Our First Spring Easter

Easter has become a bit of a non-event in our little family. For the last few years, we’ve been away, usually in Bali. It hasn’t always been that way, at least not in the family I grew up in. Our easter, or the ones I remember, usually involved a ridiculously large number of eggs hidden around the house and in the garden, a pairing off into teams, where one member holds the spectacularly festive white plastic bag and points out eggs that they spot, while the other, kindly goes and fetches said eggs. In the original version of the game, it’s all very pleasant, and everyone has a lovely time collecting eggs, trying to best the other teams and come out the victor with the large chocolate bunny prize. Over the years, the besting got a little more savage, the game a little more rough and tumble, there may or may not have been tears, and if I recall correctly, one year the large chocolate bunny prize was claimed early and may or may not have lost its ears. That may have also been the same year two of my brothers decided that anything in the kitchen was fair game and emptied the biscuit tin and an assortment of other household goods into their plastic bag.

But all of that was beside the point because the main point of easter, beyond the celebration of spring – even though it was autumn, and the thing about Jesus coming back from the dead, is that after all of the easter eggs are sorted and divided equally between all the players the real game begins. We open the trading floor, and the eggs are traded at prices determined by want and need. A simple supply and demand issue. The Wolf of Wall Street wouldn’t survive a minute in our house.

So it was always a little sad for me, that my husband never wanted to participate in the games and instead booked our annual holiday at this time. Some years the family rescheduled easter, that way people could make the most of the public holiday and still celebrate the festivities. Slowly though, life got in the way, and the whole thing kind of faded a little. Since having kids though, I’ve wanted to celebrate easter and all of the crazy shenanigans it has become to include. I want it to be something they grow up with too

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Watching mothering in action

‘Lie still,’ says my youngest to her doll, ‘I’m putting coconut oil on Lemonbalm,’ she says by way of explanation (her doll’s name is Clementine, but over time it’s become Lemonbalm). She up ends the green drink bottle into her hand, the water coating her hands, then she rubs her hands together, and smears it all over her dolls arms and legs, and belly and face.

‘See, I’m pretending this water is coconut oil,’ she says. ‘Now turn over Lemonthyme, I need to do your back.’

‘You’ve already done her back,’ says her sister. It’s true, this is the second time Lemonthyme is being coated from head to toe in my youngest water for the night. But my youngest doesn’t care for details like that. She is being the Mama, and its her favourite game.

‘Now I’ll do your bottom,’ she says, rubbing thoroughly. I wonder what her teachers must think of me at her school if she does this there. Do they think I spend this much time on her bottom? I swear I don’t.

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Homeschooling… No, well, maybe…

‘I’m going to school today,’ says my youngest, dancing down the stairs to the kitchen. She’s been home sick for the whole week, and while I’m hanging for her to go back so I can write, so I can work, so I can rest, burdened as I am with the virus she so kindly sneezed all over my face. There’ nothing like being splattered with a loved one’s mucus. But she fell asleep at about 3pm yesterday, slept until after 5pm and then went back to sleep again at 7.30pm. Unheard of for her. This is the girl who I had to force to drop her day sleep at 2 years old because whenever she slept she would remain wide awake until well after 11pm. Enough to destroy what was left of her mother’s sanity. So I was not quite so convinced that school was a good idea just yet. Not matter how much I wanted it.

Her older sister, who had decided the night before that she would not be going to school today as it was ‘unfair’ that she had to go when her sister did not, woke up with a raging fever. She’s a powerful little being. I am not sure if she too was sneezed all over or if she just willed the fever into existence to prove a point.

As soon as my youngest got wind of this strange turn around, and realised that she would be going to school while her sister stayed home, the water works started. ‘I don’t want to go to school,’ she wailed so loudly I’m sure our neighbours were left wondering what strange and unusual punishment we had concocted for our three-year-old.

My husband was clear, she was well enough for school. As she writhed around on the floor, I considered it might be possible, but I was reluctant to send her back too early. Plus, there was no way I could get her sister into the bike to go and pick her up from school should we be wrong. So home she stayed.

A year or so ago I started following a delightful blog about a woman who had seven children, for that I was ready to erect a statue to her. But she also chose to homeschool. I was wondrous and amazed. I love my children but the idea of homeschooling makes my ovaries want to crawl up into my spine. My biggest challenge as a mother has always been the relentlessness of it all. When they were both home from school, trying to get any time to myself was near impossible and it exhausted my spirit. I loved playing with them, and caring for them, not so much the washing, folding and putting away of all of their clothes, and I definitely grew to despise scraping egg yolk from tables. I love setting up spaces for them, creating cupboards that make sense of their toys, and shelves to organise all of the creative outlets we explore together. We collect spring blossoms to hang on their book tree (a book case shaped like a tree, branches and all), we paint, we craft, we colour, we cook and take care of our plants, but when my husband is a away for weeks at a time and they are sick, I return to those earlier dark days, of sleep deprivation and relentlessness and my spirit shudders. No reprieve. No time. No space. ‘I want…’, ‘I need…’, ‘get me …’

And so I admired this woman for being able to embrace the everydayness of her life, the relentlessness of her tasks, the unfinished state of her projects, the lack of personal space, within her body, and in her home. Those babies of hers are always around her. Always. And she seems happy.

‘I could never home school,’ I told my husband one night, the blue glow of my phone dancing on the wall, as I read another post of hers. I laughed with her at the unfinished washing, and the sense of chaos that life with young children can create. I admired her, but in the way that I was grateful her life was not mine.

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To be loved like this

‘Mama, Mama, Mama…’ says my youngest, wrapping herself around my head like a boa constrictor. She presses her soft cheek against mine. I can feel her cheekbones. Her limbs slither about me, and then she rests. She can’t possibly be comfortable. I know I’m not, but it’s nice to be loved like this. My eldest loves on her own terms, and affection is given out in much smaller doses.

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A tree doesn’t apologise for itself it is simply a tree…

For as long as I can remember I’ve been apologising for myself, for my life. ‘You apologise too much,’ says my husband, his brow furrowing in confusion and frustration when I say to him, ’I’m sorry you’ve had a bad day.’

‘How is that your fault?’ he asks every time.

‘It’s not, its empathy,’ I explain. Which of course makes no more sense to him than the original apology. Empathy is not something he understands, neither the theory or the practise. For him, it’s a waste of time, but bless him, he’s been rote learning how to say empathetic words because he knows that they are important to me. Sometimes it helps, sometimes I want to slap him, but it’s the best he can do.

Other times, though, I wind up apologising for my life.

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Oh, the fighting…

I remember when I was a kid, my Mum was always talking about how much my brothers and I would fight. She used to tell us that our Uncle, who happened to be staying with us at the time, would hide in the garage until we had left for school just to avoid the noise. My brothers and I would laugh. Now, I find myself saying something similar to my girls it makes me wince. My girls have discovered the art of fighting. Yelling, crying, whinging, hitting, pinching, taunting, you name it, it’s in their armoury.

Now, I say similar things to my girls, trying to find the ‘thing’ that will make the yelling and crying, the whinging and the hitting, the pinching and the taunting stop. You name it, it’s in their armoury.

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The new 20 somethings and social media

I scroll through my Instagram feed. I’m meant to be sleeping, and I really should be doing one of the many things that will actually help me get to sleep, but I’m not, I’m looking at Instagram. Suddenly I am face to face with the inside of my fridge. That’s strange, I think slightly delirious, did I post that? I didn’t post that. Why would I post a picture of the inside of my fridge? I know it is my fridge because even though it may be a well-organised piece of machinery, mostly because every Saturday after the Farmer’s Market, I cook and prep and set the fridge and freezer up for the week ahead in a weird game of Tetris that only I seem to know the rules to, it is not always clean.

Let me be upfront, I am a terrible cleaner, okay, I’m not, but I really hate doing it. I have strong memories of having to vacuum the kitchen, family room, bedrooms, bathroom, laundry, toilet and hallway before school every morning. Mum swears she only made me do that for a week to prove a point but I am sure it was much longer than that.

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On doing it all and the gift that is accepting help

We have an au pair. Yes, we have officially become that family. The one I only ever heard about in books and movies. The one I’ve heard people talk scathingly about and judge for ‘outsourcing’ their responsibilities. The one my husband has been suggesting we evolve into for years and I have stubbornly, dragged my feet (and my adrenals), kicking and screaming as I insisted, No, No, No, I could do it all, I would do it all, and in fact, I should do it all. I cannot do it all. My body has made it very clear that I should not be doing it all. And most importantly I’ve discovered, I do not actually want to do it all, not alone anyway. I’m not a very nice person when I’m doing it all.

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The power and freedom that comes with success

‘Wie kan ik helpen?’ asks the older woman behind the fruit and veg stand. Her long grey hair is plaited over the front of her head, and down into a long braid over her shoulder. It’s the same every week. Her face has the look of someone who has spent her life outside, working too hard. It’s weathered and lined, and a little stern, but it softens into a smile when she tells you which are the best vegetables to buy that week.
‘Mij, bedankt.’ I say, my stomach flipping about, but I am determined to get through this experience using as much dutch as I can muster. I get a smile, earlier than normal, and I feel like I’ve won a prize. As if I’ve somehow crossed over from tourist to tolerated expat.

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There were three in the bed and the little one said…

‘Mama, Mama,’ It’s 3am, and my eldest’s voice can be heard without the monitor. By the time I get down the stairs to her room, pillow in hand, because who am I kidding, I’m not getting back up those stairs tonight, she is crying.

‘My stomach hurts,’ she wails.

I aim the gizmo out her brow, no fever. I palpate her stomach, and she jumps a foot in the air when I get to her left side. Not appendicitis.

‘Want to sleep with me on the couch?’ I ask, my eyes open but not really awake.

‘She climbs in beside me, and I wrap my arm around her. She pushes my arm away. Close, but not too close, she’s always been like that. ‘Sit with me Mama,’ she would say and so I would snuggle up to her. ‘Don’t touch me, Mama,’ she would say, scowling at my neediness.

I close my eyes and slip back into sleep.

‘How come I can’t sleep with you?’ asks my youngest five minutes, ten minutes, an hour later, I’ve no idea, time is nonexistent now, I just know its night time and I’m not sleeping.

‘Hop in,’ I say lifting the blanket at the other end of the couch,’ knowing before she says anything what is coming.

‘I want to sleep next to you.’

‘There’s not enough room, darling. You can sleep next to grace and I’ll sleep at the other end. But Grace isn’t well, that’s why I’m next to her. Remember how I slept next to you when you were sick.’

‘Okay,’ I love that she doesn’t fight with me on this. She simply snuggles in under the other end of the blanket, the cool pads of her little feet pressed against mine.

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