Category Archives: family

The joyful child

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I try hard not to compare my children with each other. I’m very conscious of letting them be the people they are without trying to label them. It isn’t easy of course as it’s human nature to try to label things so we can understand them.

I have two very strong of mind children however. Actually, all four of us are very strong of mind. It makes for interesting times and will continue to do so as they grow and want to exercise their own opinions more.

As I watched Mr 3 joyfully run up and down the beach yesterday though, squealing happily as sand was tossed towards us by the wind, I was struck with just how joyful he is. And he is full of joy. He has a lightness that the rest of us don’t have. He’s quick to laugh, will find the silly in a situation in order to lighten the mood. He is full of love and wonder.

I was also caught in thought about the baby he was – fair to say he was a pretty miserable baby. He screamed a lot and loud. We walked laps of the backyard under the stars singing to him nightly for months. Until perhaps six months ago suffered from incredible separation anxiety. I tried a lot of things to make him happier. I had people tell me it wasn’t “normal” for a child to be this way. And though I questioned myself as a result of these comments my internal voice took it as a sign he needed my extra reassurance and did whatever it took to let him know he was loved. I left for work many a morning in tears as he screamed behind me, knowing the screaming would not in fact stop for perhaps hours to come.

Over time my reassurances that I would always be back seemed to work and he became happier to be left. But it took a long time for that to happen.

And so….My joyful child worked hard to be so. And so did I.

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Space (subtitle: observations of a Term 3 School Mama)

IMG_9101.JPGMonday morning Mr 5 woke with a mild fever and complained of a sore stomach. Mr Be Loverly and I passed a knowing glance at one another and in that look we knew we would play along.

My Mr 5 is a beautiful child.  Everyone thinks their children are awesome but our first born is an insightful, wise, sensitive, funny and incredibly clever child.  His observations astound us regularly.  We knew this complaint was his way of telling us, “I am going through some stuff and I don’t know how to process it.”

Though this seems to be a thing that happens just before his birthday every year (the amazing Planning with Kids blog posts on half ages gave me incredible insight in to this – read here on the characteristics around this). This year though, is different….it’s the first real time he’s had peer influences.  He’s in the third term of his school journey and though he’s made friendships before he’s really been thrust out in to the world this year.  Something I have mixed feelings about.  Five is just, still, so young.  And five days a week just seems so much for a small child to be in the formal school environment (how I would LOVE to have the French model where children go to school four days a week!).

It’s also the first time that we, as a family, have encountered people whose ideas about how to raise a family are different to ours and so it’s a lesson to us all.  We are quite mindful of our principles as a family and we talk openly about what we believe in – kindness, learning, love of each other, loyalty, humour, self awareness.  It’s firmly entrenched in Mr 5’s mind and he knows himself well.  We are a household full of strong characters.

BUT he is only five and the unkindness he is experiencing from his peers is wearing him down a little.  He has been torn between wanting to play with his friends and disengaging from play he knows to be wrong.  He needed space to talk about this, to ask questions and process how this all fits together. The tantrums we’ve experienced the last week or so are evidence of this. His teacher is marvelous and we trust the school to deal appropriately but it’s not possible for them to see everything and be everywhere and besides, resilience is an important lesson.

And so, we sat together, around our table and I gave him room to just be himself…..I asked if there was anything he would like to tell me and the words, and tears, came flooding out.  I let him speak and when he was finished, the sheer act of naming the words, sharing them with me made him visibly lighter.  Mr 2, who understands much, said to him, “You are a very nice boy and I loves you and Mama loves you and Dada loves you. We always here for you.”

Though he will grow and experience much that is out of our influence he will always have space in our home to just be, talk, be angry, laugh, cry, play.  And it is our greatest hope that both our boys will understand that on every level.

Loverly food: Ricotta, broccoli & carrot fritole

149Given the sheer number of ricotta based recipes I’ve blogged over the years it’s hardly surprising for you to hear I rather love the stuff.  The only thing is that it is best served as fresh as possible so after I’ve gobbled some up fresh on my toast with honey I start looking to what I can cook with it.

I spied some sweet fritoles on a facebook page I follow and knew I had to try making some. My Nonna makes them sweet and I remember eating them as a child….but I wanted, as always, to try and veggie smuggle for the kiddos, especially Mr 2 and we have so much broccoli to use up that I thought I’d give that a go.  I found lots of recipes for fritters but none for these puffy looking morsels so I rang my Dad to ask his advice.

I did mine all in the food processor initially (cos I’m lazy!) and then, as I had already been using the little deep frier machine we have, I used that. But usually, when I fry something I do it in tiny batches in a very small saucepan so I don’t use heaps of oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 orange, zested and a little of the juice from half of the orange – use lemon if you like but I went with orange because we have so many to use up too!
  • Half a small broccoli, chopped roughly
  • 2 carrots, chopped roughly
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt to taste (I like salt in my food but I know some of you aren’t fans)
  • A dash of dried coriander/cumin/fennel or whatsoever you like
  • Oil of your preferred type to fry in

Method:

  • Set your oil to heat – bringing it up to the 180ish degree mark
  • Put all the ingredients in the food processor and whizz until it’s all mixed up nicely. If you don’t have one grate the veggies and pop it all in a bowl together.
  • When oil is to temperature spoon tablespoons of the mixture carefully in to the oil and fry for around 3-5 minutes until golden brown. If they’re not cooking on the top you may have to spin them over to cook evenly.
  • Drain well on paper towel.

These are absolutely best served fresh and I dipped mine in some yoghurt. Yum! But if you want to cook them in advance, reheat them in the oven til they crisp up again. They’ll kind of deflate a bit when sitting about.

The recipe above makes LOTS so do feel free to halve. I gifted some of them to my Mum and a friend and we still had lots of them.

As always, if you give them a try I would love to know what you think!

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.

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?

White picket fences

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Image by Amelia O’Connor

When we were looking at houses all those years ago we missed out on many lovely ones….everything seemed just that little bit out of our reach financially.  When we spied our now home we felt a sense of urgency with it.  One we’d never felt before.  We stalked every open inspection and willed the people going through not to see it’s potential.  It needed love, lots of it….and we spent every weekend for months tending to it before we moved in.  It’s still half renovated and we have plans for an extension in some years when the boys are bigger.  I can’t stomach the idea of another project at this point but we will run out of space soon enough as the boys limbs grow more gangly and their minds grow bigger.

Our house is not perfect.  Just like the people who live within it are not perfect.  It’s lived in and battered but it stands (very) tall and strong.  And surrounding our home we have a white picket fence.  A boundary between us and the rest of the world.  The white picket fence of family life.

You never really know what goes on inside the four walls of a home, no more than you ever really know what someone’s internal world is like.  That we come together, form friendships and family, love and like one another in spite of that is a wonderful thing.  The white picket fence of internal life.

When I leave home I feel like I’m weaving a thread from an infinite ball of wool.  As I return home I spy our battered white picket fence and it all just feels right.