Friday, September 30, 2011

p is for party

Friday morning 6.30am: "Mum is it my birthday today?"

6.31am (after I nudged Daniel to wake up): "Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to YOU!"

6.33am: Che stands up, looks at himself and declares that he is most definitely bigger. We then ask him to look under the bed and in all his hurried excitement he pulls the presents out and bumps his head. "I'm ok!" He opens some books, a ruler, some clothes and, finally, the lego jet plane. His response: "I have wanted this for all of my life, for years and years. It is wonderful! It is amazing! Let's build it now!"

So while I baked cookies and made sandwiches and prayed for the sun to stay and the wind to stop, Daniel and Che started building lego. A few hours later we headed to the park that was, unfortunately, wildly windy. Gale force. Like nature was celebrating the birth of Che - my air child - it has been windy on his 1st, 2nd, 3rd and now 4th birthday. We played at the park for half-an-hour then headed to Mama and Popa's house for tea, cake and party food (in the calm that was shelter).

The lego cake was a hit (oh the vivid sweetness that is food colouring!), the party hats made for lots of fun and the wild duck sitting on her soon-to-be-hatched eggs in Popa's vegie patch provided a little bit of 'farmyard' entertainment. I was reminded, like I am every year, that with little kids it's the simple things that are the best. Who knew that star-shaped vegemite sandwiches, party poppers and stripy straws could keep a bunch of four-year-olds happy?

My favourite moment of the party was when Che's little (girl) friend Vali came running back into the house to give him a handmade pressie: "Che, this is a pink clay love heart that I made for you," she said. And then we all melted.

The night before his birthday I cuddled with him in bed and, like every year around this time, I shared with him the story of his birth.

"Four years ago I had some niglings in my belly and I knew that you were coming. You were about to arrive in the world. So we went to the hospital and after a few hours there you were born. Daddy cut the umblicial cord that was attached to your belly button and I cuddled you for hours and hours. You made me a Muma that day."

"How did I make you a Muma?"

"Well, before you were born I didn't have any children."

And then he starts crying and exclaiming: "You didn't have any children!"

"It's ok sweetie, I've got you now. You and Poet are my children."

"And you're our Muma."

And then he fell asleep.

B is for birth-day, f is for four and l is for love. A sweet friend of mine sent me a text message yesterday and informed me that a four-year-old asks an average of 437 questions per day. I think four will be fun, frivolously so.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

growing up (too fast)

Every morning for the past week or so I have woken to the sound of Che's footsteps. And every morning he comes around to my side of the bed, gently pats me on the arm and says: "Mum, is it my birthday today?"

Che turns four on Friday and we've been counting down the sleeps. He requested a party in the park with his school friends, a special cake and some party hats. I also told him that because it's his birthday he can request his favourite meal for dinner. "Mum, I'd really like avocado, strawberries, cheese and tomatoes please." I love his healthy choice of meal but he thought about it some more and has since decided on " from the pizza man with pineapple." So p from the p-man with p it is.

He's grown up a lot since he became a big brother. He's using words like 'brilliant', 'ginormous' and 'outstanding' and his made-up stories have become innocent forms of genius. Yesterday he sat in his room for an hour reading The Big Book of Richard Scarry and after that he built me a robot from lego. On Sunday mornings we bake pancakes together and just this week, on his new vintage 'school-boy' desk he has drawn pictures of our family which Daniel and I have been a bit teary over.

My beautiful boy turns four on Friday. And I wonder where oh where those four years have gone.

Friday, September 23, 2011


In the hours after her birth, when I was flying oh so high on those hormones, I couldn't quite believe that I had been blessed with a daughter. And while most of the time I was thinking about her eyes (that gaze!) and her lips (oh they're so kissable) and her perfect little body (that's mighty strong) I must confess that I was also thinking about vintage floral. Yep, floral fabrics. And a certain romper featuring a big, red strawberry on front. And the little dress I found an at op-shop years ago and bought 'just in case' I ever had a girl. There's actually a whole drawer full of those 'just in case's'. And then I started thinking about how we can, as muma and daughter, read Little House on the Prairie together. "Oh I have to get her a bonnet," I thought.

When I finally found the time to trawl through etsy (patience, I tell you) I stumbled across little betty designs and there it was...Poet's bonnet. It's beautifully crafted and damn gorgeous to boot. With summer fast approaching I'm pretty happy that it serves as a good sun hat too. So thank you Christy for making it with such will be cherished!

Little Poppet in her bonnet...

As for Che, bonnet's aren't really his thing but hanging out under the bed is. He takes his lego under there and sets up a little town complete with make believe characters and intriguing plot lines. Imagination is a wondrous thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

the yoga of birth + giveaway

Yoga is so much more than an asana (posture) practice. I learned this in its fullness when I was a new Muma. My yoga was the way I went about my day with my baby. It wasn't stretching into downward dog or attending a class every week. My sadhana (spiritual practice) occurred every day - in my home. Perhaps it was the way I cooked the evening meal, or the thoughts I had when I walked with Che. Perhaps it was the (((((oms))))) I chanted when he was unsettled or the mental relaxation I practiced while he fed. My yoga, right now, is my mothering and it is this very concept that Katie Manitsas addresses in her new book The Yoga Of Birth.

Katie is the only advanced certified Jivamukti yoga teacher in Australia and is the founder of Jivamukti Sydney (formerly Samadhi). She is an inspiring creative, a mother of two young boys - Christos and Ziggy, a doula and is currently studying the Montessori method for preschoolers.

The Yoga of Birth is the first book of its kind. It addresses the importance of a conscious conception (something I experienced with Poet and indeed I vouch for it!), yoga to support and nurture your self during pregnancy, yoga for a natural birth, the first forty days (aka babymoon), baby massage, starting solids and wholesome food for toddlers. Katie's voice, her wisdom and nurturing self are vivid throughout each chapter as she gently discusses the beauty of a woman's body and the wonder that is conception, pregnancy and birth.

I read each page while Poet slept beside me in those first few weeks of her life. I found myself nodding to so much of what Katie was saying and absolutely loving the fact that, above anything else, she encourages pregnant women and mothers to slow down, take care and just be. Wise, wise words.

The official launch of The Yoga of Birth will take place at Jivamukti Yoga Studio in Newtown on Saturday 24th September at 10am. There will be kids face painting, healthy snacks, a family friendly vibe, free pregnancy goody bags and a short introduction to the book from Katie as well as a book signing.

Katie has kindly signed a copy of The Yoga of Birth and would like one of you to take it home, read it and learn from it. If you like, leave a comment below (feel free to ask me a question about yoga for pregnancy, birth and beyond and I will answer in a post next week) and you will go in the draw. Entries close Thursday 29th September. Gaby is also hosting the same giveaway tomorrow.

I had the pleasure of interviewing on and enjoy!

UPDATE: The winner, using the Random Number Generator is Bridget. However, I feel like my copy needs to be passed on to someone that needs to read its wisdom, someone that needs to be comforted by its message. And so I hope that Yasmin will receive it with gratitude and be inspired x

Jodi: Katie, you found yoga at a young age. How did your practice evolve when you discovered you were pregnant?

Katie: Well, I have two children and the changes were different for each pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child it was unexpected and at the time I have a very strong, physically dynamic yoga practice. It changed very radically because I was very nauseous and the practice made the sickness worse. It was really difficult for me to let go of the attachment to the dynamic practice. With my second pregnancy I was already a mother and to a certain extent had made that transition already.

Jodi: How did yoga support your pregnancy journey?
Katie: Yoga is a practice of transformation and supports us as we go through tumultuous times and times of great change. Pregnancy in many ways is a roller-coaster ride. A spiritual practice can provide a safe and steady space within those ups and downs.

Jodi: So many things change when you become a Muma...did your understanding of yoga change?
Katie: Of course! Motherhood takes you out of the centre of the circle. Suddenly another being, your holy baby, becomes the centre of your world. It’s the ultimate Karma Yoga or yoga of service. Nothing can prepare you for this! It’s a wonderful blessing and a huge challenge at the same time. It took me time to adapt. Usually I am a person who processes things (emotionally) quite quickly. But becoming a mother took me some time. At first I wanted nothing in my life to change, I’d say stuff like ‘I’m just going to do everything I used to do and I’ll take the baby / child with me’. Yeah, right. That never happened. Life changes when you have children. I learned to surrender. To spend less time working on my handstand or splits practice and more time changing nappies and going to playgroup. And through that process my understanding of yoga was nourished and deepened enormously.

Jodi: How did you incorporate yoga into your life as a new muma?
Katie: I meditate more than I did because sometimes I am sleep deprived and just not up to dynamic asana. I chant mantra everyday. I chant my children to sleep every night so that if I haven’t done any other practice that day at least I got to practice japa (mantra recitation). My four year old knows lots of beautiful Sanskrit mantras because of this routine! When I make a family meal for us all in the evenings (which happens on most nights of the week) I try to do this with an attitude of Sadhana (conscious spiritual practice). I’m fortunate because during the time I am cooking there is usually someone else at home to help look after the children and I can just focus on making a beautiful meal for us all to share as a family together. This is an important part of the day for me and I see it as a kind of practice. I’m not breastfeeding any more but when I was that was always a great time for mantra and meditation too. Sometimes we all do yoga together as a family. I usually ‘teach’ everyone and we each have a mat and join in. It’s mayhem!

Jodi: You were obviously inspired by your first birth experience because you became a doula soon after. What is it like to support a woman in the transition of birth?

Katie: There are not words to describe the feeling of watching a new being enter the world. It’s so close to the feeling of watching a person leave the body (in death). A magical, mysterious, otherworldly experience. Precious beyond words. Sacred.

Jodi: How do you believe yoga can support a woman during pregnancy, birth and beyond?
Katie: Yoga teaches us to be present and available for the reality of what is really happening in a given moment. Not to run from the truth or pretend a situation is other than it is. So yoga can help you say ‘yes I have morning sickness and I feel terrible and I’m not coping’ but it also helps us remember ‘I know this will shift and change soon enough’. On a physical level yoga as a great deal to offer in terms of techniques for helping a woman to have a healthy, natural birthing experience. There is lots more info. about that in the book.

Jodi: How can a woman best prepare for a natural birth experience - a birth she doesn't want to forget?
Katie: By slowing down. Resting. Connecting to her instincts. And by gathering like-minded, strong spirited support people around her to encourage and nurture her intention.

Jodi: Lastly, home birth in Australia is being threatened...what can we do to ensure we always have choice as to where we birth our babies?
Katie: Gosh this is such a huge topic and it’s controversial. I’m so saddened that home birth has become so difficult here. In many parts of Europe (including the UK where I am from originally) it’s a normal and health option. Here is Australia it is seen as ‘alternative’ and is becoming next to impossible. I’m not sure there is much we can do except to be a voice for our beliefs and speak out for women’s choices. Also I would say this, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. That’s usually true even if there are many obstacles.

Monday, September 19, 2011

far cuter than

Poet is nine weeks today. Yesterday I packed away the 0000s. Today she is cooing and ahhing and smiling and sighing. She's far cuter than the creature that decided to share our home this morning.

What would you do if you woke to your almost-four-year-old calling from the lounge room: "Mum, there's a snake on the windowsill."

You wouldn't believe him would you. Because it's just shy of 7am and you're all sleepy.

But then he says it again and you think to yourself that it's probably best you check it out.

So you wander up there expecting to find a worm or a skink (small lizard creature) and instead there is a 2 metre diamond python sunning himself on the outside windowsill while your child sits on the couch reading - completely unperturbed.

"See Mum, a snake," he says.

"Oh, a snake," you say.

And then for the next hour there's text messages to a friend who knows reptiles, a visit from neighbours in their pjs and the wondering of where it's been living and where it intends to go next.

Diamond Pythons are perfectly safe and even a little bit shy. They keep mice and rats at bay so if you're not completely freaked out, they're good to have around.

Our newest addition meandered back to the roof which is where he's probably been sleeping all winter. And perhaps it's where he'll stay. Oh!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

corners of our home

We are self-confessed homebodies. We love being at home, pottering about, moseying from one thing to the next. Daniel and I both work from home too and we count ourselves incredibly lucky that we can earn money and spend our days with our children. While our house is not nearly as design savvy as some, we love it for it's comfort, practicality and quaint-appeal. Our style is stamped on every wall.

Over time, with Che growing up and Poet arriving, we've had to change a few things. I've been really inspired by the Montessori philosophy that a child's independence should be encouraged and nurtured. You'll see in that first photo up there that Che's raincoat, hat, beanie, bag and umbrella are hanging on little timber hooks at his height. A simple addition to his room but absolute genius! Why? Because when we're about to leave the house (always a rather time-consuming procedure with a little one in tow) I ask him to go get his hat etc. and he knows exactly where it is and can reach it on his own. There's a vintage bookshelf near our front door and the bottom shelf is his designated "shoe shelf" - when we arrive home from an outing the first thing he does is take his shoes off and put them on the shelf, followed closely by the hat/bag/umbrella going back on the hooks.

The Montessori classroom has everything at a child's height and since being introduced to this idea I've made sure that all of the things that Che needs in his day are easily accessible to him. The bottom row of our expedit bookshelf features four baskets with luggage tags on each: "cars and trucks," "puzzles," "blocks" and "music and puppets." He just helps himself throughout the day. His lego is stored in clear containers behind the couch along with a basket of toys and his teepee. His art and craft supplies are on his vintage desk and his play oven is close to the kitchen. Our house is child-friendly, decorated with family photos (more to come), Che's artwork and quirky prints.

When Daniel and I first moved out together (four months after meeting each other) we didn't even own a toaster. Since then we have collected bits and pieces that we love. We haven't spent much money and we've kept it all quite simple. Delightfully so.

Everything has been chosen for its wonderful blend of practicality and aesthetic appeal, remebering always that beauty is found in simplicity - a collection of shells on a windowsill, a single flower in a glass bottle, a child's colourful painting.

Photos by you know who

Friday, September 16, 2011

nature's child + $200 giveaway

You all know that I'm passionate about a natural and organic way of life. Indeed, Poet has been bathed, clothed and swaddled in beautiful baby-happy organic products since she was born. One of my favourite online stores is Nature's Child - a one-stop eco-friendly shopping experience. Creator and owner Jannine Barron has recently launched their new website and is offering the chance to win a grand price of organic baby products worth $1000. To enter, visit here.

I've got a little (big!) giveaway too. Jannine has been kind enough to offer one Che and Fidel reader a $200 organic showbag brimming with baby products from brands such as Boon, Purebaby, Bellamy's and Aden & Anais. For a chance to win visit Nature's Child and leave a comment below telling me what your favourite products is. I will announce the winner next Wednesday 21st September.

Update: The winner of the $200 giveaway is Ashley from Piper and Poppies. Congratulations! 

I interviewed Jannine about her company, her passion for eco-friendly products and her hopes for the future.

Jodi: Why did you create Nature's Child?
Jannine: When I had my first son 16 years ago, I was shocked by the amount of junky, plastic and disposable items that were on offer to parents. I had no interest in products being offered in baby shops and thought surely I was not the only mother that felt like this. I had to look far and wide around markets, garage sales and mail order to find healthy and beautiful products that were environmentally friendly and cost effective. Eventually, friends were asking where did I get that? So I realised there was a business opportunity. I had an open day at my house and made $2000 - then I knew I definitely had a business idea!

Jodi: What were your intentions when you opened the store?

Jannine: I simply wanted to make it easy for parents to get cloth nappies, organic, good, healthy baby products. It was such a niche idea that we clearly had to open our doors beyond the local community so our first store was on-line. We wanted to reach all parents looking for organic and natural products. We wanted to support parents choosing cloth baby products and make them easy to buy. Easy to buy with out all the research I had to do!

Jodi: What is your criteria when selecting products for the store?

Jannine: Organic, Handmade, natural ingredients, no chemical mixes. Biodegradable and disposable products, compost-ability. Less packaging. Recycled Packaging. Unique!

Jodi: How do you balance work and motherhood?

Jannine: My boys are teenagers now but they were 3 and 5yrs when I started Nature’s Child. I had a rule for myself that I would not work full time until the youngest was 5. I had a real thing about being there for them until they were 5 as I was always told 80% of what kids learn, they learn under 5. That stuck with me and I still believe it to be true. That rule was also for myself as much as them because its fun! They had daycare 2 days a week which was enough for both of us. I was not in a good financial position but I was happy with my boys. I love being a mum and still do. I have a great relationship with my teenagers who now work for me on weekends. They are really interested in how business works and always look out for me if I'm having a bad day. So they look after me now!

Jodi: What are five products that every new muma should have?

Jannine: Organic Bedding, Organic Teddy Bear, Amber Necklace, Nature’s Child Bottom Balm (world famous now it’s so good!) and Nature’s Child Deluxe Face Wipes.

Jodi: What are your dreams for Nature's Child?

Jannine: I would like Nature’s Child to be seen as a normal, mainstream place to shop. I still don’t understand why we have to be “special.” Being healthy and organic should be the mainstream. I look forward to Nature’s Child Stores opening in other states and continuing to offer awesome service, great value and flat rate shipping on-line to all Australian parents.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

happiest day...

Daniel Grey! My love turned 30 today (actually, he turned 33 but he likes to say 30 so we'll just go along with that). He woke to handmade cards and camera gear wrapped in a "che painting". Then we all bundled into the car and visited a brand new little cafe in our seaside town. It's got a bit of a city vibe which is always appreciated 'round these parts. We ate like birthday kings and queens, visited the park a little later in the day and then celebrated with the grandparents and gobbled up Mama's famous cheesecake.

Birthdays are such special times and in our house they're celebrated with lots of love and happiness. Daniel gets to choose his favourite dinner tonight. So what does this 30-year-old request? It's absolutely a la carte and deserved of awards, I tell you.

Beef nachos. Oh, he's just a big kid!

Monday, September 12, 2011

behind the scenes

Meet Tim - the man behind the lens. This is how he works; effortlessly juggling cameras while kids play at his feet. He's unperturbed by the fact that he's being filmed because his priority is catching the moment. Capturing it in the beautifully composed frame that he's known for.

I've had so many emails from people near and far wanting to have Tim photograph their families. I figure I'd introduce him and let you in on what a shoot is like. As you can tell it's pretty damn enjoyable. It's like inviting an old friend over, sharing food and stories and remaining quite oblivious to the fact that he's got a camera (or two) slung around his neck. Tim has the unique ability to make you forget all together that he's taking photos. That's the mark of a natural photojournalist.

Through a series of photos he tells the story of a family. A day in the life of. Don't you want that story on your wall?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

portrait: the sequel, by tim coulson

Tim emailed me last night with a link to the slideshow he had made. Daniel and I watched it - silent. And then I phoned Tim and burst into tears. Truly, I sobbed on the phone to him. Because what he captured is a moment in time, the four of us together, in all our normalcy. And yet it's beautiful. So very beautiful.

Daniel and I got an opportunity to look at our life through the eyes of another. The eyes of an artist. We're blessed.

And now, we just have to choose which few captures will hang on our walls. Which few we will look at, every day, for years to come and be reminded of what we have. Grateful for the little people we made and the happiness that follows them everywhere.