love

In which the author goes to a country wedding, steps in a puddle, and gets philosophical about the passing of time and a misshapen moon

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We were at a country wedding on the weekend. It was a perfect, clear and crisp winter’s day and the couple were married in a short ceremony under a simple canopy in the watery sunshine. Afterwards we moved inside to an old farm building with wonky, handmade bricks paving the entry-floor, wreaths of greenery and fairly lights wound around the exposed beams, and a huge, roaring fire in one corner to which we all instantly flocked, hands out. 

It wasn’t a big wedding. Most of the people there were family or life-long friends, so there was an easy, informal camaraderie to the room. No set places or awkward conversations with strangers at the table. 

At the back of an old wooden stage, a DJ played the kinds of tracks you hear at every wedding, everywhere, and the children, an assorted gaggle of cousins ranging age from five to fifteen, busted their best moves. My two, as the youngest of the group, were often the ringleaders, dragging their older cousins back to the dance floor whenever they showed signs of waning. Later, after the bridal waltz, the grown-ups joined in too, couples dissolving into laughing groups with children riding on shoulders, as we all stumbled through the half-forgotten moves to Nutbush City Limits, YMCA, and the dreaded Macarena. Actually I think they played that one twice.  

As the afternoon lengthened and the night grew dark around us, our little party carried on, a bright oasis of laughter and music, shining out from the middle of the otherwise empty fields. 

One of the uncles was the first to fold, slumping in his chair beside the table, chin on chest. People posed behind him, bunny-ear fingers hovering over his head, but he gently snored, oblivious. Next to go was Ralph. I sat him beside a table to adjust his shoelaces for half a minute, and in that time he simply lay down, put his thumb in his mouth, and closed his eyes. 

Then he opened them again and said, “Mummy, I’m too hot.” I carried him out to the entrance room, stepping carefully in my heels over the wonky, ancient brick floor, and eased the two of us down into an armchair. It was much cooler out there but I put a coat over Ralph and watched the party through the swinging glass doors, as he fell almost instantly asleep.

People came and went, pausing to smile or kiss his dark curls, but mostly it was just Ralph and me, his soft breathing, his sleeping body keeping me warm. I soaked it all in, painfully aware that this time for us, him sleeping in my arms, was not a forever thing. 

Recently my friend Sally shared online about the joys of being a parent to her two grown-up girls. She talked about  how there is a lot of airspace and celebration given to the precious moments we share with our small children, but less about the changed although still beautiful relationship that comes when they are adults. I was glad she shared these stories - I’m always glad when I hear stories about parents with older children - because I know that my own “precious moments” with my little ones are limited. “Our children are only on loan,” Sally’s mother told her, and she told me, and I wonder if my own compulsion to share these moments with you is because I am trying, through my words, to freeze them in time. As if by writing them down I am forced to be more mindful of them, to appreciate them, before they are gone forever. 

Inside the function room, the DJ began playing Walk the Dinosaur. I couldn’t see the stage from my little armchair but from what I could hear, every guest at the wedding aside from me, Ralph and the sleeping cousin was up on the stage, dancing and singing along. And not one of them could hold a tune. 

When it was time to leave, my husband gathered up coats, bags and our daughter, and I eased myself clumsily out of that chair, still holding the leaden weight of my not-so-little boy, and clutching a coat over his back to keep him warm as we ventured into the winter night air. I made slow progress back to the car, trying to pick out footsteps in the broken and bumpy unlit path, wearing heels, and carrying a heavy, sleeping child. 

Once off the path there was no light at all aside from the stars and we got lost, turning first one way and walking a hundred yards or so before realising our mistake and turning in the other direction, then finally inching our way down over a ditch and into a paddock, to where the parked car gleamed dully in the distance. I shifted Ralph’s weight in my arms, clasping a wrist in each hand to stop him from slipping… and then with a yell I didn’t realise had left my lips until I heard it, stepped into a puddle of mud half-way up to my knees. 

Ralph woke to my yell, and we stood there precariously, me holding still him up but unable to get out of the puddle, since my shoes were sunk so deep in mud that they stayed behind whenever I tried to lift my feet out. When my husband came to rescue us, I needed to hold onto his shoulders with both my hands to leverage myself (and my shoes) out of that puddle. 

Back on dry land, I poured mud and water out of my shoes as though they were goblets, and hobbled in my swampy, stocking-feet over to the car. The children woke themselves up just enough to find the whole scenario extremely amusing, except that from time to time Ralph would pause the laughter and remember his part in the episode, saying, “Mum, you could have dropped me!” in shocked and accusatory tones. 

The moon rose on our drive home. Both children slept in the back seats, and Mr B and I kept up a quiet conversation with one another, more to help him stay awake as he drove, than because either of us had anything particularly important to say. While we chatted, the moon came up big and yellow, a lumpy kind of almost-full-but-not-quite moon. A floating quince in the sky. I watched it as we sped past shadowy trees and black hills that rose and fell beside the road, my mind drifting away from my wet feet and back to the upholstered armchair where Ralph had slept so angelically in my arms, until the city lights ahead stole the moon’s glamour and signalled that we were almost home. 

I paused at our front door - a heavy, sleeping Ralph once again resting his head on my shoulder - and smiled up at the quince-moon as it quietly watched us from the eastern sky. I wondered what we looked like from up there. All the moments and events of our short lives, both momentous and minute, weighted equally and witnessed in silence. Weddings, funerals, dancing shoes, swampy shoes. Lovers uniting, marriages ending, mysteries solved, questions forming. 

If I think my time with my children is all too short, this must be laughable to the ancient moon, for whom ten years or twenty pass like a breath.

Early the next morning I stepped outside the same front porch, my own breath making mist of the air around me, and watched a hot-air balloon rise in exactly the same patch of sky where the moon had bid me goodnight a few hours earlier. The dawn was very still, and the balloon seemed to be suspended for a moment, not drifting. With its yellow and cream stripes, being almost-but-not-quite round, it looked as though the quince-moon had swathed itself in a coat and defied the very laws of space, refusing to orbit and instead choosing to pause, at least for a little while, in our company. As if maybe she cared.

And then with a loud “pschhh” and a flash of orange flames, the pilot trapped more warm air under the balloon, and it began to rise, slowly floating away from me and into the east. The spell was broken, the moon was gone, and I went inside to make breakfast. 


Do you have a pen? It’s time for #lettersforloneliness!

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The International Letter Writing Week for 2018 starts on Monday! Are you ready? (Scroll for the details beneath the next picture, if you just want to cut to the chase).

Earlier this year, the Universal Postal Union set a mail-challenge for children of the world, in their 47th annual competition for young people to coincide with the International Letter Writing Week. This was the challenge: “Imagine you are a letter travelling through time. What message do you wish to convey to your readers?”

Tell me I’m not the only one who wishes I was a judge in that competition, just so I could read all the entries! What a glorious question to pose, and oh! just think about what children could do with it, with that whole lack-of-inhibition thing, and their brilliant imaginations.

This all started in 1957, when the 14th Congress of the Universal Postal Union met in Ottawa, Canada, and decided to name the week that coincided with 9 October (the UN-sanctioned World Post Day) “International Letter-Writing Week.” Since then, for the past 60 years, more than 80 countries around the world have used this week as an opportunity to formalise their celebrations of the wonderful way in which letters can connect us and change our world.

I can’t stop thinking about this year’s theme, of letters and time travel. Where would you send your letter, if you could? And what would you tell the recipient? Would you save a million lives by warning our forebears of a catastrophic event? Send antibiotics to the Middle Ages? Would you right wrongs done to your family or loved-ones in the past? Say a final, proper goodbye to someone you didn’t get to say goodbye to? Write a letter to your childhood self, bolstering them during a particularly difficult time?

Or would you send your words into the future? Describe a day-in-the-life so they will truly know, rather than speculate through shards of pottery they dig up from what was once your kitchen. Would you ask them questions? (Do human beings finally stop using plastics? Have they found life on other planets yet? Has anyone finally invented hover-boards, like those in Back to the Future II?) Or would you write a letter and send it to your child, or grandchild, when they are old, telling them you love them and are proud of them?

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A little while ago, I wrote this blog post about writing a letter a day during International Letter Writing Week, in a bid to reconnect with one another, and combat what is sadly being called “the loneliness epidemic.” I was overwhelmed by the response, both here on this blog as well as in private messages I received via email and on Instagram.

Maybe our own letters will travel through time, just as old letters when picked up and re-read can transport us, temporarily, into another time and place.

Do you want to take part? Write a letter a day next week, any way you like, publicly or privately. And if you’d like some support from me, I’ve put down some details below.

Letters for loneliness

  • The challenge: let’s all write one letter a day throughout International Letter Writing Week (8 - 14 October, 2018)

  • The goal: write your letters to help abate or prevent loneliness or isolation that people might be feeling. Hint: is there someone in your life that would deeply appreciate you reaching out? Write to them once, or seven times. If you don’t know who to write to, refer to this blog post for lots of ideas and links

  • The community: I don’t want you to be lonely, either! Use the hashtag #lettersforloneliness if you want to talk about this campaign on social media, so we can all cheer you on. If you want me to see what you are doing, you can tag me when you share on Instagram (I’m @naomibulger)

  • What to write: anything you like! Just write a cheering, loving word and send it to someone who you think could use a smile from you (one they can put in their pocket and carry around with them, forever)

  • Where to get help: if you struggle when it comes to knowing what to write or how to write it, for this week only, I have made public the lesson on storytelling and anecdotes, from my letter-writing e-course, The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written. Normally this is only accessible to my students so, to be fair to them, the lesson and its downloads will only be public for the duration of International Letter Writing Week 2018. I hope you find it useful! Read the lesson and download the resources here: The Art of Storytelling

  • Make your mail lovely: if you like the idea of decorating your envelopes to make them even more cheering this week (or any week), there are all kinds of ways you can do this. Open up an old envelope and trace it over a used calendar picture or wrapping paper to make a colourful envelope template. Decorate a plain envelope with washi tape and stickers. Press flowers and enclose them with your letter. If you’d like to make mail-art like the pictures in these pages, I send out free templates every month in my newsletter, which you can pick up here

Alright that’s about all I can think of. Shall we write a letter every day in the coming week, to share love and combat the social isolation that so many of us are feeling these days… even when surrounded by people and with the Internet at our fingertips? If you’d like any more support or if I can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Yours truly,
Naomi xo

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Rhythms and rituals

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetI'm in the middle of one now. As I type it is 5.30 in the morning and the rest of my house is still sleeping. Outside, it is dark and refreshingly cool. I've made a cup of tea in my green mug. Usually I choose my favourite stoneware mug (you'll recognise it if you follow me on Instagram) but, on mornings when I am extra tired, like today, I'm realistic about the increased likelihood that I might just knock or drop my cup, so I choose a less-precious alternative. The tea still tastes good. Really good. And almost-but-not-quite unbearably hot. I like to be up before the family every day. In the glorious chaos that involves parenting two small children, non-responsible alone-time is premium. Some days it is worth more, even, than sleep. I say "non-responsible" because on the days the children go to daycare I am technically alone, but those are my work days, and my time and mind belong to someone else. I'm on the clock, and I don't take a minute of those days for myself.

These mornings, on the other hand, belong exclusively to me. It doesn't matter what I do with them, as long as it is for myself. Sometimes I work on my book, other times I paint, others, like now, I write my blog. Make stickers, make mail, write postcards, read a magazine. Do a French lesson online. Always, there is the tea. (If there is time, I have more than one cup).

My early mornings are a deliberate pause before the whirlwind of the day begins, like a galvanising hand on my shoulder and a little voice that I trust, saying, "you got this." By the time the children wake and start calling for me, I feel settled in my mind but also satisfied, because I have done something I enjoy, whether it is furthering a project or simply indulging an interest.

Now, with the children awake, I am free to be (joyfully and without impatience) all theirs.

Yesterday during my morning ritual I began cutting out dozens of little handmade stickers, rsvp labels I have drawn to enclose as gifts in some of the mail I send. While I was cutting, I listened to podcasts. There was an episode of The Slow Home Podcast with Brooke McAlary, in which she and her husband Ben were answering listeners' questions. Someone had written in to say that with small children at home, decluttering felt like an impossible task: what other things could she do, instead, to "slow" her life and home?

They both had some useful responses, but Ben spoke briefly about rituals and this really resonated with me. He was referring to checkpoints or important moments that we can build into our routines, that encourage mindfulness, or gratitude, or just help us be "present" in what we are doing and who we are with. These are spiritual or social slowing-down activities that are structured into the rest of our week as habits, and they can be done no matter how busy our lives are, and no matter how many Hot-Wheels cars or Sylvanian Families pieces roll and crunch under foot on the way to the bathroom.

As I listened, I realised, "I'm doing that!" My husband and I love creating traditions and appreciating the small things, so maybe it comes naturally enough to us to do this, but I realised we had unintentionally built a number of rituals into our lives that help us connect as a family, despite pretty insane hours put in by both of us.

My alone-with-my-tea mornings are one such ritual. And in case you're interested, here, in no particular order, are some others.

Taco Sundays

Every Sunday we have tacos for dinner. The children help make it so we all cook together, and then sit around the table with little self-serve bowls of taco-filling in the middle to pass to one another, while we crunch and chat. The tacos aren't fancy: we get the probably-very-unhealthy versions that you can buy in a kit. But they are quick and easy to make (so easy, a four year old and a three year old can do it). Nutrition isn't the priority of this particular meal, it's family. Mr B's hours are so long - he is often at work before 6am and home after 8pm - that he can go days or even a whole week without seeing his children. On Sunday nights, we reset the week with the millennia-old practise of cooking together and then sitting down and eating together, and it is our favourite meal of the week.

Making the beds

There are all kinds of research studies about the benefits of making the bed, and I know for me the day feels more "under control" once my bed is made, and I get genuine pleasure from seeing it all nicely made up (nerd alert).

Recently, my children got new "big kid" beds. Previously they slept in cots that had been converted into toddler beds, but these new beds are the real deal. That also meant new bedding because they old cot-sheets didn't fit, and a bit of a clean-out and rearrangement of the room they share, because it is a small room. You've never seen two children more eager to go to sleep at night than they were the first night they got to snuggle down in those new beds and a fresh new room. But the point of this is that it is super easy for them to make their beds (just a sheet and a doona), so I simply incorporated that habit into their mornings. We don't leave the room to start our day until the beds are made.

The best thing that happened today 

This is not actually one of our rituals yet, but after listening to another of the Slow Home podcasts, it is about to become one. It is a question to be asked around the dinner table (or in our case, to be asked while the children eat dinner and I supervise them): "What is the best thing that happened to you today?" Sometimes when they come home from daycare and kinder it is so hard to learn about what they had been doing and how they were feeling all those hours we were apart. "What did you do today?" "Don't remember."  The "favourite thing" question takes the pressure off. It is positive, so not fraught with anxiety, and it is just one thing, not a whole day's worth of things. On its own, this is a lovely little gratitude exercise. But I'm also hoping it will lead to more openness and sharing between us. 

Mummy magic 

"Mummy magic" is our word for a kind of Reiki-style meditation that I do over the children before they go to sleep. It started a few months ago when one of the children was afraid of returning to a nightmare if they fell asleep. Now, it is an indispensable part of our bed-time routine. After bath and brushing teeth, we read some stories, and then the children each get into bed. One at a time, I "lay hands" over them, without touching them. I pat my heart then hover my hands over their hearts, focusing my mind on just how much I love them. Then slowly I pass my hands over their whole body, from head to toes. At the toes, I kind of flick my hands and imagine I'm pushing all the toxins (physical or emotional) out, and then work my way back up their little bodies, trying to pour all my mama-love (mummy magic) back in. 

Sending postcards from holidays 

Who does that any more? The Bulger family, that's who! Every time we go on holidays, even a weekend break, Mr B buys postcards to send to some of the lovely donors and supporters of the charity he works at, to let them know he's thinking of them. (Imagine how good it must make them feel to have the Executive Director of the charity writing them a personal postcard! I don't know anyone else who does that, but then maybe I am biased because I think I married someone pretty amazing). Following his lead, the children like to write postcards, too. So over a breakfast meal at some point in the holiday, we all sit down and think about what we have seen and done and what we enjoyed and what stood out to us, and we write those things down, put a stamp on them, and send them to someone we care about. 

Leaving notes 

One lovely habit Mr B has to counteract the long hours he works is to leave little notes for us to find when we wake up in the morning. Notes telling the children how much he loves them, and what he hopes to do together on the weekend. Notes telling them how much he loved the drawing they did for him, or how the video I sent of them made him so proud. Notes telling me how much he appreciates me. Last week I opened up my recipe book (the one in which I write or paste all my favourite recipes) and discovered a beautiful letter from Mr B tucked inside the pages, from September last year.

Those letters, scribbled on the backs of envelopes or receipts or shopping lists, are keepsakes. I keep all the letters he writes to the children in a little book, so that one day when they are older I can show it to them and they will know (if they don't already) how deeply they are loved. 

Slow mornings 

Circling back to my alone mornings, my children have a morning ritual too. I have taught them how to read the clock, and, no matter what time they wake up, they know they are not to call out to come downstairs until the clock reaches 7am. Often (although not always), they wake up a lot earlier. Any time from six in the morning, they could be awake. But I have learned that if I bring them downstairs when they first wake, the day rarely goes well. They are tired and grumpy and bicker with one another and with me. Burst into tears for no reason. 

But their mornings, while they wait for 7am to roll around, are slow and lovely. Downstairs enjoying my me-time, I listen to them on the monitor. One wakes and says in a croaky sleep-voice "Do you want to cuddle?" Then you hear rustling and the pad-pad of little feet, more rustling, and they have snuggled down in one of the beds together. Everything goes silent for a little while. Then slowly, the talking begins. Games, questions, ideas for the day. Sometimes Scout pulls out books and reads to Ralph (she can't actually read, but can recite many of their books word for word). Other times, they start a tickle game, or play with the soft toys in a basket in their room. It is a gentle, slow waking up that gradually becomes louder and more rambunctious as the morning continues and, by the time the little hand points to the 12 and the big hand points to the seven, they are excited to start the day. 

Now it's over to you. Tell me about your rituals! 

(ps. That beautiful window is not in my house, it's from a country home I visited recently that has me dreaming about a tree-change. It just so happens to be for sale if you want to wake up to that every day!)

Tangible texts

postcards Yesterday I brought home a small, fat parcel from the post office. It had Mr B's name on it but upon opening it, he handed it across to me, saying, "This is for you."

He'd ordered for me a stack of late-Victorian postcards, all used and most of them still carrying their stamps. We spent the evening looking over the wonderful illustrations, reading through the spidery, handwritten messages, and marvelling at how far these postcards had travelled in distance and in time. The connections they represented.

"Your cat is OK," one of the writers said, "sleeping every day in the sun." Others spoke of holidays, of family, of the weather ("How do you like this snow and weather we are having? I haven't had a sleigh ride since Christmas...").

But what really struck us was how little was said on several of the postcards.

Sometimes, people simply wanted to say "I'm thinking of you," and a postcard was the best way to say it. Postcards were the late-19th and early-20th Century versions of SMS: simple words that reinforced "You are loved," or maybe, simply, "You are not forgotten."

In the backlash against the cold, digital, instantaneous messaging of today, there is often a whole lot more weight given to those who write a lengthy letter. And I love a good epistolary chat as much as the next person. But sometimes I don't have time to write a long, newsy letter. Sometimes I just want someone I care about to know that they are on my mind and in my heart. Likewise, when the people who love me are busy it is still nice to know they are thinking of me, even if they don't have time to sit down and write five pages about their lives.

I think the fact that I hold these tangible texts in my hands today is a testament to the reality that our words have power. Because a simple "Thinking of you" can mean so much to someone that they hold onto it until they day they die.

∇∇ "From a friend guess who" postcard-1-front postcard-1-back

∇∇ "All is O.K." postcard-2-front postcard-2-back

∇∇ "Wish you many Happy Birthdays" postcard-3-front postcard-3-back

∇∇ "Faithfully" postcard-4-front postcard-4-back

∇∇ "From your sincere friend" postcard-5-frontpostcard-5-back

Anticipation

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When you are nearly four, anticipation is palpable. Tangible.

It dominates your mealtimes. What will my cake look like? Will all my friends sing Happy Birthday? Can we have hot chocolate?

And your friendships. I am nearly four. Am I older than my other friends? Will my hair be longer than all my friends' hair now? Will my feet be bigger than all my friends'?

Cleaning the house before your party, you don't even mind hiding your toys to make room for the party games. You can put them away now, Mummy, I don't mind. You help your mother decorate the house with the posters and banners and streamers and balloons you chose from Big W; mix up polymer snow-powder; smooth out tiny, handmade, paper snowflakes in your little almost-four hands.

Anticipation permeates your dreams. Quick! I have to get ready for my party! you yell, still fathoms-deep in sleep. (I will come to your party, your brother drowsily replies, before sinking back into his own dreams.)

................................

I didn't want to host yet another party in my house, but Scout begged me to do it. She didn't want to celebrate her birthday anywhere else. It was a lot of work, as parties always are. But in the weeks and days beforehand, as the day grew near and nearer still, I came to understand the joy of anticipation through her eyes. Even the most mundane of tasks: tidying, vacuuming, grocery shopping; became acts of thrilling expectation, and gave her joy before the real joy of the party.

I guess we never stop learning from our children.

Scout says, Ralph says

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"'If you knew how great is a mother's love,' Wendy told them triumphantly, 'you would have no fear.'" JM Barrie, Peter Pan

 

Ralph has taken to calling me "Big Mamma," which is not particularly flattering, but relates adorably to "Little Mamma," his sister.

During an argument... Ralph: I put you in the bin, Scout! Scout: Well, you're not my best friend. Ralph: I DO want to be your best friend! Scout: Then say I am not in the bin. Ralph: I put you OUT of the bin! Scout: Alright, what balloon would you like?

And more about misbehaviour... Me, to Ralph: Can you please be a good boy today? Ralph: No! I will be A. Naughty. Boy! Me: Please? Ralph: NOOOOOOO! Me: Oh dear. I feel sad when you are naughty. Ralph (cuddles me around the neck): Alright, I will be a good boy. Scout: I will be naughty!

Ralph: Mummy? Me: Yes? Ralph: I'm lovely to see you, Mummy.

Scout: Mummy, you are a queen and you will look the same when you are a little old lady.

Me: Scout, thank you for doing such a great job tidying up the play-dough. Scout: You might want to give me something for that.

Lunch time. Sandwiches apparently give the children magic powers, and Ralph is determined to do what he calls "naughty magic"... Me: Quick Scout! Eat some magic sandwiches so you can counter Ralph's magic spells! Scout (takes a big bite of her sandwich): One, two, three... (get it? COUNTer?)

Ralph: This is a lovely autumn day for a chocolate milkshake.

Music teacher is handing out maracas to all the children... Me: What do you say, Ralph? Ralph (brandishing maracas): Let's rock!

Scout hands me a fist full of coins... "This is for you because you never have any money. Now put it in your purse so you don't lose it."

Ralph: Do aeroplanes have bladders for their wee?

Kids have been arguing and yelling at each other all morning... Me: Hey guys, can anyone remember that I told you this was a No Fight Day? (long pause) Ralph: No, it IS a fight day! Scout: Yeah it IS a fight day! Both kids: Fight day! Fight day! Fight day! (united at last)

Scout: Mummy, I want to keep you.

Mother's Day

coffeeThere are two pairs of tiny, mud-covered wellies in the hallway by our front door. And if you are aged two or three, you will know that that is a sign of a day well spent: muddy wellies suggest explorations, rain-soaked adventures, (Ralph's curls gone wild), and, of course, the time-honoured joy of jumping up and down in muddy puddles.

Yesterday was Mother's Day and, do you know what? Call me Hallmark but I felt the love. It started with both children on our bed in the morning, Ralph asking "Can you let the cat in?" and Scout squeezing me around the neck, saying, "Ahh my Mummy. I love you more than me." You could have stopped the day right there and it would have been complete for me.

We had brunch with a friend at Bebida on Smith Street and, alongside the best eggs I've had in a longggg time, they also managed to give me the best Mother's Day brunch that money could buy, being a really great (grown-up!) atmosphere, without any member of staff skipping a beat that we had brought two small children with us. They were super friendly, super helpful, super cool and the food was super good. This, combined with the fact that both children were preternaturally well-behaved, made it a stress free and thoroughly enjoyable meal. We followed up with a scoop each at Gelato Messina, and the kids didn't even make a mess of their clothes. Because, Mother's Day magic!

As I carried Ralph back along Smith Street, I whispered into his curls, "I love you." "Can you say it louder?" he asked. "I love you!" I announced, in my big voice. "I love you Mummy," said Ralph. "I love you I love you I LOVE YOU!" A lump formed in my throat. (And then he continued, "I love that red car, I love that light, I love that wall." But I will take my wins where I find them).

Scout woke first from her afternoon nap, so she and I went out together to CERES (more jumping up and down in muddy puddles) to buy some plants for our garden, as well as a particularly lovely monstera deliciosa for inside the house. Because apparently, on Mother's Day you actually TURN INTO your mother. I swear I could feel my mother approving of my choice of Mother's Day present, even all the way from Poland, where she and my father are adventuring right now. (I miss my mum! Happy Mother's Day, Mum!) Scout carefully selected a fair-trade Bolga Basket woven out of elephant grass by mothers in Ghana, which will serve as a 'pot' for the monstera in my bedroom.

When we got home, the children and I spent an hour playing "babies." This is a great game to play when you're tired because, as a baby, you get to lie down on the floor and not do particularly much. In this iteration of the game, both Ralph and I were the babies, and Scout was our mother. It was bedtime, and she gave us toys to cuddle in bed. But we were (upon instruction) 'naughty,' and insisted on playing instead of sleeping. If you are a particularly wily mother (ahem), you can learn to work the system of this game. For example, crying "Wah, wah! Mummy this baby can't sleep because she needs a foot massage!"

Let's just say that Scout is a very attentive mummy.

At dinner Mr B and I decanted a lovely bottle of red wine and lit candles in the dining room, with a bad/hilarious/great record from the 1960s on the old Blaupunkt, featuring popular classical pieces from Mozart and Beethoven and other similar composers, set alongside some wonderfully tacky drum beats and guitar 'fillers'.

And that brings us up to my right now (your last night). I am sitting on the couch, watching some renovation show or other on the TV. Both children and Mr B are upstairs, probably snoring. Our cat Ruby is beside me on the couch, purring and also keeping my feet warm. Soon she and I will join everyone else in the family in slumber. Mother's Day 2016, over and out.

ps. Me and my mum, a very long time ago...

Image credit: Sarah Boyle, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

Scout says Ralph says

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Scout (rubbing her belly): These pancakes are delicious. My tummy says yum-my.

Ralph (rubbing his belly): My yellow t-shirt says YUMMY too.

 

At bed time...

Scout: I love you to the aliens' planet, and a million.

Ralph: I love you to my rocket ship and I also love the aliens' planet.

 

At another bedtime, when their father was overseas...

"I love you past the aliens' planet and all the way to Daddy!"

 

During a book photoshoot...

Me: This photo is supposed to tell a story. It is cold and rainy outside. But inside, the person is all cosy and warm, snuggled into blankets on the couch, drinking tea and reading a letter from a friend. Maybe they have just gotten up to make some toast...

Scout: Can I be that person? (pause) And can you make me some toast?

 

Scout (cuddling her dolly): Do you wish you were as good at Mummying as me?

Me: Yes!

Scout: It's ok, don't cry. You did TEACH me how to do it.

 

Scout: Ring ring! Hello moon? Moon? Can you come down please?

 

At bed time...

Me: Thank you for a really good day.

Scout: Thank you for being a really good Mummy.

Ralph: Can I bounce a ball on your head?

9 Valentine's Day projects to try

valentine Is it love? Or is it just like? Does it matter? Why not use the notorious Jour de V as an excuse to make something for someone you love/like/admire, just to make them happy? Here are some last-minute ideas to get you thinking and inspired:

* I'm nuts about you * Biscuits that look like matchsticks? This is so much better than my matchbox art * So cute! Valentine animal envelopes * Homemade bath bombs to luxuriate your lover * Bad puns on printable gift-tags (for food-related gifts) * "You have a pizza my heart" (get it?). Seven printable Valentines * Pencil-flag Valentine notes. These would make great party favours or gift tags too * Paper fortune cookies * The most romantic ice-cream you've ever seen

Photo credit: Jenelle Ball, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

Aftermath

photo-1448975750337-b0290d621d6d Burnt out sparklers are bundled on the table outside. Two champagne glasses sit in the washing up.

The drying Christmas tree is outside on the front porch, awaiting its scheduled Council pick-up. A thousand pine needles have been swept from the lounge-room floor and two hand-painted nut-crackers, 60 tiny sleigh-bells, one giant musical snow-globe, three china Santas, two tangled ropes of twinkle-lights and a sizeable stack of Christmas-themed story-books and DVDs have all been packed neatly away, to hibernate for the next 11 months until we are ready to start breathing pine and cranberries again.

It feels cathartic. After all the chaos that was December, and all of 2015 really, I couldn't wait to pack and discard and clean.

I didn't love 2015, to be honest. Which is unfair to all the great things that happened and all the wonderful people who populated my year. After all, I am incredibly blessed and I have the kind of life and home and family and friends that people dream of having. The kind of life that, once upon a time, I dreamed of having.

But my dad once told me that, psychologically, you needed to hear 10 good things about yourself to negate just one criticism you might receive. I feel like maybe the same could be said about a perception of a year. Plenty of good things happened during 2015. But some pretty awful things happened, too, and maybe my subconscious needed them to be outweighed by good things 10 to one in order for me to feel like this was a "good year." It's not smart, it's not logical, but the bad things that happened do seem to dominate my memories and emotions when I think about the past 12 months.

Aside from that, I kind feel like I spent most of 2015 trying and failing to catch up. The whole year spiralled out of my grasp and I spent every other day feeling like a failure, with ever-stretching deadlines, ever-mounting work briefs, to-do lists un-ticked, big work-events in our home (the washing up, oh! the washing up!), and rushing and herding my over-tired children from one engagement to the next, running late for daycare late for ballet lessons late for music lessons... late for life.

I don't want 2016 to be the same.

I want to notice more things, appreciate more good things. I want to really commit myself to doing the things I love, and to get better at saying "no" to the things I don't love. I want to help, love, play-with, inspire, educate and just watch my children grow up. Even when sad things happen, I want to take the time to grieve.

I have some thoughts on how I might work towards this in the coming 12 months, and I'll share them on here shortly. But in the meantime, I just wanted to stop by and say hi, and to share these thoughts of mine, for what they're worth.

Happy New Year to you and yours! Love, Naomi x0

ps. I thought this was a pretty great start on preparing for the New Year