Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Message To My Girl

Just a few hours old. I still look wiped out, but was high on adrenalin and natural endorphins - and love! 

My baby girl turns 13 today.
Just as I did as I wrote her big brother's birthday post a few weeks ago, today I'm reflecting on my earliest memories of the girl who is rapidly growing into the most beautiful young woman in the world. (I know. I'm biaised.)
I don't have the luxury of having Harmonie with me on her birthday. This year, again, she's with her other parents and it breaks my heart to be apart from her on her special day.
Living away from my kids is always difficult, but special occasions and the times when they need me are the days when being separated from my children are the hardest. (Let's not even talk about the times when I need them! Sob!)
But I'm lucky in knowing that although we're not together today, Harmonie will still be having a happy day at home and at school.
When she was here over the recent holidays, we celebrated her birthday early, and while it wasn't the same, it was almost as good.

Celebrating with her brother and friends at iPlay Australia, Albert Street, Brisbane. Like a boss!

Looking back, it's a miracle Harmonie even came into the world. There are many reasons for that, which don't need to be shared here.
But they say babies choose their parents and decide when they are ready to come into the world, and Harmonie must have been one angel who was pretty determined to fall to earth.
And she arrived early too, with my waters breaking conveniently in the morning, allowing us to drop Chase at child care on the way to hospital. I'll skip the the birth details (just mentioning the part where the power went out just as it got dramatic), and get to the part where our little angel arrived at a respectable time in the afternoon. Which meant Chase could visit his little sister before dinner. It was all very civilised. (Harmonie always has been a considerate child ...)
With the years flying by so fast, I decided to share my memories and advice for Harmonie, just as I did for her brother on his recent birthday. Bits and pieces of her life, and things I may have already told her, but want her to know anyway. (That's called 'Doing a Mumma at our house).

A Message To My Girl (Ramblings of a Mumma, Part 2)

- We always joke that you spent the first few years of your life crying. Actually that isn't quite true. While you did cry a lot - you were a reflux baby - looking at all the photos of you over the years, all I can see are images of you smiling, laughing and/or looking mischievous. Occasionally you are putting a sad face on, but it was usually in jest.
- You did love to be picked up though. In fact, I couldn't put you down, or you would cry. I had to wear you in a baby sling to get anything done, and your Dad and I invested in a second hand baby swing to help you sleep during the day. I quickly learned the skill of typing one-handed. We had a few aupairs in the early years because I was working full time, and our Japanese aupair Ayako nicknamed you 'The Koala' because you loved to be cuddled. And she loved cuddling you! (So did I).
- You loved your Mumma from day one. Unlike Chase, you rarely liked going to other people. There was one wonderful girl, who we'd used since Chase was a toddler, who couldn't manage to get you to sleep without you first crying so much you made  yourself sick! So we just stopped going out. Except for that time we asked your Dad's parents to look after you for a special occasion. But we got a call after about 90 minutes, begging us to come home. They loved you to bits, but just couldn't get you to settle. Then my parents came to visit and I thought they had the magic touch. But we came home early from a concert one night to find my Dad lying on the floor beneath your cot, holding your hand, and Mum in a chair beside you, patting your tummy. That was the only way they got you to go to sleep!
- Similarly, child-care, prep and school (in the early days) were always a challenge. There were times when you had to be practically peeled off me. You would cry as if your heart would break. Staff always assured me you settled quickly. A few times, I snuck back to check and you were playing quite happily. It was just the Mumma factor at play!
- You were a popular member at all of the above from day one, no matter which school you have attended. Over the years, I've watched you blossom into a confident student. You have always been called on by teachers to help show new kids around, help those who might be having a hard time, or who need help making friends. At times I know that's been a drain on you, but you always accept it with good grace.

My fearless girl! Taken at Centenary Rocks Park, Seventeen Mile Rocks, Qld

- Despite the early need for comfort and a bad case of separation anxiety, for most of your life you have had the courage of a lion. In playgrounds, you were always at the top of climbing frames, slippery slides (and in New Zealand, where they are still allowed), hanging out on roundabouts. Other kids would be sick, but not my girl. And you'd swing on the monkey bars until there were callouses on your little hands! You were a natural at gymnastics, always effortlessly climbing the rope to the top of the roof; swinging into the foam pit; lifting your body weight as it were nothing, and doing somersaults with poise. You were also brilliant at martial arts. Such a strong body!

Harmonie - lying on the glass floor of the Sky Tower in Auckland, NZ, and freaking me the hell out! I could barely walk on it without feeling feeble!

- You have such a good, pure heart and always want to help others,. I remember when one of your friends was having problems and couldn't talk to her own Mum about what was happening for complicated reasons You bought her home to me and said: 'You can tell my Mum anything. She'll help you.' She did and we did.
-  Do you remember your 'nanees'? Sometimes you had two, three, four or more on the go at once. And you always had a lot of soft toys, all with their own names and stories.

Princess Harmonie - Front page of an clothing catalogue for the Asian market

- You were a child model, which was more by luck than design. You starred in an upmarket catalogue for an Asian clothing brand, which involved me taking several days off work and being part of a weird new world, where parents were catered for and children were sometimes berated by their stage parents (which is when we were called in!)  This particular cover photo involved a topless model playing your Mum, and me standing by to drop a tiara on your head for what seemed like hours! You were known as "Princess Harmonie" in that campaign! Chase was roped in too, when the 'difficult' talent provided by the modelling agents wouldn't perform and the photographer, who desperately needed unspoiled talent, thought of us. Your photos were emailed around the world and we were given the go-ahead and that was it! There were a few other shoots for you both as well, including one for nappies. The money was banked for you for when you were older, and I hope you get to use it one day. I always wondered if that was an avenue we should pursue but none of us seemed overly keen, so we left it at that.

Another of your modelling shots

- I love how you enjoy cooking and tasting foods. You and Chase were both by my side cooking from an early age. I always said the extra time and mess would be worth it if you developed a love for food and cooking, and it proved to be so. But you've added your own slant on it, especially with your love of Japanese food, tea parties, and picnics.

One of your famous cakes, made from scratch, for a family event. Before you added the home-made chocolate bark. 

- I'm so proud of how well you are doing at all of your subjects, but especially Japanese. I hope you can go to Japan one day soon. (I pray I get to take you and your brother - you would love it!)
- You were an arts and crafty child, and even had me making my own coloured and scented play dough. Even though I'm not crafty! Later we did painting, and beading and all kinds of things. We often had to set up outside because of the mess. Thanks for helping me discover that side of myself. (I could have done without the glue gun burns when I helped out at school though ...)
- You've always been such a supporter of my career, asking me to speak at school, coming along to my events, and even taking photos on occasion. You'd make a great PA, or perhaps a writer or photographer yourself. (But then there are so many other options open to you like language teaching, interpreter work or many more. Choose your own passion my love. And don't be surprised if that changes as you get older.)
- You're a good judge of character, just like your brother. Don't ever lose that sense of trusting your instincts. They are nearly always right. (I followed your advice by the way ...)

Never lose that ability to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature and of a moment in time ... (Taken at sunset at Mooloolaba Beach, Qld)

- Some of these sound similar to the things I told Chase, but I love your kindness to animals, kids, the elderly, anyone in need. Your appreciation of nature. Getting up to watch the sunrise, or going out with me to enjoy the sunset. So special.
- Thank you for always reminding me that I'm actually a good parent. Not just in words but in the way you act, where I see my own actions coming back at me. I remember being ill with pneumonia, and you appearing at my bedside in the middle of the night, with a fresh sick bowl, a damp wash cloth, honey and a spoon. "Sip it, Mumma, it will ease your cough," you said. No child should have to take care of her mother. But I knew exactly who you learnt that from and God, I loved you for it.
- In the same way, you've organised home spa days for me on days like Mother's Day, or - now you are getting older - for us. Or decorated my bedroom in the style of a resort room. Or getting up on the last night we were at home these holidays, and tidying up the kitchen and lounge as a surprise for me the next morning. Bless you.

With Chase on a ferry in Samoa 

- You've always loved your brother and looked up to him (yes you have) even when he's driven you crazy. Please continue to do that. You guys need each other. You've had so many adventures together and there are so many more to come.

One of your home-made cubbies at our former family home at Riverhills, Brisbane 

- I've mentioned it before but I love the kindness and thoughtfulness in your heart. The way you leave me little notes to find every time you go back to your other home. The words you use which are special between us. That you even think of how I might feel, walking into an empty home after I've dropped you off, moves me beyond words. You are wise beyond your years.

Having a picnic with Lucy

- Your love for animals has always been a constant. From puppies and kittens, to grown-up animals, and even guinea pigs and goldfish. I've lost count of the guinea pig burials I had to preside over, and how much each one hurt you. I love how you don't just love animals but you care for them. Washing them, brushing them, making sure they are fed and watered. Even picking up Lucy's poo when we go for a walk (in a baggie of course!).

These are just a few of the things I love about you. I have loads of advice for you but I don't think it needs to be shared in a public space.
But you know that I'm here whenever you need to ask something or talk about anything. Anything at all.
I know I'm not perfect but we know I am forever working on improving myself and being the best mother I can be for you and your brother.
Happy birthday Harmonie.
I hope you have the best day and that we get to have a sauna and a spa together again soon. Maybe even a massage? You deserve some spoiling too!

The most beautiful young woman in the world. Taken at Pottique Lavendar Farm, Kingaroy. 


Monday, February 8, 2016

Message To My Boy

Australia Day, 2016. Also Chase's 15'th birthday. View from our room at the Brisbane Marriott.

I’m looking out at the Brisbane River as I write this post.
The river holds so many memories for me.
We lived by the river in the early years of the children’s’ lives, and I still miss the daily waxing and waning, the passing traffic, the morning and  afternoon walks which could always be counted on to relieve a stressful day or soothe the soul (the childrens’ or mine!)
I spent much of the night and the morning after my wedding to my children’s father watching the river wake up from our hotel suite, feeling our firstborn child kicking inside of me.
High on the excitement of our wedding day, as always troubled by insomnia, kept awake even more so by the movements of a busy unborn baby, and captivated by the view, I had so much to think about. *
As I did on the morning of Chase’s 15th birthday. 
After so many changes in our lives, we were temporarily back in Brisbane where he and his sister Harmonie’s lives began.
As I once again sat beside a hotel room window and watched the city light up, I remembered how the baby who was to become the most important male in my life was a livewire even before he was born.
One of the early ultrasounds showed him doing somersaults inside of me. Arms and legs would protrude from my body at random times, like something out of the movie ‘Alien’.
Chase was an active baby from pretty much the moment he was conceived, causing all manner of adventures during pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond.
Yet, I’ll always remember those magical moments immediately after he came into the world. After all the action of labour, my newborn did not cry, but looked around calmly with liquid eyes, almost as if he recognised us.
Later, the comments we always got were: ‘He’s been here before’. And: ‘He’s an old soul’.

Certainly, Chase has a reputation for being wise beyond his years. “The little professor”, he was often described as, with at times, a sense for the dramatic. And a sense of humour that has always cracked me up.
I didn’t get to finish this post on Chase’s actual birthday, because I was too busy sharing the day with him and his sister. Coincidentally, it was also the last day before the kids went back to their other parents ahead of the start of the school year, so our time together was extra special.
As part of both their birthday presents, and to prevent yet another crazy early-morning drive to Brisbane for the airport run, I’d arranged for us to spend the day and night before in the city where they had spent so much of their lives.
That mini break holiday is a whole other post, but in the meantime, I traditionally write a piece to mark each child’s birthday. This one’s for Chase.

Happy birthday Baby. And thanks to the Brisbane Marriott staff for sending up cake and mocktails to mark the occasion.

As I mentioned, this year, Chase turned 15. As the years fly by and he grows rapidly into a young man, I found myself, once again, marveling at the surprises of parenthood. Like the fact that one of the very special things is that your children end up teaching you as much as you teach them. Perhaps more.
So I thought this year’s birthday post for Chase could focus on some of those things. (And I know all parents gush about their kids, so forgive me please. I also do my share of nagging and complaining, so I figure it works out about even in the end).

Chase’s 15th birthday messages (Ramblings of a Mumma)
  • One of the first words you said after Da-Da and Mumma was ‘Dei-Dei’ for Daisy our Labrador. You also said ‘Brink’ for water and carried a water bottle with you everywhere.
  • You were possibly the first unintentional baby ‘cake smasher’. When we posed you next to your christening cake for a photo, you gleefully punched your fist into it, pulled your hand out, looked at in wonder, and put it into your mouth. That’s my boy!
  • You were the most engaging child. You smiled at everyone, and you were pretty much always happy. The only times you weren’t, was if there was a problem and /or you were sick. You were also a pretty good judge of character, and that’s a skill you still have.
  • Dr Greg, our GP for many years, referred to you as ‘Sultana Boy’ for sucking a sultana up your nose at kindy. He wasn’t able to get it out, so I ended up having to take you to the ER, where they told me to basically push my mouth over your nose and blow it out! Just one of the many gross things I’ve had to do in the name of motherhood. Remember that when I’m old(er) and you have to do something hideous for me.
  • You might remember Dragonball Z being your first TV show/DVD, but you actually loved the Wiggles and the Hooly Doolys first.  If I ever hear the song ‘Pizza Pizza’ again, it will be too soon…
  • You are a never-ending source of information, and never cease to surprise me.

The young man who can, without fuss, cook a barbie for a very large family reunion (with extras) and knows the exact temperature to cook the meat to ensure no one gets food poisoning. I bow down to you. 
  • I admire your knowledge of first aid, science, maths, chess, technology, and so many concepts that I can’t get my head around. I also wish I had your stomach and calm attitude when it comes to blood, gore, and situations where people’s safety and/or health are at risk.

Them Skills. Multi-tasking by entertaining kids, our dog Lucy, and taking photos - plus keeping an eye on the barbie - recently. (Taken at Mount Wooroolin Lookout, Kingaroy)
  • I’m so proud at your diligence with school and your determination to work  harder this year. I know your Dad and step-mum have played a big part in this and I thank them for that
  • I’m glad that you are finding your path. But don’t be afraid to meet new challenges as they are presented. Chances are, they will always make you more confident, wiser and stronger.
  • I love your quick sense of humour, your empathy, and your positive outlook on life. Try not to lose that, even when life gets tough. And when it does, remember, it will get better. It always does.  
  • I love that you are mindful (sometimes without realising it), and that you see things that others may miss. Like a great view, wonderful food, a photo opportunity, a person struggling in a crowd who might need help.

Taking in a view and appreciating the moment is actually being mindful. (Photo taken from the Executive Lounge of the Brisbane Marriott on Chase's 15th birthday - also Australia Day!)
  • I admire how patient you are with others, like little children, animals, and my ailing mother. Even me at times! Like when you are trying to explain, yet again, the rules of chess.

Yet another game of chess, this time in the comfort of the Executive Lounge of the Brisbane Marriott Hotel. On this occasion, you did not let me beat you, but I'll get there, one day. (Maybe?)
  • Keep up that appreciation for the little things that matter, like long-time friendships, family connections, our family history, caring about animals and appreciating nature.

Thanks for having the bright idea of having Pa-Pa tell you about the good old days at the Wondai Timber Museum, where he used to volunteer, and which displays some items from his family farm and former carrying business. I think you made Pa-Pa's week. 
  • I know that sometimes you and your sister argue, but that’s normal. I also know you care about her. (Yes you do!) Keep looking out for each other. Remember that weird saying: ‘Blood is thicker than water’? Friends and partners come and go. Siblings stick by you forever (if you want them to).

Love your sister! No one will 'get' you like she does. And vice versa. (Taken at Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand.)
  • I know sometimes that we ‘have spirited discussions’. But that’s because we are very similar, and I hope we can continue to have these very honest and open talks for the rest of our lives. I enjoy them immensely. (Even if I get frustrated – at myself – that I can’t answer all your questions, know ALL the things, sometimes have to admit that I'm wrong, or agree to disagree. And that's okay. I respect your right to have an opinion that is different to mine.)
  • It makes me smile when I hear some of my sayings come back at me. “You don’t have to like it, but I just ask that you give it a try”, you said a few times these holidays, when I didn’t feel like reading something out of my comfort zone, or watching something I thought I’d hate. I’ll keep trying the things you ask me to, and if I don’t, throw that statement at me. You’ll guilt me into it, I promise. It’s payback for all those times I eventually got you to eat broccoli and peas. ‘They’re little trees,’ I told you. And ‘Anthony, the Blue Wiggle, loves them.’ I owe you for that! 
  • While we are at it, I'm sorry for all those White Lies and Tall Stories by the way, especially the ones about wolves. I thought I was doing the right thing. I didn’t realise I was potentially scarring you for life! Forgive me. 

Okay, I didn't arrange for the Story Bridge to be lit up just for you. The fireworks might have been on for Australia Day also ...
  • Thank you for reminding me how much I love music and that I have missed playing piano. I’ve enjoyed teaching you a few songs and I’m promising publicly to learn a few new ones, so we can have a bit of a play-off when you return in April.
  • Thanks for teaching me about the man who “owns” the moon, the latest first-aid advice (I really must renew my skills), and persisting with trying to re-teach me chess. In return, I promise to continue to source cool collector, gaming, comic stores and anime shops; to continue my quest to speak up and/or send food back when orders are wrong, and to get fitter so I can hike even further without puffing on our next trip to the Bunya Mountains.

DO go chasing waterfalls! (Photo taken at the Bunya Mountains National Park) 
  • I am not perfect, but I promise you this: I will always strive to be the best mother I can to you and your sister, and the best person I can be,

I'm not known for my domestic goddess or cake decorating skills. I will continue to make cakes for you, but I won't make you eat them! Promise.
  • It goes without saying: I’m always here for you no matter what. And nothing is too big or too bad that it can’t be worked out.
  • Remember your stretches, develop your core, and always wear sunscreen.  
  • But please, don’t ever make me gut a fish again!
Most of all, thanks for being my son, my friend, my teacher, my muse, my heart.

I hope you had a happy birthday, and that there are many more to come.

And next time, can I have the espresso mocktail? 

* By sharing these early memories, I don't mean any disrespect to Chase's other parents or their relationship. I feel very lucky that the kids have caring parents in their lives who love them very much. I just wanted to share my earliest and most recent experiences with my son to mark this milestone.