This was Monday night

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On Monday morning my girl’s Year 12 result flashed up on her phone. The stresses and self doubt of the last couple of years lifted from our shoulders as she ran to us, her face a combination of happiness, shock and relief. It was enough for her to be able to study her course of choice at her uni of choice. Hugs, moist eyes, and the eloquently expressed congratulations of her brother – ‘I f****** told you!’ – as he flung his arms around her! By evening, the boy had headed to work and the girl was out having dinner with a friend. Just me and the man at home, and he was beavering away in the study. ‘Think I’ll have a glass of wine,’ I said. ‘Think I’ll finish watching Gilmore Girls,’ I said. ‘Actually, think I’ll have A BATH whilst watching Gilmore Girls,’ I thought. The girl texted that she had decided to go back to her friend’s for the night so I didn’t need to do a pick up but could take my book to bed and, with any luck, nod off before the snores that usually hinder my attempts to sleep, commenced!

What is this strange new world? Where is the routine? The predictability? It’s like we’re living in a share house – with less disputes about food and bills! – rather than the mum/dad/kids home of just a few weeks ago. I am acting super chill about their social plans but inside my mummy-bird voice is twittering ‘please come home safely’ and peaceful sleep does not arrive for me until I hear the key in the front door – and then its slam and thumping footsteps down the hall.

And so to all of you labouring under the weight of end of year school concerts, sports break ups, kriskringles, money collections for teacher presents, I remember the precision planning required to coordinate it all. I remember the ‘Really? You need a costume for tomorrow morning?’ I remember being unable to imagine that life would ever be any different. But different it becomes, and a strange new world of wine, tv and soaky baths awaits!

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*Added bonus – no more school lunches and trying to think of what to pack for snack. Gosh, that was a pain!

Taking Stock: October ’16

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Hello lovelies! How are you going? Are you getting your Halloween on? It’s certainly gaining in popularity here in Melbourne. I’ve been noticing on my walks around the street that people have already been decorating their houses. That’s a bit different from previous years when the decorations only seemed to pop up on the day. I’ll make sure we have lollies ready to go but we won’t be doing anything else. Both kiddies have their heads buried in books, notes, or tapping away at keyboards as they’re in the middle of their end of year assessments. The pressure to achieve particular marks to get into courses or higher levels of study – eugh! I always fall into a state of inertia at this time of the year, tip-toeing around the house, delivering sustaining snacks and making cups of tea, doling out the hugs when the a bit of emotional support is needed.   There hasn’t been much levity in our house of late! So what has been sustaining me?

Making: crochet flowers for this project

Drinking: champagne with other parents whilst our girls were in their English exam!

Eating: chocolate

Cooking: my girl’s favourites – anything with chicken, salmon or pasta!

Watching: not a lot. Just started Deep Water which has a stellar Australian cast

Reading: This House of Grief by Helen Garner. I thought it may be a bit macabre and voyeuristic but I’ve been assured the focus is more on the legal and criminal procedure of the case rather than the case itself

Wearing: activewear!

Hearing: the washing machine thudding and whirring

Looking: at the blue sky and sunshine out my window

Hoping: both kiddies are satisfied with their efforts at the end of the year

Needing: to put a bit more thought into holiday planning for the end of the year

Looking: forward to a birthday lunch with friends later today

Wishing: my girl was not so critical of herself

Feeling: a bit emotionally drained. It’s been a demanding few years

Wanting: a magic wand so that I could give the other three people in this house what they want

Knowing: that not getting a particular mark is not the end of the world. Just have to convince others of that!

Hmm. Seems to be a bit of a theme running through that! Guess that’s just where we are at at the moment – and that’s what ‘taking stock’ is all about, isn’t it? Just taking moment to notice what is going on, being experienced, at a particular point in time. Sometimes they’re cheery, sometimes a little more fraught. What would your ‘taking stock’ look like at the moment? Thanks to Pip for the inspiration!

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Farewell stras sandwiches and Friday treats

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When my boy started school way back in 2002, my strategy for dealing with requests for not-so-healthy lunchbox inclusions was to institute a routine – on Fridays he could have a stras sandwich and a chocolate bar in his lunch. Not on any other day, just Fridays. Two years later, when my girl joined him at school, it was the same deal. She once told me that it became quite the event amongst her friends to find out what her ‘Friday treat’ would be! Forty weeks of school per year, 13 years per child. If my maths is correct, I think that means I’ve made over 1000 stras sandwiches and popped over 1000 chocolate bars into lunchboxes. This morning, I made my last Friday lunch box. It’s the last full week of school for my girl. The last full week of being a school mum for me.

When my boy finished school, I remember my heart filling as I watched him conduct the year 12s in singing a farewell song at their valedictory dinner, listened to him – along with all his classmates -tell of his reflections of his time at school at his final cathedral service, and then my eyes moistening and overflowing as he walked out of his final chapel service, candle in hand with the school choir singing Coldplay’s ‘I Will  Fix You’.  I recalled the nights I stood rocking my baby boy to sleep, his tiny hands resting on my neck, and now here he was, towering over me and enveloping me in his embrace as he we stood in the courtyard farewelling his schooldays.

Next week it is my girl’s turn. On Monday she will have her last classes. Tuesday morning will see her celebrating muck-up day with her friends in their dyed and remodelled summer uniforms. In the afternoon we will attend her final assembly at school when all the year 12s will be presented with a rose from the prep girls. The little prep girls they once were, now grown into beautiful young women. In the evening we will attend her valedictory dinner. And then the next morning, the final revision before exams starts.

During their time at school I’ve watched both my boy and my girl grasp the opportunities their schools have offered them. They have been prepared to participate even if they’ve not been overly confident in their abilities and I think that is a wonderful attribute to have – to not feel that we have to shine at something to give it a go. I’ve seen them take part in activities where they have had ability, and this has been recognised by their school and peers. And I’ve seen them grit their teeth through activities they really didn’t want to be a part of – swimming sports, school camps, we’re looking at you! But that’s part of life, isn’t it? Sometimes you just have to suck it up! Through it all, I think they’ve learned that the more you put in to an experience, the more you get out of it. They have learned about themselves – what they like, who they like, what they value.

When my boy was approaching his final days, I wondered how I would cope without the regular school routine. How would I adjust to life with someone coming in and out of the house at odd times, and maybe not even needing to be out of the house on some days? But having overcome that hurdle, I am looking forward to waving goodbye to the demands of the school routine. I am excited for my girl to have flexibility in her days and to take the skills she has learned at school into her new world and to use them to expand her experiences even further. The many extra curricular actvities she has thrown herself into, combined with a constant and heavy academic workload, have made life very difficult at times.  To be freed from the rigidity of the school timetable will be much appreciated by her – and us!

Nevertheless, I know that a bucket load of tears will be shed – by her and me! I will be remembering the touch of her little hand in mine as we were out and about doing the shopping in the days before she started kinder. I will be remembering the little girl who wandered out from her bedroom before her first day of school asking ‘Mum, what if I’m in the secret garden and …’. I will be remembering all the ballet concerts, plays and music performances we’ve seen her in and the joy on her face when we’ve met her ‘after the show’. And I will be marvelling at the beautiful, compassionate, socially aware, witty, interesting young woman she has become – a young woman who is deeply appreciative of the education she has received, aware that there are many young girls throughout the world who do not have such an opportunity.

So. It is now time for me to wave goodbye to their childhoods. But they will always be my babies and I will never wave goodbye to my children.  And they will never be too old for me to tell them I love them to the moon and back and even more than that.

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Taking Stock: September ’16

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Happy spring or happy fall, depending upon where you are! Have you felt a change in the weather? We haven’t experienced a lot of spring warmth here in Melbourne but the days are certainly getting that bit longer. I’ve been watching the shelves at my greengrocer’s for the appearance of summer fruit. Whilst I don’t hate the apple, banana or mandarin, they are a little pedestrian. Berries, stone fruit, mangoes…well, they are just a bit more enticing, don’t you think? But whilst the days have still been a little chill and rainy, this is how I’ve been passing the time.

Making: a skirt for a futuristic themed 18th my girl was invited to. Honestly, there have been so many costumes this year between 18ths and school dress up days!

Reading: The Turner House. I’ve been a bit unfocussed with my reading of late but I am enjoying it.

Watching: The Bachelorette. Love Georgia and LOVE the guys this year. How could you get rid of any of them? Oh well, maybe Rhys!

Smelling: peanut butter and choc chip cookies fresh out of the oven

Hearing: my girl humming as she studies for maths. It creates the illusion that she is enjoying it but I know the reality is different!

Cooking: pasta for boy before he heads out to work.

Drinking: instant coffee. Nothing fancy today.

Eating: maybe eggs for lunch?

Enjoying: sleeping a bit better the last few nights. No night sweats! Do you feel me menopausal pals? Far out! The continual search for the cool spot in bed!

Liking: that our kids are now bigger so that I can have the odd weekend away with my man without needing to organise babysitters. So much freedom!

Wanting: to get onto a new craft project just not sure what.

Pondering: Disgraced, the play my girl and I went to see last night. Lots of stuff in there about identity and prejudice and changing societies. A play for our times.

Hoping: the coming months will not be too stressful.

Wearing: sloppy clothes. Yoga pants, t-shirt and hoodie. Need to change out of that soon otherwise I’ll feel slothful all day.

Finding: myself stressing out too much.

Wondering: why I let myself get stressed out too much! Just let it go!

Opening: my laptop to write this!

Giggling: at Michelle shopping with Ellen

So that’s September! Have you been baking or making? Watching or reading? Taking Stock posts spring from the creative brain of Pip Licolne. Maybe you want to have a go too?

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Celebrating the big 5-0 (it wasn’t mine!)

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imageLast week my man turned the big 5-0. I’ve known him since he was the not-so-big 2-0 (the age my boy is at the moment which is kinda strange!) and he’s still just as lovely! What do you get the man who has everything, or at least everything he needs? He is but a simple soul! No point getting objects for the sake of it. That just adds to clutter or landfill down the track. Nup. That’s no good. Much better to choose an experience pressie, I think! I made him a nice little card gifting him three nights away, with promises of beach walks, coffees, reading and TV viewing and a yummy lunch (well, that was actually my parents’ gift to him but it was still part of the weekend!)

We didn’t head anywhere particularly exotic, just an hour or so drive from home down to the Mornington Peninsula, but the less travel time, the more time away doing nice things, don’t you agree? Did the weekend live up to its promises? I think it did! Here’s some of the things we enjoyed.

  • beach walks in glorious sunshine
  • and then listening to the rain at night
  • gazing out at the water from the balcony of our apartment
  • coffee at A Mini Kitchen. They had the most DELICIOUS looking sweet treats. Bikkies that begged ‘EAT ME’, friands, slices, cupcakes and a spectacular meringue slathered orange and limoncello cake.
  • a yummy lunch at the epicurean. There was quite a wait so we didn’t eat til 2.30pm which felt like quite a break out of our normal daily routine. We were ‘full to pussy’s bow’ after our lunch so it was tea and toast for dinner!
  • admiring the local street art and the huge canvases of Miodrag Jankovic that were on display in a local gallery (had a chat to him too!)
  • watching The Bank Job and Arne Dahl together, then I left him to curse at the soccer whilst I warmed my legs under the doona with Stranger Things on my iPad. Not usually a sci-fi fan but my girl said she thought I’d like it and wow! The kid actors are amazing! Watching it for them, if nothing else.

I think it turned out to be quite a nice birthday present. Simple, uncomplicated, cosy. Just like him! He said he’ll have the same for his next 50th!

What do you prefer for birthdays? Some thing wrapped with a bow or something to do and remember? Are you a fan of a mini-break close to home?

Is it busy…or just out of our control?

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Oh, hello there! How are you? Has been a little while since I popped in here. Much to my disappointment. I miss being able to write about what’s been going on. But, you know, as Emily said there’s other stuff that gets in the way sometimes.  I’m not going to resort to the ‘oh, I’ve been so busy!’ exclamation – or explanation.  It seems to me that some people choose to wear this statement as a badge of honour or to inflate their sense of self. Maybe that’s not the intention, but that’s the way I see it.  Perhaps I’m being too critical. When you have multiple people living in a home, with varying schedules, varying commitments and varying levels of dependency sometimes the days fill without you having any control over them. That’s the way it’s been here. Other people have been shaping my days, not me! And it made me feel a bit tired – and overwhelmed. At times like these, if I chance to read about the ‘slow’ movement, my eyes start to well. ‘Oh, yes, please!’ my little inner voice cries, but I’m not sure how to make that work with young adults in the family – their lives aren’t quite as subject to our management as when they were younger. And, you know, we rejoice when they have the enthusiasm to embrace the opportunities that are presented to them so…what to do?!

Anyhoo, the last few days, I’ve got to back to having a bit more input into my days so that has been welcome. This is what I’ve chosen to do. And perhaps I’ve been a little extra generous to myself too!

A day in the country I popped on the train and headed out of town to visit the lovely Emily. We had a trawl through an op shop and each picked up a few $3 vintage books. One of the op shop volunteers asked us if we wanted to have some soup because it was ‘free soup Tuesday’. That’s country manners for you! We declined as we had lunch booked at  Mill Rose Cottage– where we did have soup! A delicious mushroom, leek and thyme soup. Tummies filled, we wandered through the shop next door which is fabric heaven for any quilters- or keen sewers (hope you read that word correctly!) out there. The most stunning fabrics – and a Liberty room. We met a lady with two whole albums – like an old swap card album -of Liberty samples she has been putting together over the last few months. Stunning! I bought some gorgeously soft wool to make a cowl. Emily gave me a little travelling watercolour set which she had made for me. Aren’t I lucky?

Solo trip to the movies I took myself off to see Love and Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan. I may have had a moment or two of noddy in the movie because, you know, still very tired (!) but I certainly saw enough to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Gorgeous costumes, gorgeous language and a truly ridiculous character in Sir James Martin played beautifully by Tom Bennett.

Coffee in the park A spring-like sunny day today so after my yoga class, I headed to the park with a coffee and my book for a little sustenance and read before the fruit and veggie shopping. It was lovely to feel the sun’s warmth and to feel the breeze freshen my spirits. So nice!

So! There we go! I knew last week that there was light at the end of the tunnel but nevertheless, sometimes you get a bit bogged down by it, don’t you? Or maybe you don’t? And what do you think of the whole ‘busy’ thing? Off to bake cookies for the fam now!

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Five good things to do in winter

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It is chilly-billy in Melbourne at the moment. Yes it is. The sky has been fluctuating between a threatening shade of dark grey and bursts of blue, and the wind is a-blowing. Am I cracking the sads? Not really because I think there are some pretty nice things to do on cold and blustery days!

Make bolognese Comfort food! I loved it when I was a little and I could smell onions sweating in the pan on the old St George stove. I’m sure my mum sweated onions for a multitude of dishes but I’ve always associated that aroma with bolognese. Now that I’m the one making it, I appreciate the ability to make double quantity and whack half in the freezer for the night I don’t want to cook, and that everyone in the fam likes it. There is some debate over the ratio of sauce to pasta. The females in the house favour more spaghetti, the men, more sauce. What do you like?

Wear tights So much warmer than jeans or pants, right? I think they can add a touch of colour, fun and quirkiness to a grey winter’s day. I’m probably a bit more conservative in the tights wearing department so I tend to go for something along these lines but these are beautiful. The only bum note about tights – what’s with the weird itchiness that sometimes appears out of nowhere on the back of the thighs? Is it the tights? Is it the chair? Is it just me?

Knit or crochet a blanket/scarf It’s about warmth on multiple levels. As it grows, it warms your legs and your hands as you’re click-clacking or hooking away, you end up with a lovely, warming finished product from your hours of labour, and if you’ve made it as a gift for a friend or charity, it warms the cockles of your heart to present it to someone else. Wins all round I say! There are lots of lovely patterns on Ravelry and Love Knitting or you could be creative and make up your own pattern. And before you can make your woolly project, you need to visit the wool shop which is niceness in itself!

Binge watch Pride and Prejudice When this came out 20 years ago (eek!), I remember hearing a radio host saying she watched the whole six hours in one go and I scoffed ‘as if you’d do that!’. Yep, that’ll teach me! I loved it when it came out and I love it still. I was pregnant when it was shown on Sunday nights on the ABC and I had ‘Eliza’ pegged as a name for my possible girl baby. I scratched it because I was convinced that everyone else would be as enamoured with ‘Miss Eliza Bennet’ as I was and that school playgrounds would be filled with Elizas! Turned out not to be the case, and also turned out to be a boy so I had no need to worry! But all these years later, he doesn’t mind a bit of P&P and my girl (not named ‘Eliza’!) loves it too! And because my mother told me you can watch TV as long as you are doing something else, I can binge as long as I’m making that scarf or blanket!

Go for a walk I remember reading an article about playtime in Finnish schools and a teacher declaring that the weather is never too cold, it is simply that you are wearing the wrong clothes. So pop on the hat, scarf, gloves and coat and pound the pavement. It will get the blood flowing and warm you up. And surely having done a bit of exercise it’s then perfectly okay to sit down in front of telly with a bowl of bolognese or some making?

What are your winter tips? Do you have an excellent slow cooked meal? Bingeworthy telly? A favourite way to keep warm?

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