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The business of traditions

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Moon Jelly | 0 comments

Teena van Winden

I’ve always been enthralled by families different to m­­­­­­­y own. Having become a parent in the last few years, I'm on the hunt for new ideas, things I can incorporate into our lives that might become family rituals, both treasured and laughed-at.

I grew up in Melbourne’s west as the daughter of Italian immigrants. Next door was my only-child best friend, her parents Northern Irish and English. Their family life couldn’t have been more strange and exotic to me. (What the hell is soda bread?). But it was the little details I found most interesting, like the fact that whenever her dad wanted to check whether my friend was telling a lie, he would just say, “Say true.” And to satisfy his question, she would answer “True.” She could never, not in a million years, lie to her parents if they asked her to say true. It was a sacred bond, built up over years and even now at 42 years of age, her dad still asks her to say true.

Sure, my family developed its own traditions over the years. Who would risk not attending and helping out at tomato sauce-making day, for instance? Or dare visit a relative's house empty handed? Or refuse a relentlessly offered meal, even when you’d just eaten.

For 30 years, Friday Night Dinner was the epitome of tradition in my family and it went like this: Everyone piled into my Nonna’s house around 7pm. How the frig 35 people fit around one table is beyond me, but anyway, all I can say for sure is that there were two rows. There were a couple of rules; speak loud and eat fast. There were stories we’d all heard a million times and people talking over one another. Newcomers were mercilessly grilled by numerous cousins or else struggled to get away from an annoying uncle. Lashings of food were served up by Nonna who, in her heyday, rarely sat down. These were usually traditional Italian offerings of her famous lasagne, or minestrone, mopped up with crusty bread and followed by roughly 300 desserts. And cake. There was always cake, because in our family it was always someone’s birthday.

The night was not complete until you pulled your car around the Footscray cul-de-sac where Nonna lived and waved an exaggerated goodbye to her, as she stood by the decaying front gate – rain, hail or shine.

Nonna is gone now, but we still gather occasionally to eat together and celebrate nothing in particular. I know when an aunty rings these days, it’s usually to say: “I’m having Friday Night Dinner. Can you come? It’s this Saturday.”

Now, as ‘matriarch’ of my own small tribe, I’ve tried to introduce traditions to my nuclear family but I’m not yet sure if they will stick. We’ve taken a family snap in front of our Christmas tree every year since my daughter was born, for example. The one I am enjoying the most right now though is ‘Questions’ where we ask each other any question we like at the end of the day. It’s a good chance to let my daughter ask whatever she wants and see what she is thinking. My Mother In Law thinks I may live to regret this tradition.

For my extended family Christmas (celebrated of course, on Boxing Day), I initiated a Christmas Bake-off. The rules are still evolving, but basically blood-relatives battle non-bloods for dessert glory. There is sometimes cheating, sometimes judge bribery, but it’s all in good fun and really just an excuse to eat 12 pieces of 12 different cakes.

What better time to develop and celebrate tradition is there than the holidays? Who could forget George Costanza's Festivus and the Feats of Strength? This fictional family tradition still makes me laugh.

Some traditions seem to be borne out of thin air. A friend tells me that every year after Chistmas lunch her mum pulls out the old Chipmunks Christmas cassette. It's so bad, it's good and it wouldn't be Christmas without it.

A German woman I recently met explains the ritual of Niklaus. In early December, children leave their polished boots outside overnight, to be filled with small toys or sweets. She remembers this childhood memory fondly and says she and her husband will introduce it to her two young children, albeit with a possible Aussie twist of leaving thongs outside.

The most powerful of family traditions might be the ones that come from loss, from those world-changing life events we all face from time to time. A work colleague tells me about how her mother and five siblings gather annually to commemorate her father’s passing. They do this in a different location each year, to represent her parents’ love of travel or just because it’s somewhere special. This is a still-developing ritual that has been happening for just a few years, but what remains the same is that they always talk about her dad, there is always a toast and lots of laughs with family and friends.

I wonder if these cultural traditions are the easiest to hang onto. One of my high school friends, who has Egyptian roots, married a bloke whose folks are Irish. She jokingly asks if I want to hear about her family’s habit of Irish belly dancing and feast of potatoes and molokhia (traditional middle eastern soup). Somehow, I think she is having me on.

Meanwhile, in my extended family, it is still always someone’s birthday. Come to think of it, for around 15 years, we have been singing ‘happy birthday’ out of tune and out of time. Someone thought it was funny once, and now it just happens. Apart from it being incredibly upsetting to small children, it is actually pretty entertaining.

I guess some family traditions are just unexplainable.

 

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Finding Your Mummy Tribe

Posted on November 15, 2016 by Moon Jelly | 0 comments

Altona Mum’s Group established Spring 2012

Written by Skye Higgs November 2016

 

Mondayitis and I’ve just busted myself procrastinating, I’m so good at it that I didn’t know I was off in la-la-land until my mouse arrow suddenly turned into a miniature Christmas tree and I realise I am online fashion browsing and daydreaming again! Snap back to reality and I can’t quite comprehend that it’s only a few weeks until Christmas.

The other evening, I’d got the children into bed and was having a glass of wine whilst scrolling through Facebook. One of my Mother’s Group friends had posted a suggestion that we all meet up for a pre-Christmas Mummy get-together for tapas and drinks. YES! Totally committed (I can’t wait for what seems like a long over due meet-up).

Maybe because of the wine, or maybe just the memories, I started getting quite emotional whilst reflecting on this group of amazing women and sent them all a deep and heartfelt, loved up, gushy, message telling them how important they are to me. Ten minutes after my message, several replies started arriving. Each of them telling of their gratefulness of our little group too.

One can only point to fate and serendipity when all stars align and a group of women come together purely because they all conceived and delivered babies around the same time. But for us all to bond so closely and create a tribe going forward is pretty incredible. Sure, at the beginning there was a lot of sleep and poo talk, but over time, we created a space that is safe and comfortable, where nothing is off limits and there is absolutely no judgement – not ever.

I can picture the room where we all met, pre-Christmas, four years ago. It was a stiflingly hot day, the smell of burnt concrete and gum leaves, summer dresses, new mums walking modern prams to a tired 1950s maternal health care building.

It was an early meet up because of the Christmas break; we wouldn’t have a chance to meet again until the new year… it was a chance to swap phone numbers.

These teeny, 6-10 week old babies and their exhausted new mums, sitting in a low lit room to stay cool, some babes laid on their back on baby blankets, some babes were feeding, some babes slept peacefully in capsules while a couple were still unsettled. I looked around the room and saw myself in these women, in their darkened eyes sockets and inflated breasts.

I then started looking at the babies, to keep my mind busy while we waited for the session to start. I tried to pick the strong genetic traits between mother and child. Looking around the room it was almost an even split between boys and girls in their little summer outfits.

With a little coaching from the Maternal Nurse, the conversation also warmed up… we took turns introducing ourselves and our babies, it didn’t take long before some of the hilarious and traumatising birth stories came tumbling out, it was clear who the big talkers and entertainers in the group were and we had a laugh. Most of all it was so obvious that we all needed to vent, share, download our experiences and have an empathising and understanding ear.

I went home lighter and more relaxed. I had been struggling, I wouldn’t admit it but I was really feeling very isolated. I found mum life very stressful and I had developed unreasonably high expectations of myself. I acknowledge that I was probably still in shock from the shoulder dystocia emergency birth of my daughter Willow. That, coupled with no sleep and very little support at home meant I was probably as shell-shocked and unsure as Willow was when she entered the world.

A few weeks later, I was having a particularly bad day… a bad week. Life had changed, forever and I didn’t have a very clear picture of the future.

At home on the bathroom floor, I was balling my eyes out – rivers of tears … I couldn’t function. I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I was calling out to the universe for some clarity. I was overwhelmed with change, I’d always had a plan: I wanted to study fashion and be a designer and I’d focused and crafted out my career as I’d dreamt of since 12years old. I wanted to have children and a family but suddenly I was here and I couldn’t see past the moment. I didn’t have a vision, I was struggling to understand who I was and who we were together now as 2 people: Mother and child.

Then I said to myself: “NO. STOP. You are not a victim. You are a new Mum. You and your baby need to get out of the house, you need to look forward to something.”

So I drummed up some much-needed confidence and sent text messages to the phone numbers on the Maternal Health list. I wrote that I would be at a local café at a certain time and day and if anyone could make it, I would really love to have a coffee. I was proud of myself that I had pulled myself through a funk and made a positive resolution, whatever the outcome.

When I met with the other mums, I realised that they were also craving the contact and escape. We became very good at drinking coffee and conversing between nappy changes, breast and bottle feeding and rolling babies back onto rugs. Our children must have been the most socially adapted children in Melbourne.

Fast forward four years and I’m proud to say that my beautiful Mummy Tribe, originally a group of 10 mums … is now sporting a total of 20 children who are all little besties, with the most recent baby arriving just last week.

I realise that everyone’s situation is different and that not everyone has the best experience in an allocated Mothers Group.

If you don’t find your tribe straight away or you’ve relocated to a new town or area please don’t lose hope. You may just need a bit of creative brainstorming. And don’t be afraid to take that first step, send that first text message, when the hour, minute or second is right. You just don’t know who else is silently freaking out at the other end.

My ideas for new mums:

  • If you find you don’t connect well with a group, ask your local Maternal Health nurse if they can connect you with a new group. (PS: if you don’t like your Maternal Health Nurse – you can also change, ask to book with someone else, or register at a different clinic – this may be harder in smaller, regional areas)
  • There are lots of places to meet up – baby-friendly cafes, libraries (rhyme time or storytime)
  • Join a Council run or private playgroup, or set up your own
  • Yoga & Mums and Bubs classes (start prenatal classes when pregnant and you could meet some great mums to be that also carry on with their Yoga practice with their new bubs). Exercise is also a great pathway to easing the emotional transition. You can also practice mindfulness. There are some great apps to help with this.
  • Facebook have lots of mums groups that you could search in your area and request to join.
  • Pick up the free parenting magazines at the local café or library
  • Follow local bloggers on Facebook. They’ll usually give you the news and updates on local hot spots and events

This week, 13th – 19th November is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety (PNDA) Awareness Week

If you are truly feeling that it’s all too much and you are really not coping, please seek help.

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) National Helpline

Mon to Fri, 10am - 5pm AEST

1300 726 306

http://www.panda.org.au/

Its ok to take some time out to daydream a little, we can’t always be ON for everyone, don’t be too hard your yourself …and sometime a little retail therapy is great for the soul too – it is almost Christmas! xx

Skye & Willow

Skye & Willow

 

 

 Altona Mothers' Group & FamiliesAltona Mummy Tribe

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Free Printables - Baby Milestone Cards

Posted on August 09, 2015 by Moon Jelly | 0 comments

We had such a fantastic time at Life Instyle recently, taking Moon Jelly to all the wonderful retailers! Watch this space for our exciting new stockists. Can you believe it's been 8 months since we launched in December last year!

We wanted to say thanks to YOU - all of our wonderful supporters by giving you some free downloadable milestone cards! You can download them by clicking the link below, print on card, cut and then snap with your gorgeous bub (and even better if you have some Moon Jelly gear to go with it!)

We'd love to see your pics so feel free to tag us @moonjellyau or #lovemoonjelly

Get downloading......

Milestone Cards - Boy

Milestone Cards - Girl

Alicia & Skye xx

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BACK-UP BUNNY

Posted on May 17, 2015 by Moon Jelly | 0 comments

My daughter Willow has a soft toy bunny, called …. Bunny.

In fact, I bought Bunny for her while expecting. It is the first thing I ever bought her.

I think every other child must also have a bunny that looks the same but no, not true – and that is the whole message of my story: THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!

I remember being told pre-children that it’s important to get a duplicate of the favourite soft toy, in case of washing or loss, as it will save drama and heartache – and the child will be none the wiser.

Hence early in Willow’s life, I bought and introduced ‘Back-up Bunny’.

I remember gloating to a friend that we were lucky enough to have a generic bunny, so it was easy to have a back-up.

My friend was jealous because her son was inseparable from his rag doll ‘Stinky’ and because Stinky was a gift from the UK, she had no hope of finding a back-up easily and was terrified of the event where he might lose his beloved comforter.

Bunny #2 used to stay home clean in bed whilst #1 went daycare and everywhere else.

For months I managed to keep them separate, and it worked – there was a bunny everywhere and for all occasions until Willow reached 2 ½ yrs old.

“That’s not my bunny she screamed” and angrily discarded #2 out of her bed.

Hysterics ensued until #1 was found and in arms, she can even tell in the dark just by feeling #1’s well worn bottom labels, that this is her bestie, her confidante and favourite.

The imposter is still not allowed back and shunned from any interaction.

I can tell the difference, #1 bunny (pictured right) has a slimmer face, slightly pointier nose, and now, is a little more thread bare and floppier than #2.

This total bunny #2 rejection happened only a couple of weeks before the oft-feared calamity happened and #1 did actually disappear.

It was in the middle of moving house a month ago, I was distraught. I couldn’t sleep.

I was looking under the car at 10pm at night in the rain with a torch. I tried to console myself and Willow by saying how much Bunny #2 needed love now that #1 had gone.

Day 3 and Willow seemed OK, a brief “Where’s my Bunny” but Teddy had stepped up into the role and she found another softie to take to bed – all was OK.

But I was so sad.

I couldn’t work it out. Where could it have gone? How could I have not noticed it falling in a puddle? Poor Bunny was somewhere, cold, miserable, desolate...and lost.

Day 7: We were having dinner at my Mum’s.

Willow calls out “Look I’ve found Bunny!”

What the???? Risen from the dead. All hail Bunny #1.

Willow had stashed it under my Mum’s piano keyboard cover a week earlier…either she’d forgotten or is so incredibly clever to curate the whole drama and watch me lose my mind over this damned piece of faux fur.

So to my relief, Bunny #1 is safe in arms again, I am considering counselling to manage my separation anxiety just in case next time we aren’t so lucky.

But my message to all new Mums out there and the moral of my story is:

Don’t fret if you don’t have a back up comforter, its highly likely that the chosen item will be the only thing that your child will bond closely with and most likely nothing will be able to take it’s place.

But in case of loss, I promise your child will get over it, they are often far more adaptable and resilient than we give them credit for.

Skye xx

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