baking and being

Today is my birthday. I’m thirty six and just realised just how quickly the last 6 years have gone! Six years ago I celebrated my birthday expecting my first child. I was blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the changes this child would enforce on me. And yet, I cannot imagine my life had these changes not occurred.

It’s been an extremely busy couple of weeks. Still getting into the swing of doing the whole school thing, I now feel a little more relaxed about it all and not so frightened of forgetting to pack lunch or return notes on time. Scarlett has settled in to OOSH a little better, and Xavier has stopped crying when I leave him at preschool, instead adopting an awkward little sad wave goodbye. Lots of cuddles resolve any ill feelings at night.

I have been insanely busy at work lately, which I have come to realise has made me a little on edge at home, but I am trying to be conscious of it and keep things in perspective. Even though at times I feel that I am not achieving anything much, I am lucky enough to have a boss who reassures me that I am, and appreciates my efforts.

After an extremely long week (having attending a music festival and two gigs), I am just grateful to stay home today (in my pyjamas) and do the things that make me happy. Presents in bed, breakfast made by someone else, lounging around and baking. Today I have made good use of some bananas that were going bad…

banana bread with coconut

And have also made some delicious Crunchy Lola Cookies

delightful crunchy Lola cookies

But what I am enjoying right now, is listening two my delightful children playing ‘schools’ downstairs. Scarlett, being so excited about learning new things at school, has decided to start her own letter lessons for toddlers such as her brother. I wonder if she will become a teacher one day?

excited to be writing her own words, each family member was asked what they like doings this evening

new things

making sentences is so much fun!

The second week of school was just as tiresome as the first, if not more so. We were all a little wiser about the order of things, but the exhaustion by weeks end was much the same.

Aside from this, we had a good week. Scarlett has taken to learning all the things that kindy kids learn like a duck to water, but it has made me think about how little we encouraged these things before she started school. Sight words, sentences and punctuation were not really things we had spent time focusing on with her. The preschool we sent her to (and where her brother now goes) has a teaching philosophy based on self directed play and while there were some basic things, like scissor skills, pen grip and following a simple set of instructions, all this other stuff had not been a focus at all. Starting school, she could write her own name, and recognised most letters of the alphabet, but this last week, I’ve been amazed at how quickly she is learning sights word and forming sentences with them. Needless to say, we are extremely proud of her.

To add to all the changes going on at the moment, I’ve also had a new person start in my team at work. The reason the position was vacant is a whole other story (which I am quite upset and disappointed about), but the fact is there is an unfamiliar person working quite closely with me just seems to make my working life harder. Another thing I know will get easier with time.

Preschool drop off has not improved yet. I’ve tried reasoning (with a three year old!) and tried negotiating deals, but there are still tears each day as I leave my boy. He is going through a very peculiar stage at the moment. He is so in need of my attention and affection, but he also loves to challenge me to see how far he can push me. I must admit, that my fuse is never too long as much as I try to be calm with him. Yet another thing that I really hope gets easier some time soon.

one week down

We have survived the first week of school. I was a little bit cocky in my last post – Scarlett had attended a total of two days of school and I was not working on either of those days – but the week ended up being far more taxing than I had expected.

one week down

Four days a week, I rise at the crack of dawn. On three of those days I have to leave the house an hour before my train is due to manage drop offs at OOSH and preschool. Early evenings are spent washing lunch boxes and preparing dinner, feeding and bathing the children, convincing them to go to bed, then re-packing lunch boxes for the next day. And that is only the logistics.

Scarlett not only needs to find her way at school, she also has OOSH three days a week – another new environment with older children to contend with. As a child whose parents work most days, she also has quite a lot of responsibility for a 5 year old:

  • remember to bring home your hat and jumper each day
  • take this note to your teacher and bring home any other notes in the note folder
  • take this slip with my credit card details on it and don’t drop it on the playground for other kids to find
  • Ditto to all for OOSH

This isn’t so easy when you also have to focus on learning all day. So far, she has left the hat and jumper left at school one day, the hat at OOSH another day, and the note folder at school every day. The payment slip never made it out of the pocket of her backpack.

For me, it has been hard to let go and trust her to take on this responsibility. Not being able to control as much as I could at preschool and having to keep calm about it all.

Xavier and I spent our first day alone together on Monday. We had a great day going to kindergym, a lunch date and to the park before picking Scarlett up from school.

lunch date with my boy

I thought this one on one time would make him feel more secure and make leaving on  preschool days a little easier, but it only seemed to make it worse. He spent half out day together telling me how much he loved me and how much he missed me when I was gone. Consequently, there were tears and heartbreak each day I left him at preschool each day. We are working on it, but it’s hard.

With all the emotional upheaval going on, I didn’t want all the logistics weighing me down even more. So I’ve tackled it the only way I know how – planning. I have been religiously menu planning for some time, but I’ve now added to this the school lunches and snacks.

menu planning

While my mornings are insane, hubby is picking the kids up of an afternoon and bathing them while I prepare dinner, and bedtime is a dual effort. I know it is only early days, but I know we will all get into the swing of things before too long. Heck, we only have another five hundred and thirty two weeks of school to go!*

*for Scarlett that is – add on another eighty two weeks if we’re including Xavier!

starting school

stand up straight Starting school is something I’ve thought plenty about over the past five and a half years. When Scarlett was younger, I wondered if she would be able to start school ‘early’ at four and a half since she was an August baby.

After her first year of preschool, I quickly realised that she was nowhere near ready for school, and didn’t even ask the question.

During her second year of preschool, she flourished. Under the guidance of a firm but caring teacher, she learnt that not everything could be done her way, and also learnt how to be confident and assertive in groups, overcoming her shyness a little.

Once she ‘graduated’ from preschool, I had no qualms about her readiness for school. That was until the week before she was due to start…

I got messages and emails from friends wishing me luck. Every person I saw asked me how I was feeling about it. It made me focus on it much more that I would have otherwise, and it made me anxious and confused.

Unlike some mothers, I never have those moments of longing or regret that the baby days are over. I don’t think back to my children being babies and wish I could go back. I am always excited and relieved to pass new milestones and don’t want to ponder the past too much.

on the way in
All this talk of how I would cope with my first child going to school made me wonder if I would be emotional. Would I be scared and not want to let her go? I did feel nervous on the day we were due to go. Had I remembered to label everything correctly? Had I ensured she had everything she needed? It was really more about if I was going to pass my first day as a school mum.

After we finally arrived for her first day of big school, I walked with her to the classroom, and before I had a chance to think, she had gone in and sat down with the class. I had to call her back so I could say goodbye and give her a kiss. I did not get teary or cry. I did not feel sad or worried for her – I was just relieved and proud.

She is a smart little girl who is confident in herself. She makes up her mind about (most) things for herself and is determined enough to see things through. While she has not gone into kindergarten with many close friends, I know she will make some when it suits her.

Now there is only the matter of my own insecurities… I have many mixed feelings about the incongruence of my desire to further myself in my career, and my want to be a ‘good’ mother and participate in my children’s school life.

scarlett & freyaTalking to other parents at school, I have discovered that (mostly) mums are expected to participate in school activities such as sporting events, helping with group work in class, canteen duty and more. As someone who works four days a week, I am not sure how much of this I will be able to commit to, yet I don’t want my child to feel that her parents are not as involved as others’ parents.

I guess it is something many parents have no choice in, and I am lucky that, for the moment, I have some flexibility to work ‘part time’. I am already starting to worry about two years down the track when my youngest starts school, when my right to work part time will no longer be a given, but a privilege. In the mean time, I guess I will have to learn to navigate each school term, and see where I can fit everything in…

for future reference – technology and teenagers

In about 8 years time (depending on how technology has changed in that time), I’d like to remember the contract blogger Janell Burley Hofmann made with her son when giving him an iPhone for the first time. Here is her letter to him:

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and responsible 13-year-old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 pm every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 pm It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.

7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.

10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person — preferably me or your father.

11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.

13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).

15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.

16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.

18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.

xoxoxo,

Mom

christmas baking

Today I spent the day baking with my mum. For as long as I can remember, my mum has made the most delicious biscuits each christmas. There is her famous almond bread, hazelnut logs, almond crescents and pistachio pears.

As my sisters an I got older, we started to pitch in and began helping out each year. For several years now though, both my sisters have been living in another state, so it’s just mum and I. This year it was I who approached mum to get the day organised.

There is something very special about baking with a mission. Not just baking one cake or a batch of cookies, but to tackle the sum of baked goods we plan each year requires organisation and hard work. For six straight hours we each moved from one task to the next. Grinding, beating, mixing, moulding, baking, dusting, drizzling. Today we barely stopped to eat lunch or have a cup of tea.

The results were worth it.

20121202-213221.jpg

Aside from the copious amounts of baked goods I returned home with today, I also left with a great feeling. Mum and I had spent the whole day working, but also chatting and just being together which has been a rare thing this year. We talked about kids, work, health, religion, education, discipline and being women. I’ve suggested we do it more often. We have a lot to talk about.