one serve, that way you can increase them for however many people you’re cooking for.

  • Remove the core from one pear and place it in a baking paper lined dish. Stuff the hole of the pear with raspberries (I used frozen ones). Bake at 180C until cooked (but still holding its shape, no need to overcook).
  • When pear is cooling prepare the custard. You want one cup of ricemilk for this. Pour almost all into a saucepan, leaving a little in the cup. To the ricemilk in the cup add a tablespoon of cornflour and a half a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Combine until smooth. If you’d like this to be sweet add a teaspoon full of honey too. Warm the milk in the pan on a low heat and as it begins to warm add the mix from the cup, stir continuously until it thickens.
  • Pour the custard into a dish and add your pear and raspberries in the middle.
  • To make the toffee you just need a little honey. I used a tablespoon, but you could use less. In a small saucepan warm the honey over very low heat, stirring as you bring it to the boil. Allow it to simmer/bubble for a couple of minutes until you see it get a slight caramel colour (careful not to burn!). Turn heat off and allow the bubbles to settle (happens very quickly) before spooning it over your pear and custard.
  • Grate a little lemon rind on top then pop it in the fridge or freezer for around 5 minutes to harden the toffee.
  • It’s lovely cool but even nicer eaten when still warm inside, which it will be at this point.

This makes a really delicious winter dessert.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Protein Dipped Almonds

Hubby loves these :)

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp cocao powder
  • 1 tbsp chocolate protein powder – vanilla would work too (I use a dairy free version)
  • 6 drops vanilla essence
  • 6 drops natural hazelnut flavour extract (there are a few of these around. This is an optional addition to the recipe. If you don’t have this but would still like the hazelnut flavour I’d suggest replacing the protein powder for a teaspoon hazelnut meal)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Warm the coconut oil to soften it a little then add other ingredients. Dip the almonds and place on a lined tray to harden in the fridge. Done <3

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(Note: These make a yummy, healthy and filling snack, but the protein powder does give the chocolate more texture. If you’d prefer a smoother choc coating and to just rely on the protein in the almonds feel free to exclude the protein powder all together :)

Mocha Protein Pancakes

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of these because they were made in a flurry of kitchen activity. That’s a shame because they looked good and tasted even better. Moist, delicious and healthy. Yum <3

(note that my measurements tend to be generous – so heap those tablespoons ;) This makes a few medium/large sized pancakes. If you want to make more just increase quantities)

  • 1 tablespoon almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons gluten free self raising flour (I use Orgran self-raising)
  • 1 egg (whole egg or egg white, up to you)
  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon dairy free protein powder (I used vanilla flavour)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  •  1/2 cup rice milk
  • 1teaspoon instant coffee (I used organic decaf) and 2 teaspoons cacao dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarb or baking powder if your choice

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix. I find gluten free flour tends to be harder to get lumps out of, so you may find a beater easier for this.

Cook on a greased pan over very low heat (like other higher protein pancakes they take a little longer to cook through and are prone to burning if the heat is too high).

Enjoy with either honey, maple syrup or if you want to be decadent mix a little honey or maple syrup with some cacao powder for a delicious sauce (you may want to warm the honey a little to soften it for this). If you want to avoid any extra sweetener some fresh banana or strawberry slices would be delicious <3

Chocolcate Museli Slice/Crunchy Museli Biscuits

This one can be either depending on how you prepare it. The ingredients that you use for this are pretty flexible, the idea is for a museli mix that you’ll enjoy. This is what I used and it worked beautifully.

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup rice flakes (I got the pure rice flakes, which are just rolled brown rice)
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice (I used dried apricot, dried apple and dried mango)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used Brazil nuts and almonds)
  • 1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey (add an extra teaspoon if you’d like it a little sweeter – I did :)

If you’re making the biscuits…

knead the mix to combine ingredients (you might be more skilled than me and able to do this with a spoon!) and press into biscuit shapes on a lined baking tray. Bake at around 150-170 until they start to brown slightly. They’ll crisp up as they cool.

If you’d like to give them a chocolate drizzle try this. It sets nicely…

  • warm a little cacao butter on the stove (depending on how much drizzle you want), and add cacao powder to taste. I added a generous teaspoon of cacao to a generous teaspoon sized piece of cacao butter. Remember that cacao butter is slightly bitter, so you’ll want to sweeten it unless you enjoy bitter chocolate. I used honey, which gave it a lovely flavour but wound up a little sticky due to the fact that honey and cacao butter separate. If you’re going to use honey as your sweetener I’d suggest a little lecithin added to emulsify :) Alternately sweeten with a little stevia or xylitol.

Drizzle this on top of the biscuits and enjoy :) I used cacao butter for this as it sets better at room temperature than coconut oil does. If you’re happy to keep your biscuits in the fridge then coconut oil would work just as well and need less sweetening.

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If you’re making the slice…

Spread your museli mix on a tray and pop it in the oven until you see it start to brown ever so slightly. This gives it a nice toasted flavour. If you’d rather it be raw it’s perfectly fine to skip this step.

Combine cacao butter (or coconut oil, up to you) with cacao powder and a sweetener of your choice then pour into a lined container or baking tray. Quantities are up to you here as it depends how much chocolate you want at the base and how dark you want it. Assume that you’re using around twice the amount of cacao butter or coconut oil than cacao powder. Add about a teaspoon of vanilla essence and whatever sweetened you choose – just remember that honey doesn’t combine as well with cacao butter so you may want to add an emulsifier or use something else.

If you don’t mind the whole slice becoming a little chocolatey then add the mix now, pressing it onto the chocolate base. If you’d rather a slight separation, chill the chocolate base for a few minutes to get it a little firmer, then press the mix on top. Slice and enjoy :)

This is best eaten fairly fresh as it has a nice crunch to it, but can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and enjoyed for several days. My five year old loved this one :)

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Happy snacking!

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More

We need to talk.

We really do. All of us. All the Mums and the Dads and the friends and the families. We need to talk to our kids, to the ones we love, the friends on Facebook that we rarely see, our neighbours and the strangers we get to know at the park.

We need to start talking about more. In between the chatter about the weather or our clothes or what we’re doing on the weekend – we need to talk beyond the conversation that fills the spaces.

Because there’s a lot going on in the world at the moment. There are bees dying in unprecedented numbers, killed by GMO’s and pesticides that are still being widely used and sold. The everyday diet that fills most of our supermarkets is contributing to huge numbers of preventable illnesses – and most of us know people who are being hurt by their habits. We are living a growing half-life captivated by electronic/social media – me too. I will humbly admit that I have a love hate relationship with my smart phone. There is both good and bad happening all around the world on a grand scale and the majority of it is not covered by the mainstream media.

There is so very much to talk about.

Around us at any moment there are people who are inspired, depressed, lonely, or filled with potential. And more often than not – we just don’t know it.

The other night my husband and I lay down together and talked. Really, really talked about all of it. All the good and the bad and the inspiring and the maddening. The stuff that people just seem not to get, or at least, not out loud. I marvel at how rarely conversations like this happen between us – all of us. Not the laying down on the bed kind, the baring the soul kind. We all have SO much to say. Don’t you get curious?

We get caught up sometimes in the political correctness of what shouldn’t be said. Don’t talk about religion, sex or politics, they say, even though these are major forces that shape our world.  It’s easier to stay on the surface, but we really can’t afford to anymore.

Right now, we really are at a turning point on this amazing planet of ours. There are enormities of environment, diet, morals, and ethics that are pivotal to the way our story will turn out. We need to start talking about them. We need to start questioning beliefs, traditions, ethics, actions and everything in between.

Our kid’s minds are forming before us – the minds that are shaping the future. What are we giving them? Are we remembering to talk about the big stuff, even when the small stuff takes less work? I forget. I bet you do too sometimes when life gets busy and in the way. But all it takes is a little. It just takes asking them questions, picking up a book for ideas if you need to. Create an open forum for their thoughts – a safe space to wonder aloud. The world needs more wondering. It needs more theories and wild ideas. It needs more rebels with causes and more of the sensitive ones who aren’t afraid to feel what others brush off.

It needs us. Right now. Today. To talk, more. Ask someone what they believe, ask them about their dreams, ask them about what makes them angry or happy or what truly excites them. Reach beyond the beer and footy talk or the housework and kids talk. It’s hard, but it’s also necessary.

The great ones in this world, the ones who have changed things and awoken others, beyond anything else, spoke from their truth, whatever it was. They talked about the big stuff even when others didn’t understand why. Their minds might not have been any greater than yours, or your husband’s or your child’s, they just stretched a little more.

After that talk with my husband I came away with a lot more to say. It woke something up in me and I wanted to roar. I almost did, then realized that roaring wasn’t the answer to anything. The world is full of loud, it’s full of opinions trying to outdo eachother – that’s not how change happens, it’s not how people wake up in the way that the world needs them to. They wake up through dialogues that spark something in them, through ideas that come at the right time, when their mind is ready to stretch a little more and perspectives are shifting. When they feel safe to ‘be’ a little more than they were a moment ago.

All it takes is a conversation to start the ripple going. So ask questions, open dialogues, don’t be afraid of stepping on toes. Just do it from a good place, a place of curiosity and openness. It may even be your perspectives that shift – and that might create a wonderful ripple indeed.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

 

Let’s be honest….

I stuffed up today. Not in any remarkable way, just in one of those everyday parenting moments that we have a tendency not to notice until we look back on them later.

I overreacted to something and snapped at Bodhi in the process. He responded with harsh words and upset. In the heat of the moment I started to get annoyed… I started to say something back… then I stopped myself. I took a breath, sat down and opened my arms to him. I did what I try to do whenever I don’t get it quite right -  I owned it. “You know what?” I said, to my red-eyed, angry boy. “I can understand why you’re feeling frustrated right now. I messed up didn’t I? I didn’t handle that well, but I’ll try to do better next time. I’m sorry.” And my boy, like he so often does in these little everyday honesties, wrapped his arms around me and said “No, that wasn’t nice. But I’ll help you do it better next time. I really love you. Mum, do you think you could help me respond nicer too?”

Sometimes I sit down at the end of a day and I reflect back on what we did. I think back on the moments that worked and the ones we didn’t, and I find that every day, every single one, has both. Along with the moments we’re proud of come the ones that we aren’t. I’m facing the fact that they’re likely to stick around. But the thing that makes some days better is when I remember to be honest with my kids – to own my little stumbles, even as I help them with theirs.

Bodhi struggles with emotional maturity at times, but when someone else lays their own struggles before him he steps up in a way that never fails to surprise me. It might be me just “needing a minute” (after intense toddler wrangling or general madness) and little hands bringing me a cold glass of water and a kiss as he slips away to build some lego, or me saying “Sorry I rushed you kids, I should have gotten us ready earlier.” and him replying “That’s ok Mum, remember you can ask me to help next time.”

An old idea lingers that for our children to respect us we need to be in control all the time. The thing is, no one is, not you, not me, and not our beautiful kids.

I want my kids to respect me not because I’m perfect or always in control, but because I’m authentic and kind. I want them to know that they can trust me to own my mistakes as much as I expect them to own theirs and that my advice means something because I’ve earned my lessons along the way.  I want them to know that their advice is just as important.

Bodhi and I talk about a lot of things together. We talk about space, dinosaurs, lego or what’s happening around the world. We skip down the street together sometimes and have ‘evil laugh’ competitions in the kitchen. But we also talk about the bits we could have done better. I want him to know that the obligatory stuff ups don’t take away from all the good that makes us who we are.

I find that when I’m a truth teller my son is more inclined to be too.

Shaming children is slowly becoming a thing of the past, but we forget that if we hold onto guilt or shame they learn to do it to themselves.

Today I have done a lot of things right. So have my kids. And we have all, at one moment or another – been jerks. That’s ok, because we’ll do it better next time. And even when we don’t quite get there, we’ll respect and love each other for trying.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The Push – a homeschooling post

(I am part of a beautiful homeschooling community that is based on mutual respect as well as a love of our kids. What I’m about to write is my opinion, yours may differ, and that’s ok. I respect you for the path you choose, and I trust that you feel the same xx)

I often hear in homeschooling circles the idea that children should never be coerced to study. That learning should only happen when, where and how, the child chooses. Tied in with this is the idea that we should never teach, only provide opportunities for learning. Apparently, this is trusting our children.

The thing is, we need to trust ourselves too.

There is a focus on being child lead, and rightly so. My son and I regularly explore his random questions to their conclusions, and we love learning together. Going on the treasure hunt for answers together is one of the joys of homeschooling, along with education fitting in with life’s adventures, rather than the other way around. But part of my respect for him is respecting that he is a child, and just as I have learned what he needs when he’s hungry, tired, or sick, it’s also up to me to learn what he needs when it comes to education.

Sometimes that’s freedom; other times it’s a gentle push.

You see my five year old is as beautiful and complex as any other kid out there, and part of that is that new things scare him. He is not the child who will find the workbook and begin trying to figure out the exercises, or the child who will pickup a notepad and try to write, just as he’s not the kid who will try to master a new skill at the playground or to figure out his bike. For him there is joy in learning something only when he feels like he can do it.

He also possesses a unique laziness. He’s proud of it, so wouldn’t mind me telling you that. Be it a long walk or writing a letter it is often ‘work’ best avoided. The other day at the zoo he walked joyfully for three hours before reaching the car, when his face dropped and anger filled his voice “Oh no!” he breathed, as though about to deliver terrible news “I just exercised by accident! I hate exercise.” Exercise too, as you can imagine, is ‘work’.

So if left entirely to his own devices he would avoid school work all together. He’d also avoid brushing his teeth, making his bed or exploring new places that he now adores. He is my gorgeous boy and his positive qualities are endless, but get up and go and mastering the new are not amongst them.

That’s why I’m allowing my child to lead me to what he needs. He needs a Mum who will tell him to make his bed and go and brush his teeth, he needs a Mum who sets rules and boundaries, and he needs a Mum who will tell him it’s time to sit down and do school for a bit – even if he’d rather be playing LEGO.

There is the myth that homeschooled kids live in a perpetual bubble of joy about learning. Life is learning, and they get more time to explore the richness of it so in a lot of ways they do, but they’re still kids, and there will likely be days when they tell you school is BORING, or RIDICULOUS, or RUBBISH and that it should be thrown in the BIN.

This is not an idyllic world and it’s unfair on each other to pretend that.

More often than not my son runs to his desk when it’s time to do his school work, he sits down and he giggles and he focuses and he tries hard. He has a ball. But other days it just doesn’t go like that, and those are the ones when I need to dig my heels in a little. We don’t do as much on those days, but we still do school, and it’s because of that that his enthusiasm for the rest of it grows. It’s because of the consistency that he’s finding reading and writing and spelling and math become easier – he likes easy.

The more he learns, the more he wants to. He’s bubbling with ‘I can do it!’ But because of who he is I will probably always have to push a little from time to time. I will probably need to take a deep breath here and there when he decides he HATES his books one day and ADORES the very same ones the next.

My son is very lucky, not only because he has the better part of his days to follow his passions and interests and explore the world, but because he has before him the gift of an education. And it matters. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t.

Around the world, hundreds of thousands of children would give anything for the opportunities our kids have. Some walk for hours to sit in dusty classrooms just to gain a little of this precious gift of knowledge and the skills that make it possible.

This reading and writing business? That’s the access code for everything they could ever want to know. In giving them that you’re opening up a bit more of the world for them that they couldn’t have accessed otherwise. The grammar matters, the spelling matters, the vocabulary allows them to wonder a little more vastly than they could have otherwise.

This maths business? Those are the numbers that underlie our finances, our sciences and the schedules of our days. They are not only useful, but exciting, and our mastery of them can lead us to places we can only imagine.

When you give your child an education you give them a gift that is probably too big for them to unwrap right now, so don’t be surprised if they don’t always appreciate the magnitude of it. They will in time, just as the skills you help them build and the virtues you encourage in them will help shape their world.

By all means give them opportunities for self-learning, but don’t be afraid to teach any more than you’re afraid to be taught.  A child needs to learn the value of listening, of focus, of gaining knowledge from another. You don’t go to a language class and have the teacher sit down and say “Ok, now you figure it out.”

Being taught is a skill, just as self-driven learning is.

I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out, but I am saying that I’ve been there. I’ve been an intelligent child in an environment that went out of its way not to teach (I attended a democratic unschooling style school for four years as a child) and as smart as I was there was a MASSIVE amount I missed out on learning before I moved to a more structured approach at home.

You wont harm the thirst for knowledge in your child by setting a little structure for an hour or two a day, you may even spark more of a thirst in them, or give them more tools to explore their wonderings. A child who knows little of history cannot find their passion in it, a child who knows nothing of geography may miss out on fascinations about the world.

A child who picks up a book and teaches themselves how to read is remarkable. But so is a child who needs a bit of encouragement to give it a go. Both will have strengths, weaknesses, challenges and joys. It’s our job to help them navigate those.

When you home educate your child you are taking on something amazing. I commend that. And I admire anyone who trusts their child to guide their education… but more so those who put the same trust in themselves.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013