May 25, 2013

decisions pt 2

My parents, the grandparents of my children, live 10,276 miles away.  As if that didn't make it awesome enough, in that same place, there are seasons, twinkly yuletides, explosions of spring and seemingly unending grey skies, save for a few broken weeks in the summer when it's glorious, and there are two days in each one, and every fat bloke embraces the blue skies and lies bare chested during his lunch break on whatever patch of grass he can find reading tabloid newspapers and enjoying a mediocre sandwich and always with a bag of crisps.  Not chips, but crisps.  There are uncles, aunties, cousins, friends of old, many I'd consider as close if not closer than family.

Every day since I arrived in Australia, almost 10 years ago, I have thought about how I miss that place.  I miss those people, the long summer days, the unending winters, the feeling of cosy, the closeness of everything, the history of the architecture, the rolling countryside (it's unrivalled) and I could go on.  It has never occurred to me that perhaps I don't miss that place, but I am simply nostalgic, never been one to adapt to change terribly easily, and always harking back to the good times gone, choosing conveniently to forget about the stuff everyone else remembers in order to look at today and the future with such enthusiasm.  Not me, I prefer the times I know, I dealt with them all so much better than I think I'll deal with the stuff I don't know, so it's only the good stuff I remember, and therefore miss with every bit of myself.

We talk often about going back there.  We met there, we loved life there, had it not been for my then boyfriend's growing ambition to do something with his life, we probably would have stayed there.  We talked about it a lot in the early years if life in Oz and it was always going to happen, but lately, since becoming parents and learning we can't just pack up these little people and take them to where we want to be without acknowledging it mightn't be best for them, it's become a lot harder to talk about moving with any certainty.  These days we realise too, that in the 4+ years since we were last there (in the midst of winter no less), life there is probably very different to what it was then, never mind the rose tinted memories of 10 years ago.  There's a big chance we could make the move and realise it was totally the wrong thing to do.  But is that a good enough reason for not trying at all?

But much as I am now thinking more often of staying rather than going, I can't quite bring myself to stop thinking about the possibilities.  The idea that we might have ruled out moving back there is heartbreaking, even if most of our friends (here and there) don't understand it.  I can't see my life being lived out in Queensland, beautiful though it is (and lord knows I don't miss anything when I'm at Straddie) and perfect though it might be for rambunctious little boys and their love of sandy feet.  But then I can't see how we'd move back either, I'm not a risk taker, and it might make me boring, but the idea of the chaos such a move would cause in my brain...

So the point of this post?  Well, as with most, there isn't one.  It's one of those ramblers, a brain dump, a record of this feeling of fence sitting and don't-know-what-to-do-ness that I'm pretty sure will be resolved by a nutcase trip we're planning for the end of this year back to that place.  Yes, in the midst of winter (Christmas!), when the days are short and dark (fairy lights!) and the holiday season will have taken hold (family time!).  It's been brewing for a while now, and we've decided the cost will always be a barrier, the travelling is 99% going to be hellish, but it's something we just have to do, not just so we have fuel for the ongoing debate of where our lives should be but because after almost 5 years since we were last there, and 10 Christmasses away from home, it will be about freaking time we take the kids over there, see my loved ones and squeeze them tight, and decide what the dickens we should do with the rest of our lives.  And even if we don't, I'm pretty damn excited about the possibility of the kids seeing some snow.  SNOW!

May 23, 2013

decisions, decisions

It's been a month of decision making.  Big decisions and little ones, too.  Deciding to buy a new mattress (totally wish this decision had happened sooner), deciding to replace our crappy old stove (which also resulted in replacing our kitchen bench top), finally deciding on the colours for Hugo's quilt (and accepting it won't be ready for his first birthday) and deciding which school is going to be best for our little Oliver.  All this decision making, in addition to the craziness of day to day life, the nervous energy that seems to keep the balls in the air, a trip to Mount Tamborine, a sweet mothers' day and a 10 month birthday for the littlest boy in the house.  And I'm not sure I've captured even half of what's happened this month.  

When I write it down, when I think about it for a second, it's with a stillness I rarely feel these days.  My mind is awash with Things To Do, be they child related, house related, work related.  There's always something I can be doing, and I'm not one to sit still (not until after my children are sleeping, anyway) so unless I'm doing one of those Things, I can't relax.  But I've come to realise, it's the projects, the doing things, the lists, the organising that keeps me sane.  Keeps me focussed.  Sure, every now and then all this doing takes me away from a moment I should be savouring with my husband, my kids, myself even, but it's not that often I feel like I'm missing out (or that they are for that matter), I quite often feel it's my job to keep these things happening, to keep oiling the machine that is our family life.  It's a conscious decision I make.  I could pretend to be one of those people that lives in the moment, claims letting the housework slide in favour of doing nothing with the kids is the magnanimous thing to do, but I'm not.  I don't see the sense in letting my kids see a me that's not real.  I do stuff, I keep life organised, I read endless stories, let them take day time naps in my arms, take the trips to the park when I really don't feel like it and let them boss me around with a list of things I must make out of Lego.  But all that stuff's only really enjoyable because there's the mundane stuff that has to be done too, don't you think?  The hard work (it's not that hard really), without it the other stuff would just be the every day, and so I guess striking a balance is what's important.  Important because I want my sons to know the play, the quality time, the silliness is all good fun, but working at something, making a conscious decision to do something to the best of your ability, that's important too.  They need to see mum doing stuff they're going to need to learn to do themselves one day, be it working, keeping house, playing with their own children, except with any luck they'll do it a little less maniacally, and a whole lot better.  It's all I hope for, I guess, that our children will grow up to be better than us.  They already are.

May 7, 2013

bird day

The themed party has become the standard in our house.  I used to think themed parties were a bit over the top, unnecessary, I mean the theme is birthday, the food is cake and the decor... it's the cute-as-pie kid!  But then I realised how much fun theming a party can be, especially when the theme is picked for you by that cute-as-pie kid that doesn't know what is involved in organising a party, nevermind a robot themed one, or as in this case, a bird themed one.

After Ollie's 4th birthday party, every time there was mention of Max's birthday (and quite often when there was not), he'd remind us that he wanted a birdie party.  I was never really sure what this would involve, but figured there'd be a bird on the invitation and a bird shaped cake and some kind of bird food. Cue the interweb for inspiration... except it wasn't there!  Angry Birds themed party?  Sure, there's a million pictures of that, and everyone loves a vintage bird themed whatever (usually wedding) but nothing along the lines of cute-but-not-girly-birdy, so with this one, I really did need to think about it.  It went a bit like this:

The usual creative process: I'm the bossy one, he's the talented one.  Read all about it here.

We figured the best thing to bring to a bird party would be birds (and in fact the birthday boy was quite keen to invite the actual birds in our garden and beyond to his special day).  So, I set about finding a tonne of images of birds, painted, photographed, drawn, and then printed them out in colour on cheap card.  We must have had about 50 or so in total.  These we strung up so we could hang them in trees, under our house, in our house, everywhere.  They looked freaking great!  Then of course there were balloons and fairy lights because every party needs those.

I kept it simple.  For the first time ever I didn't try and do absolutely everything myself, and ordered in sausage rolls from our local awesome bakery (they were a hit) but I did make mini quiches (which I did a week in advance and then froze, defrosting and reheating them on the day of the party - easy).  We baked butter cookies in the shape of 3s and birds, the kids loved helping with this, and there was fruit, cheese, jelly (the grown ups love it as much as the kids) and a couple of little bowls of chips.  No big bowls of sweets and lollies, and not one kid missed them.

Ridiculous.  Bird shaped.  Big.  Very delicious.  For my own information, I made the vanilla cake I always make.  I froze the offcuts which we ate for days afterwards with home made vanilla custard.  It sounds sick.  It wasn't.

I'm not a big fan of party favours but there's no denying they're a godsend when you want to either get your kids out of a party, or get other people's kids out of your own home, so they have their uses.  I chose not to put too much junk in the noodle boxes that were adorned with randomly cut bird house shapes taken from my old stash of Frankie magazines (sigh) but bird stickers, bubbles for the girls, toy trucks for the boys (yeah it's typecasting, who cares) and a little home made bird shaped cookie.  And a mini lollipop (well, I don't want to be the mother of the child who's parties nobody wants to go to because there's no candy).  Loved how these turned out.

I realise now that it's not possible to rely on the kids being outdoors as being sufficient to keep them entertained.  It works on my kids, they really only need a bucket, a spade, some water and some dirt but there were girls coming to this party so I had to be realistic about entertaining them.  Cue free bird printables and a table set up with pens and pencils.  Predictably, a hit with the girls and largely ignored by the boys.  We also made bird houses using giant cardboard boxes salvaged from kindy, so simple, painted with leftover emulsion paint and roofed with cardboard shingles.  And yes, the kids loved these too, because all children like to clamber into big boxes.  They looked great too.  Oh and there was an egg hunt.  Eggs come from birds, I believe, and it was Easter, and although we aren't Christian, all children love hunting for little wooden eggs if they are promised a swap with chocolate ones at the end of it.

Anyway, Ollie helped decorate paper cups with birds, I wore a birdie necklace and we had some pretty awesome bird fashion on a couple of the dads.  I wrote absurd lists (it's no use pretending I can do it any other way) and fretted about things only I will ever know weren't quite birdy enough. I would have liked to have dressed up like a flamingo.  I would have liked to have made Max some wings so he could at least pretend to fly.  I would have liked to have printed out some big birds, emus, ostriches etc on A1 or even bigger to put in our garden.  I would have liked there to have been more feathers and to have themed the food.  I would have liked to have done lots of things but the party we threw was just right and in the end it didn't matter what we didn't do. An awesome time was had by all.

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