Be Present


It's the final day of 2016 and at a time when everyone seems to be making resolutions for the new year I can only think of one thing to be conscious of - being present.

There really is no other way to be. If we are not present then we are not existing to our fullest potential. The only thing for sure is now. It is in each and every moment that we have and not a second more. Sure we can make plans and have goals and hopes for our future, but if we are always wanting and always waiting, then we aren't really living.

So in 2017 I am going to strive to be more present. I won't always succeed. I'll still over-think things and be anxious and have fears and complain about things I don't have - I am human. But I will strive, I will remind myself and try really, really hard to be present.


I am thankful for...


  • Friends who listen and reserve judgement
  • Three giggling children who jump on beds and leave Vegemite fingerprints wherever they go
  • The opportunity to be creative and gift others with something they will cherish forever
  • A patient husband who is encouraging and supportive
  • Relationships, friendships, those who I see often and those who I see once a year
  • A healthy mind that works and questions and wonders
  • Hot tea sipped on a comfortable lounge, overlooking gloriously, lush trees
  • A family home filled with passion and fight and love
  • A strong body that sees me through

Merry Christmas to you, my readers. I am thankful for you also. See you in the new year.
 xx Katrina

Reflecting


 'Here is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. 
We need the mud, in order to make the lotus.'
                             - Thich Nhat Hanh


I like to reflect on things and when I look back over the year that has been, I see many challenges. 2016 was a challenging one and one that has certainly made me stronger. It has changed me, shaped me into a different version of myself...a better version. 

This has been a year where relationships have strengthened. A year where I've put myself ahead of other things and taken care of myself. This year, I have become more authentic in who I am and in the friendships I have. 

As Christmas arrives in only two more sleeps I find myself feeling thankful. Content. Blessed. Strong. Creative. And yet, I feel a sense of sorrow. I fear for our world and the world my children are to grow old in. We are blessed beyond measure here in Australia and in this home of ours, where children are healthy and the fridge is stocked with food. I am well aware we are the minority, us folk with houses and beds, hot water and food. Us folk who fill our trolleys to the brim and write 'wish lists' for Christmas. If only there was a way for all people to feel joy. If only every heart knew love. If only generosity was a way of life and GIVING was a priority. 

I sip my hot tea and wonder how and if and when...


All of the lasts...

What a big week this is. A week of lasts. I'm not very good when it comes to 'lasts' to be honest. Being so sentimental I find myself over thinking things and becoming emotional.

Tomorrow is Master Five's last day of preschool. And every year, everyone says it and this year it feels especially true - how fast has 2016 gone?!

This morning I watched Master Five sing songs and perform with his friends. He smiled and sang and did all the actions and it was during their performance of 'I am Australian' that I felt that familiar lump in my throat. That lump that says 'he is growing up'. That lump that tells me time is fleeting. That lump that will miss this amazing nurturing environment that he's had three days a week.
I felt myself becoming desperate to hold onto these days, this moment.

The preschool played a slide show of all the beautiful children telling the camera what they'd like to be when they grow up - and there he was, his happy face beaming on the screen as he said 'I want to work at Sydney Zoo with all of the animals.'

Today he wore a Batman costume to preschool and sang 'Ging Gang Gooley' and in a matter of weeks he will wear a school uniform and an oversized backpack and that lump in my throat will return.




Santa Claus


I've been reading a few articles lately, including this one and it would seem that many parents out there are agreeing that lying about Santa is just not the way to go.

The thing is, I don't want to lie to my children, and I don't intend to (in a black and white sort of way). The world is full of grey area and I love seeing children's imaginations run wild and free with no limits.

A middle ground (for now) and something The Husband and I are doing, is being a little more conscience about the way we talk about Santa and Christmas with our children. We don't want to build the idea of Santa up into something really big and all consuming and yet we also don't want to say outright that he doesn't exist! It's just not that black and white for us. Our children are still very young (7, 5 & 2) and they love the idea of Santa and Elves and The North Pole. We read Christmas stories and watch Christmas movies with them and the majority of these books and movies are about Santa Claus.

Last year we started a new, slightly adjusted Christmas ritual of Santa bringing only a few small stocking fillers and the remainder of gifts were wrapped under the tree from us, Mum and Dad. We will be doing the same again this year. We hope that by doing this, the main focus isn't on what Santa brings but rather the pure and simple act of giving. The joy will still definitely be there come Christmas morning, I guarantee it.

We have mentioned to the children in the past that Santa may not just be one person doing it all alone, but that it is many people working together to bring joy at Christmas time. Santa can represent joy and giving and the spirit of Christmas. For now, we think this is a suitable explanation, and it seems to suffice. In the years to come we will be prepared for more questions and to tell them the truth about Santa Claus. Of course, truth can be told in many different ways and I would hope we could explain it in a way that is fair and truthful, but gentle and considerate.

Here are some ways I've read parents tell their children the truth...

"The idea of Santa is many people helping to keep the spirit of Christmas alive, and Mum and Dad are a part of that. You can be a part of that too."

"Santa represents joy and giving. It isn't about a man in a red suit, it is about what he represents."

"The magic and spirit of Christmas is always going to be special and wonderful no matter who does the giving. Everyone can play a part in keeping the spirit of Christmas alive, it isn't all about Santa...it is about so much more than that..."

Ramblings

...It is getting hot. I can't say I enjoy the heat once it reaches the thirties

...The children are getting tired as the year draws to an end

...I am wishing we had a swimming pool

...My creative mind is running wild and I am loving it

...Watermelon tastes so good

...We are spending days off at the beach and it is utter bliss

...There is nothing good to watch on TV

...I'm enjoying connecting with friends in such a genuine way

...Our Christmas tree will go up this weekend and I am so excited about it!

...In March I will see Adele perform live and I cannot wait

...There is something about the smell of sunscreen that makes me happy

...The calendar is fill in yup fast and I love it! Socialising and busyness is a joy.

...The Husband is working Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I cried. But it's part of the job that he loves and we will lake it work, as we always do.

...I think Master Seven has morphed into a teen overnight. He lays on his bed listening to Ed Sheeran and doesn't want anyone to disturb him.

...I've lost my voice. I have a chest and throat infection. Master Five is still looking for my voice and has wondered where on earth it could possibly be.

...Yesterday Miss Two put all the toilet paper into the toilet and then climbed my wardrobe shelves and got a hold of my nail polish. Let's just say her white t-shirt isn't white anymore. 

Christmas: Advent Calendars


This year instead of trying to stuff three chocolates into one pocket of the family advent calendar I've decided to take a fresh approach. Instead of chocolates we will have activities. One card in each pocket with one instruction/activity for the day.

I'm hoping these cards will not only bring our family joy and quality time spent together, but some cards will hopefully bring others joy as well.
If you want to play along I will list our ideas below. I simply created a table in a Word Doc and typed these ideas in. Printed. Cut. Stuck onto Christmassy paper. Laminated and cut again.

Some of the ideas are a little Brady Bunch (see numbers 3 + 12) but we are that kinda family. You can change any of these to suit your family. There are heaps more on Pinterest.
Of course, you will need to grab the calendar and see what you have planned on certain days and take into account school and weekends etc and put some thought into what number/day each card will be drawn.

Okay, here we go...

1. Today we will put up our Christmas tree!
2. Today we will buy a gift for a sick or poor child (Kmart gift tree perhaps)
3. Today we will sing some Christmas carols together.
4. Today we will make milkshakes and drink them from our Christmas cups!
5. Today we will go to a local park and pick up rubbish to keep our world clean.
6. Today we will read some Christmas books together.
7. Today we will make some Christmas craft.
8. Today we will write out Christmas cards for our family and friends.
9. Today we will make hot chocolate with marshmallows.
10. Today we will make Christmas paper chains to hang in the house.
11. Today we will gather some toys and books and donate them to charity.
12. Today we will dance to Christmas music in the lounge room.
13. Today we will play a board game together.
14. Tonight we will drive around and look at Christmas lights on the houses.
15. Today we will visit the library and see if we can find Christmas books.
16. Today we will go to the beach and have ice-cream.
17. Today we will do something nice and kind for someone else.
18. Today we will make Christmas treats for our neighbours and school teachers.
19. Today we will read about the first Christmas story from the Bible.
20. Today we will find and share some Christmas jokes.
21. Today we will make reindeer food.
22. Today we will think of three things we are thankful for.
23. Today we will watch a Christmas movie.
24. Today we will open our Christmas Eve box


Have fun! Tis the season to be jolly!

Spring is Almost Over


Spring is my favourite season of the year. Our garden is blooming with new green shoots and bursts of colourful flowers are appearing daily.

The jasmine is creeping upwards over the walls of the arbour and I quietly wonder how long it will be before we're walking under a canopy of tiny white flowers and lush green leaves.

The children have been helping us weed between the pavers and they seem to almost gain enjoyment from this type of work.

We've been spending days off at the beach. Exploring caves, sharing the rocks with the crabs as we climb. The children are so happy at the beach. There is something so wild and carefree about a day spent at the beach. It's invigorating.

Sunflower seeds are struggling to sprout on our window sil. I was hopeful they would take hold and be planted in our fairy garden. Our fairy garden is in a large, white ceramic bowl that was found beneath the overgrowth of our first home and has travelled to this house with us. So far it houses a little green frog (of the plastic kind), a tiny porcelain rabbit and a colourful, miniature gnome. We are yet to build tiny houses for them but I'm counting on the sunflowers providing bright, yellow shelters for them, protecting them from the hot, summers heat.

Soon it will be Christmas. Cicadas will hum and flies will buzz and the air will be filled with a sense of magic and excitement.


Early Mornings

It's early on Saturday morning. I wake to the sound of rain, which in my opinion is simply the best way to be woken. Instead of laying in bed I decide to get up and have some time to myself in my unusually quiet house.
After a while of only hearing the birds singing in the rain, I hear Miss Two softly call my name, over and over again in an almost rhythmic song - 'Maa-mee, Maa-me, Maa-mee.'
Just this past week she has been waking early, before 6am. She isn't upset when she wakes but rather I think she just likes letting me know that she's opened her eyes and is ready for something to happen. I sneak into her room quietly and place a kiss on her head. 'Good morning sweetheart' I whisper as I switch her rabbit lamp on. I pass her a stack of books and tell her I'll be back soon. As I tip-toe down the hall I can already hear her 'reading' happily.

Soon enough, one by one, my three will all emerge from their rooms and our weekend will commence.

I head off to Yoga at 8am, something I look forward to doing every time. Even though the room is over crowded I still manage to switch off and escape my own busy thoughts for an hour. There is much that is unsettling in the world right now and although it worries me greatly, I know there is little that I can do to change any of it. I need to let it go.



With Him


Something pretty special happened this year and I only just realised it.
Since May 2016 I have been with my husband for longer than I've been without him.
More than half of my life has now been spent with him by my side. Him in my heart.
Over 16 years of loving him.

Today we were sitting on our couch with our three children and our eldest was in between us so we couldn't see one another very well. I received a message on my phone and when I looked at it I realised it was from my husband. He had just taken a photo of our feet and sent it to me with the caption - 'I want to walk with you forever.'

New Start

Last week Master Five started his Kindergarten orientation. He was super excited and I was excited for him.

As for next year when he begins school, there are some really mixed feelings about how I want it all to go. I mean obviously I want nothing more than for him to feel content and excited about school but surely it's equally as heart-breaking for a mother either way. If he clings to my side and holds me tight on that first day my heart will ache for him, for us - but how nice for a mama to feel so loved.
I will mourn our young, innocent days of endless questions and hiding in the same hide-and-seek spots. I will hold him just as tightly and silently adore that he would prefer to stay with me...
but that's silly (and selfish) mother emotions playing games.
And so instead my heart will ache as he marches off, head held high with not a single glance back to tell me he is apprehensive just like him mama.

Perhaps there is a middle-ground which is likely and just as crushing. Perhaps the most crushing of all scenarios. Perhaps we will hug, he will march off confidently and turn to his mama who is fighting back the tears, and he will give me his biggest, most striking smile that tells me 'it's okay Mama, I'm ready... and you'll be okay too'

...and with that he will turn on his heel and strut into a new, big world without me.




Extra Curricular Activities

What's with the fight to keep up with the Jones's when it comes to extra-curricular activities?
I am seriously perplexed at how mothers seem to be in a competition with one another over who's child does the most outside-of-school activities.

My children swim. They learn how to survive in the water. Once they master the art of staying afloat and being able to swim 20 metres or so, we will probably pull them out. Swimming lessons are expensive. They are important yes, but at a price. It is a life skill that we ensure they know but unless they show a keen interest in becoming the next Olympic champion in the 50m butterfly then it's an activity we won't always need to do.

When Master Seven was halfway through Kindergarten we told him he can pick one extra sport that he'd like to learn and he chose karate. I'm so pleased he did. Karate has taught him about his body, about discipline and about stranger danger. It seems to give him extra confidence and awareness. It's fantastic. But again, it is costly! It is also time consuming and with two little siblings in-tow it isn't all that enjoyable for me to take him to. But so long as he wants to stick with it, we will continue.

Other than swimming for both boys and karate for Master Seven we don't rush anywhere else during the week. Our afternoons are spent playing at home and chilling out. I'm realising though that we are not the norm when it comes to weekday run-arounds. Friends seem to be rushing to soccer practices and cricket training, basketball, gymnastics and touch football. Their weekends are filled up with soccer games and nippers carnivals and quite frankly I'm in awe of how they manage it all (and afford to pay for it all).

Aren't their children exhausted? Aren't the parents exhausted?
I am talking about young children here, a mere seven years of age or younger.
Exercise is so very important, but can't they ride bikes and jump on a trampoline? Can't they kick a ball in the backyard or the park? Can we not simplify and reduce the demand we put on ourselves and on our children?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.






Outdoor Play


I've dug myself a hole. I've used 'go outside' as a consequence for my children's bad behaviour and I realise now that outdoor play and the backyard in general has become somewhat of a punishment.
It now has negative connotations linked to it -
'You're being too loud, go outside'
'Stop running around the house, go outside'
'That's enough bickering and fighting, go outside'

On top of this I have noticed that our yard is turning into a stumbling hazard. It is a wonderland of opportunity for play as I, the consumer, have filled our land with balls, bikes, swings, slides, a trampoline, water guns and an array of other 'things'.
I'm guilty and I feel silly writing it all down. I admit that our backyard is a jungle of not inspiration as I naively thought, but an overwhelm of items that don't satisfy or inspire.

What happened to the days of digging in the dirt, playing make believe games and collecting rocks?
It's time to re-think outdoor play - Plants more trees, keep the rocks, mound the dirt into piles and let the rest be.


Free For All


I love waking to a rainy weekend. This morning the kids climbed into bed with me and we lay there and listened to the rain. It was forty minutes before we decided to get up - the idea of waffles for breakfast alluring us.

'I thought you said it was Spring!' Master Five calls out from the bedroom after discovering I'd laid out trackies for him to wear today. And so we talk about weather and how unpredictable it can be. Yes, it is Spring and it is also cold and wet today I explain.

An entire day indoors at home calls for a 'free-for-all' day. These are days where just about anything goes and I don't pick up after them along the way.

There is currently a pink yoga mat and plastic Easter eggs scattered down the hallway, twenty-three books strewn over the lounge and coffee table, Duplo blocks sprawled over the living room rug and Transformers have taken up home on the kitchen bench. Soon I will cover the table in plastic for protection and put out glue, textas, scissors and an assortment of craft items and it will indeed be a free creative space for them to explore. Cut up pears will accompany the crafting and Van Morrison will blare from the speaker while I sing along merrily to 'Days Like This.'

'Sometimes we all need a rainy Saturday' I think to myself as I put the kettle on to boil...


Good Luck


Master Seven hasn't had the easiest run at school this year. I'm not sure if there is a 'school mum' guidebook but if there were I would assume it would have one page, one phrase... one precious offering going forward into the world of conventional schooling -

GOOD LUCK.

That's what it would say. Short and sweet and honest. There really is nothing else to offer. No 'how to' dot points to memorise and execute because what it all boils down to is that every child is unique, every school is unique and every parent is unique. Those three elements trying to meld their worlds together to make a harmonising and positive experience is always going to prove a challenge. 

I giggle with a bit of embarrassment at how jaunty and spritely I was that first school year for our family, as we watched our first born thrive in Kindergarten. Being a school mum (or school parent I should say) can be tough. It is built within us to protect our young and we wish nothing but the best for them. We long to see them thrive and to be happy. Master Seven struts into school on most days, holding his head high and beaming a big smile but come the afternoons it can often be a different story. I'm not sure if it's the challenges of being seven, the challenges that have come with a composite class and being a huge minority within that class or something else entirely but it just hasn't been a great school year. 

There have been times when I've brought up home-schooling with The Husband and we've discussed it but never settled on it as a viable option for our family. Master Seven doesn't even want to learn Hot Cross Buns on the piano from his own mother let alone twelve years of schooling. He doesn't listen to me when I ask him to put his shoes on, what makes me think he'll listen to my ramblings of Australian history or why the word 'debt' has a 'b' in it. I realise there are many other factors to consider, and believe me, we've considered them! But at the end of the day I need to put my trust in those who are trained to care for their students, not just academically but socially as well. 

There are eight weeks left of this school year and I can't help but ponder what they will be like. I'm hoping we can end the year on a positive note. 

Overwhelm

I'm completely exhausted. The day was long and I feel incredibly tired. My cup of tea is easing my headache and warming my tummy with its sweet goodness. The TV is on low but it seems to be shouting at me. It's 8pm and my bed is already calling me...

I came home today completely overwhelmed. Today I worked at a school I haven't taught at for over five years. And over lunchtime I was offered something I have been waiting a very long time for.  The problem is the timing couldn't be more wrong. I am not ready for it and neither is my family. I feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of organising three children plus myself and achieving what I want to achieve.

As a mother of three and a wife as well, I often feel pulled in many directions. 'There is only one of me' my children often hear me say. I tend to give my all to the things I do. I jump in and I commit. For the past seven years that main role has been motherhood. Everything else comes second, third, fourth...

There has to come a time where I can no longer just cruise along with my career. I need to make decisions about fitting in work with family life and The Husband and I need to decide how this should best happen. I've been so fortunate to have a supportive man by my side, working hard and providing for us for many years now, with very little help from me. As our children get older I think more and more of my future and my work. What do I want to be doing? What am I aiming at?
I am sure my feelings and thoughts are universal. Motherhood will always come first on my list of priorities, but perhaps I need to make a little room for other things as well. The question is when...and how...

Tuesday Evening


The sun has set and the house is fairly quiet. I can only hear the occasional turn of The Husband's text book page as he studies in the next room. There is a soft hum of crickets outside the open backdoor and as I sit in the lounge room I can see the soft glow of my diffuser, which is letting off the most wonderful, subtle scent of peppermint, ginger and aniseed.

It has recently occurred to me, that as I head into my thirty-third year of life Earth-side, I am at that age where I once thought old. I can still recall being a young child of six or seven and thinking my parents, and all of their friends were old. And my old parents, and all of their old friends had boring, important jobs and they probably didn't have any fun 'cause they were 'just' parents. I know my assumptions were wrong, and I realise now my parents were 'normal' and not at all boring. In fact, it's dawned on me that they were in the midst of some of the best years of their lives.

So as I sit on my blue armchair, sipping my tea with milk and honey and stuff leftover brownies into my face, I acknowledge the importance of documenting these wonderful years that are my thirty-somethings...