Tag Archives: kids

One hundred and thirteen days and counting

Forgive me reader, for I have sinned. It has been 113 days since I started my new life on the road, unattached and unfettered, and the freedom has gone to my head such that I have not written as much as I should. Writing for me feels a lot like exercise – something I may not necessarily feel like doing at any given moment, but an activity I do for the feeling afterwards which is my reward. Right now, I am doing virtual burpees as I type this post when I would rather be reading. You see, the silence in this van of ours is so hard to come by thanks to two loud and crazy little men, that when the cloud of quiet descends upon me, it is all I can do from succumbing to the lull of rest.

As I type this, we are in Karumba. Karumba is a small town on the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland where the water is loaded with barramundi and banana prawns, where the ground is a pale, sandy gravel and the turquoise water stretches for kilometers. It is hot, very hot, and the flies are relentless. The people are friendly, the local café sells good coffee, and the owners of our caravan park will provide us with 1 kilogram of cooked prawns for the stately sum of $22.

img_9678 img_9683 img_9694 img_9699

When I last posted, we were in South Australia and it was freezing. Our initial plan when we left Melbourne was to test-out life on the road for a couple of months before returning to Victoria in October for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. After that, we would travel to Tasmania for a month before returning to Melbourne and beginning the journey north, along the coast.

That is not at all what happened.

By the time we got to Victor Harbor in South Australia, and had rugged our children up in more layers than we thought we packed, and had trudged them out to Granite Island to peer at penguins who had more sense than we did, and who hid in their burrows out of view, we accepted we needed to change our plans. So on a Sunday morning, as our boys played Lego at our kitchen table, my husband D and I looked at each other, uttered the immortal words, “Fuck this” and decided to head north to warmer climes.

We flicked through a random South Australia/Flinders Ranges brochure we had picked up somewhere, circled a sheep station that sounded nice, and called the Spirit of Tasmania to change our booking. Then, we spent a frantic hour in the Victor Harbor mall, buying all manner of summer clothes because we had packed none, such was our certainty that we would return to Victoria at which time we would collect our summer clothes from storage. Our boys walked out of Target with fake Crocs to replace their gumboots, wide-brimmed hats to replace their beanies, and shorts to replace their track-pants. My husband walked out with a couple of t-shirts. I left with nothing but excitement at encountering heat for the first time since March.

We drove to Noarlunga, where we visited the local BCF and bought swimming vests for children who were no longer going to be forced to crouch in wet tufts of grass to play as their parents gripped their jackets tightly and asked them to hurry up, but who would instead float in the thermal pools of Mataranka, the place in the Northern Territory that we pictured as an oasis on that cold, dreary day.

Then, we drove.

Through Adelaide, through the Clare Valley, stopping at Burra for supplies, a kick of the football and petrol, on we sped along the highway until we reached Almerta – the antithesis to our grey, drizzly days in the city and suburbs. Located in the middle of the Flinders Ranges between Orrorroo and Carrieton, we pulled up our van and the beautiful Shane – who essentially runs the entire station on her own as her husband travels for 7 months out of the year doing shearing/crutching for sheep across South Australia and New South Wales – pointed to our space on her sprawling property.

img_1588 img_1622 img_1802 img_1652 img_1668
We were the only visitors there, and it was incredible. We had no power, no phone reception, and limited water. For four days we rode our bikes through the red dirt, navigating stony hills and tufts of saltbush. By day we spotted emus, kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles and cockatoos, played lego and cars in the dirt, and hiked around the property to explore the natural springs that emerged from the ground. At night we ate by the campfire, and when the boys were in bed, my husband and I sipped wine, placed more logs on to burn, and wondered why we hadn’t thought to do this earlier. The silence, the stars, the colours of the dirt and the sky. It was bliss.

It was bliss? Yes, it was. I can say that with certainty, even though for most of my life I have been a camp-phobe. Being raised by the elderly can do that to you. My grandparents were never going to sleep on the ground in the middle of nowhere, so my experience of childhood did not include this kind of pastime. My husband’s childhood was the same – his family owned a farm so disappearing for camping trips was not something workable or even desirable. D’s experience of roughing it came directly from being in the army, and until I met him, my experience of roughing it was staying in a 3 and a half star motel. This is partly why this whole experience of travelling on the road has been so educational for us, because we are repeatedly amazed at what we are discovering about ourselves in the absence of any outer influence. As it turns out, we do like camping. We like being offline for a little while and just appreciating being connected with each other and our kids. And we don’t even mind the dirt. Who knew?

From Almerta we continued north, stopping overnight at Wilpena Pound before another random and unexpected win when we stumbled across the tiny, deserted town of Farina. Farina was once a thriving community and many of its local sons fought in World Wars 1 and 2. We know this because we stood in awe as we read all about Farina’s history on a monument that was a couple of kilometers from the highway, surrounded by dirt, but which lead towards a huge clearing complete with trees, hills, and families of emus huddling close to each other. We rode our bikes around, chatted with the grey nomads whose language we are fluent in, and taught J about war, about soldiers, and even about the Coat of Arms, and that yes, it’s true, emus and kangaroos cannot go backwards. Neither can we.

img_1774 img_6586

From Farina we headed further north, along the Oodnadatta Track. This wretched patch of road is considered a highlight for some – for me, who had elected to share driving right at this very spot – it was hellish. For four hours I white-knuckle gripped the steering wheel and endeavoured not to slide our 4WD and 22ft van into a ditch. The corrugated dirt did a number on our van, with our shower screen door falling off the rails (but not shattering, fortunately) and a kitchen cupboard being loosened from its hinges and snapping off. The landscape was eerie and lunar-like – no towns for hours, few cars passing through, just a flat expanse of blue-grey that melted into the sky such that using the horizon as a reference point became impossible. By the time we slid into William Creek, we could not get to the pub fast enough.

img_6509

img_6504

img_6542

img_6541

The next day at the crack of dawn we headed west to Coober Pedy. Without offending the local townsfolk, I can say with certainty that our one night there was well and truly sufficient. The mines, the holes, the life underground…well, it just isn’t for us. I’m not even that big a fan of opals. But kudos to the local supermarket and its impressive range of goods, including lemon tarts in the adjacent café that kept our boys quiet while we enjoyed a much-needed hit of caffeine.

img_6593

From Coober Pedy we continued up the Stuart Highway to finally – under drops of rain and a grey and ominous sky – cross the Northern Territory border. For one cramped and uneventful night, we hunkered down at the Kulgera Roadhouse. It is essentially a petrol station with space to park a van and connect to power. We left in the morning, heading towards Yulara.

Yulara is the home of Uluru, and the enormous rock in the middle of Australia did not disappoint. It is a special, sacred place, but what I found the most beautiful thing was not the rock itself, but rather, the prevalence of a small ecosystem on the rock’s periphery. I had imagined Uluru to be a big red boulder in the middle of nothing, but I was wrong. It is home to a huge number of plants and animals who have all made this space their home. We took photos of flowers as we rode our bikes around the base, J pointed out lizards on our way back to the car, and we spotted tadpoles swimming in puddles close to caverns. We felt so blessed to share in seeing such a special place which has for centuries been an important part of Indigenous Australia, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t angered and ashamed of my Caucasian roots when I watched incredulously as tourists mounted the rock for photos. At one point I may have shouted abuse in the direction of a pack of oldies wearing Queensland State of Origin shirts and who were not content with viewing the rock’s splendour from the ground and who instead hoisted their loud, entitled asses off the ground for a better photo opportunity. “Always speak up if you see something that isn’t okay,” we told J. “Sometimes you have to be the person who says something.”

img_6686 img_1891 img_1898
img_6816

We stayed at Yulara for 5 days, including a day of hiking through the Olgas, a somewhat ambitious activity given that we had to carry a child each for most of the way. During our time at Yulara we sold our house at auction. A stressful, harrowing Saturday morning was spent with my husband on the phone to his sister who was in attendance at the auction, and me entertaining the crazy children with dirt, cars, and a football. But it sold, we got a good price, and finally the freedom that comes from having fewer responsibilities and assets became closer to being realised.

img_6819

From Yulara we detoured to Kings Canyon for a night. I have heard many people speak glowingly of this place but with two young children, a prevalence of dingoes and walking tracks that require more sure-footedness than my 2 and 4 year old possess, it was not a place of magic for us. We headed back to the Stuart Highway the next morning, heading towards Alice Springs where we made our home for 4 days. It was nice enough and I was grateful for the chance to clean out our van, do loads of laundry, and visit the local Flight Centre to book a quick sojourn to Bali.

img_7003img_2004

We continued north towards Mataranka, but the lure of the Daly Waters pub drew us into its grasp and soon we were drinking jugs of beer under heavily worked fans, while our children slurped ice blocks and coloured in their free activity books. The next morning we arrived in Mataranka, home of the aquamarine thermal pools. Our little N was not a fan, but J and his dad swam for ages spotting turtles and fish and relishing in the tepid water’s gentle current. Although it was a magical experience, my dislike of algae swimming against my skin freaked me out somewhat. The Bitter Springs pool was more child-friendly, and both boys had a ball, at least until J got swept over the waterfall’s barrier and remained upright only due to his strength at holding on to the rocks, and my own strength at hauling him one-armed back to safety.

img_7305

From Mataranka our next stop was Katherine, where we stayed at a sprawling property covered with shady trees, and where a large proportion of our days was spent in the shade-sail covered pool. We liked Katherine’s uniqueness combined with its quirky charms – J was amazed that the entire town had flooded so severely in the 80s that crocodiles were swimming through the middle of the shopping centre, and D couldn’t speak more highly of the lovely lady he met at the Tourism Centre, who not only guided him as to the most child-friendly spots to visit in Kakadu, but who also advised us to purchase Solicite from the Chemist to help with our sensitive little N’s reaction to mosquito bites. I too was impressed, albeit mistakenly, when I was asked for identification at the bottle shop. Apparently this has nothing to do with my appearing younger – it is a request asked of everyone buying alcohol.

Before we left, we took a trip on a boat down Katherine Gorge, marvelling at the rock formations, and the next day we left town via Edith Falls where the boys swam and I drank Coke Zero on the grass.

img_7800

img_7892img_7912

After Katherine we drove to Litchfield National Park and for two nights we stayed in another green expanse of grass and trees, and where our neighbours had three boys who were all Port Adelaide supporters. J was thrilled to have met some like-minded souls and played with the boys constantly when we were at camp. We took day trips to Florence Falls and all around Litchfield, swam in clear waters and smelled the scent of the ground being quenched with an afternoon downpour. The tropics – oh how we missed you after our six years of living in Melbourne.

img_7930

Finally – after weeks since our decision in Adelaide to head north – we reached Darwin. We fell in love almost instantly – the heat, the sunsets, the seafood, the mangoes, the laid-back lifestyle, the existence of Casuarina Shopping Centre which but for a lack of a Myer/David Jones has pretty much everything someone who has been deprived of a shopping centre for weeks could need, our caravan park’s epic pool and the bar’s $20 jugs of Pimms, our proximity to the Palmerston library where I retreated to complete online job applications…Darwin had it all. We became regulars at the Mindil Markets of a Thursday night where we ate a smorgasbord of food on our leaf-strewn picnic blanket before heading on to the sand to watch the sun set over the water. We were in Darwin for over a month, and although we did spend one week of this time in Bali and another week in Brisbane (N and me, for a wedding and a job interview) and Melbourne (D and J, for D’s mum’s 70th birthday and to clear out our house prior to settlement), we could have stayed longer, and we were sad to say goodbye.

img_8051    img_8450  img_8831

Bali was of course as one would expect from Bali – relaxing and invigorating – but what was even better about our short vacation was that it planted a seed for a life we might be able to pursue now that we are free from material attachments. Why can’t we relocate there for a period of time and just enjoy life by the ocean, teaching our kids about different cultures and lifestyles? Why is that out of the realms of possibility? It’s not, not now anyway. And what does that mean for our kids? Maybe it means they get to see the world through another’s eyes.

img_8372

One night after we were walking back to our hotel after dinner, a woman begging on the ground reached up towards J with an outstretched arm, her hand gesturing for money. He asked us immediately why the lady was on the ground. This prompted a long discussion about poverty, about the act of begging, and about being grateful for the kind of life we have that means we do not need to ask others for money. J seemed to understand, but when we stopped off just before our hotel to buy water at a convenience store, he burst into tears and asked if we could buy that lady a lollypop. She doesn’t have any money for a lollypop and i want to give her one. The poor lady.

He cried and cried and cried.

And although I was sad to see my son distressed by what he had witnessed on the streets of Kuta, I was also grateful. How can I teach him to be thankful for the life he has if it is in a vacuum, if he has no context? If he has not seen that there are people in the world who are poor, who do not get a chance to become educated, who do not have the privilege of clean water and nutritious food, and who for whatever reason find themselves on the pavement of a thoroughfare asking strangers for spare change, how does he learn about them? That night, he learned something powerful – that the world is not just limited to his protected circle and that there are many other people living very different lives than the one he knows. I dropped to my knees and held him close to me, and I told him that he was a beautiful and kind soul for feeling sad about the lady he saw. I told him feeling sad about her situation means that he cares. And that sometimes caring hurts, but that having a caring nature is one of the most wonderful things in the world.

I will stop my recount of our adventures there – 3000 words is quite enough for one blog post. Suffice to say that after 113 days the experience has been unforgettable, the lessons learned innumerable and the connection with my boys even stronger than it was 4 months ago.

The journey continues.

img_8764

Share This:
facebook

Countdown to D-Day

Since my last post much has transpired in preparation for our upcoming departure with caravan. Our new home is near completion and packing is underway. How exciting! I would love to say. I do feel excited, and I feel grateful for that when I do. But I also feel a range of other emotions, as is expected when one makes a life changing decision that affects their whole family. The anxiety is the worst; in the past few weeks it comes to me just at bedtime, just as my muscles begin to unclench from their permanent state of arousal, and just as my mind begins to blur into slumber. My legs, restless, kicking and jerking as though possessed by the blood of an athlete, my breathing frenzied and erratic. An overwhelming desire to scream as loudly as possible and to do something, take something, to just melt the friction away.

images1
I don’t though. I try to calm my breathing. Sometimes I’ll do yoga nidra. Sometimes I’ll annoy my husband. But most times I’ll do what seems to me to be the most natural thing in the world when faced with a sense of chaos – to read about the worsened state of chaos of another. My method for doing this is simple: coronial reports. Publicly accessible, these PDFs have lulled me to sleep more times than a lullaby ever has. The stories are harrowing, traumatic, often graphic and at times incredibly cruel. And yet despite my knowledge that feeding the beast that is anxiety is often fraught with danger, for me, sometimes, this is the safest way to view catastrophe without actually having to be within it. And while it is true that working as a lawyer and in public policy meant that there were times that I needed to read these stories for reasons purely related to work, I can’t rely on this exposure to the reports to make me seem less macabre and sadistic, because I would have probably sought these documents out anyway. Not just because I am a voyeur of tragedy, but also because I have an at-times insatiable need to explore and examine daily life. And to write about it.

Over the years I have of course examined my own life (mainly to confirm what I once suspected, namely that I possessed insurmountable flaws; fortunately these ended up just being superficial marks of wear and tear) and while doing this in recent times my husband and I agreed that we needed to shake things up a bit. Well, not just a bit. A lot. Hence the decision to quit our jobs, sell our house and go travelling around the country with our boys in a caravan.

I like those odds.
I like those odds.

I am writing this post in the one remaining chair that I own, which now has the honour of being the sole piece of loungeroom furniture in a pleasingly uncluttered room. The couch I nursed my J on for hours on end has been given away; so too has the side table I used to use to rest my makeup on in our old house in Queensland. We have sold our television cabinets, and given away our business suits. I have parted with more toys owned by my sons than I care to think about, not pausing to be sentimental as I pictured the joy they would bring to another child who has gone without for too long. I have taken down lovingly etched artworks done by my son, and I have photographed each piece, vowing to turn the stack of squiggles into some kind of memento. I had all his pieces in a box, ready for the recycling bin, and then it hit me. The bubbling waves of sadness that caused my stomach to flip. The gritted teeth. The clenched jaw. Then, the onslaught.

I wept, and wept, and wept.

crying

This home, this cozy, quirky little home is the place where I fell pregnant with J. It is where I looked down blissfully to see two pink lines on a test that confirmed I was to become a mother. It is where I paced the floorboards for hours with my unsettled first baby as he thrashed restlessly in my arms. It is the place where I warmed bottles in the night or rolled to my side, hoisting up my top to feed my child. It is the place that kept us warm on grey Melbourne days and where the sun shone in streams through the back deck on springtime afternoons.

This home is the location from which I have walked kilometres with a pram on bleary mornings after nights that involved pitiful amounts of sleep, determined to source a hit of caffeine. On these walks I have discussed the mechanics of ‘mixer trucks’ (which may or may not have been accurate), taught J to read numbers from the letterboxes we passed, and sung to baby N as he watched the world pass by from his cushioned, blanketed seat. I have walked my boys to our childcare centre, an amazing gem of a place that has become a second home to me, and where I’ve had long chats with staff who have become family. And while I can leave the material things behind, knowing I am saying goodbye to this friendly place, with its bright handprint paintings and its adjacent dinosaur park, and the staff who smile at me even when I am wearing food stained hoodies and a baseball cap to hide my hair, is too hard for me to even contemplate yet, so I won’t.

In the 34 years I have been on this planet, our home in the inner west of Melbourne is the only space in which I have ever felt as though I belonged; not just within the walls of my house but as part of a community. By the time I was 7 years old I had already been to five different kindergartens and schools, spanning three different states. I had said hello and goodbye to parents who dipped their toes into the murky water of family life, only to hoist their limbs away with a jolt. After living in the Redlands for almost 20 years, the only feeling that consumed me about my neighbourhood was the desire to escape it in one piece. Until adulthood, my experience of life was always on the outer, and when it wasn’t, I usually found a way to extract myself from attaching to anything with even a whiff of impermanence. My skills at building walls were impressive in their efficiency.

After making the agonizing move to Melbourne from Brisbane, away from the grandparents for whom I felt solely responsible and desperately conflicted, I rationalized my absence by telling myself I would last only a year here. One year south of the border, and then I would return home. But I didn’t, because something strange and unexpected happened, and that was I fell in love with my new home. I made friends with other mums who I visited with my sleep deprived, cranky children, women who fed me cups of tea and chocolate biscuits as we lamented our lack of slumber. My son made friends with kids from school with whom he acts out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle moves (he is Leo), and spends part of his weekend on the swings or running in the green expanse of one of the nearby parks. I have watched both my children grow in this place; our little house in the inner west, minutes from the city, minutes from parks, walking distance to the shops, surrounded by families, and soon, on the market for someone else to buy.

realestate

I tend to do this – I leap into decisions with an air of impulsivity, only to have my emotions catch up with me as time moves forward. Now that my husband has resigned from work and our house is strewn with boxes do I realise the gravity of the choice we have made. But even so, I know it’s the right choice. I know it’s what we need to do. If we had felt fully content and settled, the need to shake things up would never have crossed our minds. So as we move forward to D-Day, I am optimistic about having no itinerary and no set ideas of where we will live next, although part of me hopes that one day we will come back here, to the place I never expected to live or love, because as much as I believe that home is where the heart is (and for me, it is with my boys), there is something beautiful about carving out a special place of your own in a world where you have often felt on the periphery.

images-3

Share This:
facebook

The road ahead

A few months ago I wrote a piece about my longing to get off the wheel. It was a watershed moment where I realised what I wanted my life to look like and what it actually looked like were very different things. In the past I have been reasonably judgmental towards those who complain about situations they have the power to transform, be they an unsatisfying relationship, an unfulfilling job or something even larger, for example, the very make-up of their beings. I am not immune to this malady – I lament a number of my own personal failings and repeat mistakes often; my only redeeming feature in this is that I try to improve the things I dislike. Slowly, much like a snail wading through mud, I am gradually propelling myself toward something more than the version of me I believed I was for so long. No longer am I the bratty, angry child who never thought much about her life, so sure was she that it was bound to end before she reached double-digits, presumably by her own hand.

Now being well into the double-digits and of (reasonably) sound mind, I find myself in a life that is both confronting and inspiring in its departure from what I believed my life would be. For most of my adolescence I did not consider what my adult life would look like, because I reasoned that the chances of me making adulthood seemed so slim, to gaze into the future was simply frivolous. As I got older I lived day to day, stumbling through in a haze of antidepressant medications that sedated me more than boosted my awareness, which I paired with nights of binge drinking to the point of blackouts. I cannot recount the number of times I woke up the next day with what can be eloquently described as fuck-all memory of the night before. And while this kind of experimentation can all be chalked up to youthful exuberance, for me it was always a shade darker, because deep within my soul, I knew that drinking really let me forget who I was, and how utterly futile my attempts at happiness would be.

Of course, the universe has a way of teaching those of us who want to learn, and for all my failings and self-hatred, I had an interest in unraveling the tightly wound knot that had formed around my soul. I wanted to understand who I was, and what had caused me to become all the things I despised. I wanted the anger to subside, I wanted the burning hateful rage towards my parents to at least be more akin to a manageable back-burning activity than a fiery inferno doomed to engulf me in flames. I wanted to be a better version of myself, but short of self-analysing in what was then the DSM-IV (and becoming convinced I suffered from a number of personality disorders), I had no other tools at my disposal.

It was a work of both luck and kismet that I started seeing a therapist in 2002. For fourteen years we have waded through my psyche, studying the blocks within my own foundation for flawed belief patterns and crumbling debris that leads to self-sabotage. And with a chance to unlock my own story, I have re-written the ending. So now, having overcome (most of) my own demons, I find it difficult to simply exist in an unconscious life. I cannot wed myself to the idea of working long hours, away from my children, in a job that does not satisfy me, so I can pay for a mortgage.

Sad-Working-Man-Cant-Wait-For-The-Weekend-In-Comic-By-Cyanide-and-Happiness

All I really need is my health and the health of my family, somewhere to write, time with the loved ones I never believed myself worthy to have, and a chance to nourish my soul. And another twist of fate, I have found myself a partner in life who holds the same beliefs as I do. My husband D has been in the workforce for over 20 years and he has worked his ass off to get where he is. And guess what?

He has just resigned.

Why?

So that as a family, we can take 12 months off, away from the daily grind, to rediscover what motivates us and brings us joy, and most importantly, so that we can spend quality time with our children.

RV

We have bought a caravan that will be ready late next month, and have traded in both our cars to buy a 4WD that I struggle to park. I have commenced the culling process, donating scores of goods to charity, selling some bits and pieces, and throwing out what remains.

Our family will set off on our adventure sometime after July. We have no concrete plans; no itinerary. We have a rough idea of which part of Australia we want to be in at various months of the year, but that is it. We intend to sell our house, and most of our belongings, and commit to a life of minimalism. Instead of the frantic rush out the door of a morning, we will eat breakfast as a family. Instead of frenzied Sundays spent preparing for the demanding week ahead, we will take each day as it comes, without reference to looming deadlines. We will parent together and apart, ensuring we each have space to re-energize and decompress. Our children will learn about life not in a classroom but in the long walks we take as a family, exploring our surroundings and marveling in nature’s beauty. We will read books, play games and rest at midday, without fearing the flow-on effects of naps on bedtime.

We will create the type of life we want to have. And if during this time, we find that we hate being in close quarters and that the only thing that makes our family work is time apart from each other, it’s okay. We can re-jig our plans, because we are answerable to no one but ourselves.

This time away from the typical ‘9-5 hang out with the kids on weekends’ approach to life is also motivated by our combined desire to reevaluate how we interact with the world around us. At present, we live in the inner-west of Melbourne which has a strong community vibe but whose sense of neighbourliness has not graced the street in which we have lived for the past five years. Our neighbours think nothing of calling the pound if our dog accidentally enters their backyard; something that has happened three times in about four years. As an animal lover, I struggle to understand the course of events that sets off such a response to an issue that is part of suburban residential life (if I found a dog in my backyard the owners would be lucky to get it back). Likewise, a neighbour who lives across the road from me, thought nothing of marching over to my house at Arse Hour (i.e. the time between feral children wanting dinner and feral children eating dinner) to school my friend who was visiting on why it was inappropriate for my friend’s car to be parked immediately outside her house. On the road.

idiots

My family got back from Fiji a few weeks ago and while we were there I looked into visiting one of the remaining villages where people still live traditionally. In the tour information booklet, visitors are advised to feel free to compliment villagers on their belongings, but to be careful not to be too complimentary as villagers will always offer the item as a gift, even if they cannot afford to do so.

In the space of two weeks, I went between engaging with people who would share with me even if doing so was to their own detriment, to dealing with the pettiness of someone who feels enraged by their yard or the public road outside their home being infiltrated by some kind of interloper.

I may not be able to move to a traditional Fijian village, but I can create a village of my own with my tribe, where we harness our energy to enjoy the little things in life. And while it means a huge departure from the norm and what is ‘safe’, what is less safe for me is to remain fixed in a lifestyle that no longer reflects the person I am, or the kind of role model I wish to be. I want my boys to question the norm, to be kind to the environment, and to know that there is more to life than exhausting one’s energy at work which leaves nothing to draw from once the work day is over.

I have no idea where this will lead us, but I know it’s the path we are meant to travel, and naturally, I will be writing about all our (mis)adventures.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

adventurequotesgram

Share This:
facebook

Mood goes up, mood goes down.

One thing I have noticed in this gig called parenting is how swiftly a day of smug satisfaction (sprinkled with a sense of actual aptitude and ability) can be destroyed by a day that is equal parts shit and awful. Just this week I had a cracker of a Monday – kicking goals in the parenting world and patting myself on the back for a job done well.

Then, the other shoe fell. Eff you, Wednesday.

Last year when I was working full-time and pregnant with my second baby, I wrote this pseudo-diary entry that detailed what a day in the life of a working, pregnant mum looked like. Today I thought I would share what a few days in the life of a currently-on-mat-leave-and-don’t-want-to-go-back mum to a one-year-old (N) and a three-year-old (J) looks like. Sometimes, it aint pretty.

Enjoy. Or commiserate. Whatever works.
– S

Monday
Enjoy unusually glorious, sunny and warm weather by prancing around the house in a t-shirt and letting your boys hang out for most of the day in their undies. Make fresh fruit smoothies. Go for a walk and smell the fresh spring air. Kick parenting goals when you take both little people – unaided – to the beach, where one of them frolics on the shore and the other moans angrily due to a combination of heat and teething.

FullSizeRender

Take children to the park; soothe child’s grazed knee with gentle kisses and ferocious hugs. Reward exemplary behaviour with ice cream (and coffee for self). Cook healthy dinner from scratch. Greet husband at the door with a smile and a casual comment of “I’ve made Thai fishcakes wrapped in lettuce leaves for dinner”. Marvel at your own brilliance in multitasking. Go to gym when boys are in bed and run 4km without suffering heart attack. Pat self on back for job well done. You got this!

Emotional score: 8/10. So awesome it almost hurts.

Tuesday
Suffer sleepless night care of teething, grumpy baby, who bleats all day and needs to be held constantly. Walk child to school in near freezing conditions, lamenting stupid Melbourne weather that lulled you into a sense of happiness yesterday. Source coffee and do grocery shopping in a frantic rush before baby loses the plot. Spend rest of the day doing thankless tasks like laundry folding and dishwasher stacking. Collect child from kindy who says he wants pizza for dinner. Tell child he is having soup for dinner. Watch child’s face fall with devastation. Present soup for dinner; tell child it will be cool enough to eat soon. Watch as child takes massive gulp of hot soup and burns himself, resulting in considerable tears and screaming (mostly from child). Soothe child’s burns with apple juice and assurances that he can have something else for dinner. Notice that wailing of child has frightened the baby, causing him to cry in solidarity. Consider joining in the chorus of tears. When husband arrives home, greet him with a frantic hello and throw the baby into his arms before fleeing the house. Escape to the gym for first Pump class in over two years. Realise that the last time you heard the phrase “squat track” the grandparents who raised you were still alive. Put melancholy thoughts aside and try to be more positive for chest track. Discover you have guns of steel due to lugging around enormous baby almost every day for the past 12 months. Wish that back pain you endure from same activity would bugger off. Get home and breastfeed the baby. Notice supply is dwindling. Feel happy and sad all at once.

Emotional score: 6/10. Satisfactory result in trying conditions.

Wednesday
Endure another sleepless night care of snotty, teething baby, who eventually needs to be fed at 4am. Tell husband to give the baby a bottle so that husband can be just as tired and cranky as you. Sigh when baby wakes for the day at 5am. Breastfeed baby in your bed into a light sleep, thus ignoring all the rules from the three “sleep school” admissions you have attended in desperation. Breathe sigh of relief when child greets you at 6am in a happy mood. Plant children in front of television and return to bedroom to get changed. Navigate bedroom with such clumsiness that you walk into the corner of your bed, causing you to bruise your kneecap and writhe in agony. Breathe deeply. Tell self the day will get better (Ha! Self laughs).

Hobble back to kitchen. Wrap ice pack around knee and present breakfast to children who do not want what has been prepared for them. Watch baby throw food from high chair onto floor only to cry when there is no food on his table. Pipe tube of yoghurt into his gullet, straight from the squeezy packet. No longer care about utensils like spoons. Watch as child takes himself to the toilet and listen as he declares he has “finished” and needs assistance. Leave wailing baby and assist child as needed. Encourage child to play in his room while you dress the baby. Learn that attempts to dress baby are futile as child has returned to the toilet twice more since his last visit. Realise that child has diarrhea. Sit child back on toilet with a book. Hope for the best. Call husband with a view to complaining. Husband in meeting. Text husband instead, hoping emojis will convey your pain. Receive thoughtful, supportive reply:

message

Change baby in front of television. Decide this frenzied, stressful morning is the perfect time to go to Aldi for party goods that you neither want or need. Decide to make this experience even more painful by visiting an Aldi you have never ventured to before. Park car and try to drown out sound of child saying “But I want to sit next to N in the trolley.” Tell child he can stand in trolley instead. Tell him it’s like a skateboard cage. Wonder if Aldi sells cages?

Source trolley. Load trolley with children and other items that lack nutritional value. Tell child to use groceries that are being piled upon him to make a cave. Watch in horror as child steps on rice crackers and bread. Narrowly avoid baby knocking his front teeth out in a brave attempt to eat the trolley handlebars. Give baby a packet of spinach to play with instead.

Breathe through gritted teeth at the following (repeated) exchange with child:

Child: What’s that [points at random item]?
You: I think it’s a [pointless random item] puzzle. It has insects on it. It’s an insect puzzle.
Child: Ooh, I love [random item] insect puzzles.
You: No you don’t.
Child: Can I have it?
You: No.

While paying for unnecessary groceries that you could have bought at local, reliable Coles up the road, realise you have made a grave error by not yet ingesting coffee. Tell children that you are going to a drive-through. Child asks for treat. Tell him he can have half of your hash brown. No longer care about nutrition.

Drive to closest McDonalds. Order hash brown and coffee. Pay for hash brown and coffee. Hand child half a hash brown. Drive away. Get home; park in driveway. Go to sip coffee and realise epic mistake. No coffee. Cry and wail “I FORGOT MY COFFEE!” Explain to children that you are going out again so that mummy can order another coffee. While having this exchange, notice that child has spilled yoghurt all over back seat of car. Make loud accusatory demands, including “What happened? Why is there yoghurt everywhere?” causing child to place hands to mouth and mumble, “I don’t know.” Explode with disproportionate response of “GET YOUR FINGERS OUT OF YOUR MOUTH” which makes child cry. Explain your anger. Explain to child that he will need to clean car. Explain you need coffee. Now.

Source coffee. Arrive home. Put angry baby to bed for a nap. Give child a plastic bag and tell him to fill it with all the rubbish on the floor of the car. Go inside to get paper towels to clean yoghurt. Come back to car to hear child proudly exclaim “I’m nearly finished mummy!” Child is not finished. Child is delusional. Child has not picked up anything from floor of the car and has instead used plastic bag to rub spilled yoghurt further into car’s upholstery. Rant wildly. Tell child you said “firetruck”.

Develop slight tick in your eye when baby wakes from nap after 40 minutes. Decide children can entertain themselves with your guitar. Watch as beloved first acoustic is smashed by little hands. Pleasantly, crying abates long enough for you to make lunch for children which you suspect they will not eat. Look in fridge for more squeezy yoghurt.

blogguitar

Finally talk to husband on the phone and are reminded that your in-laws are coming for dinner. Snap at husband in anger before remembering you agreed to the dinner visit and actually invited the in-laws to your house under the misapprehension that it would be “easier” for you. Immediately realise you have nowhere to seat 5 adults and 4 children as your dining table is being used to hold all kinds of items including paperwork for your grandfather’s estate, folded laundry and mail you are yet to open. Also notice that space the dining table used to occupy now houses a Bubba Mat and litany of toys. Panic. Tidy and move furniture as much as is humanly possible with an 11kg person attached to your hip. Sit child in front of Play School and sigh with relief that Teo is on (look, Mummy! It’s normal Teo! He not have beard!).

Realise you have wet laundry sitting in washing machine. Hang it out and learn of another horror mistake – purchasing wrong fabric softener. Scent of incorrect fabric softener brings back images of sordid evenings in your early twenties with boys who wore Lynx deodorant. Now all clothes and laundry smell like they belong to a sleazy nightclub owner named Wayne. Gag as you hang laundry on the line, secretly hoping it rains.

Use afternoon to look for matching cutlery for dinner guests. Lament cleaning limitations of stupid dishawashing tablets, vowing to never buy Fairy brand again. Vacuum. Play on floor of child’s room with child and baby. Become irrationally annoyed when child demands you play Thunderstruck on acoustic guitar. Tell him you can play twinkle twinkle little star. Child suitably unimpressed. Apologise for destroying child’s faith in your abilities.

Put baby down for second nap. Listen for ten minutes as baby bitches about being cozy and warm in a dark room. Pat baby for 10 minutes then creep out of room stealth-like. Play lego with child on floor of child’s room until interrupted by phone call from solicitors in relation to grandfather’s estate. Solicitors have received inventory you provided that listed every single item in your grandfather’s cluttered 5-bedroom home. Solicitors are concerned about the missing items you have identified, specifically the unlicensed, unregistered firearm that you suspect has been taken by one of your icky relatives. Agree that a missing weapon is a concerning development. Hang up and ask child if he wants to listen to music. End up having Shake it Off on repeat at child’s insistence. Dance like an idiot. Notice blood pressure momentarily subside.

At 4pm, realise you haven’t showered. Ask child if he wants to have a shower now. Child says no. Tell child you will have a quick shower; start disrobing. As you remove underwear, realise you can hear the baby crying, apparently awake after a 30 min power nap. Consider showering anyway. Put dirty clothes back on and try to comfort baby. Give baby Panadol. Explain to child why he can’t have any Panadol and distract his drug hunger with afternoon tea and another episode of Play School. No Teo this time. Child devastated. Call husband and tell him he needs to come home early as you look and feel like shit. Husband says he will try to get home before in-laws arrive.

Decide the only way to calm the angry baby is to put him in the bath. Child also wants bath. Back too sore to lean over while holding enormous baby who is prone to toppling over, so decide to get in bath with both children. Know there is no way you will have time for a shower. Somehow manage to hoist self and giant baby out of bath using shattered quad muscles that are barely functioning after the ill-considered Pump class from the night before. While dripping wet and freezing, towel off baby while simultaneously keeping an eye on bathing child. Turn around momentarily and see your husband’s face at the bathroom door. Get such a fright that you scream and burst into tears. Accept husband’s apology and palm baby off so that you can compose yourself and put clothes on. While husband entertains child and baby, get dressed. Curse as you realise nothing in your wardrobe fits and all the clothes you like are on the line smelling like Wayne.

Hear doorbell ring. In-laws are early to dinner. Groan loudly. Realise you are still only wearing a towel.  Tell husband to only let his family come inside if they have brought wine. Husband returns to bedroom with a glass of wine and a takeaway order. Call local Thai restaurant and feel grateful for rapport you have built with staff that allows your order to be delivered earlier than expected. Inhale dinner, your first meal since the hash brown. Go to pour yourself another wine before realising you have to parent tomorrow.

Farewell dinner guests and collapse into bed. Let dog in. Dog leaps onto the bed and lands on your knee at precisely at the same place you bruised this morning. Yell out to husband to come to bed. Ask him to bring the ice pack with him. And more wine.

wine

Emotional score: 2/10. One point for each wine.

Share This:
facebook