An Open Letter to My Mum for Mother’s Day

She picked me a handful of flowers today
Marguerites, pansies, some dandelions I had ferociously
attacked last autumn
but which had nevertheless survived

I looked into that expectant face
tendrils of hair falling against the wild flush of summer
in her cheeks
and knew that soon
there would be no more lovingly snatched flowers
or breathless smiles
quite like that

and so although they weren’t my kind of flowers
I put them in a vase
and kissed her
and listened to all the things she was trying to say

for childhood cannot be stilled
or put on hold until that last desperate moment
when,
feeling it flutter its wings against us
we clutch it too tightly,
too late

Like a bird
it will simply struggle
and fly away.

You wrote this poem about me when I was just a little girl, about the age Finley is now I imagine. You always had a way with words, with creativity and imagination being forefront to the hobbies you later developed into an art. So super talented and boy was I proud to be able to call you my mum.

I look back now and wonder if there were some divine intervention at play in my teenage years that neither of us were aware of. When all my friends were going through an ‘I don’t want to be seen dead with my mum’ stage I was looking forward to our Monday after school shopping trip and afternoon tea at McDonalds, not giving a second thought to all my friends and peers being at the same mall in groups, none of them hanging out with their mums for fun as an after school activity. We always used to share a thick shake and cheeseburgers taking it in turns to switch between your favourite, chocolate and my favourite, banana. The boys at school used to stare at us and whisper as they walked past but it wasn’t me they were looking at, it was you! I think you were quietly flattered to have so many young admirers, my to-be future husband one of them (little did I know then!). The cheeseburger tradition on a Monday is now something I share with my own son Finley on a Monday while Cohen is at kindergarten, except I have swapped the milkshake for a flat white. Perhaps the milkshake will make a reappearance in the future but for now with a three year old and two year old (and boys at that!), a strong caffeine infused coffee is more my cup of tea so to speak. These two boys are hard work! You would have loved them to pieces. 

I see you in Cohen sometimes, the way he will stare into space away with the fairies imagining who knows what. Nana says that is something you used to do as a child too, lost in your own little world. Cohen is more like me and Finn is definitely his fathers son and yet opposites attract, with Cohen trailing his father around like a shadow and Finley preferring me. Perhaps in later years that will change as I realise more and more just how alike we are as I get older. 

I’m 33 now which is only 7 years off the age you were when you found out you had breast cancer. I remember being in New York on 9/11 and your panic at wanting me to come home immediately. As a parent now I understand your panic, but little did I know at the time that part of the reason behind your hurry was that you had just been diagnosed and you needed me home with you. Life was never the same after that with the cancer hanging over us all like a dark cloud, even in remission. 

When it came back I don’t think I ever comprehended the finality of it all.

I had loved and lost before, first with Grandad and then with Aunt Deb. But truly, who can imagine a life without their rock and best friend? I recall a friend at high school losing her mum when she was around 16 and I just couldn’t fathom at the time how she had the strength to go on. 

Just 5 years later there I stood in her shoes.

I remember it all happening very quickly. One minute we were in a cafe having a lovely lunch as a family and being in denial that the cancer was back and what that meant, the next I was being called into the bosses office at work early in the morning and told to go straight to the hospital because you had been admitted after waking one night with tingling in your legs that turned into paralysis literally overnight. I spent practically every day thereafter at the hospital. To me it seems like it was months but it can’t have been, though I don’t actually remember for how long it was. I remember we used to hang out and talk about our favourite TV shows, read gossip magazines and drink coffee from the hallway coffee cart. I still didn’t comprehend it. Who can? 

But you never came home again.

I don’t think even you knew or cared to admit you wouldn’t be coming home. You were still making big plans. You had giant scrapbooks at home filled with all the places you were going to go, some of them the places you had been before when you lived in London as a young, vibrant and beautiful woman full of promise and big dreams, before I came along and forced you to return home. I hope it was a decision you never came to regret, the decision to keep me and do it all on your own. Deep down I don’t think it was ever something you regretted, though it must have been an extreme change of plans for the life you had envisioned for yourself as a dreamy teenager imagining the adventures of Europe and the big impact you would have on the world with your talents. I must have altered your entire path.

Thank you for keeping me.

To this day I regret not being by your side when you passed away and from the depths of my heart, I am sorry. I just couldn’t do it. By then you were a shadow of yourself, you could barely open your eyes and my pain was too great after watching the woman I loved literally fade away to nothing. But in maturity I now see that I should have put that aside and been there the way I would want my sons by my bedside when I pass over. I can’t imagine them not being there. I was 21 and only thinking about myself as so many young people do. 

I hope you can forgive me.

I loved you so much.

Grief does funny things to a person. For me it manifested itself in irrational phobias that were never something that I feared before. It zapped my confidence. It locked me in a ‘paddock’, in a comfort zone that I still struggle to this day to step outside of. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 27 because it terrified me. Flying makes my heart race and makes me feel physically ill, so I avoid it at all costs. When walking alone around the neighbourhood or with the kids I am acutely aware of dogs and I am scared a stray dog is going to attack us, however ridiculous that sounds. At one point I wouldn’t even walk out to our letterbox alone. Social situations outside my group of friends are awkward encounters. Going some place new makes me incredibly nervous. Heights. Water. So many crazy things at complete odds with who I used to be before you left. I have heard however that these things are pretty normal and I am working on it for the sake of my own sons, I do not want them to grow up to fear the world. I need to try and make those changes and step outside of my ‘paddock’. It has been long enough. 

So Mum …

Happy Mother’s Day for every one of the 12 years that have since passed and the many more to come. You will always be remembered for the Shona that we knew.

Mother, daughter, sister, wife, niece and friend.

You touched so many lives and I hope you know how much you were loved as you took your last breath. 

Loved in every sense of the word.

I can only hope I leave behind an imprint on people’s lives as deep as you did on ours. 

Never forgotten.

mum-and-i3

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Hide and Seek Toddler Style

So, lately the boys have been wanting to play hide and seek a lot but our house is tiny. Like, 80 square metre tiny! And there are really only so many places this mum can hide. Still the game manages to play out like this every single time.

‘Mum! Muuuuum! Play hide and seek with us!’

Children run off to hide. I count to 10 and wander around the house saying all the places I am looking that I know they aren’t and avoiding the one place they always are. I mean always. It’s like Groundhog Day over and over and over again. Finley (the little one) is always in the linen closet and jumps out within 10 seconds of my saying ‘Ready or not here I come!’. Boom, out pops the 2 year old gleefully announcing ‘Here I am!’ followed by giggling from under the duvet on my bed (doona for you foreign folk).

Next up is my turn to hide. The three year old counts to 10 like he is in a speed counting race and I have about 3 seconds to hide behind a door. About 15 seconds post ready or not the 3 year old is crying.

Mummy is GONE! She’s gone invisible!

Followed closely by wailing and tears. Yes, real tears. Wet tears. Seriously, 15 seconds. I then have to giggle or bang the wall or something to show him I am not invisible and I am just hiding.

Then we repeat.

Linen closet, duvet, tears, repeat. Linen closet, duvet, tears, repeat.

Please tell me I am not the only one!

What games do you play in your house and how do they play out?

I think we need a new game.

Speaking of Fruit Flies …

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So Mr Google told me that of all the animal kingdom, a fruit fly has the shortest attention span of all, followed closely by the goldfish. I would be inclined to add myself to that list.

I am terrible for getting a sudden obsession with something, starting it and not finishing it before moving on to the next thing. The best example of this is gardening. My husband didn’t want a bar of it so with two little boys underfoot I set about digging my own garden over summer. It is hard work! I became obsessed with Pinteresting garden design and visiting garden centres. The pros to being under 50 and in a hardware/garden centre is that you inevitably get lots of help from the men who frequent these stores. Whether it be the staff, the tradies or the random do-it-yourselfer, I somehow managed to get all the things I needed transported to my car with very little effort at all – trees, pavers, bricks, compost, you name it. It got to the point that I was driving out of town to garden centres because I was too embarrassed by how many times I had been to the local stores and I couldn’t face going back. Again. So I got my garden all dug out and planted over about 5 weeks of summer and then I had a brilliant idea.

A dry creek bed.

Yep. I saw one on Pinterest. How hard could it be? So abandoning my garden (which was now starting to sprout a few weeds) I set to work to create one of these:

unnamed

Or these:

Or something like this:

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You can see where this is going. Digging a dry creek bed is harder than digging a garden because you have to dig deeper, you have to collect rocks, you have to lay out weed mat and place the rocks in the perfect position to mimic a meandering stream bed. I fear my dry creek bed may turn into a ‘Nailed it’ version of the above examples.

Here is mine:

image

Please keep in mind it is a work in progress. Was. Because now it is cold and I have rediscovered blogging. I suddenly have a million posts in my head. My writing block has lifted. And this is the problem. Half finished dry creek bed next to my weed garden that is now being taken over by a pumpkin I never knew I planted.

Yep, I am clearly a fruit fly. 

The 5 Chores Impossible To Do Efficiently with Small Children

On the weekends I always have to catch up on all the housework including the endless piles of washing that need to be washed, dried and then the worst part – folded. I hate folding washing with a passion, for me it is one of the most tedious aspects of housekeeping and I always end up with massive piles that get dumped on the bed and grow into an insurmountable pile that some refer to as Mount Washmore. But what is worse than humongous piles of washing that you need to fold? Trying to fold it with little helpers.

You all know what I am talking about. The mini ‘helpers’ that continually unfold the washing that has been folded, that think it is there to be tossed up in the air like confetti, that grab it and put it on their head and run around squealing and that ‘help’ to put it away while dropping it all down the hallway floor like a trail of crumbs.

Like this:

Cleaning-Low

Don’t you just love your mini helpers that make what used to once be easy efficient household chores into the battle of the century?

Here are the other 4 household chores on my list that are impossible to do efficiently with young children …

1. Unload/load the dishwasher

Trying to stop them standing on the lid and tipping the whole thing over is the first challenge, then it’s a race to get all the sharp knives out before they stab: A. Themselves; or B. Their brother/sister/dog/you. Then come the small hands passing you the breakables quicker than you can put them away while simultaneously trying to ‘load’ the dishwasher with dirty dishes before it is properly unloaded and slamming the door shut while the drawers are still out sending the whole lot crashing into the back. I deem this chore perfect for husbands who get home before you or once said child/children are in bed.

2. Vacuuming

Ah, vacuuming. The preparation of clearing all the floors in order to vacuum that the mini me’s deem the perfect opportunity to dump their whole box of Lego/blocks on the floor and spread them around for good measure. Or open the vacuum cleaner and tip the contents of the vacuum bag all the way down the hallway. Or yell ‘my turn!’ over and over while trying to take the handle off you. Or if you are reeeeeally lucky they are scared of the sound of the vacuum and cry great huge sobs the whole time screaming ‘TURN IT OFF! NOOOOO!’. I only know this because I have the child who does that at Nana’s but at home he loves the vacuum cleaner. Strange child. Unfortunately this is one chore usually unsuitable for post bedtime and so you just have to suck it up and endure it. And then they usually tip a whole bag of chips out on the floor straight afterwards anyway, so really, why bother?

4. Make the bed

Usually they see this as the perfect opportunity to either jump on the bed or hide under all the blankets and play peek-a-boo.

5. Bake

How many times have you had to try and clean up spilt sugar or flour, fished broken egg shells out of the mix or better yet, had to clean up broken eggs off the floor that they took great pride in smashing while you had your back turned? Or they stand at the oven screaming they want a cookie and don’t understand that they need to actually cook and then they need to cool down before they are able to be eaten? Then you spend the next 40 minutes with an inconsolable child trying to explain this to them while they think you are the meanest mummy in the whole wide world trying to hold out on them and not let them have a cookie (that probably has broken egg shells and an extra helping of sugar/flour/baking powder in it anyway).

Yep, thought so.

What would you add to this list? And what is your least favourite chore?

Joining the #IBOT party over at EssentiallyJess today. A big welcome to anyone visiting for the first time!

Two Year Olds 

tractor_1

Usually I like to take some time to think up a catchy blog title but anyone with children usually understand what a simple exasperated ‘Two Year Olds’ probably intones and it is usually followed by commiserating looks and murmurs and recollections of the terrible twos.

Finley was 2 in December and having a full blown tantrum has started to become an epic event. All at once funny, embarrassing and infuriating. Cohen wasn’t really a tantrum thrower, he was far more relaxed and had a limited vocabulary at this age, so in hindsight I see how spoilt I was the first time around.

Finley is making up for that in bucket loads.

So, yesterday I decided to stop at the beach on the way to pick up Cohen from kindergarten. Some lovely sea air and a walk was a nice easy way to tire out my youngest child who had already refused his nap. Our local beach is two minutes down the road from us and there are three car parking areas – a middle car park by the surf club and a car park at either end of the beach by the boatsheds on each side. Since it was on my way I decided to stop in the middle car park and give him the run around towards our boatshed at the other end. The whole time he made a beeline for that boatshed and our tractor (as pictured above) because honestly, what little boy doesn’t want to play on a tractor all day? After some convincing and going up and down a set of stairs 3 4 times we went back to the car and drove to collect Cohen. This is where it started to get interesting.

‘Do you want to go to the beach boys or go home?’

Chorus from the backseat ‘BEACH!’

Ok then, they both agree. Brilliant. Challenge #1: Getting them to agree to said destination/activity complete.

Since Finn had spent the entire time at the beach wanting to go to the boatshed I decided to just go straight there and park on the beach right outside. Makes sense right? Of course it does! Why walk 15 minutes to the boatshed when you can park right in front of it? So I pull up.

Tears. Instant. ‘No want this beach! Other beach! No want this one!’

‘Finley, this is the same beach. You wanted to go to the boatshed’

‘No want it!! No! Other park mummy! No want this one! No want this beach!’

‘Finley, don’t be silly. We are at the beach. You love the beach! Look, the tractor!’

I drag him out of the carseat kicking and screaming (seriously, kicking and screaming). What two year old doesn’t like the beach?!

Plonk. Face down in the sand. Muffled sobs and ‘No want this beach!’ omit from child. Get out second child who is happy as larry to be at the beach and wants to get running to play on the rocks further down. I decide to take the ‘leave them and hope they follow’ approach. Get about 10 metres down the beach. Child has not followed and is wailing louder. Turn and go back.

Now, this is the time to note that there were other people in these boatsheds watching with great amusement. They know my husband so I am pretty sure this will get around and become a great joke. One of the guys actually came down and offered me some chocolate bars for the boys, trying to help (bless him) and commented that F was a feisty one. Yep. So I was very conscious of the fact that we were actually the main show brightening up their quiet afternoon.

After 10 minutes of this I decided, right, that’s it! He wanted to go home and so while going home is usually the punishment, at this point it was giving in. Two can play this game. So I hefted him up under my arm like a football and carried him down the beach. By this point, people were making no attempt to hide their entertainment and were openly standing at the doors of their boatsheds watching the show with big grins on their faces. I kid you not. So I carry him down the beach still crying and say ‘I know Finn! Why don’t you jump in this puddle! You love puddles!’ and put him down.

PLONK. Face down in puddle. ‘No want puddle! No want it!!’

So now I have a soaking wet sand covered child screaming instead of just a screaming child. Great. He then gets up and stalks back to the car where he then lies flat on the sand like a plank, face down in silent protest.

At this point with echoes of laughter (not mine) I decide that it is time to go home. Fighting with a stubborn two year old for 30 minutes in front of an audience is not my cup of tea and in the end his ability to remain stubborn bet out my ability to fight him. And I was by then in desperate need of a coffee. A strong one.

And all because I parked in the wrong place.

Two year olds!

What irrational moments has your child had lately or what is one that stands out as memorable?

Linking up with EssentiallyJess and doing IBOT for the first time. Thanks for popping by!

A Tale of Chaos and that Darn Lunch Box ..

For some reason getting up at 5am to be at work by 7am is far easier than having a day off and doing kindy drop off by 8.30am. I hate kindy drop off with a vengeance. In fact, I hate everything about getting ready for kindy. I can meet a deadline on an important job at work with less stress than I can prepare a ‘school house’ lunch box. Seriously.

Since when did putting together a kindy/school lunch box become so complicated?

Since I had the fussiest child on earth.

Does anyone else add fruit to a school lunch box for show knowing full well that said child will not touch, let alone eat it? No? Let’s be honest here! I have to do batches of stewed apples on weekends to disguise into weetbix in order to get fruit in these boys. C has always had a strange phobia of touching some textures of foods (namely fruit and vegetables – convenient?) so disguising has become part of my repertoire. School house lunches on the other hand are a bit of a nightmare for me with a child who only really likes white foods. Bread (plain, no butter or any other spread/filling must go anywhere near it), rolls (as above), biscuits (must be baked to avoid any ‘may contain peanuts’ warnings which is fine but means many a late night panic of baking before a kindy day and then there is the big question of how many biscuits are acceptable a day when it is all they will probably eat?), chips (plain, usually come home untouched and soggy). I then find myself topping up with things that look good but will be uneaten for the most part (sweetcorn fritters, potatoes cubed and seasoned, even pizza!). Why I go to so much effort when I know he won’t touch them is beyond me (ok, maybe because I hope that one day he might try it and surprise me but mostly because I can’t exactly send him off with three slices of plain bread and 5 biscuits).

This does not go unnoticed by the kindy teachers who have approached me with concern at how little he eats. So stress #1 leads to stress #2 – drop off. For some unknown reason I can never get them out the door in time. The juggling act of getting them up, dressed, fed and out the door just continually turns to chaos. Then juggling two children into the building and dragging the kicking and screaming two year old out of the sand pit and back out the door while the three year old is standing there saying ‘Ok mum, BYE now’ in a ‘please hurry up you are cramping my style’ tone of voice, is just the icing on the cake. And yet all the other mums (and dads) look so relaxed while I feel like I have run a marathon. I come home literally exhausted and it’s not even 9am.

Am I the only one out there or is this a universal problem that we are all just good at disguising?

Playing House

Somehow the idea of playing house was a lot easier in my dreams of having a family (much like the idea of getting pregnant being easy, the idea of leaving high school for the big bad world being easy, the idea of doing it all being easy). The idea of losing weight after babies being easy. But that is a whole other post! Back to the topic at hand …

A 3 year old boy and a 2 year old boy require about the same amount of exercise as 6 farm dogs to be tired enough to sleep at night. Or 2 Labrador puppies. Hence we have had sleep issues for years now. I am not even joking. At 11 months old F was in hospital with a bad virus and decided on me was the only place to go to sleep at night. Fast forward a year and he still felt I was the only place to go to sleep at night. This became exhausting and meant I had no time out in the evenings. C then decided that he needed to come into our bed in the middle of the night and F soon followed suit. Then they both decided sleep was for sissies. Fun times! I conclude that this was my punishment for having babies who slept through from 5 weeks old.

Until they didn’t.

Lack of sleep for extended periods of time does funny things to a person. Essentially my memory has been fried. This makes work difficult when I can’t remember which customer I was serving, I forget I took someone’s passport and immigration papers and it takes tears to return them half an hour later when it suddenly clicks that I had indeed served them (oops!) and I have the attention span of a fruit fly (I may or may not have googled that, google is awesome, especially when you tell it you have x,y and z wrong with you and it tells you you are dying). Anyway, what was I talking about again?

Right, so lack of sleep can really stuff you up (did I already say that?) and I am at the point where I literally feel like I might be going crazy (in a hormonal evil witch way, a which way is up way and a ‘CHOCOLATE!’ kind of way – hence the weight thing becoming an issue). My solution over summer was to drink lots of beer (on top of the coffee addiction). Unfortunately after months of multiple beers a night I realised that alcohol was making the problem of being snappy and grumpy and just not a box of fluffies worse. I’m not depressed, I’m just exhausted with two very full on (F is VERY full on) little boys on a few hours sleep a night, 5am wake ups, a full time job, a commute home, 2 hours in the evening with which to stay on top of house work and cook dinner (enter exhibit number 2 causing weight gain – easy meals. Sausages in bread, sausage rolls, pies, pasta, rice – pretty much anything that does not include anything green or rather, anything one might consider healthy).

So yes, I am a balanced crazy. But nobody wants to admit that they find it hard do they?

Does anyone else often feel crazy from this full time job called parenting where you have tiny little unpredictable humans driving you slightly insane while being completely loveable at the same time?