the CD and the atlas: lessons learned in the lead up to Christmas

My Grandpa lives by the sea. We went to visit yesterday and spent a few hours with him, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee brewed on his camp stove in the afternoon sun.

He’s in the process of moving house and let me choose some of his books to take home. One is an old atlas with the inscription: “To Mary with love from Graeme Xmas 1960.” A message from my Grandpa to my Grandmother.

We have been looking through its softly worn pages today. In the lead up to Christmas while my heart is  beating faster and faster with increasing overwhelm, I can’t help but reflect on this little gift with wonderment. Imagine, opening up a present from your partner on Christmas morning to find a lovely book with a short message in the front. I like to think it was wrapped brown paper, and perhaps tied with white string. It is this kind of simplicity and thoughtfulness that I yearn for in my every day life. We are overcome with monstrous loud flashy messages and it is easy forget that we don’t need to buy each other and our children bigger and better things in order for them to be happy and healthy and cherished and loved.

At birthdays and Christmas I stick to this motto from Jodi Wilson:

something I want, something I need

something to wear, something to read

Even still it is easy to get distracted and carried away and panicky and compare-y. We have to stop doing this.

Gramps also offered me some CDs of classical music. “Ok,” I said, “but can I have one that isn’t frantic. One that I could listen to on a Sunday afternoon. Something calming. No violins?”

“Hmm. Well that isn’t how I approach music at all.” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I walk over to my CDs. I think of one I’d like to listen to. I put it on, then I sit down on the couch and I listen to it. That is how to engage with a piece of music. If it’s on in the background it might as well be anything.”

“Ok. But what if you’re me and you’ve got three screaming children and you have to cook dinner and fold the washing and feed the dog and it’s 1pm and you want to put your pyjamas on and you’re not really thinking about developing a relationship with a piece of music but you would like something to listen to… in the background?”

He stared at me for a moment, laughed, then a few minutes later handed me this, and we listened to it in the car on the way home.

The CD and the atlas. I’ve been thinking about them both since yesterday. The purity and the restraint and the slow and the time. I am so rushed. Even when I try to slow down, there are so many external things wanting my attention. Children, animals, schedules imposed on me and so many rules. Rules! So many!

It’s been a timely and gentle reminder. Now when I look at my Christmas list, I am not looking at things to add, but places I can pare down, things that I can make, things that I can replicate to create a bit of flow, areas that I was perhaps getting a little carried away (do the girls really need another story CD? What will really make them happy on Christmas morning?) I think it’s important to remember that the presents we buy and/or make for our kids are just the beginning for most families on Christmas Day. For many, including us, there will be a number of shared meals that day, and many thoughtful gifts and presents to open. To keep it simple and quiet in the morning at home, we are actually doing our children a favour and allowing them to enjoy the excitement ahead.

Will you start your Christmas morning slow and steady this year? Do you have many people and engagements to whiz around to during the day?

it’s that time again…

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I always promise myself that I will be organised at Christmas time, that I won’t be scrambling around in a mad rush and I won’t be forced into buying things that compromise my values because I’ve run out of time! Alas, I am rather behind schedule and my list of things to make is gigantic… we are half way through November and shit is getting real in my sewing room.

I am quite the overachiever and apparently love nothing more than a late night sew-fest and the pressure of doing things at the last minute. As much as I hate it, I can’t seem to shake my ways. Oh well.

I’ve talked so many times before about buying nothing new at Christmas and supporting handmade and so on and so on. Apart from the fact that a Christmas-crazed shopping centre is my absolute worst nightmare, I love the feeling of really thinking about presents and putting the effort into cutting and sewing and making and giving something genuinely unique. I’m not sure if the people on the receiving end of my gifts feel this way… but it’s the thought that counts, right? This year I am going about Christmas in my usual fashion, however we are buying a couple of things for the girls – a wooden kitchen, a bike for Birdie and maybe a scooter for the Pixie. Unfortunately I can’t make these things. I did try to purchase the wooden kitchen secondhand but have had trouble finding what I am looking for. Two years ago we gave the girls a beautiful waldorf style doll’s house and I was lucky enough to find this on my local buy swap and sell site! So if you keep an eye out – you do find.

This year I’ve been making star garlands, pictured above, little shorts, and crocheted tiaras mainly. Most of the little folk in our circles will be receiving variations of these this Christmas. I’m also planning on making a dress each for Birdie and Pix, and something else… I haven’t fleshed out the list properly yet. I make all my family granola every year so will also be continuing with that tradition.

This is also my first year to make teacher gifts now that Birdie is at kinder! I am yet to decide what to do for our teacher folk, I’m thinking granola or a star garland. Any tips?

What are you making? Are you a mad shopper at Christmas? Do you write lists? How do you keep the madness at bay?

 

 

valentine’s day

IMG_3015Unfortunately for me, Prince Charming doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day. Which brings me to wonder, does such a person deserve the Prince Charming title? He believes it is nothing but a marketing ploy and for as long as I have known him he hasn’t been interested in taking part. As much as I jest, I do understand where he is coming from. As we all know I dislike nothing more than big companies enticing me to buy things I don’t need. Nevertheless, when it comes to Valentine’s Day and creating family traditions with the girlies, I do like to take part and give it our own slant.

For the last few years we have celebrated Valentine’s Day as a time to think about the people in our life that we love and celebrate the friendships we have. Last year Birdie made [a version of] these yarn love heart cards for her friends. This afternoon we are going to make salt dough ornaments (before the heat sets in from tomorrow onwards!). It just so happens I boiled up a big pot of beetroot yesterday so have plenty of reserved liquid to use to dye the salt dough. You can also find plenty of other ideas here and here.

I may not be getting an enormous diamond on Friday the 14th. But despite the unfortunate materialistic nature now associated with Valentine’s Day, we can still use it to remember what it really stands for, and use it as an opportunity to teach our children to show appreciation and love for those close to us.

How do you like to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

 

this time, one year ago

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You were cradled in my arms, all bunchy and squished. We were in bed. I was most likely eating something. (Food tastes so good in the days following childbirth, don’t you think?) We were surrounded by loving family. We were at home.

A few hours earlier I felt your soft hair flowing through my fingertips under water, moments before I held you for the very first time and felt your skin against mine. I looked down in surprise to find you were a little girl, not a wee boy as I had thought during my pregnancy (due to nothing more scientific than a dream three years prior).

Well my darling pixie babe, you have been full of surprises this past year, some which have delighted, others which have perplexed your tired mama.

Your lively nature and determined spirit is contagious. You make us laugh each and every day. You squark and kick your legs when you don’t get your own way and we all know better now than to refuse your commands. We simply obey. We cuddle you at night and touch your face and kiss your cheeks. We rub your tummy and feed you and tickle your toes and smooth our hands over your skin in the bath.

Happy first birthday my sweet, vivacious girl. My life is forever changed for the better with you in it, you bring me daily joy and a love so deep and complex and fulfilling and all-consuming that I am completely and utterly addicted to it, and to you.

We love you deeply and dearly little pixie. May your second year be just as bright as your first, and on and on.

Big love, your mama.

hey guys…

How are you today?

It’s Saturday! Yah! Today I’m over at Parenting Fun Everyday chatting about finding rhythm again when you have a second baby*. Lord knows I’m no expert, but I’m sharing what I know.

Have a great day xo

*I’m actually not inside your computer, but out at a local market buying a new pottery mug to replace my trusty favourite which I accidentally broke in a temper tantrum a few weeks ago 😦

a wintery solsticey bonfirey night

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Last weekend it was the Winter Solstice down here in Aus. For the second year in a row we went in to a community celebration organised by some dedicated and hard working family of mine. What an expert bonfire-mulled-wine-lantern-making family I do have! And all I did was front up on the night to enjoy the festivities and complain about all the hoards of people.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice is only something I started doing three years ago when I made it my mission (when Birdie was barely out of the womb) to celebrate every damn celebration I could so that I could say that My Family Has Traditions. I went a little crazy, even so far as to write them all down on brainstorm chart. I am so embarrassing, I hope I didn’t write about that on this blog somewhere because it really was just a little OTT. Three years down the track I’m really happy to say that of the 75 billion traditions I decided we would suddenly celebrate out of the blue with no rhyme or reason, the Winter Solstice is one that we have stuck with. It really is such a beautiful thing to recognise the seasons around us, to pay attention and to pay some sort of homage to the earth and the coming and going of the light and the history of such things. It fits in with our desire and effort as a family to work with the seasons, to eat seasonally, to live mindfully.

If I could tell my new-mother self one thing (actually this is not the one thing I would say if I could only say one thing but for now I will just say this one thing) I would tell her to take heart – never fear – for as a little tiny family evolves, traditions do come, even without the chart.

 

a tardy, tardy post

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Hello, hello, I’m still here, still in the land of the living, still kicking on.

I’ve barely had time to smell the roses the last few weeks, the Pixie keeping me on my toes, but the other day I was over visiting the lovely Meagan from This Whole Family to have a chat about the art of storytelling. You should definitely grab yourself a hot drink and go and have a look! Why don’t you?

A huge congratulations to Meagan who has just welcomed her third beautiful babe Juniper into her family! Wishing you lots of warm snuggles and a lovely beginning to your new family member, Meagan and thank you for welcoming me into your online space! xo