Category Archives: mama-hood

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?

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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.

The offering

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They draw often, my children. They both love it and for Mr 5 in particular it is his peaceful place. When he is overwhelmed it is a place to which he quietly retreats and centres himself. That he knows how and when to do that makes me proud.

Of late, I have thought much about the (willing) sacrifice of mama-hood. It’s been a discussion point with friends. For me at least it is a dance of trying to find the quiet I need on occasion with the needs of my boys. Their seemingly boundless energy is something I have learned I can’t keep up with though I do try.

Sometimes though, there are moments where it is clear to me how much my little men show love in their own way.

Today they conspired to draw what is pictured above as I hung washing. “Come Mama, we did this for you!”

An offering for me. An offering of love.
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The problem with absolutes

I read another one of those holier than thou parenting articles the other day…I am sure you know the type, “I never rock my baby to sleep cos it sets up bad habits blah blah blah”. Worse, I read the comments. I don’t even know why I read it. I knew it would make my blood pressure rise.

This type of article isn’t unique to parenting either. When I was single there were plenty of, “don’t do this when you’re dating someone” articles.

As an aside, are any such articles aimed at men I wonder?

Anyway, I read the article and it wasn’t my first. When I became a parent I sought out every bit of information I could. People kept telling me, “listen to your instincts”. Well that’s very nice I thought, except often I didn’t have any!! I have since worked my way through all the advice and learned that my parenting instinct was actually not a voice in my head but a voice in my heart.

Here’s my problem with absolutes though….they leave you no room to change. They leave you with little room to experience the wide diaspora of life. For me it would have left me with no room to learn new things if I, “never ever” did some things in parenting. There is love and joy, fun and sometimes peace in going beyond your boundaries a bit. I truly think the beauty of life is lived in the grey areas. What I believe now is that a general philosophy of how I want my life to be, the type of parent and wife I want to b serves me better than an internal list of “never evers”.

Sure it’s safe to say I will, “never ever” be a bank robber but beyond avoiding criminal activities I don’t know what life will throw at me as I mosey down the road.

Are you a “never ever” person?

Ode to a soccer ball

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Of all the sports there are I’ve always warmed to soccer. As the least sporty kid around, even I didn’t mind playing soccer. My dad even coached our primary school team once.

Lots of things about being a Mama have stretched me. I’ve had to relax in to a lot of things and quashed my inner control freak … Hello painting with toddlers! Other things still have forced me out of my comfort zone and in to, literally, the outdoors. Mr 2 especially loves being outside and he has naturally taken to ball sports. I play outside a lot more than I would be naturally drawn to doing on my own. They are much better for it too.

My boys have an interesting relationship. They’re both incredibly strong of mind. Mr 2 especially has been blessed with oodles of strong will and cannot be forced to do anything. Mr 5 is more malleable but he frustrates easily. Because of this they often argue….sometimes I’m convinced screaming is the soundtrack to my life. I try not to interfere with their dynamic too much….unless it comes to fisticuffs.

Last week though, after school, I set up the soccer goals as I cooked their dinner. I left them to it and kept an eye on them from the kitchen window. And they played. Really, really played. Mr 5 tried to show Mr 2 how to dribble the ball – a skill I didn’t even know he had. And Mr 2 tried to copy. There were shrieks of laughter, shouts of, “red card”, goals scored and screaming of the happiest variety. They played together for 40 minutes. Then, they screamed unhappily as I beckoned them in for dinner.

Thank you Mr Soccer Ball. You will forever be in my heart.

“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.

Loverly Food: Ricotta, spinach and tomato pie – aka KINDNESS pie

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I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I really only found a joy for cooking when Mr and I first moved in together more years ago than I can remember now.

When Bebito was born I began to focus more on making things from scratch. As much as I knew breast feeding would give him the best start I wanted his belly to be full of nutritious, tasty food. And he has rewarded me ten fold with his appreciation of what I set in front of him, his willingness to try new things. I never cook anything I don’t think he will enjoy eating. Little Lion can be hit and miss but I hope one day he too laps up all manner of different flavours. Mr too has an appreciation of good food. In giving my family good food I feel like I am giving them my love and care.

But there’s more to why I spend so much time in the kitchen. I find it meditative. Especially so when I am able to potter on my own. It is a time to think too. To process my feelings, thoughts, dreams and hopes and after an afternoon of cooking I often find myself revived or more at peace. I often think how I am connected to the generations of women before me in my kitchen labours.

Today I’ve baked a bunch of lunchbox items, dinner and some muesli. At the same time I’ve reflected on the news I heard earlier today of Charlotte Dawson. I know little of her, only that she was a woman who struggled with depression and she vigourously defended herself against online bullies. I also thought of the people in Kiev who are fighting – and dying – for what they believe in. For the asylum seekers on Manus Island who are trapped there, fleeing from horror only to be greeted with a different sort of horror – the horror of detention in limbo. And as I think of these people in their struggles I cannot help but wish that people could act with more kindness.

Kindness. It’s such an easy place to start. And yet so many are not kind.

Perhaps if everyone spent some time cooking for the people they care about, an act of service in which they put the needs of others before there own there could be more kindness?

What say you?

Here’s my recipe…

You could buy some pastry – shortcrust or puff, your call entirely but I made my own using Maggie Beer’s rough puff recipe here

I actually used half of the pastry and froze the other half. Our local supermarkets don’t stock decent premade pastry and I make mine in batches, then freeze for another day.

400 grams ricotta
Half cup Parmesan cheese, grated
A cup of baby spinach leaves
A small handful basil leaves, chopped
1 cup cream
3 eggs
Pinch grated nutmeg
4 tomatoes, sliced

Grease a 30cm x 20cm pie or flan dish. Actually, any will do but just make sure you have enough pastry to cover your tin.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Blind bake the pastry first – I did mine 10 minutes lined with baking paper and pastry weights then 10 minutes without. Make sure it’s quite golden as the top won’t get much cooking when you put the filling in … But not too golden. If you’re using puff pastry let it settle a bit and not be so puffed before you put the filling in.
At the same time as your baking the pastry, place your sliced tomatoes on an oven tray and bake with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Remove from oven and set aside.
Combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.
Pour filling ingredients over your pastry and top with the sliced tomatoes.
Bake about 25 minutes, or until golden.

We will be enjoying it with a rocket, nashi pear, walnut and balsamic vinegar salad tonight.

Share with your loved ones for most enjoyment.