Births, Deaths, and Other Synchronicities

One year ago, my Grandpa died on my birthday. After much deliberation over how to spend the day this year, Mum brought the family together at her property in South Gippsland. On the day of my birthday, Saturday, we had a birth/death gathering of sorts with a long lunch, wine and sweets. It sounds strange and in some ways morbid to see it written down like that, but for me, it was the most perfect, quiet and thoughtful way to spend the day.

At 3.30pm, the moment I was being born into the world 35 years ago, and the moment we held Gramps as he left us one year ago, we all wandered up to the top of the hill and looked out across the expanse before us: hills, sun, cows, trees, sky.

After Gramps died, I wanted to get something to hang on my wall to remind me of him. I hunted around for months through the depths of the internet, hunting for a big photo of the ocean, or the Prom, or the outdoors; a photo that symbolised something we both loved together which was the big wild world. I kept going back to a photo of a Great Egret that I stumbled across on instagram. After literally months of going to the website to look at this picture and finding out that Robert was a Gippsland based photographer, I emailed him. I was hoping the photo was taken somewhere in Gippsland, as Gramps lived on Phillip Island and we spent a lot of time together down there along the coast. I asked Robert where the photo was taken and instead of simply telling me the location, he wrote, I took the photo at Anderson’s Inlet, Inverloch, in South Gippsland. It was a peaceful late afternoon on a low tide, 19th May 2016. 

I couldn’t quite believe that after looking at what seemed liked thousands of coastal pictures, the one I had chosen was taken the evening before my birthday, the very evening before Gramps died, at a place we visited often together. The last time we were there we sat by the sea with the girls and ate fish and chips. I wrote back a rather emotive email, and ordered a large copy of the print.

Last week I was looking for an envelope for Bird’s lunch order. I was rifling through papers and in amongst a box of life-admin debris I found a water-colour birthday card painted by Gramps, pictured above,  which he had posted to me in 2004 when I was living in London. I stuck it on the wall in my bedroom after receiving it in the mail. On the back you can see old brown outlines of the sticky tape I used, around big letters which say: “LOL Gramps.” By LOL he always meant “lots of love”, however I can’t help but see the funny side of it in this context… rediscovering it the week before my birthday the year after he died.

We came home on Sunday and I did all my usual things: pottering, cooking, preparing for the week. I find myself wondering about death, about how life is possible and how someone can simply be gone, while others are still here. I overheard the girls talking the other day, the conversation went a little bit like this: I wouldn’t like to die, would you? / No way. Can we just stop talking about it? It is really a disgusting thing. / Yeah, it is disgusting. / Yeah, disgusting. I have been carrying around a sad sort of melancholy these past few days, but it has felt kind of warm and necessary. I’m moving forward into this next chapter attempting as light an attitude as I can muster, as he would have wanted. For, no matter my attempts, I will always be someone who thinks a lot. I’m convinced it isn’t always a bad thing.

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.

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.

Getting Out There

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We spent the weekend in the high country of Victoria, celebrating a little friend’s first birthday. The town we were meant to stay in was fully booked out due to a few events we weren’t aware of, so we had to look further afield. We ended up in a historic gold rush town that neither of us had visited in a number of years, and it was

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Bringing in the Weekend

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We’re taking things slowly this afternoon. There’s a chill in the air and nothing to hurry to or from. Just after school chit chat with the girls and breathing into this moment.

We saw some brightly coloured birds on the way home today. One of their favourite things to do is look up birds we see in my Grandpa’s bird book. We (they) rushed to the bookshelf as soon as we walked in the door and we discovered the birds we saw were

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Practising Contentment Within Parenthood

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I don’t know if it’s because I’ve exercised this morning and had a large coffee, but I’m feeling all energised and ready for life today. Not that I don’t feel ready for life normally, but I have more energy than usual for some reason.

I am a searcher by nature. Constantly searching for: things to read, things to learn, things to eat, things to think, things to do. Always searching for

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comings and goings (+ a smoothie recipe)

I’ve been feeling pretty flat and unmotivated the last little while. It may be obvious to you when this happens as my posts slow down and I lose momentum. Part of the reason for my silence lately though has been because my grandpa was incredibly ill, and passed away towards the end of May, on my birthday. The weeks leading up to his death were intense for our family, with many hours spent by his bedside. We were all living in a little bubble, it seems strange now to be out in the light again.

A few hours after he died, my Mum and I left the hospice and we were driving to my Aunty’s place. The baby was screaming blue murder in the back seat and it was a Friday evening. We had to drive down Chapel Street, which those of you in Melbourne will know for its restaurants and good times. I’m from wayyyyy over the other side of the city so I don’t ever go there, but there we were, driving along, stricken with grief after having just watched someone we love breathe their final breaths, and there were lights, cars, traffic, people everywhere going out for dinner, smiling, laughing, and generally having a great time. It was so strange to see that life doesn’t stop for anyone or anything.

Since then life really has just pushed on. It’s the baby’s first birthday this Saturday, and we had the family over last weekend to kick off her birthday week. We were meant to have a picnic, but typical Melbourne rained all day so we had everyone at our place. We were pretty unprepared given we had planned to go to a local state forest, but we pulled it off. I made this cake and it was an absolute hit. I will be repeating it this Friday when I have my mother’s group over for a little birthday celebration. I’m going to try making it gluten free for Friday though as my beautiful friend A has just been diagnosed with coeliacs and I don’t want her to miss out! Hopefully it turns out ok.

In other news as usual I have washing coming out my ears, I can never seem to get on top of it, I refuse to spend my days doing nothing but washing, but maybe if I did, maybe then it would be done? Washing is such a mystery to me, I tell myself that everyone else has it under control but perhaps I am just deluded. I hate it! I told myself this morning that I was going to clean out the girls’ clothes today and throw everything out, figuring that then I would have less to wash and put away…? I think I might be onto something… then I got overwhelmed and looked the other way.

When I’m feeling like everything is just too much, I really try to pay attention to what I’m eating. It’s times like these that I want to reach for the sugar, the cake, the chocolate, and I have to practice a lot of willpower to stop myself from doing this. I’m by no means perfect! But I do try to make sure that I’m getting some bang for my buck when I choose what goes in my mouth. The picture above is today’s lunch for the three of us – me, the Pixie and the baby. It’s probably one of my favourite meals, basically just a bowl thrown together with a combination of things we have on hand with some nuts and seeds chucked on top. This bowl includes a mint, pea and couscous salad my mother in law made on the weekend, toasted nori, fermented cabbage, pickled onions, beetroot, spinach, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, and some sprouts. The Pixie had half an avocado (she calls it an avocado bowl), some sweet potato, toasted nori (she calls that mermaid food), and a choc pop that Birdie and I made yesterday – basically a bliss ball coated in chocolate made from coconut oil, maple syrup and raw cacao. It does have a pretty strong taste so she wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I gave some to the baby (probably shouldn’t have given cacao is a stimulant, I’ll regret that tonight) and she devoured it! She also had some sweet potato.

The smoothie pictured is a version of the basic smoothie I make everyday using up leftover cooked oats from the girls’ breakky:

+ Almond milk

+ Coconut cream

+ Avocado (because I don’t like bananas unless they are in a cake!)

+ Chia seeds

+ Pepitas

+ Cacao

+ Left over oats

+ A few dates

I have a version of that every morning and there is usually some left over. Sometimes I freeze it and have it as nicecream. Yum!

Well that is all from me for now. I’ve got a baby tapping me on the leg and a Pixie wanting me to help with a puzzle so I had best stop this ramble here.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful start to the week!

In General

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2016-04-04 16.11.15It’s late afternoon and the sun is streaming through my back door into the kitchen. Lentil and red kidney bean soup is being heated on the stove, fruit is being stewed to add to yoghurt and probiotics for a snuffly baby for dinner, cacao nib cookies have been cooked for school and kinder lunches, and honey ambrosia has been made to dollop on porridge in the early mornings. I’ve also got a batch of gelatine-based jelly setting in the fridge which I am hoping the big two will be happy enough to eat (it doesn’t taste quite like the jelly they get at the Nana’s houses!) The baby is playing on her mat while I busy myself in the kitchen and the older two are planting some seedlings with KB out the back. I can feel that lightness that comes with a baby becoming more independent, when they are able to entertain themselves for a while on the floor with a pile of blocks or some kitchen spoons or a rusk. The days of constant holding and cradling have, once again, come to an end. She is ten months old tomorrow.

Today I’ve been busy trying to prepare us for the school routine. School holidays have also come to an end, although the idea of school every day is one that still seems foreign to me, it’s going to take a while to get used to the monotony of it all (for many years to come).

Over the holidays we’ve baked bread, we’ve gone walking, we’ve made easter crowns, we’ve sewed, we’ve crafted, we’ve cooked, we’ve cleaned, we’ve celebrated Bird’s sixth birthday. We have done a lot of work around the house and in our garden and it feels great (I won’t mention the overflowing washing basket, the clothes unfolded or the state of our bedroom). We’ve planted out some seedlings for a (very) small Autumn harvest; we are still learning and feeling our way with the veggie patch. We’ve moved upwards, to one large apple crate and a few smaller veg crates and pots dotted with basil, strawberries, brocolli, bok choy, and beetroot. It was an Epic Fail for us with our tomatoes over summer (seriously, tomatoes and yoghurt are two things I just cannot get a handle on) but we had a few delicious rounds of crispy, sweet snow peas which made us feel better.

We reviewed our budget so that I can continue to do minimal and short term work, rather than going back to work permanently just at the moment. Oh boy, it’s tight! But with three kids it becomes both incredibly difficult to arrange childcare, and also the preciousness of this time becomes abundantly clear with each child shooting up and up and off and off. With the decision that I’ll be home longer, we’re also thinking about giving up the Pixie’s day at childcare which we have been hanging onto for dear life – our centre doesn’t even keep a waiting list any more as they are so full and in demand. When I returned to work last time it was near impossible to get the two girls in on the same day, I think I changed my working days two or three times to compensate. It’s a tough decision to let it go, as we also highly value consistency for the girls and I don’t want to chop and change, but the savings we will make as a result will surely be worth it.

Speaking of savings, these holidays we also found out we have a saver and a spender (what is done with easter eggs says a lot about a person). Friends, I’m sure you won’t need long to figure out which is Bird and which is Pixie…

My feet hurt from the last three hours spent in the kitchen. I think it’s time for a shower, some hot soup and crusty bread for dinner and an early night.

A big week awaits.

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