I have two sisters, one older, one younger. At last count there are nine kids between us, aged from 1 to 11. We just spent 24 hours together back in our home town in the country and miraculously got the nine to sit still long enough for multiple photo ops. Even the pet chook was smiling. Love you, girls x
Wednesday night, midnight: I was driving around Sydney streets in a last-ditch attempt to get the toddler in the back seat to go to sleep. She'd been awake since 9:30. I needed petrol so I pulled into a busy-ish service station on Parramatta Road and, in my pyjamas, filled up, then paid. The toddler was wide-eyed.
It took over half an hour, but it worked. She finally drifted off. I should add, this is the good sleeper of the pair. And it was only because she is prone to snoozing in the car that I even tried it. With all the sleep issues we had with her sister back in the bad old days, we never resorted to nocturnal driving. I doubt it would have worked.
It's been a hellish couple of sleep weeks, thanks to a cold and cough moving through the family. Day naps have been wishy-washy, night-times have been atrocious. It's been babies who won't go to sleep, or go to sleep for a couple of hours then wake up screaming. Babies who need dummies (bloody dummies) to be found, even though there are four in the cot. Babies who are standing up in bed and need help lying down again. Babies who are so tired the next day that they nap in the pram on a morning walk, which means they won't go to sleep at nap time, which means they are so tired by bedtime they can't sleep. Fun, fun, fun.
Then there's the behavioural stuff. Screaming and whining and pulling hair and gouging eyes and throwing bowls full of food and pushing each other over. Whingeing to be picked up picked up picked up, screaming to be put down put down put down. Crying for a snack, throwing the snack across the room when it's not the right sort. Oh, God, the fun.
I was listening to a radio interview the other day and somewhere in the middle of it the show host talked about the years when the interviewee met her partner, got married, had babies, went back to work, changed careers etc etc etc. "Having babies" was glossed over in the arc of this woman's life. Well, not so much glossed over but with her children now teenagers, it was obvious those early days of babies and sleep issues and tantrums and poo and spew and relentless slog were a thing of the past, and that it was all just one fragment in the big picture.
And it made me think that when I'm in the throes of all this little kid stuff, bogged down in the minutiae of the every day, I should try and remember this is just one part of it. Soon, though hopefully not too soon, it will be over and we'll be onto the next phase. I'll be cheering from the sidelines of a soccer field, or drowning in boredom waiting for my kid's turn at the piano recital, or nursing someone through big exams, or helping them move into their first flat, or cracking a bottle of bubbly to celebrate a new job or watching on (please let me) as they have their own babies. And when I start thinking like that, if I can stop weeping long enough, it makes a couple of weeks (months? years?) of sleep deprivation seem a little less catastrophic.
I will not be blogging tonight. I will not be blogging and I will not be looking at other blogs either. I won't collapse on the couch with a sigh and turn on the TV, then grab my knitting and sink into the evening. I won't open the GM's laptop and upload a few photos and head to Blogger and click 'New Post'.
I will do none of these things because if I don't finish this bl@#*y book soon, I might as well send the white flag up the pole. It has been weeks, at a rate of about half a page a night, two pages if I'm feeling sprightly. And now that Monsieur Ozu has finally entered the fray, things are actually moving along and I'm enjoying the story, so I can't even blame the slow beginning for this sloooooooow progress.
And I'm whipping up a Milo for my nephew's first birthday, oh, nearly two months ago. "Whipping up" as in knitting about four stitches every three days, and making a significant mistake halfway through the yoke requiring ripping back and starting over. I'm not frustrated at all. Nor even slightly sarcastic.
So I won't be blogging tonight. Sorry to disappoint. I'm off to bed to try and make some headway on that book so that I might finally be able to join in the Yarn Along with something new someday soon.
Thought I'd quickly mention that my other blog has relaunched after a long hiatus. The Tale of Three girls are back together...with a couple of newcomers. So it's Tale of Three...or so (Tale of Five just didn't have the same ring). We hatched the plan back on this weekend, and now it's finally come to fruition. The idea's the same - weekly tasks that we each complete and blog about. The London girl is back in Australia now, so we can no longer claim to be covering three different countries. But we're in two countries and three Australian cities (hopefully soon to be three Australian cities and one lovely country town). Head over and check it out - we're a funny bunch!
A cow goes moo, a dog goes woof and a sheep goes, "Raaaahhhhh." According to Stella, that is. Which is why we need to get out of the city.
OK, it's not really, but I've got a couple of dozen real reasons, if you've got the time. How about just five?
1) A house on my street is for sale and the sign out the front says "Massive 384 square metre block." Leaving aside the fact it is a tiny two-bedroom house with a price tag of $850,000, in this neighbourhood, 384sqm is 'massive'.
2) City kids think milk comes in plastic bottles. That was what my mum used to tell us. It might have been a slight generalisation on her part, but we country kids knew where our food came from. We could see it out in the paddocks on the bus ride to school. I want my kids to live it, not just hear about it.
3) Today, my four-year-old described the single tree in our backyard as 'lonely'.
4) Almost everyone I know works far too much and far too hard. And the women I know who don't have to work never see their partners who do. Nor do their kids. All to sustain the city existence.
5) Because I want chickens. Chickens, goddammit. Isn't that reason enough?
It's been a joint goal for the GM and I since before we had our babies. We always knew it would be possible to do our work (staring at words on computer screens) remotely, and the having-two-babies-at-once thing was enough for our employers to finally succumb and set the home-based office wheels in motion. So now that it's not just a hypothetical, it's time to launch in. We're not going too far - just an hour or so south where the grass is green and the hills roll. Far enough away to feel like country folk, close enough to get our city fix regularly and easily, if we have to. Close enough to doting aunties and grandparents. Close enough for the girls' night out Japanese on King Street.
And far enough away to feel like we can slow things down, let things go, try things out, free things up.
Want more reasons?
This kid likes running in the grass:
This one wants two dogs, a big one and a small one:
And this one thinks sheep roar:
Watch this space - Typically Red goes Rural, perhaps?
I had a coffee with my dealer today. My button dealer. She's an old school friend and she runs this amazing online business. These days, whenever we catch up, she passes a little ziplock baggie across the table filled with some sort of sample for me. My button and ribbon jars are getting very full as a result.
A parcel arrived in the mail recently from another old school friend. This one's a very talented photographer based in Brisbane. She has patiently watched me wrangle my lovely DSLR and offered advice and tips along the way. Now, thanks to this lovely gift, I'm a hundred miles away from where I was a few days ago, if not in results, at least in comprehension. And I've been using the manual exposure switch! And now I know why that little line jumps left and right! And where it should be! It's exciting stuff.
Here is my Pearl, modeling her green kimono top. It appears it might be a touch too small for her. Perhaps it would have fitted better back when I made it (then put it aside for weeks to await buttonholes), back when the weather was cooler and she had need for a long-sleeve top. But she is chubbing up fast, that Pearl, little sausage fingers and roly-poly legs. To think what a skinny little baby she once was!
See how she blends in with the grass?
And another green thing I came across this week. I've always fancied the idea of a red door, but I could be swayed in this direction.
Many days - most days, in truth - it feels like a battle of wills. She who is four versus she who is 30...something, clashing all the day long. Please eat your breakfast. Please use your spoon. Please come and get dressed. Please help pack away your pencils. It occurred to me, sometime around two (years old) that one of the things I struggle with most is hearing 'no' all the time. Having endless requests turned down politely, refused defiantly, ignored totally. No, no, no, no, no. And though we have happy days where it feels like our goals align, there are so many stretches of day after day where her ears seem to stop working and I'm on the hamster wheel of shouting, then feeling bad for shouting, then shouting again, then feeling bad again...
She is so spirited, a little fire burning in her. And on the days when she behaves beautifully, trying so eagerly to please me, that spark is somehow diminished. Because her natural inclination is to do as she wants, follow her imagination, meander about in conversation and in thought. And that means, when you're four, that boring requests like "pick up your fork and eat your dinner" or "say goodbye to the little dog and come home now" have to be ignored. And a mummy who has asked for the same thing a dozen times and been ignored or refused several dozen more can sometimes lose her cool.
Yet, here's the clincher - everything's easier when I bend and flow with her rhythm rather than trying to force her to fall into step with mine. She is so alive, so sociable, so curious, I fear that 'fixing' the part of her that is defiant, disobedient, sometimes downright naughty, will damage those other qualities. Do I want the perfectly well-behaved, compliant child who's too afraid to speak lest she say the wrong thing, or do I want my kid, she who is four, who'll stop and chat to anyone, and whose enthusiasm for life can't help but bubble over, even when the more socially correct thing to do is to sit quietly? Obviously that question's a rhetorical one.
Today I listened to this podcast that has been waiting on my iPhone for months, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Psychologist Hara Estroff Marano talks about the over-supervision of children and how little time and space we give them to play, make their own mistakes and solve their own problems. And she hit a chord with me when she talked about wanting her children to have a backbone - as in, she didn't mind if they answered back, if they were outspoken, if they expressed strong opinions. She said compliance wasn't high up on her list of values.
And I think, until listening to this, compliance has been up there for me. Who is this four-year-old who lives under my roof and still thinks she can defy me? Fall into line, kid! Perhaps it's because I always fell into line. I was so polite. I didn't want to do the wrong thing. I didn't want to step on any toes.
Well, I'm removing 'compliance' from my list. At least, I'm going to start trying. I still want her to understand respect and good manners and courtesy. I want her to be kind and compassionate and to have empathy. But I'm going to stop demanding obedience all the time.
I want her to be strong and gutsy and funny and vulnerable, and to learn and appreciate my and her dad's values.I want her life to be a series of great bursts of happy, and for her to have resilience against any sad, angry, hurt, disappointed or scared that falls in between. But ultimately, I want to give her the resources to make her own decisions, recover from setbacks and follow her own path.
So when she tells me, as she did recently, that she wants to be three things when she grows up - a princess, a "doctor-nurse who drives an ambulance" and a farmer's wife - I'll say, "Go get 'em, sunshine."
:: I'm hoping lots of people listen to the podcast and take on the ideas, because if I ever work up the courage to open the door and send my girls out into the street for a morning of unsupervised play (like in the good old days when we were young), it'd be nice to think there'll be some other kids out there to play with...
A quick dash into my favourite oppy this morning resulted in this happy little haul of vintage patterns - all in size 1 or 2, and only one with missing pieces, which are conveniently for the boy's pyjamas, so that's not going to be a problem in this girl-heavy house.
I'm always amused by how much I think I might achieve when I get an hour or two with my sewing machine. Thursday afternoons are often a good bet - Lola is at preschool, the little pair are asleep. Today I was envisioning two new pairs of pants for overdue presents, and a much-anticipated nightie in (bloody) Disney princess fabric for the young miss - a firm lesson in not taking said young miss to Spotlight.
Anyway, with two precious hours on my hands, a stack of new-old patterns for inspiration, some lovely new fabrics that arrived in the mail a few weeks ago and a pile of planned projects to choose from, I was obviously going to be very productive...
Yes, three buttonholes and three buttons. Sum total. Two hours. (All that lovely tidy yellow binding was completed weeks ago so I can't count that...)
At least this little top has been taken off the "almost finished but not quite" pile now.
Yarning Along again, and would you look at me and my swatching! Ysolda would be impressed. I received a little parcel of Bendigo Woollen Mills yarn last week - four big fat 200g balls - and I'm so impressed with the colours and the prices, and most especially that it is Australian-made, I'm hoping I'll love it enough to use it a lot. So I'm swatching away (halo a-shinin') to see how it feels to work with.
And I've been permitted to begin working with this new wool because I finally finished something, albeit something tiny. It's a little Eden's Adam for my cousin's brand-new baby boy, and I used some lovely green Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece.
The reading situation is a bit dire at the moment. I'm just not getting into my current book, 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' by Muriel Barbery, so I keep looking around for other stuff to grab my attention. Thus, I passed a quiet half hour this afternoon with the latest Delicious magazine and my Bendigo swatch and a nice cup of black coffee. Bliss.
Back on the topic of Australian yarn, while I'm not shy about buying European or American yarns, and have spent many lovely minutes oohing and ahhing over Madelinetosh and Quince colour palettes, I'm aware of how small the local wool industry has become. Even my favourite Aussie yarn, Jo Sharp, is made in Italy. I received an email from a pal today with a link to this project, which I think is great. I'm off there now to make my pledge.
Still with the eggs?! The leftover whites were today turned into a lovely, slightly ugly roulade. The recipe wanted me to use passionfruit, but I felt I needed to complement the chocolate ice-cream, so I came over all inventy and made an (outrageously pink) raspberry yoghurt cream for the filling then drizzled the whole thing with melted dark chocolate. The meringue was suitably chewy, the raspberry cream was ridiculously sweet, the chocolate was...chocolatey.
I might have a future as an abstract painter if the below pic is anything to go by.
The Garbageman, who refuses to eat eggs unless they no longer look like eggs, returned from the supermarket a few days ago with a dozen eggs to add to the dozen we already had in the fridge. Realising his double-up, he put me under firm instructions to use them up lest they go to waste. So there have been a few poached eggy mornings, some boiled eggy lunches, a Father's Day boeuf bourguignon pie brushed liberally in an eggy egg wash. Even, dare I say, a first attempt at creme brulee over the weekend (yum!). And last night, as a special treat for dad, there was going to be homemade chocolate ice-cream.
Three egg yolks mixed with 100g sugar. A cup and a half of milk heated with 200g of dark chocolate and a splash of vanilla. The whole lot mixed together with a cup of cream, then cooled and finally churned in the ice-cream machine.
Silly ice-cream machine. It made us a lovely cold chocolate custard, and then decided it's work was done for the day. No ice-cream for us.
Today, however, thanks to an overnight stay in the deep freeze, it had turned into a wonderful, velvety, rich, chocolately, scrumdiddlyumptious thing as good, if not better, than the best chocolate gelato I've eaten up the road on Norton Street. How easy was that?
I imagine this is how hard my life will be when I finally get the chickens I've been dreaming about. So many eggs! Oh, what to do??? Might have to make another batch of ice-cream...