Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Time for some blogging confessions

This week, I realised my blog has been hanging around the blogosphere for six months now, so I decided it would be a nice idea to celebrate its half birthday ...

Do you like the ugly cake I made to celebrate? I thought I'd better point out that it's supposed to look like a ½ , seeing as certain members of this household couldn't work out what it was supposed to be! Hmmmph.

I'm linking up late with Kristy for her I Must Confess blog hop and also with Jess and her IBOT team for  I Blog on Tuesdays. I have to admit that I do have quite a few blogging confessions to make. Deep breath.

I must confess that when I opened up this blogger account six months ago, I really absolutely no idea what I was doing. Except for stumbling across other blogs through googling something specific, I had never actively sought out and read other blogs before. In the first weeks since starting to blog, I remember reading about the fact that blogging can become highly addictive. I remember laughing when I read that and thinking How? Surely you just write whatever you've got to write whenever you feel like writing it. What could possibly be addictive about that? When I think about that now, I realise how naive I was when it came to blogging because ...

I must confess that I am well and truly aware now just how addictive blogging can be. There is something undeniably thrilling about reading a positive comment that someone has left on a blog post. Over the last half year, I don't think a single day has gone past that I haven't thought about my blog in some capacity, even if I haven't had the chance to get on the computer every day. I can honestly say now that I would give up coffee, wine and chocolate all at the same time before I'd give up blogging. Heck, I'd even give up shaving my legs.

I must confess, that when I started blogging, I was a complete klutz when it came to technology. Not a whole lot has changed really but to put things into perspective, I still had a nokia pre-paid phone (I upgraded a few months ago so I could take photos for the blog on the phone), I had no idea how to do a 'link' within a blogpost, learning Hebrew seemed easier than learning the basics of HTML and I had only vaguely heard of instagram and pinterest. For about the first six weeks,  I thought a blog party was something you needed a specific invitation to. Seriously. A month after starting my blog, I remember saying to my sister, Rosie, on the phone "Have you heard on this pin-interest thing?" "It's called pinterest," said she, "and yes I have". She didn't say "and so has every other person in the Western World born after 1950". That's why I love her; she never makes me feel stupid.

I must confess that it was Rosie who prompted me start a blog in the first place. To stop myself from going insane in those isolating weeks after my daughter was born, I had picked up a pen and written two articles - one which I called The Washing Whine and the other The Problem with Prams. I told Rosie on the phone one night that I thought I might try to write a few more and see if there were any online magazines that might want to publish them. I didn't have any high hopes of becoming a writer, I was just craving mental stimulation and let's be honest, I would have loved to have seen something I'd written actually published. "You have to get a blog", she told me outright. "Why?" I asked her back. She'd told me this before, but it was never something I'd taken seriously. "Because wanting to become a writer in the twenty-first century without having a blog is like wanting to become a writer in the sixteenth century without owning a quill". The next day I started this blog.

I must confess that I have been a little disappointed at times by the reaction of some of my friends and family towards this decision and sometimes I wonder if I'm the only blogger out there who feels like this. Some people have been enthusiastic and encouraging and I am enormously grateful for that. I suppose I had sort of expected that once I told my nearest and dearest that I had started a blog, that they would follow the blog in some capacity, because that is what I'd do for them. Only a few of them did. When I told one friend that I'd started a blog, she said "about what?" I suppose it was a genuine question, but the way the words came out of her mouth made me think that I really had nothing to offer the world. I wasn't a marvellous crafter, an expert psychologist, an incredible cook or an award-winning photographer. It made me feel like I was boring and not passionate enough about anything and that the whole process would be a waste of time. I told another friend who I hadn't seen for a while that I had a blog and she laughed and said "Oh no, really?!" and I wondered do some people think that people who write blogs are nerds with no friends in the real world and nothing better to do? I was quite shocked because not only do I have an abundance of both things to do in the real world and people to share them with ...

I must also confess that blogging has really motivated me to live my everyday life to the full. It has pushed me to learn more about technology and to challenge myself to take better photographs. I have definitely become a better cook since I started, because I'm often trying out new recipes that I find on other people's blogs, especially things I found over at  Simply Sugar and Gluten Free with Amy, Everyone Eats Right with Eileen, Bake, Play, Smile  with Lucy,  The Veggie Mama with Stacey,  The Crafty Expat with Rita and Fresh Home Cook with Jodie. Most of all, blogging has helped me to start overcoming my fear of being judged. Pressing that publish button is not always an easy thing to do. You risk exposing yourself and putting yourself up for ridicule. I honestly believe that over the course of pressing publish 45 times, I have become a more assertive and confident person in my everyday life. Does anyone else feel that too?

I must confess that blogging has caused me to do some ridiculous things too, like running outside in my PJs to take a photo of the ground outside my letterbox for this post and setting alarms for one o'clock in the morning so that I can actually fit in some time to blog.

I must confess that I have inadvertently broken most if not all of the unwritten rules of the blogosphere. I really should have done my research better before starting a blog, but then again, if I had known what I was getting myself in for, I may never have been brave enough to start. I have well and truly put my foot firmly inside my virtual mouth on more than one occasion too. Once, I accidentally wrote in a comment box "I am not following you on bloglovin', instead of 'I am now following you on bloglovin'". You'd think I would have learnt how to proofread, considering I used to be an English teacher. Luckily, my sister checks my blog daily to proofread my posts for me. I am often rushing them to get them down before the baby wakes up or in time for a link-up, or I'm just so tired sometimes that my fingers write things my brain doesn't remember me doing later. You know the feeling?

I must confess that, at times, blogging has become a point of contention in our household. My partner can't understand my urgency to finish a post in time for a link-up or the necessity of commenting on other people's blogs. Essentially, it's a cultural thing. Many women in Italy do have blogs, but very few of these women are mothers in southern Italy. There are hobbies in southern Italy that are deemed honourable. These include knitting, sewing, embroidery and other crafts associated with home-making. I'm going to be perfectly frank: writing a blog for the sheer pleasure of writing does not constitute as a good use of a mother's time. Although my partner has accepted that blogging is something that I love doing and will often compliment a photo I've taken, I know for certain that if I woke up one day and said "I'm over this blogging phase. I now realise that it's all been a waste of time and I want to use the time I've been spending on the computer concentrating on cleaning the house" that he'd be secretly over the moon. I recently found a fantastic blog called I should be Mopping the Floor. What a great title for a blog. That's pretty much how I feel most times I sit down to blog

But don't worry, it still doesn't motivate me to mop the floor.

I must confess that, despite how much I love reading and writing blog posts,  there have been times when I've wondered if I have really been wasting my time. At the beginning of this journey, my sister told me that she'd read in several places that "it takes six months". So this week, I've been wondering: six months to what? Six months have gone by and my stats are still very ordinary and my following is still very modest. But then on the weekend, I checked my gmail account for the first time. I knew vaguely that when I opened my google+ profile attached to the blog that a gmail account opened automatically, but I never bothered to check it. Who would bother to write to me? And how would anyone know the address anyway? Well to my surprise, I found a handful of people had written me individual messages, including the editor of Mamapedia who told me she wanted to published my blog post Once, On Halloween on the site. I quickly wrote back to her, but she had written to me on 30th October and had wanted to published the post in time for Halloween and I got back to her three and a half weeks later and so I missed the boat. From a blogging perspective, I committed the mother of all muddle-headed muck-ups, but I learnt two valuable lessons: one, it pays to check your email and two, people out there may love what you're doing, even if you have no idea that they do, so never go thinking that you are wasting your time. If you love to blog, chances are there are people out there who love to read your blog.

I must confess that six months ago, I remember reading the words blogging community several times and thinking how can there be such a thing? I couldn't quite grasp the concept that bloggers could connect and bond across the blogosphere. I'm happy to say now that I know exactly how that can happen and I am delighted to have begun to develop relationships with many awesome bloggers, including these women, all of whom are incredible for different reasons:

Rita from The Crafty Expat

'Me' from My Journey

Janine from Janine's Confessions of a Mommyaholic

Lizzi from Considerings

Kristi from Finding Ninee

Emily from Mama Going Solo

Janet from Redland City Living

and many, many more. One day I hope to meet the women I've connected to through blogging in person. Living three hours from the most isolated city in the entire world might make that difficult, but if ever you guys find yourselves in the south-west of Western Australia, make sure you let me know.

And finally, I must confess that since I started to blog, I have experienced several major upheavals in my life. These are not things that I blog about. Not yet anyway. I'm pretty sure I would be right in saying that every blogger holds a part of themselves back from their blog. My blog has been my constant companion throughout these upheavals though, as a means of refuge and escapism. Everybody needs refuge and escapism I think, whether they get it from knitting or embroidery or typing strings of silly words together at one o'clock in the morning. And all this has brought me to the conclusion that

So what does blogging mean to you? What have you learnt since you started your blog? And what surprises did your blogging journey have in store for you? 

My Home Truths

Friday, 22 November 2013

Oh so thankful for resting places

Today I'm joining in early with Lizzi and her team for the Ten Things of Thankful bloghop and also with KateJanineKristi and Stephanie for the Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop, where the prompt this week is "Right now, I'm thankful for .....". So two posts with one stone this week!

I've got to say, right now I'm really, really thankful for resting places. Because rest is a thing none of us ever get enough of, so when I do get the chance to rest my rear end in any place at all I feel grateful. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to my top ten rear end resting locations ...

1. This fabulously funky and incredibly comfortable chair at our local library. On our fortnightly visits, Ben and I choose our books then he flops onto a beanbag and I arrange myself on this marvellous piece of furniture to read. If the chair happens to be occupied by another patron, I glare them down until they move.

2. Just outside the library, there is a Japanese garden. On fine days, we sometimes sit here and read for a few minutes before heading home. Afterwards, I always feel like I've been on a little holiday (clearly it's been a while since I've been on a real one!)

3.  Depending of the weather, after I've done the food shopping I often like to park the car at the Busselton Jetty, which is literally about a minute's drive from the supermarket, and sit for a little while with my baby girl on the blue bench you can see here to the right of the lamppost.  We never stay for very long (I wouldn't want the ice-cream to melt in the car now would I?) but those couple of minutes between the supermarket and the drive home just help me to collect my thoughts and relax.                                                                                                                                                                

Here is my view from the bench. The Busselton Jetty is 1.8km (a bit longer than a mile) long and is the longest jetty in the southern Hemisphere. 

4.         The bench outside Ben's classroom. If I arrive a little bit before pick-up time in the afternoon, I have a couple of minutes to sit on this spot on the bench while I'm waiting for him. I love listening to the children singing goodbye (yes, singing :) to their teacher and I always feel better if I have that 'bench time' rather than arriving after the siren has gone and the kids have already streamed out onto the verandahs.                                                                                                                                                       

5.     This is my other favourite resting place at Ben's school. Sometimes in the afternoons the mum of one of his friends stays behind to help with school craft projects and Ben asks if he can stay and play with his friend for a while. I sit with my baby girl on this bench that looks over the oval and watch them play from a distance. I feel like I'm keeping an eye on them without intruding on their play and it's beautiful to see how these little men joke and muck around together.

6.     The bench at my beach. From walking out my front door to dipping my toes in the ocean is a 90 second walk. I like to go for a little stroll up to this bench and then back again. It takes about ten minutes each way. I always stop and sit on the bench for a few minutes before heading back. Watching and listening to the ocean has always been a form of meditation for me.                                                                                                                                                       

Here is my view from the bench: a thousand acres of sky. 

7.   My {no-longer} rocking chair.  When I was pregnant with Ben in 2004 and living in Darwin, his dad found this rocking chair at a garage sale. He spray painted it white and it became my breastfeeding chair. In its travels back and forth between removal trucks and storage units it somehow lost its rockers, but its still a wonderfully comfy chair and on fine days, I like to put it in a shady spot in the garden. When Annalisa is getting restless, she always calms down when I take her outside. The fresh air and all the shades of green have a soothing effect on both mummy and bubby.                                                                                                                                                    

8.      This swing at our local park that I call the Spider Web.  Now that the weather's fine, I sometimes  take both kids to the park and while Ben runs off and makes friends with anyone and everyone, I like to rock  back and forth on the Spider Web with Annalisa.

9.     Our hammock. Actually, all four of us love it, so we have to take it in turns!                                                                                                                                                            

10.      And last, but definitely not least, is the best seat in the house, the one my Grandfather used to affectionately refer to as The Throne. I take no responsibility for the decor surrounding The Throne. I know it's hideous and even in sepia it's still as ugly as all get out. The moments I actually get to rest on The Throne with the door closed and no-one interrupting to ask what's for dinner or to recount a story that cannot possibly wait two minutes to be told  are as rare as hens' teeth, but when they do arise they are completely, utterly and indescribably blissful.                                                                                                                                                       

So how about you? Do you have a favourite resting place? And what are you thankful for right now?

Finish the Sentence Friday 

Ten Things of Thankful

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I Meant to Make a Friend at Mothers' Group

If one more well-meaning friend or acquaintance asks me if I made a friend at mothers' group, I swear to God I will throw a tantrum fit to rival even the most talented two-year old.

Just to make sure you don't accidentally make the same mistake yourself and inadvertently put my tantrum-chucking skills to the test, I will tell you the answer to that question: No, I did not.

I had wholeheartedly intended to find myself a nice new friend at mothers' group, really I had. I had stuck the reminder notice with the date of the first meeting on the fridge and had waited expectantly for the first of the six planned mummy meetings. I didn't realise at the time that two trips to the airport (one to pick-up and one to deposit my mother-in-law), two wretched days spent fighting a fever and one primary school choir eisteddfod would actually mean that that first meeting would also be my last and therefore my one and only chance to make a good first impression and hopefully a lifelong friend (actually never mind lifelong - a friend of any description would suffice).

On the morning of that first-and-last meeting, I even made an extra-special effort in the wardrobe department, casting aside my dearly beloved tracky pants and singlet top and donning a brand new skirt. It was a recent purchase from e-bay (even just the thought of going clothes shopping post-partum was unfathomable at the time). When I tried it on, I realised it was a bit too long for me, meaning that it was quite hard not to stand on the hem unless I lifted my feet off the ground in a rather exaggerated fashion. I decided that wasn't really a problem though and besides, it was a 'one-size-fits-all', and any item of clothing that doesn't discriminate on the basis of size (especially when I 'still look pregnant' as my son so flatteringly put it) is a winner in my book.

I also went to great lengths to ensure my notoriously unpunctual Other Half was ready on time to drop us off at the Community Centre. When I say 'on time', I mean we pulled up in the car park without a minute to spare, but that in itself was a colossal achievement on his part.

He helped us unload everything from the car, then drove off to work. I rushed into the Community Centre, only to discover it empty. I asked the receptionist where the Mothers' Group was and she looked at me blankly.

"Maybe they're meeting at the Community Centre in Kent Street", she suggested.

"Isn't this Kent Street?" I asked bewildered. I had had the reminder notice on the fridge for weeks and had assumed all the time that this street must have been Kent Street. I thought I lived in a small town. I thought small towns only had one Community Centre. I thought I had been super organised. Wrong, it turned out, to all of the above.

I frantically called my Other Half who luckily answered the phone. He turned the car around, came and picked us up and together we found the real meeting place of the newest mothers in Busselton.

By the time we pulled up in the car park, we were twenty minutes late.

I walked up to a door with 'Mothers' Group in Progress' sign on it, knocked and let myself in. The room was absolutely jam packed with mums and bubs and the conversation suddenly came to an abrupt halt as I entered the room.

"Hello!" said the leader, in a friendly but somewhat surprised tone, almost as if I turned up to a party I hadn't actually been invited to.

"I'm so sorry I'm late", I mumbled.

"Not a problem at all", she said kindly, "I'll just go and find you a seat".

I had been hoping to be able to slip quietly into the room and slide onto a free chair, but no such luck.She put down the whiteboard marker she'd been using to create some sort of brainstorm and left the room. An awkward silence descended upon the group in her absence and I stood there waiting around like a loose part. A few of the woman started to talk quietly among themselves, but nobody looked at me. Five minutes (which felt like fifty) later, she came back into the room. She was carrying a tiny little kindergarten chair under her arm.

"Sorry", she said, "This was all I could find."

I sat myself down on my little seat with my knees bunched up around my chin and my baby on my lap.

"So, where were we?" asked the leader brightly, taking a deep breath.

Everyone refocused their attention on her expectantly. Then she looked at me again.

"Oh that's right", she said, "You need a name tag".

I could feel the room let out a collective sigh of exasperation.

She handed me a sheet of sticky-back labels and a permanent marker.

With all eyes upon me, I uncapped the pen but I cracked under the pressure of performing this routine task for an audience, and dropped the lid on the ground. As I leaned over to pick it up, my baby girl squirmed in the opposite direction. The women on either side of me gasped.

"Are you okay?" The woman to my left asked with her eyes bulging in concern. In my flustered state, it appeared that I had almost dropped the baby. In front of a room full of strangers, I had almost let my precious little angel, who I had hardly ever let out of my sight since the day she was born, fall out of my arms. I was mortified.

"Yes. Thank you. I'm fine", I answered, my face burning red.

"Are you sure?" she asked me again.

To my right, I heard the woman next to me whisper "Oh my God", to the mother sitting on the other side of her. They had clearly never seen anything quite so irresponsible before in their lives.

I quickly grabbed the pen and scribbled my name down. It crossed my mind that a pseudonym might have been a good idea so that word about town could not get out that I was a baby-dropper. But then again, if anyone picked up on it somehow, word might get out that I was a pathological liar as well as a baby-dropper, so I opted for my real name.

"Now", said the leader again, "For most of you, this is probably your first experience of motherhood. Could I just have a show of hands though to see which of you have any other children?"

I assumed that several of the other mothers in the room would have other children at kindy or at school and so I shot my hand up without thinking that this would draw much attention to myself. Not so. I felt a shift in the room as all eyes, once again, turned towards me. In a room of what must have been at least twenty mothers, I was the only one with my hand in the air. I suddenly wished that I had raised it more inconspicuously; you know, a little half hand raise, or a slight raise of an index finger. Not the whole arm flung up in the air for all to see. Luckily, I was able to keep my baby steady with the other arm this time round. I could almost hear their collective thoughts as they stared at me: YOU have another child? Are you sure? How, exactly, did it survive its infancy?? 

I went through the motions of explaining the age of gender of this miraculously surviving offspring and then did my best to sink into my toddler-sized chair and slip under the radar.

Sometimes that's so much easier said than done though, isn't it?

After she had produced a symphony of flatulence of such volume that it halted the group discussion on more than one occasion and produced several nervous titters from the room at large, I decided I really had to leave the room and change my daughter's nappy in the adjoining room where a change mat was provided.

I had planned on doing this as discreetly as possible, but as I stood up to walk through the circle of chairs and cross the room, I trod on the back of my extra-long, elastic-waisted skirt, dragging it down from around my hips to reveal a good 10 cm of underpants. I may have made an effort in the clothing department that morning, but I had really not spared a thought for the quality of my undergarments, suffice to say that they were ancient, probably once white but now turned battleship-grey and probably not even worth keeping as a rag for scrubbing the floor. As I quickly yanked up my skirt, I did stop to count my blessings though. It could have been worse. At least I wasn't wearing one of those dental-floss-for-your-derrière numbers that I used to sport pre-motherhood.

By the time I got back from the nappy-change, I was really quite exhausted and all I wanted to do was sit down, relax and have a nice little chat to another nice new mother and find myself a nice new friend. A quick look at the clock told me I only had five minutes to do so though because I had to leave early to pick up Ben from school.

I turned to the lady on my left, who was nursing a gorgeous little bub in a green jumpsuit.

I decided I would be the one to break the ice. There are several ways I could have done this, I suppose, but there are some standard ways to pluck up an easy conversation with a new mum.

I took a deep breath, grinned at her and said: "He's gorgeous. What's his name?"

And just as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wished I could sink into my toddler chair and never be seen again.

"Her name", she smiled back at me through clenched teeth, "is Jessica".

So what about you? Did you manage to make a friend at mother's group? Say no, or I might just have to have that tantrum after all. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Turning Sad into Glad

Sometimes thinking of things to be thankful for is easy. Sometimes it's not. A few things happened this week which made me huff and puff and some other things happened which made me want to pull out my hair, but when I was reflecting on my first Thing of Thankful for this week's Ten Things of Thankful blog hop, it made me realise that sometimes good things come our way masquerading as bad things and our challenge is to unearth the good that exists in every situation.

1. On Friday, for example, Ben missed the bus to school. I had pointed out to him that if he took 35 minutes to eat a bowl of cereal, it was highly likely that he would miss the bus, but when I saw him heading back up the drive with tears streaming down his face because he had wanted to go to school so badly, I begrudgingly put on my walking shoes (it took almost another 35 minutes to find them), got his sister out of her cot and put her in the pram.

We had never walked to school before and I was not sure if we were even going to make it. For a start, I had never been able to take Annalisa for a walk in her pram that had lasted more than ten minutes before she had hit the high notes to let me know she had well and truly had enough. Added to that, the school is not exactly close to our house. I estimated it would take at least 45 minutes to get there. That would be an hour and half return; almost ten times longer than Annalisa had ever spent in her pram, but ...

We risked it and low and behold, she stayed asleep almost the whole way. We walked briskly (Ben had to run to keep up with me for some of the way) and so it only took 35 minutes. The best part though was that the walk itself was beautiful. The footpaths that we had to take bypassed the main roads and took us down little alleyways and patches of bush that we didn't even knew existed. Plus we saw:

* a paddock full of sheep with some adorable little baby lambs;

* a big mob of kangaroos hanging out together in another paddock and

* an enormous spider web which was covered in dew and had caught the morning light which had formed a beautiful rainbow inside it

(This photo comes from here. I was in too much of a hurry to stop and take a photo :)

While I was walking back home, I kept marvelling at how something that seemed so annoying initially had ended up turning out so well. Ben and I had some wonderful and unexpected encounters with nature that morning and when I got home, I felt more energised than I think I have since before I was pregnant with his sister. I doubt we'll make walking to school a regular thing from now on, but it definitely made me realise that in not exercising I am really missing out on something that makes me feel fantastic. I think the experience also taught Ben that it's not the end of the world when things don't always go according to plan and we can often find ways around our problems.

2. Ben turned nine not long ago and we organised a pool party to celebrate. To cut a long story short, we didn't get a whole lot of RSVPs to the invitations. I was quite annoyed by how inconsiderate some of the other mothers were to not even bother to RSVP, especially when that meant that I over-catered quite significantly. The positive side is that there were loads of leftover lolly bags (lolly is Aussie for 'candy', for my American friends) meaning that I have been pigging out on choccies on a daily basis ever since - maybe not so good for my waistline, but oh so good for my morale :)

3.I had to bake a batch of biscuits for a cake stall that Ben's class is putting on to raise funds for their next excursion. I left it to the very last minute and popped them in the oven in the morning while Ben was getting ready to go to school. In between telling him to hurry up and eat his breakfast and trying to do 37 other things at once, I got distracted and burnt the bejesus out of them. (I know, a photo would be good here, but I was too upset to think of it at the time).

I had just used up all the last of the ingredients making that batch and the only thing left in the cupboard that I could possibly use to make something appropriate was a gluten-free packet mix for profiteroles. I'd never made them before and had no idea if they would turn out, especially under pressure. But they turned out beautifully and Ben told me after school that Emily, the girl he has an enormous crush on, had bought one and had told him "Ben, your mum makes the best profiteroles in the world". That kept me smiling for at least two days straight.

4. I'm on a bit of a lasagne-making roll at the moment. I know they take quite a while to prepare, but it's always worth it to hear that chorus of mmmmmmmm go round the dinner table afterwards. The other night I was just putting a magnificent creation into the oven when the oven rack fell and the entire lasagne came crashing onto the kitchen floor. After I had a little cry and a sulk and seriously considered making everyone go to bed without any dinner, I cleaned it up, dug out a recipe book and tried a completely different recipe. Even though our dinner was late, it was delicious and I was so happy to have discovered something new (blog post on this new recipe to follow in the near future!)

5. Our coffee machine recently bit the dust. Not good. The plus side is that my partner has been going down to the café down the road each morning this week and buying us take-away coffee. Not so good for our budget, but it makes me feel very spoilt. It's a bit like going on a holiday without the holiday.

6. Our computer has been pretty slow lately. Not so good for someone who's becoming increasing addicted to blogging, but at least it has meant I've attended to some long-neglected housework and have revisited my bookshelf - something else I had neglected since starting this blog.

7. My partner lost his new pair of shoes this week. I know, I know, how do you lose a pair of shoes? (I suppose this highlights the exact extent to which I had neglected the housework). The plus side was that during the course of looking for them, we did locate the following items:

* the only potato peeler in the house that actually works;

* a whole lot of films I didn't even know we owned and

* a card that two of my students from last year had given me for my birthday. The message inside was so lovely and re-reading it made me feel all warm and fuzzy all over again ...

And yes, we eventually found the shoes too. He'd left them at our neighbours' place. As you do.

8.  Ben was playing around with the home phone last night and accidentally called someone whose number was saved in our phone but who we don't know very well. Nobody picked up the phone, but a little while later, I got a call back from a private number and a woman's voice said "I'm just returning a missed call". I apologised for disturbing her, but she didn't mind at all. Even though I've only actually met her twice in my life, we ended up talking for over an hour and arranged to catch up with her and her baby granddaughter next week.

9. Ben started Little Athletics a couple of weeks ago. Although three of the girls in his class are also going along, he was a bit disappointed that none of the boys in his class were interested in joining. We've been doing some carpooling these last few weeks and he has really started to get on well with the girls though and even spent one afternoon after athletics swimming with them in the pool at house of one of them. It's lovely to see him interacting so naturally with girls.

10. Ben's room was hideously untidy this weekend and cleaning it up was not what I felt like doing with my Saturday afternoon. I really had to use every trick in the book to cajole him into tidying it and even then he was still not co-operating. As a last resort, I reluctantly started to help him do it. He had so many clothes in his wardrobe that didn't fit him any more that we could probably have clothed the entire prepubescent population of Belgium. We ended up collecting four plastic bags full of clothes to donate to charity and Ben got really enthusiastic about the whole thing, saying "Can we donate this too?" over and over again, even for things that still fit him. I wish I'd taken before and after photos of the spring clean. By the end of it, the room looked great, we were both smiling again and we felt good that we'd not only de-cluttered but also been able to give to those in need.

Reflecting on the positives that I have found in this week's 'negatives' reminded me of a quote that I love:

Have a wonderful week everyone. xx

Ten Things of Thankful

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Athletics Carnival ...gooooo Red!

Ben had been counting down the weeks till his athletics carnival since last year. When the day he'd been waiting for finally arrived, he was just about jumping out of his skin with excitement. My parents drove the three hours down from Perth so they could be there to watch him. Unfortunately, we weren't given a program of event starting times, and we didn't think his main race would be as early as it actually did. Because they had a long drive and I had to wait for the baby to wake up, we all ended up arriving at the school just before the start of his race. I sprinted (well maybe not sprinted, but I went as fast as my legs would carry me!) down to the finish line so I could snap a photo of him with my phone. Ben's grandparents were in hot pursuit.

As you can see, it's not the best photo. My partner took a better one of him as he crossed the finish line last year ...

We were so happy though that we had arrived in the nick of time and so excited for him that he won (you're just going to have to believe me on this one since I cut out more than half the kids in the photo!). I was so excited I just couldn't hide it. I saw a man in front of me who I thought was my dad and slapped him on the back and said "He won!" The man turned around and I realised it was not my dad at all; it was the school principal. Oh dear. Let's rack it up to another muddle-headed moment.

Here are some other photos that I took of the carnival ...

(the boys of red faction)

 (tired baby sister watching her big bro)

(time to go home)

(home, but not quite hosed ... and all revved up for next year!)

P.S Ben did ask me if I would go in the parent/teacher race, but I quietly mentioned to him that after 
my experience in the teacher race at the school I taught at last year, it was probably best for everyone if I just gave it a miss.  

Linking up this {not quite} Wordless Wednesday post today with BreeTrish and thatsuburbanmomma

Twinkle In The Eye My Little Drummer Boys That Suburban Momma

Friday, 8 November 2013

Of Autumn and Innocence

I'm joining in with  Kate, Janine, Kristi  and Stephanie for the third time today for the Finish the Sentence Blog Hop, where the prompt this time is "When I was a little kid, I thought ...." Ah, there are so many ways I could finish that sentence, but I think I will treat you to just one little trip down memory lane ...

When I was a little kid, I thought that Autumn leaves were the most beautiful creation in the whole world.

At the age of four, I found a leaf in the garden, gave to it my mum and said "I found this for you". She turned it over in her hand, held it up to the light and said "It's beautiful, thank you so much. I'm going to keep it in a special place in my desk".

I remember feeling indescribably happy that I had been able to give her something that she treasured so much. After that, I spent the entire Autumn obsessed with leaves: every single time I saw a beautiful one (which was frequently, considering the time of year) I felt an uncontrollable urge to pick it up and give it to her. I wanted to relive that feeling of making her so happy over and over again.

Very quickly, she accumulated a collection of leaves in her desk that was so enormous that it had to be transferred to the top of her wardrobe, but still I kept collecting and collecting.

One day, my kindergarten teacher found me crying on the steps of the kindergarten house. "What's the matter, Elizabeth?" she asked me kindly. "My back hurts from picking up so many leaves", I answered between sobs. She spoke to my mum when she came to pick me up at the end of the day and between them they agreed that I needed a little break from kindy because, rather than playing with the other kids during lunch break, I spent all my time alone, lost in my own little world and my leaf-finding treasure hunt.

So instead of going to kindy, I stayed home with my mum for several weeks. At the age of four, she was still my entire world; more precious and more beautiful to me than any Autumn leaf could ever be. She would read to me aloud for hours, bake biscuits with me, play dolls houses with me and take me for little walks through our garden, our half acre of paradise.

The days rolled into each other and Autumn turned to Winter until one day, there were no more beautiful leaves left to collect. I went back to kindy. I started to play with the other kids. The leaves in the top of my mum's wardrobe eventually turned brown. Eventually, she said to me: "Elizabeth, the leaves have all dried up now. Do you think it would be alright if we put them in the bin now? There will be more lovely ones next year." I looked at them then and realised that their beauty had passed. I had thought that they would stay beautiful forever. I agreed that it would be okay to throw them out. I've never forgotten though that she asked for my permission before she did so.

Twenty-six times, Autumn has come and passed since then and although I have never collected leaves again with the same intensity, it has always been my favourite of all the seasons. Every once in a while, I see a particularly beautiful leaf and I pick it up, turn it over in my hand, hold it up to the light, and remember that despite all the challenges life has given me, how blessed I was to to grow up with a mother who loved me so much.

Years later, my mum told me a story. She was forty-one years old when I was born. That's not so unusual these days, but when she had her first child, at the age of twenty-seven, medical staff told her openly that that was "very late in life for a first pregnancy". Although some people obviously passed judgement at her decision to carry a baby in her forties, she told me there was one conversation that healed the sting of all the others.

She had gone to church one morning and after mass, she starting talking to the parish priest. He was a formidable Irishman in his late eighties at the time; originally a policeman, way over six foot tall and enormously respected throughout the community.

My mother told him that she was expecting a baby, a little surprise baby considering her age.

He smiled and placed his hand gently on her arm.

"How wonderful", he said. "It will be the child of your Autumn".

Finish the Sentence Friday