Homely

homely

Books stacked on shelves.

Cartons  flattened.

Tea cups laid out and dusted.

The dust has settled, and we are too. Slowly. Surely.

The Sunshine House is as we left it, more or less. There’s a tree missing, blew down in a storm, and a few things amiss and a’broken. We’ve rearranged bedrooms, and emptied the house of everything everything we don’t need. After cozy Dutch houses, our own house, small by Australian standards, suddenly feels enormous.

But that’s the funny thing about perspective.

Like that one time, we went away to Europe for ten months, and it felt like forever, but now we are back, it felt like it barely happened. There’s another language floating around the house now, and a store of images and pictures and memories and feelings. But did we ever actually leave?

Before we left Europe, lots of people asked me how I felt about going home. Now I am back, lots of people ask me how I feel being back. Truth is, if it weren’t for the fact that people ask, and I like to give as honest answer as I can, I wouldn’t really think about it.

As we drifted from place to place this year, and reshaped ourselves into various rooms and houses, it all felt good, and it all felt right. If circumstances allowed, I could have stayed in any one of those places for a really long time. I could have called any of those places home.

So my answer was, and is, that I was happy there, so I assume I’ll be just as happy here.

Happiness goes with you, and all that.

But under the harsh Australian sun, in the heat, unpacking boxes, and popping down to the less than inspiring town plaza, with its fluoro lighting, it’s hard not to miss Europe just a teeny bit.

Things I will miss, include words like wanderling and pantoffel. I will miss fresh haring, with onion. I will miss mountain walks in fresh air, and getting strong without even trying. I will miss not wearing sunscreen all summer, and sitting out in the heat without frying. I will miss playing in the forest, and looking for fairy houses. I will miss beautiful houses. I will miss old things. I will miss an easy, communal way of life, where people just look after each other, no question. I will miss long mornings and so, so much time.

I will miss our Dutch and Austrian family and friends.

But there are so many good things here, too. Like family. Like friends. Like the sea and the beach, and a beautiful school. And home.

‘I don’t like the Sunshine Gypsies,’ my youngest gypsy declared in the car the other day. ‘I like the Sunshine House.’ She’s the home loving one, and has been counting down the days until we returned.

And now we are back, and the dust is settling, and it is very homely.

Leaving home

A little house. Four walls. A roof. A sizeable garden.

A little home. A memory vessel. People’s lives and stories absorbed into the plasterboard, and etched into the tiles.

As we furiously sweep away all signs of life, and scrub all sign of roast dinners from the oven, I think about where those memories go. We leave a clean template for new people to leave new memories in the walls and in the oven. Who will these people be, and what will be their stories?

This little house was built for my grandma Joyce in the mid ’80s. She sat in the same chair over the years, sipping scotch, one hand on the telephone.

Grandchildren grew up around her. And later, her great grandchild sat in a clothes basket at her feet so she didn’t get covered in dog hair. Joyce taught the little girl to clap.

Tears were shed as Joyce read cards written by loved ones. Her voice quivered with emotion as she spoke to people she hadn’t spoken to for a long time. The woodman sat opposite her, in a 70s timber chair, smoking cigarettes. Friends and neighbours dropped in for a chat. All the while, her golden retriever lay beside her.

When she died, a little sunshine family spoke of buying her house. It was all settled quickly, and the night of her wake, after the people who loved Joyce gathered in her little house, the little sunshine family slept on mattresses on the floor. And there they stayed, up until a few days ago.

The little family is bigger now, and have made their own memories.

In this corner, two small children scribbled at their craft table, sticking things, and cutting things.

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In this corner, oodles of books were stored and read. Toys were piled and played with.

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In this kitchen, a husband cooked meals lovingly for his family, chopping garlic as fine as fine can be. Years before grandma Joyce had also lovingly lavished meals with garlic.

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In this room, a family slept on mattresses. At some point, two children and a mother lay snuggled on one small futon, despite a king-sized bed, and queen-sized bed in the other room.

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In this garden, children played – chasing bubbles, or making fairy gardens. A mummy planted too many trees, and her grandma did too. Now, the garden is stripped back for ease and manageability.

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Thank you little house for looking after our memories all these years. In return, we will remember you.

#FordThinking + A Flower Adventure

It’s the second day of Spring. My daughter wakes to see an orange poppy blooming in her little flower garden.

‘Mum! I have to show you something really exciting!’ She pulls me into the garden.

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‘It’s the poppy’s birthday. We have to have a party.’ She runs around the garden, gathering flowers, and laying them in her garden bed. The little one follows.

The girls disappear inside to get dressed. One is a jasmine and the other is… well, not really sure. Something floral and gorgeous. I am under strict instructions to make jasmine crowns for them.

The party begins.

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Meanwhile, in the sunshine house, a certain set of parents are wondering how they are going to fit it all in before heading to Melbourne in the morning for the start of Le Grand Tour de Book a la Too Busy Sleeping. We have work to finish. Rooms to clean. Washing to do. Suitcases to buy. Snacks to buy.

The flower party is at last done. We pile into the Ford Kuga MKII Ford kindly gave us this week as part of the Kidspot Voices #FordThinking challenge.  Piling into the Ford Kuga feels like a very nice thing to do.

Ford Kuga MKII #FordThinking

Ford Kuga MKII #FordThinking

‘It smells like magic,’ says my daughter, breathing in deeply.

She holds her breath.

‘What are you doing?’ I ask her.

‘I am waiting for Daddy and you to get into the car, then I can sneeze. We make the car fly by sneezing.’

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For five years, we’ve been driving a car with a dodgy CD player that skips and a radio that un-tunes itself halfway through a song. Once we are in the Ford, though, we immediately set up the SYNCTM 2 with my iPhone. We can play music! Or anything really. Stories! Kids songs! And it doesn’t skip, and it doesn’t re-tune itself halfway through a song. 

‘Achoo!’ my daughter pretends to sneeze. Then, ‘I want a story!’

We find the fairy tales on Spotify on my phone.

‘And we’re off!’ says my daughter. We’re not quite flying, but we open the sky windows, and it feels like we are.

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First stop, Ballina Fair. Not my favourite place in the world. But there are suitcases to buy etc.

#FordThinking Ballina Fair

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As well as suitcases and groceries, we also buy colouring books, and a book for my daughter for the plane.

‘Let’s pop by the beach,’ suggests Gregor. The second day of Spring is stunning, and we have heard Melbourne is a wee bit on the chilly side. There’s some vitamin D to soak up.

We feed the girls on the way. They are still listening to their stories.

#FordThinking Ford Kuga Skenners Head Ballina

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The beach is stunning. We sit in the boot of the car for a moment, reading my daughter’s new book. The boot has this cool function, where you can open the boot by swinging your leg under the car. You don’t need hands!

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And then we hit the beach.

Some Quincy music by Gregor & I from Rosie Time For Bed

The girls find a pumice stone. Perfect for drawing. I find a yellow flower.

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I’m definitely driving home. Gregor’s had his turn. There’s no discussion about what to listen to. More stories.

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We’re home by mid-afternoon. There’s a lot still to do before the morning’s flight. But it’s ok. We’ve had a beautiful, sunny, spring, sneezy, flower adventure.

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Putting my youngest to sleep tonight, she says, ‘But we forgot to eat the flowers on the adventure!’ I’m confused. Then I remember. The flower party. We touch noses. She giggles. I like this family a lot.

This post is part of the #FordThinking #Voicesof2015 Kidspot Voices Challenge. We are given an amazing Ford Kuga MKII for several weeks, and I write three blog posts about it. Thank you Ford & Kidspot for our lovely car!

fordthinking

The House Husband

the house husband

He wakes to the sound of small voices, and the coffee machine. Reluctantly, he drags himself out of bed. The sleep-in (or so called) is the last luxury for the day. He weighs himself and performs other morning rituals before breakfast.

Coffee, breakfast, and then his wife tidies away her plate and coffee cup and disappears into the office. It is his task for the next seven point five hours to keep small children busy, so they don’t clamber over their mummy trying to work.

Between washing up breakfast plates and cleaning the coffee machine, he monitors his youngest scaling various pieces of furniture, and answers his older daughter’s requests for assistance as she puts together a puzzle.

Like magma, toys flow away from the centre of the volcano, pooling in the centre of the living room. Shoes are distributed across the room. The house husband picks his way across the debris towards the garden, carrying the full washing basket to the line.

“Dad!” one girl calls. “I need you!”

“Dad!” another calls. “E-I-E-I-O!”

“Dad! I need a Jutie!”

“Moo!”

“Just one second, girls,” he calls back. “Just have to finish this. Okay, here’s your Jutie.”

“Dad! I need an ear!”

Next thing, the house husband is lying on the day bed between two children – each drink from their milk bottle AKA Jutie, and each hold a Daddy ear.

“Okay, girls, we need to go shopping now.”

There’s a parade of feet. One after the other, and after much debate, they choose their attire, and the patient house husband dresses them to the specific requirements.

“Right, shoes!” Again, a hustle, as the shoes are sought and found, and then the hats, then the sunscreen.

“Bye, Mum! See ya, Mum. Bye!” They march to the car, and the house husband straps them in.

They do the shopping, and stop by the play park for an obligatory play before heading home for lunch.

When they return, the toy magma flow continues. He feeds the children, and then sets the older child up with the iPad, while he takes the younger one for her sleep. He holds the toddler to his chest, singing softly as he rocks. When her eyelids close, he places her gently into the cot.

His attention is now on his older girl. She wants to build a city, so together they saw, and paint blocks of wood left over from a building project. They talk Dutch while they work.

The toddler wakes. “Dancing!” she points to the piano, and then heads to her cupboard to fetch a dress. He goes through the dressing ritual once more – dresses specific for the occasion.

While they dance, the house husband dons his apron, and prepares the dinner. He finely chops the garlic, onion, beetroot, aubergine, and zucchini. He sautes the vegetables in spices, like fennel and cardamom. He loves experimenting with flavours.

At last his wife is done for the day, and if there is time, he sneaks out for a run before dinner, while she hangs out with the girls.

After dinner, he lets her bathe them, and play with them before their bedtimes, as he washes up

While his wife takes the girls to bed, he folds the washing in neat piles, restrains the cascade of toys, and sweeps away the dust and grime accumulated from the day. He’s still going while she blogs (about him).

“The only way you can appreciate what women have done for families for hundreds of years is to become one yourself,” he reflects as he sweeps.

At 9pm, he is done. It’s been a full thirteen or fourteen hours of domesticity, and he longs to put on his ear phones, and work on his music tracks, or simply sit next to his wife with a glass of vino, and chocolate, watching comedy.

Do you have a house husband? 

I am giving away two hardback copies of How I Love You, Anna Pignataro’s new book from Scholastic. Follow the prompts to enter.

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For more tales from the sunshine house, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I occasionally run giveaways for subscribers, and update you with the latest sunshine news.

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

I just want to feel loved

I have been chatting to a few people, recently, who are expecting their second baby. My words are reassuring – “It’s really not much more work.”

Since having Baby nearly nine months ago, life has not been much more crazy than before. Maybe there’s a formula – with each subsequent child, life gets X degrees busier. Not double.

In some ways, life got easier. The two children entertain each other. I have less one-on-one interaction with either child. I do what I have to do, and they potter around me, each happy in their little world.

Baby #2 was far easier – the birth was easier, her temperament was easier (she barely cried), and she slept better.

I’ve been more relaxed second time round – I know what I am doing, and I know that, more than likely, it will all turn out OK.

As it was at the time of Baby’s birth, the biggest challenge for me has been how my relationship with my oldest girl has changed.

I miss her.

While still pregnant with Baby, she used to cuddle up to me in bed, as close as close can be. Her little body kept mine warm.

When I had Baby, I moved to another room so Baby and I could get our sleep patterns sorted out. I missed my night cuddles with my big girl.

Before Baby, my oldest wanted me for comfort.

Now she wants her Daddy.

There was a time when taking my oldest to bed was a trial of my patience – I would have to lie there, for up to an hour, waiting for her to go to sleep. Every night I would curse the fact that it was only me who could take her to bed. Now, she vehemently professes she wants Daddy to take her to bed. In a strange twist, I am jealous.

I was at a baby blessingway yesterday, and the circle facilitator read out the poem by the Prophet, Kahlil Gibran, about children.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I realised how much I need the affection of my children. I do hold their love hostage – I want it to complete me.

Before having children, I was adrift in a sea of loneliness. One person, floating around, waiting to feel complete. My husband gave me company, but it was still just me on the life boat.

My first child gave me a person who needed me round the clock. When I walked into the room, my baby’s face lit up – with relief? I didn’t complain about the clinginess of a toddler. I loved the attention.

Am I sick?

The story of my life: I just want to feel loved

But as toddler becomes child, and more autonomous, she loves others. She doesn’t always need her mum. She prefers her daddy to take her to bed. Sometimes, she’s quite content being on her own.

Toddlerhood – childhood – is a push-pull towards independence. It is what we consciously or unconsciously cultivate in our children. It is what we want. And yet, when it happens, we feel sad and lonely.

I am trying to be a big girl, and not depend so heavily on my daughter’s affection. She will love me, probably more than anyone will, but sometimes, she will pull away. And that’s OK. That’s why we made her.

Do you know that feeling?

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