November 2011

In the mirror

It’s taken me some thirty years, but I’ve finally come to embrace my imperfections and all. Sure, there are days when I feel ‘blah’ and definitely, I could be significantly fitter, but – my freckles, my dark circles, my scars, my post-baby middle… well, they’re simply a part of who I am and there’s no need to change any of it. Plus, my husband tells me every day that I am beautiful, so why should I not believe him?

This photo reminds me a lot of this poem that I wrote about a month after Cameron died. A lot has happened since then, but the truth behind the poem still stands. Our loss, our grief, and our tears alongside our perseverance, our joys, and our laughter – all these can still be seen when I look in the mirror.

Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with our college friends who lost their four month old baby one week ago today. Tomorrow we will go to his memorial service and we will cry and grieve and weep and mourn with his family. All death is tragic, but the loss of your own child – that is something that no-one should have to suffer.

I know Coke isn’t exactly the international health drink, but once summer weather hits, I can’t help but crave it. Plus, Coke Zero can’t be that bad right? (Google disagrees with me, but then, Google thinks everything is bad if you use search terms like “health effects” and “health hazards” and “why does this fizzy drink make me dizzy.”)

During these last few months, I’ve been spending a lot of my Sunday evenings at home with Rick’s parents. They usually arrive in the afternoon and play with the boys then help me feed them, bath them and put them to bed. Did e’er more wonderful in-laws exist? I think not.

But wait – there’s more. Mum (ie. Mary) will always bring dinner. Yes, that’s right. She comes to babysit and she brings us food. Hands down best mother-in-law in the whole wide world (naturally, it goes without saying that she reads my blog too) – definitely one of the many reasons I married Rick.

But back to our Sunday evenings: once the boys are in bed, the three of us will sit in the living room, have dinner together, chat about our week, watch Escape to the Country, and of course wax lyrical about my husband/their son and my children/their grandsons. Throw in several cups of hot tea (not literally), and seriously, it’s close to a perfect evening.

Mary, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), know that I will genuinely miss these Sunday evenings together. Even on the nights when I’ve retreated to the studio “to do some work,” I’ve loved knowing that you and dad were in the lounge, cuddled up and watching The. No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I know that we will find something else to do together next year, but this year has been truly special – to me, it feels like it’s the end of an era.

(These photos were taken last Sunday night, when I was in the studio… “working.” The clover flower was given to me by Angus, who wanted me to keep it in a safe place. Sadly, it started wilting pretty quickly, so that safe place is now the bin.)

It is Monday morning. I’m driving Angus to the speech therapist.

Me: “Would you like to have a babycino at the cafe afterwards?”
Angus: “Sometimes I have a babycino with marshmallows but today I’m having a milkshake.”

* * *

Angus and I are on the way to a birthday party.

Angus: “Mummy, I like you…today.”

* * *

It is 2am in the morning. Rick and I wake up to the sound of Angus screaming in his room.

Rick goes in to investigate.

Rick: “Angus, what’s wrong?”
Angus: “Daddy, I can’t get penguin to go to sleep!”
Rick: “Okay. Let’s put him on the pillow. He can sleep there.”
Angus: “Is he awake?”
Rick: “No.”
Angus: “Can you check?”
Rick: “Penguin, are you awake?” Silence. “He’s quiet, so he’s asleep.”
Angus: “Put him on his back, daddy!”
Rick: “Okay, he’s on his back now. Go to sleep Angus.
Angus: “Goodnight daddy.”

* * *

It is Sunday morning, and I’m trying to park our Discovery at church.

Angus: “Mummy, you have to park between the two white lines.”

* * *

It is Thursday evening, and I’m a bit upset with Rick for messing up one of the kitchen drawers.

Angus watches as I leave the room.

Angus: “Daddy, can you do the right thing to make mummy happy?”*

*Rick would like me to point out that he usually does. Tis true. He usually does.

Smoky

It got pretty smoky one afternoon last week here in Sydney’s north. Rick thinks it was back burning. I’ll go with what he says since he watches more documentaries than me. I sat on the patio staring at the smoky mist for quite some time – it was inexplicably bewitching.

Received some devastating news tonight. Life is so transient. Cherish those you love.

Hiding

I read on a blog recently a quote by Robert Mapplethorpe: “If I am at a party, I want to be at the party. Too many photographers use the camera to avoid participating in things. They become professional observers.”

Somehow, these words really struck a chord with me. I know that I’m often guilty of hiding from people behind the camera. Especially at weddings, where you tend to bump into people from the past. I guess I still find it hard to answer the question that often pops up: ‘How many children do you have?’ Not that I have any problem with talking about Cameron, but I’m increasingly aware of how difficult it can be for the other person to have a bombshell dropped like that. Especially when they know me from the past and probably just expect some stock standard answer about how great life is.

Sometimes I can’t help but wish that my path to motherhood was a ‘normal’ one. In the words of my friend Sally: “The one where my firstborn didn’t die, and I headed down the more traditional route to parenthood where you get pregnant, stay pregnant, then bring baby home nine months later.”

If only Cameron hadn’t died, then I could just rattle off “four boys” without a second thought when asked about our family. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have to brace myself in conversations whenever the topic of my children came up. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have to worry about the other person referring to Angus as our first or Pete as our second or James as our third. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I would be able to tell others how much we loved watching him grow up and how he turned four in September. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I would be able to show photos of him to other people when they asked to see our boys. If only Cameron hadn’t died, there would be videos of him too. If only he hadn’t died, our family would be complete. Our family would be ‘normal.’ If only he hadn’t died, he would be here.

But he did die. And because of that, talking to people can never be the same. It can never be like it was four years ago.

So if I become a bit of a ‘professional observer,’ then so be it. Because the truth is, I much prefer that to being hurt.

And sometimes, yes sometimes, you’ve just got to protect yourself.

Have you ever distanced yourself at parties or hidden behind the camera like me?

I miss layers…

I am not wearing this today. It is something like thirty degrees outside. I am not that crazy. (Really, I’m not. Although I was wearing a Bonds hoodie earlier, but let’s not go there.)

I love all the seasons, but I’m definitely one of those people who prefer the cold over the heat. Probably because the heat in Sydney can reach frightening temperatures. Plus, I love being able to wrap a scarf around my neck and dive into a warm bed at night (thank you, electric blanket).

Anyway, Rick has taken all three boys to the park right now, thus allowing me some quiet time at home by myself before the daily nightmare (I kid!) routine of dinnertime and bedtime commences. It’s been just lovely to have the chance to explore some new blogs, especially after the crazy work schedule I had this week which almost cost me my sanity and the ability to remember my kids’ names. As for later tonight, I shall be photo tagging in Aperture once more. Isn’t that what Saturday nights are all about?

Angus has daycare on Fridays, and while I do miss him, I also cherish the time with just Pete and Jamie. It’s been so interesting watching Pete come into his own as an older brother. He runs into Jamie’s room to chat to him in his cot. He sits down next to Jamie in the living room to watch Play School with him. He brings Jamie toys. He doesn’t take Jamie’s toys away. And he picks up the food that Jamie drops from the high chair and hands it back to him. He is simply the sweetest.

Here’s us having lunch on a Friday. Yup, we’re a Vegemite family. Except for me. My theory is, if you’re not exposed to it by the time you’re six, it’s too late. But I’m glad the boys are Happy Little Vegemites as bright as bright can be. (Had to resist adding rosy cheeks to these photos.)

Happy Friday, everyone! May we all get some sleep…

Corner

Now that we are drawing near to moving once more, I find myself attempting to savour all the nooks and crannies around the home which I have come to love. This particular corner with the yellow lamp is in the family play room, where I spend a lot of my time either watching the boys play with their blocks, cars and other toys or crashed out on the couch asleep. Once in a while, Rick and I might share a cup of tea or a mug of Milo here in the evenings while we snuggle up and chat about nothing and everything. This is also one of Rick’s favourite places to read during his down times.

Moving is always hard. This has been our fourth home since we got married seven years ago, and all four have been special for their own reasons. At Freeman Place, we set up our life together as husband and wife. At Brickfield Street, we got ready for Cameron’s arrival then grieved madly for him when he died. At Little Queen Street, we attempted to rebuild our lives and eventually brought Angus home with us after nine months of anxiety. And here at Morris Avenue, we welcomed Peter and James into our family, and for the first time, we had little boys running around – thus turning this into a true family home. One that I will surely miss and remember for many years to come.

Who knows what the next place will bring, but whatever happens, I’m confident we will turn it into our home just like we have done in the past – hopefully one where we will make new merriment and new memories as a family.

p.s. That is my ‘bits and pieces’ kitchen bench-top tray. Rick thinks it takes up too much unnecessary room but I love how it acts like a holding area for all the stuff that the boys and I use throughout the day. I can’t stand bowls and cups and bottles haphazardly left on the bench-top but if they’re all on the tray, it somehow feels neat and tidy thus allowing me to breathe easy amidst the chaos. (Weird, right?)

To the beaches we go

I am in a dire conundrum. One half of my brain desperately wants to increase the size of photos on this blog by about 15%. The other half of my brain knows that this means all of my older posts will have images that do not fill the width of the entire column, and it cannot cope with this visual eyesore. So what do I do, my friends? Invest 20 hours of time (which I do not have) into increasing the size of all my prior images or just leave the size of the photos as they are? (Note there is no ‘middle ground’ option because, alas, I am not a ‘middle ground’ type of gal.)

Thanks to everyone for their lovely comments about Pete. He has fully recovered, and his skin now only bears some small scabs from the original mosquito bites which we suspect caused the allergic response. Poor little guy; at one stage, his left eye was so swollen that he couldn’t actually open it but he took it all in such good stride. He is seriously the most cheerful little boy. Nothing really seems to get him down except when daddy’s leaving for work or if he’s desperate for some milk, and I’m making him wait (gosh I sound cruel).

Last week was hot and humid, so we took the boys to our favourite beach at Balmoral. Pete loved the water. Angus was more hesitant. None of Pete’s clothes stayed dry. Angus didn’t want to get his pants wet. Pete struggled and screamed when Rick tried to extricate him from the water. Angus, having run back to shore, kept shouting out to Rick and Pete to “Come back! Come back!” Meanwhile, Jamie watched on and wished he was five months older so that he could hop out of his pram and walk around like his brothers.

It probably bodes well that the boys like the beach. Because that’s where we’re headed next year: the northern beaches. Yeeha!

Stormy

Tonight I couldn’t help but cry as I was drying Pete after his bath. He broke out in hives yesterday and his whole body was covered in big red blotches. It just breaks my heart to see his skin like that and to know that he’s all itchy and uncomfortable without being able to do anything about it.

That’s the thing about being a parent. Everything can shift in a matter of days, hours or minutes. One moment you can be coping just fine, and everything seems ‘okay’ and manageable, and then the next, everything breaks loose – hives, stress, screams, demands, snotty noses, sleepless nights – and all you want to do is just collapse on the couch and cry it out. (Yet again. I seem to love crying on the couch.)

At least with a storm, you can always tell when one is brewing and can hence run for cover (or pull the clothes off the line) before the lightning strikes.

But parenting? It gets me every time.