Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The other mom ... and bedtimes

Somewhere out there is a mom who glides beatifically through bedtime. She is calm. Serene. She speaks quietly yet firmly and all who are in her path, listen. She does not need to raise her voice. She does not need to yell. She could be humming mantras as she walks slowly up the stairs, children following happily.

She does not scream. She is not snatching at loose limbs as they come careering past her, desperate to grab a hold and to gain control. She does not whack out at passing bottoms or heads, or yank an ear of somebody not listening. HER children do not laugh in her face when she tells them to get into the shower, or that it's time for bed. There are no tantrums or bodies thrown onto the floor in protest in her house. 

There is only calm. Peacefulness. Everyone knows their place. The routine familiar and secure. She has been perfecting it since her children were infants. Each and every one of them knows the routine, it does not vary.

In her house some nights are not television and others video games, some nights playmobil scenes which take over the whole bottom floor of the house. Late nights at the pool or dinner eaten in the garden. In her house baths are taken like clockwork, not dependent on mood or levels of dirt. Swimming does not count as bathing and lack of sweat is not a decent excuse to skip. Bathtime is a happy time of bubbles and toys and the last rays  of sun beaming down onto rosy cheeks.

Cheeks well fed with nutritious home made meals, lovingly prepared while children draw or play outside. Harmoniously. She hardly ever has to interrupt her cooking to walk outside and issue a stern word. Hardly a need to reprimand. HER children know how to behave. They are kind and courteous, even to each other and when she calls them to dinner they run inside eagerly and wash their hands and sit down nicely without scrabbling for chairs or pulling wedgies on their sisters. THEY do not spit into each other's plates or pour spoons full of food into each others water glasses. THEY do not eat with fingers or speak with mouths full of food. They never ever swear. In their house dessert happens only on weekends and no one knows what soda even is.

Teeth are well brushed and there are no cavities. Hair is not left tangled at bedtime and there are always enough socks in the morning. Clothes are not found littered in piles across the floor or thrown into the laundry because no one can remember if they are dirty or clean. There are always enough clean towels. The toothpaste never runs out.

Somewhere there is a mom who handles bedtime with gracefulness and ease. She manages to keep it fun but also stays in control, firmly but kindly. She can laugh and steer the sillyness to her advantage, so that it's a competition to see who's ready for bed first. She smooths a stray curl, tucks and kisses. Her bedtimes are reassuring and full of love. Her children never tell her they hate her or wish she wasn't their mom. And if they did she would smile and say just the right words in response.

Her bedtime is not fraught with chaos, an emotional rollercoaster of shouting and no one listening. She is never ignored or worse still, laughed at. She does not have to resort to threats or hot sauce or creative punishments. In her house the hour before bedtime is a time of calm and family cuddles. When bedtime is done, she glides downstairs into her gleaming kitchen to make herself a cup of tea. There are always clean cups and the dishes from dinner are already cleared away.

She never stumbles downstairs to piles of dishes on the counter and thinks maybe breaking them might be a sensible alternative to washing them again. She never dreams of running off into the night and letting her offspring fend for themselves for a night. And if she were to think said thoughts and maybe share them with her kids, HER offspring would never celebrate and decide that it was cause for a party. She would never walk back upstairs to find one of them wearing a pink witches hat and a pair of glasses, looking highly dismayed to see her back again and saying 'but you said you were giving up, we were going to have a party all night.'

Somewhere out there a mom glides around the house after bedtime, calm and unruffled and still smiling. Her husband smiling proudly down at her.

Somewhere out there another mom looks as if she's been dragged through the
bushes backwards, reaching for the coffee or something stronger at 9.25 pm. The house is finally silent, her partner not yet home, and she ignores the piles of dishes and bills still to be paid. She takes her coffee or something stronger and staggers onto the couch to collapse in front of the T.V. where for a few hours she gets to forget which of the two houses she lives in, before she wakes up the next morning to do it all again.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What i love about summer ....

To those of you in the Southern reaches of the world, dreaming of sunshine and warm blankets, cooking soup and stews and making fires ... i hope you stay warm in the winter cold - i wish you good books and slow cups of coffee. Chocolate and red wine. Today tho, i'm celebrating summer because we get such a short time each year of hot sun and blue skies, and so we have to celebrate it. And we are. There is no shortage of summer-lovin-gratitude going on here.

So without further ado, here's what summer means around here.

Finally making a start on the vegetable garden. 
A start i said. It will take time.

                                        Lavendar blooming ....

Blueberries ripening ...

Throwing leftovers into a salad.
Eating more healthily.

                  Daytrips. We drove to Cold Springs, NY on Sunday for a little            
                       afternoon wondering the streets and eating ice-cream. 
                   It was lovely to find a new place to explore. I've missed that.

Trips to the beach have been planned.
The hammock has been dyed and is ready for long afternoons
in the shade, with a book.
The pool is open and the water is almost warm enough for the 
grown-ups to go in. The smaller ones among us seem to not
mind blue lips and chattering teeth.

 Wishing you a wonderful summer if you're on the Northern side of things. 
Here's to pinterest boards of aqua blue and deep waters, island living and afternoon naps, sandy feet and seashells gathered on long walks on the beach.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Around here lately ....

Around here lately, we have watched the world change from this ...

to this ...

We had two special family visits .... 

And some weekends away ...

 We celebrated two birthdays ...

And i cleared space to play with paint ...

Summer has arrived and i'm excited to finally do some gardening and plant our first vegetables. School is winding down and in just a few more weeks it will be time for sleeping in (hopefully) and hot afternoons at the pool. Just days without a schedule and a million places to rush around between. I can't wait. The beach is calling. I have missed spending time there. 

Here's to tea and cake and chilling in the sun.

Happy Friday everyone.


Friday, May 30, 2014

On gratitude ...

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in envy, wishing for more, for the other, that which we do not have. To feel a little dissatisfied with the day to day struggle.

Browsing online ... looking at beautiful everythings on Pinterest and blogs and reading magazines where houses and lives seem picture perfect. Reading articles by people who are distinguished in their field - so successful, such full lives. Seeing photos of wonderful trips and adventures had.

Sometimes the day to day seems a little mind numbing and just the same, over and over, and we wish for things to change, for a little more adventure.
Sometimes our hearts ache and time does not heal and we cannot find the answers to our questions.

Sometimes, we just need to take a little step back and try to see with different eyes.

Somewhere, someone is fighting for their life. A lot of someones. There is a whole medical team devoted to helping those people to recover and hopefully be able to do the very simple things which might  feel tedious and mundane to those of us lucky enough to be able to do them every day ... take a walk, sit in a coffee shop, read a book, take a drive, run on the beach or sit and watch the sun setting slowly over the trees.
The normal and the every day, which actually when added up, add up to some pretty wonderful moments of living.
Somewhere, someone has lost someone they love.
Someone is grieving an ending, and no beginning in sight.

If you are able to find a patch of green grass to lie back on to watch the clouds drifting or the stars gazing down ...
If you can sip on a cup of coffee and get lost in a good book ...
If you have memories of adventures and passion in your heart ... and something to look forward to ...
If you find yourself laughing and something beautiful still lifts your spirit ...
If you have someone beside you in the world who loves you, who really sees you - a parent, a child, a sister or brother or husband or wife or best friend ... 

Then you have much to be grateful for.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.


Friday, May 9, 2014

On leaving home and tumbleweed ....

                         Scrapbook paper from We R Memory Keepers at Target

Ever since i was a little girl, i had a restlessness inside. My favorite part of school was where we learnt about other countries ... the Kimonos worn in Japan, how paella was made in Spain. I wanted to au-pair in Germany after school but my mother thought it would be best to finish my studies first. After a year at university a friend and I planned and dreamt of how we could leave to take a year out for travelling ... live and work on a Kibbutz, go backpacking around Europe.

I tried to move back home after my studies ended but instead of dreaming about getting married and buying a home and a car and starting a real job, all I could think about was leaving. Not to run away, but to see something new. The world was calling and the familiar roads of the towns i grew up in just didn't go far enough any more.

I've lived away from home for almost two decades and moved house more times than i can count. That restlessness is still inside, it's taking a lot of effort to stay in one place now that the children need to be in school and not moving every year. I haven't travelled to even half the places I still want to go and if i could, i would pack up and set off tomorrow around the States in a camper van and see where the road took me. I'd like to sail down the Amazon a little way at least and travel South America ... Morocco and India and Italy are still waiting.

But something happened along the way with all the moving and changing and restlessness. Something I didn't anticipate. With every move came a goodbye of some kind. To a place I had grown comfortable in, to people i had come to love. Friends travelled and then went home to start their lives surrounded by family and familiarity, support. They knew where they belonged. I waved others goodbye to new lives in other places in the world ... Australia, the Middle East, Europe, South America, New Zealand. And went to America to start another chapter. There was a whole continent waiting to be explored.

Now, looking back, it's the goodbyes that i think about the most, not the adventures I have had along the way. It's the people missing from my life. The friends and family I've known since i was little, the connection that happens when you spend your life living in one place. The people who challenged me and made me laugh. Who helped me see the world a little differently, who taught me something new. The ones who danced and painted and lived creatively. The ones who had a clear vision, who made a great cup of tea or knew when to open the bottle of wine, who emanated peacefulness. The ones I belonged the most to, even though i didn't realize it at the time. The ones who are family, the ones who share my passion for a country at the very tip of Africa.

We moved to this house almost a year ago and i felt such a sense of relief at finally having a real place to call home after all the years of moving and not knowing where we wanted to be. Not that we travelled all the time, not at all - there were jobs to hold down and rent to pay and we couldn't pack up and wonder the world, much as I wanted to. But we also weren't settled down. Not in a real grown-up kind of way. It always felt temporary, just a brief spot before we tried the next place to live. I thought this house would change the way I felt, that i'd finally feel like i'd come home, that the restlessness would leave and I would finally breathe out. 

Only, moving has meant even more goodbyes after a lifetime of saying them. Days of not seeing friends, have turned to weeks then turned to months. The phone has grown very quiet. The texts never come. No last minute playdates or ice-creams at the park. No dinner invitations or bottles of wine shared on a Friday night. The phone rings for someone else, we've shifted our place in the line. Right to the bottom. Living far away as we do from our families and the friends we have known since we were small, our friends here have become our family. Only now they have drifted because we're not longer close by and party of the everyday, and our places have been filled. It happens slowly, a playdate at a time. And suddenly almost a year has passed and they have stopped calling. It means I have to start over, again, here where we live, and I feel so tired and resistant to the idea. I feel like hibernating and hiding from the world.  I don't have the energy to get to know even one more person.

Instead of feeling like a tree, finally rooted and sinking down into the damp earth of our new home, I am a tumbleweed - empty and full of spaces, rolling out across the dust. Hollow inside. Still restless and ever moving. Instead of close friends at my table on a rainy afternoon when the sky has grown purple and the light is green, I feel their absence and lives lived in different directions as I sit across the world from so many that I love, and the rest of them are scattered across the world.

When i close my eyes I dream of a gravel courtyard, paper lanterns strung up across a broad old tree. A turquoise deep sky and a lemon slice of moon. Candles and fresh bread, bottles of wine. Wooden chairs all painted different colours. There is lavendar growing in my dream garden, heaps and bunches of it scent the almost-night air. The seats are filling with the people i love best in this world and in my dream, everyone belongs and everyone fits and no introductions or awkward ice-breakers are needed. We pass the food around the table, dishes are heavy and plates are piled high. The faces smile up at me in the candlelight and my heart swells with happiness. They are all here. You are all here. Here in one place. Everyone i love best in the world. 

Until then, i'll be blowing around the edges of my little world here, wondering if a gust of wind will be strong enough to come and blow me down the road. Maybe there's another horizon out there waiting for me.


    image via pinterest

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spring spring sprung ...

Spring has arrived. People are poking their heads out of their shells. Cautiously. Like Hermit crabs. Stepping gingerly outside, a little hesitant. It has been a long winter and we don't quite trust the weather. The mornings are still cold but later on we sit outside drinking coffee and warming our toes. The landscape has erupted into life. Trees are unfurling and uncurling green. New shoots make them seem fluffy in the distance, like rabbit-tails. The hills are ablaze with yellow. The daffodils are beautiful and the deer do not eat them. We walk at the beach and fly kites on a breezy afternoon. We plan vegetable gardens and watch Nature waking. A new season has begun.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

German candy filled Easter eggs ...

When i was growing up, one of my favorite Easter traditions was the hand painted Easter eggs my mom made each year. This is an old German tradition where normal hen eggs are emptied out and painted, then filled with sweets / candy for Easter. 

It's a little late to be posting this, just days before Easter, but if i don't do it now i'll forget again next year !

When you're about to use eggs for baking or making scrambled eggs, take a normal knife and gently tap one end of it until the shell cracks. Carefully pick small pieces of the shell away until you have a hole about the size of a small coin. Rinse the inside of the egg out with lukewarm water, and place them on a piece of paper towel or dish rack to dry out completely. I store mine in an old egg carton and gradually add to the collection in the weeks leading up to Easter.

What you will need once you are ready to make your eggs :
*  some bottles / glasses to stand the eggs in while they dry
*  straws
*  paintbrushes, craft / acryllic paint (slightly runny quality is best)
*  water for rinsing
*  Markers and stickers and glitters can be used too
*  acryllic based varnish / Modge Podge for sealing the paint
*  bags of the candy you want to fill the eggs with
*  raisons or cotton wool and tape OR tin foil and glue for closing the eggs 

The wonderful thing about making these is that it really can be a craft activity for the whole family and it's great to let younger kids decorate eggs too, even if it's just a bunch of colored scribbles they make.

1) Insert a straw into the egg and hold in place as you paint each one in a base color - white works well, as do lighter colors like yellow, pink and pale green.  You can choose a color scheme for a batch, like pastels or pinks and yellows, or just paint them all white and add the accents in brighter colors after. Modern schemes like grays and neon pinks would look beautiful too.

2) Once each egg has been painted, stand it on the straw in a glass / jar to dry.

3) Then the fun begins. Decorate each egg with flowers, rabbits, modern swirls, butterflies, hearts, scribbles or stickers. Have fun - experiment - you will find your own patterns and style the more you do them. 

Put each one back on its straw in the glass / jar to dry completely.

4) Varnish each egg carefully and allow to dry.

5) Once dry, place each egg opening side upwards, in an egg carton. 

6) Fill with candy - jellybeans, M&M's, skittles, raisons, pieces of chocolate all work well - you want candy that is small enough to fit into the opening of the egg easily.

7) Once the egg is full, the top can be sealed with cotton wool or raisons as they can be tightly packed into any spaces, and then sealed with two pieces of tape, crossed over. You can also use small squares / circles of tin foil / parchment paper for baking - add non-toxic paper glue to the edges and press into place.

These are perfect for Easter baskets, for decorating the table at breakfast, and for Easter Egg hunts as the coat of varnish means the paint will not run if they're lying somewhere damp outside.

Happy Easter !