Monday, 30 December 2013

Post-Christmas hang over

It's that time of year again. The post-Christmas hangover. No, not the alcoholic type hangover, it’s the emotional and physical hangover that catches up with you on the day after Boxing Day. The day when you realise you don't have to quickly rush out to the shops for another roll of sticky tape, or wrap another present or make some ridiculous Christmas dessert or have an over the phone counselling session with a family member who is on the edge of a Christmas breakdown.

After going and going for weeks on end, it’s very easy to just crash. That's what I did post-Christmas. I spent the day after Boxing Day drawing pretty flowers and birds on a piece of paper. I put myself into a day of "me therapy." I ended up being in some weird, trance-like state drawing for about three hours that day. Did I mention I am a terrible drawer? But who cares? It just felt so good to do something creative and just sit still.

It also seems to be on this day each year that everyone gets all reflective and starts talking about what they'll do differently next year. Each year without fail, my husband and I usually discuss how next year we'll make it “simpler”, you know, just have a barbeque and no presents. Yet, 12 months later this discussion is always completely forgotten as we get caught up in the commericalised  frenzy, the spirit of Christmas once more. Oh the joy!

Also on this day after Boxing Day, there is usually a phone call from various family members who debrief about different stressful incidents over Christmas and how they would also do things differently. Those words "simpler" and "less stressful" come up again. But as always it's forgotten. Just as women are wired to not fully remember the pain of labour, western civilisation must be wired to forget about what really goes on at Christmas until we hit December again the following year. We soon begin to race like frenzied rats around the shops, buying plastic presents and Christmas decorations made in China; we indulge in buying copious amounts of food we would never usually eat and then we emotionally invest everything into this one day once again.

Often, my husband and I walk away from Christmas gatherings and realise we didn’t get a chance to catch up with family members and distant relatives. This is partially because we have children to chase after but mainly because once the food is prepared, cooked, everything cleaned and presents exchanged, it’s time to go home again.  

Right now, you may be thinking I am a little bah humbug-ish. The truth is I do love Christmas time despite all of its flaws. I love the chance to reflect on the birth of Jesus, sing carols that are centuries old, visit the Christmas lights with the kids, and watch their eyes light up at their presents on Christmas day. I even love meeting up with various family members at Christmas. Although Christmas Day is usually hectic and tiring, I love it because it’s tradition. It’s what we’ve done as a family for my entire life and it’s gives me a sense of belonging.

My little family enjoyed visiting the Christmas lights

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. Is there anything you vow to change about Christmas and never do? Or have you made some significant changes that have worked? I’d love to hear about it.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Our home in the fire zone

It was almost two months ago but it's not easy to forget what happened that day. The day when almost 200 homes just down the road from me were destroyed in a ferocious and out of control bush fire.

It had been a big day already. I felt exhausted and decided to have a lay down in my room while my one-year-old son slept and my four-year-old daughter was at preschool. I went to shut the blinds when I noticed the plume of thick grey smoke swirling across the bright, blue sky. It looked like it was coming from behind the golf course, not far away from where I lived but still far enough not to freak out just yet. Then I heard sirens. Lots of them. They did not stop but echoed endlessly throughout the streets as they headed out towards Winmalee.

This is the view from a street in Winmalee during the fire that day. Terrifying.
Source: Rhys Pope
I plonked down on my bed, grabbed my phone and noticed a message from my pastor at church, asking people to pray for my husband's family who were evacuating from a bushfire.

I immediately tried to call my mother-in-law on her land line. No answer. The worry began to trickle through my body. I called my husband at work and this was the first he heard of the fire. He decided to quickly pack up from work and start heading for home. I then got a phone call from my sister-in-law who confirmed that her mum (my mother-in-law) and sister were evacuating.

"They said the whole backyard was on fire and the tree across the road," she said. "They don't think the house will survive."

With my house not being too far away I decided to dash around and pack things to evacuate. I had seen the Four Corners documentary on what happened in the Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria. I wasn't taking any chances.

I then got a text message from my daughter's preschool asking parents to come and pick up their children immediately. The preschool was another three minutes drive away in the opposite direction from where the fire was so I knew she would be safe. However, I started to panic.

I had to get to the preschool. I had to pack the important stuff in the house. What was the list of things again? I had a mental list, but I couldn't think! Where was our computer's external hard drive with all the photos?

I then received the RFS emergency SMS warning that made me realise just how serious the situation was.

"Seek shelter as the fire impacts," the text message said.

My heart began beating so unbelievably fast. The wind was howling, I was shaking and the smoke in the distance was racing to blot out every piece of blue sky. I could hear the stream of fire trucks dashing northward, playing their harrowing background music that seem to send small shocks to my nervous system.

I managed to pack the car and find everything we needed. I then woke up my son and strapped him into the car. Once on the main road we soon hit traffic. People were coming from all directions trying to get back home or collect their children from school. After 15 minutes or so the traffic began to move and I was able to get through.

At the preschool, worry was etched over the teacher's faces but the children were none the wiser. I felt more relaxed once I had my daughter with me. But as we drove off down the highway I got a sense of the situation. In the valley to my left, just a couple of kilometres away, I could see flames licking the tops of the trees, racing towards the township of Yellow Rock. It felt like we were escaping from a disaster scene in a movie.

I felt relieved once we arrived at my mum's place and my husband joined us not long afterwards. Adrenaline was still coursing through my body like a wild river. It would come in waves, ebbing and flowing. It wasn't until around 6pm that we found out my in-laws place was okay. It was a miracle. However, it meant other homes were not so lucky. Hundreds of people just down the road from me were now homeless, many lost everything they had, including their beloved pets. 

The burnt-out bush that backs onto my in  laws home.
The fire threat didn't end there as the flames continued to rage not too far from our home. It just felt like we had this unpredictable, faceless and fierce monster lurking in our backyard. We evacuated another three times that week and on one occasion a new fire had sparked up just 500 metres from our home in the gully behind us. Thankfully, it was extinguished quickly by the RFS heroes. We soon became quite accustomed to having them appear in our street.

Source: NSW RFS
Then there was Wednesday – the day we all HAD to evacuate. The RFS had given an apocalyptic style warning urging everyone from the Blue Mountains to leave and leave early. It felt so surreal. Facebook was flooded with paranoia, rumours and good information. Yet, it was difficult to sift through.  By this stage we’d had enough as it had now been six days since the fire started. After much heated discussion, our family decided to prepare the house (at midnight by the way!) and leave the next morning. It was a long, long day that ended with my husband returning home in the afternoon to defend the house from any possible falling embers. Thankfully, nothing eventuated and we could all go home around dinner time.

The fire threat continued to roll on for a few more days and we were still in the midst of it. Helicopters were constantly flying over our house, rattling the kitchen bench and the good china in the cabinet as they flew out to water the fire nearby.

Source: SBS 
Thankfully, after some mammoth fire fighting efforts and the cooler weather, the fire was soon downgraded to a ‘watch and act’ status. A couple of weeks later it was declared ‘out’. The people of the Blue Mountains collectively let out a huge sigh of relief! 

After everything that happened, it took weeks for the adrenaline to stop pumping. I wasn't getting much sleep but I wasn't even tired. Many people put their extra energies into relief efforts, including our family. We held a huge fundraising garage sale, raising money for a family who lost everything. It was just some small way we could help.

The fire had a huge impact on our community but it was not all negative. We all bonded through the disaster because each person was affected in one way or another. Everyone also became particularly caring and concerned for friends and strangers alike. You couldn't speak to anyone without saying, “take care” or “stay safe.”  People got together to provide masses of food, clothing and furniture to those who lost everything. While the fire fighters fought the flames, our community fought for each other, building a sense of hope despite many losing everything.

Source: The Daily Telegraph
So after our experience, you may wonder why we choose to live in a fire zone. It's quite simply because of the people here and the beauty of the Blue Mountains. I love living where I have to shout above the crazy noise of the cicadas, where I can see the red glow of the sunset from my backyard, where I can swim in pristine waterholes, where I can know my neighbours and those who I see down the street in the local cafe. It's certainly worth taking the risk to live here.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Hello blog

I know, I know, it's been awhile. I am sorry. It's been a busy kinda time of late and I haven't had time to pay attention to you. You are never far from my thoughts but just a little far down on my list of things to do.

I guess with my lack of visitations you've come to realise I've had a busy month. September was jam packed with family birthdays, just one after another, including my little Issy's 4th birthday. I will tell you all about it sometime. I also started a new job as an English tutor. I am just tutoring a girl in Year 10 at the moment but I really love it. I finally feel like I may have a little direction in terms of study & work. Next year, with all my spare time (ah-hem) I plan on studying a graduate degree in secondary teaching, majoring in English. Then there's the little vintage business I am running...I am really enjoying it and hope to sell at my local markets next month. Then there's my biggest job, being the mummy to my two children. I can't tell you how much I love them. They are two very unique and awesome little people. They also happen to drive me up the wall.

On a different note, we have had a horrendous last couple of weeks with bush fires ravaging our tight knit community. I really want to, I need to, blog about this experience. It's moving up the list. Thankfully, our family was not directly affected by the fires but we came close. We had to evacuate three times and we know of a number of people who have lost their homes. It's just too much to even take in....hence why I won't get into now. I am still processing it all.

So, I hope you are going well my blog, my friend. Please keep a 'new post' page warm for me while I take a deep breathe and catch up with myself.

I miss you & hope we can catch up again soon.

Love Mel

Thursday, 19 September 2013

How are you really?

When is the last time you stopped.

Just stopped. And asked yourself this question...

How am I really?

Deep down in the place that no-one else knows, the shadowy place of your inner thoughts, your secret self, the one you hide away from everyone else.

I recently asked myself this question and there were some surprises. The longer I sat in solitude, in quiet reflection, the deeper I dug, the more lost I felt.

How am I?

I don't often know.

Busyness and distractions prevent me from connecting with my real self. My true emotions are often buried beneath mountains of anger, bitterness, coping mechanisms and most of all denial.

You see, lately I was feeling like I was doing pretty well. My self-talk was sounding a little like this:

"You're getting stronger, more resilient, more positive."

But also a little bit of this.

"You can do it alone. You don't need anyone else. Just keep going. Don't burden others. Don't ask for help. Shut down and keep going."

Shut down. Alone. No need. Keep going.

Going where?

When I looked deeper into myself, into my heart, I stopped. I slowed. I breathed. I sank. I realised.

I was moving further away from my true feelings. I was becoming numb. Happy on the outside, hurting on the inside. 

I needed to resolve a few things within myself and I needed to confess this:

I am lost right now. I am feeling weak. I am feeling incapable. I am feeling like I am at the end of myself. I am feeling insecure. I feel broken. I feel small. I feel judged. I feel lonely. I feel I want more.

I felt a weight lift off me once I just acknowledged that's where I am at. I don't want to play pretend anymore.

So, this is me as I am. I am often mixed up. Always tired. Sometimes I look like I've got it together, but really I don't. I am often fighting feelings of anxiety and restlessness. I am constantly thinking about "living in the moment" but also always thinking about what could be ahead. I worry.

But despite all of this, I am trying to find the goodness in each day. I will acknowledge and admit these feelings but not sink into despair. I won't allow anxiety, stress or my 'to do' list to derail me but when it does I will acknowledge those feelings.

I  know I have many failings and many weaknesses. I can't do this alone. I need grace for today and the days to come. I thank God that He sustains me because it's in my weaknesses that He is strong.

So, no more pretend play, just honesty. Let's be real. How are you today?

Image source

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Why my daughter is playing "boat people."

Yesterday my daughter Isabella, who is almost four, collected the mail from our letter box and raced towards me with the most horrified look on her face.

"Mummy, who is this?" she asked, with a worried look etched across her face.

"That's Tony Abbott," I replied. "Remember how he wants to have a turn at being prime minister?"

"He looks like a mean man," she said, her face screwing up at the sight of him.

Lately, there has been a lot of political discussion in our house and my daughter has been picking up on it. I think she also has a little bit of election fever as she squeals every time she sees Kevin Rudd on TV. Issy met Kevin a couple of months ago and he obviously won her over. She told me a few days ago that she is on 'team Kevin'. Not sure if I will be joining her or not!

Also, this morning I found her playing "boat people."

She told me, "Mum, I am playing the game where people are trying to run away from the war to get into another country but they won't let them in. They put a wall up."

Our children pick up on everything!!

The treatment of asylum seekers is certainly one thing that has got both my husband and I fired up during this election campaign. It's like the Liberal and Labor Party are playing a game of 'who can create the cruelest border protection policy?' just so they can score votes. It's playing with people's lives. It's not about what's effective or what's going to work but what's marketable during this cut-throat election campaign.  The fear mongering tactics used to convince the Australian public that 'boat people' are dangerous is sickening. Where is the compassion?  They are people, just like you and me.

It is not illegal to seek asylum. People who are fleeing from their countries to escape war, torture, genocide or persecution are doing nothing wrong. They often don't have a choice. They are not jumping the queue, simply because there isn't one. Previously when people arrived by boat in Australia, we locked them up like criminals in jail until their claim for asylum is proven. Now, the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd has decided to beat the Liberal Party at their own game of 'stopping the boats' by sending all asylum seekers that arrive by boat to PNG - a third world country with a decrepit health, education and political system.  Out of sight, out of mind. Well, out of mind for some. Not mine. It saddens me that Kevin Rudd changed his position on this. Tony Abbott is no better with his solution to buy back boats from people smugglers and rip away funding asylum seekers need to for legal assistance in Australia. Both policies are crap. Both policies are inhuman and disgust me.

Remember our history?

We are often afraid of the unknown and of those who are different. They might not look like 'us'. They might have a different religion, language, dress style and culture so because of this we feel threatened. I think many Australians have a deep and primal fear that by somehow inviting people in from other countries we may somehow lose our Australian identity. I wonder if that's because we don't have much of an identity or culture in the first place. What is it? Beer bellies, booze, surfing, barbeques and mateship?

Give me diversity any day! I think that by sharing our country with others we will only become a better nation. Diversity brings about beauty and a richness to our lives. We can engage with others and experience a part of their culture that we might never have experienced otherwise. Stereotypes are challenged and our eyes are opened to see that the 'other' is really quite a lot like you & I.  They too share common values and where there are differences respect has a chance to grow.

I've written this blog post quickly so I don't expect it to be completely coherent. I have certainly not addressed all the complex issues that surround asylum seekers. However, I just needed to write this because I need to get it out of my a head and onto paper.

If you want to read more about what it's like to be a refugee I encourage you to read and watch the  following from Amnesty International. It might not help your decision in terms of voting tomorrow (I still don't know who I will vote for) but at least you'll be informed.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Being a WAHM is crazy

Life has been busy.

I haven't had much time to blog, let alone shower sometimes. Okay, it's not that bad. Well, maybe it was for a few days there but I am back into my daily showering habit now.

My last post was about starting my new business and it has been crazy. I am entering into this new world of a WAHM (Working At Home Mum). I love it but I feel like my mind is constantly racing. Two weeks ago I almost gave up. I just felt so overwhelmed and wondered why I was doing this to myself. I am already someone who gets anxious and stressed easily, why add to it?

My kids have also been driving me a bit insane. Miss Almost-Four (Issy) has completely dropped her day sleep and Mr Just-Turned-One (Fin) has decided he should also cut down sleeping to just one very short day sleep. So short, that today it was just thirty minutes.

Kids, this is not helping your mum start her new business!!

So, I've had to do most of my work at night and find a way to work around them during the day time. This means multi-tasking. A LOT. Research shows, you're better off focusing on one thing at a time then trying to do many things at once. Oops.

This is me for example...

Check email, boil kettle, sweep floor, see runny nose, find tissue box, pour cuppa, get biscuit for Miss Almost Four, wipe nose, wipe a bum, wash hands, respond to email, finish sweeping the floor. Find Mr Just-Turned-One with his hands in the toilet. Clean his hands, close the door. Finally reply to email. Break up fight between kids. Send Miss Almost Four to time out. Take a sip from the cup of tea. Drag Mr Just-Turned-One away from the gas heater and TV for the hundredth time that day. Someone knocks on door. Give parcel to customer. Update database. Weigh a number of items that need postage. Remember Miss Almost-Four is in time out. Have a chat and apology is accepted. Put on a load of washing. Pick up stray undies and crumbs on the floor. Finish sweeping the floor. Send email with postage estimation to a customer. Take the kids outside to play. Take photos of the kids. Take photos of my products I am selling. Jump on the trampoline with the kids. Answer phone call while on the trampoline. Rush to the toilet with the kids in tow. Remind myself that I can't jump as high anymore.  Sigh.

She makes multitasking look so easy!

Right now I feel like I am just spinning around and around in circles. I need time to myself desperately. Not just to work but just to be still...still...what is that?

Even while I've been writing this post I've been simultaneously checking my Facebook business page, negotiating a sale on five vintage suitcases, emailing a supplier and texting a friend.

I don't even know how to relax right now. But I feel like I am slowly, slowly getting a hang of it. Learning how to switch off from work is hard. But it's possible. The best thing I've found is to get out of the house and leave my phone in the car or at home. I take the kids to the park and I can be away from everything that distracts me. When I am at home all I can think about is everything that needs to be done.

It's now 10.20pm. I could keep writing but I think I will make a wise choice to go to bed.

But not before I check my email while cleaning my teeth, while making a cuppa, while locking the backdoor, while writing a mental 'to-do' list for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

New business venture - am I crazy?

I got a little bored in the school holidays and decided to start a new small business. It's an online recycled vintage and retro store.

It was a little out of nowhere and not really thought through. I just thought, why not!? And did it.

So here it is:

I am just starting out on Facebook at the moment. I hold a Wednesday night market each week from 8pm where I post all my finds for the week. I've found some amazing things in the last few weeks including a vintage sewing machine, mid-century two seated lounge, antique juice bottles, vintage kitchen chairs, retro Tupperware, a 1960s musical toy for children, retro thermos flasks, enamel bowls, vintage tea cups and more.

I love going to different places to hunt out vintage and retro wares. I love the story that goes with each piece. I like to ask about who it belonged to and how old it is. Many of the things I buy come from deceased estates or from older people who are cleaning out their homes and preparing to move into a retirement village. They might think it's junk but I love to find the beauty in it.

If all goes well with my business on Facebook I'll plan on expanding to a website. It's all a bit of fun and not really for profit (although I hope it turns over a little money some time soon!)

I do really miss blogging though. Any spare minute I have is now spent on this new business. I've had no time to just "be", read a book or watch TV. I always make sure I here for the kids but I am certainly more distracted and often multitasking. For example, "Let's play shops, you can be the customer and I will buy these things then take a photo of it."

I am going to give it six months and see how I go. If this doesn't work then I will have to try and find something else. Financially, we are getting to stage where I really need to work. I haven't worked now for more than 12 months. I am itching to get back into work and also relieve my husband of having to support all of us on his income.

But for now, I am just going to give this a go. Hopefully, once things settle down a little in terms of setting up the business, I can get back into blogging soon.

I am wondering though if I am a little crazy for going out on a limb and trying this new business venture out. Have you ever started a small business? Was it a failure or a success?  Do you have any tips or advice? Would love to hear about it!

P.S Don't forget to like 'The Vintage Hunter' Facebook page! x

Friday, 12 July 2013

Now that you're one

In the days before you were born, I imagined this...

Your colourful, chocolate covered birthday cake. Your squeals of delight. Your chubby feet filling tiny shoes. Your soft and wispy blonde hair. Your wobbly first steps.  Your soft, small hand in mine. The bright splashes of colour in the form of balloons and bunting. The throng of extended family filling our new home to the brim.The laughing, the smiling and the energy that filled the room as we gathered to sing, "happy birthday to you...".

It was this image of your first birthday party that kept me going as rhythmic contractions rippled relentlessly across my tightening belly. I so wanted you here with me, with us, your family. To hold you in my arms and plant kisses all over your face. To take your clenched little hand in my open palm and hold it, never to let go.

When you arrived in this world, I fell instantly in love with you.  After three days of painful pre-labour and no sleep, I was deliriously happy and tired. But that night I did not sleep. I couldn't stop thinking about you. I was reflecting on your journey here to us, imagining who were and would become. I couldn't believe you were just inside my belly and now in my arms. You were such a perfect baby. Sleeping all day and just waking to feed every three hours. I felt like I should be doing more. It seemed all too easy. You were just so content, so happy and relaxed.

It was your peaceful presence that kept me calm when we had to move house two weeks after you were born. Amidst the packing, unpacking, cleaning and continued renovations at our new home I would just stare at you and sigh. What is it like, I would wonder, to just sleep, drink milk and be cuddled all day? Perfect, I would imagine.

One year on and I can't believe you're one already. I lay in bed the night before your birthday and reflected. Where did the time go? How did you suddenly grow so tall? When did you turn from being a baby to a little boy?

Over the last 12 months I've sure loved getting to know you. You have a quiet strength about you and a calming presence that draws people in. You like to discover how things work, especially anything electrical. You seem like a thinker, some may say serious, but I think you're deep, someone who likes to ponder. You are also determined. You know what you want and will try at anything to get it. You are a little louder these days - you've got to be with your big sister around. You like us to know you're here too. You like to squeal, scream and show off your walking legs. You still enjoy bum shuffling more than walking at the moment but it won't take long. You like to bop to music and l smile widely whenever I sing you songs. You love to bounce on your bum on the trampoline and be chased as you shuffle along the lounge room floor. Your favourite toys are plastic balls, hockey sticks, daddy's guitar and anything you can take out of a box, drawer or cupboard. You love to give big wet kisses when I say "kiss" and have little "chats" after I finish breastfeeding you. I love that when I feed you, your little hand will rest on my collar bone, stroking my skin.

When it was time for your party the other day I felt so proud of you. You are such a delight and enjoyed the music, games and cake. The cake was definitely the highlight though - your first taste of sugar. Is that why you haven't wanted to eat your vegetables since then?

We are so happy you are a part of our lives Fin. You fill me, your Daddy, sister and everyone else in the extended family with so much joy. We love you so much.

Thank you God for bringing Fin into our lives - a precious gift of life.

Monday, 1 July 2013

When the kids and I met Kevin Rudd

On Wednesday night I was sitting in front of the TV in complete shock. Kevin Rudd was back as the newly resurrected prime minister.

How could he? Did he just? I can't believe it! Is this really happening? I was feeling a lot of mixed emotions.

It's not like its 2007. We know more about Kevin these days. Some say he's egotistical, smarmy, a prima donna and a control freak.

Yet when my husband Luke phoned me from our local café on Saturday morning to tell me Kevin Rudd was in town, something inside me switched.

I threw off my PJs, got dressed, grabbed my one-year-old son Finlay and sped off into town. I was being overtaken by some strange Kevinator forces. I just HAD to meet him.

This is not me. This is the Kevin '07 me. The former Liberal party voter who viewed Kevin as the new political messiah for Australia, the fresh out of uni graduate who stood up to her right-wing editor and pretty much declared, "In Kevin I Trust".

I always had this "thing" for him. Perhaps it was his charming-smarmy, shiny moon face or the thick, cheesy flow of his political rhetoric, or maybe it was just the way he way he would say "folks" and "fair shake of a sauce bottle."

Perhaps, this "thing" I had for him led me to be like a crazy Rudd groupie on Saturday morning. I ended up running through the freezing cold rain, with my almost one-year-old on my hip, from the car to the café. I bounded up a huge set of stairs and then with a mix of unfitness, nervousness and a dodgy electrical circuit in my heart I experienced a short, unpleasant session of tachycardia. I reminded myself that Kevin has had his own heart troubles too. He'd understand.

Once I recovered, I finally spotted Luke and my three-year-old daughter Issy in the crowd of people that had lined up outside on the shiny, wet, concrete footpath. Everyone was standing out in the cold rain, awaiting with expectation to meet their new recycled leader.

 And there he was.

His shiny and perfectly combed silver locks gleamed under his black umbrella across the street. He crossed the road, edging closer to where I stood. A crowd of people surged forward, trying to get a glimpse.

 "Hi folks, nice to meet you," he said with a shining smile.
Then I thought, this is my chance. I grabbed the kids and pressed into the crowd, squeezing past the journos and video cameramen to meet my 2007 hero.

Cameras flashed all around us but to me it felt like it was just Kev and I standing there alone. We chatted about boring deep and intellectual things like baby milestones and his one-year-old grand daughter.

I then heard an all too eager voice from behind me and a familiar looking head thrust forward to break up the little party of two.  It was my local member who of course wanted to be included in the action.
Towards the end of our conversation my daughter lovingly picked her nose,  who knows where she wiped it but from the look on Kevin's face he must have known something was coming for him.

Once we said goodbye, we watched the Rudd groupies walk further down the street. I was still in disbelief. Even more so when that night around 6pm my husband and I started receiving text messages from our friends.

My husband's mate:

"Just saw your wife on TV. We know who you are voting for!"

My neighbour:

"Did I just see Issy in Kevin Rudd's arms?"

My cousin:

"You look like you're in love."

My aunty:

"Hope he didn't get your phone number."

Our little meet and greet with Kevin Rudd was flashed on screens across five different media networks. Our TV decided not to work that night because of the rain so we tuned in later via catch-up TV on the internet.

After such a crazy and exciting day I found it hard to sleep that night. I had a bad case of political fever.

But it didn't last long...

Despite, my seemingly intimate encounter with Kevin Rudd I am still not any closer to working out who to vote for in the 2013 federal election.

How do you feel about this upcoming election? What would you say to Kevin Rudd if you got the chance?

Monday, 24 June 2013

What are little girls made of?

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of

I remember hearing this rhyme as a young girl and thinking that girls certainly seemed far more superior to boys. Boys were dirty, yucky and smelly while we girls were sweet, beautiful and clean.

Growing up I certainly didn't always fit that picture and I don't expect my little girl to either. But something inside me jumped a little when I came home today to find my husband had been teaching Issy to hunt for slugs in the backyard.

When I arrived home she rushed over to me in excitement to show me her treasures.

"Look mum, me and daddy found some slugs," she said, shoving a dirty, plastic container into my hands.

I peered inside and spotted two maggots, a beetle, a centipede with a fang-like tail, a worm and witchetty grub (that last one was impressive).

My response was not the most encouraging.

"Ewww gross,” I said as I handed back the container.

I think it was the maggots that really put me off.

"Where did you find these?" I asked my husband.

"Just under rocks," he replied. "Mel, she loved it! Can you believe she found a witchetty grub?"

"Yeah, that's pretty cool," I said, trying to get into the excitement of it all. "Okay, Issy you better go and have a shower as you're completely filthy."

She was covered in mud, her hair was limp and hanging into her eyes and the yellow waterfall that was pouring from her nose was beginning to smear with the dirt on her upper lip.

I sensed that I was rushing her. I wasn’t taking the time to marvel in her slippery, slimy treasures or engage with her and my husband’s sense of achievement in finding these creatures.

Then I asked myself...why am I so quick to get her cleaned up. Yes, we were going out in half an hour but there was something else that niggled at me…

Sugar and spice And everything nice, that's what little girls are made of…

A little girl covered in dirt, playing with slugs and wearing gum boots with a pair of boy's pants on (a hand-me-down from her nephew) isn’t exactly what I envisioned when I thought of having a daughter.

Yet, deep down I love it. Slugs may irk me a bit but I just love that she’s an individual. She is wild, she is free and a young adventurer. She has always had a love of life, of the outdoors, of anything hands-on, messy and exciting.
Sometimes I can so easily forget what is at the heart of my little girl. It takes moments like these— with the slugs, mud and gumboots—to remind me that she is her own person. She is strong, determined, and adventurous and she won’t be boxed in. I love her so much.
Let the girls run free.


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Thankfulness as therapy

Thankfulness and I have not always got along so well. In the past I was much more of a complainer, a whiner and a person who could sometimes be consumed by negativity.

I remember one birthday when I was ten-years-old I was given some beautiful gifts and one not so good gift. It was a porcelain doll from my grandma. A boy porcelain doll with shiny orange hair and glasses. I was not impressed or the least bit thankful. It is all captured on video camera too. I take one look at the doll and my mouth curves into a frown. My eyes cast downward and my hands go limp. I look like I am about to cry. I remember feeling like that gift took the pleasure out of all the other gifts. I couldn’t move on or get over it. My birthday was ruined.

Sometimes I really enjoyed being in an ungrateful and unhappy place, especially as a teenager. Then there was the time when I was in my early 20s and I went through a period of anxiety/depression and panic attacks. Perhaps all the years of negative thinking were boiling over.

At the time it felt like there was a trap - one negative/ anxious thought would hang in front of my eyes and I'd grab onto it. I would mull on it, believe it and let it consume me. I was like a mouse who had seen the cheese in a trap, taken a bite and SNAP I was stuck.

 However, over the years I have slowly learnt how to change my thought process. This I believe is attributed to God, a couple of months of counseling and a change in circumstances. Through it all I've learnt the vital importance of being thankful. I now try to practise a little something called, 'thankfulness therapy'.

Thankfulness therapy, otherwise known as "the attitude of gratitude", can take lots of HARD WORK. But after some time this little practice of thankfulness can come naturally.

Now, when I talk about thankfulness I am not talking about ignoring the bad stuff. There is nothing worse than hurting on the inside and trying to keep it together on the outside. It's important to be real, to be who you are, to share your hurts, your frustrations and pain. For me thankfulness is about being AWARE of what is good in your life, even when things aren't going right.

When I am having a difficult day (which can be quite often with two small children) I force myself to stop and ask: "What can I be thankful for right now?" I did this just yesterday when I felt completely overwhelmed by a mountain of mess in my house, a teething toddler, a never-takes-a-breathe-three-year-old and the usual "what am I doing with my life thoughts?" I took a deep breathe and thought of five things I can be thankful for that day...

  • I am thankful that I was so toasty warm in my bed this morning and that my husband let me stay that way until he had to go to work. Bless him.
  • I am thankful  that my daughter is going to preschool today so I can get some head space and sanity back.
  • I am thankful I got to make AND eat my breakfast before rushing off the preschool this morning.
  • I am thankful for family and friends who live nearby who I can spent time with and call upon in tough times.
  • I am thankful for the beautiful sunshine today.
These were just five small things but it really helped me get some perspective and refocus. If there are days where I am really struggling to find something to be thankful for I look beyond my own situation and think how many other people in the world are far worse off than me. For example:

  • Those who are incapacitated by sickness - I can be thankful I am healthy
  • People who are homeless - I can be thankful that I have a place to live
  • People who have no-one to love them and are lonely - I can be thankful for my husband, my kids, family and friends. 
  • The millions of people world-wide who are hungry - I can be thankful that I have a fridge full of food and that I can feed my children.
  • Those who are in the midst of war - I can be thankful that I live in a peaceful country where I don't have to fear for my safety.
No matter what we are going through, there is always something to be thankful for.
A year ago I read a most wonderful little book titled, 'Remember' by a brave woman named Rhonda Watson. She was dying from Motor Neuron Disease yet she felt a strong sense from God that she could help others learn about thankfulness, even in the worst of circumstances. She writes this about thankfulness:

"Thankfulness quells self-pity. It stops hankering after 'the good old days', the time before this all happened. The times when I could, when I had, when I was known for....The habit of thankfulness stops the habit of envy: I wish I had what she's got. I wish, I want. Thankfulness enables me to live in the moment. It accepts the present and looks for what is tasty, warm, pleasant, fresh and good. It takes my focus away from myself and allows me to see the needs and feelings of others."

What can you be thankful for today?

If you liked this post you may also like to read how I recently said goodbye to self pity

Friday, 31 May 2013

Embracing the last day of autumn

It's the last day of autumn today and the weather is perfect. There is a cool breeze but the sun is warm enough to make you feel like your cosying up next to a wood fire heater.

We love autumn at our place because our backyard is completely transformed thanks to a beautiful deciduous liquid amber tree. It was this tree that basically sold us the house. The original two bedroom house that stood here before we renovated was a run-down, cockroach infested, green and pink-walled shack. The carpets smelt like urine, the kitchen was rotting and when I would cook at least twenty cockroaches would clamber together for warmth on the kitchen ceiling.

But we survived. We lived in this house for two and a bit years before we renovated. Throughout that time it was this beautiful tree that added colour and vibrancy to an otherwise shabby home. We certainly added our touch to the inside of the house at the time – new paint, polished floorboards and photos—but it was always this tree that took centre stage. Even now with the renovations and extensions complete, it is the tree people still comment most about. It’s an artwork on its own.  

So today being the last day of autumn I thought why not embrace it in our own backyard?

Too often I am too quick to pack our bags and rush out the door to enjoy a local park or find something better to do.

Yet it's often in our own homes where some of the best memories are made.

We put on our boots, clomped down the stairs and let loose in our own backyard. We trampled through crunchy, golden autumn leaves, gathering handfuls of colour and tossing them sky high. Isabella enjoyed smooshing the leaves into Fin's hair as he would gasp and giggle.

We also thought it might be time to collect some oranges from our ancient, no-maintanance-needed-orange tree.The kids loved it. Fin especially enjoyed scooting along on his bum through the wet grass and crispy leaves.

As we made our own fun on this fine, final day of autumn, I realised how relaxed I felt. I didn't have to drag the kids to anywhere in particular or try to entertain them. We can made our own fun. It was a simple day yet one to remember. 

What do you love most about autumn where you live?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Saying goodbye to self pity

I woke up feeling sorry for myself today. I had two kids at home and no plans. It was raining outside and the house was a mess. It was still dark at 6.20am when my daughter Isabella rushed into our room and climbed into bed with my husband and I. Only ten seconds later she ran out, leaving a trail of morning wee behind her.

I buried my head under the pillow as my husband did the clean up. "Make sure you use disinfectant!" I yelled out. Then we had a "heated discussion" about toilet mishaps and house cleaning.

This was five minutes into the day.

Four and a half hours later I was still moping around the house in my ugly, stained, pink dressing gown. Isabella was squashing play dough all over the floor and Fin was rolling onions under the table. They were happy. I was still miserable. But part of me wanted to be in this place, this pit of self-pity.

Eventually the kids and I got dressed and we went for a drive to nowhere in particular. I just needed to get out of the house, out of my dressing gown and out of this negative head space.

Around and around the streets I drove as negative thoughts swirled around and around my mind.

I am so tired.

I feel trapped.

I hate rainy days.

I wish I could have a day to myself. A whole day.

I wish Isabella would stop asking so many questions.

“Where are we going mum?”

Nowhere. I am going nowhere. I feel like I am sinking.

But I reply, “We’ll see…”

We end up at the local shopping centre. It's a  hole a very exciting place. There's Target, the Reject Shop & Coles - all under one small roof. Wow!

I buy the kids some pajamas which has been a long overdue purchase. There's only so long you can squeeze an almost one year old into double zero pajamas.

We sit down at table and chairs outside a doughnut shop to have some morning tea that I had oh-so-budget-consciously packed. It's then that I overhear a conversation that changes my day.

“Would you look at that,” an elderly female voice says from the table a few metres away. “How beautiful are those two. A boy and a girl. Do you remember when…”

Her voice trails off and out of my hearing range. I wish I could hear but instead I imagine what she may have said to her husband who was sitting next to her.

“Do you remember when we had two young children? Do you remember when we ourselves were young  parents too? We use to think it was so hard. If only I knew how fast time would go and how quickly they would grow up and move out and into the world. I sometimes wish I knew what I know now: those days were some of the best in my life. I had purpose. I had my whole life ahead of me. I had my health. I had many friends and family, all still alive. I was free, without even knowing it.”
I look at my two children. Isabella is squeezing a ripe banana between her fingers and then painting the trolley with the sloppy, gooey mixture. Fin is mouthing a rice cracker, his yellow snot running over the ridge of his cherry coloured lip and into his mouth.

My children are beautiful.

I love them and I love that I can just be here with them. I have all the free time today to enjoy them.

Our next stop is the supermarket and I bump into my neighbour Jim. He is 85 years old and a keen gardener. I ask him how he is and he tells me:

“I am going slow today. I fell out of the taxi last night when I got home. My knee just gave way and they had to drag me inside. I am in a lot of pain.”

I listen and sympathise. I think that maybe I should help, but Jim being Jim has never wanted me to lift a finger for him. The subject of conversation changes and we say goodbye. I wish I could help but perhaps this was more of a case of Jim helping me.

I am slowly begin to realise how good I’ve got it.

As we meander in and out of the aisles I am conscious of my legs moving strongly and rhythmically. I have no pain. I am not trapped within my own body. I am free to walk, to run, to move without restriction.

I walk outside the shops and I spot Jim’s wife Pat. I begin to walk over to her and realise she is asleep, sitting atop of her walker.

“Why is she asleep mum?” Isabella asks.

“She’s tired.”


“Well, when you get old you get very tired.”

She looks exhausted. Her body is a little slumped and her pale face is set in a frown. It would have been a long and hard walk from the taxi to the entrance of the supermarket. It doesn't take much to take it out of her. We decide not to wake her and instead let her rest.

As we continue on I realise that although I am tired I still have energy. I feel like I have a  reserve of strength that come when you’re still young. I feel like I can keep going.

As I arrive back home from the shopping centre I am greeted at the door with clothes that have been flung across the floor and shoes scattered in the doorway. There’s still play dough squished into the cracks of the table and floorboards. There’s still toys and a zillion crumbs covering the carpet.

But I choose to look beyond the mess, beyond myself and see that I am so completely blessed.

Goodbye self pity.




Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Gluten free minestrone soup

I've been meaning to cook a heart-warming, gluten free Minestrone soup for weeks and kept putting it off because I couldn't be bothered dicing carrots and zucchinis into tiny peices.

But tonight I realised that all the dicing is well worth it. This soup is truly delicious, packed full of nutrients, fibre and antioxidants. It also fills you up without filling you out if you're worried about that.

So, I decided to adapt a favourite minestrone recipe of mine to suit my low gluten/wheat diet and use whatever was lying around in my fridge and pantry.

What i used:

1 x can of diced tomatoes
1 x can of chopped tomatoes
1 x cup of red lentils*
1 litre of gluten free veggie stock
2 x carrots, peeled and diced
2 x zucchinis, diced
2 x celery sticks, diced
2 x red onions, peeled and diced
3 x rashers of bacon, chopped.
1 clove of garlic, diced
2 x tsp of dried basil leaves (or a handful of fresh basil)
2 x tsp of dried rosemary leaves (or two sprigs of fresh rosemary)
1 x chili finely diced
2 x bay leaves:

So, as you can see from the image, these are simple, inexpensive ingredients. While cooking I did change my mind a little & added another can of diced tomatoes and three rashers of bacon (my naughty edition to this pot full of goodness) and left out the tomato paste. I also replaced the usual pasta in minestrone soup with lentils and they really won me over. The lentils give the soup a thicker texture & soak in the beautiful flavours. No need to worry about soggy pasta either.

How I cooked it:

1. In a large flame proof pot, fry off the garlic and onions and cook the bacon until it's slightly crispy.
2. Add the carrot and celery and cook until they have softened a little.
3. Fry the chili, dried herbs and then add in the cans of tomato & zucchini. Give it all a stir for a a minute.
4. Add the stock (warm in a glass bowl for 2 minutes in the microwave) and the lentils.
5. Pop in the bay leaves and let it all come to boil.
6. Once boiling, put the lid on and let it simmer for 40 minutes. You'll know it's ready once the lentils have cooked (they are soft and have expanded) and the veggies have softened.
7. Top with any fresh herbs you may have (I added some parsley from the garden) and some parmeson cheese if you like.
8. Enjoy with a side of crusty bread topped with butter- YUM! I had this soup with wheat-free sourdough spelt. Delish!

The end product:

Husband's Review:

My hubby, also my number one food critic, said this minestrone soup was "beautiful, amazing, one of the best."

Why, thank you...
I hope you enjoy it too.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Bedtime routine fatigue

If there is a Guinness Book of Records entry for the longest bedtime routine in the world then my three-year-old daughter would win it.

Right now, I have bedtime routine fatigue. After three and a half years of lengthily bedtime settling I am wanting out. I just want an easy day where I can say, "Go to bed now", and wham, she's there.

When my daughter was a tiny baby she required lots of settling to get her to sleep. I was constantly on the phone to Tresillian and reading every sleep training book known to man. I ended up using a mix of breastfeeding to sleep (a bad habit which is hard to break), controlled comforting/crying and rocking her cradle. When she grew too big for the cradle I found a port-a-cot that I could shake vigorously rock. This worked well for awhile but soon the rocking no longer worked. She was also no longer breastfeeding from 16 months. Nothing was working.

We then developed a routine which involved the usual dinner, bath time, reading two books, bed, prayers and then added some quiet singing. Each day and night my husband or I would sing her a song. This was fine until the routine slowly grew and stretched to be at least an extra half an hour some nights. We were now singing three songs, blowing kissing at the door, getting glasses of milk and water.

One of the songs we would sing to her was "Amazing Grace", a beautiful song, but oh how I needed grace itself. Sometimes I'd be singing it through gritted teeth and fumbling over the words just to get it out.

This sleep routine generally took an hour and a half - not including dinner.

Then when our second child came along all hell broke loose and she was taking FOREVER to go to bed. I was also up through the night with the baby and was completely exhausted. We got to a point where we were doing anything to get her to sleep so the baby would sleep.  Bad, bad, bad habit to start. We then began using baby sleeping music on top of everything else to soothe her..

At some point along the line, we added ‘telling her stories from our childhood’ to the routine and  'relaxing story' - a little bedtime meditation thing I made up to help her relax her body so she would stop rolling around the bed.

Why I added more things to this already long routine I don't know. I guess I was desperate. I thought maybe I'd find the perfect formula that would help her go to sleep and not keep calling out.

But we have instead become slaves. Slaves to my three-year-old daughter's routine. We have tried to cut the routine down and we have had some success. I put my foot down more now. I am happy to say, "enough is enough!" But she seems to not listen until I reach that point of boiling.

I hate having to raise my voice and get angry. Every. Single. Day. Did I mention this routine happens twice a day? After lunch and at night? Yes, she still has a day sleep. She needs it at least 4-5 times a week to keep her sane.

I can tell I've got bedtime routine fatigue because I'll often sit here at my desk swearing under my breath while I try to find the sleep music she wants from YouTube. I am not a swearer. It's only come upon me recently. I hate what comes out of my mouth. I get so frustrated.

Today she was crying out because she wanted a non-existant rocking chair to be delivered to her room. I don't give in. I guess that's easy when a rocking chair does not exist.

Routine is great but I am hoping that there will come a point where we can slowly cut it down. For now, I just need to see the positives:

-          It does help her unwind (if you count screaming and crying…hmmm)

-          I get quality time with her (true to an extent)

-          I get to listen to beautifully, relaxing instrumental music while I clean up the kitchen

-          I can re-live my childhood through telling her every good story I can remember (although I am now running out of stories)

-          I am learning to be patient (but need to work on no longer swearing.)

How about you, what’s your bedtime routine like with your kids? Anyone got a longer one?

I’d be interested in hearing all about it.