I’m staring at the last essay of my nursing degree. I’m 1000 words in, 500 to go, and I just can’t find the motivation to finish it. I know what I’m writing, I’ve done my research. I know I’ll end up way over my word count (as usual), and have some serious editing to do before I submit it in 2.5 weeks time. I’ve got full days at uni tomorrow and Friday, and my final six weeks of prac starting next week, so the time is now. Now. Now!

Except I’m doing everything I can to avoid finishing the damn thing. I’m even giving attention to this lonely old blog that I’ve neglected due to prioritising studying. You know, for good grades and all, and knowing what I’m going to be practising once I’ve finished. I’ve cleared my email inbox, emptied the washing basket. I’ve been to the gym. I’ve paid the bills. All that’s left is to write this essay.

Or maybe make another cup of coffee.

Image source here.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year
                    (Image sourced from here under creative commons license, edited to add text)

I hope you had an enjoyable new year. It was pretty quite here. New Year’s Eve, Mr Up With the Birds and I had a glass of bubbles, watched a movie and had an early night. New Year’s Day, I took the big kids to see Penguins of Madagascar, and my second sister came over in the afternoon. It was no party, but we all had a lovely time.

I have a good feeling about 2015, I thinks it’s going to be a good year for me. I hope so anyway, and I hope it’s a good one for you too.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve this coming year, and how I’m going to go about reaching my goals. I heading into the final year of my nursing degree, and I want to finish on a high. While last semester I achieved good results, they weren’t quite as high as the grades I was getting before Harry and Zach came along, and I’d like to finish my degree with my grades back up at the level I’m used to.

And while I managed to get through the semester with two babies who still wake at least once a night each, the state of the house and yard kind of fell to a level I’m not proud of, I forever felt I was chasing my tail trying to keep on top of things. In the last few months, in the blur of final assessments and exams, I started to neglect my health. Shovelling junk food in my gob, and not moving as much as I should. I want to do better this year.

My goals for this year are:

1. Finish my degree with Ds and HDs.
2.Balance uni and home life.
3. Look after myself – both physically, mentally and emotionally.
4. Enjoy life and remember to make time for family fun.

I’ve got the same basic strategy to achieve these goals – becoming more organised. I’ve got just over a month until uni goes back. In that time, I’m going to set myself up with new routines and habits to keep on top of things. I’ve got specific plans on how I am going to achieve my goals. I’m not going to detail them yet, you and I would be here forever, but I will be following the SMART framework. I’ll be writing individual post about each task or hobby I’ll be using to achieve my goals, but I’ll also be documenting what I do here, keeping myself accountable during the year, and achieving my goal of doing something for myself.

How did you ring in the new year?

Have you got any goals for the year?

2014. It’s almost over.

I can’t believe how quickly 2014 is coming to an end. The past six months have been a blur. Trying to find a balance between full-time study and parenting four children has meant that pretty much everything else has fallen by the wayside.

October and November were filled with writing assignments, studying for exams, the exams themselves, and a two week break before I started my nursing clinical placement in December. I had grand plans for blogging during my break, but my brain kind of crashed, and between catching up on stuff around the house that had been neglected for a semester, and having some  time just to be, blogging never happened.

My placement while an amazing experience of surgical nursing, was exhausting to say the least. I finished a week before Christmas, and this year I was unorganised on the present front. It was a mad rush to get the Christmas shopping done on the sly with four kids at home from school and day care. Thank goodness for extended family and late night shopping.

And now we’re two days out from the end of the year, and I feel like I can finally relax, can finally breathe. It’s probably the first time since Harry and Zach were born (16 months ago today!), that I feel like I’m really relaxing. Twins are fantastic, but man are they hard. All parenting is hard at times, but adding twins to a family with two other children already? Takes it to a whole new level. Harry and Zach are reaching an age where they are exploring their independence, they still need me, but not so much as before. All ages of childhood bring challenges as a parent, but I think 2015 will be easier than this year has been. I think I’ll have more time to do things I enjoy, that have been let go in the past year and a half.

I’m not making any new year’s resolutions, mainly because I’ve never keep them. But there are some changes I want to make to my life, some goals I want to achieve, to make life more organised, more enjoyable, more memorable. I finish my degree at the end of 2015, so I’ve got to make a decision early on in the year about whether I’ll head straight into a midwifery post-graduate degree, or if I’ll work as a registered nurse for a bit first. My mind changes everyday, and every nurse I’ve sought advice from has a different opinion. But I’ll leave that for the new year.

2014 has been good to me, but I can’t wait for 2015 to begin.

Public speaking survival tips

For me, public speaking is up there with spiders and heights for causing undue anxiety. My armpits and palms start sweating, I get nauseous and want to stick my head in the toilet, my breathing speeds up and becomes more shallow, and I get a nervous bladder. I’d rather be anywhere other than at the front of a room with everyone’s attention focussed on me.

My last two uni assessments for the semester (excluding exams) have been group oral presentations. So yeah, I was feeling all of the anxiety things. I got through though, and I actually think I did alright, at least my tutor from my first presentation said so, and a friend from my class for my second presentation told me I spoke well and she couldn’t tell I was nervous. Winning! So as someone who HATES public speaking, but seems to have alright despite my anxiety, I thought I’d share my top tips for making it through.

1. Be prepared. Research your topic as early as possible, and write your notes. This way you have plenty of time to edit what you have written, time the length of your speech, and make any necessary changes so that you run pretty close to your allowed time. Know your topic. You want your audience to believe that you know what you’re talking about.

2. Rehearse. This means that on the day, you will spend less time reading from your notes, and more time making eye contact with your audience. Tutors/teachers love eye contact! Audiences are more engaged if you spend time making eye contact rather than reading from your notes the whole time. Rehearsing also means you are less likely to stumble over words that are a bit of a tongue twister.

3. Get a good night’s sleep. I think this speaks for itself. If you’ve had a decent sleep, you’re going to be in a better frame of mind, and in a better position to put your coping/stress-relief strategies into place.

4. Break the ice. Find a way to speak to your audience and give them a bit of a giggle, if it fits in with your presentation. It’s a bit of a pressure relief, and lightens the mood. The topic of my first group presentation was breastfeeding, and so I mention to my fellow students at the start that while I had been rehearsing at home, I had been subconsciously demonstrating on myself how to massage a blocked milk duct during feeding, and I apologised in advanced incase I started massaging myself during the presentation. It worked well to break the ice, and I didn’t end up feeling myself up during the presentation. Win-win!

5. Remember that everyone in the room with you wants you to do well. This was a tip from a friend on Facebook. Your tutor/teacher (if you’re a student) wants you to do well, they want you to pass. And your audience has probably felt similar anxiety, especially if they are also presenting.

6. Involve your audience in your presentation. Involving your audience in some way, e.g., asking them questions or asking them to volunteer for some aspect of your presentation, takes some of the focus off you, and also asks as an ice breaker. I find I am much more comfortable interacting with audience members as I am not so focused on reading my notes, and someone else is sharing the attention.

7. Fake it until you make it. Even if you don’t feel confident talking to a bunch of people, try to act like you are. It feels like my heart is beating a million miles an hour when I’m up the front of the room speaking. I make a point of slowing down my speech, making eye contact with audience members, and smiling. The more you deliberately do things to improve your presentation, the more natural they will feel.

8. Breathe. Take some slow deep breaths before you begin your presentation to centre yourself and focus. During your presentation, if you find  yourself stumbling, or talking too fast, take a moment to pause and breathe. Everyone would prefer you to take a moment to refocus and collect your thoughts than to keep stumbling through. I also find it helpful to pause and breathe after each section of my presentation. This allows me to close that section in my mind, and focus on the next bit of information I am going to share.

9. Congratulate yourself. Make sure you acknowledge the work you put in, even if you don’t think you did very well. Getting through a presentation when you’d much rather be anywhere else, doing anything else, is a huge achievement and deserves congratulations. If you presented in a group, congratulate and thank each other for each person’s efforts.

10. Learn from your presentation. Run a mental debrief in your mind and work out what areas you need to work on for next time. I know that in both my presentations I said ‘um’ a lot, and so in the future I’m going to work on not saying ‘um’ quite so much. Take on board any feedback from your audience and tutors/teachers, or anyone else. So far I haven’t received any marks for my presentations, but I did get lots of positive feedback from my tutor for my first presentation. Feedback for my second presentation comes with my marks. Feedback I received from previous presentations included talking too fast, too much reading from my notes, and not enough eye contact. These were points I made a deliberate effort to improve on with these two presentations, and I think it paid off.

Hopefully these tips will be of use to someone, and I’d love to read other people’s tips for public speaking – I’m always looking for ways to improve. Right now I am so glad that I don’t need to worry about any oral presentations until at least February next year.

Quiet. Behind the scenes.

Well didn’t this little blog fall off the face of the earth for a few months! I’m not going to apologise though, because, well, life. And priorities. People often say to me that they don’t know how I manage with four kiddos, and twins to boot. I get told I always seem so calm and relaxed, and they don’t know how I do it.

While I appreciate the acknowledgement, they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes in order to stay calm and present in my children’s lives. After 17 months of broken sleep (I’m counting pregnancy here too), my brain doesn’t have the energy to focus on the unnecessary. No knitting, no sewing, photography, and no blogging. When all the kids are in bed for the night, the tv goes on, and I veg, letting my brain have its down time before the cycle of sleep, feed, sleep, feed begins. Sometimes I read, but more often than not, I drown out the day with the tv.

What people don’t see, is the support my husband’s family gives us, to make our lives a little bit easier. We are insanely lucky to live rent free in a house my in-laws own. It was such a relief when hubby left the Navy, and it took months to find a job that suited him, and our family. Our savings would not have lasted as long as they did had we been paying rent. We won’t be here forever, we will eventually need to find somewhere bigger for our not-so-little family, but living here has given us some breathing space as we adjusted to life outside the Defence Force.

I’ve just finished 3 weeks of practicum in a mental health hospital. No 9-5 work day as a (student) nurse. And while Harry and Zach are in day care, prac would not have been possible without my mother in-law dropping them off some days, and picking them up on others. Those late nights, my father, brother and sister in-law would all come along to feed my tribe and put them to bed.

This week begins my first semester back at uni after Harry and Zach’s birth. Once again my mother in-law will be helping out, picking the bigs up from school once a week, and dropping them off another day. We are eternally grateful that we have such a supportive family in our network. My return to uni would not be possible without their help. Sure I could delay going back to uni another year, or go back part-time, but I’m looking at the bigger picture. I want to get back into the workforce, I want to pay taxes to help fund the healthcare, education and infrastructure our family relies on. I want us to once again own our own home, I want breathing space in our budget, I want my children to grow up knowing that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams. I want to be in a position to support those we love when they can no longer support themselves. I want to give back.

So, I may be calm and have it together, but I have all these thoughts inside my head. I’m like a duck – above the water, a duck’s body seems to glide effortlessly across the surface, while below water, it’s little legs are paddling furiously. I have all this support around me keeping me afloat, and the unnecessary just falls by the wayside while we get through. Because the unnecessary will still be there once the hard days are done. Those other things will wait while my brain rests, and I breathe.