Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Remember when you were a kid and the summer school holidays seemed to last for months. I thought it would be the same as the mother of a kid on holidays. That we’d be sitting around, staring at each other, wondering when it was all going to end.
Instead, six weeks have gone by in a nano-second. Admittedly, some days have been longer than others. The really hot days are as bad as the really wet days. Worse, in fact. At least on a wet day you can feel okay about six hours of dvds and ABC-2. When the sun is shining, the sky is a deep azure blue and the grass is growing a millimetre a minute, it seems like a sin to be indoors, curtains drawn, A/C blowing up a storm. But what else can you do?
Pool, yes. Beach, yes. Indoor shopping complex, yes. But only for about an hour each. So that takes you to midday, even if you do them all on the same day – what then do you do with the endless afternoon hours when you’re all counting down the minutes until Dad comes home. I take my hat off to single mums. I couldn’t cope without the change in energy that comes when The Builder enters the house.
It’s not so much that he does anything special, just that he’s new. At the end of a day that can feel very old by 9.30am.
But all that’s about to be over. Soon it will be morning routines, entertaining Mr 3 by myself (say what you like, but older siblings do have their uses), trying to get sleeps and work (I work when he sleeps) in by 2.30pm so we can collect the big First Grader from school.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Part of me breathes a big sigh of relief that I’m down to one child again. The other part will miss the days of summer holidays. Even the reeeaaaallly long ones. Only them, not so much.
Monday, January 25, 2010
When you move from a tiny city block to a sprawling country one – not acreage or anything, just a good-sized, old-fashioned yard – there are a few things you feel you must have. One of these is a compost bin.
My Dad has always done compost. I have not-very-fond childhood memories of making my way down to the very far corner of the backyard, under the jacarandah with the swooping magpie, to throw a bucket of festering scraps into the malodorous heap. He assures me it never smelled, that it was just my overactive imagination, but I those little fruit flies still haunt my dreams, so I’m thinking we have a, ahem, difference of opinion going on.
All that aside, and with Green on my side, I knew the time had come. Fortunately, the Council in this area is very pro-active and put on a series of workshops on how to make compost. I know what you’re thinking, how hard can it be to chuck a few scraps in a bin? I thought so too, until I was introduced to the science of it all.
I went under sufferance – and because they were giving away free compost bins that reminded me of Dr Who’s Dialek’s (only black) and kitchen tidies in tasteful shades of cream and beige. But the guys who took the class were SO enthusiastic and informative, that I came home a complete convert. To the point, where The Builder was referring to the bin as my ‘new best friend’ for several weeks after – watching in amusement as I cut up choice titbits for its delectation.
I have to admit that six or so months later, some of the glow has worn off my relationship with the bin. It just didn’t do what it was supposed to do. I followed the instructions to the letter – one part green waste (nitrogen) to three parts carbon (think paper, dead leaves etc). I aerated. I watered when I thought it was necessary. And still no HEAT. Heat which is necessary to actually turn the scraps and muck into useable compost.
So I did what any sensible girl would do. I told the bin that things had to change. I shook things up. I put in more nitrogen. I stirred up the bottom layers. I moved the thing from its picturesque setting under the honeysuckle to a much more practical spot by the garage. And now I’m waiting.
I’m giving the bin some space to make up its mind about whether it wants our relationship to work out. I’m biding my time.
And, in the meantime, I’m sending my oldest son out to feed it on a regular basis.
Creating a whole new generation of sweet childhood memories.
As humans, we are hard-wired to hate change. As mums, I think our anti-change sentiment goes deeper and further. When it comes to kids, routine is good. If they know what they’re doing, when they’re doing it, they seem to cope better (though I would not go so far as to wake a sleeping baby, a la Gina Ford). If mum is stressed, the kids are stressed. If the kids are stressed, mum is close to breakdown.
Imagine, then, the stress of moving on a family. It’s not just about the boxes and the mess and the packing up of various lives. It’s about finding a new routine. Meeting new people, starting new schools, doing new things. No more barbies with the same old group every weekend, talking about the same old stuff. Instead you all, individually and as a family, must put your best faces forward and find a new group.
I confess I found it all exhausting at first. For starters, you have to clean the house every time someone new steps in it. Cast your mind back to the days before you worked out which are the friends you need to clean up for, and which are the friends who will happily drink coffee amidst your baskets of ‘to be folded’ washing (I have several of these – somehow the actual folding never seems to happen). I have been there every day for 12 months.
But there is also something exhilarating about starting over. You get to have new conversations, sometimes about things you’d never considered. Like the other day when my friend K, a beautifully practical artistic soul, informed me that she thought it would be a good idea to add a pig to the growing menagerie on her ‘town’ block. She’s already got five or six chickens, three ducks, an old, disintegrating jeep, a cubby house, a tire swing, an art studio and a swing set in her backyard.
I choked on my wine when she mentioned the pig. Where was she going to put it? Did she need council approval? Why, oh why, would she want one? She laughed, explaining she was still looking into it all. Apparently, pigs are the new dogs and there’s a whole movement of people keen to love them from ‘birth to bacon’ (or something like that). In other words, you get the pig, raise the pig, eat the pig.
I can’t help but wonder what the neighbours will think when she puts that one to them.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Is there anything more satisfying than watching a cake rise? Okay, maybe that’s a sweeping rhetorical question, but having just made vanilla cupcakes for Mr 3’s birthday, I feel pretty happy with it. Or perhaps that’s just the relief talking.
Life throws a few furphies at us, but none more so than the list of stuff that is supposed to constitute ‘fun with kids’. Like gardening – pulling weeds on a hot summer’s day with a three year old doesn’t make it high on my list of awesome things to do. I know, I’ll look back on that quality time with nostalgia in a few years when he won’t even let me drop him off in front of the school lest someone see us, but now? It makes a reasonably stress-free activity into a nightmare of ‘don’t do that, not the basil, dig over here’.
And then there’s cooking. There’s a huge range of cute ‘accessories’ now available to tempt us into the kitchen with kids. The experts reckon it’s an essential part of learning, growing and loving. I agree with that (if not the accessories – kids just want to use mum’s stuff in my experience). I just find the reality of it to be, um, temper-inducing.
I’ve cooked with both my boys from the moment they could stand on a chair to ‘help’. We don’t do sharp knives. Just stirring, measuring, cracking eggs, decorating the gingerbread 'guys', licking bowls. At the end of the day, they’d like to fast-forward to the decorating (aka, eating M&Ms) and licking bowls (particularly when I’m explaining why you cream butter and sugar, and why cakes need aeration) – and so would I. It signifies job done. It leaves happy memories to overlay the ‘please don’t throw flour all over the floor’ discussion.
Perhaps that’s why they continue to turn up when I suggest a cooking activity. They don’t see the determination to turn them into men who can look after themselves (and give their other halves a break from kitchen duty when the time comes). They, apparently, think cooking with mum is fun.
Like most things in life, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Part of my new ‘good life’ plan was to have my own vegie garden. I know, just like every other escapee from the city. But I actually did it, rather than just talking about doing it.
Mind you, it took a while. I ‘planned’ for about nine months. Then, last September, I ripped out all the cliveas that were sitting in the sunniest spot in the garden (replanting them in a dead spot under some shady trees, where, I’m pleased to say, they’re thriving). I dug in several types of animal poo and compost (just call me Peter Cundall), mulched it to keep the weeds down and then… nothing.
After six or so weeks, my husband (The Builder) asked me if I was actually planning to grow anything or was I waiting for a miracle. I tried to look wise and Confucian as I answered that I was allowing the soil time to prepare itself. He muttered something under his breath about boy scouts, but left it at that.
Two weeks later he told me that if I didn’t put something in it, he was going to make a claim for land rights and turn it into a Japanese garden. It was the impetus I needed. Leaving land to 'improve' is very tempting – mostly because it’s the easiest part of gardening.
But the concept of having to rake sand around a stone pagoda on a daily basis was enough inspiration to get me out of my lull and off to the nursery. Where I purchased. And purchased.
Three months later, I have a few hard-won pearls of wisdom to share about my first vegie patch. Firstly, chances are you won’t need five tomato plants. No, really. I have just finished making tomato relish with three kilos of roma tomatoes, having given away about the same. I still have three kilos of green tomatoes to bottle, and no sign of a tomato drought yet.
Secondly, read the labels on the seedlings. Also known as – don’t take the kids to the nursery with you. I picked up what I thought were cherry truss tomatoes during a sibling kerfuffle over who got to stand on the end of the trolley and, voila! My cherry tomatoes turned out to be GIANT tomatoes. And it’s not the tomatoes that were huge – it was the bush, which turned into a trifid and took over the entire patch within minutes.
Thirdly, I love spinach. My kids love spinach. We all love spinach. But there are not enough spinach recipes in the world to make use of the amount of spinach that five small plants can produce. Ditto, capsicums.
So I guess my lesson, this time around, is to plant small amounts, often. Otherwise, there’s a major glut in the kitchen – and the birds are having a party in the backyard.