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School mother/friend: How are you?

Me: Oh, you know, all this rain. And then Bill and I fighting a lot this week, too.

School mother (smiling): Yes, Lauca told us you two were fighting.

Me: Oh god.

School mother: I’m just trying to remember what she said you were fighting about…

Me: Ohhhhhhh godddddddddddddddddddd.

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In our bedroom

This mirror is my new favourite place to take photographs since I set myself a resolution this year to get more comfortable with being photographed and nobody else is photographing me. I gotta lot of photographs of the mirror, which is ok, because it is the only real antique I own – it came from my great-grandmother – and I love it.

I like this photograph of us because Bill and I are both playing with electronic toys in the bedroom, it’s our thing. And Bill is making me laugh.

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We do these lists from time to time. See also, here. They might bore you silly, feel free to ignore them, they’re just a time capsule for us.

Mine.

  1. That you make your own lunch for school every day and that sometimes you even make my lunch for work. (Montessori winning!).
  2. Lately you’ve been interested in disability. You like to feel what it might be like to be blind and you ask about the lives of people with various disabilities..  and for a while you gave your dolls physical disabilities and converted their strollers into wheel chairs. I loved how effortlessly you explored all that – I loved that it was matter of fact for you, that it wasn’t playing with pity, just difference and variation in the world.
  3. I love that you can sleep in your own bed the whole night.. quite a bit now. I love that this meant you had your first successful sleep-over on the Xmas holidays.
  4. You really rise to a challenge these days. If work is set for you then you pretty much give it your best shot even when it is really hard work, like once you mistook an entire term’s worth of homework for one week’s homework and you just methodically worked away at it, morning and evening, until finally at the end of the week you burst into tears while we were getting ready for work and confessed that you didn’t have it all finished and that’s when I realised what you’d been trying to do, you poor darling little thing.
  5. You brush your hair and wipe your face this year, after years of me complaining about it. I really appreciate the effort.
  6. I like your hair. A lot. I just think your ponytail is the bees knees. You’re beautiful, little one. Your face is changing and sometimes you remind me of my best friend in high school. You have her pointy chin and her eyebrows and her dimple and her sparkly eyes. You mostly look like your father, but maybe there is a bit of this friend of mine in you, too. I don’t know how that works.
  7. You’re very resilient, you’re very adaptable. I feel like we’re doing well with you right now, like we haven’t totally broken you through our incompetence.
  8. You’re incredibly responsible and compassionate about animals. You always remember to feed and water your guinea pigs, and you get quite hysterical if your father is being lazy about closing the front gate in case our hens get out or dogs get in.
  9. I’m having this lovely peaceful moment with you as a parent right now. A lot of parenting feels like you have some balls in the air but not all of them at the same time, but right now, you’ve got it all going on and I am just enjoying this feeling so much. You’re really well-rounded all of a sudden – really enjoying your academic work and taking the challenges of being accelerated a grade in your stride, you’re developing all these new physical skills from your circus class (and envy-inducing flexibility), and you’re reading novels by yourself now, and you’ve got this happy little circle of friends you hang out with… and then you come home and make beautiful art and craft things.
  10. You’ve got amazing comic timing and you’re very perceptive. Like the time we were both crying – you, because you were upset for me and me, because I was feeling hurt and stressed out by something (completely separate to our little family) – and then we were talking about stress and worry and you said “well, you would know” with just this deadpan, perfect timing of yours and we both just laughed and laughed.
  11. We’ve talked about sex and drugs and rock n roll, when you’ve asked or we’ve come across something you need to know about (like used syringes in the park ) – but you’re still the kind of kid who refuses to watch PG rated movies in case they upset/scare you. It is people feeling sad or lost that you’re scared of seeing and I like that about you. You have such a combination of social justice worldliness and sweet, little kid innocence. You point out sexism and racism to me all the time when you see it. But you wouldn’t want to see a cartoon fox get its tail shot off.

His.

  1. You are finally reading. And you prefer it to being read to.
  2. Seeing how much stronger and physically able you are becoming after starting circus class.
  3. It has taken nearly seven years but we finally have you a (nearly) regular bedtime.
  4. You sometimes now give us a little bit of credit, as your parents, for not being completely ignorant. There was a period there where you seemed to disbelieve anything we said.
  5. I love all the magical little craft things that you make and your ability to whip up these amazing gift cards overcomes my ability to remember to buy any.
  6. I love how witty you are and how we can make and share jokes together.
  7. I love how unaffected you still are by appearance and I am dreading that passing one day in you.
  8. I love that you are such a lovely big sister to your brother and that you are so patient with him.
  9. I am really enjoying how much you are my little mate while your little brother is still so close to your mother. I suspect I will lose this shortly when your brother grows out of his toddlerhood and your mother is more available to you.
  10. That you remind me to pay our two speeding fines and that even remember how much they are going to cost.

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There’s this thing we do, it is supposed to be four times a year but it generally isn’t, and it is really a little time capsule for the kids and us to read in years to come and it is likely horribly boring for everyone else… so, feel free to ignore these particular posts.

(See also, here for what we enjoyed most this time).

Mine.

  1. I feel so terribly sad for you about your night terrors. They happen more nights than not. They often have you quite frightened and distraught. Apparently there is next to nothing we can do to stop them happening to you so they pretty much have me a little frightened and distraught at times, too.
  2. How messy you make your bedroom. The guinea pig cage is actually the cleanest thing in your room. I think I have another fifteen years or so where I will need to just grin and bear this before you likely grow out of this one.
  3. Two times in the last six months you have been in situations where I thought oh my god you could have died and that isn’t something one recovers from easily as a parent.
  4. You talk at volume as soon as you wake up in the morning, regardless of what time it is and regardless of who else is still asleep. You do this even on the nights when you sleep with Cormac and I and Bill escapes to the solitude of the spare queen bed.
  5. You still have the loudest cry of anybody I know and you’re not afraid to use it.
  6. We’re very disorganised about your homework because of the whole ‘working back late and not picking you and getting home until it is your bedtime’ problem. You’re quite conscientious about your homework, in bursts. This homework thing is a lot of pressure, that and getting to school late because the morning multiple drop-offs routine is so tight are where I most feel the work and family thing is in conflict for you.
  7. When you and your little brother are tired and cranky and you just fight continuously in the back of the car while I am trying to drive. And I am tired and cranky, too. It feels like I am about to be shattered.
  8. I wish we had more time together, just the two of us. I still miss our old closeness. You’re still a little introvert and while you’re getting better at talking about problems with me you still won’t share worries and concerns easily.
  9. You were spending very little time on the computer for a while there but now you’re absorbed in some new computer game again and we’re letting you spend too much time on the computer on the weekends and I hate it when we suck like that as parents.
  10. There is always a long list in my head of things I should be doing more of with you – one of them at the moment is designing and constructing things with you, which apparently you need to do more of for school – and I wish I felt like I was ticking off more of these things.
  11. Late last year I had this big worry about you and how maybe you weren’t doing enough to take care of your personal appearance and how I wondered about how this looked, like people would think I didn’t care about you as a mother if you got about in the stained, torn, too-small-for-you clothes while your brother and I looked more or less presentable. I also worried about whether you were going to start getting teased or left out by other little girls you play with who I can see are just starting to really embrace girly culture. Then I decided that your lack of self-awareness was really a blessing and that I should just relax. And about the same time you decided to start letting me brush your hair and you even wiped food off your face before you went out for the day and you would sometimes spoil me by asking if a certain outfit went together before wearing it. Anyway, I worried a lot more than I needed to about all that.

His.

  1. You still are capable of making an enormous mess. You leave everything out because all of it is special and unfinished and can’t be parted with. I think you are a bit like me in that respect.
  2. Your craft is so messy.
  3. You can be quite needy. I can be ironing clothes and making breakfast for you and your brother and trying to get to work on time and you want me to stop everything to come and see something in your room and you’re unwilling to believe it isn’t possible for me to do that.
  4. I wish you would unpack your school bag or at least not threaten to vomit when you have to unpack your own lunchbox.
  5. I wish you could talk more quietly.
  6. I wish you would stop using Windows on your computer, which you only do to annoy me and it causes lots of networking problems.
  7. You try and get me to play these ‘six year old girl’ hand slapping games with you and I do not like these games. Go find another 6 year old girl to play those with, please.
  8. You always pretend to be hungry when it’s bedtime, it is your delaying tactic and you really work hard to believe it yourself.
  9. Sometimes when you are sent to find something, like your school uniform, you put zero effort into it and instead you lie on your bed and cry about not finding it when it will be right there next to you on the bed. You have brought disgrace to the term “having a girl look”.
  10. I wish you would widen your food choices. I find it difficult coming up with recipes that don’t use any cheese or tomato ever.  We’re already vegetarians, we’ve ruled out meat, we can’t rule out much more.

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A shout out to Modernist Australia who made themselves known to me when they told me about this piece of theirs in defence of fibro beach houses after I wrote about my own love for my grandparents’ old beach house. You might want to know about Modernist Australia as well?

We don’t own a modernist house because we’re not even almost filthy rich, but we do own a sweet, little mid-century house and I get very excited when I see a bunch of things that appeal to me all tie in together. The Modernist Australia site reminded me all over again that sustainability, affordable housing, open-plan family living, Scandinavian style, indoor stone fireplaces, conversation pits, 70’s craft, and geometric patterns are all part of the same movement. So, even our current thing for kitchen gardens is all geometric patterns and sustainability.

Either mid-century or Twin Peaks, one of them was probably the first sustained interest Bill and I shared together as a couple. You know, besides the usual sex and squabbling that sustains you when you’re a 20-something couple. I really love modernism, as you may have noticed if you’ve ever seen my Pinterest boards. Fortunately, Bill and I started collecting vintage pieces years ago when people still thought it was useless old rubbish and you could buy it for a song. (My mother, who thinks if it isn’t antique it isn’t of note, is still baffled by the whole thing; she will be perusing a market stall with me and pick up some monstrosity, look uncertainly at me and say is this what you like?). Bill has a brilliant eye, he can size up a higgledy-piggledy garage sale and emerge with a lost treasure in about five seconds flat. As with most things, we’re very competitive about rummaging, and he always wins. But Bill and I have pretty much stopped collecting, everything is way too expensive for us now and we’re broke and besides it is time to consolidate and make vegetable gardens.

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I love this whole mindful eating thing, like a groupie, and the kids have picked it up from me and now they will scold us if we eat in front of the TV and say things like “that doesn’t look like intuitive eating, Daaaaad”..  and does it ever piss Bill off. He finds the ‘mindful eating movement’ really rather pretentious, it’s our Gywneth and Chris moment.

Anyway, here are some tips on how to really enjoy eating or really grate on the nerves of Bill. Either way, quite fun:

WHEN YOU EAT, JUST EAT. Unplug the electronica. For now, at least, focus on the food.

CONSIDER SILENCE. Avoiding chatter for 30 minutes might be impossible in some families, especially with young children, but specialists suggest that greenhorns start with short periods of quiet.

TRY IT WEEKLY. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid wolfing down onion rings in your cubicle. But if you set aside one sit-down meal a week as an experiment in mindfulness, the insights may influence everything else you do.

PLANT A GARDEN, AND COOK. Anything that reconnects you with the process of creating food will magnify your mindfulness.

CHEW PATIENTLY. It’s not easy, but try to slow down, aiming for 25 to 30 chews for each mouthful.

USE FLOWERS AND CANDLES. Put them on the table before dinner. Rituals that create a serene environment help foster what one advocate calls “that moment of gratitude.”

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I planned everything – the day off work, the makings of a picnic, and the perfect location.. and then the weather closed in and were I not the incredible optimist that I am we would have cancelled the whole thing instead of driving through steady rain to get there. Bill is a natural pessimist so we did that ‘driving through the rain’ thing barely speaking to one another, both thinking the other a complete nuisance. But as it was, the weather ended up holding off enough for a day of swimming and that was nice because it was also my birthday, and Bill and I held hands on the drive home.

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I am putting the toddler back to sleep. Can you please come in and fill up my water bottle? I’m so thirsty. I might die. It’s nearly my birthday after all.

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Our cat.

Cormac at the sea.

Our hens in the garden.

More of our hens.

Cormac breastfeeding his doll.

Lauca rollerskating in the house even though she is not allowed to do so.

The cake Bill made.

Our hens and our motorcycle.

Airport in the living room.

Cormac and the cat.

Lauca’s guinea pigs.

Cormac and Lauca at the sea, again.

One of our good looking young hens.

Eating oranges at the creek.

Lauca’s guinea pig, Ponyo.

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