Domesticity

Sitting here, Sunday morning. Coffee. Cereal. Sunlight pouring through window onto faces of children. Dirty dishes. Discarded pyjamas.

Domesticity.

School goes back tomorrow. Today we will move our way through all the jobs Sundays require. I went through the washing basket before making my coffee this morning and found that we hadn’t yet washed the school uniforms… the washing seems to pile up so fast that often the top layers get washed but the bottom of the basket is forgotten. This is probably so unhygienic I’m not sure if I should mention it publicly. Never fear, all the uniforms are in the machine now and I’ll hang them out in front of the heater later this morning.

The girls both have holes in their navy school leggings that I put off as a school holiday job. They haven’t been mended. In January this year I bought a few metres of navy bamboo jersey material to make them new leggings. They haven’t been made.

I always look ahead to a place where there will be more time, where life will move a little slower. It seems to be an unending lesson that this time never actually comes. These holidays I have to give myself a break though, as I have not simply been contending with time; I’ve spent the entire two weeks coughing and spluttering with a second bout of a wintery virus that has its tendrils tightly wrapped within my chest.

On the long list of holiday jobs we are slowly working our way through is sorting and clearing our home as we get ready to put it on the market. A few days ago I found an old journal I wrote when I lived in London in my early 20s. Despite being excruciatingly disturbing to read, it made me realise how domesticated my life (and I) have become. The majority of its pages had me galavanting around London at night, begrudging what he said and what she said and complaining that I can’t afford to top up my phone and there’s too much plastic on the broccoli at Tesco and maybe I’ll quit my job and move to Edinburgh among a variety of other things that I’ll never mention here, or anywhere, ever. I had nothing to worry about beyond the 18p on my phone and where I was going to buy my next can of corn.

In comparison, domestic life is… what is it? It is full and busy and intense. I like to tell myself it is rarely dull, though at times when wrapped up in the cycle it can be endlessly dull and repetitive. Sometimes it seems like a ridiculous game, a never-ending attempt to reach a certain point (that never eventuates) and I wonder if I’m trapped in some sort of experiment. Eg. Once I’ve washed the dishes I’ll… or If only I could get through this washing basket, then I’ll have time for… or Once I’ve written these emails and filled out those school notices I could… and somehow (I still haven’t quite figured out how) that moment never, ever comes. If you want it, you have to allow it to barge through the wall of domesticated life. If you want to write something, make something, listen to something, you have to grab the moment by the horns and if the proverbial hits the fan, ignore it. At least, that’s the basic theory. I can’t say I have mastered it, although, I am sitting here typing so I suppose in some ways I have. The girls are all at the table with me, colouring in. Between every third word I type there is a question usually beginning with a repeated Mummyyy Mummyyy Mummyyy Mummyy if I don’t answer within the required millisecond. It’s delivered in that kind of whiny, elongated pitch, that cuts straight through your motherly ears (I know you know the tone). That’s ok. I can truly say I love this life. I love the messiness of it, the chaos. I love being around these little, crazy people, despite it being the most exhausting, all-consuming, insane thing I have ever done. I love hearing their conversations, I love organising their things and planning out activities, birthdays, clothing, food. I love cuddling them and reading them books from my childhood, reliving them through their eyes and minds. I love the safety and cosiness of family, of a solid family unit. I love all the nerdy things associated with motherhood: meal planning, wardrobe organising, sewing lists. Sometimes I wonder if I am really an 80 year old trapped in this 36 year old body.

I know that by the time I have figured all this out, my girls will be grown and this brief window of my life will be over. Most days I don’t give it a second thought, I just move with the motions. But now and again I try to tune in, to pay attention. Because domestic life may be inane at times, but I don’t want to miss a second of it.

In an hour or so we will head off to the farmers market and stock up for the week. I don’t know what we’ll cook this week. I’ve been so unwell that we haven’t eaten very well or cooked much over the holidays. The day will flow on as all days do. We will try to make sense of the messiness, and then we will let it go.

That Elusive Thing Called Balance

Sitting Down, Stopping, Staying Still. These are all things I am trying to practice. It has been a long time since I’ve written here. I have drafted a few posts, but for the most part I have simply not been able to find the time. After finishing Yoga Teacher Training last year I promised myself that 2018 would be the year of routine, of slow. I wanted to have a breather and get into a run of the mill schedule that included a bit of work, school drop offs and pick ups, family time, time for cooking and the farmers market and of course craft and cups of coffee. Nothing big. Nothing busy. Plain old pure normal.

I have managed to incorporate most of these things into my life. All good things. I’ve somehow landed an incredible job at a not-for-profit that is truly family friendly. I’m job sharing with another mum of three, working the amount I want and I love it. I’m making and selling things. I’m teaching yoga. I went to the farmers market on the weekend. We spend lots of time in the country on weekends. We have chickens and a veggie patch. But after five months of trying to do it all I have realised that life can’t be contained. Things come up. Physical things. Scheduling issues. Emotions. Time or a perceived lack of it.

Truth is, I am exhausted.

And I’m still searching for that elusive thing called balance. It has to be out there, right? I feel as though I am in a constant battle with time. Each day I get up, fight with time, feel disgruntled at the lack of it, and go to bed. I stay up late to try to do things, to have time to myself. Each morning I wake tired and do it all again. That all sounds very bleak and of course I smile and do good things with my days and for the most part I am happy. But I can’t help but feel I spend more time chasing than being.

In a bid to encourage myself to slow down, to do one task at a time instead of racing time every day, I was standing with P by the school gate this morning after drop off, watching a digger move dirt. A Mum I am getting to know tapped me on the shoulder looking rushed and tired. We had been passing each other in the playground and managing nothing more than a quick “hi!” for weeks. She has been working four days a week during school hours since the start of the year, thinking it would be a good balance being there for the kids in the morning and afternoon. She’s exhausted. She can’t get everything done around the house on her one day off and she feels as though everything outside of work is just falling to pieces.

Another friend of mine has been struggling with a sick husband and sick kids during the seasonal shift, while trying to balance studying full time. She told me she woke up at 2am the other night and got out of bed to wash the lunch boxes and do the kids’ school lunches for the next day to save her time in the morning.

I can relate to all this so well. I don’t know many parents who feel as though they have struck the perfect balance between work, parenting and life. Who are able to pay the bills with ease and just sail on through. I’m sure these people are out there. But from my observation the majority of us are struggling to do everything.

I’ve complained about this before, no doubt. And I am a believer in not thinking we have to do everything. I’m realising though there’s a gap between believing in something and actually playing it out each day in your own life. This transition can require a cultural shift within the family, it means pulling away from things, getting rid of the “shoulds”. We are figuring this out in our family, slowly, slowly.

Balance… where are you, really?

Bringing in the Weekend

It is a sunny winters day today. The girls are on the couch watching Play School in their pyjamas and I’m gearing up to clean their bedrooms. The smallest is sitting next to me doing some drawing and intermittently yelling at me if I don’t take a texta lid off fast enough. I’m finishing my luke warm coffee and knowing my time sitting is coming to an end.

Today we’re doing some tidying, meal planning, and a few other bits and pieces before heading to our local Winter Solstice later this afternoon. Things have been incredibly busy lately with both KB and I writing reports or marking for school/uni and we’ve barely had time to take a breath. I’m not someone who thrives on busy-ness, I much prefer white space in life and do almost anything I can to preserve it. Lately that has been impossible, contradicting almost everything I’m learning at Yoga Teacher Training! But it has provided me with a different platform to practice my learnings, and I suppose a window into what normal life would be like for many of my future students, who may or may not have an awareness of the importance of creating space in life, let alone the tools to do it.

So I have a toddler on my lap now, precariously lashing out at my keyboard, which means this post is coming to an early end. I’m off to tidy, potter and think about how I can carve out some time (because to carve out time is sometimes necessary when finding time is difficult) in these remaining short days to think about how to move forward as our days begin to stretch out and lengthen once again.

What are you letting go of this Winter Solstice? What are you moving towards?

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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