A Complicated Canvas

These lofty sentiments were my goals for 2017.

The year dawned heavily – body laden with the demands of pregnancy, a school transition looming, the hovering apprehension of how another would adjust to the routine of Kinder. Privately Dave and I discussed how the year would probably be our most difficult yet, with the realities of keeping a newborn alive on top of the much-voiced demands of the other three children.

And then somehow it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, life was crazy. We encountered many setbacks and tough times.

A family member was hospitalised for short time with complications arising out of a debilitating disease.

Harvey’s birth was fraught with complications and difficulties when he became stuck during the labour process. Then he struggled with jaundice for weeks, with levels hovering close to that requiring phototherapy.

I struggled with health issues for a good three months, having caught a nasty bug that refused to dislodge itself. After spending an entire month with no voice I desperately sought the help of a specialist who prescribed a cocktail of medication that finally brought me back to equilibrium with a cost – being unable to continue breastfeeding.

Hudson underwent three types of surgery at once, taking a solid fortnight with around the clock pain medication to return to his cheery, cheeky self.

Eli found it difficult to navigate friendship issues and adjust to the constantly changing reality that is found in primary school relationships.

We had to scramble to find creative means of transportation when our car suddenly lost the ability to accelerate. When sinking money into it to replace parts failed to fix the vehicle, we became lost in the vortex of novated lease applications, car reviews and internet advertisements.

These events happened.

They tossed us about for a time and we responded with frustration, sadness and disappointment.

But they do not even come close to capturing the story.

The introduction of Harvey changed us. He swept into our family with a sense of calm, an uncanny ability to sleep and a joyful embrace of our chaotic reality. After the fracturing year of Hudson’s health problems and constant agony, then the healing experience that was Ivy’s birth and babyhood, Harvey enabled me to just enjoy being a mother again. To savour the moments with a sense of gravity that these would be our last.

School hours worked well for us – getting us out of the house and making the days fly by. We established a workable routine that soon became second nature, allowing us (mostly) to get out of the front door in the mornings without screaming matches and missing shoes. There were definitely still cringeworthy moments, I assure you.

Hudson and Ivy blossomed in their connection together, coming alive with the additional space during school days – concocting imaginary worlds, playing at being parents, doctors, fire-fighters, teachers. Some days they hardly needed me, appearing only when they became hungry or when disagreements toppled the game.

At Kinder, Hudson thrived – slotting into the new arena with ease and making fast friends. After the surgery we noticed an almost immediate difference in his clarity of speech, his hearing and his ability to sleep deeply. After two years (!) of needing Dave to sleep in his room every night, he has finally (very recently) graduated to sleeping through the night on a bunk bed in Eli’s room.

Eli entered the magical world that is the print universe, devouring books and begging to keep his night lamp on so that he can just finish a few more pages. His struggles with rage completely subsided and he is now able to use words to express the overwhelming emotions that capsized him before.

Ivy smoothly slid into the role of big sister, developed a wicked sense of humour and kept us scrambling to find enough paper and textas to supply her constant need to draw. She is like a warrior princess – loves the sparkle and glamour, but don’t underestimate her fierce temper or right hook. She has proven herself more than capable of holding her own amidst three brothers.

I wholeheartedly embraced hospitality again, with cocktail parties, crazy hour dinners, French and Portuguese feasts and the anticipation of so much more. I became swept away whilst reading Jane Webster’s memoir and cookbook ‘At My French Table’ and became enchanted with the idea of creating a similar existence here. Cuisine cooking returned, with explorations of Italy, Spain, Brazil, Portugal, Serbia and Croatia and Scandinavia. Dinnertime became my canvas for creativity and I looked forward each evening to creating new dishes.

We discovered ‘Around the World Stories‘ and avidly listened to adventures set in Germany, France, Denmark, Greece and Sweden. Eli cheekily introduced the phrase ‘Pasteis De Nata’ (custard tart) to the playground, though he turned it into a declaration instead, raising his fingers in a sign of peace before bounding off to perform ninja moves.

(An Apfelstrudel with Vanilla Sauce that we cooked using one of the Around the World Stories recipes.)

Dave thrived at work and wrestled with some big decisions about whether or not to continue his PhD, moving onto a Masters of Business Administration instead. He dreamed big this year, honing in on his dream to start microschools and connected a few big dots that allowed him to clarify the overall picture.

We had little getaways to the City, Ballarat, Sorrento, Mornington and Bendigo – making vivid memories together and making the most of what Victoria has to offer. The effort it took to pack and manage the differing needs of a constantly changing family was more than outweighed by the value of connection and the chance to slow down together.

Life is complicated.

It ebbs and flows, peaks and tumbles and we have little control over the circumstances that befall us. All that we can do is master the story that we tell ourselves, the narrative that holds the disparate events together.

And that can be a memorable masterpiece.

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