Thursday, January 29, 2015

Road Trip In Pictures

I'm back from our road trip and slowly finding my way back to this neglected online space of mine. It's always hard to find the words after an extended break but even more so when the break involves a round trip of some 3200km as a solo parent with 5 Kids including around 20 hours on a Ferry. It's almost equivalent to driving from LA to New York and back. I'm still recovering! It was a wonderful trip though and the journey was quite cathartic if I'm honest. It involved lots of thinking time whilst driving, lots of time with the kids, with relatives, cousins, and lots of time visiting the places of my childhood. My Grandfather's funeral, which was the reason for the trip in the first place, was lovely. A Bugler played "The Last Post" and I think he would have been very happy to have all of his family together and hearing everyone recount their favourite stories. Thank you for all of your sweet comments on my last post - they were really appreciated.

The rest of the two weeks were spent at my Dad's farm, at my sisters place, on my cousin's sofa, a few nights in a caravan park and there may have been quite a bit of op-shop trawling in the little country towns between Melbourne and Sydney. I loved showing the Kids around Canberra, our nation's Capital and where I lived whilst attending University. I couldn't believe how much this place had changed in the years since my last visit. We visited the Australian Wall memorial, Parliament House, walked around the lake, had dinner with old friends and the kids got a kick out of seeing the Irish Pub where Mummy and Daddy met and fell in love. On the last day of our trip we received the most wonderful news. My Brother-In-Law and his wife had welcomed their first precious baby into the world. A beautiful little girl. There really is no better news than the birth of a baby is there? We are all thrilled to bits. 

There's lots happening around the farm here too and I'm also really looking forward to catching up on all of your news. I've missed you guys!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Toodle Pip

Hello Friends. 

It is with a heavy heart that as we welcome in a new year our family must bid farewell to our beloved Grandfather, who passed away peacefully a couple of days ago at the age of 97. To live such a long, healthy and happy life and to be surrounded by so many loved ones is a fortunate life indeed and a life to be celebrated. I am grateful for this. And he will be sorely missed.

Two years ago, an 8 year old Eleanor came home from school after a day of completing the national school exams (NAPLAN). She said the written exam was to "Nominate someone who should be a hero and explain why".  In a exam where most kids wrote about their Mums, Dads, a cricket legend or a superhero, she said she wrote about her Great Grandfather. I couldn't have been prouder. When asked what she wrote about she said she wrote about how he was a soldier in World War II fighting to protect our country, how he still marched in the ANZAC parade in Sydney every year and about when the Japanese Submarines entered Sydney harbour he was at the hospital putting mattresses over the windows of the maternity wards. Many people don't realise how close we came to War in this country. A hero indeed. 

He was the gentlest of souls, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and a role model for all of us to work hard, enjoy life, travel, and have hobbies. A true gentleman. He was a fan of beginning a visit with "Elevenses", "Oneses", or "Fiveses" depending on the time of day you arrived and finishing a visit with a "Toodle Pip!" on the front balcony.  I will always remember the way he used to hold my hand and my earliest memory is of me bouncing on his knee with him saying he was "clickety click 66". I asked him on one of our visits last year whether he had any advice on life for me and he simply said "Look after yourself. And look after other people". Wise words. So friends, there will be no resolutions for me this year. I will simply be taking my Grandfather's advice and trying my best to do just that. 

Toodle Pip Uppy, may you now rest in peace, together again with our beloved Grandmother.
Things may be quiet for the next few days as I begin the journey by car from Hobart to Sydney with the 5 children on my own. It's a big trip but you know I love a good road trip and I will do anything to have as many of us with the rest of the family in Sydney for the funeral on Tuesday. We're heading off at 3.30am to catch the Ferry across to Melbourne so I best get some rest.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I really need to start thinking about Christmas

At what point is it deemed too late to put up the Christmas Tree I wonder? We still haven't got ours up but with 3 days to go I have high hopes that tonight will still be acceptable. I have it all planned in my head. It's just a matter of going outside with the little saw and finding that perfect She-oak to cut down. We'll then sip champagne and delight in the sultry sounds of Diana Krall whilst gazing at our adoring offspring working harmoniously together to decorate the tree in a slow and careful manner. The smell of the pudding on the stove with the brandy infused fruit that I lovingly prepared days earlier will be wafting through to the lounge room as I delight in placing the presents I bought in July under the tree. 

In reality, Daniel will get lost in the messy shed before he manages to find the saw, there are still no presents under the non-existent tree and no pudding either. When the saw is finally found, marital relations will be brought to a head as a passionate debate over the height of the living room ceilings ensues. As always we will come to a compromise and cut the tree to the size I suggest. It will be too tall. Whilst I retrieve the box of decorations from the spot I left them temporarily a year ago the dutiful Husband in his wisdom will cut off the top of the tree instead of the bottom leaving the tree with an unexpected flat top that I won't roll my eyes over because it's Christmas. The offspring will be having their own lively debate and negotiations over who gets to put the 'good' decorations on the tree whilst Flynn sees his first Christmas bauble (a glass one of course) which he thinks is a ball and therefore flings it across the room where it will smash to a million pieces (this happens every year we have a male toddler in the house at Christmas). Precautionary socks will be retrieved from the sock mountain and the dust-buster will now have to make an appearance drowning out Diana's soulful tunes and  thus bringing the Christmas cheer that began so promisingly only 5 minutes earlier to an all time low. There will eventually be tears, probably mine, and to top things off the dog will eat the pompom off the Christmas Bear's hat (it's made of wool you understand) and when one of the kids lets off a squeal of alarm the dog will drop the bear and then nick off with any remaining baubles and take them to his secret stash at the side of the house. We will go and retrieve said baubles and find our missing shoes. The innersoles will be chewed to oblivion but the shoes will be mostly in tact. There's always a silver lining isn't there? At least we don't have to look too far from the source to find the remnants of our comic books.

So what's the cause of the extra Christmas tardiness? We've been flat out dealing with the Strawberry Situation. Those Sweet Annes truly are the gift that keeps on giving. Just when we think we've picked them all, merely a few days later they are back again in all their glory. No one here in the family is complaining about the lack of Christmas cheer within the home. I think it's because Christmas 2014 marks the beginning of a new Christmas tradition for us, one that involves a busy mum and dad dealing with the Strawberry Situation, but one that also involves an abundance of the most delicious fresh berries and a home that smells like the strawberry shortcake doll I had in the 80's.  We're celebrating in a different way and very happy to do so.

To keep up with the oversupply of strawberries while at the same time dealing with the annoying rain of last week that would have ruined them all we spent a day stripping the rows, cleaning, hulling and packing them into vacuum sealed bags for the deep freezer to use for jamming over the winter months. If I had the foresight to know what a hit the vacuum sealer machine would be with the kids I'd have wrapped it in a red bow for Christmas. They would have been thrilled. Here is a 10th of the amount of Strawberries that occupied our kitchen the day we picked 350kg of Strawberries. I stole myself away from the vacuum sealer to snap the sight of not one, but 3 gorgeous men working away at my kitchen bench, it would have been rude not to.

To further ensure not a single Strawberry goes to waste we have also signed up for 2 markets a week - the Twilight Market on Friday nights at Sandy Bay and the Farm Gate Market in Hobart on Sundays. We have done 4 markets in the past 10 days and they have been so much fun but my goodness they are a huge amount of work in the 12 hours prior to each market to ensure the strawberries are picked fresh and packaged to perfection, not to mention juggling all of this with the 5 kids. At least the Teachers gifts were easy this year - Strawberries for all!

This has all coincided with my annual weekend away with Eleanor in Sydney.  This is a trip we do every year, just the two of us, and it is something very special that we do regardless of how busy things are at home. It is our early Christmas present. We go to the Ballet at the Opera House.  This year was the "Nutcracker" and it was absolutely beautiful. We went to just one shop, preferring to see another live show instead of buying clothes and so we saw the musical "Wicked". I had seen it 5 years ago and knew she would love it given we listened to the DVD ad nauseum on our caravan trip around Australia. It was just as fabulous as I remembered.

I think I've created a monster.

The weekend also saw my Grandfather turning an incredible 97 years old. Sadly, just a few days before his birthday he was admitted to the hospital with an infection and too unwell to attend his own birthday party. He was still in reasonably good spirits when we visited him in hospital and it is hoped he will be out of this week. But he is 97 and it is really hard to see him so frail. With  family members coming from all corners of the country to see him on his special day, we made the decision to visit him in hospital individually and then come together at my Aunty's house to celebrate his birthday even though he couldn't be there to blow out his candles. As hard as it was to not have him with us, he would have loved the fact we were all together in his honour.
Finally, this busy time of year has also culminated in the final day of school for the year with wonderful reports coming home for all of the kids, a Presentation Day, and 3 dance concerts in the last 2 days. Aren't these Tutus beautiful?
So that's what has been keeping me away from the computer these past few weeks. I am not kidding when I said to Daniel today "I just need to have a little lie down before I start thinking about Christmas". There's still 2 days left, plenty of time. Anyone else having a slow start to Christmas or am I creating a new record on tardiness?