Category Archives: balancing act

In the blink of an eye

IMG_8858.JPGIt’s been a really rough few months with illnesses. Mr 2 and I have been hit particularly hard. There have been many more sleepless nights than usual, more antibiotics than I would ideally like and many, many boxes of tissues.

My biceps are sore from carrying Mr 2 around more than usual. There have been a lot of cuddles, the latest round of separation anxiety and more than a few tears and I’m reminded how hard almost three was when we went through it with Mr almost 6.

I was on the bus with Mr 5 last week. It was full and I stood whilst he sat. He slipped his hand around my pinky. The way he used to when he was teeny. In the blink of an eye I felt the brevity of time since he was teeny. And then he made a silly joke that made me laugh and I was whipped back through time to see him for the funny, clever, kind boy he has become.

These boys of mine have changed my world. The way they grow and change so quickly in such a short time is deceptive. They talk big but they are still small.

Even when they’re not with me their presence is huge. I do carry them in my heart. The time will come when they set off in to the world on their own. It already feels like time has passed so quickly and though the days have been long and I feel like I could sleep for years I know enough to know that the years, like they have already, will pass in the blink of an eye.

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Work in progress

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Image by Kelli Trontel

I like to think I’m good at change. And in the main I am, so long as I know what that change is going to result in. What I’m not good at as patience and finding my way through the forest so to speak. It’s the uncertainty thing I’m not good at. I never have been and though I have learned to trust that the outcome will be ok I still struggle with the process. The limbo space.

That’s why this year has been hard for me. I haven’t been able to see what the outcome will be. I think, though, that I have a plan for what I will do going forward in taking on some study towards being a primary school teacher. I need some help in finalising the decision, to have the support of my loved ones in moving on this. I will need to continue paid work whilst studying. It’s going to be hard and it will take a long time. And in making this decision I know that it’s something I would love to do for paid work BUT a not-so-niggly part of me knows that what I really want to do is write. And I need a way to create a life that encompasses all of the things that I want it to have as part of it.

I’m ready though to move in to the next phase of my life. My boys are growing but they still need me. They will likely be the central focus of my life for a long time to come. Sometimes the weight of that is a lot to bear.

I can’t do everything all at once. The inner voice telling me I haven’t reached my potential won’t shush. I don’t want to let go of the dream but I need to stop judging myself against an invisible checklist of achievements. I don’t do it to anyone else so why do I do that to myself? I have some years ahead of me that are the probably the best to come and that all the small things will equal a life well lived. An interesting life that I’ve learned so much from in navigating….and maybe that has been the learning for me over the last six months. To accept I am a work in progress.

Loverly food: Family meals & the “Festival of Meatballs”

Sponsored post thanks to Origin Energy

20140717-081700-29820046.jpg Family meals are one of those romantic ideas I had before having children. All of “us” (whoever the us was!) gathered at the table at the end of our respective days taking it in turns sharing what interesting, unusual and funny things happened that day. Heartily enjoying the healthy, home prepared meal presented. I’m not ruling that out as a possible scenario in the future, especially the older our children are, but it’s rare for this scenario to present itself at the moment.  The reality though is that Mr 2 is at Grandma’s 3 days a week, the other week days Mr and I eat together after the boys are in bed as the boys eat dinner early – a hangry kid is in no one’s best interest!  That said, we do try to have a family dinner once a week, usually on a Sunday evening. It’s not the chilled out experience I perhaps envisaged but it is still an important time for us to connect. Increasingly, the boys pitch in – they help select our meals and Mr 2 helps with table setting and clearing up and Mr 5 “supervises” Mr 2 and helps with putting away dishes.

Food is a big deal in our house. And by big deal I mean we talk about food a lot, we prepare from scratch, get everyone involved, chat about healthy eating, good food choices and shop for seasonal food. I spend a lot of time thinking about what to cook, cooking and cleaning up. It’s important to us that the boys know that good food takes time and thought.

The setting you can see above was for our family dinner on Sunday. At the outset let me say that Mr 5 is a great eater. He eats widely and is willing to try new things. He went through a fussy period and there are foods he doesn’t like much (soup) but we just avoid those. Mr 2 on the other hand would snack all day and never sit down to a proper meal if allowed to do so. He will generally not try new things, especially if cajoled. I’ve learned that leaving him to decide from several options on the table is the best approach. Always putting something on the table that I know he likes helps too – fresh cucumber or corn on the cob – and he may just take a nibble of something new. Mr 5 is the best salesperson when it comes to getting him to try his food even if it’s something he’s eaten and liked before.  It absolutely does get me down sometimes when I have spent so much time thinking and preparing a meal only to have it rejected for a banana or piece of bread.

When asked by the folks at Origin if I could try one of their Winter Warmers recipes I knew I had to try these Stove-top Greek Meatballs. I paired them with a second set of turkey meatballs as I had an opportunity to batch cook, what I call “quick chips” (thinly sliced potato that is oven roasted with a bit of oil and salt) and a bunch of fresh salad veggies. Mr 5 dubbed our meal, the “Festival of Meatballs” and pleasingly, Mr 2 tried everything you can see pictured before you.  The recipe is a really easy one and as I doubled up we have two more meals in the freezer awaiting a busier time. It’s also a really diverse meal to prepare and though I served them plain this time I will do them with some creamy semolina or polenta next time. I have had requests for this meal again from all the boys so it’s a winner in my books. You can find the recipe for the Stove-top Greek Meatballs here but the process goes a little something like this:

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In preparing family meals I look for healthy, cost-effective, something I know is likely to appeal to Mr 2’s fussy pants nature and is big enough on flavour to please the rest of us too. These meatballs tick all the boxes and I heartily recommend them.

How are family meal times at your place?  Do you have a fussy eater too? How do you cope with it all?

Games you can’t win

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I read this article, Stop being busy by Oliver Burkeman (who I rate quite highly) some weeks ago and like all good articles, it has had me thinking.

We live in a world where busy is either glorified (have you had a conversation lately where someone doesn’t say – “things are just so busy!” or similar?) or crucified.

I am busy, busier than I’ve ever been actually.  Part-time work, full-time Mama, being a good partner to my darling Mr, chief cook, cleaner, study, the craft biz, exercise, extend family time, time with friends, even things like this blog….that’s let alone carving out space to think and be and do the things I enjoy like read.  I asked a friend yesterday if it’s even possible to achieve all these things without exhaustion setting in…it’s not of course. Not unless I can clone myself or stop time to catch up. Sometimes I feel like my head is spinning faster than the world itself is.

Of the book he reviews in the article, Burkeman says:

Most time management advice rests on the unspoken assumption that it’s possible to win the game: to find a slot for everything that matters. But if the game’s designed to be unwinnable, Schulte suggests, you can permit yourself to stop trying. There’s only one viable time management approach left (and even that’s only really an option for the better-off). Step one: identify what seem to be, right now, the most meaningful ways to spend your life. Step two: schedule time for those things. There is no step three. Everything else just has to fit around them – or not.

This idea that the “game” is unwinnable though is new to me. I had previously thought if I were organised enough I would find the time to fit it all in….but it’s just not possible and I was setting myself up to fail in thinking that way.

The word I wanted to focus on this year was “peace”. And in so doing, what I really meant was avoiding overwhelm and accepting things for what they are.  In finding this advice and letting it sit I’m realising that the peace is going to be found, for me, in the “or not” stuff.  The real challenge for me is in stopping the guilt or the “should” feelings when the “or not” happens.

There’s more though….isn’t there always? Recently, Mr 5 and I have been chatting about how it’s important to run our own race, be the best version of ourselves we can be and not worry about what others are doing.  Like all good advice we give our children, it’s the truth but not quite as easy as that. And then, reading Dr Seuss together the other night, we read the quote pictured above….he said to me, “I think I understand Mama, we never really win the game do we? We just have to keep trying harder to make ourselves better, forever don’t we?”

Games we can’t win cos we play against ourselves. There’s no scorecard beyond what our internal voice tells us and we may as well stop worrying about the “or not” right?

I am not afraid of storms

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One of my earliest memories is of crouching beneath my Nonna’s kitchen table with my cousin as a storm hit the house. Lightning had come in through the kitchen window and hit the stove and it was alight. My cousin was screaming. I held her hand tightly and told her it would all be ok.

When I was around 27 I went through a quarter life crisis. I didn’t quite like the path I was on and so I changed things up. Went back to study, focused for the first time in years on what I wanted to do and I got there. I achieved what I wanted, worked hard and it saw me head down a path, towards teaching, that surprised me but I enjoyed. The key things being – I kind of knew, I worked hard and I left myself open to opportunity. I made some dumb mistakes along the way. Things I wouldn’t do again. But heck they’re the best kind of mistakes.

Now, at almost 40 I feel the ground being unsteady beneath me again. I need to make some decisions about where to from here. There are two big differences now – I am a Mama and I don’t have a fixed idea of what I want next for myself. I was discussing this with my favourite girl recently and she said I should look for the recurring themes of what I have loved always. For me, it is always books and words. How this can be something I centre my work life around I am as yet unsure.

I’m reading Barracuda by Christos Tsolkias at the moment. It’s an uncomfortable read but beautiful at the same time. I can identify with much in spite of not having much in common with Dan/Danny. I can feel the need to shed skin, move beyond what has been, let go of what might have been.

I was walking with my boys the other day and my Mr 5 randomly said, “I am going to let you sleep in on Mother’s Day Mum. Mother’s Day is about thinking about what your Mum would like.” When I asked him what he knows I like he said, “You like sleeping, you love your family, butterflies, pretty China and books.” A simple response but one that shows he has thought about me and observed me.

I see (only a few) people who are clearly living their proper lives, the ones they were intended for and I feel far from there.

In some ways I trust all will be as it should one day. In more ways I know that it takes hard work to create the life I want. And in more again I wish I bloody well knew what that life looked like already.

In the meantime, I will remain open to possibility, consider much and try not to drive myself too crazy because I don’t have the answers. And I will remember I have a family I love and that I am not afraid of storms.

“I picked these for you”

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He presented me with these two shells…”of all the shells I saw today Mama, I picked these two for you. You don’t mind that one of them is a bit broken do you? I like that it’s got a jagged edge, it makes it more interesting don’t you think? The sand has made it less sharp over time you know?” The wisdom of a five year old.

I’ve felt that internal sharp and jagged edge more keenly in the last few months than I have for a long time. It’s starting to smooth as I allow myself to slow down and cocoon in the haven of my family, my boys especially. Delighting in the small, laughing more and walking. Lots and lots of walking.

Life has never been more full and I have never been more blessed.

Quietly, really, me

ImageMy lovely friend Amelia took this photo of me almost a year ago now. I don’t normally post photos of myself here. I much prefer to be behind the camera which is part of the reason we have decided to semi-regularly document our family life with Amelia. This is really, quietly, me.

This week I had a pretty big set back.  I no longer have paid work.  It’s hit me to the core – I’ve felt sick in the stomach all week – as it’s work I foresaw myself doing for a long time to come. I have worked hard at it, I’ve put myself in to learning how to teach and I have really enjoyed it.  Additionally, it has been the perfect fit for our family life.  I had decided this was what I wanted.  It may work out in the future but for now, it’s not possible.

I’ve had setbacks of all types before – a broken heart, disappointments, real grief – my life’s been a windy road. I find myself having to adjust my expectations, look for new work, juggle things financially.  And so I open myself up to possibility….change…and hardest of all, trust. In my 30s I’ve really learned to trust that all will work out in the end. I still have to trust that. I was reminded of this – a focus on trust by another Amelia who has been blessed with incredible amounts of insight and wisdom.

In the meantime, I shall focus on my boys, look for signs of my new direction and remind myself to trust the outcome.  I’m still, quietly, really me after all.