Like sands through the hourglass

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Melbourne almost two years. Much has happened and yet it feels like the days have gone by in a blur without achieving much; a rollercoaster of life and career. There have been hectic times where I held the household logistics together with sticky-tape and there have been times when I’ve had so much time on my hands I didn’t know what to do with myself. Like a kid whose parent just doled out a screen ban. The eyes blink a few times, slowly, before looking desperately for some direction.

The beginning of 2015 went from outrageously busy to the calmer holding-pattern of the past few months. We moved house again, from the rental to the new townhouse we’re paying off; my parents came to visit over Fraser’s birthday, in February; we went on a 2-week family holiday; and I had three job interviews all in the space of about 10 weeks.

I wasn’t successful with those interviews, though I came close, and I haven’t had a lot of work since I wrapped up my long-running informal contract in February. At the time it finished, it was near-panic stations as we settled into our new mortgage and car repayments, but we got past the quiet first quarter of the year and Matt’s work continues to go well. We are fortunate to be able to sustain my flexibility and availability whenever the kids need it, and with Fraser getting prepared to start high school next year, we may need to call on that even more. I do, however, find my self-worth is inversely proportionate to the amount of free time I have. Instead of nourishing the soul by making daily time for creative pursuits, I squander it on errands and busy-work. I’m trying to work out what’s going wrong there, while I look back at all the wasted time with mild disgust at how little productivity I have to show for it.

As unsatisfying as all the “yay, free time!” has been, I recognise that’s wholly within my control. The lack of motivation, the fear-or-something of exploring creativity, the time-suck that too much social media is—that’s on me. The things outside our control challenge us the most. For 18 months, Mum and Dad have been weathering the storm of his brain cancer diagnosis. I won’t say battling, because it’s not Dad’s style to battle anything. He goes with the flow, expecting it all to work out ok, eventually—the optimistic gambler.

What was meant to be an easy retirement for my parents must feel akin to a hostage situation. After coming through two brain surgeries, Dad is well enough to be playing golf once a week, walking the dogs every day, and enjoying his blossoming career as a clivea dealer. But he is on 6-weekly oral chemo, and Avastin infusions every two weeks. Even if he did want to travel, he’d have to be back within two weeks. While he’s happy doing exactly the things he would do with a straightforward retirement, Mum is hamstrung. As his carer and chauffeur, she doesn’t want to leave him for long. She missed out on her European painting tour when he was diagnosed, and long-distance travel is the furthest thing from her mind these days.

When I visit, I’m on high alert for anything that may have changed—is Dad moving more slowly, can he get his arms into a shirt sleeves, can he get his shoes on? It’s confronting and stressful, and I’m only exposed to that for a couple of days here and there. I admire the strength Mum has to keep going in spite of her unanswerable questions. For now, I talk to them twice a week, visit every couple of months, and continue planning future events as though everything is going to be ok. And when the time comes that it isn’t going to be ok, I’m sure I’ll be desperately looking around for some direction.

Settling in to Brunswick

One epic drive and a truckload of removaled stuff later, we arrived in our new place. Matt and I were both amazed at how you go from countryside to Coburg, just like that, and within 15 kms of the city. Apparently, the urban sprawl spreads south-east.

We drove in convoy, with Matt in one car with one kid, and me in the other car with the other kid and the cat. I drugged Kami with anti-psychotic, because he yowls on the way to the vet and I didn’t fancy listening to that all the way to Melbourne. He took the half-tablet easily and settled in for the trip well, with a pitstop to stretch his legs inside the car somewhere around Albury.

He’s taken to the new place very easily, with only one full day trapped inside.

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I’ve been working steadily through the boxes in between outings and doing bits and pieces of work.

We’ve been on a bunch of outings: New Year fireworks at Yarra park, dumplings in Malvern, the Melbourne Museum, organic fruit and veg shopping at CERES, and swimming at the nearby Brunswick Baths. I’ve also added a basket to my bike so I can ride to the shops. It could be that we get down to occasional weekend car use, which seems like a luxury after all these years of having to drive everywhere.

I didn’t get to do a video walk-through of our renos at Bowral, because I kind of forgot in all the logistics of staying out of the way of the movers. When Trudy reminded me, I was already mentally prepared not to go back. It was time for the new. Our lease at the new place is only six months. I hope we get more time here, but we may have to move on that soon if the owners want to move in. At least we’re on the ground now to be able to look around when the time comes.

For now, we’re enjoying our new digs and exploring the surrounds.

 

 

Eight is enough


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The title of this post bears little relation to the content, except that Fraser is now eight. I remember the TV show, though. Anyway. Fraser’s actual birthday was back on Feb 5. The same day and year as Facebook, as it happens. We had a little family do on the day, with lunch at the golf club and chocolate cake. We gave him another Diary of  Wimpy Kid book and golf club membership, which he’s been wanting for years. Once cricket season is over, I expect he’ll be able to start having golf lessons.

The following weekend he had a sleep over at his cousin’s house which included an outing to Luna Park, the beach, and McDonald’s. He was bribed to go on all the rides he refused to go on last time he went and declared it the best birthday ever!

Fraser wanted a birthday party this year. Given his birthday is so close to the start of the school year, and the new school, we decided to put it off until yesterday. That ended up being a great decision—the sun was shining for once—and we had a mix of old and new friends. I’d organised a few games including a scavenger hunt with little plastic jungle animals and hidden lollipops, putt putt, dizzy stick races, and had set up a target and made up a few water bombs. Most of the time though, the ten-or-so boys just kept themselves amused with cricket and soccer games.

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Once again, I slaved over making birthday cake and icing from scratch to create a Lego interpretation. It turned out so well. There was a yellow, red, and blue brick, where even the cake inside was in the appropriate colour. Why must I measure my mothering by the effort invested in the cake when it’s devoured or discarded within minutes, and the whole party goes for less time than it took me to ice it? Le sigh. I’m glad the party was a success, though.

That wasn’t it for the Festival of Fraser. He’s gone with Matt to the cricket today, watching the One Day International between Australia and India. All reports are that he’s having an excellent time.

50/47 – School’s back

Ohhh such a backlog. So as you can see from the title, the school holidays are over and school has been back for 3 days. Fraser started year 3 at a new school this year and so we had a few tears on Monday. After being introduced to a few other year 3 boys, by another mother who was there on Monday morning, he has been playing with them and seems to have settled in ok.

Cheese & crackers

The week of camping we had planned to go up until the day before school went back ended up being a bit of a disaster. Except for the first day, it rained non-stop. There were some good things: Fraser enjoyed riding his bike around and playing cricket with some other kids and Lincoln enjoyed playing with the younger ones; Lincoln and I had a nice time at Seven Mile Beach; and the boys had plenty of swimming time in the pool at the camping ground. But overall, it wasn’t that much fun. The rain started pooling on the top of the tent and things were getting damp. So, we packed up and came home on Australia Day.

Let’s just face it; we’re cabin people.

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Before I get started, I just wanted to point you back to this post. Amanda asked me for a how-to for making the shell curtain, so I’ve added some commentary in the comments.

So, what have you been doing the past week? I’ve had the whole week off, thanks to our parents taking the kids since last Sunday. Each kid went to one set of grandparents and they swapped over half way through. They enjoyed their full-time attention, though Lincoln did say how much he missed his big brother. It was lovely seeing them reunite today. Fraser ran up and gave Lincoln a great big hug.

Anyway, they both had a nice break. Fraser went fishing, enjoyed the company of my uncle’s dogs, saw The Muppets again, played mini-golf  and went bowling. Lincoln had a couple of play dates, played mini-golf, went to the park, and played “army men” and watched some new DVDs.

As for me, I enjoyed the blissful silence. Matt left for nerd camp last Tuesday so it’s been just me, on my own, for six whole days. SIX! I crafted, I rearranged Lincoln’s room, I went to Sydney for a meeting and a TV show taping, I went to the gym a couple of times, and I worked on preparing a presentation for a seminar that’s coming up in March. I stayed up really late, slept in a little bit, and watched West Wing eps. I went to the Bowral markets and the Old Pot Factory at Braemar. I bought this kangaroo that was on sale.

kangaroo

It was heaven. The quiet obviously did my brain some good because it kept trying to work when I was ready for sleep.

But tomorrow we’re all back on deck. The boys are back today but tomorrow Matt comes home. Fraser has swimming lessons this week, Lincoln goes back to pre-school on Wednesday and next week we’re off camping.

2011 — The Year That Was

I just time travelled back to January 2011 and my first post for last year was about jettisoning the stuff we don’t need—literally and mentally.

It seems appropriate to continue the theme by joining in on Debra’s 52 Weeks to Simplify Your Life. This is week 1’s post, which I should have posted last week but am a bit late.

Week #1 Challenge: Create a list of everything that went “right” in 2011

So, yeah, there was a bunch of stuff. And 2012 is going to be even BETTER. (But more on that later.)

  • We sold the farm, which we’d been trying to sell for ages. I was disappointed at the price we sold for but…
  • We bought our current house for a bargain price. It’s the worst house in the best street, but it’s got the most fabulous yard and is so quiet and private.
  • I had the opportunity to travel solo to Perth to attend a conference.
  • I won an award at the conference.
  • I’ve found myself with new career options as a result, which I’m really excited about.
  • I got a new car, finally.
  • The boys are both flourishing, socially, and Fraser is still doing well at school.
  • We had a fabulous European holiday, thanks to my parents and my Nana’s inheritance. (Thank you, Nana!)
  • Matt and I reached our ten year anniversary, and to borrow a lyric from The Beatles, it’s getting better all the time.
  • I got a tattoo.

If you feel you could simplify your life, click on the badge over there –> and join in. I’m not finding life messy or complicated, but January is always a great time to take stock of where things are at.

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You’ve missed out on my captivating memoirs the last couple of days, sorry about that. We had a social couple of days there, so it was nice for the kids. On Thursday, a Sydney friend and his kids came for the afternoon. We caught up on the goss, ate party pies, spring rolls, the kids played in the yard, then we went to the park and had Paddle Pops.

Kids at the park

On Friday, the boys and I went up the road to my friend’s house and hung out with her kids, while she was at work. It wasn’t the warmest of days, but they all braved the pop-up swimming pool, which was finally out for our late-arriving Summer. Then last night, we went down to Moss Vale and had cheese-and-crackers-dinner with newish friends. Their youngest daughter has been going to preschool with Lincoln, so he had a great time catching up with her.

And today, we went to a preview showing of The Muppets. So awesome! Written by and starring Jason Segal, one of my favourite actors, there are a bunch of cameos and of course all the usual muppets. There were tears of nostalgia from people on the audience. I heard one kid say “are you crying mum?!” I think it comes out next week. Go see it.

 

22/47

Summer’s getting hot hot hot. We had a birthday party for Lincoln to attend today, in the park at Mittagong. There were a few preschool mothers there to talk to, including one who is also a teacher at the public school where Fraser will be going this year. We talked a bit about school, while Fraser hung around being mopey about the heat and refusing to play in the playground or ride his scooter. Meanwhile, Lincoln had a lovely time, as we always seems to. Then we came home and ate ice-blocks, before having an indoors afternoon of Wii (the boys) and WordPress hacking (me).

A not-very productive day was capped off with a not-cheap, but very tasty dinner down in Robbo at Pizzas in the Mist. Just as the mist began rolling in. Poetic.

 

21/47

We usually ring in the new year with a big ticket electrical item. One year it was a chest freezer, (which we now want to sell), last year it was a four slot toaster with the “a bit more” button and new kettle. When I walked past Bing Lee the other day I felt the pang of a big purchase not yet made. Anyway, I dismissed it.

Then Matt brought up the idea of buying a ride-on lawn mower. We’ve had it in mind since moving here, but we’ve been paying a guy to mow the lawn, until we had a shed to house all our garden gear. Well, the shed is on order and the mower was in stock for a good price, so Matt bought it today. It’s done its first few laps and, in the meantime, is sharing the garage with several bikes, boxes, the double fridge, a bunch of other stuff, and the chest freezer, which we want to sell. Anyway, it’s fully automatic and I should be able to use it as well.

Watching Matt mow was this afternoon’s entertainment, but this morning I took the boys to the pool for an hour before coming back home for a playdate with one of Fraser’s school friends. I must say, I’ve never known a more outdoors-averse kid than Fraser. He swam in the pool for about ten minutes before getting out and hovering around me, whining about being cold and hungry, while Lincoln was happy splashing about in the toddler pool.

Ahh, well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess.

 

20/47

So hey! It’s 2012. Happy new year! What did you do?

On new year’s eve, Matt and the boys went up to Sydney to sell my old car. While they were gone, I used my Christmas voucher on a massage and facial at the local Ella Bache salon. Then I painted the undercoat on the purple wall. Then I went for a bike ride! Whew—the things I get up to when the kids aren’t home. We had a BBQ with friends at their house around the corner, got a  bit merry, and I was asleep sitting up in my own bed by 11.30pm.

The first part of new year’s day was fairly subdued but we got out of the house eventually and ended up at a beach, just a bit north of Shellharbour. The boys paddled, we soaked up some sun and enjoyed the first really warm day we’ve had all Summer.

Paddlin'

After our active afternoon yesterday, we felt ok about nerding it up today. Matt read, I wrote (on the computer) and the boys played on the Wii and watched movies, until the late afternoon when they ran around in the sprinkler for an hour or so.

It’s been a pretty good long weekend.