This beautiful winter light danced around my studio all yesterday afternoon. Inspired, I picked up my camera – something I don’t usually do on Sundays because I’m often too exhausted. I’m so glad I did. These images broke me out of a rut. For several weeks, I’d been somewhat disconnected from my photography. My images weren’t speaking to me. But yesterday, as I was capturing these frames, it dawned on me that I’d been expecting too much of myself and my camera, and that I’d been inadvertently comparing myself to other photographers. Which is completely counterproductive because, when it comes down to it, the most important ‘requirement’ for my own photography is for me to remain true to myself. And these seemingly ordinary frames are just that: a perfectly simple reflection of me and my surroundings.
I realised something else this weekend too. For the past week, I’d been struggling with the notion of leaving our boys behind for two days while Rick and I get away to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. Even now, I am still torn between craving time for ourselves and wanting to be here for the boys. It’s almost ridiculous, really. It’s just two days. In fact, I’d always thought of myself as the type of mother who would cope just fine with having to go away for work for a week at a time. But last night, it suddenly struck me that if I ever had to work away from home, I would find it much harder than I could ever have anticipated. Obviously, this has no real repercussions since my work doesn’t require me to go anywhere for now, but it’s always disconcerting to realise that you’re different to who you thought you were. I shared this with Rick as we drank our bedtime Milo together. He just smiled, as if he’d known all along…
This week, I will be drinking Nespresso coffee, directing a product shoot, cherishing moments with my boys, packing, going away, making the most of it, coming home to cuddles, and hopefully doing some journaling in between.
How was your weekend, my friends? And what’s in store for you this week?
Around here, I am preparing for a product shoot with Trish next week. We are photographing my Project Life templates for our new site, and I guess you could say I’m more than a little excited.
Around here, I’m also a little nervous, despite my excitement. This week, in particular, I’ve been battling a good dose of insecurity and self-doubt about my work. I know from the past that this is a normal part of the process when it comes to launching a new business. But nonetheless, it’s still unsettling. Fortunately for me, the beautiful Liz came to my rescue with the most encouraging words that I could’ve ever hoped to hear. It’s so refreshing to have friends who are also designers and who get what it’s like to work for yourself. Thank you, Liz, you are truly a wonderful friend (and design soulmate)!
Around here, I have been distancing myself from the situation that was causing me so much stress, hurt, and frustration. Sometimes, it’s the best thing to do, especially when you have absolute no control over the matter. As a result, my head has been in a much better place this week. Life feels good once more.
Around here, I’m so encouraged that you guys like this printable. Hopefully I can create more to share with you all.
Around here, we had sukiyaki hot pot at home for the first time as a family, and it was good. Rick and I used to have it all the time when it was just the two of us, but it was only recently that we considered doing it at home with the boys. It worked brilliantly. It was simple to prepare, the food was delicious, and the boys ate happily. This is definitely going up on our top five family dinners list!
Around here, I still can’t believe that Offspring is over. I know nothing has been ‘officially’ confirmed but the season finale on Wednesday night definitely felt like a series finale to me. I was weeping like a train wreck by the end of it, but in a happy sort of way. Oh, Nina et al, I’m going to miss you all so much…
Around here, I went three weeks without shampoo, caved, did a wash with clarifying shampoo, and now I’m at a loss as to what to do. If anyone would like to throw advice at me, you’re more than welcome to.
Around here, we have a Nespresso machine! We bought it on Monday after I did some simple maths last weekend. Rather than spending about forty dollars every week on coffee, why not spend $240 on a Nespresso, and start saving in less than two months? (We’ve tried quitting coffee, but that’s just never, ever worked.)
Around here, I am soaking up all the cuddles I can before we go away next week.
Around here, I am excited for the weekend, and so very thankful for all of you…
These words by Gretchen Rubin resonate deeply with me.
Ever since we had Angus almost six years ago, every day has seemed like a marathon. A blur. A flurry. Yet when I take a moment to pause and reflect, I honestly don’t know where all the time has gone. In my heart, I still think of my boys as babies – yet, they are not. This year, especially, with Angus starting school, the passage of time has been particularly unrelenting. Once, these little boys were all entirely mine – under my roof, under my watch, under my protection. But now, one by one, they are leaving my side. They are going off to school – a place that will change them forever. It was Angus this year. Next year, it will be Pete’s turn. Then Jamie’s the year after.
Yes, one by one, they are growing up. They are changing. They are becoming.
They will be grown men before I know it.
Despite the daily exhaustion, I don’t ever want to wish this time away. It is mine. It is ours. It is precious, and my goodness, it is worth embracing.
As a special tribute to this quote, I’ve created a 6×4 card and a 3×4 card for you to print out if you wish. Use them as filler cards for Project Life or simply tape them to your wall as a reminder of how quickly time passes us by.
The photo is mine – I took it one gorgeous evening as I was leaving my Zumba class. It was back in March, and Autumn had just begun. The sun was only just setting, the air was warm yet crisp, and I remember feeling utterly thankful to be alive…
These words, these excerpts, are for me. For the present me, to remind me of life’s joys. For the future me, to remind her of the present…
I am sitting here in our lounge room, next to the front window. Cars keep driving past as parents go to pick up their children from school. The afternoon sun is warm on my skin. I can see cobwebs on the wall outside. The flowers in our front garden are blooming, despite our lack of care. A lone bee buzzes from one flower to the next.
Everything about this moment is beautiful.
Upstairs, Bear is still napping. He’s been asleep for almost three hours and will no doubt stir soon. I will go into him room, and he will be standing in his cot with tears in his eyes but the widest of grins on his face. His dummy will be somewhere on the floor. I will open his blinds and go over to pick him up. We will laugh, giggle, kiss, hug, and chat about the noisy cars zooming by. I will hold him close, breathe in his sleepy scent, and never want to let him go.
* * *
On Monday, the boys and I were running late for school. As we drove down our driveway with only minutes to spare, I asked Angus if he would be happy for me to drop him off at the school gates – something we’d never done before.
At first, he was reluctant. But after some discussion, he suddenly agreed. And he sounded happy about it too.
When we arrived at school, he and I both got out. Jamie stayed in the car. I helped Angus with his bag, and we embraced.
“I love you, darling, and I’m so proud of you.”
I hugged him tightly and kissed the top of his head.
He turned around and started walking away.
My heart jumped into my throat, and I could feel tears stinging the back of my eyes.
For goodness sakes, woman, get a grip.
I forced myself to smile and, in that very moment, he reached the gate, turned around, and waved – just like I’d asked him too.
I waved back, and a split second later, he was gone…
* * *
Next week, Rick and I are going away.
For two nights.
Part of me aches for the chance to be alone. To have uninterrupted conversation. To go for long walks. To have dinner by ourselves. To go to bed early. To wake up late. To read all day. To drink tea while it’s hot.
The other part of me aches at the thought of leaving the boys behind. Of not being able to see them, kiss them, cuddle them, watch over them, read to them, tickle, and laugh with them. I can’t help but think of Bear in particular, as this will be my first time leaving him behind for more than a day. Even though it is only for two days, and even though I know the boys will be in the most capable and loving hands, my heart still hurts in anticipation of being apart.
This is the paradox of motherhood for me.
When I’m with my boys, I often crave time alone.
When I’m apart from my boys, I long to be where they are.
Despite all this, I know the time away will do much good.
Good for the two of us and, therefore, good for the six of us.
* * *
We are almost one week into August.
In three weeks, it will be September.
In three weeks, it will be spring.
How is it that it is almost Cameron’s anniversary again? How?
This post has been milling about in my head for some time now, and even though I don’t feel like I’m entirely thought out on this topic, I’m going to attempt to put it into words.
It’s something that many of us struggle with. Most of us know in our heads that ‘perfection’ is not truly possible, and yet, if we’re to be honest, many of us still seek it in many aspects of our life. We have an idealised image of what such perfection should look like, and we beat ourselves up when our lives seem to fall short of that unattainable standard.
From the very beginning, I decided to call this series The Happy Closet rather than The Perfect Closet for this very reason.
The ‘perfect’ closet suggests that there is only one, ultimate version of what your wardrobe should look like.
Kind of like The One.
This approach doesn’t sit well with me for a couple of reasons.
First of all, if you think that The One is out there, and you are bent on building what you think should be or would be your perfect wardrobe, then you will end up second guessing everything that you do buy.
You might be perfectly happy with your closet, but if you hang onto the idea that you need to get your wardrobe perfectly right, then you will inevitably (at some point) worry that you’ve got it wrong. You will scour endless sites looking for more options, and you will end up thinking you need to buy more things because you didn’t get it ‘right’ the first time.
In other words, discontentment will rear its head and you will end up back on the vicious cycle of buying more and wanting more.
My goal was simply to build a closet that I was truly happy with.
Considering that there are only 35 items hanging in my closet, I’m under no illusions that they are the 35 perfect items for me. Chances are, given the billions of clothes there are out there, there are 35 more suitable items for me out there. I’m sure there are other clothes out there that fit me better, flatter me more, feel nicer on my skin, made from better materials, etc.
But the thing is this: I’m perfectly happy with these 35 pieces of clothing.
Similarly, given that I only have three pairs of boots, three pairs of sandals, and one pair of flats, I’m more than certain that there are heaps of better shoes out there that I could buy. In fact, I see them on Instagram and blogs every other day. But again, I’m happy with what I have. My shoe collection is by all accounts not even close to what I would call a perfection collection of shoes, but it is one that I’m perfectly happy with.
And that’s what this is ultimately all about: Building a closet that you are happy with.
A closet that you are content with.
A closet that you can wholeheartedly embrace and call your own.
A closet that is ‘perfect’ because you deem it to be so.
What do you guys think? Do you think that it’s possible to have ‘the perfect wardrobe’?
Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve been writing less specifically about each of our boys. This has been partly a conscious decision of mine and also partly an organic development that’s coincided with the evolution of my blog. With this in mind, I thought it’d be fun to write about how we do stuff together as a family and to give you guys a glimpse into our family habits – our routines, our rituals, our likes, our dislikes, and, of course, our quirks.
My thinking is that this might also serve as a ‘survival guide’ of sorts. People are always asking me “How do you do it?”, and by that, I think they mean – how do you manage life with four little boys and still string together semi-coherent sentences? So who knows? You might pick up a trick or two from this series. You might not. Take what you will. Leave the rest, and say no more. But mostly, just read, enjoy, and have a cup of tea.
To kick us off, I’d like to talk about how we do trips to the cafe. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know that we luuuuurve our cafe outings. Whenever I think about what an ideal day off would look like, drinking coffee at a nice cafe inevitably comes to mind. When Angus was little, we were constantly going to cafes along King Street in Newtown, as that’s where we lived at the time. After Rick finished studying at college, we lived in Sydney’s north west, and we spent a significant portion of our days off hanging out at cafes at Macquarie Shopping Centre. These days, we have access to some amazing cafes along the Northern Beaches – something that I’m constantly thankful for!
In theory, I like the idea of venturing out and ‘discovering’ new cafes. In practice, we honestly just love going back to our favourite cafes over and over again. We have a few that we like in our area, but one in particular is the most child-friendly by far. There’s no problem with getting a high chair for Bear, and they always bring us crayons and colouring in sheets for the boys. That’s already five stars in my book.
There’s always a slight moment of panic as we try to decide our seating arrangement; you never want to take up too much time with this because invariably a waiter with hot coffee will need to walk past. The boys don’t really get much say in the matter: Rick and I always make the call based on who we think needs help eating. Most of the time, we put Bear at the end of the table, I sit next to Bear, and Rick sits next to Jamie. Pete often sits on the other side of me, and Angus on the other side of Jamie. Sometimes when there’s bench seating available, we put all the big boys along one side of the table, Bear at the end, and Rick and I get to sit next to each other. (Hooray!)
Ordering is always our first priority. When you have four hungry boys, you really want to minimise the amount of time spent waiting for food. I’m proud to say that I’ve become quite a master at scanning menus and making snappy food decisions that take into account cost, yum factor, and likelihood of being eaten without fuss or protest (or mess). Mostly, I stick to our favourites. Toast, banana bread, or pancakes for the boys. Scrambled eggs, big breakfasts, or toasted sandwiches for us. Babycinos or vanilla milkshakes for the boys. Lattes or cappuccinos for us.
If we’re at our favourite cafe, the boys pass the time with colouring in while we wait for our food. (Sometimes I join in, until I realise how terrible my own colouring in skills have become.) If there’s no colouring in, we might play a few rounds of I Spy with My Little Eye. Mostly, we just chat – Rick, in particular, is really good with engaging the boys. It’s one of the things that I love deeply about him.
When Bear was smaller, he would just sit in his pram which we would park next to myself or Rick. Sometimes he would nap. Other times, we kept him amused with Kruskits, Rusk sticks, rattles, or anything else that he could hold and suck on. These days, he has the best time sitting in his high chair and just watching everyone coming in and out of the cafe. He joins in with colouring in as well and can often be found sucking on the crayons. (I know – ew!) He absolutely loves grabbing anything that’s easily breakable, so as soon as anything is set down on the table by the waiters, we swipe it out of his reach. It’s like an ingrained reflex which I suspect most parents develop sooner or later. (Actually, we often tell waiters to just put all the cutlery down at one end of the table. It saves them time, and it’s just much easier for us to distribute it ourselves.)
When food arrives, everyone (except for Bear) knows to say ‘thank you’ to the waiter. I then perform the ancient art of a thousand (invisible to the eye) hand movements as I attempt to divvy up the food before mayhem breaks out. I have to say that the boys are pretty good with waiting, and they’ve become good little eaters too. The general rule is that they must finish the food on their plate. The irony of this is not lost on me because I know that, one day, we won’t be able to put enough food on their plate!
Rick eats his food so quickly that sometimes I think he just inhales his food. I always try to savour mine as best as I can, though in between trying to keep Bear happy and trying to monitor the eating activities of the older boys, my food always ends up being cold. Perhaps inhaling is the way to go.
Once we’ve all eaten, I hand out the all-important baby wipes so that the boys can wipe their hands and faces. Rick and I will also mop up any messes on the table and we always try to pick up stuff that Bear’s flung to the floor in his joy and excitement. The boys know that they’re not allowed to get down from the table until we’re all ready to leave. This was a rule I initiated back when Angus and Pete were much younger because I knew early on that I didn’t want to be running after multiple little boys in a cafe trying to herd them back to the table.
Honestly, going to a cafe for brunch (or an early dinner) is one of our favourite things to do as a family. Once upon a time, it would’ve been overly stressful and almost not worth the hassle. But over the years, I think we’ve developed somewhat of a good routine. The boys know what’s expected of them and, as they’ve gotten older, they’ve become more capable of doing things themselves and, truly, it’s just awesome.
And really – what’s better than a nice, steaming hot cup of coffee, you guys?
How about you guys? How do you do trips to the cafe as a family?
This week, I’m finally pulling together my collection of Project Life templates and getting them ready for the new site. This has been on the cards for a long time now, so I’m pretty excited it’s actually happening. How are you all your Project Life albums coming along this year? I’m about five or six weeks behind on mine, but intend to simply do two weeks at a time in order to catch up so I’m not particularly fazed. I hope you guys are still interested in seeing my Project Life pages because I intend to keep sharing them! Even though they’re not particularly fancy, I hope that by sharing my layouts on a semi-regular basis, it might encourage you guys to keep plodding along with your own album as well. When I find my enthusiasm flagging, I simply remind myself that these aren’t just for me – they’re ultimately for our entire family…
What happened in Weeks 18 and 19?
Nothing out of the ordinary happened in these two weeks. On one of the Monday mornings, I took Pete and Bear out for a hot brunch while the other two were at school and preschool. And on one of the Saturday evenings, we went up to North Head and enjoyed a delicious Miss Chu Vietnamese dinner in our car. As we ate, we watched the sky go from silver to pink to purple to black. That was a beautiful night.
How were the photos taken and processed?
All photos were taken on my Fujifilm x100s and processed with VSCO Film. You can read more about how I edit my photos here.
Favourite photos from Weeks 18 and 19?
For Week 18, I love the photos I took up at North Head as they’re so dark and full of drama. I also like the photo of Pete having his midday nap in the lounge room (top right of the first page), as it’s such an honest snapshot of our family life. For Week 19, I’m very happy with the self-portraits that I managed to capture, and I love the silhouette photo I took of my mum helping to get Jamie dressed and ready for bed (top right of the last page).
Number of extra pages and inserts?
I had a 6×12 insert for both weeks, with written details of each day’s events. I also had a couple extra 8×10 inserts for each week.
To be completely honest, I love the first and last pages I’ve shown here but I’m not a huge fan of the middle two (mainly because they’re busier than I would ideally like them to be). But you know what? It doesn’t really matter, because the important thing is that I’ve captured and documented our family’s memories and that has to be more important than striving for perfectionism in every page.
This is a series about my journey in following my heart and becoming a creative entrepreneur. You can read the first post here, and the second post here.
When Rick and I got married, we both knew that he would be going to theological college for four years, which meant that we would be living off my income. We also knew that we would want to try and start a family during that time.
When I started to learn graphic design at work and I realised how much I enjoyed it and that I was relatively good at it, an idea began to form in the back of my mind. At the time, I was working heavily with design agencies and freelance designers as part of my role, and I started to wonder whether I could potentially become a freelance designer myself and start my own business.
The thought excited me. I’d always been interested in business, and being able to make a business out of something I enjoyed doing would be the best of both worlds. I shared my idea with Rick, explaining how it could be the perfect answer to our situation: I would be able to work from home, which meant that we could have a baby and I would still be able to support our family without having to leave the baby’s side.
I’d already done a tonne of research by the time we spoke, so I was able to present him with all the facts and figures, complete with a draft business plan and a rough outline of how much I expected I might be able to earn. It was interesting to see Rick’s response. Whereas business was in my blood (my Grandpa had a shoe business, my Big Uncle had a shoe business, my Fourth Uncle had an importing business, my Eighth Aunty had a jewellery manufacturing business, and my own dad had been running his tuition business for almost fifteen years), Rick came from a very different family background. He was used to experiencing the security of a monthly pay cheque and for his wife to turn around and say, ” I want to quit work and start my own design studio” – well, it was a bit of a bombshell to say the least.
Let me tell you something about my husband. He is awesome. Even though this was something completely out of his comfort zone, and even though his apprehensiveness was completely justified, he believed in me.
And so, he said, ‘yes.’
My dad’s support a few years before had set me free from the legal/accounting career path that I’d felt obliged to embark on. My husband’s support, now, meant that I could finally step towards becoming an entrepreneur like I’d always wanted. Choosing to become a creative entrepreneur was somewhat of a surprise to myself, but at the same time, it felt completely right. I knew in my gut that this was the right thing for me to take on.
It is lunchtime. Jamie has just dropped a piece of tissue on the floor.
Jamie: “Daddy, can you get my tissue for me?”
Rick picks it up.
Jamie:”Daddy, you’re a very good getter. That’s because you have big hands and they’re strong.”
* * *
It is afternoon.
Pete is reading ‘Blue Hat, Green Hat’ with Rick and making up funny words.
Rick: “You’re a clever man Pete.”
Rick: “Yes, you’re a clever man, Pete.”
Pete: “Only in the afternoon!”
* * *
It is Saturday morning. Rick is in the car with the boys.
Angus: “That other car is getting close.”
Jamie: “No, it’s going away.”
Angus: “NO, it’s getting closer”
Jamie: “NOOO, it’s going away.”
Angus: “NOOO, arrrrgggh it’s getting CLOSER”
Jamie: “ARRRRRR, it’s going AWAY.”
Angus: “JAMIEEEE, it’s GETTING CLOSER….AAARRRRRRGGGGHH.”
Jamie: “NOOOOOO, ANGUS, it’s GOING AWWWWAAAAYYYYY.”
Rick: “Boys!!! you’re talking about two different cars.”
* * *
It is dinnertime. I am coercing Jamie into eating his vegetables.
Me: “Is that yummy or yummy?”
* * *
Saturday afternoon. The boys and I are hanging out. Angus peers into my face.
Angus: “Mummy, why do you have three spots in a line on your face?”
Me: “Because I have bad skin.”
Angus: “Why do you have bad skin?”
Later, that same day…
Me: “Do you boys think we should have anymore babies?”
Pete: “Yes! More babies!”
Angus: “Yes, a billion more babies. As many as father Abraham had…”
* * *
It is Monday morning, and I am doing the school drop-off. Angus and Jamie are with me.
Angus: “How many things do grown up have to do?”
Me: “Many, many things…”
Angus: “You have to drive cars, buy a house, buy furniture, look after your children… what else? Oh yes, you also have to put children in the naughty garage when they don’t eat.”
Jamie: “And wipe your children’s bottoms. And cook.”
Jamie: “Yes, cook. Grown ups have to cook.”
* * *
Thursday evening. I am heading out to the city for a work event.
Me: “Do I look nice, boys?”
Pete: “Nicer than a mermaid.”
Angus: “Nicer than a princess.” Jamie: “Nicer than Spider Man.”
* * *
Sunday afternoon. Angus and I are both looking out the same window.
Me: “Look, a crow in the backyard!”
Angus: “That’s a magpie.”
* * *
It is Thursday evening. Our last day at the holiday house.
Pete: “Are we going home tomorrow?”
Me: “Yes, we’re really sad about that too.”
Pete: “I’m not! I like our normal home.”
* * *
It is Tuesday afternoon. I have just arrived home from the hairdresser’s.
Jamie: “That’s an excellent haircut!”
* * *
Sunday morning in the garage. I am strapping all the boys in the car, and I decide to put on some lip balm.
Jamie (with his nose sniffing in the air): “It smells like a girl thing!”
My friends call me Ronnie, and you can too. I'm a graphic designer by trade, and a neat freak by nature. I started my own design studio in 2005 and ran it for seven years. I live in Sydney with my man, Rick, and four of our five little boys. We lost our first son, Cameron, at 41 weeks and we miss him every day. I love memory keeping, I love coffee, and I love de-cluttering. This year, I'm making over my life. I've been blogging for ten years now, and love how it keeps me sane. Grab a cup of tea, and have a browse. It's lovely to have you here.
This is my other blog, one that's close to my heart. It is a chronicle of our journey after losing our firstborn son, Cameron Angus Mason. Cameron died in utero at 41 weeks on 15 September 2007. He was born the day after on 16 September 2007. We love him dearly and miss him terribly. We will never forget him, our beloved first child.