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.

 

Running the Xmas Gauntlet

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetIt’s the 11th of December and, up until Friday night, I had done absolutely nothing (zip, zilch) to prepare for Christmas. Friday night I went to bed at 7.30pm with a cup of herbal tea, a piece of dark chocolate and my laptop, and finally ordered some Christmas presents. For children, my first stop for gifts is always here. For the girls I like to stick to the little poem: something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read. It helps to keep things simple and, for me, takes away some of the overwhelm and decision making.

I like to make most of our gifts for extended family and my niece (and this year, my new nephew!) and (if you’re family, stop reading here!) this year I’m trying my hand at these for adults and my usual combo of these and these and perhaps these for kids. Our family have really downsized our present regime over the past few years and now just give small token gifts to show our love and appreciation. My only issue with the adult pressie that I want to make is that I can’t find pine resin here in Australia, and I also don’t know if it is sustainable even if I were to find it… if anyone knows what I’m talking about and has any tips, please email me or comment below! I’m planning on making a little gift set of perhaps two or three for each couple/adult in the fam, just as a token, and because I’m sick of my usual gift of granola!

Yesterday we finally got a tree so I’m feeling like we are back on track. I also sewed a pair of shorts, finished a geranium dress for a friend and tidied my sewing stuff. I just have a few more birdie said orders to get through before I can close up shop for Christmas.

Christmas can be such an overwhelming time. I have friends who feel so much pressure to make things and be all homemade and festive, but they work outside the home and have children and the juggle is stressful. I have friends who spend a lot of money on gifts and give to a lot of people. We all have our own challenges and stressors this time of year. For me, it has been a slowly evolving thing: building traditions within my own family unit, figuring out what works best for us, what we can afford, what we enjoy, what we are and aren’t prepared to do. Figuring out what Christmas means to us, as a non-religious, anti-consumerist family. What is left for us here if we don’t believe in God (in the Christian sense) and we are worried by consumerism!?

For us, it’s simple: family. Time to share and enjoy each other. Time to celebrate giving small and meaningful gifts, and teaching our children about people who are less fortunate than us. A girlfriend of mine has been such a role model for me in this area. Every year she gets her children to choose and wrap and deliver a present to someone in need (whether it is for a shopping centre Christmas tree or other charity). She’s done it with her children well before they would have understood what they were doing, and now it’s so ingrained in them it is something they naturally think about and have empathy for.

I’m not always good at keeping things simple, or sticking to what (I think) we believe in at this time of year. I get stressed and run from here to there. I get caught up with the Jones’s. I do! But I try to patiently bring myself back to my own values and ideals. I guess this happens a lot in life generally, not just at Christmas.

I have more to say on this topic but this will do for today. I’m sitting in our front yard in the shade of the trees while the girls play with dirt and cockatoo feathers. I’m needed to assist with a cup of gum leaf tea so I had better get back to it. I hope all your Christmas plans are going well, if you choose to celebrate it!

Make a Choice

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Over the years, and from the depths of new motherhood, I’ve been deliberating. I’ve never been someone who finds decision making easy (be it choosing something from a menu, for fear of food envy, or something bigger: where to live, what to do). As I’ve become older, decision making seems to become harder and harder. There are more people depending on me, more needs to meet, more things to take into consideration. So I mull and obsess, I yo-yo, I circle.

Lately, as this year draws to a close and a new one begins, we have needed to make some big decisions. I’ve struggled over a particular decision that I have needed to make for myself. I’ve tossed and turned on it, I’ve decided at midnight, only to have changed my mind again by morning. The longer it went on (a few years), the more I struggled; it became bigger than it needed to be. It exhausted me.

Today, however, I did it. After consulting a few friends who have followed a similar path, after taking action and doing the necessary research: it was time. Now or never.

I made a choice.

And it feels SO good. I am now questioning whether or not it would have mattered which choice I made, in the end. The simple act of finally deciding has lifted the cloud from around my head, from sitting heavy around my shoulders. For the first time in a few years, I can see more than a few feet ahead of me.

Earlier this week when time was running out and I was in turmoil, I was texting a wise friend of mine. She reminded me that Sarah Wilson has written a fair bit about decision making (you can read more here). I came home and devoured a few of her articles and this helped me to take another step forward, to put one foot in front of the other instead of standing on the curb, looking this way and that and never moving, never showing up.

We still have a number of decisions to make to get 2017 sorted. But through the process of making this one decision, and through the various obstacles of motherhood, I have come to realise the perfect choice rarely exists. There is simply the choice that has the least amount of negative outcomes, or perhaps more often than not, just the one that is better in that moment. Trying to predict whether it will be the right choice in a month or a year can become a torment. Believe me, I’ve been there.

So go ahead and make a choice! Whether it is what to have for lunch, or something bigger, I’m sure it will clear the path ahead. It certainly has for me.

Creative Pursuits + Motherhood

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I get a lot of questions both online and in person along the lines of: how do you find the time to [insert creative pursuit here]? We all know well enough that social media is only a small part of a person’s life, and no matter how hard you try, you can never create the same amount of depth, substance, activity and stressors that come together to make up a real life. Social media simply cannot fully represent this. While I try to keep it real, my instagram and this blog tell the story of such a small portion of my actual life that it is hard to see the balance that I struggle to find each and every day.

Truth be told, being a creative person and a mother is hard work. My own mother is always telling me to let things (writing, making) go for a while. I think she thinks this will somehow alleviate my frustrations, that it will allow me to feel more at peace with the housework and the domesticity if I focus on getting those things done instead of thinking about the next thing I am going to make or write. But the issue with creativity is that you can’t switch it on and off. When people say they don’t know how I find the time to write this blog, it comes as a shock to me in the first instance. I package it up and think about it – I realise I actually don’t have a choice. I don’t plan my posts, I only write when the urge is so strong that I just can’t not write. The same goes for other writing I pursue. As I type this, I have my laptop balanced on top of my sewing with my foot on the pedal of my sewing machine. I was sewing some velcro onto some nappy wallets and had my laptop in the room so I could listen to spotify. When I suddenly needed to write, I half stopped what I was doing and started tapping away. It usually takes me days or, more likely, even weeks to finish a piece of writing or to finish sewing or crocheting something. Sometimes I get lucky and see a gap in time, but more often than not I have to put things aside and get back to it later. I am much better at using smaller winks of time now than I used to be!

I don’t have any answers in regards to how to fit things into a busy life with small children. I puzzle over other people’s lives and also wonder how they get things done. I think sometimes things are an illusion, that when you’re chatting at school pick up or at the coffee shop or in the supermarket or on instagram – I think that everyone smiles and says they are great and the accidental illusion is given that people (parents) are going to bed each night feeling that the house is in order and the washing is done and the lunches are made and the floors are clean and tidy. In reality, I don’t know anyone who is actually in that situation.

I know some people get up a few hours earlier than their families every morning in order to write/bake/make/sew. I am not this person. I have tried to be a morning person and at this stage of my life while I’m still getting up in the night to attend to small people, I just don’t have it in me. At night is when I come alive, and I have to try very hard to not get carried away when the moon is high and the sky is brightly lit with stars and little heads are sleeping soundly on their pillows.

What I do want to stress is that when I make something, I am forgoing something else – the washing, the floors, or sometimes even time with my family.

Motherhood is a constant balancing act, and no one is perfect. We are all getting up each day and going to work or doing the dishes or cuddling children or, on occasion, behaving badly and getting to the end of our tether (yes, this was me this morning when I didn’t get my own way haha!). At the end of the day, we are all doing our best. And like my parents said to me, and I’m sure yours said to you: always do your best, and your best is always enough.

A Kind of Meditation

Moving slowly around the kitchen, buttering toast, filling cups of water. Flicking on the coffee machine. Quiet thoughts floating past my consciousness. Wiping faces, passing wooden spoons and saucepans to idle hands. Sweeping the floor, wiping the tiles on hands and knees because the mop broke. Feeding the dog, filling her bowl. Putting seeds out for the birds, pausing for a small moment in the sunshine. Taking off my shoes, walking barefoot on the boards. Picking flowers with the girls, placing jars with their arrangements around the house. Getting in the car, doing up the straps, pausing for a moment to breathe. Coming home again, unloading. Repeat, repeat, repeat throughout the day for various this and that; shops, school, kinder. Putting the kettle on, spooning tea into the pot. Standing for a moment to collect my thoughts. Moving again, pouring the tea, folding the clothes, reading a book to eager ears. Turning on the oven, chopping vegetables. Leaning over to pick things up off the floor, clearing space. Turning the oven off, serving up the food. Wiping faces, changing nappies, running a clear warm bath. Warming pyjamas by the heater, doing up buttons, encouraging little bodies into bed. Tucking in, giving kisses.

Re-boiling the kettle.

Sitting on the couch.

Barely moving.

Tired but content.

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