Friday, 28 November 2014

Wishing the world was a better place...

While looking for other people's takes on Black Friday, I went to two of my favourite local blogs, and found references to events in Ferguson, St Louis. Just like the first of these two ladies, I am new to the USA and so I'm not going to get all political, but I feel very sad. The second of these ladies lives in St Louis. She lives blocks from the courthouse where the grand jury met and handed down their verdict. And just like her, I feel conflicted, not knowing quite what to feel, but I feel sad about the whole business.

I'm sad about what's happening in Ferguson, and I wish I could say that Australia is better, and that this sort of thing doesn't happen there. But it does, albeit in an Australian way, and I wish it didn't.

As a parent I have a great responsibility to bring up my child (and any subsequent children) as best I can. Part of that is helping him maintain his perception that all people are equal*, regardless of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, or country of origin, and deserve equal treatment by him, by society, by lawmakers. If Michael and I can achieve that, the world might just be a better place.

*When I say equal, but I don't mean to encourage that to the point of naivety, resulting in my children being in dangerous situations.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Avoiding the silliness of the season...

Christmas 2012
The silly season is upon us, here in the USA*, and it starts with Thanksgiving and the Black Friday sales.

The Black Friday sales are akin to Australia's Boxing Day sales. On steroids. According to locals (and by locals, I mean people who were either born in the USA or have lived in Manhattan for more than 2 years), Black Friday sales used to start at silly o'clock in the morning, with people camping out aiming to be the first in the doors to gain maximum savings. These days? Well... the sales have already started online and will start in store Thursday afternoon.

Yes, Thursday afternoon. That's before the turkey is even out of the oven for Thanksgiving dinner. Heavily discounted goods before dinner? Yes, please!

Well, that is, unless you're us, and more than halfway through a one year stay, and only need very specific stuff, like wool thermals, or size 2 childrens clothes, or woollen socks for little feet (toddlers size 6). Did I just write a wish list? Hmmmm...

I will admit to taking advantage of the online sales, but I tried to keep it to the things we actually need. More base layers? Yes. Undies for Jimmy? They weren't on sale. That gray jumper with insects embroidered on it? Hmmm, well... If you're me, then yes. It has insects on it - nufsaid.

I'll be keeping an eye on the prices for some woollen socks for me, but other than that (and the above wishlist), there's really not much that we need. Most of what we actually need won't be on sale, or if it is, it'll be sold out in our size or not to our liking (we're pretty picky about what we buy for Jimmy).

But, guess what? We're still going to the sales! That's right. One of Michael's co-workers is taking us along to some of the bigger shops in Manhattan, before we all go to a Thanksgiving dinner at their boss' house. It should be interesting.


We don't need much, as I mentioned. If we were buying gifts for family and friends, the Black Friday sales would be the time to do it, if we had a gift list already or at least some idea of what to get, but we're not, so we won't.

It's not just about our tight budget, it's about mindful choices and not being overwhelmed by stuff. We packed up a lot of stuff when we moved here, and I'm enjoying the current minimalism. Sure, I miss some things, but this state is temporary. And we don't need to add to the list of things we'll have to part with or ship (and add to our stuff).

So, when we head out to the sales tomorrow, we'll be keeping an eye out for bargains, while remembering that we don't need, don't need, don't need a lot of stuff.

And then we'll be enjoying Thanksgiving.

And if you think I'm overthinking things... well... here's some food for thought:
The guys over at The Minimalists put it well
Here's a semi-local take, and discount guide
On keeping the sales to Friday
The official Black Friday site - because a sense of scale is important.

*It's here for those of us not in Ferguson, St Louis, and those of us who aren't affected by the ruling yesterday. I'm going to put something up about it tomorrow, because it's part of our experience here, even if we are living a few states to the west.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2014"

Jimmy: Don't mind me, I'm just riding Dadee's bike.

Sorta kinda.

We've had a much milder week - no beanies or gloves required! During the daylight, at any rate. This weekend just gone was pretty dreary, but pleasant, until about 1 minute after I took this photo when the wind came rushing in, threatening to blow everything and everyone over.

So we took Jimmy off the bike, rugged up, and walked on. To coffee and lunch, then on to the shops. What had started out as a gray old day turned into an icy, windy, rainy afternoon, and we returned home from our adventure a little wet, but still warm enough (ok, so Jimmy was warm in his jumper and boots under my raincoat and my hands were icy because I didn't have anything to cover them with). Here comes winter...

Oh and one last photo. Just for good measure.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

No Jimmy, don't...

This is one of the last road trip related posts that I mentioned in Part 6. This is not an easy post for me to publish. Just typing it up, from what I wrote at the time, has brought back all the emotions I felt that day. I don't want to share the following story. I want to forget that the following ever took place, but I can't and that's probably a good thing, because remembering will keep me focused and mindful of where Jimmy is no matter how many other family members are around, no matter how many eyes can look at him.

So, I am sharing this learning experience, because it is part of my journey as a mother. The emotions I experienced are experienced by mothers all over the world, including my own mum (aka Granny), so that's another reason to share this experience... Not that any of this makes it easier to share... Well, here it is...

There are 3 phrases I repeat over and over during the day. These phrases are:
  • I love you Jimmy-bubba
  • Good boy Jimmy
  • No Jimmy, don't... 
I don't like saying the last one, but I say it. I say it a lot some days. I don't like saying it, but sometimes I have to. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to say it, because Jimmy should know by now that he shouldn't do the thing I'm telling him not to do or that he isn't allowed to do it. But on the Sunday we had at Goose Island, Day 12 of our road trip, I said those words and my heart stopped.

My heart stopped and I anticipated the crying, the running into the Mississippi, followed by a trip to the ER and burns unit... the scars... the guilt... the constant, everlasting guilt...

The constant guilt that our parenting style and confidence in Jimmy had allowed him the space to go from playing with an empty pot and cup to investigating the fire pit. Unnoticed, unsupervised, unhindered.

I had only just checked on him. Turned my back, focused on what I was doing for a minute or two before something made me turn around and look for my little boy. And there he was, barefoot at the firepit with one hand on the old metal wheel and the other holding a big stick, poking around in the coals.

"No Jimmy, don't..."

The words came out, my heart stopped, and Jimmy just gave me a look that said "What? Nothing's wrong, I'm just investigating this thing, that all of you spend so much time looking at and poking. What's not ok?"

Luckily it had been a few hours since there had been an active fire. Luckily the old truck wheel, used to contain the fire, was cold. Luckily I turned around when I did, before Jimmy had tried to handle the ashes and hot coals... Oh so lucky...

No crying, no ER, only a shaken mum and a little boy wondering why his mummy was so upset that he had been investigating...

I'm filing the experience under: Parenthood, learning, lucky... 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Five happy things for five days...

Jimmy smelling the roses, while they were still there to be enjoyed.
A month ago a friend invited me to take part in a "5 happy things for 5 days" challenge that was doing the rounds on Facebook. I gladly took part, especially as I was enjoying reading what my friends were putting up for their 5 happy things each day. How hard could it be, right?

Well, it wasn't always easy to find 5 things every day to be happy about. It might have just been that week, but for some reason I felt rather down, kinda flat really. Whether it was highlighting the good when we're so far from family and friends, hormonal shifts as Jimmy breastfeeds less and less, or that I'd abused my sourdough starter so much that it basically wasn't going anywhere, I don't know. It could have been all of those things.

During the following week my sourdough starter picked up again, thanks to some tender care and double feeding (more later?), and my mood improved too. A friend who was also doing her 5 happy things pointed out that now, this day and age, is actually a really good time to be a woman: we have so much more control over our lives, so much more say in what happens, so many more rights, so much more freedom, than any of our female ancestors (collectively, and yes, there are still improvements to be made in the general standing of women, but we have come along way and being reminded of that made me happy). And the weather improved.

I also made an effort to get out a little more with Jimmy, whether it was just the two of us or with friends, and that helped too. So did contacting friends back in Australia, some of whom I hadn't really spoken to in a few months. 

So, here are my 5 happy things for 5 days:

Day 1:

  1. Having a little boy who was happy to play with boxes, laundry baskets, and a doona all day;
  2. Michael. This guy rocks;
  3. Not having to worry about how I'm going to get the nappies dry on a cold, wet day (yay for tumble driers!);
  4. A special group of mummies for oversharing, venting, and support, even if we're separated by the Pacific Ocean;
  5. Having friends in Manhattan who found today just as cold and dreary.
Day 2:
  1. Seeing Jimmy interact with other small children at playgroup;
  2. Turning lovely wool, from my lovely sister, into a (hopefully) lovely beanie;
  3. Homemade sourdough bread, with blue vein cheese;
  4. Watching Michael and Jimmy together. The joy is immense;
  5. Ice cream at the end of what turned out to be a long day.
Day 3:
  1. Baby hair;
  2. Baby smell;
  3. Knowing that baby smell and baby hair make Michael happy too;
  4. Nursing my baby to sleep;
  5. Being physically exhausted from babywearing, because my baby is growing big and strong.
Day 4:
  1. A healthy child;
  2. Having a doctor agree that Michael and I have a healthy child;
  3. Vaccinations to help keep my child healthy;
  4. Coffee and monkey bread to make up for an early start;
  5. Living in a complex that hosts dinners for its (warm and friendly) residents (read: not having to cook dinner after a long day, and chatting with locals). 
Day 5:
  1. My family and friends, here and around the globe;
  2. Knowing how to knit and sew, because I learnt these skills from family members - thanks Mum (aka Granny)!
  3. Eating waffles while playing Worms - thanks Michael!
  4. Having friends around the world who care about our planet enough to spend their lives looking out for it, working to improve our environment through conservation or sustainable agriculture or education;
  5. Reading what friends have said in their 5 for 5, especially when they remind me that now is a really good time to be alive, especially as a woman - thanks G!

Reading these happy things I can pick the days that weren't so great (Day 3 in particular), but I think Day 5 was pretty good. It was an interesting exercise, and enjoyable too. It also marks our halfway point - 6 months down, 6 months to go... We're over that hump, but our future is not clear and I may yet to another 5 happy things for 5 days, when I need to remember to enjoy the now and distract myself from uncertainty in the future.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Winter came knocking...

As I mentioned yesterday, it's been snowing...
On Saturday we woke up to snow!!!!!!! It was actually snowing!!!!! Light, gentle, slowly falling snow!
There was no way I was staying inside and missing this (Michael initially hid under the covers, but changed his mind).
So, we got rugged up and went out and enjoyed the snow while it's still novel.
Jimmy had a little trouble on the stairs in all his layers, but he did well and made it down without much trouble, thanks to a helping hand from Dadee.
We weren't the first ones out in it, but we were close enough and in some places we were the first (yay!).

The snow wasn't particularly thick, but it was a good introduction for Jimmy. It certainly changed his favourite rock garden.

Naturally there were a few stumbles, but that's normal these days as Jimmy recalibrates how to walk in 3+ layers, with or without snow. Actually, this was the first time Jimmy had gone outside in the Muddlarks a cousin gave us (along with a good selection of clothes that has saved us from buying jumpers, thermals, long sleeve tops, and gloves - and yes, we brought them all with us from Australia), and they were great! Jimmy's legs stayed nice and dry, and presumably warm. We double gloved his little hands too, and his fingers were still warm when we came home.
It was such a quiet morning, even though it was after 9 am. The world seemed to be sleeping, yet it was snowing. It was a little magical.
Michael took this lovely one of Jimmy and me*. It's kinda weird seeing picture of us walking together because he's still so little, yet he's growing so fast.
Our coats caught snowflakes, we crunched the fresh snow with our shoes and in our gloved hands, made a little snow man, and yes, Jimmy decided to eat some too.
I think it's fairly safe to say that Jimmy enjoyed the snow, or at least the excitement and attention of his parents (we kept pointing our cameras in his face because, you know, snow).
We weren't out for long, probably less than an hour, but it was warmer than it has been lately, and it was lovely. We stayed inside for the rest of the day as we had no reason or inclination to go out.

The snow turned to rain, and the sun set.

Sunday morning we woke to even more snow! It had snowed overnight, but the clouds were starting to clear. So, we headed out for our first snowy trip to the shops before the snow turned to mush.
 Michael and I were very excited to see rabbit footprints in the snow just outside out apartment.
Michael was happy with how his bike handled in the conditions.
The snow was thicker on Sunday than on Saturday, but it still wasn't enough to completely cover the grass.

Jimmy was pretty cold by the time we arrived but that's the difference between walking around and being worn (something for me to keep in mind). After helping to push the trolley around he warmed up and was kinda happy to be worn home.

And we did well: somehow I managed to breastfeed Jimmy; and neither Michael nor I slipped on any ice!
According to the forecast we're not going to get much more until Christmas, so I'm glad we made the most of what little there was. And I'm glad it wasn't bitterly cold or super windy for Jimmy's first experience of snow.

*I'll tell you about my hat soon.

Monday, 17 November 2014


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2014"

Jimmy: Tasty, tasty snow...

We woke up to snow on Saturday morning. Not just on the ground but still falling from the sky. So, we went out in it, more tomorrow, but let's just say we had fun and enjoyed the lack of bitterly cold north wind. While Michael and I both took photos, this is one of his.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Bicycle! Bicycle!

On the weekend after my parents returned to Australia, we were walking home from somewhere with James, enjoying the warmer weather after a chilly few days, when we stumbled on a yard sale. The guy selling the stuff was reducing what he and his soon-to-be-wife had, because they didn't need two of this or four of that and hadn't used some things in a long time. We picked up an interchangeable waffle/sandwich press, because we've wanted a waffle iron since we arrived here and the price was pretty good, but the thing that caught Michael's eye next was going to be a game changer...

Bicycle! Bicycle!

It was for sale.

We bought it.

Bicycle! Bicycle!

Jimmy is pretty taken with it and he's almost more excited that the bike is back than that Dadee is home in the afternoons... ah well... he'll get over his fascination soon enough, right? Ok, probably not, given how much Michael and I like bicycles... Runs in the family?

Michael is pretty happy to have a bicycle again, even if it isn't as good as the ones we have in Australia, but it's a bicycle. He recently added a rear rack and collapsible baskets, which is making our weekly shop much more manageable and has almost eliminated the need for any top-up shops.

The bicycle also reduces Michael's commute, meaning he doesn't have to leave home as early in the mornings, and he can come home quicker in the evenings. And he can come home (or near enough) for lunch, as he did on this day that he took these photos of Jimmy with the bicycle.

Bicycle! Bicycle!

And all photos were taken by Michael.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Frank Anneberg Park...

Last week, Jimmy and I went to Frank Anneberg Park with some friends for a play and a walk. It was a little windy but not too cold for the rugged up little ones.

It's a really nice park and the play area is all fenced in and no dogs are allowed, so it's safe for little ones to just run around (although when the children are still as little as Jimmy and his friends, us mummies/mommies were never far from our little ones). In the first photo there are Canadian Geese, on their way south... because winter is coming.

Even with winter coming, there are still trees holding on to their leaves... just a few trees, unless you count the evergreens.

Jimmy tried out the swing, which wasn't quite the right size for him, but he still enjoyed it.

High clouds, jet stream, baseball fields, leaf-less trees, and the fence separating the playground from the rest of the park.

Once the little ones had had their fun (read: were clinging to us, no longer playing, giving every indication that they needed naps), we went for a walk, with the little ones in baby carriers or pram.

With dry leaves on the ground and a chill in the air, we kept up a good pace and ended up with sleeping or sleepy bubs. It was a lovely morning!

Our friends dropped us home and all I could think of was a hot cup of something, even though the day was warming up and absolutely lovely. Jimmy had other ideas. Apparently he was sick of being inside (he was cooped up most of last week due to his cold), so he ate his morning tea outside our apartment and encouraged me to spend more time outside. It was lovely, and when I eventually managed to get him upstairs, Jimmy had a really, really big nap. Here's to hoping for a mild winter, so that I can keep taking Jimmy outside, because he's loving it.

Monday, 10 November 2014


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2014"

Jimmy: Dressed for the conditions, he sets out to explore the bike racks of Kansas State University.

Independence, exploration, and being outside or just not at home. Jimmy just wants to get out there and explore. I can't blame him: the weather has been mostly nice, at least nice enough to go out for a few hours a day; running is happening; and last week we spent so much time indoors because of his cold. Jimmy's still a little snotty, but he's an energetic, hungry, inquisitive little thing, and it's really hard to keep him indoors - especially when it might be far too cold to even think about heading out in a few weeks.

Jimmy is moving so fast that he's being coming a challenge to photograph, but Michael managed to take this lovely one of Jimmy, and all of the following photos too:

It's definitely autumn, but Saturday mornings are still good for an adventure outside, especially when rugged up in wool, corduroy, and dinosaur gum boots.

No, not going to... sneeze! "Dadee, put that camera away so I can throw the ball to you!"

"Why aren't we moving? We should be heading off on our adventure... Where is everyone?"

The camera was put away, adventures were had, and the bus was taken home. This last photo is similar to this one, oh but Jimmy's grown so much since then!

And seeing Jimmy in this particular jumper makes my heart swell - my Granny knitted it, for one of my cousins or for me, at least 30 years ago, and it is in such good condition that her great-grandchildren are able to wear it too.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Missing/Enjoying: babies...

Naps at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.
Once upon a time, like all parents, Michael and I had a little baby. A soft, squishy, immobile, completely dependent, clingy but happy baby. He's gone. I'm not sure where he went, I'm not even sure when he went, but he's been replaced by a little boy, a little boy so full of energy, inquisitiveness, humour, mobility, strength, and independence. 


Sometimes I catch glimpses of my baby, usually at night when he cries because he wants boobie but Mum isn't there, but there is so much boy now.

And it makes me wonder at what my friends' babies are like. Because they are about the same age as Jimmy, so they would all be little boys or little girls now, not babies. Just like Jimmy, but different. I'm sad I'm missing that.


The other day Jimmy and I were at the Discovery Center with a friend and her now 1 year old (!!), and there was a mother with her 3 children: the eldest was 6 months older than Jimmy and even more boy; the twins were about 6 months younger than Jimmy and so much more baby. And they were the same age Jimmy was when Michael and I brought him to Manhattan, KS. Such a baby, but not!


Other friends, in Australia, have added to their families over the last 6 months, and I'm sad to be missing that too, but I know I'll get to meet these little people. Only it will be when they are little people, little boys and girls.


But seeing that change from baby to boy/girl! That! That is magic! And I am enjoying every day with Jimmy and every glimpse of his Australian friends as they grow. If all babies were like Jimmy, I would have 10. That's how much I am enjoying this boy. Yes, I said it. Boy.