It’s been a long while since I last posted here. Christmas has come and gone, and New Year’s too.
Since our family finally ventured overseas for the first time in years at the beginning of January 2023, my year in review posts for 2022 never eventuated. And, although I often have a multitude of ideas for posts, I frequently don’t have the time to execute them — mostly because life. So between my last post and this, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to make this blog more relevant to my life as it is now.
When I started making a list of what I wanted to write about — things I’d been thinking, reading, eating and doing — I realised I had the beginnings of a workable acronym for all I wanted to communicate. A couple of minutes of tinkering later, I had a plan in my notebook and a smile on my face.
And so, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to the THREAD.
THINK | HEAR | READ | EAT | ADMIRE | DO
I’ve been thinking about this post by Amy Betters-Midvelt, which someone shared to the Chat10LooksTeen Facebook group recently. It’s called All Parents of Teenagers are Liars, and examines the way we speak about — OK, lie about — the lives of those she refers to as “tall kids”, or teenagers. It reminded me of the old saying, which I may have heard myself imparting to my own tall kids of late, that everyone is dealing with something. You might be privy to someone’s situation. Perhaps, to you, it seems trivial, perhaps not. Or maybe you’ll never know what a person is going through, and it’s something truly ghastly. Or maybe it’s not. But the fact remains: everyone is dealing with something.
My two main takeaways from this thought-provoking piece were, firstly, that regardless of how tall they are (and believe me, Marvel Girl has well and truly passed me, and Miss Malaprop’s not far behind her), teenagers are still kids. And secondly, that just about every parent of a teenager I know is more likely to respond as cheerily as they can to a query about how their tall kid is doing rather than launching into a ten minute diatribe about whatever it is they are dealing with at that time, whether it be school refusal, bullying, slipping grades, vaping, porn, alcohol, general slothfulness, or their insistence on publicly wearing a bikini so miniscule it would make a Brazilian blush. We’re all doing our best, with varying degrees of success, and sometimes as unsure of ourselves as parents as our tall kids are of the almost-adults they’re becoming.
Everyone is dealing with something. But focusing on the good bits when we’re asked? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing…
Since I live in a house with two tall kids, I’ve been hearing a lot of their music lately. Our summer days have been filled with songs from Lana Del Ray, Taylor Swift, and Harry Styles. Marvel Girl got a record player for Christmas, so there have been numerous trips to various music stores in search of specific titles on vinyl. (I suspect I did clock up more than a few brownie points for presenting her with the Moonstone Blue edition of Midnights to start off her collection, but that may have been more good luck than good management on my part).
The Bloke and I have made sure Marvel Girl has added a few classics to her record collection too, making sure she’s got some Beatles tunes, and some U2, and even dug out some old vinyl we’d been hanging on to since forever and introduced her to Neil Diamond’s Hot August Nights. We even found some Elvis records that had belonged to her great grandmother, and the theme song to Felix the Cat, just for good measure.
When the kids are not around, I’ve been listening to a weird mix of Indie Folk and whatever happens to be on Spotify’s ever-changing “Front Left” playlist. And when I’m working, it’s all instrumental…no words, because lyrics have a tendency to get in the way of the words I’m writing.
I’ve been doing quite a lot of reading this summer, have have been on a bit of a Jonathan Franzen kick after reading Crossroads just after Christmas. I was happy to hear Crossroads is intended as the first of a trilogy, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to read Freedom. Franzen writes about family so well — the weird, somtimes stilted, inter-generational dynamics of living with people purely by accident of birth — and often in a darkly funny way.
I also plowed my way through several holiday reads via the Libby app (Jane Harper’s Exiles, and two very British mystery novels by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett called A Murder of Crows and A Cast of Falcons). In various airports and armchairs I read Allegra in Three Parts by Suzanne Daniel, Hilde Hinton’s new book A Solitary Walk on the Moon, Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold and a couple of entertaining thrillers: The Cloisters by Katy Hays and A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris. I also read and found myself frequently reflecting on the tragically beautiful portrait of love and mental illness in Olivie Blake’s novel Alone With You in the Ether. I enjoyed them all, some more than others, but mostly because each was exactly what I needed at the time.
Eating is something I am eternally grateful for. I am one of those people who lives to eat, not one who eats to live, so good food — whether prepared by me or for me — is something I truly relish. We ate some fantastic meals during our road trip around New Zealand, discovering some great restaurants. To this end I highly recommend Atticus Finch in Rotorua, Pacifica in Napier (where our kids enjoyed their first ever degustation dinner), and the Pier Hotel in Kaikoura.
Since we’ve been home and school has resumed, we are back to far more routine offerings, such as Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Banana Muffins (my copy of her book Kitchen automatically falls open at the page featuring this recipe, not least because it is a very effective way of using up over-ripe bananas). Like most of Australia — OK, half the world — we’ve been singing the praises of Nagi Maehashi, of RecipeTin Eats fame, whose cookbook Dinner has been a source of many a home cooked meal at our place this summer. We are particular fans of the Asian Glazed Salmon, not only because it’s insanely delicious, but also because it is super quick to prepare. We tip our collective hats to Nagi, a Northern Beaches local who creates amazing recipes and gives so much back to our local community via RecipeTin Meals.
I know it might seem like a peculiar thing, but one thing I have been admiring lately is the bottom of our new swimming pool. Yep — the bottom! You know how the light hitting the water creates those mesmerising moving patterns? The ones that make you think you might be swimming over the top of a gigantic turquoise-shelled sea turtle (if such a thing existed)? Or some kind of weirdly warped honeycomb-like tessellation? OK…maybe it’s just me. But I do love watching it, floating on the surface, gazing down into the blue.
I am also admiring my kids, who both started at a new school this year. It’s not been entirely plain sailing, but they’re both doing all those hard things that stand you in good stead later in life, as well as in the here and now: making new friends, finding their way in unfamiliar territory, remembering (after a long summer) how to be punctual, showing up to things they’ve signed up for, speaking up for themselves when they need to. I’m struck by their courage, their tenacity, their humour. It was truly gratifying to see their care for each other after their first day, checking in and making sure their sister had survived their first day before regaling me with tales of what they’d experienced. And I’m grateful — beyond measure — that after four years at separate schools, they are finally together again.
And finally, we find ourselves at doing! We’ve been doing so much, but the standout highlight would have to be our New Zealand road trip. We flew into Auckland, and drove — via Hobbiton, of course — to Rotorua in all its (stinky) geothermal glory, then onto Napier before heading down to see very dear friends who have made their home in Wellington, at the tip of the North Island. A particularly exciting moment for Marvel Girl was watching her godfather flying a plane out of his “office”, Wellington airport: she had requested he do a barrel roll but apparently such aerobatics are frowned upon on domestic flights, so we settled for seeing him take off instead. We might even have cheered.
From Wellington we made our way across to the South Island via the Interislander Ferry to Kaikoura, saw hundreds of seals including about fifty pups at O’hau, then made our way via Christchurch to Aoraki (Mt Cook). There we were blown away by mountain views, icebergs and glaciers, and even swam in the very cold but still refreshing Lake Pukaki. We finally wended our way to Queenstown, made a magical day trip to Milford Sound and saw a bunch of bottlenosed dolphins put on quite a show, before finishing up with a hair-raising jetboat ride on the Shotover River. We flew home tired but happy, pleased with all we’d been able to do and see but also glad to be back in our new house.
So there you have it, folks: the inaugural edition of the THREAD, which I hope you’ve enjoyed.
I’d love to know what you’ve been getting up to over the summer and how life is treating you now school is back in session for another year. I’d also appreciate any thoughts you have on tall kids and how to manage being a parent (I’ve just about given up trying to “manage” the tall kids at this point, but I think that’s also kind of the point at this stage in their development?!), or anything else that has got your brain turning over lately. And feel free, as always, to use the comments for recommendations for any music, books or recipes you’re into as well.