The Big Ride {we need your help}

Help us to...-3When our lovely friends Tricia and Randall told us they were signing up for an 800 kilometre bike ride through Thailand back in 2014 to raise money for the Hands Across the Water organisation, I did what any rational friend would do.

I said something really supportive, like, “Oh wow, that is AWESOME! Congratulations on committing to such a wonderful cause. You are going to rock that bike ride.”

Whilst, internally, I was saying something more along the lines of, “Are they completely nuts? I would never do something that crazy.”

Famous last thoughts.

Tricia did warn us that once you look Peter Baines in the eye, you generally do end up signing up for the Hands’ bike ride. When we were fortunate enough to share dinner with Peter later that year, I did, obviously, look him in the eye. Before long, I was having dreams about doing that darn bike ride in Thailand. We started attending some of the HATW charity events with Tricia and Randall and, now, here we are, planning to go on the ride ourselves.

Yes, Ben and I have committed to riding bicycles 800 kilometres through Thailand from 4-12 January 2017. Crazy.

We will journey with about 25 other riders on the Hands’ Northern ride, starting in the city of Nong Kai in Thailand’s north-east, and following the Mekong River for seven days before heading west to Yasothon. The ride travels through villages and rural communities not often visited by foreigners. The eight-day journey ends at the Home Hug orphanage in Yasothon, outside the main centre of Ubon Ratchatani, where will be able to meet the children who live there. 800 kilometres in eight days!

Ben and I are not cyclists. We don’t especially like exercising in hot weather.

But we do believe in the work that Peter has started through Hands Across the Water, the organisation he founded in 2005. We love his unique approach to corporate social responsibility. He’s not just raising money and helping children in orphanages, he is building a sustainable future for the people in Thailand, helping businesses be profitable through their philanthropical endeavours, and designing life-affirming experiences for those donating their time. You can read his story here and learn more about him by watching this video. I’m sure you’ll agree, he’s a pretty inspiring individual.

We want to take on the challenge of this big ride and lead by example for Sam and Charlie so they grow up wanting to do good in the world. We want them to see us getting out and being active too. We want to ride for our gorgeous Nicholas, who we miss desperately after losing him on 2nd May this year, but who continues to inspire us each day to ‘wake up and be awesome’. He has already left a wonderful legacy in four short years, but we want to ride in his honour and continue sharing his light with the world. We also want to use this experience to focus on something positive in the wake of our incredible loss.

As well as getting our lycra on and training for the big ride, Ben and I need to raise $20,000 for Hands Across the Water by the end of December before we embark. And that’s where we really need your help.Donate hereWe would love you to make a donation, which you can do online by clicking on this link: http://www.mumma-love.com/bigride

The funds we raise contribute to food, education and a home for at-risk children of Thailand, including the original tsunami-affected children in Khao Lak, HIV-affected children in Home Hug and children at high risk of abuse. Every dollar counts and Hands has deductible gift recipient (DGR) status with the Australian Tax Office. Importantly, 100% of the sponsorship dollars you contribute goes directly to the Thai children and their community – the Hands charity does not spend any donor’s money on administration.

If you make a donation over $10 before 30 September, we can post you out a little ‘Wake Up and Be Awesome’ magnet as a thank you. Just forward your donation receipt to beawesome@grassrootsit.com.au and include your full name and address (including country) and we’ll pop one in the post for you. Big thanks to Grassroots IT for sponsoring the magnets and postage.

A very big thank you to anyone who has already donated, simply based on hearing a rumour that we were taking on this bike riding challenge. We’ve heard stories of people passing the hat around at events, and kids collecting change for us in a special box on their kitchen counter. We’d also like to thank our lovely friends Tricia and Randall, who made a massive donation of $10,000 as a tribute to Nicholas. And one more shout out to my riding buddy, Lynelle, who is keeping me accountable as I work on my riding stamina.

Please spread the love and ask your friends and family to sponsor us on our crazy adventure too. We would really appreciate it.

This quote by John Lewis that we have heard Peter recite in one of his speeches often replays in my head:

“If not you, then who?
If not now, then when?”

It is our time to make positive changes in the world.

Thank you SO much for your support as we work towards this crazy adventure in January 2017. We’ll keep you posted on our training progress (and you might even see our training adventures on Instagram stories) but promise not to share too many photos of us in lycra 😉

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Navigating Our Way Without You {a letter to Nicholas}

Hi my darling,

We’ve been living without you for 108 days now. I can’t even begin to explain how that feels, trying to live without a piece of my heart. I used to miss you when you were at kindy for the day, and that was only for about five hours, so it’s hard to even comprehend the magnitude of missing you for so many days in a row. No words could do it justice.

But we are doing okay. Some days better than others. We talk about you often and tell funny stories about the things you did. There is a massive canvas image of you in each of the boy’s rooms – the same ones that were in the church at your funeral. It was lucky the printer accidentally printed two, as both brothers seemed to want you up on their walls, looking over them. Your bed is somewhat of a shrine, with all your fluffy toys on it and the photos from your hospital room stuck up on the wall. Sorry that your bed is often also covered in Charlie’s Lego creations, but you know how much he loves his Lego 😉 Sam has set up a little altar where we keep a few photos, mementoes and your special book from kindy, and we light candles for you. There’ll never be any doubt that you are still part of the Love household, at least in spirit.

DSC_3270Sam has written the most beautiful book of memories, remembering little stories about you. He is more outward in his emotion and has times where he cries openly because he misses you, but they aren’t happening quite as regularly now. If he senses me upset, he puts his arm around me and asks if I’m okay. Charlie doesn’t cry, but he’s been known to have late night conversations with us about you. He will retrieve the crystal that Mrs Ashley gave him from the special box he keeps it in and ask if we want to “have a chat with Nicholas”. He scrutinises my face if he thinks I might be upset, scanning me to see if there are tears, even if there aren’t. Perhaps the presence of my tears gives him permission to be sad too.

Charlie went through a phase where I was the only one allowed to do anything for him, and he wouldn’t talk to Daddy very much. But Daddy was so incredibly patient and nurturing and kept persisting gently, even when Charlie was being mean to him, and over time, they’ve become friends again. He’s a treasure, that Daddy of yours and he misses his littlest, super snuggly boy so much.

Mummalove-OReillys-3After your funeral, we escaped to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat at Lamington National Park for a few days. It was so beautiful out there and we could watch the stars come out at night. We know there’s a special Nicholas star out there that’s been named in your honour, somewhere within the Southern Cross. Sam and Charlie loved the Birds of Prey and Wildlife shows at O’Reilly’s and Sam even got to hold an owl. Daddy went on a Segway tour while Sam, Charlie and I ventured on the 180 metre zipline that was 25 metres above the ground and took about 15 seconds to travel down. I was pretty amazed to watch our normally risk-averse Charlie offer to go first and casually stroll off the edge of the platform. It was pretty awesome fun to feel like we were flying on the Flying Fox. When we tried to forget why we were there, it was easier to enjoy the break away. I bet you would have loved it, especially the spa on the verandah of our villa. But, actually, pretty sure I wouldn’t have let you go on the Flying Fox.

Mummalove-OReillys-5 Mummalove-OReillys-4 Mummalove-OReillys-6The boys went back to school after about a week off. I think the return to routine and their friends was important, but I found it so hard to go back to school and face everyone. It took all my strength not to dissolve on that journey between the carpark and classrooms. But it gets easier day by day, and I know it was probably good for me to have to come out of my cave. The world keeps turning, and those brothers of yours keep my feet firmly planted in reality. We try so hard to be open and honest in our grief whilst still being present for Sam and Charlie. Tell you what, though, four individuals in one household navigating through their own version of grief whilst trying to travel in the same general direction is no mean feat. We’re just trying to go easy on ourselves, and each other, and doing the best we can the best way we know how.

Mummalove-OReillys-7 Mummalove-OReillys-8I think about you in some way every waking moment of every day. Sometimes when I need a break from the constant buzz, I turn to Netflix and somehow Piper’s prison dramas in Orange is the New Black manages to alleviate the thousands of thoughts running through my head for an hour or so. It’s true when they talk about grief coming in waves, or at least it has been for me. Sometimes I high-five myself for functioning particularly well and then I’ll be blindsided by the sheer hardness of missing you. Even on good days, the tears are never far from the surface and they can be falling before I even realise I’m crying.

It’s pretty quiet around here with one less kid, buddy. Bed times can still be a challenge (yep, you know that Charlie bear is a night owl), but our mornings have been running pretty smoothly and we manage to get to school on time. Well, mostly. I am not driving all over the countryside quite as much without your kindy, pre-Prep and other appointments. I’m not making gluten and dairy free meals as religiously as I was. But you know I’d trade the chaos of three children in a flash just to have you here again. Less than a flash.

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So many people love and miss you, and there’s been such an outpouring of love and support for us as we try to live without you. I’ve lost count of the cards and gifts and messages. We know it must be hard for people to know how to help us. We don’t really know either. We just know we’ll need the kind of friends who can weather the storms with us for the long haul, who can remember, love and miss you with us, and who we can just ‘be’ with, with no expectation of whether we’ll be happy or sad, up or down. And we’re very lucky that we have lots of those kind of friends in our lives. I love sharing photos and videos of you. I know that some people might find it hard to watch them, but they make me happy to see your beautiful spirit and know that your llight continues to shine.

Some days I feel inspired by you to live with passion and purpose, to go out and make every moment count as you did. Daddy and I have turned into sporty spices lately, filling in spare time with pilates, bike rides, netball and beach volleyball games. It feels good to be moving our bodies and feeling stronger and healthier. I think it’s good for the headspace too. But other days it seems far more appropriate to curl up in a corner. And we do if we need to.

We’re just putting one foot in front of the other, trying to face this ‘new normal’ life without you one day at a time.

Love you to the moon and back. To infinity and beyond.

Mum xx

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Mixing It Up: parenting both boys and girls {guest post}

From the moment I met Angie, I could see that she was in love with her two gorgeous boys but she was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a little pink bundle to complete her family. As well as being a complete spunk, Angie is funny and honest and wonderful, so I knew she was the perfect person for the job of telling us all about raising both boys and girls. 

  1. Tell us a little about your family ~ ages, genders, etc.

We have three children. Luca, almost 9, is our beautiful eldest son. Ziggy is our darling second (to none) son, 6.5. And finally, Harlow, our precious 4-year-old daughter.

  1. Before you became a mother, what gender combo did you picture your future family would have?

I never gave it much thought apart from always believing that I would have a daughter first. If someone had told me Brendon and I would have all girls, that would have made sense. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong!

  1. Did you find out the gender of your babies during pregnancy or when the babies arrived?

Despite planning to wait, we found out the gender of all three of our babies during pregnancy. With Luca, we were only 12 weeks into our pregnancy when the sonographer detected a hole in our baby’s tiny heart. This condition eventually resolved at 17 weeks but in the interim, we were understandably terrified. We had an amniocentesis to rule out any further genetic anomalies and this test can also determine the sex. At that time, we decided to find out the gender as we believed it would be something positive to focus on. Both Brendon and I cried – him with joy and me with shock. I could not believe I wasn’t having a girl!

With each subsequent pregnancy, I chose to discover the gender because I knew how desperately I wanted a girl and if it wasn’t to be, I wanted to process my disappointment well before the baby arrived. And just to be clear, the disappointment is never for the child you DO have (once they’re in your arms, you know exactly why they were sent to you) but for the child you DON’T have. These are very, very different things.

  1. Did you ever hear comments from friends or strangers about the gender of your child while you were pregnant? Eg. (after having two boys “Oh, I bet you’re hoping for a girl this time.” etc) How did that make you feel?

Yep, after two boys, I heard those comments a lot but I also made them a lot! I was very honest about my desire to have a girl. I know some people find those questions really offensive but I knew that for the most part, they’re just throw-away small talk people make to pregnant women. I suppose it didn’t ruffle my feather because I DID want a girl but I can understand how some parents assume those questions insult their children or devalue the baby on the way. I don’t see it that way. I think we can all be a little over-sensitive about what is largely meaningless small talk.

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  1. During each pregnancy, did you hope for a particular gender (even subconsciously)?

Deeply and unapologetically! I know it is not PC to do so but I couldn’t pretend my heart didn’t want what it wanted! Because that’s how it felt for me on a cellular level. I yearned for a daughter with all my heart and soul. I know, I know, it’s ridiculously dramatic of me but that is how I felt. And now that she’s here, not a day goes by when I don’t marvel at her girl-ness just a little bit! I needed her in a way that is hard to explain.

  1. Did you, or would you have considered, following a particular diet or timing conception (or any of the other theories!) to help you have a baby of a particular gender?

That was the plan in the lead up to conceiving number 3 but as fate would have it, all it took was a bottle of sauvignon blanc and a moment of wild abandon! I fell pregnant about 5 months before we had planned to begin trying. A very lucky accident indeed although after I tested positive, my husband had a moment of disappointment realising that the trying-to-conceive period was over before it began. He had been looking forward to it!

  1. Did you or your partner experience any disappointment finding out that your child was a boy (if you wanted a girl) or girl (if you wanted a boy)?

Yes. I cried finding out the gender of all three babies – and admittedly only the last one was with instantaneous joy. For each of my sons, there was disappointment mixed with real shock. I was so certain I was meant to have a girl. Of course, as it turned out, I was right. And looking at my family now, everyone is exactly where they should be. The order makes sense. But at the time of my second pregnancy, I began to really fear that I would never have a girl. I felt so confused because every fibre of my being told me I would have a daughter and suddenly, there was a strong chance it wouldn’t happen. Apparently once you’ve had two of the same gender, the odds of having another baby of that gender increases. My faith was shaken.

When my best friend’s first baby was a girl, I had a moment of pure jealousy. And I already had Harlow! Why was I so envious? I suppose in some way, I do feel guilt for those fleeting feelings of disappointment. I love my sons fiercely and I would never change a single thing about them, especially not their gender. And so I envied my friend getting her daughter first because if that had been my experience, the pressure would have been off my subsequent pregnancies and I could have just enjoyed the surprise.

  1. What does a typical day in your family look like?

Colour and movement and SO MUCH NOISE. Eating, fighting, hugging, laughing, playing, fighting, eating, laughing, hugging, fighting, crying. REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT!

Ziggy, Luca and Lo

  1. How do you think your family differs from a family with children of all one gender?

In some ways, not at all. Individual personalities are what colour family dynamics more than anything but I do believe Harlow adds a nice dash of feminine into a boy-heavy mix! The great thing is that having two big brothers has given her the ability to be rough and tumble whereas having a little sister brings out a softer, more nurturing side in the boys. It’s a pretty awesome mix – when they’re not fighting! But kids are complex creatures and so much more than any gender stereotype could ever represent.

  1. Do you think you have it better / worse / harder / easier than a parent of all girls or all boys?

I think I have it exactly right for our family. I can’t speak for anyone else. Having three energetic boys in the house does not sound like an ideal situation for my blood pressure but that’s how it is for me. All three of my children challenge me on some level, but I do tend to find Harlow’s energy less exhausting than the boys’ energy. I have friends who feel the opposite! It’s very personal.

I know some women who only ever wanted boys, others who so enjoy their girls. I got Column A and B covered and I am so grateful. I think Harlow probably tempers the boy energy here a little but then again, sometimes she joins right on in with her brothers and to be honest, what’s not to love about that? I never wanted a princess. A girl who can keep up with the boys is the best kind of girl! Conversely, the boys will learn about the mysteries of women through Harlow which can only benefit them, too. As I said, we hit the jackpot for our family. This is exactly the family we needed. Funny how that can differ so much from the original picture of what you want.

  1. What’s your hot tip for a parent raising both boys and girls?

Be present. Life is busy and I am so guilty of never truly being invested in anything because I am pulled in so many directions, but trying to remember to come back to the moment is crucial. Kids know when we’re phoning it in and I admit this is the thing I need to work on most.

Also, run your kids regularly. This does tend to be most important with my boys but I think all children need open space to frolic in. Being active with the kids not only burns off energy but sets a great example. As much as I think I’ve got too much else on, a quick kick of the footy is actually fun. Truly!

And finally, listen. Listen, listen, listen. Staying connected to our kids is so important. I want them to feel heard. I also want them to know that there is nothing they can’t tell me. There is no safeguard against hard lessons and hurt for our kids, but staying in the loop with their lives at least gives us the best chance to help them through any struggles. Open communication is vital. I hope my kids will always know they can trust me and their dad.

  1. Anything else you’d like to add?

Three kids are so incredibly busy, a constant juggle and exhausting beyond words. But when I see my three together, I feel rich beyond words. Bren and I are forever pinching ourselves at how lucky we are to have Luca, Ziggy and Harlow. They drive us bloody mad but we were pretty crazy anyway so it all works!

Angie Maddison is a freelance writer and and blogger at The Little Mumma. Free with the truth and the swears, she writes about the challenges of motherhood, womanhood and staying sane through both. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and three kids. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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