Once upon a memory...

Stories and pictures from country Tasmania, with a dash of freshly baked cookies and a brand new bun, fresh from the oven.
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Mrs Smyth Gets a Life

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I’m moving blog-house. I’ve been wanting a more flexible template, an easier platform to work with, and somewhere where my friends who weren’t on tumblr could comment and follow easily. So Tumblr, I want to say it’s not you, it’s me… but really it’s a 50/50 thing…

Pop on over to Mrs Smyth Gets a Life and say hi!

If you can’t see the link it’s http://www.blog.amykendall.com.au


R U Ok?

At various times in my life I’ve felt anxious. I’ve felt depressed. I’ve been unable to get out of bed. I’ve cried by myself and I’ve cried in the arms of those who love me. I’ve wondered fleetingly if it’s all worth it. (yes, it is. the answer is always yes.) Then, I open my eyes, I blow my nose, I push the doona covers back and I stand up. Sometimes on shaky legs, but I stand up and I find a kernel of sunshine in my day. This is now easier, as I don’t need to look very far to find a kernel 8kg fat roll of sunshine. 

It seems fitting that as I sat down to write this I realised that next Thursday is R U OK? day. 

Since becoming a mother everything, EVERYTHING, touches me tenfold. We can no longer watch the news as we eat dinner as stories of starving children send us both dissolving into tears. I couldn’t watch a show on September 11 last night because all I could think about was what the people stuck in those towers were thinking… their families? What were they thinking?

Today I held someone close and whispered in her ear that she’s ALWAYS worth it. Always.

On my drive home to pick up my daughter from Play School today I couldn’t help but reinforce into my own head that along with all the responsibilities I’d realised already, there was another one. I will always be fundamentally ‘OK’ for Millie.

Following Millie’s birth I had times where I wasn’t okay and I wondered if I ever would be again. And the guilt following that. And the guilt of wondering why I was looking at the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen and not feeling much at all. Then one day she smiled at me, and I began to heal. 

What has helped me exponentially in these times is being able to communicate with others who sometimes ask ‘Are you okay?’, and sometimes they don’t need to.

When I think about RU OK? day now, as a parent, I think it’s more important than ever. It breaks my heart into a million pieces to think that for every person that takes their life there is a parent wondering why. Because in every parent’s eyes their child is always a tiny newborn in their arms whom you need to guide and protect, and ask RU OK?

Whilst today’s hyper-connected society can be isolating it can also be wonderfully supportive. I have a brilliant Facebook mother’s group who hold my hand from time to time, and I hold theirs. I have an astonishingly wonderfully supportive bunch of Twitter friends (Twitterati) who are always there, and have been there in person as well. And when you live in the sticks and are a bit crowd shy like I do and am, this is super important and I am so grateful.

Friends, my point is to take some time on any given day and chat to someone who perhaps you couldn’t find the time to previously. You could make their day and help them find the light out of a dark place. And remember, you are always worth it. Always.

If you need to talk to someone call Lifeline 24hrs/day on 13 11 14. You can also talk to someone at Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36. And don’t forget to have a look at RU OK?. OK?

(this photo is taken at Taupo. When I’m feeling sad face, I go to my ‘happy place’, which is my NZ honeymoon last year. I miss the North Island so much.)

Mrs Smyth Gets a Life #1

My whole life I’ve had various hobbies that filled in quiet moments. Occasionally these hobbies would grow larger and larger until they required more supplies (a short lived quilting obsession) or allowed me to make a living from them (writing songs). It’s safe to say that most of them wax and wane and certain moods or seasons would bring them out to play again.

Then, I fell pregnant. I lost most creative urges, so I played out my list of booked gigs, fiddled about with some letterpressing and handicrafts and simply wanted to think about Being a Mother. How fulfilling it would be, growing and raising a human, with sunlight filled jaunts in the vegie garden and going everywhere with a baby. The baby wouldn’t cry because I’d know precisely what to do, because I would be It’s Mother. I’d wear my hair loose and flowing with no need for shoes… 

That last bit’s a joke. I really like shoes. But can you see where I’m going with this…?

After my mad nesting flurries where I baked five dinner meals in an afternoon, made doona covers and matching chairs and canvas hangings for the walls and crocheted my firstborn a toy cat and washed and folded tiny pink clothes I was ready for a baby. I was ready to Be a Mother.

Then after an interesting labour, our daughter Millie was here. By week 12 I was beginning to have a handle on this whole motherhood gig. Then, I realised that I was…bored. Enjoying my time with Millie, but slightly resentful of those around me with hobbies and things to do. I wouldn’t call assembling cloth nappies a Rockin Good Time, but what did I call a Rockin Good Time? I had no idea.

So I started making lists. I love a good list, but I’m often too ashamed to follow through with writing them. Fun times huh? I made a vow to myself to indulge in writing a good list about whatever tickled my fancy. It makes me happy. So I do it. 

So far, riveting topics covered have been various ‘favourites’, towns to visit and so on and so forth. See, I can’t even tell you interwebs.

But one list I will tell you about is one I’ve affectionately dubbed Mrs Smyth Gets a Life. It’s a frequently updated list of things I’d like to do, some small and some big. The first few were a bit like housecleaning… and one was ‘Finish the Plastic Bag Holder You Started in 2009’ (see picture). And I did. One Sunday I sat on the deck listening to the radio and crocheted until it was done. Glorious.

The next was ‘Sew a Headscarf’. I found a pattern and spent a day plonking the baby on the floor next to me while I tried to remember how to use my rotary cutter (thank you quilting obsession). I was chuffed with my efforts! It’s a big chunky so I’ll make another using a thinner material…but this was the only material I had. It matches my doona cover, chair and canvas wall hangings. (chortle)

Coming up this week is ‘ReRead ‘How To Have Your Second Child First’. Everyone needs this book I think… I’ll write more about it as I go.

So there you have it folks… Mrs Smyth Gets A Life… stay tuned.

Baking Days…

Are sadly few and far between at the moment. But when I do, it’s like an assembly line appears in my kitchen! My dear husband is very tactful and a perfect social delight at any given time, so I know that when he’s blunt about something, he really means it. There was a conversation about cake..

Me: ‘blah blah blah cake so good.’
Mr S: ‘You could make me cake again.’
Me: ‘crickets…’
Mr S: ‘Or slices. I’ve noticed we spend a lot of money on snack food and if you could make some cakes or slices I could take them to work. And yours are yummy.’

Goddamnit. Got me on the budgetary factor. So I pulled out the recipe folder on the weekend and found a recipe I clipped from one my mum’s magazines when I left home and have never baked. What? It was only 10 years ago.

Chocolate Carrot Slice 

1 cup SR flour (I use plain flour always and add 2tsp baking powder per cup to make SR.)
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup caster sugar (I use raw. Less processed blah blah blah.)
1/2 cup finely grated carrot
1 cup mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup choc bits
1/3 cup dessicated coconut
2 eggs, lightly beaten
90g unsalted butter, melted (I only had salted. Sue me.)

It also says cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t, so you don’t get that bit.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180oC. Line a shallow 23scm square cake time (I used a slice tin) with baking paper.
  2. Sift flour and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, carrot, mixed fruit, choc bits and coconut and stir until just combined.
  3. Add beaten eggs and butter. Stir until combined.
  4. Spread mixture evenly into prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool in tin & turn out.

So very yummy and dense. Give it a whirl…

The picture is unrelated, but you always need to see a picture of my beautiful girl.

    

What we want for you…

There’s a passage in my daughter’s Baby Book that is headed ‘What we want for you in this world’. It’s still blank because there’s so many things we want for her that I haven’t been able to articulate them.

I want Millie to grow up in a world where she has choices. A world that is free from poverty and disease. A world where she feels she can make a difference. Heady stuff. She’s already got a great start on this. She was lucky enough to be born in Australia, a first world country with many things. Federally funded health care. Work equality. Freedom to speak her mind. The freedom to make choices about birth control. Running water in her house. A non leaky roof over her head. Parents that love her. Freedom to marry whom she chooses, for love is all you need. Wait one minute.

Before I jump on in, let me begin this by telling you that I am married. And when we married last October, the non-removable part of our vows was along the lines of ‘In Australia, The Marriage Act defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.’ Because right now that is how our country defines marriage.

Now let’s rewind a bit. The big issue when my baby boomer mother was in her formative years was women’s rights and equality. The big issue when I was growing up was homosexuality. In my household it was no big deal. We spoke about it and my parents went to pains to make sure my siblings and I knew it was okay. I vividly recall a conversation between early teenaged me and my father - ‘What do you mean he’s gay?’ ‘Yep. He’s gay.’ ‘Oh. So <insert name here>’s his boyfriend then?’ ‘Yep.’ ‘Huh.’ And that was it.

It wasn’t like that for a lot of people, and when I was growing up to be called homosexual was still an insult. I can’t imagine that in many schools today that it’s still an insult and for this I rejoice.

It never occurred to me until years later that same sex couples were not allowed to marry. I’m proud that Millie will grow up in such a household where homosexuality is not a big deal. We may not speak about it, because it’s not a big deal.

Back to marriage. I cannot buy into the idea that same sex marriage devalues a traditional marriage. I cannot understand it. Why, on some level, are we still comparing ourselves as superior to others? It’s like saying African Americans can’t patronise the same bar as Caucasian people. Or saying Aboriginal Australians can’t vote. Thankfully we don’t advocate these backward ideals anymore.

I’m constantly avoiding arguments about same sex marriage within social & traditional media because I can’t believe it’s an issue. I don’t care if couples of the same sex get married. I simply don’t. I care that they can’t make a choice to, because I love the country that we live in and part of that love of our free country is the choices you can make.

Vegemite or Promite? (As if that’s a question anyway. Vegemite always wins.)
Buy a house or rent?
Have more children or only one?
Go to work or stay at home?
Regular unleaded or premium petrol?
Openly practice a religion or state your atheism?

These are very basic choices. Followed on by a choice that only straight couples can make… to marry or live in a de facto relationship?

I’m baffled by the time and energy expended by both non religious and religious folk in making sure the government decision for same sex couples to marry will be still a ways away yet. I’d like to know why other’s decision to marry offends your sensibilities. How does another’s expression of love change your expression of love? If it helps, my husband and I are not religious. We got married. And I was pregnant when we did. Does that offend your sensibilities? Why? What does it make you feel about yourself?

I hope we live in a time where my daughter grows up and feels confident about stating her sexuality and is able to marry whomever she chooses. And that should she choose to marry, she will not be applauded or made an example of, because I wish for anyone’s decision to marry to be a joyful one that can happen any day, to anybody.

That is what I wish for my daughter. Choice.

(There’s information over here, but the best way you can help is to talk about it. Start conversations and talk away.)

From the kitchen…

This is Chris. He lives in the paddock directly behind my house. I’m often startled by his intense staring into our windows as we are down the slope from his paddock. It’s not that he’s rude about it, it’s more that one never really expects a massive horse to be peering in your windows.

He belongs to my neighbour’s grandson and is living out his golden years munching on grass and staring into my house. Until I found out otherwise I called him Javier, because that’s an appropriate horse name for a noble steed his size. Then my neighbour said ‘Chris the ‘orse’ and my romantic visions of a Proud Stallion were replaced with those of a Standard Country Horse. Chris is a gentle soul who adores rubs and carrots. I’m surprised the boundary fence has held up to his crushing weight as he leans into it to nibble on that elusive blade of grass ever far away from his paddock. He and Lucy often have little love stares at each other through the spare room window, and I can’t bring myself to tell one the actual size of the other. Love, huh?

This is the face…

That keeps me up all night. I hear you saying ’Well duh Amy. Of course a baby will keep you up all night.’

And it’s true. But not with her sleep resistance, all singing, all dancing tap routines. She keeps me awake with her SLEEPING.

Rustle rustle. Snuffle. Snort. Fart. Rustle rustle. Sigh. Snuffle. Poo. Lather, rinse and repeat. 

Since 5ish weeks she’s been a champion nighttime sleeper.* We got with the program at around 10 weeks and started putting her to bed by 7.30pm instead of 8.45. Then we tried for 7pm. I almost threw the towel in because my beautiful 7-9hr stretches baby suddenly went to 5-6 hours. And when you go to bed 3 hours after your baby, that’s not a lot of sleep. But we persisted and now she’s regularly sleeping 7-9hours at a time again.

But I digress. My fellow Mummy friends tell me that Oxytocin is the most wonderful natural hormone ever.
'I just go straight back to sleep, it's GREAT.' says one.
'I never woke up for the baby, my husband would bring them over to me.' says my mother in law. 

Not I. I toss and turn. Too hot. Too cold. What should I do tomorrow? I’m so tired. Why am I not asleep? WHY AM I NOT ASLEEP? Alternated with WHY AM I AWAKE ALREADY? THE BABY IS NOT AWAKE!

After the 3am feed Andy rolls on back to sleep with nary a sigh** and Millie snuffles for about 5 minutes before carrying on with her snoring. I look at the clock.

I took myself to the local naturopathic shop yesterday and they were reluctant to give me something to knock me out prescribe anything for fear I ‘wouldn’t hear my baby in the night’. That’s precisely what I want.

Until then I lie in bed with the bags under my eyes getting progressively bigger whilst listening to the two people I love the most in the world sleeping peacefully.

*before you murder me, you need to know that Millie is strictly anti-daytime sleep. I swear she whispered in my ear yesterday ‘Day sleeps are for losers Mum, and I’m so cool I’m ice cold.’

** I can trade this off by the giant sized strong cup of coffee he brings to my bedside whilst I feed Millie first thing in the morning. I will keep him.

(If you’ve read to the end I need to confess. I wrote this last night, then had a cup of herbal tea from the naturopathy shop w/two ibuprofen and took myself to bed. M slept from 7-4.45 and I slept from 9.30-4.30. Thank god.)

So… hey.

Where did my new (not so) tiny baby go? Who is this big girl? I can’t believe you’re 14 weeks old now.

Legs Eleven! Legs Eleven!

Eleven years ago a gorgeous man took me out to dinner. He didn’t tell me where, so I wore jeans. He wore a suit and tied his hair back to meet my father. Who didn’t show him the gun rack.*

He took me to the fanciest restaurant in town and kissed me goodnight on the front path of my parent’s house.

Ten years later I married him. Eleven years later we have a daughter.

Happy First Date-iversary Andrew. I wouldn’t change a single thing.**

*There was no gun rack. Andrew just feared there was.

**Okay, a tiny lie. I would have dressed up more.

(photograph by Matthew Tighe)

Jolly Jumpin’ Fun!

She was having far too much fun to be in focus. I’m so pleased that she’s big enough to play in this now. I’ve come to realise that days with a newborn are just a series of distractions. ‘Look a rattle!’
'Here, a fluffy toy!'
'Look, it's your hands!'
'Look, it's my hands!'
‘CAT. Lucy is a CAT. Meow!’
‘Try a dummy. No? How about this dummy instead? No? What about this dummy? No? This one? No? Right.’
'Hungry? Here. If you're not going to focus I'll put it away. Look. It's gone. Oh, you're hungry? Here you go.'
'Look at the TV. It's bright and shiny.'
'Sleep is good. Shh. Shh. Good girl. Sleep. No. Close your eyes. This isn't funny, Mummy isn't looking at your smile. Stop being cute. Close your eyes.' (repeat) 

And then it’s time for bed. Would I change any of it? No.