Monthly Archives: November 2012

what’s a pony?

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During our visit up the hill last weekend, my valley neighbour and I were given fruit from a tree we’d never seen before. ‘What is it?’

‘What’s a pony’

‘What’s a what’s a pony?’

‘What’s a pony’

And so forth round and round. Until finally I deciphered the words, white sapote.

Apparently it tastes like a banana, so we took it and walked down the hill through the 42 varieties of mango trees.  My valley neighbour started saying that she would never plant 42 varieties (that was her statistic, I am pretty sure I counted 6), as she would just pick the sweetest and plant lots of that.  And she doesn’t go in for ‘different’ fruits like the whatsapony.

Not knowing anything about it other than to let it ripen, which I did for 5 days on my window sill, prodding it until it was ‘banana-squishy’, I ate it tonight.  That, and making coulis, is all I know to do with fruit.  I sliced into it, and at first, not knowing what the centre stuff was, I nibbled on it.  Hard seed….bleech. But then I ate the flesh which was creamy and smooth, and I guess a little banana-y. (I am thinking ‘banana’ is the default flavour of unknown fruits, a bit like ‘chicken’ is for unknown meats).

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After the remains were disposed of, I thought that I should probably learn a little about the fruit, such as that it is not toxic when eaten raw. So, I consulted Wikipedia.

This is what I now know about a white sapote:

In the native language of Mexico it is called a cochitzapotl, which means ‘sleep sapote’, and has edible pulp (phew).  The flavour can be banana-y, but also a little bland – I thought it may have been.  Its seeds have narcotic properties – they’re in the bin now – that’ll teach me not to swot up first! It induces drowsiness, hence the name….

I don’t think I would grow a tree myself, but I am glad that I tried it, as I learnt a few things.  While it sounds like just the thing to get R2 off to sleep at night – because nothing else will- I am pretty sure that the kids would prefer just the sweetest type of mango.

‘happy blogs are all alike…’

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Last week, after my first post, I texted my sister the web address and asked her to check it out.  Eager for some reaction or feedback, or even to just to know she is still alive, I spoke to her on the phone last night.  I asked again what she thought, and she said she had ignored my suggestion as [to paraphrase] she didn’t feel like reading about people who are living a dream life as she can’t really be inspired by such people. [Forgive me C if I didn’t paraphrase you correctly]

After the initial disappointment of still not having a reader – even my own sister, and trying to shake off the weight of her pessimism, I reflected on the fact that, actually, I have come across this sentiment on other blogs – a feeling of inadequacy in comparison with the highlight reel of others’ lives, especially ones who boastingly claim they are living a dream (don’t you know it is tongue in cheek…).

I hope you do end up reading this C just so you know that some blogs are not meant to be inspirational, and some blogs don’t highlight just the best bits, but that some blogs are written so that you can see that  ‘happy families’ come in all shapes and sizes, as do ‘happy lives’.  A dream life is something everyone can have by going on what they’ve got.

I know where my sister is coming from. Trust me, if you were a member of our family you would be feel insanely jealous/ inadequate in comparison to other families who appear to have their shit together. As adults, my sister and I have shared our common experience of fear of ‘happy families’ during our high school sleepovers.  We felt like aliens at breakfast tables where mother, father, and children all sat and ate together.

piggies

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In June this year I moved our little family out of the rented townhouse stuck in the corner of two railway lines to the country.  Well sort of.  I work in the CBD every day, so it can’t be too far out.  However, I am surrounded by farms and my daughter goes to a small village school, and the only other public building for miles around is the old community hall.  And I don’t have a ride on mower!  I only have a quarter acre block excised from a paddock, so we have cows and horses nuzzling our fence, and occasionally blocking the driveway…

I have been fantasising about raising our own protein – R2 is allergic to eggs, and the chickpeas won’t cut it every night.  At first I was really into the idea of my own cow and goats, but was reminded of the limited nature of my land and the need to milk every single day.  Then, after reading about the chemicals in commercial bacon and ham, I decided that pigs would be the way to go, and R2 was very enthusiastic about the idea as he would live on sausages every day of the year if he could.

Anyway, yesterday we were invited up to the farmhouse on top of the hill (Governor Lamington’s former residence) to look at our neighbour’s new pigs.  This is my neighbour who has a herd of 4 cows which he keeps for meat, and which he names…. Yes, next year it is likely to be Betsy which goes on the bbq.  He now has two pedigree black pigs (I will ask what the breed is) named Barnaby and Doris (nearly called Joyce), and one runt called Poo.   And they smell…so there goes my idea of keeping them on my house block sized property.  But did you know that pigs are highly hygienic creatures? They will only poo in the corner furthest from where they sleep.

Our neighbour plans on breeding and smoking / curing his own pigs /  ham.bacon.sausages.chops.  And lucky us, because while he is unable to sell his meat commercially, providing a few chops to his neighbours should be ok.  This is what I love about my community.  I am slowly transitioning out of the dependent food paradigm we used to be enmeshed in, and hopefully will be eating better, more healthily, cheaper and with more variety.

But the idea of naming and then eating the animals?? I would prefer to name them Chops or Sausages or Bacon, rather than to look down at my plate and know that I am eating Poo.

family hour

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Normally, my children go to their father’s house every second weekend and every Thursday night.  This makes me a part-time mum.  But I do have to be ‘on call’ day in day out, in case their father can’t take them for whatever reason.  So the last three weekends in a row I have had the kids home.  Just before the first of these weekends I read about a concept called ‘love bombing’ and a ‘green hour’ over on the littleecofootprints blog.  Basically saturating the children with attention.  Of course, as all things in life do, this coincidentally came to my attention around the same time my daughter, who is a deep soul and very astute about what is happening around her, stated that she never got to spend any time with me on our weekends as I was ‘always in the garden’ (it needs a lot of work – more on this another time).  At the time, I replied that it was because she never wanted to hang out with me as she was too busy tearing around the bush making hideouts, or crafting away in her art studio (yes). But her statement cut me so deeply, as we don’t have quantity time, so why am I ‘letting her do her own thing’ during our precious little time together?

So my version of lovebombing and the green hour was this: I called it family hour as I couldn’t really spend one-on-one quality time with two children.  Each weekend I told them we would altogether spend an hour doing whatever each of us wanted.  The first weekend, we pulled names out of a hat to see who would get to go first. Me. So my hour was spent gardening. The kids put in the hour planting out tomatoes in their raised beds, watering the herbs, and helping me remove the mulch where our lawn is going to be.

When the kids from next door came over to play, as they always do when the kids are home, R1 told them she couldn’t as we were having ‘family hour’.  Then we started on R1’s hour which was craft.  Somehow, we picked up an extra family member from next door for this one, and then lunch interrupted, so in the end R1 got 40 minutes of her hour.  After lunch, while the others continued doing craft, I started family hour with R2 as he wanted to play knights with his miniature horses.  We did about half an hour of this before he ran off to play next door.

Oh well, we still had two more weekends to go.

The kids spent the week discussing their activities for the second weekend’s family hour.  We spent the weekend saying that family hour was coming up ‘after I hang out the washing’, ‘after Black Beauty has finished’, ‘when I get back from next door’.  I may have played horses for about 20 minutes.

We are now halfway through the third weekend, but ‘family hour’ is no longer being mentioned. During the last week R1 said she didn’t want to do family hour as she wasn’t interested in R2’s or my activities.

So today I shovelled mulch while R2 played with his stables and R1 was painting her little heart out. And while eating dinner (pizza at the kindy’s outdoor movie night) she said she had had a great day.

I have learnt that we are a family without having to force each other to spend our time ‘being a family’. I love where we now live, as the kids and I have organically found our ‘own thing’ which we can be absorbed in, knowing that we are together.

Gosh I am looking forward to next weekend though 🙂

fairytales and lessons

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Last night’s dinner conversation…

R1, my 6 year old preppie, told us that Wednesday is her favourite day of the week because that’s when Xavier goes to after school care- just to be with R1.  Last weekend, Xavier’s mum told me it’s costing her a fortune for Xavier’s ‘playdates’.

So of course, maturely I start teasing her..R1 and Xavier sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes R1 with the baby carriage.  Her little brother, 4 year old R2, never one to miss a teasing session, especially one obviously endorsed by his mum, joins in with his own refrains.  ‘R1 and R2 sitting in a tree….’

It has been his lifelong desire to marry his sister.  Though sometimes in quiet confidance he does admit that they can just live together when they grow up and not get married.

All of this makes me very happy.  Firstly, we are talking and sharing ‘our day’ at the dinner table, rather than R1 trying to play reading eggs on my computer, R2 trying to slay everyone with his knight’s sword, and me, well I have usually finished eating and am doing the dishes by the time they have swallowed their first mouthful.

And secondly, I feel part of a chain of mothers and daughters, passing on my childhood rhymes.

But then. My daughter joins in. ‘Mummy and daddy sitting in a tree…’ I reminded her that in our case it was, ‘first comes mummy with the baby carriage, then came marriage, but sadly because it was all in the wrong order, love never came’.

So then the conversation became a lesson.  I consciously have ‘teaching moments’. I have a strong need to imprint some of my moral code on my children as they have so many other teachers and carers in their lives. I want them to feel about the world a little like I do, I guess.

So, the lesson was, that for true happiness, things must happen in the right order.

But this made me feel uneasy. Since they were small, while other people played eye spy on car trips, we played the ‘families game’.  R1, what type of families are there? A mum and a dad in one house, a mum in one house and a dad in another house, 2 mums in one house, a mum, a cat and a grandma in one house and no dad, etc etc. And I tried to make each scenario seem equally as valid a family structure.  Because I knew that they would start to see the differences between their homes and others.

In that case, so why should love come first, then marriage, then the ‘wife’ with the baby carriage????  Is that not another fairytale – what little girls dream of for their future happiness? Is it right to teach them about doing things ‘the right way’? After all, even after love, marriage and a baby carriage, there can still be affairs, alcoholism, legal fees, homeless shelters and divorce.

The Dream

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The dream……………

                        When I was a little girl I knew what happiness looked like.  A stone wall and trellis of rambling grape vines. Lots of food, laughter, love and family. Family of all generations and kids tearing through the garden.  Weekends were together time. We baked bread and cakes, picnicked at the beach and took long nature walks with our four or five kids. Then occasionally packing them up on our boat to sail around the world while homeschooling them.  [Don’t forget 🙂 this is a dream]

So how have I done?

I work full-time in an office, with two children who I see part-time as I share custody with their father, living in a state far from my family and friends. Is life a dream? Not really.  It is bloody hard work.

But I do dream, and strangely I do feel that I am living it. This blog is really to show me how I am creating roots for my family, while allowing this little family to blow in any direction life takes us.

I have decided to blog because I have been a single working mum for 3 and a half years and have not -in real life- encountered anyone who has a life like mine, and I need to find my tribe!  I love reading blogs, especially ivynest, bld-in-mt, renegademama, sistersun, enchanted moments, littleecofootprints, down to earth [will learn how to hyperlink – just making it up as I go along]- but do they speak to ‘me’? Certainly to many aspects of me: sustainability, growing veg, raising small children, making from scratch, authentic life, massive mummy guilt, etc.  I did find one blog in the US by a working mother, but she loves working, and I think it was her choice, plus she is a two parent family.

I have seen the statistics – practically 16% or more of Queensland families are single parent, but where I live I hear comments like…I don’t know of any other single mothers, or I don’t know of any other full-time working mothers… Where are they all? And do we have any bloody time to find each other?

This is starting to feel like a rant (oh I can promise there will probably be more of that), but really, I would love to share how I am ‘living the dream’, this marvellous journey of letting go of pre-conceived notions of how life should be, focussing on the simple, and loving my family, and taking us through life one puff of wind at a time. I hope that resonates with everyone, not just us single mums.

The kids in my dream garden

The kids in my dream garden