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!

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The little sunshine team + launches + things

The little sunshine house was a-buzz with activity yesterday, as we prepared for a little north coast Too Busy Sleeping party in Bangalow.

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I made cupcakes. The girls helped, but soon lost interest and drifted off into their own games. The little one cut up yellow thread to make ‘soup’ and the bigger one made one of her many presents for a friend.

As I loaded the table with trays of cupcakes, snacks and other bits, my husband carted it to the car.

On the other end, he helped unload it, and my mum, a friend and my daughter helped me set up.

My little sunshine team were there until well after six, packing the party down.

This little team.

I introduced the book yesterday, then read to the kids. It was a lovely warm and cosy feeling, watching their attentive faces follow the story. Sweetness in a cup.

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I said a few words. It was all very impromptu. But it was only later I was kicking myself. I talked about the collaboration between Anna Pignataro, the publisher, the editor and I. But I didn’t even mention my little sunshine team. As far as Oscar speeches go, it was a pretty lousy one, because I have everything to thank this little team for.

They were there when the story came about. They were the story. My baby was in arms, and my big girl stood in the bathroom door, saying something touching about her baby sister, which made my husband and I realise that this whole baby thing did actually affect her, but not in the way you’d expect. Then my husband said something about the baby too busy sleeping, and the story grew from there.

My husband helped me edit it, and prodded me to send it off to the publisher. It’s good, he urged. Send it. He helped me with the edits, patient and kind.

We all trekked down to Canberra last year for the CBCA conference, to learn a bit more about the children’s book industry.

My husband’s been there every night, washing up and folding washing, while I write, or work on promotion. He’s helped me drink champagne when we find out good news. He’s talked down my doubts and insecurities as they rose up.

Lying down with two tired little girls last night after our book party, I fell asleep, as I too was obviously zonked. Meanwhile, my husband unloaded the car, washed up a million dishes and put everything away.

When I woke this morning it was with a full, happy and grateful heart.

We are off to Sydney this morning for a family thing. Then Melbourne for a week next week. After some events around the north coast and Gold Coast, we are driving to Sydney for a week, then all the way back again. The lovely people at Ford are giving us a car for our journey as part of the #fordthinking Kidspot challenge. We’ll be then trekking up as a family to Brisbane to do some things. I even scheduled one on my daughter’s birthday.

It’s going to be a busy, crazy and wonderful month, and I’m taking this family everywhere we go.

So what I meant to say last night was thank you, little sunshine family. I couldn’t have done it without you.

xxx

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Finding peace and joy in 2015

finding peace and joy 2015

I was more wound up than I thought I was.

Lying beside the lake yesterday, reading my book while my little one slept beside me, my breath came from deep within. It’s been a long time since I breathed that deeply.

I hadn’t realised.

My year of work began around November 2013, and didn’t stop until just before Christmas 2014. Slowly, work and creative activity built on itself. As I took on task after project after task, my endurance for stress and hard work slowly increased. A bit like the endurance you build from carrying a newborn through to being a toddler. You don’t realise how strong you become.

But the year of excessive computer work, and endless activity did take its toll. By the end of last year, I was having difficulty sleeping. My adrenalin was pumping.

I snapped easily – like a sharp, spiky twig – if anyone stepped on me, or whined or criticised me, or cried unduly, I snapped. It wasn’t always pretty.

I could manage my work life, it seemed, but the toll really came when my two-year-old cried herself to sleep each night, instead of falling asleep easily as she’d done before.

I think that was my tipping point.

I did take on work over the Christmas break. I also did Quincy stuff. But I was hardly ever at my computer {unless, of course, checking YouTube views for All The Babies In The World, which, incidentally, went crazy}.

Most days were spent swimming, or hanging out with family, or both. There was lots of drinking and eating. There was even reading, which for me is highly unusual.

Day by day, I unwound, and suddenly, I felt normal again. The joy I usually experience crept back into my life. I was laughing spontaneously and full-heartedly. It didn’t bother me how long my baby took to sleep. I was finally relaxed.

Now, I am back at work.

First thing this morning, I began experiencing those adrenal twinges. So as I sit here, I am forming a plan: How to stay calm and experience joy through another year of work and creative activity.

Here’s my list:

1. Drink camomile tea in copious amounts

2. Read books instead of looking at Facebook

3. Eat slightly less dark chocolate right before bedtime

4. Breathe in deeply

5. Say ‘no’ when I can

6. Say ‘yes’ to peaceful moments of connection with my daughters and husband

7. Avoid the computer unless necessary

8. Run at least twice a week

9. Float on water

10. Play in nature

What’s your strategy for avoiding overwhelm? How do you plan to take on the year?

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