It is a fortunate thing that we don’t get a sneak preview of the month before it begins, or I may have been tempted to crawl back deep under the covers and sit this one out.
The sickness that plagued us through April continued as the kids were very generous, sharing their germs with each other and me. I came to some realisations about need to carve out some space and emotional recharge time and signed the younger kids up for a respite day of family daycare. I discovered the magic of poetry and delved back into my memories of childhood friendships to pull apart the messages that I had internalised. And Dave was admitted to hospital to have his inflamed appendix removed.
Just a few things.
Though as hard as the experience has been, so many of the insights gained would have been inaccessible, available only when the pressure was sufficient to push through the built up barriers of self-protection. So I guess you could say I’m thankful (but exhausted).
What I’m Reading
After my paltry efforts last month, I was a little more consistent this time around.
The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work (Kathleen Norris)
I had to struggle not to react against this one a little, in the sense that contemplatively kneading bread or hanging washing out simply for the experience are notions so far from where I’m at right now with three energetic pre-schoolers. However, the discussion of the vice of ‘acedia’ was very challenging for the days when I’m like “how is this my life right now?!”
Me Before You (JoJo Moyes)
Can’t say too much about this book because I read it for Book Club and we haven’t had our meeting yet, but I did get drawn into the story and the characters were very compelling. I won’t give away the ending but let’s just say I was a mess. Some of the ethical implications were a bit problematic and I guess I was looking for a little more hope? Looking forward to watching the movie.
When We Were On Fire (Addie Zierman)
Having already read Night Driving, I knew a little of the back story to Addie’s Evangelical roots. I love her vivid story-telling and the way she incorporates such colour into her formative experiences. Addie is at her best when exploring the dark feelings of depression, doubt and disappointment, and I feel like she communicates notions that connect us as humans. The ending – neatly tied and poetic in its resolution – felt a little jarring perhaps, though this may be because I know that life didn’t just float off and become a beautiful paradise. Overall, a great read.
The Enneagram of Parenting: The 9 Types of Children and How to Raise Them (Elizabeth Wagele)
Maybe it’s because my children are not yet in school, but I found the diagnostics for typing children quite vague. I skim read this one and got a few good tips, particularly about how I as a Type 1 might be seen by my children and the tendencies to avoid. There was a disconnect between the discussion of types in the first half of the book and what seemed to just be generic parenting advice in the second half. The book could have done without that second half.
What I’m Cooking
When life is predictable and we are not in survival mode, I love to menu plan in cuisines. It saves time, uses up ingredients and it inspires me as I really get a feel for the techniques, spices and ingredients commonly used in that culture.
This month we started strong with a delving back into my own cultural roots of Serbian and Croatian cuisine. I tried to cook as many dishes from Baba’s kitchen as I could recall, as well as discovering a few new ones on the internet. We savoured smoky Beef Goulash, crisp Chicken Schnitzel, Chicken Rissoles with Zelje (a garlicky mashed potato and spinach side dish), Serbian Chicken Stew, Croatian Minestrone, Meat Stew and Cheese and Spinach Burek. I even got the chance to make Baba’s famous Cherry Cake (which I’m hoping to post the recipe for soon). These dishes are part of my earliest food memories and I resonate with the hearty, home-cooking that these cuisines represent. The bonus is that the only flavourings needed are paprika, Vegeta (a vegetable stock powder) and parsley.
The final part of the month was Italian themed, though the hospital antics of the last week wreaked havoc with the menu plans. We managed to enjoy a Beef Ragu Lasagna, Chicken Cacciatore, Baked Ravioli, Pizza, Creamy Sausage Pasta, Chicken Parmigiana and Minestrone before we were very blessed with the casseroles, risottos and stews of loving friends and family.
We didn’t end up buying a new coffee machine, but I picked up a little stovetop percolator from an Op Shop for $2.99 and it is making strong, aromatic coffee that we both love. Winning!
What I’m Watching
Chef’s Table (Season 2)
This Netflix show is visually incredible, philosophically riveting and leaves us inspired every time. Dave and I experienced the first season while we were away on our roadtrip and we absolutely loved it. Each episode follows the story of a world famous chef – but explores their path to cooking, their journey through darkness and despair and their food philosophy. It always makes us think more deeply about the way we consume food, and the inherent beauty in bringing ingredients together to feed both the soul and the body. We are currently pondering the words of Alex Atala: “There is death behind every dish. People just close their eyes to it.” I also resonated deeply with the attempts of Dominique Crenn to connect with people through her poetic, story-telling, nostalgia-inducing creations and love how she describes her two Michelin starred restaurant Atelier Crenn (and the more humble Petit Crenn) as her ‘houses’ in which she hosts guests.
Nurse Jackie (Season 1)
Only just started this one (ironically two days before Dave was admitted to hospital) but we are both enjoying the conflicted character of Nurse Jackie, as she navigates ethical dilemmas whilst being addicted to pain medication. Nice to see a nuanced depiction of a human dedicating her life to helping people whilst also being completely screwed up herself.
What I’m Listening To
Podcasts are my go-to whenever I’m in the car now and I’ve listened to some exceptional ones this month.
The Robcast with Rob Bell
My preferred format is the interview and I sobbed through Rob’s session with Leith Mchugh (Episode #99). I learned more about the Zimzum with Kristen Bell (Episode #73), mystical spirituality with John Phillip Newell (Episode #75) and minimalism with Joshua Becker (Episode #91). Rob Bell’s revelations about aiming for Good vs. Perfect (Episode #66) were insightful and I’ve begun listening to the first of his series on Learning to Lament (Episode #92).
What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel
I’ve seen this podcast pop up on other blogs and on my Twitter feed and it has stoked my love of reading significantly. I have an ever-expanding list of books on my wish list now and I’m excited to get through them. I listened to chats with Brian Sztabnik (Episode #19), Jessica Turner (Episode #18), Deidra Riggs (Episode #5), and Ed Cyzewski (Episode #13).
Sorta Awesome with Megan Tietz
It is no secret that I love the Enneagram, so when I heard about Leigh Kramer doing a follow up on Extra Awesome about wings, arrows and types I was hooked. It was a great discussion and lead to a epiphany as I realised that I (as a Type 1) have a perfect embodied example of something to move towards to in my Type 7 son! It has given me a whole new appreciation for him and his natural gifts of curiousity and spontaneity.
Anne Kroeker’s Writing Coach
Just discovered this one on the final day of May (thanks to Leslie Verner at Scraping Raisins) but have already listened to Episode #52 ‘Open Your Heart and Invite Your Reader In’, and Episode #49 ‘Here’s to the Writer Mamas’ and both have refuelled me with inspiration, connecting me again to why I write.
This Month at Open House
Life in Tension was the theme for this series, and we looked at what it is that makes us get out of bed in the morning. Dave presented a sophisticated understanding of faith, hope and love: “Hope is what I want to see come to life in the future. Faith is the path or the way that I trust to bring about what I want to see in the future (my hope). And love is the driving force of my will, it’s how I direct my energies.”
The discussions that flowed on from that centred around a life of simplicity, a pursuit of minimalism, a practice of self-analysis and an awareness of the competing desires that pull us. In the meantime, the kids learned about caring for creation and sowed their own lettuce seeds.
We had a fun-filled Finglish BBQ at Alex and Monica’s house and our first experience of Messy Church at Rivercrest, run spectacularly by Caryn!
As I sit down to write the recap for the month, I review every photo taken, every video shot and always get a jolt when I go back to that first day and see how much the kids have grown and developed.
Eli is growing in leaps and bounds emotionally. Things that would have caused him to be on the floor screaming (like a lego block tower falling over or his plans being thwarted) now just make him say ‘Oh well’ (most of the time!). He is coming into his own sense of style, choosing a shirt and tie/bow-tie to wear to Kinder on two occasions, coming out of his room fully dressed brimming with excitement! He is relishing learning to sound out letters and literally leaps with joy when he reads all the words and can get the next Superhero Phonics Reader in the series.
Hudson is our joy bringer. He comes out with the most beautiful words of encouragement that you can’t help but grin at. “Wow, that’s a clever dinner, Mum!” (It was lunch and a peanut butter sandwich!), “You are a good boy/girl, Ivy!” “Oooh that’s my favourite! I LOVE you Mum!” Though beware if you run out of his favourite breakfast cereal: “That’s not asseptable”. Hudson learned how to write the first two letters of his name this month, thanks to Nanny!
Ivy is hilarious. She has this ‘look’ that she does when she knows she is being cute – squinting her eyes, ducking her head and looking up slowly with a toothy grin. She is in her element when building lego (duplo), rearranging the kitchen storage and doing as many drawings as she can in one day. Minor things like getting dressed, having her nappy changed, being put in the car seat and going to bed aren’t so much fun though – she is not in favour of having her will thwarted! She is also starting to sing along whenever we are in the car, it is pretty cute…
In amongst all the sickness and chaos, we did manage to celebrate a lovely Mother’s Day. Eli is beginning to understand the concept now and was so thoughtful and excited about the day. Dave and the kids rigged together a string that led into all the rooms of the house and Eli gave a speech about how they were thankful for what I did for them in that space (“Thank you for washing our clothes, Mum!”). There was also a little present attached in each room – it was so touching! We went to Ikea for breakfast and I also got to go along to the Kinder Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea which was heaps of fun.
We had many visits to the hospital to see Dave during the three days he was admitted. Let’s just say that hospitals and kids aren’t a great combination, even when you pack your entire pantry and a ton of colouring books to distract curious hands. We were very happy to welcome Dave back home!
When I pictured being a mother, one of the most vivid images that came to me was taking kids along with us to the special events and magical moments of celebration. On Saturday, my sister Loren and her husband, Artur celebrated their birthdays vintage-style at the Fairfield Boathouse and it was incredible! Dave was still bedridden and so I took the boys along with me (with the much-needed assistance of my parents!) for a night of adventure. We floated down the river at sunset, feeding ducks and stopping eager bodies from entering the cool caress of the water. The boys stayed up way past their bedtimes, sipping lemonade, dressing in fancy costumes and touring the room for appreciative eyes, dancing to music from eras past and sampling canapes from the passing trays. It was completely enchanting (despite the chaos and craziness of expecting two boys to adhere to the expectations of a formal occasion!).
As for the rest of the month, we avidly attended playcenters and playgrounds, enjoyed having Nick and Laura over for dinner, hung out heaps with Alex and Monica and made lots of memories.
May. What a crazy month of highs and lows…
Thankfully Dave is well on his way to recovery now, and we are starting to emerge out of that survival zone again.
Here’s to June!