Friday, 29 August 2014

New blog. New direction. More of me.

Just a few words to say that this blog has absolutely completely without a shadow of a doubt come to its end. And with this final post comes a very exciting new beginning.

I'm now writing at Vanessa Teklenburg. Would love for you to pop on over.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The final curtain – or just a long break?


I wasn't going to say anything. I was going to ignore the fact I have a blog (and a lovely bunch of readers) for a little while until I felt the urge once again. We all have full lives and I've never been that consistent with my posting, so I figured some time away would go unnoticed. Time away until I worked out whether or not it's the end of the road for my blog.

I stood washing up at the kitchen sink last night wondering if I felt like writing one of the dozen posts I have in my head. Shall I write the next declutter post? Or post about our second day out, just the two of us? What about homeschooling and my thoughts around that as we slowly get started?

I have plenty to write about, but the pull is slipping away. My life is suddenly very different now; I have very little time to myself and so much is calling for my time. Lots of systems I want to put into place, lots of things to practice, thoughts around money, family, relationships, goals needing careful attention. Ideally, I would live life and simply report back here – that's how everyone else does it, right? But I don't want to stretch myself so thinly just so I can do everything.

You can do anything, but not everything – David Allen

Mother, homeschooling parent, wife, cook, housekeeper, bookkeeper, gardener, blogger, friend, yogi, dog walker, dancer, book club leader… The list goes on. I want to do it all, but am I really doing each one justice? Are they jobs well done? Or am I watering the garden in haste to rush upstairs and read stories and put the boys to bed? Is Sydney just getting a quick walk because I need to get home and tackle something on my list?

This blog, this beautiful blog, feels like something I have to let go so I can put time and energy into doing other things slowly and exceptionally well. For the time being anyway.

I haven't been able to work out whether I just need to put some things on hold (like the garden – once I pull out all my summer tomatoes, eggplant and basil this month, I think I may just leave the soil bare for a few months) or if it's the final curtain. New beginnings, a fresh start.

I almost don't want to publish this post. My head's saying but you might feel like coming back in a week and then you'll look like a fool, but my intuition – the voice I listen to nowadays – says that I need to work on establishing a new rhythm, that I need to get this new way of life on track and work on ironing out aspects of our home life that have been tucked away.

If I listen to my intuition it's telling me to hit publish, so I will.

And then I'm going to organise my registration papers for homeschooling, clean the kitchen, take the dog for a walk and read a book. Slowly and exceptionally well.

So for now I'm tucking my blog away and trusting it's the right thing to do.

Much love to you all,

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Words from children's books | contrast, solitude, happiness


This is the only fiction I read nowadays. Children's books. It's not a complaint, merely an observation. I have my head buried in so many non-fiction titles at the moment – education, creativity, personal growth – and I'm having so many a-ha moments that I'm simply not choosing to find the time for any adult fiction. I know very soon I'll have read enough and want to escape into a good story, but for now I'm enjoying these elevated perspectives.

Instead of Education by John Holt is what I'm devouring right now. Whether or not you have children at school, I urge you to read this. It's relevant to all parents. There are a couple of chapters I didn't care for much, but the rest is as radical as it is simple and fascinating.

Meanwhile, I'm still getting lost as usual in children's poetry, evocative illustrations and their subliminal messages. Can You See A Little Bear shows us a world of contrast through its exotic watercolours – perfect for all ages. Family is everything in Tanglewood, a gorgeous book that has been renewed at the library more than a few times. The Island is quirky but very thought-provoking – the best kind, I think.

Whales can swim and seagulls fly, can you see a little bear flying very high?
Can You See A Little Bear? James Mayhew, Jackie Morris

Deep in the ground, Tanglewood felt its roots stop searching for water. Its bark began to peel, and its leaves turned yellow. 'Is it possible to die of loneliness?' it wondered.
Tanglewood, Margaret Wild, Vivienne Goodman

The people liked how laughing made them feel. Every day they played with the creature, until it left with the sinking sun.
The Island, John Heffernan, Peter Sheehan

More from children's books

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Just the two of us | part one


You have the day to yourselves. Just the two of you. You wonder the night before what to do. A whole day and no idea what to do. You end up having a little argument over it (yes, we argued at the prospect of a day together – the pressure!), and then someone suggests Mosman with a trip along the way to an art gallery. You feel instantly better. That's it.

(Because I wanted to surround myself with quality and culture for the day.)

Immerse yourself in the energy of what you desire – Hiro Boga

Here's what you do –

> Dress up. Both of you. Comfortable but wear something nice. Walk out the front door trusting and knowing that your children are well taken care of. And more than that, they're going to have a great day too.

> Drive and stop off in Brooklyn, a boating and fishing town north of Sydney, for coffee, cake and art. You might consider knitting a few rows, or you might prefer losing yourself in the art instead. Take it all in and just before you exit, your eyes catch sight of something that moves you to the point of tears pricking your eyes. (Elephants might do that to you too.)

> Keep driving till you get to Mosman. Parking won't be an issue, because you said so. There's one space near the shops with your name on it, and it's free.

> Spend ages in Vinnies, because op shops in affluent areas hold treasure. Treasure in the form of quality men's clothing for the same price as that coffee and cake.

> Then because you decided that morning you can't go on one more day wearing the same breastfeeding bras, you'll find a lingerie boutique and before you know it you're trying on bras that literally transform how you look, stand and feel. Ask for Naz who'll know your size just by looking at you and who'll make you realise that a really good bra, albeit an everyday bra, is a really big deal.

> Stop for lunch at Fourth Village, sit outside by the water fountain and with the soothing sound of Italian accents from all the waiters, you could well be in Europe. Try their delectable misto mare, an Italian seafood salad, talk about anything with the waiters (because you want more Europe), drink Birra Moretti then rush as fast as you can into their cheese room in the food store. Stand in the cheese room, both of you, and breathe all that cheese in, deeply. Accept any samples that come your way and talk cheese, then kick yourself for not bringing a little cool pack. Wander back into the providore, buy yourself a very reasonably priced bottle of balsamic fig vinegar, plus one more.

> Soak up all the clothes on the opposite side of the road. It might be beyond your means right now, but there's something about just feeling all that quality with your own hands. It's instantly uplifting.

> Head back to the car and drive a minute or two to Balmoral Beach, with views across to North Head and Manly. Sit underneath one of the old fig trees for shade, take a dip together, spend time exploring your camera, read and observe all the life going on around you.

> Because you don't want your day to end, you decide that you won't be home for dinner after all. You have your first bad thought of the day and think that Manly is a good place for a bite to eat. The tourist crowds and traffic have you heading back out again though. Instead, you come across a great little burger place in Crows Nest. And the best onion rings ever.

> Head home to find your children sound asleep. You're very grateful to the grandparents and that bottle of vinegar is very well received. You get into bed giddy with the thought of another day you've been offered. Just the two of you.

I wonder what we'll do.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Courage is cool


I was going to write my first 2014 post and unveil a new look for Slow Heart Sing at the same time, but I've got too many things lining up in my head to wait... I need to write!

Here we are almost three weeks into January already, and I must confess that I'm so relieved that Christmas is another year away (even if Luca has since asked more than once when will Christmas be?). I love our family visiting, I loved going to see Sarah Humphreys sing Christmas carols, I savoured every bit of our Christmas Day smoked salmon with dill and creamy cucumber and fennel and I adored hearing Luca bellow at 6am on Christmas morning that the reindeer had made a mess of the carrots and grapes on our doorstep. But thank goodness for what comes after Christmas – a sense of relief, calm, summer holidays, perfect beach days and new beginnings. A chance to start over.

This is usually a time for slow and relaxed days – there have been a few – and while we've lazed about at the side of a pool and by the ocean looking relaxed, my mind has been racing. Mine has raced between homeschooling preparations and my own crazy expectations of how I'd like it to look and feel, and concerns about getting my own needs met. But there is something else that has taken up so much of my time and head space.

Back in October Danielle LaPorte asked for book club leaders across the globe to lead their own Desire Map book clubs. The Desire Map, if you haven't already heard of the book, is about choosing to focus on feelings, rather than actual goals, to create the experience/life we want. I applied within seconds of reading the email even though it felt, well, terrifying. My heart said go for it, my head/ego said nooooooo! I'm quickly learning which one to listen to. Funny thing is, I don't have any problem speaking up at my normal monthly book club or getting loud at a party – I'm quite the extrovert in some cases – but this was going to be different and I knew it. I was baring myself.

Nevertheless, on January 7th (along with 500 other leaders around the world) a group of us gathered to talk desire and goals with soul. We held it at Like Minds Avoca, a creative space for people to 'share their experiences and stories'. They were officially opening the following day – perfect synchronicity – and mine was to be their first workshop.

And right there next to the art hanging for sale, a pile of Kinfolk magazines and designer planters were three words: Courage is cool. In case I needed reminding. I probably did.

It's what kept me there when my head asked why on earth I was putting myself through it. But I stayed because this is what it means to be fully alive. I stayed because if I can do this, I can do more. I stayed even when my heart was pounding because I wanted to show myself and my children what it's like to put yourself out there when it would be a safer option to curl up at home in front of the TV. I really want to believe that it doesn't matter if I make a mess – crucial as we start homeschooling this year. If I am to teach my children about trying and daring, then I must do it too.

So that's what I did. I spoke honestly and deeply about lots of things, listened to others do the same and led the conversation. By the second week, I settled more into my role as leader and facilitator (we were mostly strangers the first week) and enjoyed it so much that I found myself thinking I'm going to do something like this again. 

It wasn't just the book, or the insights and different perspectives, or the sense of togetherness and integrity. It wasn't just all the like-minded souls in one room sharing a common purpose or one of the directors emailing me to say I had the most amazing energy. It was all of it.

All because of courage.

And there's going to be plenty more this year. There has to be.

Happy (and courageous!) new year to you.

Monday, 30 December 2013

As the sun wakes the day

Luca at farmschool this month, run fortnightly by a wonderful homeschooling family in the mountains  

So here I am with less than one day to go of 2013 and I'm a bundle of emotions.

A little panicked, because in one week's time I'm going to be leading a group of women to talk deeply and openly about desire, and goals with soul. I signed myself up for this months ago, knowing that this would show me what I'm made of and that life can be incredible if I just dare. Whether I'm daring to win, or daring to fail, I don't know – I'm just daring to show up and shine.

A little anxious about how different next year is going to look. Homeschooling. How am I going to do it? How will I find time to myself? Is it going to be crazy? Will Luca be happy? These and more questions all doing a merry dance. But a friend told me to breathe today and said that it will be one day at a time. And so it will. Because Luca needs something that isn't currently on offer and so just as Louise Hay puts it, I won't worry whether I can do it. Life has steered this.

But mostly I'm just feeling a whole lot of gratitude. For yoga, for new friendships and life-changing discoveries, for clearing clutter in so many areas of my life, for valuing what I value, for my capacity to grow, for all the good there is, for living where we do, natural beauty, colour, food that makes me groan, for knowing what I want and how I want to feel.

I am more alive than I've ever been. Clearer, braver and just more me. I'm paying attention to what stirs my heart.

It's what I wish for all of us as the sun wakes the day on a new year. Wishing you abundant love and peace, and may you find more of what stirs your heart and brings you alive.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Christmas message (words from children's books)


I start this post with huge thanks for Jodi. Not only did I win her amazing Minted giveaway this week (god I'm excited about choosing some new stationery!), but a book recommendation of hers led to us reading what I think is the best ever Christmas book. The message in it was so profound. And the fact the story is set in Australia makes it all the more.

Just like Applesauce (a pig!) felt his Christmas cheer dampen from the burnt bushland that surrounded him, I too can let the hype and dazzle around me take the shine off.

But 'Christmas comes from the heart'. It's how we feel inside, how connected we are to ourselves and to each other that makes Christmas. It's from the inside out. Not the outside in.

So in spite of what the world looks like on the outside, we can make Christmas truly beautiful inside. By slowing right down and focusing on what's really important. It's never ever about the stuff.

The perfect message for children, and us, at this time of year.

Wherever you are, whether you're in the land of gum trees or the land of oaks, have a wonderful Christmas. May it be Slow, may it be from the Heart and may it make you Sing (inside and out).

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Three Christmas books. One you can't help but sing the words with a 'dee-dum dee-da' beat (the boys love it); one about loss and finding joy again; and one that captures the essence of Christmas so perfectly.

There was a sheep went out to reap, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. There was a sheep went out to reap on Christmas Day in the morning! On Christmas Day in the Morning, John Langstaff, Melissa Sweet

When he finally took the picture to his workbench and began to carve, his fingers worked quickly and surely. He carved all through the night. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Susan Wojciechowski, P.J. Lynch

Owl watched over Applesauce. He saw the curl in her tail unwind and called out, 'Christmas comes from the heart, Pig, from the heart.' His voice was a soothing lullaby across the burnt hills. Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle, Glenda Millard, Stephen Michael King

More words from children's books

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A lesson in attachment

Luca has held a muslin close ever since he was six months old – when Mum suggested he might like something against his face to settle. I started with six muslins and ended up with 12. As a baby, there was always one or two draped over him and I during feeding. Always one in the car with him and always one for sleep. The muslin morphed from my breastfeeding essential into Luca's comforter. We have hundreds of photos with him sucking his thumb and a white muslin dangling from his hand, the tip of one corner just touching his top lip.

I set aside concerns from others about his thumb and muslin. The suggestions were of course well-meaning, but as I see now with so many concerns to do with children, they're often based in fear. A fear, in this case, that they won't toughen up and learn to be resilient without the things they choose to comfort them, a fear of other people's perceptions, a fear that they'll forever be 'a baby'.

I try and consistently adopt the same approach with everything throughout the boys' childhood: why the hurry? From schooling right down to a comforting muslin. As I see it, there's no hurry.

A muslin went hand in hand with thumb-sucking, and though we tried to limit its use, whenever Luca was tired, upset, overwhelmed or emotional in any way he would search one out. There are only so many hiding places in one house. I was learning about his sensitive nature at the same time, and I was also learning about the way I deal with my own emotions. When you're navigating parenthood in this way, it's hard to know what's right or wrong (and really that's the point, there is no right or wrong in this case). Society labels so much as wrong beyond a certain age in a child, but I wasn't going to let culture rule on this one. I decided that until I felt sure one way or the other, I wasn't going to do anything drastic and risk hurting him.

Whether it's a young-brother-idolising-an-older-brother thing or whether I have two children who are sensitive in that way, Kian also sought solace in his thumb and a muslin. 

Those 12 muslins have dwindled to seven. They have soothed and calmed my children for years. Once white and crisp, they are now grey, frayed and stained. At our last dentist visit (like every visit), I was warned about the consequences of thumb-sucking (and I know deep down that so long as there are muslins around there will always be the sucking of thumbs). And while even Graeme and I can see that Luca's mouth and where his top teeth now sit have changed, no one was talking to me about the emotional impact. No one took the time to see a different perspective. So I left well alone, again until I knew what to do.

Over the past six months, though, those grey muslins have caused more issues than they have relieved. The more we tried to limit them to sleep time, the more meltdowns we had. Until I realised one day that they no longer soothe or calm, not with Luca anyway. They were suppressing. 

When he felt frustrated, angry to the point of tears, tired to the point of tears, a muslin quickly grabbed would just silence all the emotion. That's when I knew. It's like the dummy in a baby's mouth that just wants to let it out (no judgement here by the way; I had my own on/off relationship with dummies in the early days).

I know with absolute certainty that my children need to learn how to express themselves – expression is everything. I'm still working out what all this looks like – I'm still working it out for myself. I don't know how; I just know that keeping it in doesn't work. They won't know who they are until they let all the crap out first.

So about a month ago, I started talking about it being time for the muslin fairy to come and exchange all their muslins for something very special of their choice. Over days and weeks, we talked. Luca asked why and I said because it was better for him to feel what he's feeling without his muslins taking it all away. 

Luca wrote the letter: "Please fairy can I have a ship that actually floats in real water, and some pieces of metal." Kian asked for a puzzle and a rock.

The day arrived. Luca was emotional. I was emotional. At one stage I didn't know if I had the heart to go through with it. I took a picture of him having his last sleep with a muslin, and I kept thinking of how much these pieces of cloth have been a part of our lives for the past five and a half years. But I recognised my emotions for what they were: resistance. My resistance to change. 

We put them in a basket on the front doorstep. We spent the evening driving around the streets looking at Christmas lights, to give the fairy time to do the exchange.

When we got back, we all cheered at the magic. A wooden sailboat that actually floats in real water, a few bits of metal, a special magnetic puzzle and a rock all sat where the muslins were an hour before. They went to bed and all I felt was sadness at tucking them in without the scruffy bits of cloth that they always clung to as I sang them a song.

Amazingly, Luca hasn't once asked for his muslin. The emotional outbursts are still the same, but now he has the chance to let it out properly. And perhaps this might even help him regulate his emotions in the long term. Kian turns three this weekend; he's still a baby. It feels like he made a sacrifice for his older brother.. There was no reason for him to give up his muslins, but there was no other way. All I can do is trust I've done the right thing by them both. 

I'm happy with how they're dealing with it. I'm happy they felt the exchange was a fair one. The only person who's emotional is the one writing this post. Perhaps in the end I was more attached than they were. And isn't there a lesson in that.