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.

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!

Creating White Space In Life

2016-04-07 12.56.01It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. The washing, the meal prep, the entertainment, the shopping lists, the to-dos. Over the holidays I had a lot of time to consider my life and how each day is spent. When I had just one baby at home the days seemed long and sometimes, empty. I did whatever I wanted; the days were slow and fairly carefree, which has only been recognised in hindsight, of course.

Nowadays with school and kindergarten drop offs and pick ups, my days seem surprisingly chaotic and full, and not always in a good way. I’m finding it hard to adjust and I feel like a real wimp for saying so.

My goal this term is to try to create more down time, more white space. I have a tendency to book up every moment, to say yes to everything, to schedule things in. I’ve started writing “home” on some days on our calendar, to remind myself that in between the necessary driving and delivering of children, I (we) need time to breathe. It’s not just to make sure that dinner is on the table (my goal is to have it ready by 5pm in order to get baths and bedtimes happening at a reasonable hour for my Bird, who finds it very difficult to wind down in the evenings… some would say she’s a lot like her mama). It’s also because the poor baby isn’t in any sort of daily rhythm and she is now ten months old (today!). She has most of her sleeps in the car or the ergo or the pram and they are usually short lived, either due to necessity or just because she barely sleeps a wink (like her sister). Overnight she wakes three times at minimum and has done since she was born. It’s fair to say I’m tired, and I’m guessing she is too! Yes, there is yet another reason for us to take things down a notch.

The other day, with reckless abandon, we packed a picnic lunch, got in the car and went for a bushwalk (see picture). I am always shocked to get out there and realise this is where we live. The time spent in nature worked wonders for all of us and when we got back to the car I really felt regenerated. It was then that my decision was made to make a conscious effort to create more space simply to breathe.

Today after school drop off we came straight home. Baby P is having a sleep and miraculously it’s been 35 minutes so far (totally jinxed myself then and she literally started crying as I pressed full stop). The Pixie is home from kinder with a cough and is watching Octonauts. The breakfast dishes have been washed (thanks to a simple but super tip from my mum – to fill up the sink with hot soapy water first thing and dump all the dishes in there as you go) and today my one goal is to do a few loads of washing and hopefully write a few incredibly late thank you cards for gifts we received when Baby was born (OOPS!).

What are you all up to today? I hope you find some time for yourself, wherever you are.

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.

Perpetually Undecided

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I’m sitting here eating cold toast and luke warm tea. KB has taken the two big girls to their swimming lesson and after forty-five minutes of a jiggling/breastfeeding combo I managed to get the baby to sleep. The general plan was that she would go straight to sleep when he left and then I would tidy our house, but of course, not everything in life goes to plan, right?

We were talking about this concept last weekend as we drove home from South Gippsland. The two of us, KB and I, are absolutely horrendous at making plans and sticking to decisions. Like, the very worst combination of two people put together that you could possibly imagine in the decision stakes, both of us awesomely bad at being able to decide… let’s face it, absolutely anything. We patted each other on the back in commiseration as we talked about our friends, who we have watched do grown up things like sell and move houses, get their homes painted and do their gardening, embark on study and career changes and so on.

We can’t even decide which coffee beans we like best, or where we should place a pot plant in the house (have you seen how many times they move in my instagram photos!?).

We’ve sat down so many times to try to make Life Plans, like we assume other adults do. (Do you?) Then we get so overwhelmed by all the variables we just shrug our shoulders and do nothing. We’ve had grand plans to sell our house, move to a rural area. We both have dreams of going back to study. We both have interests and hopes and wishes and things we’d like to do.

But we never rarely act.

Yes, we are severely lacking in time and resources, sure. But still, we do dream of a plan, of decisions being made. A few years ago we made our word of the year “Decision”. This is the Year Of The Decision! we would declare loudly, whenever we felt stumped. It didn’t last very long. We tried though.

So onwards and upwards we go. I hereby declare this year another Year Of The Decision. I will shout it loudly in my kitchen and can only hope it gives us courage. Maybe. Hopefully. It might?

These are the decisions that are currently doing our heads in:

+ Should we move the girls into the back room and sacrifice our back living area? (Actually we really have no choice on this one unless we want the baby in our room until she is 17 years old. So the answer is YES.)

+ If we do that, should we store our super comfy couch or should we just get rid of it? (Great couch, inherited it for free, love it, but no space to store it…)

+ Should we move house locally or should we move to the beach? (Gawd only knows.)

+ Should we paint our house white or grey? (I say white, he says grey.)

+ Should we go back to study and if so how and when? (Yes we both want to but what and how and when and who first and so on.)

+ Referring to what you thought was a completely unrelated photo above: was given this amazing collection of vintage wallpaper from the Pixie’s kindergarten teacher… only problem is, now I have to decide what to make with it all. YAWN!

There’s more but I won’t bore you with the details, just normal life stuff you know. First World Problems as many would say…

Do you deliberate or decide? Do you act or do you sit around biting your fingernails like us?

comings and goings

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetAs we have travelled back and forth between the city and the beach there has been a lot of time for pondering and dreaming: the very best part about January, don’t you think? Our plans for 2016 are now down in black and white and now we simply have to put them to action to make them real.

This year we bought ourselves a big yearly calendar for our wall so we can plot out our ideas and activities.

It’s a big year for all of us, with my little Bird starting school and the Pixie beginning her kindergarten years. I imagine there will be tears and nostalgia as we immerse ourselves in our new rhythm come February, but hopefully good things are coming too. It’s important for us to maintain a sense of calm and purpose when starting new things, I think.

During our comings and goings we’ve been…

// listening to Open Season by the High Highs

// reading My Darling Lemon Thyme

// watching The True Cost… again…

// eating brown rice bowls, roast veggies, salads, kim chi, hommus and nuts… basically anything tasty and real that can easily be thrown together come 5pm

Looking forward I am slightly nervous about KB heading back to work in a couple of weeks but the good news is Term 1 is only eight weeks long, I’m sure I can survive that…!? I’m trying not to think about it too much, for now, and just hanging happily onto these long summer days with my family.

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