Bamboo Mother

bamboo mother

You know you are winning as a parent when your three-year-old cries for over an hour each night, and finally falls asleep at 9.30 – 10pm, a perfectly reasonable time for a small child.

After books are finished, and lights are out, I am calm. I lie peacefully beside her, remaining quiet in the face of escalating requests: milk, food, pyjamas, no pyjamas, blanket, song, no song etc… The later it gets, the stronger the emotion and the more ridiculous the requests, and while I take myself away to pretty places in my mind, or try and sing a soothing song, {which is probably more soothing for me than her} my emotions too are rising.

If the episode really does take an hour or more, I often snap. I stand, strut out of the room, frustrated. Or her little, strong legs start hurtling down on top of me, and it’s impossible for me to lie calmly.

‘That’s it!’ I cry, exasperated. ‘I’ve had enough! I have to get Dad.’

Of course, the emotions escalate further…and if I don’t return to a quiet, calm place beside her, there’s no end to it.

Most nights, once sleep is finally achieved, I leave the room feeling battered and weary. The wonderful day just gone is forgotten, as my adrenalin and cortisol levels have left me feeling rubbish, and in need of Netflix and chocolate. I abandon all my evening’s creative aspirations, vent to Husband, and collapse.

Mostly, I am mad at myself, for at some point cracking. For losing my calm, and my cool. For getting exasperated.

But, there was one night, recently, where an hour had passed, and I finally stood with her in my arms. My legs were strong {thanks to jump squats}, and my arms too {thanks to the twelve push ups I do once a week}. She leaned into me, all 24 kilos of her, crying heavily. And I breathed her in deeply. Exhaled.

‘It’s okay,’ I said into her sodden hair. ‘You can cry. Just cry. It’s okay.’

She cried with relief, then, for about a minute, and fell asleep.

I held her, calm and strong, and an image came to be then, which felt like an aspiration for motherhood.

Bamboo.

Strong, yet flexible. You can build houses with bamboo, yet it can bend in the wind. It’s persistent, consistent, and all consuming.

Standing with my jump squat strong legs, and push up strong arms, with an enormous child in my arms reminded me that calm, strong and flexible, like bamboo is what I need to be.

My Melbourne

When I first moved to Melbourne in 2002, I had never been there before. We drove down Sydney Rd with my cases packed. It was all so foreign and interesting. I was twenty, and hoping to live an adventurous life, and it seemed like Melbourne was a good place to move.

I quickly made friends through uni, and my friendship circles grew through the years I lived there. I worked in trendy cafes, walked everywhere, or rode my red vintage bike. Later, I worked at Anna Schwartz Gallery in the city, riding down every day from Brunswick wearing my fancy gallery attire.

Melbourne was always such a comfortable place to live, despite the weather. Though admittedly, it was only the really hot winds that really bothered me. I liked the seasons, and the cold meant I could wear boots and jackets.

Melbourne was where I discovered independence. I discovered that if I wore my 80s dungerees I felt really happy. And I found other things that make me happy. I got on top of my depression, and flourished socially. I really found my groove.

People were friendly in Melbourne. Interesting. I felt safe. I loved my little worker’s cottage in Brunswick, with polished floors and a giant Magnolia in the courtyard.

When my husband suggested we move to northern NSW when I got pregnant, I honestly wasn’t that keen. Melbourne was my happy place, and I was scared if I left, I would lose all the happy I had built up in the seven years I lived there.

As it turned out, the happy was safe. It had made its way into me. I had changed the way I thought about myself and life, so it came with me.

Revisiting Melbourne last week, staying with friends, I fell in love with Melbourne again. In many ways, it’s still so the same, which is comforting. Our little strip on Lygon Street – Mirama Nut Shop, the funny Bonds-selling jeans-selling shop, Sugardough, with all the same things on the menu. We could have re-lived our mornings exactly as we used to. Much in the city was still the same too.

The city is harder with kids, though. I didn’t have the same easy freedom I used to feel there, riding through chilly air tunnels. I felt a little stifled and stressed, walking blocks with a nearly-three-year-old on my back, and my other daughter on her dad’s shoulders. But the blossoms! And the people! And of course the cafes. The Spanish food at Robert Byrnes Hotel was definitely the highlight.

I am glad I live where I live. But it’s nice to come back to Melbourne every now and then and touch the air that first made me really happy.

Melbourne

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The funny little family

silly little family

My husband and I love movies. Who doesn’t? It’s been a while though since we watched something together. So the other night we snuggled down to watch a movie on Netflix.

Is it just me, or is there not a whole lot to choose from on the Australian Netflix? Gregor does not do drama, so that kind of narrows things. And we are fussy.

We eventually settled on Easy A, which looked pretty fine.

It was. Not a super great movie. But it was easy to watch, and entertaining.

The thing we liked most were Olive’s parents, played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci. Her parents laughed and joked with Olive, who was meant to be in her late teens, and their younger adopted son. They joked about their son being adopted. They joked about the sexual persuasion of Olive’s boyfriend.  It’s hard to convey the jokes themselves without sounding inappropriate and unPC. They really weren’t bad though.

The point was, the parents were so light with their kids. They had fun. And more than that. They talked to the kids as equals.

It was an unusual Hollywood nuclear family portrayal. Or maybe I just haven’t watched a lot of movies lately. Maybe this is becoming a normal portrayal. Just a family, having fun.

Afterwards, Gregor and I sung the praises of the film – well, mainly the family. ‘I’m watching this movie again if ever I need inspiration,’ said Greg. It clicked with us.

We have a lot of fun in our sunshine house too. It’s not entirely a co-incidence that my two-year-old has a wicked sense of humour – and has had since she was about six-months. She’ll make a joke, and cackle with laughter.

My older daughter gets pretty subtle humour too. We joke around the breakfast table most mornings and every evening.

One of the main things that attracted me to Gregor when we first met was his wit. When he went on holiday,  he’d send funny little emails that had me in stitches – and not just because of his dodgy English. *soosages*

His humour can be very subtle and hard to pick though. Or maybe I am just gullible.

At some stage, Elka, my oldest, wanted to set up a joke school. She’d be the headmistress, and the purpose of the school would be to teach other people when Daddy was joking or not joking. {Rosie was assigned crèche responsibilities.}

Laughter has gotten us out of many a pickle. Just yesterday, I was a wee bit hung over after my little birthday party at home with a couple of people. It was hard going getting through the afternoon. Especially as tired little Elka was pushing all the limits, and Gregor was at work. But humour saved us. We turned potential snow storms into silly jokes.

Even my arguments with Gregor are quickly diffused by a little light-hearted joke. Thank goodness. I am no good with conflict. Especially long-lasting conflict.

I guess those early *soosage* emails were a sign of good things to come.

Are you are laughey family too? What part does humour play in your life?

The little sunshine tag team

sunshine house

I am awake about 6am. After spending some time with the young ‘uns, I am folding washing, getting them breakfast, feeding rabbits, putting washing out, cleaning floors and windows, washing up… My objective is to have everything as good as it can be by noon, when my husband Gregor gets home from doing a weekend of shift work.

We sit down, and have a coffee together. A bit of lunch. Thirty minutes later, I am on the computer, working. I will do the afternoon shift {or he will, with the girls, which ever way you look at it}. After giving the youngest a sleep, he’ll prepare dinner, wash up, sweep and start getting the girls ready for bed.

That day, more or less, on repeat through the week.

It’s the Hacska tag team, and it works kind of well.

Luckily for us part-time workers, who don’t use day care, we have half-a-day – even a whole day here and there to hang out and just spend lovely time together.

On these days, we are less inclined to spend time doing things like mowing lawns {sorry neighbours} and more inclined to do things like walking up to the Byron lighthouse to eat ice-cream.

It’s an easy flow of work, as we pass the work/child baton from one to the other. What makes it work? A few things I think.

One is our breakfasts together. Every morning, we sit down for a family spread of yummy bread, cold meats and cheeses and of course excellent coffee. It’s necessary, relaxed time together. During daylight savings, this hour is harder to salvage, as we usually need to get our daughter ready for preschool, or ready for somewhere. Regardless, we love these breakfasts together.

Our broken work week is nice too, because we aren’t just working all the time. I think Gregor and I are both allergic to boredom and predictability. Variation is the spice of life, and our variation of a bit of work, a bit of house, a bit of something fun and creative, and a lot of family suits us quite well.

The other key ingredient is communication. Occasionally, we get a little antsy at each other – you didn’t sweep, I did more, you should do more kind of thing. But a little joke, a hug and an apology go a long way. As does acknowledging that the other person does work hard, and have the best interests of the family at heart.

Neither of us excel at domestic duties, so granted our house is only as organised as it can be, but as I drive in and see the long grass, or the flaky verandah, I tell myself ‘artists + kids live here’. We do our best. And we prioritise what matters to us.

Do you tag team? How does your work week work?

Where the little brick houses stand

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When I was a kid, we visited my grandma’s house every holidays. Memories of playing Duplo on her beige woollen carpet with my cousins linger, as does that time when my older cousin fell from the top bunk, and got concussion.

Then there was the time when we made posters to put in the neighbours’ letter boxes to invite them to a fictitious dog show – the winner, supposedly, would go home with a red Ferrari. According to our cleverly designed poster, the dog show would be hosted by the Lodges’, neighbours of my grandma’s who we had a vendetta against because they once complained about my grandma’s dog walking across their lawn.

Sigh. Those were the days.

Those were the days when you could play cricket down the little lane way, and your ball occasionally went over the fence into the paddock behind the house, where two enormous camphor laurels provided shade for the cows.

Those were the days when plovers attacked you when you were dog walking across the empty estates that looked over the sea.

Those were the days when my grandma’s house was one of the first on the estate, and red dirt blocks were dug out for prospective homes made of brick and tile.

We walked my grandma’s dog when we visited. She was getting older, and we knew she appreciated it. He was used to small, old-chatty-lady walks, so didn’t need to go far.

Walking around the estate, my mind was full of imaginings of living in an apartment in Paris, or walking the cobbled streets of Barcelona. I dreamed of a different life, convinced I was born into the wrong one. The skin didn’t fit etc etc.

Fast forward to 2005, and a life in London. Ironically, I had the potential at last to live that life I fantasised about, but it wasn’t going to happen. I spent a year craving home, and groundedness, and things like walking my grandma’s dog around the estate.

Fast forward nine more years, and here we are – no dog – but, children in pram, walking around the same estate. The camphor laurel trees have been cut down, and the paddock filled with more brick and tile houses, like the rest of the estate. My grandma’s house (now ours) is dwarfed by bigger brick and tile houses with much neater gardens.

When I walk (or run) around the estate, I still occasionally dream about living in an apartment in Paris, or walking cobbled streets in Spain. Sometimes I wish I could live in New York. Now my tentative dreams include a country house on a rural block, with an orchard, and chickens and a llama.

My brick and tile surrounds don’t inspire me, particularly. In some ways, they depress me. But there’s a comfort in living here, surrounded by familiarity. There’s also comfort in knowing those dreams still persist, like dull aches below the surface.

The difference is, these dreams no longer make me less content with my own life. I have seen them in the flesh, and discovered that happiness wasn’t found down a cobbled street in an unfamiliar town. My happiness is made of a fine balance of contentment, familiarity and wispy dreams.

Does your suburb inspire you? Are you still dreaming?

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.

Sharing with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

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