34/52

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nicholas: Your just-woke-up face is one of my favourites, and the bed hair from a lunchtime bath made it even more special. You are quite happy to zone out with the boys on the couch while you wake up properly, then it’s time to play and explore and eat and chat and yell and sing and crawl and bike ride and read some more. I love watching you play – listening to your imaginary phone calls to daddy, the way you build lego and fly it around, how you hide Froggie in a bucket and make him reappear. I love watching your imagination in action.

52-34-3sam: We were glad to see you much healthier and back at school this week, even though you had to have one day off for scheduled treatment. Between the steroids and the rainy weather, this weekend hasn’t been our finest and I’m sure we’ve each had a turn at melting down at some stage. I guess this is just what happens when we love each other and we’re affected by each other’s moods. Lucky we know that ‘this too shall pass’ and the sunshine will soon return.

52-34-2charlie: While you don’t dress up quite as much as you used to, a quiet morning at home this week was spent pulling every article of dress-ups out of our two boxes and spreading them all over the lounge room floor so we could pick out our outfits. Our usually very healthy boy took his turn at the man flu mid-week, and you made me giggle when you told me one morning that “the crouper still hadn’t gone”. Thankfully you seemed to bounce back very quickly and were all set to celebrate pyjama day (to raise money for Daffodil Day) at kindy on Friday. As if you need an excuse not to get out of your pyjamas for a whole day ;)

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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Returning to our Sanctuary

DSC_0456There’s something lovely about returning to a holiday destination. Feeling the anticipation rise as the weekend at ‘the farm’ approaches, hearing us exhale as we descend the driveway towards our cabin, knowing how quickly we’ll start thinking we never want to leave. Being able to reminisce about previous visits while creating new memories.

DSC_0326Remembering that we first visited many moons ago for the wedding of dear friends, not knowing that we’d one day return for holidays with our own brood.

Recalling the dark and cosy bedroom where I fed baby Nicholas and we both had a rare nap for three hours in the middle of the day, when he was five months old and I was still adjusting to having three children under five.

DSC_0429Observing that Charlie has absolutely no interest in feeding the farm animals, so nothing much has changed from previous visits in that respect. Noting that Nicholas has developed his eldest brother’s affinity with animals, completely comfortable in their presence.

DSC_0495 DSC_0490Remembering crazy early morning, sleepy feeds on the couch with baby Nicholas, and then watching the sun rise over the dewy grass with Sam, my other early riser. Thankful that everyone tends to sleep until after the sun comes up these days.

DSC_0469DSC_0458Enjoying my baby boy snuggling up to me on the tractor ride, being lulled to sleep by the end of the journey. And remembering that he did that last year too.

Thinking about the sausages we cooked over the open fire last year, and how we turned off all the lights to watch the stars, just the five of us away from the real world. Delighting in the chaos and fun of shared meals with friends this year, watching my beloved in his element as he prepared delicious dinners.

DSC_0404Noting that Sam’s desire to start the campfire each afternoon has not waned since last year, and thankful that the chilly weather meant we could sit by the fire outside and have a fireplace to keep us toasty indoors too. Glad we remembered the marshmallows to toast this year.

DSC_0365Observing how much drawing and writing played a part in this year’s escape, how much Sam has honed these skills over the past year, and loving the notes he wrote for the ‘farm people’ and his friends. Wondering if next year he’ll be curled up in a corner reading a novel, as I hope to be.

DSC_0507 DSC_0510Loving the competitive spirit shown in the daddies and sons soccer match, giggling at Sam’s determination to have a swim and never making it in the freezing water past his big toe, and recalling that this time last year, there was little physical activity on our escape as we were still undergoing investigations over his mysterious sore knee.

DSC_0463 Again, feeling blessed for having a few sacred days away from the world with my loves. Knowing how much has changed in a year and how much stays the same. Being able to stop, breathe, observe and remember.

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33/52 {finding my happy place}

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Sam had a short hospital stint this week. After experiencing fevers of over 38.5 on Monday morning, it’s protocol for us to take him straight up to Emergency in case there’s a nasty infection lurking. He was admitted later that day and stayed in for two nights, but thankfully he didn’t seem particularly sick. Once doctors had located the source of the fevers (he tested positive for Influenza B on the final morning) and the fevers dissipated, we were sent home.

It’s often in these ‘hospital weeks’ where I more regularly hear comments like “I’m not sure how you do it”. While the logistics of managing three children across two locations can be tricky, the truth is that hospital weeks, for us, don’t feel that much more difficult than normal busy life with three young children. I go into action mode and organisational overdrive, Ben has a fabulous team who manage the business very well without him onsite, and we’re very grateful for the friends and family nearby who are able to help out when required.

But comments like those do get me thinking about what helps me feel happiest and most in control of my life, especially in weeks where things don’t go according to plan. So, without overthinking it, here’s my list:

Eating well, and going to bed early.

Having a weekly plan of what I’m going to have for dinner (or at least having knowing what I’m going to have for dinner and having ingredients on hand before 5.30pm each night!)

Making school/kindy lunches the night before, so that each morning runs more smoothly.

Getting up a little earlier on school mornings, so there’s more breathing space and less craziness (somehow this never translates to being early for school though!).

Outsourcing where required. Whether this be something that we pay for (like a cleaner), or just asking Ben to do something I’d love to do, but never feel like I have enough time to (like making chicken stock), it definitely helps me feel more balanced.

Asking for help. My husband probably doesn’t agree, but I am getting better at this.

Not overcommitting. Saying no to things that aren’t imperative or that aren’t going to add value to our lives.

Having a tidy house (rare occurrence, but a clearer living space does give me more headspace).

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But, sometimes, when life does feel a bit overwhelming and I need to find my happy place, these are the things I try in the hope of restoring some balance:

Dance party in the kitchen with my little Loves and our favourite tunes.

Being grateful for the little things, like Sam putting lavender from our garden in a little glass of water on a shelf, or the way the light shines through our bedroom window in the mornings.

Sneaking out to the bench seat in our backyard, with leafy trees and colourful lanterns overhead, for five minutes alone with a cup of tea.

Getting some fresh air and physical exercise. Given I am rarely alone, this usually involves going for a spontaneous walk or scooter ride to the park with the boys.

Switching off the screens and social media and engaging fully with my children.

Writing a random note to a friend and putting it in the post (I love these little notebooks from Kikki K).

If I can swing it, escaping by myself for a few hours to indulge in a magazine and coffee at a café.

A glass of wine and conversation with my husband at the end of the day, preferably with children all tucked up in bed, sleeping peacefully.

How do you find your happy place?

(I think I’m pretty lucky that I tend to have an inbuilt positive outlook and was brought up with Pollyanna as a mother who always encouraged me to look on the bright side of things. I’m thankful that I’m not prone to depression and its debilitating ways, and in no way want to make light of those who truly suffer from ‘rough days’. If you think you might be struggling with depression, please reach out to someone you know or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.)

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sam: Your front teeth were a little wobbly, but a week ago you were playing on the trampoline with a friend and somehow both teeth came out in one fell swoop (followed by blood and a fair bit of screaming), but thankfully you calmed quickly and realised that the Tooth Fairy would be visiting (not that night, though – she had obviously had a very busy week and had an early night). I’m quite fond of your gappy smile. 

52-33-3nicholas: Spending time at our newly renovated local library was a perfect way to spend a few hours on a rainy Friday (good suggestion by Sam). You love the new kids area, complete with cosy couches and nooks and crannies to explore, but you much prefer adult novels to picture books at the moment. It was pretty fascinating when animated bugs started crawling all over the mat and butterflies shone on your face – those lights coming from above were quite mesmerising.

52-33-6charlie: Is there any place better than within Daddy’s strong arms? With Daddy suffering from the flu this week, he’s been at home and therefore been on hand for extra cuddles, and probably needed more than usual too. Luckily, you’re a very cuddly kid and are happiest when you’re snuggled up to someone. You looked very fetching in my slippers too, by the way. 

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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32/52

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nicholas: We’d been at the farm for about five minutes when you crawled outside and sat on the grassy hill. I think we found your happy place. You had such a beautiful weekend at the farmstay, happily patting the animals as we fed them and snuggling into me as the tractor ride lulled you to sleep. I loved watching the sunshine light up at your golden hair.

DSC_0497sam: You spent much of the weekend writing farm-related lists and drawing pictures. I loved the beautiful note you wrote for the ‘frm pipil’ (farm people) to thank them for our stay and ask if we could come again ‘anuder tim’ (another time). You enjoyed the animal feeding and tractor ride, but I think the highlights of the weekend were the daddies vs sons game of soccer and the nightly lighting of the campfire. Oh, and toasting marshmallows was pretty great too. The best fun is usually had when you’re spending quality time with Daddy.

DSC_0516charlie: Oh, what campfire yarns are you telling us. You have so many stories to share from that imagination of yours. You weren’t particularly interested in feeding or touching the animals on the farm, but you loved playing with your friends, especially in the farm’s cubby, and pretending to be the troll under the foot bridge, ready to scare the three billy goats.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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31/52

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nicholas: We went on a bike ride to the park and down to the creek, just you, me and Charlie. It made me realise that we don’t come down here nearly as much now that Sam’s at school and there is less fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants time, and it really is so beautiful just to wander and explore in the afternoon sunshine. You were quite fascinated by the ducks we saw, and told Daddy all about the quacking ducks when he arrived home from work.

52-31-2charlie: As we took off from home, you had so much gusto riding that bike. You drew a treasure map before we left, did some exploring in the jungle at the park, and then we needed to go down to ‘Crocodile Creek’ for some more investigations. Apparently, there are even sharks in secret trapdoors, accessible via remote control, in the lamp posts down there. Not surprisingly, you demonstrated slightly less energy for bike-riding on the journey home, which gave Mummy a good work out as I pushed and pulled two bikes all the way.

52-31-1sam: The sushi making came back into trend this week, inspired in part by the steroids you’re taking and the increased appetite. The passion has waned since the month post diagnosis when we were making four rolls a day, but there is still a lingering enjoyment, and you even made a few rolls for your teachers. You are such a generous soul, and I have been on the receiving end of quite a few of your gifts this week – like when you made me a coffee and delivered it to the backyard, and you made a platter of afternoon tea for all of us. I love seeing the twinkle back in your eyes.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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30/52 {coffee date?}

52-30-4If you and I had caught up for a coffee*, or perhaps a wine in the backyard as the kids play around us (and Sam runs inside to make us a cheese platter), I may have told you that I’ve been feeling a bit crazy this week. I may have had a random cry, or perhaps I’d have held it all together, depending on the moment.

I probably would have mentioned that it’s been a busy week, that we had a spontaneous and fleeting trip to the Gold Coast, that Sam’s had chemo at the hospital, and our school fete was on this weekend, that there never feels like there are enough hours in the day and I always feel like I’m late for everything.

If we’d have sat and chatted, I might have shared that a school friend’s father recently passed away and we celebrated his life this week. I’ve no doubt he left this world so proud of his daughter and all she has achieved. It made me think about how difficult losing a parent would be, at any age, and how I can’t imagine life without my Mum and Dad.

If we had have made time for a coffee or wine this week, I might have told you that it can be incredibly difficult to parent a child on steroids, that it’s hard to know when to use discipline or just let things go, that it can take a whole lot of perspective to recognise what is the child and what is the drug, that it makes us sad when he’s sad, and that I’m thankful we only have to deal with steroids on five days of every 30.

I may have mentioned that I’m so happy to have my sister and her husband, and my brother and his family back in our neck of the woods again, safe and sound after their travels.

If we’d have caught up this week, I promise I would have let you get a word in edgewise too, although there are often a thousand unfinished conversations when we attempt to chat in the presence of our children.

Can I make you another coffee? What’s been going on in your world?

*Idea lovingly borrowed from Casey Wiegand.
52-30-1charlie: Ninja Turtles are the toys of choice at the moment. Sometimes you ask me to play, but often you are happy in your own world with them. You assure me they are happy, despite the grimaces on their faces, and you lose their tiny little plastic weapons at least a thousand times a day. Knowing they live in a sewer and get into their home through an access hole in the street, you figured that under the table was a good spot to play – if only those turtles would fit through the umbrella hole in our outdoor table.

52-30-2nicholas: Yesterday you decided it was a good day to get up on your feet and push that walker like you’ve been doing it forever. You’ve looked at it for months, tried it on occasion but always quickly sat back down and shoved it away in distaste. But, as usual, you reminded me that we can offer you all the support and opportunities and encouragement, but you will do things on your own timeline. This week, we’ve edged a little closer to a vertically mobile Nicholas, and it’s very exciting.

52-30-3sam: All the Prep kids did a dance to the Jackson Five’s ABC at the fete this weekend, complete with coloured wigs, and you were all completely adorable. It was quite funny to see all the parents scrambling for a position to take photos and videos. We didn’t take any footage of the dance, but we were allowed to take one photo of you in your wig later in the day. You were very clear that I was being offered one shot only for this week’s portrait – your tolerance for photos is much lower when you’re on steroids. Thankfully, I did like this shot because there was a little glimmer of my cheeky Sam in those eyes, which often do look different in steroid weeks. 

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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29/52

52-29-5What I have learned this week…

Leg hugs are the best.

Next school holidays, I should pace myself. I may have thought I was keeping us all busy for the sake of my sanity, because apparently it would be easier to be out and about, with everyone occupied, than it would be at home. But I think I just burnt myself out in the process. Lesson learned.

When tragedies happen in the world, it makes travelling family members feel so much further away. Thankfully, it’s been confirmed that mine are safe, but I know hundreds of families have not been so lucky. My thoughts are with all who are grieving over yet another airline disaster right now.

“Life will get less busy when Event X is over” appears to be a futile statement. Another Event X will inevitably appear on the horizon before long. Life is just busy. I may as well work out how to create a calmer existence in general, so that we’re better prepared in those extra busy times.

And probably a million other things. The internal dialogue is rarely quiet.

What did you learn this week?

52-29-4nicholas: The boys were back at school and kindy this week, so we finally had a chance to hang out together by ourselves. You love being outside on the trampoline, so that’s usually first on your agenda. You have made me giggle so many times this week. My favourite was you telling the big kids to “stop!” (repeatedly, complete with hand gestures and loud ranting in between) as they ran down the road ahead of us. Lucky we have you to keep those ragamuffins under control ;)

52-29-1charlie: Newly shorn and looking contemplative as you play with your friend in the cubby and explain the ways of the world to her. Oh, I love listening to four year old conversations. You fluctuate between quiet and shy, and chatty and theatrical, depending on the mood and audience.

52-29-6sam: “Mum, can you make a mohawk in my hair?” On investigation, it appears the reasoning behind it was just because your hair is long enough to make into a mohawk these days. And, sometimes buddy, ‘just because you can’ is a good enough reason – especially when it comes to those locks growing back.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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