Monday, 21 August 2017

A winter birthday

The sun was hot and high in the sky when son Finlay asked me, "How many days until my birthday, mum?"

"Oh, over one hundred days,” I said, estimating the days until his winter birthday in June. I looked out at our gigantic liquid amber tree that tells the story of seasons through the changing colours which we can see stretched out like a banner across our entire backyard. It's our own ever-changing artwork that can be viewed from the entire width of the kitchen, lounge room and our bedroom. 

It was early autumn but the seasons seemed not to change just yet. The tree was still heaving with hundreds of deep green leaves. His winter birthday felt far away. I tried to think of a way he could visually understand the number of days until his birthday so I said: You’ll know your birthday is near when its very cold and all the leaves have changed colour and fallen off our tree."

I could see him pondering this. “All the leaves?” he asked, wanting to confirm.

“Yes, well, mostly all,” I had said.

As the days rolled on, soon the night air grew cooler and the sun descended beyond the horizon before dinnertime. It didn’t take too long before the leaves began to change colour.

One afternoon, under the canopy of our tree's golden yellow, red and orange leaves I'd whisper in excitement to my son: "See how the tree is changing?"

With every leaf that changed colour it was another day closer to his birthday. 

Soon the days grew shorter and a blanket of autumn leaves were pulled over the green grass of our backyard. It became an autumn theme park where each afternoon the sound of laughter, sheiks of joy and crunching leaves would echo across the neighbourhood.

My three children would rumble, crash and roll through the leaves. The older two, Isabella and Finlay, would each take a handle of the monkey bars that hung from one of the trees’ grey arms and swing through the leaves. Their legs would drag and sweep through the autumn sea beneath their feet leaving a swirl of dust behind.

My youngest, Lucy would be nearby diving into a warm and crunchy ocean of crispy warm colours. She would throw off her socks and shoes to experience the full sensory thrill. She would laugh and beckon me to join in, calling out, “Mum, mum!”

Soon we would all be diving into the leaves, tossing them at one another and swatting the dirt away from our eyes. A fountain of colours and squeals of excitement.

Then it rained. The ground remained damp and the colour was drained from our backyard, leaving a mucky mush of brown. The afternoons were now cooler and the grey shadows of the liquid amber would be cast across the yard not long after afternoon tea. 

The tree’s leaves were almost gone now. Its grey and gangling arms stretched out, naked and bare across the blue sky. A few leaves still clung on, dancing in the wintery whispers of crisp air.

Look, Finlay, look! Just 14 days to go.

The countdown was now on.

How to explain the days to my boy, the days seem so long to him. Fourteen days, it’s too long, he would whine.

It will go fast, I’d say unconvincingly.

Every night before bed we’d count the sleeps until his birthday and his party day.
Soon it was just one day. Oh the joy and anticipation!

“So I’ll be five tomorrow mum?” he asked.

“Yes, I can’t believe it!” I had said.

“So, on my birthday I turn five and then two days later on my party day I turn six?”

Bless him. I had a little more explaining to do.

Then the birthday arrived.

He ran into me that morning, his face beaming.

“So am I five now?” he had asked excitedly.


Then there was a flurry of wrapping paper being torn, squeals of excitement and gasps of surprise as he opened his presents – AFL cards, an Essendon bombers jersey and shorts, and Lego.

Then it was special time – just me and Fin. A couple of rounds of putt-putt golf and a trip to a local cafĂ© for a juice and a sweet conversation about his favourite AFL players.

The birthday hadn’t ended yet as two days later it was his AFL style party with preschool friends and family. It felt like he’d truly grown up with his own little gang of mates. They were all chasing each other, booting the ball and roaring with laughter as they would tackle one another.

After the games, Fin’s favourite foods were served – Grandma’s famous sausage rolls, watermelon and a special AFL chocolate cake. His face says it all.

As we sang happy birthday beneath the bare and grey speckled branches of our Liquid Amber tree, I looked up. The leaves had all changed colour, fallen and been swept away. Winter had truly arrived. The sun shone through the bare branches, brighter than ever, falling upon Finlay’s head like a halo. He was finally five and absolutely glowing.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Life in a tornado

So I looked at my blog today for the first time in six months and found this draft post. I wrote this towards the end of last year. Not much has changed apart from it being winter now. Here it tis'...

It's 10pm and I'm slouching against the pillows in my bed, laptop laid out in front, fan whirling overhead. It's a warm Friday night. Just an hour ago I was sitting in the car parked outside our house eating potato chips in the dark. It felt so silent and peaceful. Just the sound of chips crunching and the street light illuminating the large patches of overgrown grass surrounding our car.

I crave peacefulness, silence and calm. The days are so busy. So rushed. So hectic. So loud.

From the moment I wake there are kids fighting over chairs in the kitchen or who gets to play with the baby first. There's frantic searches for socks, library books, missing lego heads and a packet of baby wipes. There's demands for vitamin C and more Weetbix.

The kitchen is a tornado of school / preschool lunch-making and breakfast cleanup. A flurry of cling wrap, cheese, peanut butter, and cereal slowly setting into a cement-like substance on the floor.

The children take turns in fighting, having time out and playing alone. Hurtful words are thrown across the room between the older two; "stupid girl", "I hate him!", "you're a poo',  "stop it!", "Mum! Help! Finlay keeps touching me", "I'm going to cut your head off."

Yes. The last one is a little scary.

My head feels fuzzy, my ears are exploding. It's the morning mix tape of squawking tiny children needing to be fed and discplined.

Life with three children is still a shock to my system. A couple of months ago I had enough. I ran out the front door with the baby and just stood at the edge of the pathway to our garden. Silence. Blue sky. Green grass. Ants climbing over my toes. Baby dribble.


Back inside. Face the chaos. Try and be an adult and work this one out. I am meant to know what I am doing right?

Sometimes I just don't know. I really don't know. I read books and hundreds of online posts on parenting. I read the kids books on identifying their feelings. I use time out and sometimes we just talk it out. We have star charts for jobs and positive reinforcement. We have "family time", special Friday night movies. I buy vitamins that supposedly boost my children's immunity. I ask friends and grandparents for advice. I ruminate, I worry, I whinge and yet I love them with every fibre of my being.

I may not know what I'm doing most days but I know that I love them. I love them with a love that makes my heart ache and my stomach feel hollow. I may be prone to biscuit-based bribery, breastfeeding babies to sleep and even co-sleeping (gasp!). But in all the ways I mess up or don't follow the parenting manual I make up for in kisses, cuddles and silly songs.

Life is extraordinarily busy right now and there is barely any "me time" yet I feel I'll look back on these years and think they were simply the best. They'll be plenty of silence and peacefulness to maybe another 30 years.

For now,  I'll just embrace the noise.