Sunday log

Standard

This was the last week of our summer holidays, as I head back to the office and R1 to vacation care and R2 to his kindy/day care tomorrow.  We had visitors from home, my dad and my teenage half-brother whom the kids adore.  It was also a bloody hot week.

Steps forward

1. Escaping to the air conditioned library, I checked out 4 books which seem to have a theme…

IMG_1104

I soaked them up immediately, reading the first chapter of each and then jumping between books for days.  I have finished No Impact Man and 21st Century Smallholder, but will definitely have to read the latter a few more times.  Reading No Impact Man and seeing the type of lifestyle he led before embarking on his year long experiment at living without environmental impact, I realise that I am already some way along my journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

2. I made jam.  Pretty much, in a nutshell, that is a massive leap forward.  Jam making was the one insurmountable. For nearly a year I read countless books and blogposts regarding jam making, but until today when the kids baulked at the plums from the market because they were too tart, I did not have the courage.  God knows why, because the recipe for plum jam was plums, sugar and water.

So utilising all of my acquired knowledge I jumped in head first.

It seemed like I was doing it right and wrong at the same time.

IMG_1095 IMG_1096 IMG_1097

I sterilised all of my implements and put a saucer in the freezer for the wrinkle test.  I measured out my ingredients.  (To give you an idea of how huge a leap forward this was for me – I am a grown woman and yet have never ever weighed out ingredients for a recipe before. Truly.) A minute before I had to start the rolling boil the plums were still firm so I mashed them despite the recipe not calling for this action. I conducted the wrinkle test multiple times, beyond the time specified for maximum rolling boil, but the jam still swam on the saucer.

No matter, I poured the runny jam into jars and took photos because I was just so damn proud of myself.IMG_1103

Later I realised I had halved the plums and sugar quantities but not the water.  Oh well, next time.  Because there is definitely going to be a next time. It is so easy!!  (Unless you get it wrong 🙂 )

Step back.

1. This one is dad-related.  He wanted to take the kids shopping for their Christmas gifts, so I met him at a local mega shopping centre.  I hadn’t been there for so long and I seriously had a visceral reaction to it.  My legs hurt after walking around one shop and I realised I was no longer ‘shopping centre fit’ capable of walking all 3 levels for 6 hours at a time.  This was the good part.  Unfortunately, R2 hadn’t lost the art of consumption, and became attached to all sorts of flame wielding plastic men.  I caved in and said he could have them after we couldn’t find a single wooden toy by the third toy shop.

He played with them for all of three minutes before declaring he wanted to collect the ‘whole set’.  My heart broke to see him back on the ‘I want’ merry go round, when we were doing so well off it.

R1 only wanted school shoes, white volleys, as her Christmas present, no matter how much my dad tried to talk her out of it.  But this made me think – am I pushing an unachievable and demoralising asceticism on my children in my own egoistic pursuit of a certain kind of lifestyle?

While these Sunday logs measure my slow incremental weekly progress, my dad’s visit showed just how much my way of living has changed in less than a year.  There were stark contrasts between what we both felt were ‘normal’.  He double plastic bagged every little thing he bought and then ripped the bags open so they were unusable.  He bought a slab of 500ml water bottles which he chilled in the fridge, creating excessive rubbish and consuming energy, when I had a jug of filtered water for drinking.  His first option was buying takeaway when I preferred to use what I had at home.  His suggestion that I poach eggs in a plastic container in the microwave (I felt physically ill at the thought of this).  His inability to be inside a warm home without air conditioning.  Litres of soft drink in the fridge.  Assumptions that I hang out at the shopping centre with the kids.

These all horrified me.  Yet I hadn’t really noticed myself changing so much.

magic happens

Standard

I was reading a blogpost by Tanya at Suburban Jubilee last night who has created a fairy kingdom in her garden for her nephew and asked if others are doing the same. http://suburbanjubilee.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/the-fairy-garden.html

For R1’s birthday last year I bought her a set of 5 fairy toadstools which I had desired ever since seeing them at a local market near my mother’s, but which we didn’t have a garden for until now.  When R1 created this garden, ‘suddenly’ 2 fairies took up residence – Lilly and Lucy.

IMG_1088

While eschewing fairy gardens as being too ‘girly’, R2 was feeling left out. So the kids created a little garden for male fairy Max and his fairy horses on the other side of the below ground tank.  Being a bloke, Max clearly needed his own man fairy space.  The fairy horse watering hole was circled by stones painted with white paint mixed with glitter.

IMG_1089

In these two spaces, the kids organise the furniture, decorate the scenery, dig swimming pools and hang up ‘tyre swings’.  Fairies are high maintenance creatures!

IMG_1093 IMG_1094

Just ask the girls from next door…. When these gardens were first created, they would have to come over every day after school, while mine were still at after school care, to deposit messages from the fairies and sprinkle around a few flower petals, in order for R1 to elatedly cry out that the fairies have been to visit.  When the girls started to tire of this, R1’s daily expeditions out the back resulted in cries of ‘the fairies hate me, they don’t come any more’.

Conveniently, the fairies returned with a note to say they were heading off on summer vacation for a while.  A slight reprieve for the girls.  Until 2 days ago, when R1 happened upon a torn note amongst her fairy toadstools.  Then the welcome wagon came out and signs were painted.

IMG_1087

And I got in on the perpetuation of the magic as well – R2 got to see the fairies flitting about the garden courtesy of the sunlight glinting off my watch.

This is a beautiful age, when they truly believe.  But it takes a bit of work in keeping the magic alive, a support network with a common purpose in keeping the belief going.

It is not helped by random external intrusions from the disbelieving world such as my father stating facetiously to R1 in response to a childlike query: ‘And I suppose you still believe in the tooth fairy as well…’.  Gasp. Horror.  The web of wonder can disintegrate in moments.

this is Australia…

Standard

There was no lightning cracking over these cane fields last weekend, but this was a part of Australia I had never been to before.

IMG_1038 IMG_1047

I was driven around by my dad who had been married to a sugar cane farmer’s daughter for 10 years.  I got the ‘industry’ tour, with all of the ins and outs of sugar processing pointed out to me.

IMG_1061 IMG_1050

I learned new terminology like ‘Burdekin Snow’ and ‘Burdekin Trash’: the ash from the burning off and the debris from cane respectively.  In fact, the Burdekin is central to transport, life and livelihood here.  This is the Burdekin bridge and the Burdekin River which irrigates the fields.

IMG_1055 IMG_1049

I met third and fourth generation sugar cane farmers, whose origins were Greek, Italian and Spanish.

One of the most interesting people I met, though, was a woman who worked with government in groundwater, and her views on irrigation, separation of land and water titles and metering were thought provoking.  Instead of working against nature, she argued, farmers need to learn to work with it.  As an outsider, I agreed with her position.  But I don’t think she has an easy job convincing people who have done things to the land their way for generations.  There was a lot of talk of ‘spraying’, ie pesticides.  I know industry and home production are two very different kettles, but I fear the increasing use of pesticides as humans pursue greater domination over the environment in the face of crashing global sugar prices.

Water nearby was also valued for fishing and swimming. And quite a welcome view after driving through cane field after cane field after cane field.

IMG_1067 IMG_1065

I am actually quite tall!!

IMG_1051

2 years on

Standard

Two years ago, and a bit, my house looked like this after the flood waters had started receding.

flood1

flood2

This photo was taken from my top floor bathroom looking down into the backyard and the top of my clothesline.

I didn’t take these photos as I had been home with the kids for my 2 weeks’ holiday.  We lost everything on the ground floor which was mostly kids’ toys, a couch, fridge, and all my stuff in storage.  Upstairs, volunteers had broken in and removed most of the small things, clothing, books, rugs, etc, and some furniture.

After the floods had completely receded they returned most of this, some of it broken, and I came home to a bonfire heap of my worldly possessions in the middle of my lounge room floor.  I admit to spending part of that first day rocking in the foetal position.  But mostly, I got stuck into it.

It was just stuff.  Stuff that I had fretted and worried about for a week over on the other side of the country.  Then fretted a little more when I heard about the volunteers and the idea of, you know, strangers handling my things.

Now I think it may have been post-traumatic stress, but at the time, I thought I had experienced catharsis.  The floods had swept through the house and taken the decision making from me in terms of letting go of excess stuff in my life.  I threw out the broken and water stained, and then asked myself the question of every item left over, whether I would have cared if it had gone in the flood as well.

This resulted in a week of journeys back and forth to the Vinnies, removing the excess from my life.

The upstairs couch had only been water stained but I decided we didn’t need one and that bean bags on the floor would suffice.  So I sold it on ebay for 99c.

Two years on, and you wouldn’t know it.  I have stuff again.  Granted, not furniture, as I am still very slowly buying piece by piece.

I wish I could have held onto some of the insights, though, into how stuff can own me, and cause stress and unhappiness.

day of[f] work

Standard

I am perilously close to getting used to not going to work.

Yesterday I went to the office with my sore back, but left early to go to an acupuncturist.  Today I stayed at home, as the pain was quite debilitating and the long walk across town from the train station to my office building crippled me yesterday.  But today I did work and achieved a lot, in between sessions of lying flat on my back on the couch (working on healing).

I spent the morning drafting and redrafting my planting schedule for my new vege beds, including a monthly calendar of activities.

IMG_1034

In the afternoon, I researched my family tree in the lead up to a mini family reunion this weekend.  I used the Births, Deaths and Marriages indexes and Trove newspapers to come up with this.

IMG_1036

I finished off the day with some weeding at dusk.

A full day of productive and immensely satisfying work.  Unlike going to the same workplace day after day.

Not that there is anything wrong with my current job – in fact there are parts I feel are very meaningful and interesting, vastly unlike my last job with a consulting company where I was treated like an automaton, unable and not allowed to have feelings, opinions, ‘issues’, hormones, interests, commitments, responsibilities.  Things I have in bucketloads.  There, I was explicitly told by manager to leave the office building one time that I was crying.  I was also told that work was my number one priority and I had to work my family life around that (I am a single mother!!!).  That was the day I applied for my current job.

An indication of how traumatised I had been by the previous workplace – in my second week at my new job I had an unpleasant event happen in my life, and I was asked by my supervisor if I was going to be alright.  My immediate response? Yes, I promise I won’t let it affect my performance.  She repeated, no, are you going to be alright?  I had forgotten how to be treated like a human being.

So when my manager yesterday showed concern and empathy regarding my back and said to take as much time off as I need to recuperate, then I know I am in a good place.  And yet……the idea of spending most of my waking life away from my home where the real work needs to be done is grinding and weighing me down.

Sunday log

Standard

Really really hard to remember the whole week.  I do recall going back to work, but it still seems a little hazy.  So this week’s log is pretty much all about today.

Steps forward.

1. Due to my forced down time this weekend with a still very sore lower back, I managed to get through some creative projects which have been hanging around for…quite a while…  I finally shaped the soap which has been ‘curing’ on my washing machine since October.  It was my first attempt at making soap, one lot with dried sage, the other with cinnamon and oat.  They didn’t quite work out so I think I may have subconsciously abandoned them, until now.  The shavings will make a great liquid hand wash…when I get around to it.  I also finished the dishcloth (Rhonda’s pattern) I began knitting for my Auntie’s Christmas present a month ago.  It is just as well, as I am flying up to see her on Friday.

IMG_1032IMG_1030

2. Besides knitting, I also got in a lot of reading today.  I am re-reading Tom Hodgkinson’s How to be Free.  When I first read this book 7 years ago, freedom meant something very very different.  Back then, I needed to be free of the ex-husband.  I have achieved that.  Well in terms of my physical location anyway.  I can trace the origins of my desire for a vege garden back to this book, but it never seemed important or vaguely practicable, until now.  Now my vege garden is the centre of my universe (and the kids).  The best part of picking up this book this week is realising that I am on track to freedom.  I have already started to implement many of Tom’s pieces of advice for achieving freedom, such as not watching tv, not having a credit card or direct debit, using minimal technology and appliances, embracing pain and suffering, and leaving the kids alone to do their own thing.  Next on the list will be learning to play the ukelele, stop voting, and work less and play more.

Step back.

1.  I honestly can’t think of a single step backward this week.  Even having the kids away on holidays, which I thought would be a bad/sad thing, has a silver lining.  I get to eat dark chocolate rum ‘n’ raisin Tim Tams and drink cider before cooking dinner.  Out in the open.  I love being able to ‘out’ my secret mummy behaviour.

being slack

Standard

The niggle in my lower back started this morning when I dropped into Bunnings to pick up pavers.  I then went to Aldi to do my bulk shopping and the pain intensified, with dullness down both legs.  By the time I got home I could only carry my shopping items into the house 2 at a time as the shopping bags were too heavy.

I had to admit to myself that being upright was probably not going to be easy today.  So I left the pavers in the car and lay down on my bed.  And fell asleep.

For most of the day.

I woke up and had to take some nurofen, because I couldn’t just let the day slip away like this.  Despite walking with bent knees to lighten the load on my back, I felt I had to have at least one project under my belt.  So I made this.

IMG_1028

I got the idea for the paver hopscotch path from an open garden we visited a while back.  This is the original.

IMG_0910

I don’t really want to introduce any more grass into my backyard, as it just takes over everything and I spend enough time bent over pulling out grass runners (hmmmm….wonder if that’s how I did my back).  The hopscotch grid is practical – it provides a path from the bottom of the steps across the stones which can be hard on bare feet to the underground water tank where the kids play in their fairy garden.

The physical effort in creating this wasn’t really that intensive otherwise I simply wouldn’t even have been able to have done it.  I sat down and used the rake from the kids’ sandpit, so it was a bit like making sandcastles at the beach, albeit an incredibly stony one.

But the forced downtime today in bed, on the couch and in the hammock has made me realise that my body is quite possibly protesting at the regime I have put it through recently, trying to make every spare moment of time not at work, productive.  I need to bring some balance back into my life, slow down and try and learn to be more slack this year.

 

baby sea turtles

Standard

Today was my last day of holidays before heading back to work tomorrow (for 7 working days, before taking another break, but nevertheless still traumatic).  More significantly, tomorrow the children go to their dad’s for their first annual holiday with him in 3 years and won’t be back until the 13th January.  So I needed to do something special today, something a stay at home mum would do, something creative, something promoting togetherness, something memorable, something fun.  Ok, all I could think of was making cupcakes.

I had never made cupcakes with the kids from scratch before, so this was different.  R1 came up with the recipe from her Dora and Diego Let’s Cook cookbook which Santa brought in 2010, but as yet had not been utilised.  Baby Sea Turtles.  And I liked the fact that it used wholemeal flour.  Healthy 🙂

The kids, of course, helped.  R2 was so adept at getting the mixture from the bowl to the patty cases with the spatula that he declared he will be a chef in a restaurant when he grows up.

IMG_1019

And R1, well she was handy in ensuring that nothing went to waste.

IMG_1022

Both kids were eager to ice and decorate the (forgot to cool first) cupcakes, especially with the rule that dropped smarties could be eaten.  Unfortunately, this rule was exploited resulting in some naked turtle backs.

IMG_1023

They didn’t quite turn out like the picture in the cookbook.

IMG_1024

But a successful activity anyway.  The proof of this wasn’t in the pudding, unfortunately, as the wholemeal flour angle kind of made them inedible, but in the participation level of the kids.  Special credit to them for withstanding the heat in the kitchen on a humid 40 degree Celsius day.

At least I now have a trail of cupcake crumbs all over the house to remind me of the children over the next week or so.

Sunday log

Standard

I’ve decided not to cling too rigidly to the days of the week… Monday can be Sunday or any day, at least it feels like that when I’m free from working for the man for a bit.

This week has been like that, days merging into each other, all seemingly the same routine of waking with the kids in my bed, lying in, watching the same DVD twice in a row, then playing with the kids next door, a bit of gardening, lunch somewhere in there, then swimming in the afternoon.

Steps forward.

1. Despite the feeling of sloth, I have been quite productive with my week.  I finally painted a desk I bought on ebay for R1 (which was supposed to be for fourth term homework, but oh well, the new term is not far away).  I also established my new garden beds, with manure and mulch in one, ready for autumn planting in March.  I had to drag the tomato bushes from the centre and they don’t seem too happy with the move… 😦 A bit droopy.

IMG_0995 IMG_0996 IMG_0994

2. School holiday memories.  My kids have a shorter holiday break than others due to vacation care, etc, but I am trying to instil a sense of normality.  This week of ‘nothingness’ has actually been intended.  I had thought of the theme parks, movies, museum trips, railway workshops, etc route, but they have so much structure in their ordinary lives, I want them to think back to their school holidays and not remember specific day trips, but instead, the feeling of languor, of not having to be anywhere, where they can roll from one activity to the next, without any pressure.

I got the spa clean and working this week and had decided to get rid of it as the filter and heater need replacing, and it didn’t really seem to contribute to the downshifting simplifying life I am trying to achieve.  However, watching the kids splash around with the neighbours and their cousins who were staying, afternoon after afternoon, I have changed my mind.  There could be a sensory memory being made in the chlorine smell and the wet popcorn strewn all over the deck.

Step backward.

1. I took all the kids out for a walk up a country road.  It was almost a ‘step forward’ moment filled with tadpole catching, rockclimbing, etc, but then a dog became attached to the girls and we couldn’t shake it.  It didn’t help that one of the girls was adamant that her mum would let her keep it, and another said that there had been a lost dog sign.  So I let them walk it home.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think this through rationally and there was a bit of a confrontation with the neighbours at the other end, who ended up driving the dog back quite angrily.  I was lectured about being the only ‘responsible adult’ out on the walk.

I was quite gutted by this turn of events and started to question what sort of parent I am.  It is true that my own children will not listen to me and do a single thing that I ask.  When I am told by others that I have to discipline my kids more (yes it does happen), I wonder, how on earth can I be stricter or firmer – how far do I have to go?  I have nothing to enforce what I say to them. If they decide they don’t want to listen then they don’t. And when I tell them to go to their room, they keep coming out.  I cannot lock the doors.  And no matter how loudly I then have to shout, they still refuse.

I feel I am missing essential components from my parenting armoury.

Christmas also happened this week.  I made a mango trifle and set the table for a change.  In the afternoon we swam in our neighbours’ pool when they went out.

IMG_0978 IMG_0990 pulling R2 home on her boogie board 'sleigh'

R1 pulling R2 home on her boogie board ‘sleigh’.

curls get the girls

Standard

I have a beautiful son who looks like he has stepped off the front of a Victorian chocolate box.  Blue eyes and long golden curls.  He plays to character and gets away with being carried everywhere and cradled in my lap on the couch or in his bed.  He plays ‘goo goo’, and never has to grow up (he is 4 years old for crying out loud! I was walking to school alone by then, pretty sure I had my first job).  His naughtiness is rhymed away with ‘there was a little boy with a curl in the middle of his forehead, when he was good he was very very good, when he was bad he was horrid’.

Today was the day when he went from this:

IMG_0992

 

To this:

IMG_0993

 

Because I caved to peer pressure – or possibly my own self-imposed pressure from the continuous commentary on his ‘girliness’ or ‘baby-ish’ looks.  Admittedly, these haven’t been as bad as those I got before he turned 3 when he got his first hair cut ever.  Many quizzical and very hesitant ‘boy?’ labels, as well as references to my girls plural.

But also because I feel he needs to ‘man up’.  My daughter never cried at everything and anything.  A shoe that won’t go on.  A missing horse figurine.  A couple of millimetres less juice than his sister.  It seemed almost symbolic to me that he had indulged in a major crying session just minutes before the hairdressers appointment, courtesy of running out of a shop while my back was turned and being found by centre management.

Ok, that one was scary, especially for me.  Why on earth he thinks I will have left him in a shop to go on my merry way without him, I do not know.  But I am watching for abandonment issues now.

Sadly, the symbolism was lost as he had at least 2 more crying fits later in the day.  The girls from next door were running too fast for him or something.  But when he put his arms up to be carried, which the girls normally obliged, this time they refused.  You’re a big boy now R2.

He looks pretty handsome to me.  Amazing the power of a haircut in dictating how others treat you.