Saturday, August 31, 2013

My "extra" baby

Before Gareth started school we loved going to the local playgroup held in the grounds of the school and church. A quiet spot where the kids could play and explore under the shade of gum trees while the mums had a cup of tea and chatted together, building friendships and sharing the trials and tribulations of their previous week. When Gareth started Kindy I missed this group. There were jokes about popping in to say some day with a baby doll wrapped in a blanket to say hello. Somehow life got busy and it never happened. 

Fast forward almost 6 years and my week has a different pattern. Working set shifts at the local hospital means my Fridays consist of caring for patients and playgroup is a fading memory, until a change in my work roster found me dropping Gareth to school one recent Friday morning and at a bit of a loss as to what I was going to do with my day. There was always the long list of boring house chores to go home to. I stopped in the car park with the warm sun on my back and chatted to mums with younger kids and watched them wave goodbye to each other with calls of  "see you at Playgroup" My friend Francesca joked that I should come too. I laughed at the familiar joke of  "Just bring a doll" and went home.

The washing got pegged on the line, breakfast dishes were cleared, the floors swept. I stood in the kitchen feeling restless and then thought "I'm going!" I grabbed a doll from the top of a wardrobe where it lay in a tangle of toys. This doll had been mine as a young girl. A gift from Santa when I was about 8 or 9. The birth certificate in the box had said her name was Mineenee. She was wearing an old babygrow of Sians. I felt a little silly walking down to the clearing where the Playgroup was in full swing. It didn't take long to find Francesca and she laughed as she saw me arrive with my doll under my arm. I had a fun morning, sitting in the sun, drinking a cup of tea and joining in the chatting. I got to play with my gorgeous Goddaughter. We played airplanes where I span around and around holding tight to her hands as her feet left the ground and she shrieked  "Again, again, AGAIN!" It was magic!

My doll was quickly adopted by Francesca's other lovely daughter who asked if she could borrow her for a few nights. With her mum's permission we agreed terms for the sleepover and later that day I got a photo of her babysitting the doll carefully. The next week at morning drop off Mineenee was returned to me on the promise that someday in the future she could have another sleepover at her new friends house! 

As I sat next to the fireplace on that chilly Christmas morning in my Dublin home and unwrapped that doll all those years ago I wonder if Santa could ever have known that 30 something years later on the other side of the world the doll would be bringing joy to another little girl sitting under the dappled shade of the eucalyptus trees...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Red back in my watering can!

I love living here in Australia. The climate, the opportunities...

...the Redbacks! 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wild Freesias

I'm loving the smell of wild freesias growing alongside the roads where I live. They bring me back to being a teenager and walking down Henry street and Moore street where the women of inner city Dublin would shout out their wares from displays precariously balanced on milk crates and old fashioned baby prams with big wheels. "Bananas 5 fer a powund" "Come an get yer apples" "Wrappin paper 5 fer 50" Your ears would be assaulted by each woman calling louder than the next.

Then there were the flower stalls where you could buy simple small bunches of flowers for a few pounds. Tulips, Carnations, Iris's and Freesias. My Mum loved the yellow ones. The small yellow freesias with a heady perfume. I sometimes bought her some, just because.

It's not so easy when you live across the seas. I could go on Interflora, get out my credit card and order a fancy bouquet of roses, liliies, have them delivered to her door. I'm sure she wouldn't complain but they wouldn't be the same. They would never beat the small bunch of stems wrapped in cellophane and with a bit of patterned paper scrunched around them, damp and dripping down my jeans all the way home on the bus.

Last week in a fit of sentimentality I went detouring on my way to drop the kids to tennis. Down a small side road where I had seen some fresh blooms in the steep banks lining the road. I jumped out of the car, engine running and grabbed a couple of stems before jumping back in. The sun was dipping in the sky and the last few rays were about to go below the horizon. I knew it would be dusk as we arrived at tennis. The light would be fading and I realised I wouldn't be able to get a good photo of the flowers to send Mum. I pulled the car in again . Jumped out with freesias in one hand and mobile in the other. I held the flowers high into the last ray of sunshine and took a photo on my phone as cars whizzed past. The kids were dying of mortification in the car. "Mum, What are you DOING?" "Everyone will see"

But it was worth it. The photo was bright and vibrant and I got to email it my mum that night with a message telling her to pretend they were from Henry Street. It didn't cost a fortune. She can look at them again in coming days and they won't wilt and fade. I get the sweet smell of them every time I walk past the little vase in the kitchen and they bring me home. Back to the streets of Dublin...

"...Get your Freesias, any colour now, only a fiver love"

Monday, August 19, 2013

The cake to beat all cakes!

Every Birthday needs a birthday cake. Usually on my birthday Byron buys one on his way home from work but this year was different. On Saturday night Sian told me she wanted to make the cake herself. She is pretty competent in the kitchen and once we had established she had all the ingredients she asked me to leave her get on with it. 

By 9pm she was almost done but things sounded a little fraught with requests for help being called out to Byron and Rhiannon. Finally I heard the door to the garage being opened and closed and I was given strict instructions to not go near the fridge in the garage. 

At the end of a wonderful birthday yesterday I had almost forgotten about the cake. I really was taken by surprise when they started to sing Happy Birthday to me and walked from the garage holding a tall white cake. 

This video fills in the rest of the story! 
I really was amazed that my wonderful teenager managed to pull off such a wonderful creation. Something I had seen on many web-sites in the past but never quite felt brave enough to tackle! Thank you so much Sian for your hours of hard work you put into this cake. And thanks to Byron and Rhiannon for stepping in at those crucial final moments and helping to literally smooth things over!
You have all made my 40th a birthday to remember!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What a day!

Today was truly a wonderful day. It was exactly what I had wanted for my 40th Birthday. Cards and presents in bed, hilarious video messages from my Mum and sister in Ireland that were being played and replayed long after they were gone to sleep. Messages from friends far and wide and some unexpected photos taken on my birthday nearly 20 years ago by my american cousin Andrea that made the kids laugh and laugh at the youthful appearance of their mum, Granny, Grandad Joe, Uncle Joe and Auntie Carrie! I'd like to think we haven't changed that much but by the howling laughter I'm not sure.

There was an amazing tropical spread of fresh fruits and warm pastries for breakfast prepared by Byron and the kids followed by numerous cups of tea and some vegging while the girls finished some homework assignments. This afternoon we drove into Newcastle and walked along the beach at Nobby's head and Merewether. I handed the camera over to the girls and had fun being on the other side of the lense for a change.

We walked until the sun dipped low in the sky and everything glowed warm and orange, then zipped up jackets and took refuge in the cozy Merewether surf house cafe with it's gas heaters and pretty mosaic tea-light holders. We had built up an appetite and tucked into fresh pizzas and salty chips with garlic aioli, then walked back to the car in darkness with the moon sparkling on the breaking waves and the city lights twinkling in the distance. There were phone calls when we got home to family overseas and just as the night was drawing to a finale Sian brought out a homemade cake that knocked my socks off! (A separate blog post on that, I promise!)

I went to bed tired but oh, so happy! Is it all downhill from here I asked myself ...?
I think I know the answer to that. 
Bring it on!

40 things you may not already know about me...

As today marks my 40th Birthday I thought I would make a list of 40 things that make me, well,  me!

1: I love the colour red
2: I watch forensic shows on tv as I iron
3: I have no self control around chocolate
4: I graduated as a nurse 20 years ago
5: I was born in Dublin
6: Byron was my first boyfriend with a job and short hair
7: My parents nearly wept with gratitude when I introduced him to them
8: I made my own guitar from scratch in the Guitar workshop of Strato Anagnostis
9: I cannot play the guitar
10: Although I plan to learn someday when I have spare time (!)
11: I love making my own cards for friends birthdays
12: I rarely manage to post them in time
13: My hair has been various shades of red since I was 15
14: I have been proposed to more times than I care to share
15: Every time but one it was by little old men in the hospital
16: I have bungee jumped once over land
17: And once over water
18: I will never bungee jump again
19: I was painfully shy growing up
20: I have painstakingly built my own Harley Davidson Low Rider from scratch
21: It was a small plastic kit but that didn't stop me using it as a chat up line when I was 19
22: I loved Heavy Metal music as a teenager
23: Some of the best concerts I have been to were Nirvana, Guns'N'Roses and Red Hot Chilli Peppers
24: I think it's really lucky Byron rescued  met me when I was 20
25: I have had my hair cut short since I was 13
26: I once wondered if I'd look sexy and alluring if I had flowing locks of blond hair
27: I borrowed my sisters fancy long hairpiece and positioned it on my hairline on my forehead
28: I looked more like a nerdy librarian
29: I never follow a recipe exactly but I honestly didn't realise it until my sister-in-law pointed it out 3yrs ago
30: I have had a first edition of a novel dedicated to me
31: I often start things, make a terrible mess and walk away without cleaning up
32: Inside my wedding band is engraved "Cariad O Hyd" Welsh for "Love Always"
33: I learned a lifelong love of finding out how to fix things from my Dad
34: My name is engraved on the Welcome Wall in Sydney harbour next to Byrons
35: I am a Leo
36: I cannot really Irish Dance but all my non-Irish friends think I am related to Michael Flatley
37: My maiden name is Sheeran and my kids delight in the knowledge that Ed Sheeran is my second cousin.
38: I met Byron when I was 20 so today he can say he's known me for half my life!
39: When I was eight my Granny offered me £100 if I would become a nun (I seriously considered it)
40: I love life and plan on squeezing in a lot more living over the coming decade!

For those who know me well in real life, have I surprised you at all?
For anyone with a question left unanswered feel free to ask in the comments section....

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saying goodbye to my 30's with grace and dignity...

...and a sore throat, ringing ears, runny nose and a generally bunged up head.
Not that my family seem overly concerned...
 They are already talking about trading me in for a better model...
I'll hopefully see you again tomorrow....
...when I'm 40
Did I mention I'm turning 40...?
Oh, I did? 
Fair enough then.....!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We all have different hair...

This is my last week in my 30's. On Sunday I will leave this decade behind and start a new one. This doesn't bother me too much. It really is just a number. However when I was asked if I wanted a party I said no. Where to have it? Who to invite? How to feed everyone? What drinks to get in? I just didn't want the fuss.

There is a great group of us mums that have a monthly cheap and cheerful girls night out at the local yacht club. The invites go out to maybe 10 or 12 old faithfuls but on an average month there are about 8 of us who can make it. This months night out was already set in the calendar for Tuesday. The girl who sends out the reminders suggested we dress up a bit because it was so near my birthday. I am not a big drinker and often volunteer to be the driver but this time my friend Francesca insisted she drive so I could have a glass of wine. The last few weeks have been so busy. I have been working twice my normal hours covering for a colleague on holidays. When my friend Monica said "See you Tuesday" I had no idea what she was on about. She reminded me about the dinner and I said of course I would be there and then promptly forgot again.

Fast forward to yesterday. I got home from 9 hours of driving around Newcastle hospitals doing pre-admission assessments. My head was like jelly. I jumped in and out of the shower and slapped a tiny bit of make-up on while cooking dinner for the rest of the family who were all at after school activities and work. Byron's car pulled up the driveway minutes before my lift arrived. We really were ships passing in the night. A quick kiss goodbye-dinner's-on-the-table-don't-forget-to-check-Gareth's-homework and I ran down the drive into Francescas car. We nattered as she drove and I felt the tiredness lift and I looked forward to catching up with the others.

When we got to the restaurant we were the last to sit down at the table. The usual girls were there and they were all dressed up and had got me a helium balloon with "40" on it. I was chuffed. The waitress settled us all down and passed out the menus and left us to choose our food. Then the lights dimmed, the restaurant went dark then went bright again. We all looked around wondering what was up and then someone walked out of the kitchen.... Anne, my brothers Australian Mother-in-law who is a dear friend and a great person for me to lean on when I am so far from my own family. I was really chuffed that my friends had obviously thought to invite her. But then behind her walked Simi, my lovely friend from India who also has no family nearby so we both kind of adopted each other. Then Tracey from work, Then Julie from Kindy group, then Bev from Church and Kathy from book club. They just kept coming, this amazing mixture of women I have had the good fortune to meet over the eight years I have lived here in Australia. My heart was pounding and my eyes filled up as I started to realise I had been tricked. This was no quiet girls night out. This was a celebration!

I was so emotional and overawed that my friends had arranged this for me. Everyone kept saying "It was Monica, she sent the emails!" It turns out she not only sent emails but went through my facebook friends, rang my workplace and accosted women in shopping centers that she otherwise had no contact details for. She opened up the night to absolutely anyone and told everyone to just spread the word. Even Angela our local travel agent who had booked the cruise for us came along!

It was an amazing night. I am still trying to recall the details through a general fog of euphoria and emotion. My friend Jo made a speech. It was so funny, I have her notes that she scribbled on a napkin when she was asked to talk. Jo is so practical and down to earth. One of the funniest things she talked about was when Monica went to collect the cake. She had asked for "Happy 40th Birthday Gina" to be iced on it but when she collected it it said "Dina" She rang Jo flapping and asking what she should do and Jo's response was "Oh for heavens sake, it's close enough" Luckily Monica was patient enough to wait for the lady to remove the D and re-ice a G instead! For the rest of the evening I was called Dina and I think that nickname will stick for a while to come!

I was asked to give a speech and I can hardly remember a word of what I said except for one sentence. To quote the wonderful Monica yet again "We all have different hair"

This was something Monica said one day when a group of us were together and she was taking in how different and individual we were compared to another group of women sitting at a nearby table who all looked identical with their perfectly straight and glossy long brown hair. We tease Monica over that comment but yet it is so true. As I looked around the restaurant I saw a big group of women, wonderful and individual, different ages, different backgrounds, different hair. I'm so proud to be a part of this group. And so unbelievably lucky to call them my friends.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Distant Godmother.

I am lucky enough to be a Godmother to two lovely kids. One a boy, one a girl. One in the UK and one here in Australia. When I became Godmother to Myles we were still living in the UK and had no idea that we would be emigrating to the other side of the world. Even though I can't be a part of his everyday life I still care for him enormously. I worried when he was preparing to start High School in the same way as I worried for each of my own girls. I wanted to be able to wave a magic wand to shield him from all trouble. It has been 6 years since I've seen Myles and been able to really look at who he is becoming, 6 years since we took this brilliant selfie together under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Last week I was walking down a path from a car-park to a hospital entrance and I saw a name scratched into the cement. It was written on a path that was travelling from a different part of the hospital grounds but was almost intersecting with mine. The name made me stop and made my heart skip a beat. At that moment I missed my Myles and hoped that he still knows that I care for him and think about him. I took the photo as an excuse to send him a "no-reason" email.
Now that I look at the photo again I can see the two paths almost ready to collide. That's you and me Myles. We may be travelling across different parts of the world but in 5 months I will be in the UK and we will meet again. What do you think we should do my amazing GodChild? I think we should go for a walk together and find some fresh laid cement and get busy with sticks leaving our mark before hugging and taking a new selfie. I know both our faces will have changed in that time but I hope our smiles will be the same...

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Happy Birthday Mr B!

It was Byron's birthday today. Being mid-week it was a busy day with me off to work at 7 and Byron dropping all three kids to their schools before going on to work himself. Knowing that we decided to celebrate his birthday on Sunday evening with a walk along Merewether beach and a pizza at Merewether surfhouse.

It was a magical evening. Not as cold as recent winter days. The sky was clear and the sun set as we sat looking out from the long cafe window. I asked Rhiannon to take a nice photo of Byron and myself using my camera. She did but Gareth and Sian decided to get in on the action by photo bombing Every.Single.One.

A mother sitting eating with her husband and kids was watching and came over and offered to take a family photo for us. It was lovely to get all 5 of us into one photo, and in such a beautiful setting with the light so soft and golden.

I love this photo! For a brief moment I get to think my little family is so perfect and then I remember the out-takes that are still on my camera and I laugh as I snap out of my day-dream and get back to the crazy normality that is our life!

Happy Birthday Mr B. You bring colour to our lives, and humour, lots of humour. I'm pretty sure that's where the kids have got their personalities from. Don't ever change!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A beautiful end to a family weekend...

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Veggie Garden (Third time lucky!)

I've had a few attempts at growing a veggie garden. So far the chickens have "helped" me to thin out my seedlings and aerate my herb gardens by flying over every type of fence I have placed between them and the veggie patch. The few carrots that did thrive were very oddly shaped altogether and made for much titillation (due to their similarity to a certain male body part) but not much eating. The beautiful big leafy beetroot plants looked amazing but yielded only a handful of marble sized beets. Enough as a side portion for one but not quite enough to sustain a family of five through the winter.

Anyway, I decided to try again now that the weather is warming up. The fence became double height and still the bloomin' chickens got over. I am now at two and a half panels and seem to be winning (crossed fingers)...

To try to get a headstart on the season that is slipping by I bought little seedlings and transplanted them straight into the fertilized soil. It makes me feel like I waved a magic wand and have an instant garden. I've got some broccoli, snow-peas, lettuce, carrots, beetroots, basil, chives and oregano...
 All I need to hope now is that I am successful at keeping the chickens out until the little lettuces get big enough to make a salad for dinner!