Category Archives: things i’m learning

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?

“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.

“Real” people

When I was pregnant with Bebito, I was told at our initial scan that he was a girl. I cried with relief. Daft right? Hang with me a second though….all the oldest children in my family have been women for generations. I felt like this was part of the tradition continued. But it was more than that. I felt like I could model being a woman. That was accessible to me. I was worried I wouldn’t have the strength to raise a boy in the same way. And I was worried…peer pressure for teenage boys was far more intense than the peer pressure I felt as a teenage girl. Like I said, daft. We soon found out the technician had made a mistake and got on with things. When I was pregnant with Little Lion I had no such misgivings.

I read this article this morning and I agree that there is no such thing as a real man. The statistics about addiction, suicide, depression are sure to be mirrored in Australia.

Before Christmas I had the privilege to read Richard Flanagan’s, “The Narrow Road to the Deep South”. It is, in short, a masterpiece and it really spoke to me in spades. Not just because of the beautiful prose but because, from my own, very female perspective, it taps in to the deeper parts of male relationships. If you haven’t read it, do. And buy a copy for every man you know who would read it.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me even a little that I’m a card carrying feminist.

But now, as a Mama to boys I am acutely aware that the MOST important thing by far, is that we know ourselves. That we understand that being “real” to our character, the voice that guides our actions is the only important thing. That it’s important to give our children the opportunity and skills to be sensitive, strong, the right amount of impulsive, love with all their heart, treat themselves and everyone else with respect, to listen to their own voice rather than be crowded with the voices of their peers, to know when to take advice but to discard said advice if it isn’t right for them, to be kind, to pursue their interests and live with respect for the resources of the earth.

We are all real people. Men. Women.

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.

Weary

My littlest man isn’t much of a sleeper. He goes through patches where he isn’t too bad but there are more patches where he is horrificly unsettled, waking every 90 minutes and needing a lot of cuddles to settle him back to sleep. I’ve tried every strategy in the book and have taken to the path of least resistance now, whatever that may be. This latest phase has come at a time when I’m really busy with work, study and craft as well as the humdrum of domesticity, some illness and the needs of an older child too. There have been meltdowns galore and not just from the boys.

Normally, I throw a bit of organisation into the mix and structure my way through things. Getting by on three hours broken sleep just isn’t cutting it though and no manner of organisation is helping. I am behind on work, the washing pile is back logged and my patience for everything and my humour are thin. I have cranky totally nailed at the moment.

The worst part though is my weary mind and the thoughts that visit whilst pacing with a sleepless, crying two year old. The fog. The weariness of body is mirrored in my mind.

Yes, this too shall pass. The sleeplessness, it has changed me and I am weary.