A Slow Start

It’s Wednesday yet it feels distinctly like a Monday. With school holidays, three weeks off work due to the uni break, Easter, an operation, three trips in and out of Melbourne (for fun) and a seasonal change to boot, the last month has seemed like a circus. A mainly good and fun and happy circus, but a circus nonetheless.

Bird went to school for one day after Easter before having grommets in and adenoids out last week. A big week but overall, a success. That afternoon as we sat in recovery she looked at me and said, “Mum, everything is so loud!” After five years of hearing and congestion difficulties, I breathed a sigh of relief. For all the anxiety that had come in making that decision, will we, won’t we, will we, won’t we; in that moment, it was worth it.

She went back to school today and I’m back to teaching tomorrow and kinder is back and KB is at work and, as such, our life will start to resemble normality once again. No more late nights, dinner when we feel like it, pyjama days or nicking off to the country… at least, not during the week for the time being. Weekends are another story.

Last night I lay in bed as the night folded around us. I heard the flow of gentle breath coming in waves from all except me. My breath was full and awake at the midnight hour, though in the daylight, I long for sleep.

And such is motherhood, flowing from one moment to the next, the uncertainty coming in ebbs and flows, the solidity of our day to day routines seemingly fluid yet always constant and neverending.

Today, we took things slowly on our first morning back. We hung around at school chatting to parents, and worked our way back home to a hot cup of coffee, babycinos and a moment around the table cutting out pictures of dragons and making people out of toilet rolls with sticky taped wool for hair. We are heading off to swimming lessons now.

Even though the routine is back and a rhythm will once again be in place, I welcome it. Sometimes it’s nice to have something to rely on.

(Oh, and I baked a cake… this simple, delicious, refined sugar and dairy free orange blossom cake.)

Autumn, Hello + Practising Non-Attachment

 

It’s late and a school night, but I’ve been trying to get here for days (weeks, months) and there’s no time like the present. It’s Easter Monday here. This afternoon we arrived home from Mum’s new hideaway, an upgrade from the caravan we have known and loved for so many years. The new place can fit us all in (my three sisters and our respective partners and children) with space leftover to run and play and plant vegetables and think and walk. The new place is deliciously isolated, on a long dirt road, tucked away in a valley surrounded by farmland, rolling hills, big serious clouds, a farmer called Kevin and not much else.

Over the four days we picked the last of the tomatoes and armfuls of lemons from the lemon tree which was absolutely dripping with fruit. We walked around the property, we talked, we drank wine. Simple things like putting the children to bed seemed so much easier than usual. The dishes, the washing (most likely because Mum kept doing it). Folding things and keeping things in order. The carpet was new and the house was neat. The evenings seemed to stretch on for hours. I tried my best not to whinge on my way back to the city. I tried not to look around at the cars and the houses and the dull ring of smog around the horizon and feel as though something had ended. I’ve been trying my best to practise non-attachment in my daily life. The more I read about it, the more I agree with Leo Babauta, and find that many of my own personal struggles arise from being strongly attached to something, be it a person, an idea, a concept or a structure.

So when my Mum grabbed longingly at my sister, and told us she was going to miss us so much and have separation anxiety when we left, and when I too began to feel that familiar flatness of a good time coming to an end, I tried to let go. I tried to accept that the weekend was finished, and that it was time for the next thing, the now. Yes, it’s true that my daily life currently incorporates stressors which were greatly lessened while away this weekend, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t many other things to be grateful for in amongst it. And, let’s face it, no matter how fast technology advances I’m not going to have the ability to rewind or fast forward time any day soon, so acceptance rather than struggle seems to be the logical way forward, don’t you think?

When we came home and I felt swallowed up by our little house and the walls began to encroach on my space, I took a moment to remind myself of all of this. I brought out the lemons we had collected over the weekend. The girls sat up at the kitchen bench while I made lemon butter. Bird helped me roll oats, coconut, honey, and lemon into lemon bliss balls to share with her class tomorrow as it was her birthday over the school holidays. I made some bread rolls with chia and sesame seeds sprinkled on top and a pot of tea. I packed lunch boxes with homemade rolls lathered in lemon butter, lemon bliss balls, carrot sticks, dates, strawberries and hommus.

Tonight we watched the most magical sunset from our back deck, it was all shades of purple, pink and blue. We all got up from the dinner table (dahl, no surprises there!) I held the baby up and she pointed at it, repeating “Wow!”. The Pixie stood on a chair and shouted and pointed out street lights lighting up across our little suburban valley.

They aren’t the rolling hills of the country-side, but we are lucky enough to call this patch ours.

In Our Kitchen

Our kitchen has been a lacklustre place of late. In the past twelve months we have been juggling a couple of new dietary requirements, due to various health reasons.

Between the five of us we have one vegetarian, one ketogenic, one dairy intolerance (narrowed down to milk and hard cheese), one better off not eating egg and one free and happy to eat anything. Prior to KB starting the ketogenic diet and realising that the Pixie had a mild dairy intolerance, we were eating mostly vegetarian, mostly plant-based foods (with me eating only vegetarian foods). I would add in a meat dish here and there for the others. Now things have changed fairly drastically and meat has been on the table more than I would like, but given the ketogenic diet is working wonders to help KB manage type one diabetes we need to figure out how to make it work for us. It is still a work in progress and meal planning is essential to ensuring everyone gets what they need, which is where I have been falling flat, as cooking two to three meals each evening is not my idea of fun – and getting in the habit of planning all those meals out is proving difficult.

So to try to get myself back in the spirit of things, yesterday I knuckled down and spent four hours in the kitchen (!). I made…

:: bread rolls

:: a big batch of popcorn (I like to pop our corn in coconut oil and sprinkle with savoury yeast flakes and a touch of organic sea salt)

:: a couple of batches of mango raspberry nicecream (frozen mango and berries whizzed with either ice or coconut yoghurt, vanilla extract and cinnamon, yum! This is best eaten immediately)

:: blueberry muffins (these are SO good, I added chia instead of flax and used wholemeal flour as that is what I had on hand)

:: raspberry coconut bliss balls

:: vegemite, pineapple and organic goat’s cheese scrolls (I actually haven’t tasted these yet, they sound bizarre but it was the combination the girls’ ordered!)

Alas, none of these options are suitable for Mr Keto but at least the girls are covered and school/kinder lunches are done for the week.

This morning I made a loaf of bread (pictured above) and am currently defrosting a batch of lentil dahl from the freezer to have with rice tonight (KB will have an omelette). Mondays are usually pretty boring in the food department here as our organic veg box and groceries arrive on a Tuesday night so we are onto the dregs now! I’m down to a couple of brown onions, two potatoes and a frozen leek in the vegetable department… hmmm… inspiring!

In other news outside the kitchen, I’ve started Yoga Teacher Training and couldn’t feel more at home. So far I’ve had one day intensive, a yoga class and a meditation class. I’m heading back to the studio for a class tonight and can’t wait to arrive. It feels indulgent doing something for myself, but every bit of me knows it’s the right choice.

I hope your Mondays are going well, wherever you may be.

P.S. These and these and these are on my list this week.

Finding Balance

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And just like that, it is February. I find it so strange that the months can sail by, unnoticed. Soon the leaves will start to show the signs of Autumn and the wind will offer us a subtle shift; a coolness that we may miss if we aren’t paying attention. Our minds, too, without assistance from us, will turn towards the quieter things, the warm and nourishing things, the things that find us inside in the afternoons, staring out our windows to watch the wind whip up the trees. We will dim the lights and light the candles which will lead us gently into muted evenings and then: Winter.

And on and on it goes.

The only thing we can possibly do in amongst it all is to slow ourselves down, calm and hush our own thoughts, remind ourselves of the things that matter.

I broke a bowl yesterday, a Peter Rabbit bowl given to the baby for her first birthday from my Dad and Step Mother. I was putting the coconut oil away and as I went to place it on the shelf, I slipped and dropped it. It landed largely and loudly on the bowl which was waiting to be washed on the kitchen bench. Almost in slow motion I watched as it fell to the ground and smashed, unable to do anything to stop it. Tears came out of no where and filled up my eyes as I swept it up and tipped it, unceremoniously, into the rubbish bin.

I still have my own Peter Rabbit bowl from when I was a baby, and I wanted desperately to give little Peach her own baby bowl when she was an adult, like my mum did for me when I had my first baby. I wondered how my mum kept my bowl unharmed all those years, and use it with trepidation, often for the older children and not the baby which it was intended for (which also makes me wonder if I am missing the point – shouldn’t it be used and used well!?). But Mum also repeatedly tells me something that her mother told her when she broke or lost something special: It’s Just A Thing. I said it to myself over and over yesterday as I cleaned up the mess I had made and used the back of my hand to wipe away my wasted tears.

In time, I’ll forget about the broken bowl, the lost things, the tidying up, the school drop offs, the nagging, the rushing, the overarching messiness of life. So often the things we think are important aren’t the things that stay with us years later, they aren’t the things that comfort us in times of trouble or give us feelings of love and importance and gratitude and value. Am I going to care in ten years time about the morning that it took me fifteen minutes to get Bird to put her shoes on? Um, no. But at the time it certainly feels valid and important.

Over time I’m slowly learning what is important and what isn’t, in that moment, rather than in hindsight, and as our family grows our values change and adjust to accomodate balancing the needs of our little people alongside ourselves. As I rush from here to there with a baby on my hip and a four year old running ahead of me chasing her big sister into the school gates, as I run around the kitchen as though I’m chasing a world record, as I let the clock manage my days, as I fall about in a heap at 5pm when I haven’t planned our multiple vegetarian/dairy free/ketogenic dinners, as I flop onto my back on my bed at night and stare up at the ceiling, exhausted, feet aching, wondering what, exactly, I achieved that day – what I did that was good, that was important, that was real – it has made me think a lot about our culture of busy-ness and rushing and the meaning and value we (for some reason) derive from being busy. It often seems like busy is the new good.

How are you?

Busy! Ha ha la la!

Sound familiar?

It’s slow and gruelling work going against the grain, having thoughts that don’t seem to be the norm, fighting against invisible rules and running from invisible law enforcers. The biggest fight though is one against yourself, pulling and tugging at those fibres in your brain that tell you what to do and how to be, seemingly always dodging around the why and hoping you won’t notice.

Sometimes it feels like it would be easier just to go along with the rest, to be busy and not care, to chock your time full of everything you possibly can and then complain along with the rest of the doers, leaving any conversation about the real things that matter behind. But for me, it doesn’t bring much joy, I like having spare time, I like being at home and, most importantly, I like to think that there is a different way to live. I like to think that as I learn that new way, I can also teach it to my children so they grow up realising they don’t have to be busy to be of value, they don’t have to rush to be important. I want them to learn a different way.

The only issue is I have to learn it myself to be able to teach it and that, my friends, is always a work in progress.

Rejuvenate

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Over the weekend I spent my first night away from the baby (toddler is a much more accurate description). It was the first night in over 19 months I haven’t felt the threat of a midnight wake up call as I toss and turn in the dark. The first full evening in over 19 months I didn’t have to feed anyone aside from myself, I didn’t have to bath anyone, put anyone to bed, read anything other than my book, watch anything other than the sun setting across the forest filled horizon. No one required anything from me for over 24 hours.

And it was BLISS.

I went away to Glenlyon with my three little sisters. It was the first time in our entire lives that the four of us had been away on our own, without any hangers-on. We slipped into the gentle ease of sibling-hood. No arguments about what to eat, where to go, what we wanted to do. No worrying about inconveniencing anyone, or having to ensure everyone is having a good time. We all eat the same foods, we drink the same drinks, we do the same things. So. Easy. Aside from our combined indecisiveness. But we survived that ok too.

We read books.

Spoiled ourselves with a long luxurious lunch at a winery.

Bought wine.

Drank wine.

Had takeaway pizza.

Re-enacted being chased in an apocalypse on the side of a hill.

Collapsed in fits of laughter.

Watched a daggy movie.

Ate chocolate.

Read books in bed when we woke up.

Had multiple toilet stops.

Went window shopping.

And spent time remembering what we are grateful for.

We all went home to our partners and families feeling full and lucky. It really is so important to take the time to pause our lives, if not for a whole weekend, just an hour, or a moment, and to remind ourselves of the good things.

I’m back in time for the year to really begin. KB went back to work today after six whole weeks off, kinder starts tomorrow, school goes back on Wednesday, and I begin Yoga Teacher Training on Sunday. We are hoping to move house and we both have professional changes and updates in the wings. A big year ahead, but luckily for us, it’s an exciting one too. I hope you all get the chance to have a little inhale before February, wherever you may be.

Transition: Back To School

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This summer has felt never-ending in the best kind of way. Our days have been slow and close to home, we have spent most of our time in the garden, planting, weeding, raking; all meditative and focussed and dirty. I’m sure our vitamin d levels have been replenished and the amount of dirt ingested by the small ones has surely given immune systems a boost. I’ve visited the library – twice! – on my own and wandered the aisles without having to hush loud voices or balance a baby on my hip. We’ve been to the beach and read magazines and books in the middle of the day with our feet up (latest library haul pictured above). Six weeks of adult company every day has been glorious and indulgent.

The only problem now is that it is about to end.

School starts back next week. We’re loading up the washing machine looking for white socks and uniforms. We’re scratching our heads trying to remember the old routine, what time do we need to get up? Who needs lunches on what days? When does kinder go back? The thought of the morning rush makes me cringe, and annoying issues like how to fit a baby’s midday sleep in amongst inconveniently timed kinder and school pick ups are slowly twisting their way back into my brain.

I always struggle with transitions of this sort. I seem to ride along on such a high when things are easy and breezy, but the inevitable slump that follows change of any kind has become such a predictable pattern for me, noticed only with the passing of time. The challenge now is having a vague idea of what lies ahead and trying to figure out ways to combat it before it arrives, heavy and dull, in my lap. I can predict feelings of nostalgia and yearning when I think back even to this moment, sitting here with my feet up having a cup of peppermint tea, while the baby sleeps and the girls read on the couch, KB pottering away in the yard outside. The sun will still shine next week, but for the most part I’ll be alone again when demands of water or food or help tying a shoelace arise.

There are a few things I’m planning on doing this week to help us all get ready for the return to school and work. Firstly we are all making a concerted effort to get to bed earlier, and start to rise earlier once again. Over the last month it hasn’t been uncommon for KB and I to watch that illusive second episode in the evenings instead of getting some much needed sleep… many nights seeing us awake as the clock struck twelve. The girls have also been staying up late, playing musical beds, sleeping in their teepee or reading until all hours.

Secondly, meal prep! We’ve been lazily preparing whatever it is we feel like at each meal, having a bit too much take away and eating later than usual. That’s what summer is all about though right? Nevertheless it’s time to reign things in. I’ll be meal planning again as of this week and getting back into the routine of food prep on Sundays which is something I have actually missed doing over these warm summer weekends.

Our garden is looking pretty amazing (if I do say so) but the house has suffered from a bit of neglect while we’ve been out soaking up the sun (who am I kidding, there’s usually a fair amount of house-neglect going on summer or no). We’ll give her a once-over this week and try to start fresh next week. I’m always trying to get into the habit of doing a wash every day and folding washing as it comes off the racks, but I abhor washing so this is always a boring work in progress for me.

Aside from that I’m determined to cope with this transition with ease and grace, not like a moody teenager on house arrest.

Writing

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I wrote a lot about death last year, in my private notes outside of this space. My grandfather died in May 2016 and since then my personal scribbles are full of thoughts about life and its inevitable end: the melodramatic whining of a 30-something hesitantly peering out from the edges of motherhood wondering who she is and what she is doing here. I wrote a short story called “Killing the Mouse” which, in a nutshell, is about my feelings of grief and loss after killing a mouse that lived in my kitchen, the spotlight shining in the wrong spot and all that. Hmm, deep. There were also some notes about a dog named Scruffy. I deleted that file.

This is all fresh in my mind because instead of writing last night (like I promised myself I would) I went through all my writing files and folders on my computer and organised them neatly and dragged and dropped notes and files from here to there and back again. Then I spent a considerable amount of time choosing a picture for my desktop (Leaves: too close up, feelings of claustrophobia. Ocean: thoughts of drowning. Lakes and shadows of mountains in lakes: makes me think I’ll suddenly see the face of a dead body under the surface of the water like in LOTR. Space and planets: Does anything matter? Who am I in all this? Mountains: isolation. Tree trunks: lost in forest with no food or water.) I settled for an abstract pattern and got back to shuffling documents around from here to there and back again. Drag. Drop. Drag. Drop. Then I watched YouTube for a while and decided it was high time for bed and sadly, darling, nothing would get written because I was simply far too busy.

It’s nearing the end of January and I haven’t written anything at all this year except the previous blog post and a few things on the back of old envelopes. Nevertheless, I’m not going to get all sooky about it. We have been out in the garden soaking up the summer sun, we’ve been at the beach, we’ve been walking, we’ve been together. And now that the holidays are coming to a close and my folders are organised and my desktop is in order, I really have nothing else to do but knuckle down and write and inevitably – naturally – something will eventually come, the sentence will appear (the one from which all others will follow), the page will be filled, and so on.

I will write this year, not because I think I should, but because I have to, it is ingrained in me and there is no other way. It may not be perfectly planned or executed, it may not be when or how I imagine it might or should or could be, but it will be. Creativity is like that.

What are you working on this year?

2017

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The last of the tinsel has been swept away and those airy-fairy days between Christmas and New Year, when you don’t know what day or time it is, have come to an end. 2017 is here and, quite frankly, it couldn’t have come soon enough.

Last night, KB and I got the girls to bed and set ourselves up on our front deck, with a candle lit, a glass of prosecco for me and an ale for him, some nibbles and our notebooks. Over the past few weeks I wondered if we should invite some friends over, or get out and about on New Years Eve, but as we sat there together and reflected on the past year, and on what we want to achieve this year, I couldn’t think of a better way to be spending the night, or a better person to be spending it with.

2016 was a big year for us. My grandpa died on my birthday and I was there to witness – my first real experience of death and it knocked my socks off in the saddest of ways, Bird started school, the Pixie started kinder, my Mum broke her leg, the baby turned one, KB started a new job, I worked on a six month community development project, I walked 30km for Fred Hollows, KB began training for the rip swim

To cut a long story short, we were busy and I was emotional for the majority of the year (KB is the stable, sensible one in moments of overwhelm – I am pure chaos).

For us, 2017 is all about toning things down a notch and a fresh perspective. It’s about being authentic to our own truth, in our day to day activities as well as our broader life choices and actions. It’s about maintaining calm.

We do have some exciting things on the horizon. KB is starting a new position at work, dropping down to four days a week so he can be at home with the girls one day a week. Which means, with any luck, that I will be writing on Thursdays! We will see how that goes, and whether or not we can afford it, but we’ve decided to give it a red hot go. We have been working towards it for a long time, and we’re both so excited for him to have the chance to have some more family time, and for me to have some creative time. I have also enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training and start in a month. It’s something I have wanted to do for years, but to be honest, I never thought I would actually commit. I’m hoping it will help me find some clarity in this crazy modern life we lead.

Other than that we plan to move house this year, and we are slowly but determinedly decluttering and preparing. It feels a bit like shedding: old things, old thoughts, and stuff that has come to the end of its time with us. More on stuff in another post.

Last year I wrote out a long list of things I wanted to do in 2016. I got bored of the list fairly quickly, although I did manage to tick most of them off. In the spirit of toning things down, I’m not writing a big huge list this year. We already have plenty to do with all of the above, so I’ll leave it at that for now and go with the flow.

What do you have planned for 2017?

A Morning Routine

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There’s a little obsession of mine that I may not have told you about. It’s reading about people’s morning routines. I love hearing how people start their day. I love the routine, the rhythm of it. The calmness, the self care. But there’s one thing I notice while I’m peering into someone’s life on YouTube, watching them pad around their white apartment barefoot, sipping on a hot cup of chai or staring wistfully out their window:

They don’t have children.

I still enjoy watching, and remembering a time when I had the freedom to do what I wanted to do in the mornings. But a lot of the talk about morning routines is unrealistic for a harried mother of three. There’s a rebellious part of me, though, that is determined to get my mornings back or, at the very least, figure out ways that I can incorporate something for me in the mornings, in amongst the ruckus. I know my day is better when I start the morning right.

It’s Saturday today, so things are naturally slower. Today, I think to myself, today is the day I will implement my new morning routine. I’m picturing lounging around on the couch, preparing an instagram worthy breakfast with at least five colours of the rainbow and the perfect combination of macro and micro nutrients, I’ll do some stretches and of course the girls will just be happy for me to do my own thing…

It begins: I have been trying really hard to drink a bottle of water with lemon or apple cider vinegar first thing, as I am not naturally hungry in the mornings and often don’t eat until after I have dropped the girls at school/kinder, at which point the baby is usually around my ankles needing some attention. So, I sat on the couch drinking my water. I got up three times to tend to the girls (get a drink, refill a porridge bowl, wipe up spilt milk). Then. I had a coffee (oh dear, that is meant to come later, not sneak in at number two on the routine list!). And then suddenly the day was moving on, the girls were ready to do something and there were blueberries squished into the cracks in the floorboards and the dog needed more water and… I forgot to eat breakfast. The morning was over.

Now it’s morning tea time and I’m tucking into the toast and smoothie pictured above, while the girls have their morning tea. Two out of three of them are dressed, and the telly is on… ahhh Saturday mornings!

I suppose my morning routine will start another day. I don’t think it will be like the ones I see on YouTube. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Baby is 18 months old now, and she (mostly) sleeps through the night. I’m getting a bit more sleep and KB will be on school holidays as of next week. There’s a freshness to the air that only summer can bring, the cicadas are calling and the days are long.

I still have hope.

#itsinthebag: better late than never

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I recently read this post on the lovely Jodi Wilson’s blog about the #itsinthebag initiative. I was looking for a worthy cause to prepare something for this Christmas, and this fits the bill. I prefer not to donate money at this time of year, only because it’s hard for the girls to understand how they are helping. Something tangible that they can see and help prepare teaches them a lesson that an online click of funds from here to there cannot. I am also especially passionate about initiatives for women and girls; being one of four sisters and having three daughters of my own (and a niece!) it is an issue very close to my heart. Of course there is always a place for monetary donations, and we do donate what we can to our selected causes during the year.

#itsinthebag is an initiative which traditionally cares for women in need, who are often forgotten. A handbag is filled with items of use and a note to show that someone cares. This year, they are also including bags for teenage girls aged between 14 and 18. Please differentiate your bag for teens with a yellow ribbon tied around the handles.

I read about this on Friday night, so when doing our food shop on Saturday we threw some extra items in the trolley: a hairbrush, some gel pens, tissues, sanitary items, hair ties and a few other fun things. I whipped up a tote bag and Bird, the Pixie and I will write a card tonight. We will post it all tomorrow.

Unfortunately collection points have closed for this year (as you know I am quite unprepared for the big day this year) so if you do want to take part, you will have to post your bag. Details are on the website.

Please see this post on Jodi’s website and the official website for more details.

 

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