What are relationships? They hurt, they make you feel warm, they make you reflect, they make you want to cry, and they make you tingle. Where am I at in terms of relationships?
My plants and I are blossoming. Our relationship is watertight. They are green and lush and they provide me with the oxygen and a source of daily happiness, which flows from my staircase and thrives onto my bookcases. Do I have enough… no… silly question. I am happy and allowed to have a relationship with these beauties. The whole ninety-eight of them. Outside a small yellow bug on a Magnolia leaf causes me concern. I gently scrape it away and proceed to my book on plants to see how I can assist the plant in removing the small beast. It does not have hands to do it itself.
The little palpitations I feel inside when I wander past our little hand crafted, blue, button covered street library, seeing a small handwritten note and a new collection of children’s book lying on the shelves brings me a sense of warmth and connection with the community. The wonderful relationships my family and I have built with our neighbours is second to none. The sharing of a baking dish, a few hundred grams of sugar, a lemon, a quick afternoon wine catch up all whilst the giggles of our children can be heard resonating as they scoot, run, ride around the block.
Meanwhile, the relationship between myself and the third edition in the Pillars of the Earth series is moving next level. Tucked under my covers, I move through the pages, tracing back the history of 16th century Europe, the smells, the anger, the simplicity. My light is on and I embrace the twenty minutes of peace I grant myself on a nightly basis.
In family terms, relationships are ones of the heart and of the mind. This lockdown has affected us all and as a family of six, my partner and I are tirelessly extinguishing small fires within our home. The teenage angsts of body and social changes, the flight to adapt to this new norm of relying on an internet connection to be able to connect to a friendship or an education. The developmental needs of our children is a hard one to understand, to navigate and to support. At what stage do I say this is good enough and remind myself that of all the things I cannot access at the moment, the things I so desperately need are with me in my home.
The candles flicker and breath out their amber aroma. The comforting glow of these living lights gives me a sense of comfort. My relationship with the warmth they create and the smell they expire is magical. Time appears to be standing still at the moment and whilst at times I urge time forwards, I remind myself that one day I will look back at 2020, a year where I was quite literally, forced to slow down and appreciate the relationships that are blossoming within and around my life. I’m working towards appreciating a life that feels good on the inside; not one that just looks good on the outside.
My heart is full. What I feared most has become a most comfortable, reflective time. Whilst it is chaotic, every day, I watch as each of my children think, learn and evolve. I admire them each as they move from one idea to another. There is no structure, there is no bell, there is no timetable. We get up, have breakfast, talk, laugh, argue, lock ourselves in rooms, wander around the block for fresh air on a scooter or a bike, swing on our make-do plastic swing, argue about what square we are allowed to use chalk in when we cover the sidewalk with rainbow patterns. My heart is full.
Life has taken on a slow pace. Our lives have become intentional. We sleep in, we stay in our pyjamas, we take the time to prepare our breakfasts and we talk and listen to each other. We linger over the preparation of lunches and dinners cutting u[ fruits and vegetables whilst listening to Deezer’s selection of jazz, 80’s mix or French top tracks. We take long, slow walks in the mornings and afternoons, losing ourselves in the streets around our home, taking in the architecture and gardens of our community. We stop and collect every gum nut and flower we can find. My eldest takes photographs, my youngest shoots ahead on his bike whilst my daughter experiments the high speeds which can be obtained from her four wheel drive remote controlled car. We collect hard rubbish to upcycle at home and sit on a quiet oval feeling the grass between our toes. This time outside makes our skin shine, our hearts slow down and helps us sleep more soundly.
For all the fear, chaos and worry the virus is helping us slow down. We are learning to appreciate what we have. We are observing one another and reflecting on what we have. We appreciate the small things, the songs of the birds, the rain on the windows. Forced away from the ‘busyness’ of what our lives normally resemble. Every few hours I feel a rush of panic, of anxiety as my body tells me to get busy, to do something. But it’s just phantom palpitations longing for a routine that isn’t there anymore.
The past few weeks has made me reflect on how much of my day to day life relies on my interacting with small businesses. From my morning coffee stop where I wrap my fingers around a strong soy latte #roseandcliveworkshop, to my post work stopover at the local bakery #thehamptonsbakery for my seeded sourdough loaf, to my daughter’s afterschool drop off at aerobics #aerodancesportsaerobics right through to my evening online shopping for the materials I will require to reupholster my roadside find #padghamupholstery.
And that is just the start. All of a sudden, my daily routines have had to grind to a halt. I’m ok, although I do prefer a take away coffee to a homemade one (sigh) But what about those most affected by these changes? The local small businesses? How will they get through these changes and how can I support them?
In Australia we are home to small businesses. It’s one of the reasons why we are proud Australians. We take risks, we think outside the square, we get creative, we take the leap and we are supported by our communities and the government. As a nation we have such diverse abilities and we flock to support new crafts, cafes, restaurants and wellbeing businesses which pop up within our communities. Having lived internationally I see how this makes us so unique! My heart slumped on the weekend when I spoke to a friend of mine whose privately owned gym was to be closed throughout this pandemic. This dynamic couple who manage the business has to go home and think about how they will pay the school fees for their two children, the cost of groceries and mortgage repayments. My thoughts go out to those who have had to close their doors in light of the changes we are been forced to make to protect our communities.
I have not faced such a crisis at any stage of my life. I am apprehensive of what the next few months will bring. How will we, as Australians, so used to outdoor activities, socializing and travel move through these challenging times? We will have to be open-minded and creative moving forwards.
Over the past weeks, parents have taken their children out of schools early, after school activities have been cancelled, restaurants and cafes have started offering coupons and free delivery. We each play a huge role in protecting our local small businesses. Let’s continue to order our daily take away coffee, let’s ask for delivery of our fruit and vegetables from our local grocers, let’s buy a freshly baked loaf of bread to take home. But when the time comes when we are no longer safe to engage outdoors and are confined to our homes, think of having your meals delivered, shop online and share ideas and tips with those in your close circles of how you are supporting your local businesses.
Meanwhile, enjoy your family time! Think creative, take risks… it’s going to be ok! Parenting isn’t easy but your children will always remember the smells and excitement of childhood so lets make this time we have been gifted matter.
We need to put kindness first and work through these times together. This is what Australians do. We are compassionate and kind and we will get through this. We will come out of this a tad scruffy but not broken.
What an interesting few weeks it has been! Across the world we are all reacting to the news of this virus, now declared a pandemic in Melbourne, Australia. It has been a truly interesting observation of human nature, fear, shock and selfishness. For us in Australia, we flocked to supermarkets in our angst to stock up on… toilet paper… yes, toilet paper. Supermarket shelves are now naked, depleted of hygienic household products, rice and pasta in the event that we may be locked down in our houses with no possibility of escape. The uncomfortable feelings in social spaces is growing. The odd side glances individuals share with one another when one lets out so much as a sniff, a cough or is seen wearing a surgical mask. What have we become? What will we become?
And now we wait… we wait for the announcement that our schools will be closed, like in Italy and in France. We wait for the decision to be made where we will need to keep our children at home. And that… sends chills down my spine and down the spines of millions of Australian families. What on earth will I do for two weeks, at home with my children when an excursion to the cinema, swimming pool and museum will not be possible.
As a primary teacher and mum of four children, I am frequently think of ways to get my children off the screen and outside into nature. I get frustrated when my children use the word ‘bored’ and consequently have a small repertoire of creative, simple, no cost ideas which I can guide my children towards should the need arise. With the current on edge mood we all feel across the world at the present time, now is the perfect time to unleash these ideas.
For me, the challenge is the age difference in my children. Each has different interests and needs and whilst I can buy crafts online for the children to complete at home and invest in new apps for the ipad, I am on a tight budget due to my having to also stay at home and not work to look after the children during this pandemic. I will need to be creative. I have thought long and hard and have come up with a few simple ideas which I have used with my family and which you could also try whilst experiencing the home lock down. Each idea can be adapted to the ages of your child. Please message me if you want some other ideas or creative ways to adapt activities.
Take a walk
Within this fast paced world in which we live, I find it very difficult to wind down, to breath and to appreciate what is around me. Why not take this lock down as an opportunity to appreciate what is around us?
Get to know your neighborhood. Take a walk, a scooter, a bike ride, a drive around your local area and take a moment to look at what makes it special. Rug up, rug down. Don’t rush. We have time. For us in Melbourne it’s an appreciation of Autumn and for Europeans, the smell of spring and the beauty of new life. We are so lucky.
Go to the local botanical gardens, take a picnic. Picnics can be simple.
Take time to look at the nature. Look at the trees, look at the buds, look at the insects. Children love drawing what they see and recounting what they have done during the day. Start a diary where they draw what they see.
Take the opportunity to talk to your children about our resources and our future. Help them understand the ways in which our bins work in your local area and ways in which they can recycle and assist with sustainability at home and beyond. Starting a small vegetable garden or building a small water bath for birds in your garden can be simple and easy.
Pick up rubbish on your local beach or in your local area.
Sort out the rubbish.
Plant a garden (herbs/vegetables).
Make laundry products at home.
Reuse items for crafts (see our homemade pouches below)
Make homemade art and crafts
Contact local organizations to see ways in which you can give back.
Recently Victoria and parts of Australia were devastated by Bushfires. We felt quite helpless in our suburban Bayside house and I felt that the best way for my children to understand and support the devastation was to be able to physically assist in some way
Get out the Lego!
Set challenges. Build something which floats and can carry three people (test it in the bath).
Create new Lego characters for a new science fiction movie/ fairytale/book.
Create a city. Leave out the Lego every day and add to it when the children are in the mood to create.
Color code your Lego. I know this sounds a tad anal but its great to do it as a family 😊
Propagate Plants and Terrariums
Look at the plants inside and outside your house and propagate them with your children. The magic is watching the children see their plant grow over two weeks. They will need to water it and care for it.
Plant some seeds and watch them grow. Record their heights each day.
Baking and cooking with children can be very frustrating. I have little patience and prefer doing things myself. However, here are a few simple ideas which are easy for children to be involved in. Parents may need to help a little, but your child will be occupied that’s for sure.
Board games and puzzles
I recently moved all our puzzles and games into a central cupboard.
Open the cupboard in the morning and take two games out. Children get excited when they see something ‘new’. Even if this puzzle or game has been in your cupboard for months it will seem like a new one to the children.
Its wonderful o play together as a family. Block your ears when they play together alone as there will be arguments but let the, sort them out. They create their own rules which is a bit of fun.
Refresh a bedroom
Recently my twelve year old wanted to redo her room. Her decision was to redecorate using black and white photos and it looks so effective. This is a wonderful project if you have a few weeks up your sleeve. We didn’t invest in paint or new furniture, a room on a budget.
Movies and screen time
This is one that I struggle with but… let’s not get all blocked up about it.
A movie in the afternoon is not a bad idea. It can relax a child and gives you a bit of time out also. There are some wonderful age appropriate films around and some great classics which all ages can appreciate. Often, we think that 12 year old cant watch a cartoon but there are some wonderful older animations and newer Pixar and Disney creations that are wonderful to watch together when your children are of different ages.
There are several age appropriate apps for iPad and phones. A bit of screen time doesn’t do harm, especially when there are time boundaries and screen time occurs at specific times of the day. My children know that before dinner, after a shower/bath, they can have some screen time- this looks different for each of my children and is monitored by me.
Read a book
Nothing better than sitting outside on a rug, on a couch or in bed reading a book.
Pile several books infront of your children and let your children take their time to get through them. Mix some fiction and non-fiction texts in the pile and encourage, after they have had some time to themselves, questions and conversations. It’s a great way of getting children to talk about their interests.
Start a chapter book. Read aloud. Nothing is better for a child than to watch reading modelled to them. I recently started ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ with my two girls and they have loved it, asking questions and reflecting on their own lives and those of other children.
Make a decoration
Collect wood and objects from around your home and neighborhood. Make a hole and add them one on top of the other on a strong wire or string. The children and I collected beach debris and pinecones from a recent trip to Barwon Heads and have created this decoration which hangs in our backyard. Another one hangs in our house and is made from bits and pieces we collected in and around the home.
Younger children can use pasta and thread them to make hang decorations also.
Do it yourself kit
My daughters have loved these DIY kits. These miniature house kits are very detailed. Within the kit you are provided with a step by step guide to make a little house or room and all the materials you need. These are quite fiddly and require some adult assistance at various stages but if your child is between the ages of 10 and 15, they are a wonderful long term project which then looks wonderful in a bedroom.
Perhaps we need to look at this as an opportunity to reconnect with our family and children, appreciating what we have around us. Please message me should you need more ideas or ideas on how to adapt some of the ones I have posted about above.
I’m a mum with four children under the age of 12. They make me smile, they make me cry, they make me laugh, they frustrate me and yet they make me ever so proud. My family and I live in the quieter suburbs of cosmopolitan Southern Melbourne close to a beautiful sandy beach in Port Phillip Bay, in a street lined with Australian natives, surrounded by kind neighbours who share their sugar, lemons and baking tins in time of need.
I’m a full-time primary school teacher who has had the opportunity to work in some of the most inspiriting educational contexts over the past fifteen years. Working full-time is a forever challenge… but it’s how I like it. I love my job. I feel like every day I get an ‘ah ha’ moment, a child challenges my thinking, the educational system challenges my thinking. I am in a forever changing profession and whilst it is certainly challenging at times I wouldn’t do anything else.
I’m a plant lover. My house crawls with greenery and I relish the contrast of colours, the variety, the shape of the leaves and the calmness they bring out in me. Though watering them all (I have 88 in total) can at times be a challenge. My house with my plants is my happy place.
I’m creative and passionate about the arts. I thrive when presented with opportunities to use my hands to create and perfect. I get tingles when I find an abandoned piece of furniture on the side of the road. Like the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, I want to give them love and a new life.
I’m a wife finds it hard to make time for the father of my children but who quietly admires his power of observation, calmness, fiery smile and dark brown eyes.
I’m a woman who is at times anxious, forever striving for a presentable house, a Hygge home for my family, varied homemade dinners, creative school lunches opportunities for my children.
I’m a worrier. Are my children resilient enough? Are they happy? Have I spent enough time with each of them today? Have I listened to them and responded appropriately? Have I helped guide them on their lives to become passionate, kind and life-long learners?
I’m a learner who loves to pick up a book and plunge herself into a new world, into the shoes of a villainous character, into the historical world of art and culture… a good thriller makes for an exciting evening in bed.
I’m a traveler who is lucky to have seen many wonderful parts of our beautiful planet but wants to see so much more. The reality is that travel can be expensive, especially when there are six humans in your family. Life is short, so perhaps the best I will ever get to seeing the Nordic Lights will be on a Netflix documentary.
I’m frustrated… why is it so difficult to find time for myself these days, surely it can’t be this hard to get to the gym or go out to that eatery everyone is raving. Why does money not grow on a tree? Why don’t my children listen to me when I explain for the thousandth time that no, not all ten year olds have their own Iphone 11.
I’m a perfectionist… my high standards always getting entangled within my thoughts and decisions. I’m complex… but who isn’t?
So there we have my life, in a small nutshell… I want to tell my story. The reality; full of it’s complexities, challenges and countless opportunities. The fact of the matter is that no nutshell is perfect, we may continuously seek perfection but let’s put a spotlight on life and capture moments which make our reality beautiful.
Let me let you in on a little secret. I have a small, but healthy, plant addiction. Whilst I have drowned a few cactis over the years and lost a fair few maiden hair ferns, plants are vital in my life and whilst I won’t say I have an exceptional green thumb, I will say that they bring out the best in me. They make me happy.
It all started at a time when I felt a little lost. I was working full time, had young children and whilst I loved drooling over the colourful spread of freshly cut, deliciously scented flowers at the South Melbourne Market and local florists, I soon became aware of the ridiculous amount of money I was spending on flowers that wouldn’t last more than a week in vases in my home. Plus, I felt so guilty when I put the wilted ends into the bin, thinking that that was it… poor flower had lived its life; bring back memories of the Little Fir Tree, story of the beautiful sprue tree, cut down to be beautifully decorated and celebrated at Christmas but then abandoned in an old cellar until it was dragged down to the garden to be chopped up and disposed of. Dramatic imagery I know but I did feel that it was a little bit of a waste.
Little did I know that it was then that I would begin my plant journey. At the time, Fiddle Leaf plants were rather popular in Melbourne homes. They had large, green leaves and looked spectacular in wicker baskets. Only problem was that they were super expensive but I did the math and found I could take home one stunning Fiddle Leaf plant for the price of three bunches of Japanese Lilies.
From that day, three years ago, I cannot stop. Friends giggle when I say that I talk to my plants. My children roll their eyes when at bath time the plants fill their shower for their fortnightly watering. My husband complains that when he vacuums there are ‘plant obstacles’ which prevent him from doing his ‘job’ properly.
But oh how it is worth it! The feeling I get when I see a small baby leaf coming out, an event at which I am heard to say ‘we have a baby’!
I thrive when they grow, I get excited when my propagation takes off and new plants emerge, I feel connected to individuals who feel the same tickle in their tummy and love to boast about the new plant or plant accessory that comes to adorn their house.
Perhaps I have earnt the name ‘crazy plant lady’, but as a someone who finds it hard to find time to get out of the house, rarely having time for herself, plants have given me an out.
Be warned, plants are contagious, you may, like me, never be able to stop!