Walking on the Wild Side

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Five years ago I had so little idea of how my life would morph and change. I pictured a cooing baby, Dave gazing lovingly at me as we celebrated the miracle of life together. And it was like that…kind of… amidst the exhaustion of a three day ordeal to meet the baby and the messiness of being stitched back together again. I had no idea of the depth of love I would experience, the vulnerability that I would feel when sickness and pain came visiting, and the battles of wills that would arise as Eli grew up before our very eyes.

It is hard to believe that we are five years in now… five years of operating around nap times, dealing with all sorts of mishaps around bodily functions, doling out kisses that can magically erase pain. Five years of battles over wearing pants, packing up toys, using words instead of fists… five years of enchanting quotes from tiny mouths, laughter borne out of exhaustion, creeping silently in to marvel at peacefully sleeping children. Five incredible years.

Eli recently discovered Wild Kratts, a show on Netflix that revolves around two real-life brothers – Chris and Martin – who are passionate about creatures and share their excitement and knowledge through a cartoon adventure series. The brothers quest together to save creatures from various ‘villains’ in the show and Eli is so inspired about animals now! There was little question in his mind that his party would be a ‘Wild Kratts’ theme.

If there was a Venn diagram for my passions and inspirations in life, it would probably all overlap at the word ‘party’. My love of cooking, creating, tasting, sharing memorable experiences with friends and family and concocting magic all collide (along with the challenge of throwing a party as ‘thriftily’ as possible).

We have almost honed the experience into an art form now, having thrown a party for every single one of the kids’ birthdays… which I’m just realising is no less than nine! Wow. I dream up the menu, plot the scene, spend the week gradually preparing,…and Dave swoops in at the last minute to over-cater the drinks and snacks and get all the glory as the party game master. It’s a foolproof strategy, really!

Eli helped me plan the menu this time. “I want…..chicken nuggets…tuna sandwiches… burek… and wine. For the adults!” We did all of these as well as an antipasto spread, multiple dips made by Pat, pork and mustard sausage rolls, spinach and ricotta pastries, spring rolls, and hot chips. For the sweets I flipped a huge batch of crepes with a chocolate fudge sauce, berries and cream, earthworm cupcakes, jungle jellies, Mum made her famous clinker rocky road, there was a turtle carved watermelon and a Tortuga cake.

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After a few cake flops in the past, I approach this part with a little trepidation. Let’s just say that ‘engineering’ is not a skill that got passed onto me (despite my father actually being an Engineer). But the icing and decorating part, I can mostly do that, and the relevant mantra that I live by is this: ‘Icing covers a multitude of sins‘. It really does.

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As for the rest of the scene, we ‘grew’ some trees in the living room by attaching brown paper to the wall and blowing up some green balloons as leaves. Brown paper is always my primary material – I also used it a covering for the bench to arrange food on, the base for wall art to create a Wild Kratts scene, and the bags for lolly favours to take home. Chalkboards are another easy method to transform the room, seeing as we have a number of them already on hand.

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Dave outdid himself with the games this year. He printed out some ‘creature power’ discs and created a Pass the Parcel game for the kids to get their powers. Each disc had an animal written on the back that the kids then had to find in the ‘jungle’ (the narrow reserve opposite our house) which our elder nephews had sneakily hidden while the game was going on. There was the dancing Freeze game, a game of Sharks and we didn’t even get around to the Pin the Owl on the Tree game, or the Egg and Spoon race! The look of wonder in the kids’ eyes was absolutely priceless!

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There is something quite magical about looking around at people laughing and talking, enjoying food and wine, kids shrieking with glee and chasing each other, music streaming out in the background. I enjoy creating these celebrations so much and the reward of that moment is incredible. Even the lead up to the party is filled with such anticipation as the kids watch the house become transformed and are involved in the cooking and preparations. It becomes something for our family to gather around and create together, and I love that!

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As for the entire reason behind the party – Eli Thomas Hughes – here is a letter for you…

Dear Eli,

You are so much more than I ever could have imagined.

Your warm, brown eyes sparkle with life and intelligence and sometimes I wonder if you know secrets about the universe that I’m yet to understand.

I love the space you make for me on your pillow as we ponder the mysteries of life and you patiently receive yet another impassioned speech about kindness or efficiency or some ‘important principle’ that I deem crucial to impart to you!

You are already a gentleman – holding the door open for me, rushing to my side if I am hurting, shepherding your sister around the house and reading your brother stories. Tears spring to your eyes in empathy – deeply felt – as you identify with the pain of others. You are a loyal, caring friend – endlessly writing ‘letters’ and drawing pictures for your family and playmates. 

I love your sense of humour (when it isn’t poo-related!) and the glint in your eyes as your face broadens into that cheeky smile. 

You have a keen sense of style  – bow ties, suit jackets, meticulous colour coordination. It is always so interesting to see what you have selected for the day!

I love watching you cook and create, mixing flavours with a sense of wonder. Your face is overcome with focus when you sit at the bench opposite me – moulding playdough, chopping salad ingredients, stapling paper into secret letters. 

You enter into vast and imaginative worlds, creating scenes, characters and stories that are vivid and colourful. It is entertaining and inspiring to listen to. 

We clash sometimes – anger flaring as our wills battle against the other – doors slamming in the heat of the moment. You have fire and passion… and so do I, and I’m learning to view it as that through you. 

I marvel at your complexity and humanity and how you are shaping strongly into your own mould. Seeing you craft your own story is already inspiring (and challenging) me as you increasingly exercise your independence and lean into your own ideas about life.  

I love you beyond words and worlds. 

Love always,

Mum. 

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