I think I’m a tea drinker now

A few weeks ago I sat down on the couch in my lounge room. With a book in my hand and slippered feet up, it took a barely audible sigh of contentment to alert my kids to the fact that somewhere, something was odd about their world.

The little one ran over and climbed on me. The big one stood back, looking a little nervous. “What are you doing?” she asked.

It had been a while since I’d sat on the couch, or at least a long time since I’d sat on the couch while the kids were around. The idea of their mum relaxing was foreign to them.

I’ve never been great at being idle. I feel guilty about all the things I could have been achieving in that time, resulting in anxiety over a wasted day. And I’ve never had as much to be done as I do these days, with my legs being pulled by work (figuratively) and children (literally), so sitting back isn’t easy.

But I hadn’t quite intended for my children to never see me relax. “What are you doing?” – an innocent enough question that made me realise I’m always doing. Is that really so good for me? Is it a good influence for my girls?

As a kid I remember my mum created spaces within each day that were just for her. We knew that if Mum was sitting down with a cup of tea and a book – which was often just for ten minutes – you were to disturb her at your own risk. I’ve never made such protected time for myself, but now I’m wondering how I would do just that.

I don’t drink tea or coffee, and it feels silly to ask for space to drink a glass of water, so that’s out. My habit is to relax through my writing, but if I ask my kids not to disturb me while I write “just for ten minutes” they’ll end up fending for themselves most of the day. Reading books more again is a great idea, but I’m not sure my toddler is ready for me to sit down with a book without her bringing her own book over for me to read. (And while reading stories to her is fun – at least, for the first twenty times in a day – it’s not a relaxing space of time for myself.)

And so I’m left wondering if relaxing in my children’s presence is out until the little one is older. But how many years is reasonable to run myself off my feet every day?

In the end, I trigger to the real depth of my mum’s smarts. When drinking a cup of tea, the kids have to leave you alone to avoid being burnt. Whether the children are ten or five or one, there’s simply no option. Danger! Mummy has a cup of tea!

I think my habits are about to change.

Why my daughter’s wobbly tooth makes me feel sad

“I’ve got a wobbly tooth!”

Abbey was yelling elatedly through the house, running to tell us her very exciting discovery. Many of her school friends have lost teeth and she’d been waiting months for this very day, so to her this was a piece of news she’d be able to proudly share the following day, and proof that she was almost officially a ‘big kid’. (The only thing to make it official would, in her mind, be the gap that’s soon to come.)

I put a smile on my face for her – and am genuinely happy that she’s happy – but there’s a whole range of emotions going on for me with the arrival of this next developmental stage. On a purely selfish note I’m feeling a little sad, if not slightly bitter, about those teeth preparing to fall out.

See, each and every one of those teeth has been agonised over.

Growing those teeth cost me (and Steve) (oh, and Abbey) hours upon hours of sleep. Generally a good sleeper, we knew exactly when teeth were on their way by the interruptions they injected through her gums and into the hours of darkness, which in turn were the cause of grumpy days (for her and me), colds and soreness. A quick calculation tells me that the inside of her mouth, with its 20 teeth, has caused a total of about 400 hours of lost sleep per person. At least.

On top of the sleeplessness, there was the hassle. Numerous dashes to the shops for teething gel, natural remedies, teething necklaces, dummies to replace those chewed through with sore gums, another brand of teething gel, pain relief medication, and recommended teething toys, resulted in… well, nothing much really. None of them worked, instead acting only to make us feel like we were doing something to help and provide a temporary distraction from the frustration of it all.

Then there were the accidents. Every fall or collision had us checking her teeth for damage, although for the most part they were all fine. Except for the time I got a call from her childcare centre, with her screaming in the background, to come and collect her. When I arrived and saw blood around her mouth I looked inside to find her front teeth bent almost all the way back to the roof of her mouth. The dentist we quickly visited shrugged – “Kids’ teeth recover surprisingly well; she’ll be fine” – and sure enough, within a couple of weeks her teeth were back to normal. But oh, remembering the worry we felt at the time still makes me tense.

And now those teeth, the cause of sleepless nights, hard days, extra work and worry, are just going to fall out. It hardly seems fair.

So what should I expect from the new teeth that will soon grow? Although I’m not sure the worry will cease – after all, these are the permanent teeth that we really don’t want to be bent backwards – all I can hope is the next set grow more easily and less painfully, and cause far less hassle than their predecessors. Yes, I’m bitter and worried and feeling protective of our sleep, all in one.

Or maybe I should just admit I’m a bit sad because that wobbly tooth is a sign she’s no longer my little teething baby. She really is getting to be a ‘big kid’.

FOMO

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“Where did you hear about this place?” the woman frowned at us.

“Oh, we’re locals,” Steve said, and I added that there’s been a lot of talk about it around the streets. See, this place is a Big Deal here in the hills: a world-famous chef taking hold of an old, treasured property. Everyone wants to see it.

“Well, so am I” – the words were thrown at us, as though it was offensive to suggest she wasn’t from around these parts – “but there’s been nothing said. Where EXACTLY did you hear about it?”

Steve shrugged: “In the local paper, I guess…”

“No. Nothing was in the papers. I read those, but I didn’t know about this until I drove past.” She looked at me, like a school teacher angry that a kid is trying to get out of answering her question. “And you?”

“Oh I probably saw it on Facebook.”

She threw her hands in the air. “Well, I’m not on The Facebook. How am I meant to know about it?”

As we backed away, keen to move on from this questioning that wasn’t going anywhere, I pointed to the sign outlining the plans for the development. “It’s an interesting plan and the food’s great…”

She shook her head in frustration, and as we left her to it some others walked along the path and she turned to eye them off.

It doesn’t matter how you got here or when you got here, I wanted to say. You’re here now. Just enjoy it.

 

Why I write

Bloggers are tagging each other like it’s 2010 and I love it! Playing along with this game about writing…

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What am I working on?

At the moment I’m really focused on feature writing, corporate writing and blogging. It’s where my heart lies right now.

So at this moment in time I’m working on travel articles that will see me out hang gliding, mountain biking, zip lining, rock climbing and road-tripping (and of those I’m most terrified of the biking); articles about families for an over-60s website; interviewing people for profiles on a corporate blog; a couple of newspaper articles; and an article about labour pain relief. Oh, and blog posts are always on the go for The Places You’ll Go. I love that variety.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

Oh boy. I guess it’s all about voice and perspective, and mine is different to everyone else’s.

Why I write.

I write because I was born wanting to write. As a kid I had a certainty about this being my life, and I finally got brave enough to live it.

I write because when I don’t I’m a mess. It helps me sort out what’s important enough to stand up for and what I can leave on the page.

I write because sometimes people say “me too” to something I put out there.

I write because it’s addictive. When the words and ideas fall into place I feel a surge of adrenalin, and I have to have more.

I write because I want to.

How does my writing process work?

I’d love to say something poetic here, but really it’s all a race against time for me. Kids are being looked after or in bed and QUICK! Get stuff written! I do much of my brainstorming, pitching, businessy stuff and interviewing while the kids are around so that I can just write like mad when they’re not.

I’m meant to tag others here, but so many bloggers have already done this so I’m not sure who wants in. If you want to do it, go for your life, and leave me a link so I can come and read it.

 

My children are perfect

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I seem to have spent a lot of time lately saying, “My child isn’t perfect”. It’s like an apology for what they might do, for what others might have done and for how the world might perceive it all.

Frankly, I’m sick of saying it. Because the truth is, it’s a lie. Both my kids are perfect.

They are perfect in their openness to the world, in their innocence and wide-eyed acceptance of the way things are.

Their love of life is blissfully perfect.

They’re perfect in their humanness. They make mistakes, they admit them, they scream in a temper, they have tantrums, and they pick themselves up again like perfect little beings.

They’re perfect in their slumber, so peaceful and relaxed.

They’re perfect when they wake, without an idea of what the day might bring but ready for anything.

Their trust for their parents is perfect, and perfectly placed.

Their laughter is perfect, contagious and without reservation.

And their tears, with that same passion, are perfect as a release of the world trying to bring them down. It won’t.

And life is perfect with them in it.

My children are perfect. I bet yours are too.

Letting go

I’ve been asked what will happen with this blog, now that I’m travel blogging at The Places You’ll Go.

I wanted to give it a bit of time to see how I felt about my answer. Travel blogging has started off wonderfully, and I plan to be doing that with great enthusiasm and having lots of fun with it for a long time, but I have other stories to share too. I’d still love to use this space to write about the other aspects of my life: in particular, parenting and writing.

Like this:

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“Mum, can I walk to school by myself yet?”

Abbey’s always been very independent, and while I’ve always loved that and given her the space to have some freedom, there’s a difference between the independence of climbing a rope ladder by herself at the park and wanting to walk to school alone. This is a whole new level of letting go.

With each new stage of childhood comes a new stage of parenting and sometimes you have to do a little questioning to figure out how you’re going to handle it. And mostly, I like to let my kids guide me as to how to best parent them. So, when Abbey asked me about walking herself to school I had to think hard before changing my immediate response – “No way” – to something a little more considered.

“How about we walk separate ways but have meeting points halfway and then at the classroom?”

“One meeting point.”

“Two meeting points: one halfway and one at the front gate?”

“One meeting point, but you can watch me walk into the back gate.”

“Deal.”

Actually, I think this is less about child-led parenting and more that I’ve been bargained with by an expert negotiator.

 

Photography

I walked into my most recent RedBalloon experience with nerves, because although it wasn’t a daredevil adventure, it was a one-on-one session that I knew I could get something out of… if I offered up my weaknesses.

I didn’t have to offer them at all, however, because the real difficulty of this photography course became apparent in the first five minutes. “Show me some of your photos,” the photography tutor said. I showed her some I was proudest of, and some I knew could be better. “I can take a good shot, but I’m trying to hit that next level,” I offered as an explanation of what I wanted from our two-hour session. She disagreed however, quickly declaring my good shots as bad ones. Ouch.

Of course, she’s entitled to think that and to say it. I have no problems with that. My problem lay in realising her strategies differ greatly from those I’ve learnt before, from photographers I admire. The type of photo I take – and the settings I use to do them – was the complete opposite of this lady’s. She’s more of an old-school rules type, who believes bright is wrong and thirds are not to be broken.

Given that, I wasn’t sure how well the session would go. But I managed to quickly adjust my expectations and take it – and her – for what it was.

We wandered around the city, focusing not on taking amazing shots, but on practising various techniques and taking note of the differences. One thing that was drummed into me was my attention to detail: looking at every corner of the shot before capturing it, and really thinking about what I want a photo to be.

We talked about white balance, and the difference an adjustment there can make – this has nothing to do with lighting but everything to do with temperature. Both the examples below have the cooler shots – taken with the white balance set to automatic – on the left, and an adjusted warmer setting on the right:

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Another thing she wanted to focus on was flash, after I told her that I never use that function. She told me it’s useful for uneven lighting, and showed me how to adjust the intensity of the flash (the camera’s flash, that is, not an external one – although I was advised to buy one). Below shows the same shot in horrible lighting – the first with no flash, the second with a soft flash, the third with a brighter flash:

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Of course, it’s preferable to take a photo in better lighting, but a flash can be a way to fill in the shadows. I’m not entirely convinced: I think the photo loses too much in flash so it’s probably not something I’ll adopt too much of (although a practice of something new never hurts!).

So what did I learn most of all?

That a big part of any creative endeavour is that everyone has their own methods. The best way to learn is to listen to different ideas and try them out yourself. Some will appeal, some won’t, but the process of practicing and thinking about each aspect will make you better at your craft.

I mostly learnt a few subtleties in technique and attention to detail, which is exactly what I wanted to work at, so overall it was a worthwhile exercise.

And I’m still not taking her word for some of my examples being “bad” – technically perfect, probably not, but I’m prone to falling in love with the feel of a shot over the detail of the technique. Both have a place. And what I need to take away from that is to better use techniques and skills to communicate that feeling.

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Want to learn some new skills of your own? RedBalloon has an offer for readers of this blog:

Receive $20 off when you spend $79 or more on any RedBalloon experience!
Visit www.redballoon.com.au & enter the code REDBLOG14 at the checkout to receive your discount.
Code can only be used once per person. All purchases are subject to RedBalloon T&Cs.
Expiry: 31/12/2014

Thanks to the team at Digital Parents Collective for inviting me to be a part of the RedBalloon Experience program. I will be sharing my awesome experiences with you over the next few months. As always, all opinions are my own however the experiences are complimentary.

 

 

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The Places You’ll Go

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This week I launched my brand new travel blog. (And… exhale.)

It’s something I’ve been considering for a while, but it took a bit of convincing to go through with it – all the usual self-doubt stuff. It’s the direction I want to take my blogging, and I needed a dedicated space for it to really push myself to do my best.

I’d love it if you’d visit me over there and join me on this crazy ride, and if you like what you see you can easily subscribe to the newsletters I’ll be sending out.

As for this blog, well, I’m going to keep it going. In what form I’m not sure yet but I still love to have these conversations with you guys about parenting, writing and life. Let’s see where it all takes us!

Thanks as always for your support!

 

Brewing our own apple cider: a tasty experiment

Over summer I became well acquainted with several of the ciders hitting the shop shelves. I don’t drink much, or often, but it became the perfect occasional refreshing drink.

Steve and I started thinking: maybe we should try making our own. Enter stage left: RedBalloon. Having never brewed anything before, we had no idea what to expect when the boxed kit arrived on our doorstep, so we followed the instructions to the letter and hoped for the best. Here’s how it went:

The first step was super important but quite an anti-climax. “Let’s start making our cider tonight!” we said excitedly, only to realise the first step is to wash and sterilise everything from the kit. Boring. Luckily, we were soon putting together the mixture.

We combined water, brewers’ yeast, sweetener (you can alter how much sweetener you add depending on how sweet you like your cider – we added about half) and apple juice concentrate – all of which (except the water) were part of the kit. Then it gets left for ten days to do its thing – that is, the yeast essentially eats the sugar from the juice concentrate and turns it into alcohol (approx. 5.2%). You can tell that this stage is done because it stops fizzing, which means the yeast has stopped doing its job.

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Ten days later we did the next step: adding the cider essence to increase the apple flavour, and stirring it in. Then it had to sit for another 24 hours. Yes, it’s a slow and steady process – kind of like making bread but longer.

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Then we got to the good bit: bottling our cider. It was quite a dark, beery colour at this point, and didn’t taste great (I had a sip and spat it out), but we did it anyway and hoped for the best. First, we put the carbonation drops into each bottle to make the cider fizzy, and then we siphoned it in. All this equipment – bottles, siphon, everything – came in the kit.

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Voila! And then it had to sit again, this time for three weeks. Waiting, waiting, waiting…

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Cheers!

So how was it? Cider proves that plenty of rest is good for you; all that sitting made it pretty tasty and easy to drink, actually. It wasn’t super sweet (although it would have been if we’d added all the sweetener), and we’ve enjoyed a few glasses here and there. The only problem is the bottles are big and once you open one you have to either drink it all or tip out the remainder, as it doesn’t reseal well. So unfortunately, we’ve had to have a couple of glasses each at a time – what a shame!

We’ve shared our homemade cider with friends, taken it away on camping trips, and still have plenty left to keep enjoying. We’re planning to try another batch soon, with fresh juice rather than syrupy concentrate, so we’ll see what difference that makes. All in all – a fun and delicious experiment.

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Want to make your own delicious food or drink? RedBalloon has an offer for readers of this blog:
 

Receive $20 off when you spend $79 or more on any RedBalloon experience!
Visit www.redballoon.com.au & enter the code REDBLOG14 at the checkout to receive your discount.
Code can only be used once per person. All purchases are subject to RedBalloon T&Cs.
Expiry: 31/12/2014

Thanks to the team at Digital Parents Collective for inviting me to be a part of the RedBalloon Experience program. I will be sharing my awesome experiences with you over the next few months. As always, all opinions are my own however the experiences are complimentary.

 

Inspiration for business and for life

So, it turns out I’m blogging mostly every day in May… What can I say; sometimes things go a bit crazy here! So let’s just continue on where we left off – today’s topic is inspiration.

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I spent some time this week speaking with business managers about their role, the company they work for and their story to where they are. One end result of this was to come back to my little home office and write up some pieces for them, but another result came upon me as I did so.

Inspiration.

As they spoke about themselves as employees and as people who are in the top rungs of running a business, I heard a lot of things that relate to people like me who are playing both those parts. In my little business – which is growing fast in its own relative pace – I’m the business owner and the worker. It can be tricky to balance yourself as a business and yourself as a person, but I took on a few pieces of advice – because sometimes the best advice is hidden in something not directly relevant.

Trying new things. In a larger business, if you try something and it doesn’t work then you scratch it and try something else. In your own small business, it can be hard not to take it personally and question your entire direction. Slightly guilty of that on a regular basis, I am! and I’m unfortunately very good at beating myself up for mistakes. I must learn to move on more easily.

Don’t dwell on yourself. A business owner said to me, if you focus too much on yourself you’ll never grow a business. You should instead be focused on your customers. I think this goes for personal lives too: sometimes you have to move out of your own head to really move yourself into a better place.

Just do something. The ethos that the worst thing you can do is not make a decision was talked about again and again. Rather than sitting back waiting to be convinced that your decision is going to pay off, you just have to do it – and if it doesn’t work, well, at least you did something. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Just take a step.

Exercise. All the people I spoke with advocated exercise as a way to think clearly. They run, do yoga, whatever – essentially you need to find some ways to switch your  mind away from work in order to be able to get clarity. No matter how much you love what you do, you  have to move your mind away from it sometimes. I’m a big fan of this myself (although sometimes it’s easy to forget) and the best thing I’ve done for myself this week was take a walk in the sunshine.