Miss Four – I am a Whoo-man

Okay, time to brace yourself for a second entirely indulgent post about my children, this time, the younger, Miss Four.  After all it’s only fair that I redress the imbalance.  One day I will print these posts out for my two girls to read about themselves.  That might make up for the fact that I never kept a baby book for either of them (does that make me a terribly neglectful mother?)

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Miss Four is a creature of stark juxtaposition, a complex little being that leaves me guessing and puzzling over late at night.  In many ways she is like me.  Stubbornness that knows no bounds, a somewhat explosive temper (though thankfully her tantrums tend to be confined to the home or Nana’s house), she is one who knows her own mind and will not have it easily changed.  I’m sure that will hold her in good stead in years to come, but it does offer up certain challenges for us as parents right now.  She is incredibly cheeky, a complete stirrer and very, very funny.  I often call her my cheeky monkey, her reply “No Mum, I am a Whoo-man (Human)!”

In complete contrast to her sister, she is born to be a vegetarian (and gardener, she like to dig in the dirt and help me plant and pick).  She dislikes just about all meat, she will swap a chop for a few bits of broccoli with her sister any day.  Mushrooms must go in everything.  I kind of love this about her, but I do worry about her iron levels as she grows.  And growing is something she does quite slowly – she is the embodiment of the term Pocket Rocket.

For some time now Miss Four has been desperately holding on to the baby role.  I remember when I first brought her home from the hospital I wanted to hold her close all the time.  It was a feeling from somewhere deep inside, I didn’t want others to hold her, and it was something I couldn’t shake.  Perhaps I knew then there would be no more babies and I had to breath in every moment I could.  And perhaps I somehow passed that sense on to her.  She has been reluctant to move on at just about every point, toilet training was traumatic (and still not complete), talking started beautifully then stalled for a long time (we’ve just finished a series of speech therapy sessions that have made a big difference), she just loves to be carried and getting her to sleep in her own bed has been an ongoing battle.  When she does end up in with me (a fairly regular occurrence) she sleeps with both arms wrapped around my neck like she’s worried I’ll sneak out and leave her.  She doesn’t want to let go!  We still have an incredibly close physical bond (at times it borders on clingy). But of course in true Miss Four style, she really doesn’t like a lot of physical contact from others and hates kisses.

When I think about what the future holds for these wee conundrum of mine, I really don’t know what to expect.  I know she will love Kinder, lots of kids to play with (she’s very social) and mostly playing in her own way without too much direction which is just the way she likes it.  Plus lots of time outside, also a must for her.  School, on the other hand, worries me a little.  Bending to someone else’s ways may prove a challenge.  I worry that I haven’t read enough to her (not something that even crossed my mind with Miss Six) because she’s less interested in books than her sister and doesn’t sit for long anyway.  I worry that she speech will delay her in other ways. I worry that her fine motor skills are not what they should be.  In short, I worry.  I hope my worrying will be unwarranted.  You know, it would not surprise me if the exact opposite turns out to be true and she flies at school.  I just don’t know what will happen, that just about sums up Miss Four in many ways.

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Have you met Miss 6?

I feel like writing today – it’s something that hasn’t come to me a lot lately, hence the lack of posts.  Or if it has, I’ve channeled that into writing for work or uni.  Today I’m going to indulge in some purely selfish writing, writing about my girls.

Yesterday we had a family get together for my Mum’s birthday.  I was helping Miss 6 get ready – yes, she’s six now!  It was a struggle, there was literally nothing in her cupboard that fit.  I’m so used to her wearing school uniforms everyday that I hadn’t thought to update her wardrobe in a long time.  Her top rode a good few centimeters higher than it should have and the sleeves were a long way from her wrists.  I looked at this girl, all arms and legs, and wondered how on earth this seems to happen so quickly and yet so slyly.  Where did all this length and height come from?

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And it’s not just the physical changes that have been stampeding forwards, she has become quite the school girl.  There are words and information and skills spilling out of every pore. She has so much she wants to say it is virtually unstoppable!  She is kind, considerate and compassionate.  Over the school holidays I’ve let her sit up and watch The Voice some nights.  She thinks everyone is wonderful and should be chosen.  She gets upset if none of the judges turn around.  And she worries about whether the judges are going to have good teams.  The feelings were genuine and quite intense.

The flip side of this compassionate little being is one that is a stress-head.  She worries quietly to herself and you really have to work at her to get it out.  The little signs start to appear, a reluctance to do something or go somewhere she would normally be jumping at, a lull in the constant chatter, and subtle withdrawing from her usual active days.  Little comments that might seem inconsequential to others, she takes to heart.  She worries about not being able to do something straight away.  She does not cope well with pressure or being rushed.  She likes to know exactly what is going to happen.

This beautiful being is blossoming in front of me everyday and it stops me in my tracks when I notice it.  I find myself sneakily watching her, seeing the changing expressions on her face, a look of concentration or determination.  She laughs with abandon and with her whole body (she thinks football commentators are particularly funny, I would have to agree).  She loves her sister to the point of smothering her (Miss Four is not that into physical contact and hates kisses!).  Books are still her thing, now reading them to me as much as me reading them to her.  You know you’ve got a glass half full kind of kid when they think schools readers are great!  To sit and watch this transformation take place is so incredibly life-affirming.  I don’t miss the baby stage, or the toddler stage, I have no desire to go back, but I do hope this next stage slows down just a little so I can see more of the beauty and wonder.  Forward, but not too fast.

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A mid-year book review – Part 1

Today marks the midway point of the mid year school holidays and I thought now was a perfect time to review what I’ve been reading.  Sadly, there have been times when reading for pleasure has been pushed aside for school work, uni work or just work in general, but I can’t live like that for too long so it always comes back to the front eventually.

I’m going to be very organised and go in order of how I read them.

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (the third in the trilogy) – Loved all three of these, perhaps the first more than the other two.  I would highly recommend these to anyone who likes a bit of YA action and have been spruiking them at school often.

2. The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey – ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!  This book ruined me for reading for a good few weeks, nothing else came close.  It’s a little like the TV show The Walking Dead, in that there are zombie-type creatures spreading havoc across the world, but this is even more original and the ending was just perfect.

3. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – Remember the young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going school and survived.  This is her story, it’s fascinating, but terribly written.  I had so much trouble sticking to this book.  The back story – written by someone else – was way too convoluted, detailed and dull, going way, way back in the history of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it didn’t flow easily with the modern story of Malala.  I felt like there was too much pressure to get her story out quickly – while people still remembered her – but that she was no where near ready to write it.

4. Paradise by Toni Morrison – This was another difficult read one which I was disheartened by.  I’ve had Toni Morrison on my to-read list for ever so my expectations were very high.  This book didn’t live up to those expectations.  It’s premise, race relations flipped on their head, was brilliant and some of the characters were beautifully written and explored, but I was left wondering what the hype was about.  I think I’ll read another one, but I don’t think I’ll ever be singing from the mountain tops about this author the way others seem to do.

5. The Line of Beauty  by Alan Hollinghurst – this book took a while to get into, but is well worth sticking to.  It’s set in Thatcher-era Britain and followings the story of a young gay man, Nick Guest, as he tries to find a place for himself to exist amid the social and political turmoil of the times.  This book opened my eyes to just how hard it must have been for gay men to be themselves and to find space to be couples.  In many ways this is a tragedy, a depressing kind of read, but one that is written with such sublime language and a message that resonates loudly in times when marriage equality is being hotly debated.

6. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – Oh my goodness!  This book!  I’ve put off reading it for so long because I got it into my head that it was going to be too hard going.  And, of course, the premise is extremely hard to come to terms with – a mother dealing with the horrific act of a child and facing her own guilt at having given birth to and raised a person who could do such things – but the writing will sweep you up in a way that makes it near impossible to put down.  A book that challenges our ideas of mothers and sons, of families.  DO NOT read while pregnant!

7. Mother’s Grim by Danielle Wood – what a follow up to the previous book!  This book club read is a collection of short stories each depicting the ‘grim’ life of mothers.  I loved it, others had quite the opposite reaction!  The stories were bleak and often depressing, mothers who had made terrible choices in partners, or who had those choices forced on them.  Mothers who were trapped by circumstance.  This is not an uplifting read, but it is very real.  I had the thought, often, that that could be me if just this one thing happened/changed.  I recommend it warily, read at your own peril.

8. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – a re-read of a childhood classic.  It’s still a classic.  I just love the world Montgomery creates around her irascible Anne (with an e of course!), the strict but loving Marilla, the dear and kind-hearted Matthew and the loyal-to-a-fault Dianna.  This is one of a very few books that I will come back to all of my life, like a comforting blanket and the smell of home, it takes the hard edges off life just when I need it.

9. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall-Smith – this is one of the many First Ladies Dectective Agency novels, of which I’ve read most.  Set in Botswana with a cast of loveable characters, this is one for a rainy day or relaxing by a pool somewhere warm.  It’s easy to read, light and you can guarantee a happy ending.  McCall-Smith is one of my go-to authors when other reads are still playing on my mind.  It’s pure escapism, nothing to keep you up a night, but a delightful read nonetheless.

10. Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff – this books is like a punch right in the face, leaves your eyes watering and you struggling for breathe.  There is nothing easy about it.  The language is harsh and intense, the characters are often times despicable and the story is one of utter despair (with a little light at the very end).  It recounts the lives of various members of a Maori family living with violence, addiction and poverty.  It’s award-winning for a reason and if you can bare the intensity of it, I would highly recommend it.  But here I will let you in on a little secret, I listened to this one as an audio book.  It was read by Jai La’gaia, and his beautiful Islander voice added something wonderful to this very difficult story.  I’m not sure how I would have coped reading it myself.

Okay this is getting a bit long – so stay tuned for part 2, coming soon.  And as always, feel free to share what you’ve been reading lately too.

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Hello again

Oh dear, I feel very neglectful of my poor old blog, I haven’t posted since March and even this one is coming from my phone so it won’t be long. 

In that time my life has taken a slightly different tact. I’ve been working three days a week teaching in a local secondary school. I have been loving reclaiming my professional self. I’m having fun with all the new technology in classrooms now, chatting with delightful young adults full of ideas and opinions about the world and engaging with fellow teachers. My contract finishes soon but hopefully there will be more work coming. 

With me working the home life has also changed. A bit more childcare/before school care and very busy mornings. Mr Good has stepped up with combining working from home, housework and kid wrangling. 

My second year of my masters had a slow start but is churning along now. Of course it has gotten to a crunch time just as work also gets super busy (reports!). Despite that I am excited about my research project. 

We’ve had two birthdays and now have a six and a four year old and several more grey hairs telling me time is pushing on. 

All my usual blogging topics, gardening, cooking, reading etc have been pushed aside just like my blogging. I am missing being able to do everything I have done over the last four years but I also think I need to be realistic. There’s no point choosing to study if I’m not going to make it a priority and the same goes for working. Finding a manageable balance is what it’s all about. 

So while I will try to blog every now and again, they won’t be as regular as they have been in the past. 

Catch you again soon(ish). 

   
 

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Garden Share Collective – March

In the midst of the start of the school, getting myself ready to find some work and life in general I missed the last Garden Share Collective – hosted by Strayed from the Table.

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In the two months since my last garden update something serious has happened.  A pumpkin plant has attempted a garden coup!  The coup began quietly and undercover of tomatoes and zucchinis, but has since spread rampantly and is now looking for total domination.  The attempt is so serious as to have involved the neighbour’s pumpkin plant which has started a take over climbing over the six-foot+ high fence and seeking to dominate the non-veggie patch side of the garden.  Things are becoming untenable, pathways loving created by Mr Good have succumbed to pumpkin plant rule and are now closed to all human traffic.  The girls’ trampoline seems next in line, but Mr Good assures me the lawn-mower army will mobilise and make short work of any attempt to capture the lawn.  All of this from just one plant!!

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Despite this plant’s attempt to colonise my garden, the patch has proved something of a manic provider this year.  The three zucchini plants have been in fruiting overdrive for more than a month and I can’t give the stuff away fast enough.  I’m picking 20-30 zucchinis a week.  The cucumbers have started the late catch up supplying at least as many fruit.  And with a stretch of warm weather – though still mild by comparison to other summers – the tomatoes are now ripening and the plants heavy with fruit.  However, my poor staking and neglect has left them in a sad and sorry state of appearance.

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The weather has been very odd this year and the humidity has been much higher than usual.  As a result I’ve had whitefly problems on and off since well before Christmas.  They destroyed the potatoes plants and the mint and then went for the beans.  Thankfully the beans survived and came on strong again in January but are again being attacked so my harvest has been limited.

In this part of the garden I also have some lovely healthy-looking silverbeet, red kale, spring onions, parsley and rogue potatoes.

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I’ve had my best every year with strawberries, picking a bowl or more every week for a couple of months.  I’ve managed to freeze quite a few which will be turned into jam at some point in the near future.

Below I’ve included a glimpse of my regular harvests and a couple of gorgeous sunflowers brightening our yard.

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The final big news in the garden is that Mr Good and I have made excellent progress on the last of the paths around the veggie garden beds.  We’ve dug it all out – back breaking and blister inducing work – gotten rid of the dirt we dug up and laid the gravel ready for the final stage.  Now all we need it so whack-a-pack that down, top it off with some sand and lay the bricks.  It will probably be another weekend’s worth of work but we’re close!  It’s only taken me the best part of 18 months to get these paths done!!  Next up is the deck, any bets on how long that will take us?

To Do this month:

Finish the path!!!!!! (I promise a photo on the next update)

Plant out seeds for winter – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc.  I’m a bit late doing this but I’ve decided not to stress too much about timing, I was late with the summer ones too and I’ve done okay.

Finish tidying up the tomatoes.

Weeding – lots of it!

Start getting some manure/mulch for the next season.

And anything else I can think of.

Be sure to check out some of the other posts, I’m constantly amazed at how much people manage to do in a month.  And I love seeing the gorgeously neat and planned patches that put mine to shame!  Mind you, I also love seeing the rambling free-range style that I tend to go with too.

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#FoodIsFree – a local initiative

Some time late last week I came home to find a flyer from a neighbour in my letterbox.  She was inviting the residents of the street to participate in a local movement called #FoodIsFree.  The idea is to leave any  excess home grown produce (or any food really) outside your house, or in a prominent location like a bus stop, where people might pick it up and use it.  This group started by leaving excess food in a laneway between two houses in a nearby street.  The idea caught on with others and they decided to hold a #FoodIsFree Day this Saturday just gone.  And that was what the flyer I received was promoting.

This could not have been timed better for me and my runaway zucchini plants, which are currently producing about 30 zucchinis a week.  A darn sight more than we could use.  I’ve been giving them away to family and friends, I’ve been making soup and zucchini slice like I’m planning to feed the army, and yet they keep coming.

So early Saturday morning I set up my little (or rather, going by the size of some of the zukes, BIG) contribution to #FoodIsFree day with my sign, bucket of zucchinis and a small tub of green beans.  I was a little worried about it sitting out in the sun all day (it was rather hot for once) and on returning from a trip to the park I was a little worried to see that nothing had been taken.  The concern was unwarranted because by about 4pm all but the colossal zucchini (that I was really hoping some little kid might insist on taking home so I didn’t have to deal with it myself) was gone.

I know, my sign needs work.  I'll get Miss Five onto it next time.

I know, my sign needs work. I’ll get Miss Five onto it next time.

I had a wander down the street to see if anyone else had put out their excess produce and came home with green capsicum, green chilli, basil, mint, one little but delicious peach and some plums.  All from four houses in my street.  And on the way home from doing the shopping this morning I stopped at the permanently appointed FoodIsFree Laneway Ballarat – which conveniently is located just near Miss Three’s kindergarten, I shall be stopping by regularly to leave or take produce.  I collected some cooking apples (Miss Five will be rapt with some stewed apples for dessert), a few more plums (they don’t last long around here) and some nectarines.

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Saturday was such a local success story, with over 100 participants, that the Ballarat Courier reported on it and there is now an established FoodIsFree day each month, on the first Sunday.  That’s a sure fire way of spreading the zucchini love a bit further.  And if we get a mild day I might even share some strawberries.

I’d love to hear about any acts of community spirit or generosity near you.  Or why not start a food-sharing movement in your community.  If you have lots of people walking by, place your excess out the front with a sign or leave it where people will find and appreciate it.  It gives you a lovely gooey feeling somewhere inside to share with strangers.

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Hello, hello…. It’s been a while

It seems I’ve recently taken an unexpected break from blogging.  This was for no particular reason other than a lack of urge to blog and a simple enjoyment of family life.  Since my last post this is what’s happened…..

We spent a lovely couple of weeks at our favourite beach getaway in southern NSW.  I re-introduced myself to the boogie board, not something I’ve done for about fifteen years.  I had so much fun!!  I was SO exhausted afterwards.  I rediscovered muscles unused for many years.  It was worth it.  The kids had a blast at the beach and the pool and the park and the cinema and the arcade (rainy days called for a bit of old-school arcade gaming – also surprisingly fun for the adults involved).

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We came home to enjoy the last couple of weeks of the school holiday and try to reign in the juggled-like vegetable patch.  The tomatoes are very slow to ripen (not enough hot weather) but the zucchinis are going completely mad.  Beans and strawberries are coming quickly too.

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Miss Five start school, heading off for her first day of prep hypo-ventilating with excitement.  Week two and she was still busting out the door to get going and was the first one there this morning.  She loves it, she loves her teacher (her appraisal was that she’s better than Miss Honey from Matilda, high praise indeed) and she is being quite the little sponge.  Let’s hope she can keep it up.

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Miss Three started three year old Kinder and one day a week at daycare.

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And I have been trying to find some work, a frustrating process to date.

All in all we’ve been busy, life is changing and things are good, really good.  So what’s new in your world?

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