Tuesday, 4 November 2014

a mother's guilt



In the same way that when you're pregnant for the first time, no-one ever thinks to mention to you that approximately three months after giving birth there's a good chance that about 40% of your hair will fall out in handfuls every time you shower, I never had any idea of the extent of maternal guilt that would inhabit my life once I had a child. I don't think there's a mother out there today that is altogether free of it, no matter how positive their outlook or sunny their disposition. Though I do sometimes wonder if our own mothers generation and those before them felt it to such an extent, but I suppose such is the outcome of increased choices and a focus on motherhood as a vocation at which one must excel rather than just a accepted occurrence that you just got on with.

In my daydreams I like to imagine that we are one of those families that all sits around the table on the daily and enjoys a leisurely breakfast together with some pleasant banter to kick of the morning. Surely this should be relatively simple to achieve, however when Curt leaves the house for work every week day at some ungodly hour before even my earliest riser has climbed out of bed, we fall at the first hurdle. Secondly; and most hard for me to come to terms with, is the fact that I am not a let's- leap-out-of-bed-and-greet-the-morning-with-unbridled-joy person. Maybe I was a couple of decades ago but six years of broken sleep on and off will downright destroy any trace of that remaining in a person. Now, when forced to drag myself from a horizontal position I am bleary eyed and like to be left alone for a while, to drink my coffee in peace and come to terms with the fact that a new day has dawned. I usually make the children breakfast still in a zombie-like state, declining requests to sit and join them. Instead I often wait until they are finished and happily playing with their baby sister, and then I take a few minutes to get my caffeine-fix and eat a bowl of granola whilst checking my emails, writing a to-do list for the day and having a quick browse of social media.

I often feel a pang of guilt that in choosing to have a larger clan, I am neglecting the needs of each of my children and that I don't have the time to spend with them one-on-one. For not getting down on the floor and playing with them as much as I probably should, even though I would rather poke myself repeatedly with a sharp stick than play 'shops' or 'Mums and Dads'. In my defence, I do love Sylvanian Families probably more than they do and am a dab hand when it comes to arts and craft projects. Then I remind myself that their siblings are their playmates, and I hope they will be their best friends, confidantes and support network for the rest of their lives. They are resourceful, well able to amuse themselves and have incredible imaginations probably due to the fact I'm not breathing down their necks all day long. On the other hand, children without siblings have rich lives in many other ways, and the undivided attention of their parents. Of course it's never black and white. Sometimes it doesn't even come down to chance, just circumstances and even if choices are there to be made there isn't simply a right or wrong option where the correct decision provides respite from the guilt trip.

Whenever I come across an interview with a working mother, I often read how they make sure they keep their work and home worlds separate, so they can be fully present with their child or children when they come home and give them their full undivided attention. That it's not the quantity of their time that's important, but the quality of it. As someone who is attempting to work from home, even when it's just for a few hours a week, this makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. Especially if I've just been trying to bash out a bit of work at the computer, juggling a baby on one knee and saying to my three year old, "Just hang on a minute" for the thousandth time that day. I start debating f I should go back to work full-time, then would our time together be more valuable or special? Then I remember all of the milestones I have been there to watch, the adventures big and small that we've embarked on together and memories we've made, and the fact that I'm bringing them up the way I want to, rather than according to the policy of a day-care centre.

I think a lot of us forget that it's ok, perfectly normal in fact, not to love everything about being a parent. To occasionally want to escape to an uninhabited tropical island, just for the opportunity to got to the toilet alone (even if that would have to be behind a palm tree) and get a moments peace. Or to long for a night out with our other half, where let's face it, the evening would more than likely mainly consist of sharing anecdotes and reminiscing about how great our offspring are. There's no shame in those days where you are on the verge of  tears about everything and nothing. We should never forget that we're doing a great job. Actually, having the words 'You're doing a great job' tattooed on the back of your hand should probably be mandatory for about 90% of the population when they become parents. And when we sometimes mess up and maybe give out a cross word instead of a hug or forget a promise, they still love us. Every time.

Having said all that, I think I will actually start sitting down with them to eat breakfast every day. The laptop can sit untouched, my phone can be put away. Emails and social media can wait. It certainly won't be the perfect scenario I carry in my head, but while my children still want me to just be with them, I should grab that chance. The day will come, sooner than I can ever realise now, when they won't crave my company in the same way. Or probably want to be seen out anywhere at all with me for a few years. Then a little while after that they'll be out in the world doing their thing and my own world will slowly return to me. Then I'll get to have all the slow and peaceful breakfasts my heart desires, but the table will be a lot quieter without them. And I know I'll miss them like crazy.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

taking stock


A little snapshot of life as it is right now, because it's fun to look back one day and remember.

Making: A mobile to hang above Pearl's cot, from driftwood and tiny ceramic birds, a ceramic leaf and a tiny ceramic toadstool.
Cooking: Lots of roast chicken, parmesan baked potatoes, and asparagus while it's still in season.
Drinking: A glass of warm water with lemon every morning when I wake, and a glass of pinot before bed.
Reading: Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (the author of Anne of Green Gables). I should probably start reading real books for grown ups again but this is just pure escapism for me and about all my weary brain can handle right now.
Wanting: To make a new batch of granola as my breakfasts have been decidedly lacking it without it for the past couple of weeks.
Deciding: On a pre-school for Rose for next year, the local Steiner school is topping the list for me at the moment.
Enjoying: Dipping into 'An Everlasting Meal' by Tamar Adler. A different kind of cookbook which is changing the way I look at food, cooking and eating in general.
Waiting: Not very patiently, and with a great deal of excitement for our upcoming trip back to England in December.
Liking: Starting to do some work from home for a few hours a week and earn a little money again.
Wondering: When Pearl's first tooth will decide to arrive because it feels like she's been teething forever with nothing to show for it yet.
Loving: The warmer, lighter evenings.
Considering: An attempt at baking a loaf of sourdough bread.
Watching: Recorded episodes of George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.
Marvelling: At the garden bursting into Spring bloom. Every morning we wake to discover that a new plant has flowered.
Needing: More hours in the day.
Smelling: Pearl's little head, to get my fix of that new baby smell before it disappears.
Following: Along as this lady rocks her minimalist wardrobe and feeling inspired to do the same.
Admiring: Anyone who manages top get out of the house in the mornings without leaving the place looking like it's been burgled.
Buying: A few Christmas presents for the girls, including this book and these storytelling dice for Lila, so that we don't bankrupt ourselves in December.
Noticing: I really need to re-paint my toenails and get a fringe trim so I can actually see again.
Getting: The house decluttered by purging it of things we no longer need or don't actually use. It's a never-ending process.
Bookmarking: This list of Ways to be Kind to Your Children. Because lately I feel like I've been tired and snappy with them too often.
Disliking: The constant stream of illness that has rampaged through our household non-stop during the colder months. Please let it be over now!
Opening: A frighteningly big electricity bill that we managed to rack up over the Winter. Vowing that I will make everyone wear three jumpers each next Winter and never turn the heating on.
Laughing: At Rose and the way she says 'I-chair' instead of high chair and how she informs me that her hands have gone all 'sprinkly' after spending too long in the bath.
Feeling: Tired but happy.
Snacking: On bowls of chopped fruit mixed with natural Greek yoghurts, a handful of almonds and a drizzle of honey.
Wishing: That we had a dishwasher. Three children and no dishwasher is not a situation I could recommend to anyone.
Coveting: A new pair of summer sandals. There's a pair of Birks in my online shopping cart patiently waiting for payday.
Hearing: The girls playing outside together in the garden
Looking: Forward to getting back in the water and reacquainted with my surfboard again over the next few months.
Feeling: Virtuous that we've finally started using cloth nappies with Pearl, and guilty that we didn't with the other two, but all that washing whilst living in tiny apartments and homes with no drying space was just not feasible.
Hoping: to make a Saturday morning yoga class a regular thing. I've managed to get there the past three weekends and I've been feeling so much better because of it.
Wearing: A lot of outfits revolving around black skinny jeans, Breton striped t-shirts and a chambray shirt because it's easy and requires little effort. Thinking I should apply a dab of red lip stain to try and avoid looking completely like a boy, but usually forgetting.
Reminding: myself that I have a lot to be thankful for.






Pictures...the beautiful pink king proteas currently gracing our table...the mobile I made to hang above Pearl's cot...a newly flowering geranium....a newly sitting Pearl discovering grass for the first time...my vision of a wooden fence with climbing flowers growing up it is slowly coming to fruition.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

let the sisterhood unite


Us women, we are so hard on ourselves. And sometimes, each other. And when children come into the equation, this is only intensified ten fold. So many expectations to strive towards; rearing the most well-rounded children, being a text book wife or partner, maintaining the perfect home, keeping a foot on the career ladder and of course looking flawless whilst doing all (just because we have kids now, it doesn't mean that we've taken our finger off the style pulse, or god forbid, become 'mumsy'.) Well I'm putting my hand up and saying I've fallen off the bandwagon. If sporting an ugly pink fleece dressing gown for too many hours of the day with hair that relies embarrassingly heavily on dry shampoo repels anyone then I'm sorry but it's the truth. I have no idea what I'll do when it's time one day to leap back into the work force with both feet. I also couldn't possibly tell you what's current in the music scene because when I try and listen to a radio station playing the latest hits my kids just latch onto the most horrendous pop songs with questionable lyrics and sing them relentlessly. So we end up listening to Smooth FM in the car which makes me feel like I'm sixty, but at least it's a relaxing antidote to any bickering coming from the back. I can't pretend this isn't making me shudder a little...just who exactly have I become? But at the same time, I'm tired. And I suspect I'm not the only one. Tired because I have a three month old baby but also tired of the pressure of trying to seem like I always have it together (of course anyone who spends time with me regularly knows this is certainly not the case).

I think we need to be kinder to ourselves and to each other. When we become parents we all inevitably do things slightly differently and though we're no doubt guilty of a bit of judgement now and then, the bottom line is that we all love our kids like crazy and we're just trying to do the best we possibly can for them, whatever that looks like. And you know what? That's good enough. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by an amazing, unfailingly supportive bunch of friends who never make me feel lacking for my shortcomings but when womenkind in general are being upheld to ridiculous expectations of 'doing it all' from everywhere we turn then it's time for the sisterhood at large to rally together and reassure each other that it's ok just to be ok. There's something chilling about the idea of motherhood and life in general being a competition. Most days I'm not excelling in any field, just getting by and finding happiness in the small moments when my baby breaks into a beautiful smile when she sees me or when I find my eldest with her head buried in a book. Then I know I must be doing something right. My three year old certainly isn't wearing a pair of the latest trendy leggings that cost half of a weeks grocery shop, but she's eaten two and a half meals today. If I also managed to shower, get dressed and do a load of laundry and hang it before it started smelling all damp and horrible then things are looking good from where I'm standing.

This life business that we're all trying to figure out as we go along, ebbs and flows like the tides, and  we all encounter days when wish we could just crawl back into bed. Often a cup of tea and a hug can be all that's needed to get back on track, and the reminder that we're all in it together, doing our best to keep the train of daily life on the tracks. Next time we find ourselves at the playground, let's vow to throw out a smile and a hello to the other mothers that don't look like they've just stepped off the fashion pages of the latest magazine, but do look like they would welcome some extra sleep. Or if children aren't in the equation, then maybe a quick chat and a cuppa with a work colleague who you suspect may have had a rough week. The bottom line is we never know what battles others are fighting behind closed doors and it's easy enough to spread a little compassion and support each other.

It has bothered me a lot more than it should that I can't fit into most of my pre-pregnancy jeans (turns out that regaining your body after three babies is not quite the walk in the park it was after the first two) but I'm not wasting another minute of precious time dwelling on it. I know I'll get there in the end. No doubt when I find the willpower to stop eating chocolate and make time to exercise. And even if my hips never return to their former selves, well it's really not that important. My precious little crew, flaws and all, is worth a whole lot more to me than the satisfaction of fitting into all the skinny jeans in the universe. I hope you feel the same way too and know that if your house isn't as clean as you'd like or your hair isn't cooperating today then you're not alone, because I can guarantee mine isn't either. Lets just shrug our shoulders, smile about it together and instead get on with enjoying all the good things life has to offer.

Image via Pinterest. Sadly I wasn't able to discover it's source.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

reading material

 
As much as I love to have my head buried in a novel whenever possible, I also appreciate a good non-fiction read too. I've never really been drawn to self-help bibles and generally steered clear of the majority of run-of-the-mill parenting manuals, preferring to follow my instincts after I picked up a copy of The Contented Little Baby by Gina Ford shortly after my eldest was born. While her approach no doubt works for some, it quite frankly terrified me with all its talk of rigid scheduling of newborn babies and seemingly a complete loss of joy and flexibility in the whole parenting experience. However, there are a few books in particular that I've come across which have really made an impact over the past couple of years. These have inspired me, offered up new ways of thinking, put forward practical tips and confirmed in my mind the kind of lifestyle I want for myself and my family. I usually borrow any I am interested in from the local library first and if there's one I truly love then I will buy a copy to refer to whenever the mood strikes. Here are the ones which have made the most lasting impression...


Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids // By Kim John Payne

If you are a parent (or are thinking about becoming one in the near future), then I would seriously recommend getting hold of a copy of this book. It brings to attention the undeniable truth that our lives today are busier, faster, with too much stuff, too many choices and too little time and this is all leaving childhood in a sad state of affairs. Offering up a blueprint for change, it helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need for their attention to deepen and their individuality to flourish. It advocates scary things like getting rid of at least 50% your children's toys and not just plonking them down in front of the TV when you need to get things done, but I can say hand on heart that I've found that these things are so worth doing. Aside from ideas on how to streamline your home environment, it offers advice on how to establish rhythms and rituals which help children feel secure and ease tensions, how to provide intervals of calm and connection in your child's daily routine and scale back on parental and media involvement.


Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder // By Richard Louv

I love the idea behind this book, which documents decreased exposure of children to nature in our modern society (the book focuses on America as this is the home of the author, but the message is relevant to us all), and how this harms children and society. The message is that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. It examines a lot of research and certainly some of the text can get a bit heavy at times but it's easy enough to dip in and out of chapters, focusing on any which particularly grab you. The list at the end, which breaks down all the different ways you can get out and experience nature with your children is fantastic if you feel like you're lacking in ideas.


Free-Range Kids: How to raise safe, self-reliant children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) // By Lenore Skenazy

This is written by the mother who hit the headlines and caused a media furore a few years ago for a piece she wrote about letting her 9 year old boy ride the subway in New York City alone. Dubbed 'America's Worst Mother' by some commentators, she was applauded by others for allowing her son (who had ridden the subway countless times before and been fully coached on how to handle the excursion) the freedom he was desperate for a taste of. The antidote to the increasing number of 'helicopter parents' in todays world, Free-Range Kids has since become a national movement, advocating that children today shouldn't be sheltered from every possible risk, danger or difficulty in their everyday lives, as this gives them no opportunity to grow up. Indeed, the greatest risk of all might just be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.


Rethink: The Way You Live // By Amanda Talbot

This beautiful, hardback book with stunning photographs shows how in different corners of this rapidly changing world, people are reviving age-old methods and redesigning their homes and communities to blend with modern life. We are having to adapt to accommodate new social and environmental behaviour and more of us finding creative outlets for reuse, recycling and reappropriation in our homes. It has an emphasis on day-to-day habits such as growing your own food, sourcing quality products instead of big-name brands, and taking time to craft rather than purchase. Focusing on case studies of specific families, couples and individuals in various countries, it takes a look into their lives and homes and reveals the ways we can combine old resourcefulness with new methods, modern technology and a fresh vision and strive to weave creativity, sustainability and quality into our life and home.


The Thrift Book: Live Well and Spend Less // By India Knight

My mother bought this book for me one Christmas, when I was just setting out in my first (very badly paid) 'proper' job post University and travelling, which was also when the recession first hit. Though it was written back in 2009, it's still incredibly relevant and I continue to pull it off the shelves and read it at least once a year, just to refresh my memory of its genius advice. It's written by the very humorous British author India Knight, who is a regular columnist for The Sunday Times. All about how to live beautifully while saving money and easing your conscience, it covers every aspect of life from how to make wonderful dinners with very little money, dressing fabulously on a budget, and holidaying imaginatively with very little carbon footprint. It contains a wealth of great suggestions, tips and resources though I should point out that whilst a lot of the advice is universal, some of it is tailored with the UK resident in mind.

Friday, 25 July 2014

the divinity of ordinary things

 
 


The times they indeed are a-changin, as Bob Dylan declared in his famous song. The past few decades have seen the excess and decadence of the eighties, the huge technological and online advances during the nineties, followed by the recession and financial crisis and now the increased unrest about the state of the planet we call home. Instead of dreaming about owning a designer handbag, planning exotic holidays, or pouring time and energy into mindless consumption and one-upmanship, I think it's fair to say that many of us are looking for comfort closer to home and redefining our priorities and experience of joy.

I sense a return to simple but infinitely more rewarding pleasures such as time spent with family and friends, playing a role in and being part of a wider community, connecting with nature, the land and the seasons. Enjoying the experience of real food more often than processed and convenience options and preparing nourishing meals for our loved ones with simple, fresh ingredients. Rediscovering the crafts of our grandparents generation, such as sewing, knitting and woodworking. Reusing, repurposing and making do and mending. All of which are far nobler and more rewarding pursuits than the accumulation of bigger, better, newer possessions and countless extra hours spent at the office clawing up the career ladder when doing so is at the detriment of all the other aspects of life.

It's a small but significant revelation to realise that fulfilment and contentment can be found in the most ordinary of tasks and everyday domestic occurrences. Something as mundane as making a cup of tea is actually a ritual which allows the chance to gather a favourite mug, take a moment to breathe and regroup whilst the kettle boils, then wrap your hands around something comforting and warm. Hanging the washing on the line or walking to work is an opportunity to get some fresh air and take note of what is happening outdoors, be it a bird singing on the fence or the first shoots of spring pushing their way up through the soil. Getting our hands dirty and growing things brings satisfaction from the toil itself as well as the rewards it yields, even if it's on as small a scale as growing herbs in pots on a window ledge.

I think awareness of spirituality, not only in terms of religion but the general state of self, and the practice of meditation and mindfulness will become more apparent. Of course, there will always be bills to pay and no doubt money and power still speak volumes, bringing with them the beauty of choices but no guarantee of happiness or wholeness. Even if we can't escape the rat race altogether it's about slowing down, making time for what's really important, enjoying the little moments in the everyday and holding those dear to us close. Hopefully we can all find a balance, not striving for perfection but a life well lived and loved.

p.s The happy mundane series is having a brief hiatus, not from a lack of gratitude, merely a lack of time :)

Saturday, 12 July 2014

these are the days



The laughter, the chaos, the trails of toys. The crumbs, grubby faces and sticky, jam coated fingers. The endless laundry and the tiny baby clothes hanging out on the line.

The great days and the darker days with tear stained cheeks. The mistakes and the promise of a fresh start with every new morning.

The midnight feeds, the whispers and warm embraces soothing bad dreams away. The dimpled elbows and unruly ringlets. The blanket forts where dreams are shared and mighty adventures planned. Puddle jumping, rock pool hunting, well-worn books and fairy tales.

And the love, mostly the love. The fierce, unending, gut-wrenching love at the heart of it all. These are the days I will remember at eighty two. And smile at life so vivid and tumbling, joyous and whole.

Monday, 7 July 2014

the happy mundane #5







I briefly considered naming this gratitude list 'The Birthday Edition' or 'The Flu edition' or 'The School Holidays Edition'. All of which are relevant seeing as in the past week I've celebrated my 31st birthday which coincided with the first day of the two week winter school holidays and then got sick a couple of days afterwards with a nasty cold/flu which I still can't shake off. I decided against each of these as the one thing that actually stands out amidst all of it is friendship.
 
Friends that are more like family, since (with the exception of my sister) my actual family is many oceans away. Friends that hand over their no-longer needed baby items and clothes without a second thought. Friends that invite us all to their home to share their food and conversation. Friends that send parcels from the other side of the world containing the most thoughtful gifts. Friends that let me bring loads of laundry over and put it in their drier for me whilst ours is broken. Friends that hold my baby so I can eat a meal. Friends that come to visit and bring a freshly baked cake to share with us. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. You all know who you are if you are reading and I don't know where I would be without you.
 
Here are a few other things that have kept me smiling from underneath my mountain of tissues and helped distract from the most hideous of hacking coughs (sorry to everyone who has been subject to how annoying this cough is. But believe me, it's annoying me more).
 
 
1 // Slow mornings and a generally more relaxed pace of life now we are not chained to the ring of the school bell twice a day for two glorious weeks.
 
2 // Having my big girl around all day. She's become such a help to me these past few months and  has stepped up to her role as big sister to two with such grace and acceptance it has really taken me aback. She is what makes it possible for me to take a shower of a morning and feed and tend to the chickens at dusk.
 
3 // Hitting the jewellery jackpot with a beautiful bracelet bearing a tag inscribed with each of my girls names, sent to me by one of my oldest and dearest friends from home and a dainty gold bar necklace hand stamped with the letters L & R & P on a fine chain from Curt.
 
4 // A birthday high tea celebration with (most of) my main ladies. What a treat to be able to have a conversation blissfully uninterrupted by our offspring whilst indulging in a full spread of sweet and savoury treats.
 
5 // My one birthday request for the day itself (not having to cook dinner or do any washing up) was fulfilled thanks to Curt picking up pizza for us all then rounded off nicely by a delicious chocolate cheesecake and then cosying up for the evening to finally watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
 
5 // A garden bench and two huge pots offered up to us for free by our neighbours, which serendipitously completed our new outdoor deck area like it was meant to be.
 
6 // Hearing Lila reading stories to Rose. She can read now, actually read, and I am so proud of her. It all seemed to fall into place for her during the past month or so and she now picks up and fluently reads any of the books from their shelf or the library box. She is unstoppable.

7 // Taking care of our friends sweet bunnies whilst they were out of town for a couple of days. These gorgeous little creatures stole our hearts completely and I now have two children hell bent on us acquiring our own fluffy friends to add to the family. 
 
 
Photos....Warm toes and cups of tea...a thank you in the form of a cinnamon teacake which we devoured in minutes...the very cute Jonathan and Rosie...birthday bracelet...our newly completed deck area.
 
 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

the happy mundane #4
































This was one of those weeks where the living room carpet had a few crumbs on it on Monday which I kept meaning to vacuum but then never had enough minutes in the day. Then by Friday the carpet was nowhere to be seen and it was just a vast sea of crumbs, flakes of Weetbix (always baffling as the children are banned from eating it anywhere except the table) and small sequins in the shape of leaves- part of the aftermath of Rose dumping the contents of the craft box all over the floor. At least when I finally got it done late on Friday afternoon the sense of relief was palpable. A clean area underfoot could be enjoyed by everyone for all of the ten minutes it took for the crumbs to start building up again. Such is life with children. You have to laugh about it or you'd go completely batty.

Despite the less than ideal house cleanliness situation, I did manage to get a good home cooked meal on the table every night and vaguely keep on top of the laundry so I'm calling that a win. I soon realised when we went from a family of four to five that if laundry doesn't get done every day then things get out of hand very fast. Drowning in it probably sums it up best. So, after that vastly uninspiring introduction to my weekly gratitude list, here are some hopefully slightly more interesting moments and little goings on that serve to give me a kick up the rear end and make me realise that all things considered, it's pretty darn great to be alive and breathing and living this messy, imperfect but pretty awesome life.

Here goes...

1 // The early evening Winter ritual of making the house cosy and getting ready to hunker down for the night as the sun goes down by closing all the blinds and curtains, lighting a candle, and turning on the heating if it's a cold one.

2 // Our glorious freshly painted newly white walls. Happily they turned out just as wonderful as I has been picturing them since the day we first viewed the house. So fresh, so clean, so light. So much better than magnolia. Now just the bedrooms, bathroom and laundry room to go, though it may take another year to get around to that. We shall see.

3 // A lovely two days spent with my sister and her little clan at their gorgeous home. Time with my family makes my soul sing like nothing else. Also, the fact that all of my little ones slept for the entire two hour evening drive both ways, whilst I got to have a chill and listen to some tunes. Practically a holiday in itself really.

4 // My Mason Pearson hairbrush. An early birthday present from my sister, who knew this had been on my fantasy purchase wish-list for a very long time. Nothing like a good old fashioned, quality hairbrush to make you feel like a real grown-up. I've been spending a happy five minutes every night before bed brushing out my hair, during which I think it would be rude not to imagine oneself as a grand lady in her manor house sitting at her dressing table in an elegant nightgown, patiently counting out her requisite one hundred nightly brushstrokes. Or maybe that's just me and my continued love affair with Downton Abbey.

5 // A few hours in the evenings to hang out with the husband and take some time for myself (and ignore the crumb ridden carpet) now we seem to have got Pearl in a nightly routine of going to bed at the same time as her big sisters.

6 // The bath I managed to have this week (thanks to the above), with a hefty dose of epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil. This has been long and eagerly awaited, as has the glass of red wine I enjoyed in it now I know I have a few hours grace before Pearl wakes in the early hours for her next feed.

7 // The paved path in our garden that now leads to the shed (and the person that created it). Thank goodness I married a man who knows his way around a tool box and doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. Whilst I am great at having the grand visions and coming up with crazy schemes, he is the one that makes them happen and for this I am eternally grateful.

Photos.... hello new path... this weeks colourful and abundant veggie box delivery... white walls and kitchen shelves... my king of hairbrushes... happy tiny girl at seven weeks old.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

the happy mundane #3




I couldn't decide if this gratitude list should be last weeks (very late to air) or this weeks (slightly ahead of schedule) so it is by default, both. Some weeks just get so hectic that finding a moment to sit down uninterrupted at the computer or pick up the camera and document life with a few shots is just not on the agenda. It doesn't of course mean that there has been nothing to be thankful for. Rather the opposite, as after getting my head around the big disappointment mentioned in the last list and returning to my full-time, now-mother-of-three duties, life has been full and rolling along relatively smoothly. With the odd speed bump of course; like the few days that the baby has declined to have anything more than twenty minute cat naps during the day. Those are then balanced by the times she has a three hour afternoon sleep (in her Moses basket no less!), allowing me to operate with two free hands and bask in a feeling of great achievement after managing to cram as many tasks as humanely possible into this window of time.

Without further ado, here's some more of the little things I've been grateful for this past couple of weeks...

1 // A still-warm-from-the-oven chocolate cake delivered to us by our incredibly generous neighbours at the weekend.

2 // Expanding on the above (because it really deserves it's own number), living on such a great street with such kind and caring neighbours. Some of the sweet things they have done for us lately include delivering unexpected new baby and birthday gifts for our girls, sharing produce from their gardens and giving us clippings from their plants, entertaining Lila and Rose for a few hours while we get things done...and the list goes on.

3 // A trip to Aldi, where I happily discovered it was 'British Week'. Hello packet of chocolate Hob Nobs and HP sauce.

4 // Catch ups and cups of tea with a best friend (also mama to a new babe), with good advice and words of wisdom. Even though it's the third time I've done this baby thing I still feel like I'm winging it half the time.

5 // Planning to take the children for a weekend away visit to my sisters place tomorrow for some cousin time and to grab the chance to see her before she leaves on her month long visit back to the UK.

6 // Curt agreeing to make a start on painting the interior walls of our house white whilst we are away. Finally! No more disgusting magnolia. I am so incredibly happy about this.

7 // Daily lunches of avo and spinach on toast with seeds and crumbled feta sprinkled on top, finished with a squeeze of lime juice. Courtesy of a big, $5 dollar bag of avocados.

8 // Freshly laid eggs every day, gathered by my little helper Rose. She is exceedingly proud of being entrusted with her own two special daily tasks of this and collecting the post from our mail box.

9 // A husband who has been making a big effort to be home at 6pm every night instead of 7pm so he can help me out with the crazy hour of baths and bedtimes and the baby juggle.

10 // First smiles by Pearl. Nothing beats the magic of those first few big beaming grins. I'm trying not to take it too much to heart that last night she didn't want to share them with me during her bath and chose only to bestow them on the taps and flannel hanging off them.

11 // My biggest girls reading progress. Curt has taken over her nightly reading practice since our new arrival so when I got the chance to read with her the other night I was literally speechless when she picked up a fairly wordy library book she hadn't seen before, with a good few sentences on every page and read it to me with minimal hesitation and errors. I'm so proud of her.

12 // Tackling some pantry organisation. The top shelf is now looking very aesthetically pleasing with its rows of little glass jars that I've been collecting forever for this purpose. The rest of it however is an absolute shambles but I'm working on it.

Photos...Eggs from our feathered friends Daisy and Evelyn...favourite lunch...pretty pantry shelf.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

the happy mundane #2



 



This week hasn't been without its (rather large) disappointments. Although this is intended to be a list of small day-to-day happy things, it would be a glaring omission not to mention that the trip I had booked to take our girls visit my family in England is sadly not going to happen at the end of June as planned. This is due to an unfortunate situation with the British Passport Office experiencing a huge backlog in processing passport applications from overseas since they decided to shut down all of their offices abroad at the start of the year, meaning that Pearl's passport will not be with us now for a minimum of eight weeks, possibly a lot longer. My sister and niece will thankfully still go at this time, so at least my parents will get to see one of their beloved grandchildren.

We've been weighing up our options and have decided to push back the flight dates several months to be sure the passport will arrive in time. So all being well we hope to be flying back to the UK as a family at the start of December, to stay for one month. I'm so happy that Curt will be able to join us now and we can spend Christmas with my family. I've been dreaming of taking our children home for a big family winter Christmas ever since we left in 2010. Christmas in Summer just never feels right to me and I can't wait. Every cloud as they say...

So during this rather intense week full of ups and downs, here are some things that have kept me smiling:

1 // A green and lush garden due to the mild weather and showers of this season, bringing life to the dry and brown earth scorched by the summer sun. My Valentines gift from Curt, a fuchsia tree, is thriving and it lifts my spirits just looking through the windows and seeing its beautiful pink and white flowers dancing in the breeze.

2 // A new addition to my collection of hanging planters adorning the back porch. Reduced to $10 at the garden centre, it is actually supposed to be a birdhouse but nothing beats a bit of repurposing.

3 // Tiny toes and baby thighs that are showing signs of starting to get irresistibly chubby.

4 // Afternoon energy boosts in the form of slices of apple smeared with peanut butter and green smoothies and juices.

5 // A beautiful package that arrived from my Auntie, a talented artist in the UK, with a sketch of Pearl drawn from a photograph taken when she was a few days old and little cloth bags each for Lila and Rose which she had sewn from vintage Rupert Bear fabric. Handmade gifts are so precious.

6 //  Family board game nights are in our future now that my sister gifted Lila Junior Monopoly for her birthday. This has appealed to her fiercely competitive nature like nothing else and she begs Curt and I to play every time we stand still for more than two minutes. I forgot how much fun a good game of Monopoly can be.

7 // Managing to use up the odd bits of produce from our weekly vegetable box delivery that usually languish at the bottom of the fridge whilst I ponder what to do with them, then eventually give up and feed them to the chickens. This weeks success story was red cabbage braised with grated apple and balsamic vinegar.

After four weeks of working from home to help me out with the school run and settling into life as a family of five, Curt is heading back into work tomorrow to resume business as usual. I've been so thankful for my month of leisurely morning starts and staying in bed with Pearl until 8am but now it's time to take a full step back into the real world. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

the happy mundane #1






For some time now I've had all the best intentions of starting a gratitude journal and jotting down a few things to be thankful for on a regular basis. Aside from being a boost to overall wellbeing, I figure that embracing this mentality can only help keep my spirits high on those odd crappy days that inevitably roll around every now and then when domestic matters and child rearing get a whole lot more of a chore than a pleasure and that little feeling of discontent threatens to creep in, followed hot on the heels by the niggling question of "Life...is this it?'

A pen and a notebook with its pristine pages still untouched have sat waiting patiently on my bedside table to be used for this very purpose for about a year now. It's probably safe to say at this point that approach is clearly not going to work for me so instead I thought I'd try making a little happy list here at the end of every week (or as often as I can manage!) For the past several months this has been a place I've come to write when I've felt inspired and particularly strongly about a topic or wanted to share something poignant but I like the idea of also recording the small pleasures and moments in our everyday routines that often go unnoticed. After all, it's the little moments of joy- and the ability to stop and recognise them, just as much as the big celebratory events and milestones which cumulatively make a life a happy one. So in the name of gratitude and thankfulness, here are some things that have put a smile on my face this week

1 // Sharing a mid-afternoon treat with Rose when she wakes up from her nap- a mug of hot cocoa with added vanilla and cinnamon and a pinch of brown sugar, with a biscuit or two for dunking and some stories.

2 // My new English Garden candle filling the house with the scent of lavender and cedarwood is getting me excited about our upcoming trip to the UK and afternoons spent in my parents beautiful garden.

3 // Re-reading some of my old, eternally favourite novels during quiet hours spent on the sofa feeding Pearl, including Little Women and its sequel Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott. I've been lured back to them by a slightly lazy desire for familiar, reliable pleasures. Plus I've yet to find any literary family as comic as the eccentric Radletts and the force of nature that is Uncle Matthew in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love.

4 // Making batches of homemade granola with oats, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and coconut flakes mixed with olive oil and maple syrup before baking. So good with a bowl of natural yoghurt, chopped fresh fruit and honey. I like it for breakfast, or lunch or a snack (or all of the above), this would explain why it doesn't hang around for long before it's gone.

5 // Managing to pull off throwing two birthday parties in two weekends for my two biggest girls, both held at home and at insanely short notice. It was worth the effort to see how happy it made them, and a good reminder that kids don't need a lot have a great time. If there is a game of pass the parcel, the chance to run around outside and play with bubbles and a cake involved then it's hard to go wrong.

6 // Beautiful mild Autumn days that beg for brisk walks and are chilly enough for a scarf but bright enough to need sunglasses. Being able to still hang the laundry outside is a bonus as I always seem to shrink the childrens clothes when I have to use the drier.

7 // Having the mother of one of Lila's school friends comment that our house was 'homely and cosy' as soon as she walked in for the first time. This is the best home related compliment she could ever have given me and made me more happy than is probably normal. Hopefully she didn't actually glance too closely at any of the surfaces to see the layer of dust settling there.

8 // Seeing how much love Lila and Rose have for their baby sister already and they way their eyes light up when I carry her through into the kitchen every morning (they then proceed to smother her with kisses, strokes and demands to hold her). This little girl is going to be so well cared for.

Photos...Hot cocoa and stories with Rose...Homemade granola in the making...Pearl enjoying a sunny spot...Still small enough to sleep in Daddy's hand...The party table before the carnage...Front porch hang outs...Birthday cake excitement...Enjoying her party morning tea...Our homely home :)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

dear pearl



My Pearl Clementine. Just when I thought my heart was already full to the brim, I am blown away once more by the fierceness with which I fall head over heels all over again. Twelve days after you arrived in the world, and I can't imagine our lives without you here. Though my attention will always be divided three ways now, I am more aware than ever just how precious every second of your fleeting newborn days is.

I never want to forget the warmth of your tiny body curled up on my chest, secure and content as you feel my heart beating against yours. Sitting on the cosy spot at the end of the sofa watching the sun go down through the big windows and the dusk turn to twilight while you feed nonstop during the early evening hours. The way that you are so small that for the moment you will only sleep at night lying beside me nestled safely in the crook of my arm. Your soft perfectly shaped head with your miniature ears and thoughtful eyes. The firm grip of your fingers holding onto my own so tightly. Washing the bed linen can wait. I have a whole lifetime ahead of me to do laundry but tomorrow you grow bigger before my eyes and when autumn turns to winter again you will be running around with your sisters. Leaving me watching in awe, proud and slightly in shock that your babyhood days have ended so soon. A bittersweet feeling of excitement for your future and all that is yet to come tinged with sorrow that I will likely not cradle another baby of my own in my arms.

So we take the days slowly for now, doing as little as we can whilst still keeping the household just about functioning. This is exactly where I want to be, watching, holding and getting to know you and enjoying being together. Venturing out here and there to fill our lungs with fresh air and show you glimpses of the world. Your big sisters cannot be kept from your side and every chance they get you are passed between their eager sets of arms, being sung to or rocked enthusiastically if not always gently in your swinging chair. Know that you are so loved by all of us. I still can't believe you're actually here, but every day the sun shines that little bit brighter now you are with us.

Love always, your Mama xxx

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

technology overload: a journey towards finding balance

Parenting is not easy at the best of times, but when you've made a decision to embrace good old-fashioned style play for your children instead of constant exposure to screen time and electronic devices- be it the television, iPad or games on the iPhone, it can sometimes feel like climbing a never-ending uphill mountain. The truth is that it can require a lot of effort and patience to provide guidance and get them started in their creative play- whether it's helping them source items and fasten buttons and ties on their dress-up outfits when you feel like there are a hundred and one other things you should or could be doing, or baking with them when it takes three times as long and generates at least double the mess than if you were to just do it by yourself. It is time consuming to set up and supervise a creative project then clean it all up again or get them all geared up for a walk or some outdoor play, prepare the necessary snacks and locate drinks bottles only for it to rain ten minutes after setting off. It's undoubtedly easier just to turn on the television to keep them occupied or get half an hour of guaranteed peace but I can say with my hand on heart that it has been an effort so worth making for this family.

I'm sure a fair few of you reading are probably thinking "What's the big deal? We live in the modern world, it can't be avoided and children should surely be embracing modern technology." I realise that we are probably in the minority of most people we know and for some people this can be a touchy subject, but for me, the bottom line is that they have the rest of their adult lives to be attached to an iPhone or sat in front of a computer all day long. We didn't grow up with mobile phones or other devices as children but we all still learnt to use them pretty quickly once they showed up in our lives. I'm all for my little ones experiencing a childhood spent developing skills for interaction with each other and their imaginations. I'd much rather they engage with what is actually happening around them instead of with a virtual world and I know with great certainty I don't want them to waste their youth and precious childhood years in front of a screen instead of simply playing, exploring nature, getting creative or experiencing the joy of losing hours whilst enthralled in an un-put-down-able book. 

Since we've run a much tighter ship in terms of tech exposure over the past year or so, it has been amazing to see how quickly they have adapted and that playing (together and on their own) often without guidance or any adult direction, happens very naturally and organically now there is no expectation that the TV will be turned on or the iPad produced in the mornings, during any mealtimes or various other points throughout the day. Persevering with this approach is definitely paying off. Obviously we still get a fair amount of bickering and disagreements but they are figuring out a little more each day how best to get along with each other. I've witnessed with my own eyes that when children are simply allowed to get bored, this is when the magic and creativity really happens. They then embark on a role-playing game for hours, be it setting up an entire hospital in their bedroom for their dolls and soft toys or building an obstacle course in the living room or outside, all entirely led by their own imaginations. Sometimes they construct an entire intricate city out of blocks, populated by Sylvanian Families creatures or Playmobil people, complete with a train set built around it. When we go out to a restaurant or a cafe, we've made a conscious effort to use the opportunity to actually talk as a family rather than shoving an iPhone in their face to keep them quiet and I take colouring books and pencils to bring out if they do get restless. I know that I am setting them an example with everything I do myself so it's made me more conscious of keeping a check on my own online and screen time. I've never been much of a TV viewer but I don't want them to see me pick up my phone every free second to check emails or Facebook. This is something I know many of us struggle with and which I definitely could do better at.       

Of course we haven't completely banned all technology from our children's lives, they watch twenty minutes (typically one episode) of a kids series on DVD before bed. They choose these from our local library where we go to borrow books and DVDs once a week. If we have no other plans, we usually have a movie night on a Friday late afternoon/evening where we make a pizza together then watch a classic family movie. Lila loves The Secret Garden and Mary Poppins. They do also watch a couple of shows for half an hour on a weekend morning but that is pretty much it. We have an iPad with a few educational apps on it which they occasionally use or is brought out if they are ill or when we're on a very long journey (I will definitely be grateful for it when we will be boarding the twenty-something hour flight to the UK in a couple of months!) Curt or I take Lila to the movies to watch a new release a couple of times a year as a special outing and if the TV is on when stop by at a friends house, it's not a big deal. 

I will say though that one of the major factors in choosing a small, rural primary school this year was the fact that aside from having an amazing community and great teachers, it places a really big emphasis on reading, maths, and writing skills and the children don't use iPads until the later primary years. It shocked and saddened me a little when I went to look around some other much larger, more 'modern' schools to see a class of five year olds, each with an iPad in hand and completely absorbed in the apps and games they were playing, oblivious to each other and certainly not interacting and learning from their teacher who was just sitting at the front of the class doing something else. This post definitely isn't intended to sound preachy or make anyone else feel guilty about their own choices, just to document our journey and experiences and maybe it might offer some suggestions for anyone else who has been thinking about or wanting to find more balance where technology is concerned. There's no doubt that this means different things for different families and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, just a process of trial and error, perseverance and the knowledge that a childhood where they are given the chance to create their own fun, make real connections and explore, enjoy and observe the world around them is something worth fighting for. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

nesting


























I am a home-making enthusiast at the best of times- well, aside from heavy duty (that should truthfully say 'any kind of'') cleaning and the relentless tidying up of the never-ending messes familiar to every weary parent. I love pottering around when I have a spare few minutes, rearranging and creating little displays. Nothing fancy, usually just using objects collected on a beach walk grouped with a vase filled with some dried lavender or a random assortment of fresh flowers from the garden (even herbs or whatever seems to living and green) and a well-loved old edition of a favourite book unearthed from the op-shop.

Creating a sense of 'home' in the old-fashioned sense is hugely important to me. I am drawn to objects like handmade quilts and other family heirlooms and hand-me-downs, treasures collected from travels and items with provenance and meaning. I also gravitate towards being surrounded by lots of calming natural elements and textures like wood, wool, cotton, wicker, plants and any kind of greenery. Living in a flawless or fully kitted out showroom-esque home will never be an option, clearly because I'm just not tidy enough. But aside from that I suppose I'm not really motivated by the same hot new interiors trend or replica designer chair as a few million other people. There's no denying that I enjoy the odd trip to Ikea and we have a few great functional items purchased there over the years but the whole ready-to-purchase 'look' is not the holy grail of home as I see it.

I recently came across the concept of wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection, and it really struck a chord. Wabi-sabi is a way of being that champions the simple, slow and uncluttered and reveres authenticity above all else. In the home, wabi-sabi inspires a kind of warm minimalism that celebrates the human rather than the machine, things that resonate with the maker's touch, things with soul. It's not so much a decorating 'look' as a mind set. Over the past couple of weeks my nesting instinct has gone into overdrive though I am yet to get to the dusting of long-forgotten corners or any cleaning of the windows and I'm honestly not too concerned if this doesn't happen. This urge to nest has probably has a lot to do with being 33 weeks pregnant and it has nicely coincided with the changing of the seasons. Though we've been lucky enough to still be enjoying some beautiful late summer days, autumn has slowly started creeping in and I am ready for it now.

The sofa (I know I should say couch now we live in Australia but I'm still stubbornly holding onto sofa, trousers and felt-tip pens among other English expressions), has been draped in a cosy wool throw, toes are soon to be clad in soft thick knitted socks when lounging at home and I'm looking forward to cooking up warm soups and hearty casseroles and lighting some candles of an evening. I am tired; more exhausted than I remember being in my previous pregnancies and ready to slow down, settle in for the colder nights and prepare for the new little member of our family that we will be welcoming in not so many weeks now. A name too, we also need a name for her. It seems that by the time you reach the third child of the same gender, pinning down a name you both agree on is more challenging than ever before with all the firm, mutually-agreed favourites already being used up with the other two. Hopefully we can reach a decision soon and that my powers of persuasion will prevail!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

reality and online illusions



I've been thinking about this online space of mine. What it is, what it has been and where it might be going. I first decided to start a blog when I was pregnant with Lila; my first baby, almost six years ago. Back then I don't think blogging was a particularly well known concept and certainly anyone that did have one never could've predicted how the phenomenon would have blown up in recent years. For my part, I simply wanted a creative outlet and a place to write; a journal of sorts. Also somewhere to record and share memories and thoughts on this new adventure of motherhood I was about to embark on. I wanted to create something that my children could read back through when they were grown. In the years since then I've also blogged about my various creative endeavours, spaces, people and things that have inspired me. When we moved overseas it became a great way of recording what we were up to on the other side of the world to share with family and friends back home. I've not really done much at all to promote it and have never had aspirations of garnering a huge readership or making money from it with advertising or sponsored posts. At times I've updated it frequently but there have also been months of silence when life has got busy or all my energy and attention has been taken up elsewhere.

I like the fact I'm not pressured to write daily or even weekly, resorting to just churning out meaningless posts. Instead I wait until inspiration strikes and get something down that is actually real and important to me. I'm also not sure I would feel comfortable with encouraging people to buy products we couldn't afford and aspire to a type of lifestyle we don't really live and could never maintain. It's always been a more personal endeavour than that. However I do realise that the things we choose to share online don't always paint the most realistic picture. I think most of us are aware that everyone is generally trying to put forward the best possible version of their own lives (not just in terms of blogging, in every kind of social media). While I've always done my best to keep this a positive place as I am generally a pretty optimistic, glass-half-full person, I would never want anyone to be under the impression we live anything even vaguely resembling a picture-perfect existence.

We don't have a lot of money, drive a big or fancy car and certainly don't have a polished house full of super expensive possessions. I do hope we live in a home which may be a little shabby but feels comfortable, welcoming and full of love. My kids wear hand-me-downs and we don't buy new things very often. If we have made a choice to have something or go somewhere significant it will have been saved for or at the sacrifice of something else. We don't eat out or go on holidays or expensive day trips much at all but we try to make the most of where we live and what it has to offer throughout the year and we feel happy and grateful for what we have. I think often about our priorities and family values and what really matters in life. One thing that springs to mind is that when you live in a relatively small space with three other people (two of them small and like all children, prone to creating a whirlwind of chaos) I'd say it's fairly crucial that your happiness doesn't hinge on being able to maintain a clean and tidy house resembling a spread in an interiors magazine all of the time.

Some of the very well known family and lifestyle blogs have become hugely effective money generators for their creators but I know for many people they have sadly lost any sense of honesty or authenticity they may have once had, simply pushing products and an illusion of a perfectly curated life. I love finding online spaces that inspire me and feel real but I'm not a fan of the pressure others create to buy this, that and everything, to have and do it all. These seem to breed envy and insecurity, leaving a lot of readers feeling lacking in their own lives and themselves as people. Here's to writing from the heart and knowing that we are most likely not the only people out there with a pitifully empty fridge that could definitely do with a clean and no idea what to cook for dinner tonight (or maybe that's just me!)

Friday, 21 February 2014

stories

 

I have a thing for stories. Books of course- my lifelong love of reading has been well documented here but I'm not just talking about the stories held between pages bound together. I love connecting with people, finding out what they've done and where they've been. What has made them who they are and where they long to go. I think I've mentioned before that I work in a little café on a Sunday and like many other jobs, it has its fair share of menial tasks and repetition and hardly a vast amount of financial reward, but regardless of that; I look forward to my shift every week. Some people may look down a little on 'café work', especially when it's done by someone who is no longer a penniless student, in possession of a degree and with a couple of career jobs under their belt. I couldn't care less though.

Over the years I've worked in many hospitality jobs at different stages in my life and in numerous places- pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes. All of them brilliant and on occasions, unpleasant in their own way. But the people I've met, the stories I've heard and the lessons I've learned. They are wonderful. There's no life experience like it. Every Sunday now, in the quiet lull of the late afternoon before the dinner rush, I make a tea for one of our regulars (always very milky with one large sugar). He is a 60-something local and we have a chat and set the world to rights. He tells me about the days of his youth in the 70's when the skateboarding movement was being pioneered and he competed against the legendary Z-Boys from America in the first skateboarding championships held in Australia. He reminisces on his past business ventures and what he would have done differently in his marriages and his relationships with his children. In return I tell him about the struggles and joys of life with a young family in these times and my hopes and dreams for the future

Aged five and a half, there is nothing more that Lila likes to hear than anecdotes about when Curt and I were children. What each of us did for fun, places we went to, what we liked and generally how we spent our hours. All the rest of our family members get grilled in the same way and as I re-live my childhood days and beyond, I realise that she is piecing together the fragments of the puzzle that make up our family. Gathering this sense of history is helping her figure out the bigger picture of life and her own sense of belonging within it. There is something pretty wonderful about that. There's nothing like becoming a parent to make you reflect on what has shaped you as a person, the influences and experiences that have defined you and the things you want to repeat with your own family (and of course those you shudder at the mere memory of).

I dearly hope we will manage to raise readers and book lovers, though I can admit I do get a little panicky at the thought of them selecting their own material after a quick glance at the young reader shelves at the library. No doubt there is likely to be a backlash against the numerous tomes offered up from our home shelves in the vein of 'What Katy Did' and 'Goodnight Mister Tom', but the Rainbow Magic fairy books series...it does make me shudder slightly. Actually, I just realised that aged eleven, I greedily consumed the entire back catalogue of the Sweet Valley High series in about two months flat so I should probably get down off my quality reading material high horse. Whilst written stories will always have their place, it's equally important that our children know the value of human stories, of getting out in the world and being open to meeting people of all ages, from diverse backgrounds and different walks of life. I can't wait to hear the stories they tell their own children. To discover which of the memories we are creating now will stand the test of time and to know they will leave behind a legacy of their own past shared through their words.

Image: Lila and Curt. She never gets tired of hearing his stories.

Friday, 31 January 2014

beauty, naturally



I first started taking more notice of the products I was using on my hair and skin when I was pregnant for the first time. Before that my basic purchasing criteria was along the lines of...Will it make me look significantly better? Does it smell lovely and have nicely designed packaging? I can't remember exactly where I first heard or read about parabens, petrochemicals, sulphates and the other chemicals present in the majority of products on the market, but as soon as I did a little research it worried me and the implications of what these nasties may possibly be doing to my baby was enough to make me sit up and decide to make some changes.

I figured that if you're going to be careful about most of the food you put into your mouth then it makes sense to do the same for what you apply to your skin and the rest of your body. Questioning what's really in it and where it's come from, then making better choices without of course taking it to extremes and sucking out every last bit of joy from life. I firmly believe life needs joy, and if that happens to comes in say the form of a pot of lovely non-natural body lotion every now and then, so be it. I've always been careful to choose chemical free toiletries and products wherever possible for my children and I'd like to say I kept this change up for myself too. However once each of my little ones has been born I've fallen back into my old habits, seduced into trying the latest, hyped-up creams or products which promise (and sometimes do deliver) wonderful results, or fallen back on tried and tested classics and favourites.

I can say with hand on heart that there's no way I could ever be a fully committed, doused-in- patchouli-oil hippy that has eschewed shampoo in favor of dreadlocks and completely ditched make-up for a strictly all-natural warts 'n' all approach. The lure of a select few luxurious, beautiful products such as the treat of a divine bottle of fragrance on top of my dressing table or a gorgeous nail polish colour will always be my downfall. They are such happy makers and surely one of the great advantages of being born a woman is the prerogative to indulge in a little pampering, not to mention the joys of a great lipstick and the transformative effects of a lightly flushed cheek or well defined eyebrow.  But I decided when I fell pregnant this time around that I would find some really awesome, effective natural products that I would actually commit to carry on using for the long haul.

In general, Australia seems to be a good place to be when embarking on this quest. I'd say it's a pretty health conscious, eco-aware nation which has an impressive selection and choice of natural ranges that don't take much leg work to seek out. Of course it requires a little label sleuthing as you can't take anything with the words organic and natural plastered over the packaging at face value. Some of the brands that I've tried so far and loved include Trilogy - their Rosehip facial oil is a game-changer and the Everything Balm smells wonderful and can be used as everything from a lip balm to treatment of insect bites and for softening patched of dry skin. The Natural Instinct range has the body wash, body lotion and hair care categories covered and I've been impressed with the performance of the ones I've tried so far. Going into to the territory of natural deodorants seems a lot more of a serious commitment and one that I've not been tempted to venture into yet on the grounds that is there any chance that they could actually work effectively? The hygiene factor and distinct possibility of stinking out everyone within a ten metre radius is surely a sacrifice too far, though having said that, I have heard some amazingly good things about this product.

Financially there was no way I could afford to do a complete overnight overhaul of most of my toiletries so I've been waiting until something runs out before replacing it with a chemical free alternative. Natural, especially organic ranges usually come with a higher price tag, though I've learned that a big tub/jar of raw, unrefined coconut oil can do wonderful things in the field of beauty as well as cooking. Google it if you want to know more, but it can be used as a highly beneficial cleanser/make-up remover, skin moisturiser and hair conditioner. That kind of multi tasker has to be a winner in anyones book, just think of the amount of other bottles and clutter it can eliminate in the bathroom. If going natural takes a little more effort and means saving up for a few better products instead of a cabinet full of chemicals but doesn't have to involve sacrificing results then count me in. Next on my wish list is a bottle of this, a carcinogen-free nail polish that doesn't scrimp on style.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

goodbye and hello



Another year ticked off, the last few months of which raced by in a blur of crippling morning sickness followed by the inevitably frantic calendar of events which make up the festive season. The past couple of weeks have finally allowed some time to breathe and think about what has passed and what 2014 might have in store. A new baby girl for one (due to make her appearance in early May) to complete the family. I am giddy with excitement at the prospect of my three little girls, but also overwhelmed by the responsibilities that lie ahead in raising them all into them into smart, strong and kind women. I wonder if anyone ever really feels qualified for that job. I can only follow my instincts, keep everything crossed and hope that with a dash of luck and support from our extended families that we will manage to set them on the right path. 

A couple of other highlights ahead include a long awaited month long trip back to the UK, my parents and our family home at the end of June with my sister and all our children. Also a newly begun freelance writing gig for which I'm looking forward to getting lost down a rabbit hole of words and crafting sentences, researching and sourcing images. Worthy of a mention too is the fact that in few short weeks I will be waving my first born off at the gates as she begins primary school. A whole new chapter in her life and mine. A time of great excitement but also the bittersweet reminder that she went from being a tiny newborn to a school girl in what feels like little more than the blink of an eye. She also lost her first tooth last week, a milestone I (probably naively) wasn't prepared for or expecting for at least 12 months yet. Just slow down already young lady, while I get my head wrapped around all of this.

The year just departed was on the whole a good one. We settled into our new home and surroundings, managed to grow some food and flowers in our patch of earth, made friends in the community and connections with our neighbours and added two new members to the family- our backyard chickens Daisy and Evelyn. There was also a long awaited and well deserved promotion at work for my better half which has taken a little bit of pressure off the question of how will we manage to raise and support three children?

I suspect we'll get along somehow as best we can. I know now- one of the redeeming aspects of tuning 30 I think- that life suddenly gets a whole lot easier and more enjoyable when you let go of the pressures bearing down from every direction. These and pointless comparisons that urge us to carry on spending and accumulating, keeping up with anyone that seems to be more together and having and doing it all better. One of my goals this past year was to simplify life, whittle down what we own, think more carefully about what we bring into our home and generally just spend less time worrying about what we don't have and more of it doing what we love and is important us. This is a journey which I want to continue and I look forward to more creating, adventuring and memory making in the upcoming months. Also spending time with our dear friends and family and making and eating a whole lot of good food. And with that, welcome 2014.
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