15 August 2008

Taking stock

We set off early, just the three of us - Hanno, Alice and me, with the sun almost breaking over the horizen, heading for Shane and Sarndra's home, about three hours away. We packed Alice in the back of our station wagon on her bed so she would be cushioned from the bumps and turns of the journey.

We stopped twice along the way. First at this old hall near Somerset Dam for Alice to have a run. I imagined all sorts of old style dances happening in the corrugated iron hall in times gone by.

Our second stop was for morning tea at Marburg, a small town originally settled by German migrants many years ago. We had a flask of hot tea and water for Alice, but she was more intent on all the new smells waiting to be discovered.

Finally, after what seemed like too much time, we arrived at a little white house sitting alone on top of a hill. It was cold and windy. It had been snowing just the week before, the temperature regularly drops below freezing there during winter. After greeting us outside, Shane and Sarndra took us inside their little cottage to a hot fire blazing away and the smell of lunch cooking in the oven.

In some homes you get a really relaxed and warm feeling - this was such a home. There was a cat hiding under the couch that Alice never found, lots of books around and sunlight streaming in through the front enclosed verandah. We sat and talked till it was time for lunch and then all sat down to a delicious meal.

Shane is happy there in that little cottage. He is happy with Sarndra, his job and his life in general, I could feel it. Sarndra is a lovely girl and I am pleased they found each other, they seem to be a very good match. Usually we are too busy to take stock of a particular day and instead look back through the memory of it gathered in fragments. But yesterday, I looked at it all carefully while it was happening and tried to take in the small details so I could accurately remember that day for a long time.

Click on photos to enlarge them

Have you ever wondered what cook books a chef uses? Here are just some of Shane's. He let me borrow two lovely books - The French Kitchen and The French Market. I quickly looked through them while we were visiting and they have some excellent simple recipes. I'll be trying some of them out in the coming weeks and will share those that I really like.

We left on our return journey at 3.30pm. It had grown colder as the day progressed and I was thankful for the heater in the car as we drove those long and winding roads home. We didn't take the highways, instead we took the back roads which, like those in life, are always more interesting.

There are points in life when you take stock and decide if what you see is what you want to see. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I came away from our visit with feelings of love and pride, and, I suppose, relief, that Shane has grown into such a fine young man. You never know while they're growing if what you're doing is the right thing and as each child is different, you have to adjust what you do to suit each of them. I'm not saying I did every thing right, because I know I didn't, but I think I got enough of it right. It's a good feeling to see your son as an adult functioning so well, knowing he is successful in his job and happy with his partner and the choices he's made. As we travelled along that long thread that connects his home to ours, all those little animals hiding in the scrub would have looked in our car window and seen a well contented mother. And if I could bottle the feelings I tried to contain on that trip home, I'd would be richer than the queen.



  1. Rhonda,

    What a lovely post! As a mother of three young adults making their way in this world, I very much understand all these sentiments.

    Indeed, it is a wonderful feeling and I'm so glad you had a lovely and memorable day.


  2. I'm happy for you, Rhonda! This is a lovely post that makes us older women smile inside with you. I, too, have my children all grown into marvelous young adults.

  3. It's a good place to be. I'm content as we send our first born on her solo flight across the ocean to a new land. But I fear my heart may break. A lovely post Rhonda, thanks.

  4. What a wonderful day. I'm no where near this stage with my children yet but when I am I hope I'm as contented as you are now.

  5. Oh Rhonda, I have just caught up on your blog after some "down time" and am so very sorry to hear of your loss. I am thinking of you all.

    On a happier note I am delighted to read this post - it is so wonderful to read of your love and pride in your son - and witness a glimpse of such a lovely day.

    Thank you for blogging and sharing!


  6. It seems yesterday was a lovely end to an otherwise sad week. Seeing your son in his own home, surrounded those people and homely items he loves would have been very rewarding. And, what a treat having such a beautiful lunch served to you and yours.

    As the Mother of two young daughters I'm always wondering what sort of example I lead for these two littlies, so...I also understand your inner thoughts. My girls are genuinely happy and interested in life so I take it that my "job" so far has been successful. Wait until the teenage years for the real hurdles I'm told.

    Again, thank you for a wonderful post...I look forward to your posts on the recipes from the French related books. I'm also very interested in The River Cottage books I see their on the shelf.

    Karen - a local.

  7. Rhonda,
    Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts.
    As a mother of a 28 yr old daughter and a 25 year old son, now young adults supporting themselves and living on their own, it is indeed a time to be proud.
    Your feelings came through so wonderfully in your writings.

  8. Rhonda,

    Your post just make me feel warm inside:) What a wonderful day you had with your son.

    P.s. It has been getting a little cooler here so I am sure it will start warming up there:)



  9. RJ,
    What a wonderful outing for you! I too hope as a parent that I am doing the right thing...my son is 12 so i have a few more years to get it right and see if he turns out okay :)
    Thanks for the bookshelf peek, since I love cooking it is something I have been curious about!

  10. Hello lovely Rhonda
    I am so sorry about Rosie - my wishes and hugs are with you and Hano

    The French Market is a lovely book - I have used it quite a bit - it is great for home produce cooking! I love how it makes a cellebration out of single veggies - like carrots or beets or mushies or rabbit.

    many hugs

  11. what a wonderful day! thanks for sharing...

  12. what a great post,sounds like you all had a fabulous day,thanks so much for sharing it with us,it was a treat to read about it


  13. I'm glad for you that you could have such a good day while I'm sure there are still feelings of sadness to deal with. As you describe, the relief and joy you feel with your grown children surely is a delight. You may not be doing this personally but from my own experience and in view of some commenters I see that we're tempted to think, "Well, if our kids turned out OK, I must have done something right". To all those so tempted I strongly urge you to consider deeply:-

    What if they don't?
    How are you going to feel then?

    Not all children who end up in financial difficulties have had a bad example from parents (or the skills they may have TRIED to impart). They may have been unduly influenced by advertising and the too easy availability of credit.

    Not all children who's parents marriages that have been truly sucessful (not JUST evidenced by how many years they've endured eachother) will themselves have successful marriages.

    SOME children from "good" homes go on to commit crimes, and some parents who have children that commit suicide must endure the devestation that brings, and probably end up torturing themselves wondering did THEY do something wrong? The answer is often, no they didn't. But who amongst us wouldn't think about every parenting mistake we'd made and wonder if what we'd said or done caused or contributed to it?

    A child of mine has what is termed Anxiety ADD. It's meant a great deal of difficulty for her to grow up feeling like a totally competent individual with good self esteem. We've been through hell and back it's felt like at times with her. If I looked at it all, although she's made great strides in becoming competent, she still has more issues than a lot of kids her age and skills yet to master, and with the prospects of difficulties someone with her "condition" will continue to face I COULD feel like a dismal failure.

    The truth of it is this:-
    I've put a huge amount of time and effort into her. When she's been ready to give up I've kept on encouraging her (add infinitum!). When she's made impulsive decisions and gotten herself into trouble over and over again, I've been there to help her learn how to work her way out of them, not by bailing her out but by painstakingly trying to give her life skills, both practical and psychological, that will deliver a more positive outcome. When she's lost control of her temper and screamed how she hates me, I've been able to tell her, "Well, I'm sorry, you're allowed to hate me but you still have to do the right thing, and I will ALWAYS love YOU", (then had a lesson in apologising). I've been willing to stick with it, evaluate myself and my parenting, availed myself of any help I could get to learn better skills, admit where I'm wrong and be willing to apologise for my own failings.

    The point is, if you're willing to get in there and suffer along with a child in their trials and tribulations and tried the best you can, got input from outside sources when you're stuck, then that is the true measure of your sucess as a parent, NOT what they end up doing in life or how it appears they're "turning out".

    Apologies for the length of this but I think it's so important. Regards, Marilyn

  14. Sounds like you had a wonderful day.

    Shane and Sandra sound great, you must be so proud.


  15. What a beautiful post :)

    I think it's important that we all do our best while raising our families while accepting that there will inevitably be mistakes along the way.

    You obviously did a fine job :)

  16. Rhonda, what a happy day. Thank you for sharing with us. The promise of cooler winter days is a welcome thought in these long summer afternoons. And finding your son in such a loving, warm home is a comfort that is hard to explain. Your pictures have given us a glimpse of a world far away. It seems to be a magical place, so different from ours and yet familiar with many thing in common.
    Thank you again for sharing. JudieJ

  17. Rhonda,
    Such a lovely post! None of us who have parented children can ever predict what our child/ children will be like when they become adults...and no, none of us are perfect at parenting. But, I think you can rest easily knowing that you and Hanno did a splendid 'job' with Shane. Shane and Sandra make a lovely couple. It's nice to be able to see our own 'circle of life' being repeated in our children. I'm so glad you and Hanno had such a nice day. Blessings, Aunt Bea

  18. As a mother you must be so proud that you have such a fine young man. I really hope that my sons will turn out to be men of lovely character.

  19. Thanks to Marilyn for voicing her thoughts & experiences! I,too, have a child that is struggling and what an experience that has been! It does cause one to wonder what went wrong...he did grow up in a good home with parents that love him but still struggles.

    Maria M

  20. What a lovely day out, and your pride in your son shines through in your post.

    My three are young adults now - 2 girls at Uni and our son in his last year at 6th form. Children don't come with written instructions and as parents, we had to learn - and are still learning - the best way to tackle problems too.

    Marilyn - it sounds like you have had more of a challenge than most, but your daughter is fortunate to have parents who have supported and helped her every inch of the way.

    Rhonda - the photo of your son's cookery books had me absorbed as I read the titles! I have the all Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ones (laughingly referred to as Hugh Fearnley-Whatamess in this house!) I have an addiction to recipe books with "Country" or "Farmhouse" in the title - that's my style of cookery.

  21. My son turned 27 yesterday. My husband and I had dinner with him and met his girlfriend for the first time.
    I cried when I read this; I know exactly what you mean.

  22. Hi Rhonda - like the other lady I cried when I read this! OK - I am hormonal today but still! I have not been blessed with children and am in between your age and Shane's age so I think I was reading it as if I were a mother to myself (I hope someone knows what I mean here;)).Better compose myself as I made the mistake of reading this in the office which is the last place I want to be! Have a good day, Sparkly

  23. rhonda, another beautiful post. glad you have discovered joanne harris in the french kitchen and the french market. these books are fantastic! i know you will enjoy them. I have been trying to acquire a copy of the french kitchen for some time. I was away recently when one came up on ebay. joanne harris spent her childhood visiting brittany to see her grandparents. you are lucky to share this interest with your son. regards, sue, melbourne

  24. Hey, he's a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall / River Cottage fan! I've been watching my River Cottage DVDs today.

  25. Rhonda, sounds like a beautiful day. I can only hope I will have the same feelings once my children are grown, and wish my mother has those feelings about me (but somehow I have my doubts)now.

    Christine from the NL

  26. I understand where Marilyn is coming from, and I commend her patience and hard work with her daughter.

    I would however disagree that there is never blame toward the parents for the child turning out to be a 'bad 'un'. My own mother did nothing to encourage me to do well or push myself, and really didn't seem at all bothered what I ended up doing in life, except she sugested I 'marry a rich man'.

    It was always other people who inspired me to do well in life. Its a shame, I feel I missed out on having a 'proper' mum. And even though I'm proud of my achievements so far in life, she's just not bothered. Time and time again in my life I've wanted her to be proud. Even when I announced I was getting married, her response was along the lines of 'what do you want to do that for?' She's still married to my Dad and has been all this time, but she just doesn't seem to care about life much.

    I understand she's depressed, even though she won't admit it or seek help, I see it in her as I went through it myself when I was trying to rationalise all this in my head (a process I'm still going through), and even though I don't think she has any idea the damage she did to me,or intend to cause harm, there were definitely still things she's done 'wrong' (if there is such a thing) that have affected me. I could have had a very different life by now if it weren't for certain other precious people in my life, down to my mother's constant criticism and putting me down, not encouraging me to make anything of myself in life and general apathy about me. I always had the feeling she'd have preferred it if I'd never come along at all. I have and older brother and older sister who I'm very different from and she thinks the sun shines out of their proverbials, but she seems to have no time for me at all.

    Don't get me wrong though, despite all that I still love my mum and still see her a few times a year and don't hold anything against her, but I do acknowledge that she didn't bring me up the way I'd want to bring up my children.

    Sorry I went on a bit there, but this topic obviously raised a few issues for me!!

    However, I'm so glad your Shane and Sarndra are doing so well, and pleased he's got the River Cottage books - I love Hugh F-W :-)

    Blessings x

  27. This sounds like a truly wonderful day! You are an amazing writer. Thanks for sharing a close family get together. I felt as if I was there.

  28. Sounds like a wonderful day! I enjoyed the post so much. I could feel the contentment coming through in your words. I have three children; 19, 13, and 3. I worry so often that I will do the right thing by them. I hope that one day I can feel the same sense of peace when they are each grown and on their own. Because for me motherhood is my most important calling in life.

  29. I recently found your blog, and have really enjoyed reading about your gardening and living life on your little piece of earth. The two of you have inspired me to use our land for sustaining our family and our community. I will be back regularly to see how things are growing Down Under. Thank you for inspiring all of us to be better land owners.

    South Carolina, USA

  30. Rhonda,
    I love reading about the way you love your family so much. What a blessing you are!!
    Our oldest son just got engaged and we are so happy. Our youngest son is still in college.
    Hugs to Alice.
    Blessings to you,

  31. What a lovely post Rhonda, I am so glad you had such a lovely time with your son. Children are a great blessing.

  32. Oh, Rhonda what a wonderful day.....thank you so much for letting us go along.
    Isn't it the *best* when your children are happy in a cosy home of their own making with one they love? A reward of your efforts and years of love to them.
    And you must have known one of my favorites is checking out people's bookshelves!
    Blessings to you today.

  33. Rhonda, the trip looked like a good one. At times it's good to get away, especially after such a difficult week. I hadn't read the blog in a bit, so I am sorry to be so late in sending a virtual hug about Rosie. However it seems that you are doing alright at this point. It's always a difficult transition initially.

    How wonderful for Shane to have you 3 come to visit however! And how comfortable his home! I'm glad you were able to go. May you have a wonderful weekend!

  34. Fifi, I try and bring up my children well, but they probably beg to differ. What my priorities are for them are probably not what they want, but I guide as 'I'/We see best. That is life. We cannot all agree. I admit I do things wrong as much as I do things right. I love my children and they love me but we are all different personalities. How can parents get it right ?

    We all do our best given our financial circumstances and our life experiences.I try to educate my children towards nature and natural resources, they beg towards other things. As parents we do our best and no parent ever gets it 100% right. From our parenting we have to make our own path.

    My children are not me, they are just my offspring and will make their own decisions about and in life.Just as I took, learnt and left my parents to make my own path in life. They are not carbon copies of you. You cannot choose your children and they cannot choose their parents. Such is life.

  35. It's nice to hear that your visit was so pleasing.

  36. What a beautiful post. I found the last paragraph very inspiring :-) I have a nearly grown son (17) as well as small children. Sometimes I get a bit of a peak at the man he might become, but still have those days when he's a child. I look forward to the day I can write a post like yours.

  37. i hope to drink from the same bottle of contentment one day. perhaps i too will grow up to be a proud mamma of content adult chilren. thank you for your encouraging comments.

  38. What a lovely day. I love days where you feel like you couldn't be any happier. I like your idea of being able to bottle these feelings.


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