thirty and four

 

Last month Beren and I celebrated our birthdays - my 30th and his 4th - with a green-themed picnic under the beautiful big oak trees at a local botanical gardens. It was glorious sunny Autumn Sunday. We all had to wear our best green hues, so I wore my pale green 1940s dress that I bought ten years ago to wear on my honeymoon. We had a green layered cake, platters of green fruits and vegetables, green guacamole, green tea shortbread and gingerbread with pale green icing. Friends added to the spread with green crackers, jellies, devilled eggs with parsley, cheeses, green juice and other delights.

We had two birthday cakes between us; one was a butter cake with three layers; vanilla bean, chocolate and green tea “matcha”. Beren couldn’t decided which flavour he wanted which is why we did a layer of each! I decorated the top with rosemary sprigs, verbena leaves, apple stars, pistachios and a sprinkling of matcha powder. The second cake was a tower of my gluten free French-style baked vanilla custards “canelés” which were swiftly devoured!

The big people talked and reclined in the sunshine as the little people ran about the gardens playing and climbing trees. I cannot think of a nicer way to mark my 30th milestone; to be surrounded by old trees, good friends and food!

Beren told me he thought our party was “very good and lovely and green!” Indeed…

 

Two

 

Between turning one and now,
you have learnt to crawl, walk
jump, climb, hop, balance on one foot,
talk, pour cups of water,
hold eggs (somewhat) carefully,
open and close doors!

You are curious,
curly haired, neck-nuzzling,
with big belly laughs and squawks
of delight and sometimes discontent!
You love to be chased, tickled,
bounced and held close -
You love seeing the rainbows
the cut glass hanging in the window makes
and magpies digging for worms in the yard -

You love vehicles - actually,
pretty much anything with wheels -
but especially rides in Daddy’s trucks,
you move your body to music,
slap your thighs to songs playing in the car
and bang blocks percussively,
your favourite bedtime ditties are:
”I can sing a rainbow”
”Look at me I’m a train on the track”
”Lots and lots of big trains”
”Deep in the sea”
and the hymn “Come thou fount of every blessing”
(which I’ve been singing since you were a newborn)
I think you may be the most musical of my sons yet!

You chatter all the time now,
and love to copy my voice when we’re reading -
you can’t quite say clock, but the enthusiasm is there!

You love your brothers
they are your favourite little people,
your every day companions, and even though
they bump into you, or want you to get “outta the WAY!”
you run with delight to meet Reuben at the gate
when he gets off the school bus
and on seeing Beren emerge from bed
in the morning you shout “Bear bear!” with glee -

Yes there’s so much to love about you:
Our fabulous little one,
our Mister TWO!


(Thanks to the wonderful Cat for taking the last two photographs)

 

Family

A few weeks ago the wonderfully talented Cat (Catherine Elise Photography ) came to visit and take some lifestyle portraits of our family + farm life. I was immediately struck by how lovely, calm and kind-hearted Cat was and how quickly she all made us feel comfortable. As we showed her around our home, the surrounding paddocks (including our wigwams fashioned from fallen logs and sticks) and of course our pastured chickens up the road - we began to forget she was holding a camera at all! Not only did she manage to get us all looking at the camera at the same time - a miracle with small children! - she has captured something far more precious; memories of the journey we are on; something of the joy and love we share as a family. I will treasure them always

Us

 

Alex and I are fortunate enough to both own beautiful digital SLR cameras, and however hard we try we just cannot seem to set up a portrait of all five us. So early one morning this week our sweet neighbour Bek agreed to meet us down by the chickens to take some current family photos for us. She did marvellously! And I feel so thankful for how far we've come in this farming journey and how each one of our boys is perfectly at home among the earth and feathers! And of course the hens adore their chicken man, Alex - one even perched herself on his hat. I mean, how can you blame her... 

 

life with two

As you may have guessed, I seldom find time to update on here the stories of life and new motherhood of two boys - what a constant, intense, satisfying (and sometimes unsatisfying), beautiful occupation it is! Truthfully, most of the time I am happy to just pause (without camera lens or pen and paper) and soak into my soul the scenes of juggling, mess and mayhem, of everyday goodness; like my three year old leaning in to kiss his baby brother - who when he hears his big brother's voice - will smile and coo wildly. The love between them is vast and I feel teary at the ease with which his big brother especially - has adjusted to life with a sibling. At the same time I feel a twinge of lament that I documented his first year of life so clearly, month-by-month - compared to his little brother - because it’s true, you do forget so many things…

Our Beren is now fourteen weeks old, and oh! he is so far a calm, pensive and cuddly soul...
He is very chatty, and will for ten or twenty minutes at a time - look into your eyes and "talk" to you with eyebrows raised,
He is mostly happy to put himself to sleep
He loves watching his brother playing/talking/whinging/reading and will beam with glee
He gives little chuckles when you blow raspberries on his tummy
He likes to be warm, and does not like cold hands changing him
He makes those lovely sighs when sleeping,
He nurses with gusto, sometimes too quickly,
His legs are deliciously chubby, so far he's in the 90th percentile for weight!
He has been on so many more car trips than his brother did at this age and for the most part likes the car seat, as long as we're moving... 
He is muscular and robust - those big hands, such a strong neck, we're certain he'll be helping us around the farm in no time,
He likes being worn - in woven wraps and carriers (probably because it keeps him so warm)
He has been to farmers markets, up windswept hills, and on a plane to Sydney,
He has been introduced to chickens,
He has had to learn the art of waiting, and is mostly so very patient - 
He doesn't get very many baths, but always smells so milky pure,
Despite everyone always saying how much he looks exactly like Reu - he is distinctly his own person - his face is more oval, eyes bluer, his hair darker -
He smiles often, and especially after feeds - those contented, love drunk smiles are my favourite.

I think you assume because you have had a baby before, that it will be easier the second time - and in many ways it has been, well - maybe not easier, but certainly more relaxed. My initial fears of managing two little ones - of getting organised to go places - of keeping healthy - of getting wholesome meals together - and keeping on top of the chores - have mellowed into a kind of peacefulness - an acceptance to take each day as it comes... let my fears be known... set limits... ask for help... expect every task to take longer... prioritise what's most important... be okay with imperfections... take sleep in increments... give more hugs... try to go for a walk every day... pray... 

I am no perfect mother to my boys, but I am theirs. And they are mine. 

Ode to grandma, the storyteller

Nancy Margaret
or just grandma to me -
where do I begin to remember you,

all you’ve been?

do I start with your soft skin -
those bright and kindly eyes
your aged and crackly voice, 
asking us always to plant
on each cheek and forehead - kisses three,
your powdery nose and loose singlets,
legs lying in the sun
for vitamin d you said, and everyday
in armchair or lounge or bed
open books, folded newspapers
the napkins up your sleeves -
your tiny handwritten notes,
the keenest, most hungry
mind for news of the world

you read everything -
biography, philosophy,
fiction and non, literature
poetry, history, magazine
old letters intended for you
and others that weren’t,
school notes and failed
essays, 
a wealth of knowledge,
a treasury of verse,
story, song -
the meaning of words
the stories of others
you felt the most,
they made you cry -
made you happiest

the child who lived in the bush
won a scholarship for school in the city,

wrote and edited poetry,

became a schoolteacher

whose grandma rode past Ned Kelly

whose father went to war,


who married a farmer
and had eight children
birthed and breastfed
and how many young minds
you taught too -
when we were children
you came each summer
with a full and musty suitcase
sweeping us up in big hugs
tucking us into bed
we would request from your repertoire
favoured stories, fables, poems -
all the milestones you shared,
our first walks, words, school concerts -
then as teenagers,
you came to live with us -
in my room and then by the dining room table
your movements were slow and strained
but your mind as sharp as ever,
how you loved the bustle of a full house
all our comings and goings -
and in the early dark of morning,
a voice asking
who’s there?

you the tea drinker,
liberally with milk -
teabags stretched for three cups,
lashings of butter,
we knew the gifts you liked to eat
dark chocolate, crystallised ginger,
marzipan, peppermints -
sardines on toast,
cheese and beetroot,
the time you taught me to eat 
nasturtium leaves,

your faith that weathered decades
of experience and loss, 
unshakeable, in a loving God -
we counted on our fingers 
forty-one people
have come into being because of you,
you were not perfect
but you were as much
as a person can be -
a capable woman,
a generous mother
a great teacher
a wise listener
a miraculous storyteller -
and even in your last years
a source of interest,
faithfulness, remembrance
the older fragile you
barely moving,
with my own red-haired boy
who helped pop green peas
in your mouth,
who kissed your hand
and ran cars along your bed
I like him, you said, and smiled

and on my last visit
the mind that remembered
the chickens we keep
the days until they lay
the porridge that came late
you were lively, 
gripping my hands
with papery skin so soft -
those kindly eyes
thank you for visiting 
you said,

thank you for all you gave me
a love for words
to read and write
and recite aloud
to soak in sunshine
and watch the seasons,
to treasure hope,
and care for kin -
and above all,
the gift of life -
you gave to me
my mum.