Two

My youngest two are now two years old. It’s a huge milestone, such a line in the sand between their babyhood and toddlerhood. But the two year mark has always been a big milestone for me too. It’s when I begin emerging from the hibernation I never knew I’d be deep down in when I had children. Even now, after three pregnancies and four children, it surprises me. I cocoon up with them and give myself over almost completely to them, and I enjoy it like nothing else in life.

But now that that line in the sand is drawn, now that I really do need to refer to them as toddlers, I’m starting to get a bit antsy about my personal achievements. A little fire always gets lit under my butt indicating that now, it’s time. It’s when things like not having much in the way of personal space and uninterrupted time to think one complete thought begin to really niggle at me. It’s when I need clear some time to do the work that builds the kind of life I want to raise them in. It’s when I need to start planning for more than just motherhood. It’s when I need to start reacquainting me with myself.

I was frustrated today that I couldn’t read one page of a beautiful cookbook that I’ve been picking up and moving from place to place for weeks now with the intention to do more than a quick flick through. So I stayed up late when all I’ve felt this week is bone-deep exhaustion, to read in the almost dark and silent house, rain set in outside the window. I just couldn’t go to sleep when the children did, I needed some time awake without tending to someone else. And, last week I saw a concert and felt like just-myself for the first time in a long time - not someone’s mama for one night - and it’s not entirely sitting well with me. I can’t quite put my finger on what that concert sparked yet, but I’ll get to the bottom of it. 

Feelings like this are incredibly conflicting for me. First and foremost, in almost all things, I am a mother. I knew I was destined for motherhood for as long as I can remember, it was all I dreamed of, and I got that beautiful dream of mine four times over - more than I could have imagined. I’m grateful every single day for them. So feeling the need to nurture some of my own independence feels at conflict with giving myself over to motherhood. I don’t ‘need a break’ from my children, instead I need just time for me, to do all the other things that set my heart on fire, to be deliberate in living this life. Especially so I can model a better example for them. But setting myself up in hibernation with them for two years also sets a precedent in our family life that I need to shake up a little. Right now I’ll be grateful for an hour or two each week to work through some thoughts to start marching in a slightly new direction. 

Baby steps though, or, toddler steps, right? 

A Lesson On Perspective

One year ago tonight, my tiny daughter - one year and one day old - had a mini stroke.

It happened in an instant. I still think back to the small details of that night to see how long we didn’t notice her arm, but the truth is that it really is that sudden.  I have a photo of her on my phone (so it’s time stamped) from two hours earlier in the night where she was using both hands, she was laughing and being silly pulling a (clean) nappy over her head like a bonnet. Two hours later she was wildly unsettled, we were passing her back and forth in an attempt to calm her when she vomited all over herself and me. I took her to her room to change her clothes, when I picked up her right arm to put it through the sleeve of her pyjamas, I felt it. Nothing. Absolutely and completely limp. No tone. Trying to stifle a rush of panicked tears I called out to Chris that we needed to call an ambulance. He took her while I calmly and quickly told the operator what had happened. The ambulance was here within minutes - lights & sirens like the operator told us there would be.

She laid against me for most of the ambulance ride, the paramedic calmly asking me question after question while telling her colleague to speed up. I could see a mash of blue & red lights outside against the window. I could see my daughter’s goofy lopsided grin in the reflection - a now telltale sign that she was having an absent seizure. I was told we would shortly stop alongside the road to meet a specialist paediatric paramedic team to accompany us to hospital. It was raining outside when we stopped, we were beside a railway line and just like a scene from a movie the ambulance doors slid open to rain pouring down on the railway tracks that were lit by one lonely spotlight. And right on queue a train blared it’s horn and rushed passed us as the specialist team boarded. I could hear traffic rushing past us. The paramedics administered her rescue medication, they asked a few more questions as we continued to hospital. As we entered the emergency department of the hospital via the ambulance bay, I heard a man’s voice boom “they’re here - look alive!”  It was only when we turned the corner that I realised he was referring to us and he had been addressing close to twenty people. They did not muck around checking her over, inserting a cannula, though as has always been our experience, they were sweet and kind to me and incredibly gentle with her. And in that small room full of people they deliberately made space for me right beside her head. They sat me down and wrapped me in a warmed blanket.

They are angels.

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The CT scan showed no sign of stroke (hence her doctors refer to it as a ‘mini stroke’, all the signs and either none or minuscule damage to the brain) so they called in the on call neurologist from his sleep in his home in the pouring rain to come into the hospital to continue to assess her and make a plan for the next day. We made it up to a private room (thankfully) on the ward in the still-dark at 4am. Amidst all of the cords and leads she was hooked up to, I laid with her in my arms in my bed and there we slept for two short, but restorative, hours.

When her neurologist came to see us that morning he was almost apologetic, that he hadn’t been able to predict or prevent this. As he left our room he stopped and said to me “please know she is safe here, she is so safe” and for the first time, I cried.

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She had an MRI that morning, they were all so gentle with her, deliberately careful with her arm, but when they wheeled her into the room I was left alone to head back up to our room. When Scarlett got back to the room, as she was being hooked up to an EEG she had a seizure, so a MET (Medical Emergency Team) call was activated. Inside three minutes our room was full of at least 25 medical professionals, spilling out into the hallway. My initial thought was ‘calm down guys, it’s ‘just’ a focal seizure’, but it was scary as hell at the same time. A social worker made a bee line for us, introduced herself, advised that she was our advocate through this and we can gain clarification or ask questions through her. Each time a decision was made, she ensured we understood before the team progressed. Scary as it was, it was also bloody impressive! Penelope slept soundly in her father’s arms through the entire MET call.   

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Scarlett and I stayed in that room for 15 days. We knew the names of all the regular nurses, they were amazing - some would make me tea if they found me awake with her at 4am. We spent Easter in hospital, the nurses played Easter Bunny and left her a chocolate egg in the night, we were both showered with treats all day.  I learned quickly how to advocate for her, to ask for what we needed and how long, lonely and powerless the nights feel. She had EEGs attached to  her head for days at a time, I would stand at the computer monitor at the foot of her bed that showed her brain waves in real time, trying to decipher them although I obviously knew nothing to look out for. I learned once again how to protect our space and make room for my immediate family (my husband and children only) and asked everyone else to respect our request not to visit. So they sent goodie bags and flowers and magazines and cooked meals for my family at home instead. They indulged my emotional text conversations. Our village is so strong and loyal.

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One year ago today my tiny daughter had a mini stroke. It took 4 days before I saw her smile at me again. It was weeks before her arm regained any sort of significant movement. Yesterday she turned two.  She uses her hands and arms almost equally, she is the cheekiest little love in the world, she is walking 100 percent of the time, her development is at the very low end of typical, but she is thriving! She is our precious unicorn and she teaches us every day about just getting on with this beautiful life. 

The Juggle

I know how hard your days are. I know because mine are too. They’re a beautifully exhausting melody of squishy little people hugs and tending to all of their tiny demands and big needs. It’s all of the have-to-dos competing with the nice-to-dos or the want-to-dos. Some days it’s survival vs thriving. It’s clean undies and three healthy meals and early bedtimes vs spontaneous play and saying yes to all the things and going with their happy little flow. It’s counting your lucky stars to be their mama and revelling in the wonder and magic of your tiny people, all while desperately (so desperately) craving silent time completely alone, all while wanting to escape with your love to flirt and kiss and feel young and free together, all while wanting to pop a bottle of something chilled and dance and laugh and natter away with your closest girlfriends.

It’s all of these competing things all of the time - when it feels like time is so scarce - in this precious, gorgeous life we’re living. The rushing and the please-wait-a-moment-darling and the short temper and the regret and the wishing we were as free as our mothers were in their season of parenting tiny people while still wanting the choice to have IT ALL.

We’re not ungrateful, we’re not even sad. We’re exhausted, but we can still see the good in all the things we say yes to and pile up high on our mama plate. And we’re stupidly happy. So happy.  But we are so tired. And, we can see the time slipping through our fingers. That makes us endlessly sad.

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When we become mothers, once our babies are here, we seem to realise then how we truly want to raise them. And if we aren’t already in the position of one income floating our family’s boat then we have little time to scurry to make big life changes to support our family vision. It’s crushing when we can’t, or when we don’t and so we do our very best with what we have. Sometimes we can flex and bend our selves/life/work/education/to-dos to something more closely mimicking how we want to raise our children, and we’re relieved and grateful. It still leaves a longing to be more present and infinitely calmer and involved and to feel less frazzled. It’s not perfect. Though, is it ever?

So we continue to do our best with what we have today. And when we feel like we could have done better we know that we will have a fresh start tomorrow. Ultimately we know we still have the power to make big, magical change. We may feel like we’re stuck in a generation who thought we wanted it all, and when we have it all we realise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. So, if we are able, we make bold changes and we do it now. If we cannot, we can be the voice and support to illicit change in the generation that follows us. We can teach them that there are a multitude of ways to raise a family and still feel whole.

Either way though, we will thrive because we’re committed to doing our best with what we have. We will remain stupidly happy. And in the end we will be more than okay, especially with our swag full to the brim of precious, precious memories from this season of our beautiful life.

‘Balance’

We’re four days into the new school year. One week in, already I’m feeling the pull and stretch of everyone and everything that needs my attention and feeling hyper focused on not dropping any of the balls im juggling. We’re back to early starts, lunchbox packing, racing out of work in the afternoon, sorting out dinner in that sweet spot of not too early but not so late that they start getting grumpy. Back to weekends being a compromise of all of the things that need to be done to maintain the house, a bit of fun and relaxing together while still being social amongst our friends and family. 

I should preface this by saying I’m also coming out the other side of a dragged on cold and very broken, interrupted, cut short sleep all week long. So I’m tired, emotional and an extra version of exhausted. It’s probably not the best starting point for getting back into the swing of things.

This year we’ve decided to limit the amount of outside school hours care our children have, we see how much it exhausts them and impacts their mood and therefore the dynamic of the whole house each day. It also means a bit of money saving, always a plus, and a lot more focus on quality and us being available to them. But that also means we are doing a lot of running around to accommodate it. It means some later starts for Chris and my running into and out of work in that delicate balance of doing all that needs to be done there while still making it to school pick up before the bell. It means finding the best last minute parking spot close enough to school so I can unload the double pram, load up the girls and get in there on time. 

Then it’s home for snacks and school bag unpacking and a load of washing and dinner prep and an afternoon cup of tea to push me over the line before the night time stuff starts.  

We’ll settle into all of this soon enough, it’s the reentry into the school year that’s a bit rough and rocky. Being as available for the kiddies as we can be is the priority for at least this first semester. Past experience has taught us that term one is especially exhausting for them - especially with our little budbud starting prep it’s even more so. Five out of six of us settled in at home by 3pm every single day is absolutely worth the juggling, giving these school kids time to unwind, to rest if they’ve had a big day, to have me on hand for homework, to play wth their siblings, to explore in the backyard.

We’ll find our feet soon enough.   

Sprinkling Magic into The Ordinary

I don’t really need an excuse to plan a celebration or little get together, I don’t really need an excuse to choose joy instead of routine and the ‘have-tos’ in life. But having a reason, even a made up, frivolous kind of reason seems like lots of fun to me!

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When I think of what makes a happy childhood, the big ticket things obviously come to mind first; family, security, respect, kind friends, a happy schooling experience. The things that excite me as a parent - and the things that I see my kiddies get excited over - are creating and building on traditions, leaning into conscious, warm ritual amongst the ‘have-tos’ in the everyday, and spontaneous, joy-filled moments that don’t take much effort at all.

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Fresh made pikelets after school are always a winner here - for me as much as them, I love making them! Sending the kids outside to play in the rain while I run a warm bubble bath for them immediately afterwards is always, always loads of fun. Stopping for a fancy ice cream on the way home from school is really a no brainer, right?! 

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This year I’m going to try to incorporate as many of the Day of The Year, made up sounding holidays as I can. (Check out www.daysoftheyear.com). Celebrations that are effortless and a source of loads of fun. It will hopefully also break me out of the mold of waiting for the weekend and not be dragged down by ‘it’s a school/work day’ mentaility. We’ve already celebrated International Bubble Bath day! We filled up the big tub, I put far too much bubble soap in the water and then called all of the kids to pile on in together.  It was fun, they loved it! It wasn’t without a few terse words from mama about knocking off the out and out silliness, or a baby slipping under the water for a split second, and the usual wrestle of the dry and dress dance afterwards was much the same as every other day. But it was fun, it was spontaneous and it’s just the kind of thing we all need to break up a working week.

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I’m so looking forward to International Strawberry Icecream day next week! 

It’s A Brand New Year

I know myself well enough by now to realise that resolutions make me feel both incredibly excited for CHANGE and ACHIEVEMENT at the same time as feeling like I’m just letting myself down when the well intentioned resolutions slip through my fingers. 

I haven’t made resolutions for a few years now. I have done ‘one little word’ though which gives a bit of focus to my intention for the time ahead. And some years I’ve made a list of projects I want to complete, big and small. My word this year is PLAN. I’m very bad at adulting, I fear I will always err a little too far on the side of carefree and levity to be taken seriously. I’m also coming to realise that with two adults working and four children to nurture, I need to embrace planning and preparation. Or, more invitingly - ritual. Plan is the word I need most though. It will harness the very practical stuff - we need to start properly meal planning for example. It will make shopping more straight forward, we won’t have as much food waste, we know what we’re doing to stock the chest freezer, our shopping budget will reduce and we won’t need to think about what’s for dinner, we can just get on with cooking it and enjoying it. I think it will give me more scope to cook more than just what’s easy or tried and trusted, but actually wade a little further into all my beautiful cookbooks and be a bit more adventurous.  

Plan will also cover the big picture stuff - why did I feel so harried this December, what do I need to change to make this December more festive and less hectic? I’ve always had big lofty dream goals, how about I start achieving some of the career stuff - for that I definitely need to plan my time and plan my actions. See? It’s a fab word. 

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I recently watched IGTV about goal setting and the advice that I held onto, was this: don’t set goals or plan for an entire year ahead. We all change and grow, so review what you’re working towards every three months. Be open to flexing and changing, to let go of what is no longer working and add something new.  

I like it. And it’s exactly what I need, a quarterly check in is far more up my alley.

In this first week of our new year I’m stealing pockets of time to work through some dreaming prompts, to journal quite honestly, to slowly get to the big picture stuff instead of racing ahead to anything that gets my heart pumping too hard with anticipation because of a perceived time limit. So I’m keeping it simple by focusing on some life basics - keeping our water bottles full, eating mindfully, trying to move every day, readreadread, practice patience with the kids, don’t let the washing pile up ;)

Next year though I’m scheming of getting us away for this first week of the year, somewhere near the water where we can go at an extremely slow pace. Properly relax and take some real time out - read, swim, nap, eat, talk, watch the world go by ... Any suggestions?  

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Thirty Eight

I’m feeling my birthday this year. Thirty Eight seems to register more strongly that I am older than I feel I  most days. I’m tired too so that’s definitely contributing - twin toddlers is far more tiring than the eight month olds they were this time last year. We’ve all got the undercurrent of lingering colds this week. No one is unwell enough for a day at home in bed, but everyone is a bit blah. I had big plans to make the most of the time around my birthday this year that didn’t quite eventuate, but I’ll try again next year. 

The biggest theme though is that I am feeling the weight of everything that I am not. I’m feeling the weight of all the things I have not done, or not achieved or procrastinated on for far too long now. I’m frustrated with myself. At the same time I’m trying to offer myself the grace of remembering all of the things I have achieved - most notably, raising four tiny humans, my biggest honour and most important achievement. Ever. Mothering them consumed me in a way I wasn’t prepared for - in a good way, so everything else sort of fell away. 

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Now that I can feel the shift, that we’re coming to the end of the girls’ true babyhood and I can feel myself emerging from it, I feel energised to get moving on all-the-things. There are projects to be finished and new ones begun. There are books and books and books to be devoured. There are meals to be cooked. There is more I want to achieve as a mother, to do better and mother more consciously. There are photos to be printed and framed and hung. Life ready to be better prepared for. But most of all, there’s a big bag of beautiful potential there waiting for me to grab it and fulfil it. Writing here is a part of it, but the ultimate big epiphany dream goal is supporting motherhood in a multitude of gentle, guiding, heart-led ways and I am absolutely ready to do it.

Lets do this, thirty eight!  

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Resilient Mama

Resilience is a word that’s being thrown around a lot lately, mostly by the generation or two above us telling us that we’re raising kids who are not resilient. Every generation will weather the unsolicited advice of those before them I’m sure, this one is ours it seems. 

I’m not sure that I’ve ever really liked the word resilience. Saying someone needs to learn to be resilient sounds so hard ass and forced and ‘get over it and get on with it’. I’ve especially disliked when it’s been used in reference to my kids. As though they should learn to push down their natural responses and feelings in favour of being resilient, as though they should make other people feel more comfortable by not reacting in their own innate way. 

What I’ve come to realise over the past eight years of parenting is that I am not particularly resilient. Or, more accurately, I wasn’t.  

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Motherhood has seen me grow in more ways than I can count, but teaching me how to resilient is a big one. I still don’t much like the word, and I don’t like how some of my resilience was built, but now it’s a part of me now, for the better. My resilience was built from all that pregnancy entails (especially the twin pregnancy that took everything I had), delivering four babies, but mostly just being thrust into motherhood with no training period - just a learn on the job situation. Congratulations, I know you’re exhausted and need to recover but here is your beautiful baby to immediately take care of. And that first baby, man, that experience is tough! Breathtakingly beautiful, and so tough.  

Resilience was built by being given the honour to mother a child with a 1 in 50,000 births, randomly occurring very serious syndrome. Mothering her has taught me more about the strength deep within me more than any other life experience. It’s taught me how to advocate for her, how to protect the space of my little family and how to find joy in every single day.  It has revealed to me the truth of how strong I really am. 

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Eight years and counting into motherhood and resilience has been built - and continues to be built - through sacrifice. From the get go, sacrificing my body through pregnancy and cesarean recovery. Sacrificing sleep (this one hurts a lot and feeds into so much more of life). Sacrificing lifestyle, money, career aspirations, travel and all of those other things I thought I had a lot of time to do.  Sacrifice sounds as though I’m complaining, but I’m not. This is a part of building resilience in me, and also shows the depths of my priority as mama. These things are all sacrifices, yes, but they are sacrifices I am not just okay with making, I am overjoyed to make them. If it means mothering these four while bending and flexing with life as these children teach me how to mother, then I’ll happily take it. 

I still don’t much like the word resilience but I like this version of myself. What I hope to reach my children is that resilience can be built through a gentle awareness of life around them. Of being flexible and questioning and supportive and adaptable, while looking for the positive path forward, not gritting their teeth and quietly bearing it. 

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There Are Two of Them!

I never liked the idea of having twins.

All I’ve ever known for sure is that I wanted to be a mama, but when people would tell me that they wanted twins the idea made me almost sad. How could I possibly mother them well as babies? How could they both get the sort of attention from me that they needed exactly at the time they needed it?  No. It most definitely wasn’t for me.

The year I turned ten, our neighbours had identical twin girls. So for the next five years I was over there knocking on their door as often as I possibly could. I love those girls, adults who now are both mamas, and I loved my role as their ‘big sister’. But it never made me want to have my own twins.

When my husband and I were talking about starting a family, he used to say he wanted twins - (I used to say I wanted four children - we both won there ;)  Still, the idea of twins worried me for no other reason than wondering how I’d care for them equally, and if I could be enough.

So then, I had twins of course - thank you universe, sincerely. Fraternal girls, my third and forth babies. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. 

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In the early weeks of pregnancy I couldn’t shake the thought of twins. Not that I thought I was pregnant with them, twins were just in my head. I dreamt about twins when I rarely have dreams I remember. I mentioned it to three friends only. When I went for my dating scan at almost six weeks pregnant, the sonographer quickly turned the screen away from me, but I’d already seen the two black circles housing my two tiny grey fuzz balls. Twins. I’d dreamt about them because somehow, I knew. 

Now that I have my twins and they are past their first year - the most steep learning curve of my life - I can’t imagine never experiencing the joy of mothering twins. Because this joy has been the biggest and most rewarding surprise of my life. 

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Their newborn days were rough. But, I had the gift of experience twice before so knew that all of that would pass all too soon. I quickly learned how to pick them up at the same time, how to tandem feed them, how to wrangle bath time and how to settle them to sleep together.   

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As they grew, I grew with them, learning how to manage the next stage, and the next and then the next. We were supported incredibly by our village, our freezer was kept full of meals, there were always offers of extra arms. The girls were mostly content babies and my thumb sucker made life easier. 

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They are adored by their older siblings, now that they’re toddlers they are joining in on any shenanigans they possibly can. Watching the girls play and laugh together is endearing, watching them grow independent of each other, into their unique personalities, is beautiful. 

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Our house is chaotic, it’s a mess, we stay up too late but it is a happy house. So full of laughter, joy and endless amounts of love. Every single day I feel incredibly lucky to have these children, to have twin girls to round out my brood.  While I couldn’t think about having twins before, now I cannot imagine never experiencing the special joy it is to mother twins. There is always something magical about a brand new life, but two at the same time is something otherworldly.  I’m happily eating my words now, because all I feel is incredibly lucky. 

Motherhood is my Muse

I wrote this little motherhood essay  in March this year. I remember the words tumbling out of me when I’d given myself the permission to write, even if no one else ever read it. It was the very beginning of all of this, and the weeks preceding a pretty big bump in our daughter’s health story.  

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:: 

When women refer to being in the trenches of motherhood, they’re talking about a week like the one we’re living right now. 

Our youngest has a significant but, for now, well managed health condition. There have been a couple of little episodes that have had my mama radar peaking so I raised it with her medical team. They asked that we head on in to have a portable EEG put on her little head to monitor her for 24 hours. She handled it like the little super star she is, she crawled around the house with her darling little head well-bandaged to cover the road map of wires and electrodes monitoring her beautiful brain, while she dragged the metre long bundle of cords and battery pack behind her. Me on the other hand, my mama heart hurts hard in weeks like this. She’s okay. She’s doing well. We’re not expecting big bad results from this, rather an explanation for some tiny out-of-the-ordinaries. But for me it’s confronting. The enormity of what may lie ahead for us and for her is more real in weeks like this. So she has slept between me and her dad every night because we need to keep her a little closer. The moment we all settle into bed, my mama guilt kicks in on another level because her twin is alone in the cot beside our bed. I try reminding myself that when her darling twin is unwell, or teething or having a rough night, we absolutely do the same. But still the mama guilt remains.

Sleepless nights are on the agenda, due to a combination of all the worry, babies waking more frequently than usual, staying up too late to squeeze in some child-free time, though nothing of quality is achieved. Mindlessly staring at a screen - either one on the wall or scrolling the one in my hand is usually, unfortunately, what I’m doing. I’m not having a meaningful conversation, I’m  not writing, or creating, or reading one of the desperate-to-be-read books from my ever growing tower of paper and soul stirring, life changing, well considered words. An earlier bedtime would be a far better use of this time.

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In the background lingers the part time work angst. For me, it’s not okay. It breaks my mama heart so much, has done for seven years - this is not how I wanted to raise my children. This is not how I wanted to keep a house. All the hectic hurrying. All the repeated “please wait”, “in a moment”, “I’m sorry, I forgot”. My lack of patience has me cringing inside. All of this before we list the ways this work does diddly squat to fill up my soul, fulfill my potential, make me proud. I am thankful for the wonderful women I spend my days with though.

To-do lists that are too long - growing, not reducing - so where should I begin? Basic survival priorities first right - make sure we’re all fed and clean-clothed. Yeah, I can get that sorted. Afternoons/evenings and getting out the door in the mornings aren’t too bad, surprisingly. Those hours in between though, they’re like herding cats. Will I have a block of ninety minutes to power around and get things done, house things and my things? Or will I have ten very random ten minute blocks to put out fires, tidy a couple of hot spots and make - but not drink while warm - the cliche cup of lukewarm tea? Try finding the motivation and energy to get all the things done though, all the competing things, with a sleep deprived mama brain and all of the tabs open in my tired head only building on this heavy mental load, well, it’s slow going.

Two big kids that are, all things considered, well behaved, accommodating, understanding. So much beyond their short years. The kind of understanding that rears its head when we’re late to after school pick up because the last minute medical appointment ran so long that we missed her second ever ballet lesson. She was dressed in her costume ready to go when we arrived, head hung and tears streaming down her face when we told her we’d missed her class. And then mine too. Ouch. After thinking on it, she came to us to tell us that, though she was sad, her sister is more important than ballet. Wow. Her good heart amazes me.

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I’m overwhelmed. My cup was full by 10am on Monday morning, before all of this. I can feel adrenaline coursing through my body. I am aware of tense muscles and a clenched jaw, I forcibly relax them. I am hyper aware of time passing, I remind myself to be present. If I’m present, I reassure myself that that is the important part of it all. I crave a more clear mind, more energy, more time to better parent these tiny humans. When my four darlings sleep, and I’ve decided to ditch the mindless screentime for bed, I wonder how much I really need to shower and brush my teeth. Falling straight into bed, immediately closing my eyes that will sting for being properly closed for the first time today, is far more appealing. Besides, the babies still sleep in our room, it’s not worth running the risk of waking them. But I do, because when else can I squeeze it all in.

These are my trenches. It’s only Thursday. But, like everything, I know for sure, that this too shall pass. And like everything, I need to remind myself that this was not the sum of our week; I made a half birthday ice cream cake for my new seven-and-a-half year old, my baby girl has learnt to high-five, her twin has learnt to say ‘ta’, their brother has been endlessly affectionate “I wuv my hoooooool famwee”, we laugh a lot, and I had a full half hour - while all four kids were home - to read a new book. This week is not our normal, but when we’re living it, it feels endless. And it hurts my heart, a lot. Once it’s passed though, we almost forget it ever happened, we’re back to living a different kind of happy chaos.

Pikelets in Mama’s Kitchen

There are certain things that I do that make me feel more mama-like than anything else. Things like braiding my daughters hair, sending the kids outside to splash in the muddy puddles from the rain then running them a warm bubble bath, leaving no stone unturned when packing all-the-things for a day away from home and tetrusing them into the car boot perfectly ... but it’s making a pile of pikelets for the kiddies after school pick up that makes me feel most mama-like. Standing at the bench waiting for the bubbles to surface in the batter while the big two bounce around my legs asking when they’ll be ready is one of my favourite things. Ever.

Tradition and ceremony is important to me in how I parent - in general really - so I serve the pikelets on a crystal plate I was given on my thirtieth birthday, every time. The kids call it the pikelet plate now. And because I’m a sentimental fool too, every time I make a double batch - which is more often than not now - it makes me think of my friend who was raised double-batching everything. Pikelet making gives me the warm fuzzies.

The kids only eat them with honey, they’re currently as obsessed with a chewy red gum as I am. I sneak them hot out of my pan with a spread of butter standing at the kitchen bench. The babies eat them plain or with raspberry jam or butter sometimes. I have to put 4 aside for their dad before the kids scoff them all up in one sitting - he eats them after we’re all in bed with a smorgasbord of toppings.

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My recipe isn’t reinventing the wheel, just remember 1:1:1

1 cup of self raising flour : 1 cup of milk : 1 egg, multiply as needed.

Doubled is working well for us now though I know I’ll be tripling it in no time. Sometimes I’ll add a spoonful of castor sugar, or a splash of vanilla - neither of which seem to change the flavour much but I enjoy the extra flair. Mix together with a spoon, then whisk out the lumps. Adjust milk for batter consistency. Spoon small quantities into a medium heat, buttered pan, let bubbles come to the surface then flip. Immediately & lightly press the cooked side with the flat of your flipper to squish out the sides a little. I don’t know how I stumbled upon this, but I have and what it does to the thickness of the pikelet is perfecto. Do it, you’ll be so impressed with yourself. 

Enjoy warm out of the pan, or practice patience and sit at the kitchen table together for afternoon tea, or squirrel a few away for tomorrow’s lunchboxes.  

Mama’s Bookclub - The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made

A group of old-school-friends-now-best-mama-friends and I chat about motherhood a lot, our personal Brains Trust. We message each other with questions about things big and small, we empathise with each other over motherhood moments, we laugh a lot and we laugh loud, we get together to eat unashamedly huge servings of cake or have a wine together at midday on a Thursday while our kiddies tear around the yard. And we live for each other’s book recommendations. In this season of life it’s either a recommendation for something new for our kids to read, or something for us to read about parenting our kiddies.

I thought it would be fun to collate the recommendations here into a little Mama’s Bookclub, and I’m kicking it off with a doozy! 

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With all of us having at least one child in primary school, the topic of talking to them about puberty and the birds and the bees came up recently. We all agreed that we wanted to approach the conversation with far less embarrassment than we felt about it and that we wanted to start the conversation in a very simple, matter of fact kind of way. As it should be really. Another friend told me about a book she’d bought for her children - The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas. I’d gone ahead and ordered it, though I’d tucked it away on a high shelf - one; because I wasn’t sure if my eight year old was old enough to read it yet, two; we wanted to read it front to back before she did, and three; we weren’t sure if we were ready for the inevitable questions.

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My eldest daughter knows the book exists and what it’s called. She’s been asking lately to read it, today I said she could read the first few pages and we’d leave the rest for the weekend when her dad was home too. But when her sister woke from her morning nap, she kept on reading while I was busy there. Seeing as she’d already read the part I was cringing over, I said she could finish the rest of it. When she finished she said “I’ve just got one question...” then proceeded to flip back to the page I wasn’t sure she was ready to read and asked precisely the squirm-worthy question I wasn’t sure I was ready to answer.  We discussed it more briefly than I thought we would and then she moved onto asking how they knew that babies growing in a woman’s uterus (she’s got all the proper words now ;) were the same size as foods, and was she ever as small as an apple seed?! 

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Once we (I) got past my awkwardness it was really great. She is amazed at what our bodies are capable of, she’s eight years old and the simplicity of the text, the subtle humour and drawings suited her perfectly. I loved that all the facts were presented without fuss, all of the correct terms were used and how gently it eased her into the whole thing. The book starts with physical gender differences, how bodies change in puberty, explains fertility, sex, baby development in utero and birth. Then it moves onto explain surrogacy, IVF, multiple birth (she loved that), breastfeeding & formula feeding.

What I loved most though was that this book facilitated a conversation I was desperate to have go well, but was really stuck on how to do it well. I never want my kids to feel awkward about talking with me about anything, but I know that starts with me not making it awkward in the first place. 

 

Now I’m on the hunt for a good book presented in a similar fashion, about girls puberty ... any suggestions?  

Oh Hi There, Mama

A little while ago, in a moment of rare quiet and solitude, I was struck by an epiphany.  I love a good epiphany. Though I never can find one if I go hunting for one, which makes the epiphanies that switch all of the lights on in my heart and head at exactly the same time, all the more sweet. So in this quiet moment, I sat down with a few of my favourite pens (must always have more than one option), a pile of blank paper and wrote a brain dump. If you’ve never done it - do it! Please. The stuff you can dig up and the directions it drags you around once you get going is amazing - like finding beautiful epiphanies that feel like the penny finally dropped. 

You see, when it comes to a career, I’ve always wanted to work under my own steam and do something that feels important. Not life saving, earth shaking stuff on a global domination scale, but work that felt good and important to me and work that was important and helpful I guess, to someone else.  I only properly realised that I should do something about that though once I was pregnant with my first child and realised that being the stay at home Mum of dreams was not going to eventuate. Too late!  By that time you’re kind of back peddling, babe in arms, dream-dreaming while putting motherhood first. So much bad juggling. I don’t regret putting motherhood first, I will always put my role as mama first.  I do regret that I didn’t realise this before when I had all the time in the world to do the work to build something instead of watching back to back episodes of Friends of a weekend.

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A constant in all these years has been photography, turning a roll of film through my clunky old cameras is a joy. Having a besotted mama loose herself in her baby’s face in front of my camera does me in completely. Knowing that I’m marking time for them makes me feel like I’m contributing towards their family’s legacy in a beautiful way. I felt pulled in other directions too, all sorts of creative directions, food making and writing directions, writing directions, supporting women directions and birth, the fourth trimester, new motherhood directions.

So I let this brain dump take me there, and whoa. Wow. The first moment of clarity came with recognising that I don’t have to choose just one thing in this life.  If I’m my own boss, I set the boundaries and I make the rules too.  The second moment of warm, peace-filled clarity came when I realised that something that connected all the dots was motherhood. Ding! Ding! Then I leant right into it and it all flowed out.  I have an itch to write, so I will write about motherhood and mamas and this season of life. Photography will always be there, it is in me, so I will photograph families with motherhood as my focus. (Pun always intended). I will support women in their season of  motherhood by coaching business mamas who want do their own thing too, carve their own way, parent on their own terms. And through all of this, I will support my own season of motherhood.

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This epiphany is equal parts calming and excitingly energising. I don’t know exactly how and when it will all unfold but I will begin with the writing, here.

x

 

[A note on what I write here. I’m not an expert on you and yours. I’m not a trained professional. I do not believe that my way is superior to yours, my choices don’t render your choices incorrect. I write here to serve as a reminder to myself as much as to cheer on all mothers, celebrate motherhood and curate my perspective from where I stand.]