Thursday, January 15, 2015


By Ronnie Mason
A graphic designer by trade, Ronnie's first loves are writing, photography and memory keeping. She lives in Sydney with her husband, Rick, and four of their  five little boys. You can find Ronnie over at her personal blog, The Shoemaker's Daughter, a memoir named after her mother, and she is also the main author of the official LIFE:CAPTURED Inc blog - the place where you can find anything you need relating to photography, photo archiving and organising and memory keeping in general.

Hello everyone, what a joy it is to be contributing here at The Beetle Shack! A huge thanks to Em for having me. As some of you may know, I used to blog over at Pink Ronnie for some twelve years and if I have to be completely honest, I still miss it quite a bit. (Okay, a lot.) These days, I keep myself busy with my four boys, writing The Shoemaker's Daughter,  and running LIFE:CAPTURED Inc, a venture that I founded with my friend Trish about eighteen months ago when we ran our first workshop together. We like to think of ourselves as the modern school of memory keeping. What that really means is that we are here to help people document their stories and create timeliness, tangible keepsakes to be treasured for generations to come.

In this first post of mine at The Beetle Shack, I thought I'd share with you how I documented a day of our life (New Year's day, in fact) using primarily words. I love photos as much as the next person, but there's a lot to be said about actually writing down the stories of our everyday life. Every time I read back over something like this, I know that these are the tiny details that I would surely forget not just in ten years' time, but most likely, in ten days' or ten months' time! It's hard work to actually do it (I won't lie about that), but I never regret doing it. In the past, I've done something like this a few times a year, but in 2015, I'm hoping to make it once a month. My plan is to combine these words with the photos that I did take on the day and to make them into a mini story book, which I'll hopefully be able to share in a subsequent post!

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I wake up from my dreams and see the sun seeping through our blinds. Despite our late night, I feel well rested. I lie there, motionless, feeling Rick's presence next to me. The linen sheets I got for Christmas are utterly luxurious, and I am slowly but surely getting used to them. I hear faint murmurs from the boys' room. I reach for Rick's wrist to check the time but it is bare. "What time is it?" I whisper. He opens one eye, reaches for his bedside table. He rolls back, and I see the black watch in his hand. "Twenty past eight," he croaks softly. I breathe out a sigh of relief. The knowledge that we have had a slight sleep in puts me in a good mood. Ten minutes (or so) later, I hear the creak of the boys' door and the boys wander into our room. The older two head straight to the ensuite. Jamie walks over to Rick and waits quietly. I give Rick a nudge. He looks up, sees Jamie, and holds up his arms. Jamie takes a step forward and is pulled into his daddy's embrace. Rick gets up shortly afterwards and heads out to the boys, closing the door behind him (bless him). New year, old rituals. I pull my blindfold back on and nestle myself back under the covers, silently wishing for an extra moment of solitude. My mind begins to play out the day ahead, and I immediately try to work out when I can carve out some time for writing. Outside, I can hear the boys getting dressed and Rick going into Bear. I manage to climb out of the sheets and walk to the door. Rick sees me and smiles. "Bear, Bear, do you want to show your finger to mummy?" Bear appears in the corridor and walks over to me. He lifts his finger up to me, and I kiss the little burn blister from the sparklers the night before. A small wave of guilt washes over me. Pete and Angus are dressed in no time and head downstairs. Jamie follows, still in his PJs and carrying his water bottle, a toy car, and the Blinky Bill book. Rick makes the boys' beds, while I start to tidy our room: dirty clothes down the laundry chute, and books back inside the bedside drawers. Rick comes in to make our bed and then heads downstairs with Bear.

The boys play quietly in the family room while Rick reads a story from the Blinky Bill book to Jamie. I put the kettle on and then potter about, tidying and putting things away. Angus makes a smartphone out of Lego and clips it into my Gorillapod like we did last night with my iPhone. Pete hides behind the couch and surreptitiously takes photos on Rick's iPhone. Bear lines up the wooden trains on the rug and lies down next to them. Rick finishes the story and heads into the kitchen with Jamie. They unpack the dishwasher together. Later, I find Jamie lying on the floor of the kitchen. He wants someone to get his clothes for him. Rick suggests that he uses his words and ask me nicely. He obliges, so I head upstairs to retrieve his daytime clothes. Jamie gets changed and watches daddy as he makes breakfast, moving the wooden stool to in front of the stove. Pete joins him. Rick finishes with the eggs, serves up. The six of us sit down to scrambled eggs, buttered toast, and orange juice. My cup of tea has gone lukewarm so I decide to make coffee later instead. I crack pepper onto my eggs and secretly sprinkle some salt on as well. Bear immediately reaches for his food. He eats the bread, but not the crust. He insists on feeding himself the egg with a spoon. He refuses my help. He eats half of the egg and drops the other half on the floor. I cringe, but Rick reassures me he'll clean it up later. The big boys eat all their food, bring their plate and cup over to the kitchen, and head back into the family room to continue their play. Rick cleans Bear up and puts him into new clothes. I am the last one to leave the table. In the kitchen, I help Rick with the cleaning up. When we're almost finished, I ask him if he wouldn't mind playing with the boys for a bit so that I can do a bit of writing.

Pete, Jamie and Bear have built an awesome train track together. Angus is on the couch, typing notes onto daddy's iPhone. I plonk myself down next to him and he shows me the auto-corrects the phone is making. He is clearly both amused and impressed. I tell him he can play Reading Eggs on my iPad later if he wishes. Bear wanders out of the room and beckons me to follow him. He wants milk. I fill half a bottle and he takes it, happily. I make myself a cup of Nespresso. Rick finishes up in the laundry and comes out to the family room. I head upstairs to the my studio, re-arrange the items in my bag, and then update Rick's expenses claim on my Macbook Pro. I decide to not bring my MBP downstairs to force myself to focus on writing. I make my way to Rick's office with my Nespresso, my Macbook Air and my bag. Rick has already settled into playing Lego with the boys. I close doors to keep the sound out. I keep the blinds closed and settle down to write.

Rick continues to play Lego and trains with the boys, while I start to write up our Day in the Life  (DITL) narrative.

At noon sharp, I start writing up the last two days of our December Daily journal. At half past twelve, Rick messages me to ask me to come downstairs for lunch, unaware that I have actually been writing away in his office. I come out and find Rick on the floor of his family room, stretching out his back. He asks me to do lunch for the boys, who are all milling about in the kitchen. I ask them to sit down at the table and arrange all the cups and plates on the kitchen bench into some sort of order, taking into account the colour that each of the boys want (dark blue for Gus, green for Pete, light blue for Jamie, and yellow for Bear). I take requests: 'runny honey' for Angus and Pete, and peanut butter for Jamie and Bear. (The boys decide on behalf of Bear.) I defrost the bread in the microwave, fulfil the lunch order requests, and cut the bread into squares. I distribute the plates while Angus helps me to pour milk into everybody's cups. Rick gets up, finishes tidying in the family room, retrieves the boys' swimwear from their bedrooms, and goes to put the washing on the line. Whilst I clean up after lunch, Rick starts to put them all down one at a time.

I return to Rick's office and I finish off our December Daily journaling. Rick reads to Pete and Angus in the lounge room, and then he joins me in the study. He reads while I write.

I update our DITL narrative then suggest to Rick that we both make ourselves some lunch. He acquieses. By the time I meet him in the kitchen, he's already eating yesterday's sausages (cold - ew!) and salad. I make myself a simple peanut butter sandwich and choose an apple from the fruit bowl. I start to make myself a glass of Milo as well, but then change my mind at the last minute. I end up with a glass of orange juice instead. I head back into the office to start on my personal journaling - something I have been putting off for the last two months. Rick stays behind and makes sandwiches for our afternoon outing.

At three o'clock, we realise that we need to start to get a move on. Rick has already packed the esky so I start to pack our beach towels and the boy's clothes into my basket bag. Pete is already awake so he's the first to change into his swimmers. Angus is the next logical choice since he's downstairs already but he spirals into a slight meltdown when we wake him up. Poor thing must be so exhausted from life. We decide to leave Pete with him and to get the others and ourselves ready first. Rick goes into Jamie, but he's grumpy too. So he goes into Bear who's all smiles. Rick puts him into the swimsuit we originally bought for Pete four years ago. He looks SO cute. I retreat into our bedroom to get changed myself. I retrieve the black one-piece that I haven't worn for more than a year and pull it on. When I open the ensuite door, Bear is there along with Rick. Rick gives me a big grin and tells me I look good. I grin back. Pete and Jamie (now also in swimmers) find us in the bedroom and they look surprised to see me. "Is that your swimmers, mummy?" asks Jamie. "Yup!" They come up to me and start patting my tummy to feel the ruching. So of course Bear starts to pat my tummy as well. We can still hear Angus crying in the family room so Rick brings the boys downstairs. I throw my Harper kimono over the swimsuit and head downstairs too. Poor Gus' face is all flushed from crying but after a long hug from Rick, he finally calms down. I dash back upstairs to grab my Elk canvas bag. I stuff my kimono, camera, bottle, wallet, and phone into the bag, then head out to the garage. I strap my black sandals on, take one peek at my reflection to see if I look okay, then climb into the car.

We finally head off to Clareville. The boys are super excited, and so are we. It's been ages since we last did a proper trip to the beach. I snap a few selfies of us in the car. When we arrive, it's clear that heaps of families are still there soaking up the sun. Rick manages to squeeze our Disco into a very small spot near the carpark entrance. We all slather sunscreen on, and then make our way through the carpark to the sand: Rick holds Bear and the basket bag; Angus and Pete hold the orange bucket; and I hold the esky while Jamie holds my hand. We walk to our usual spot and put down our gear up against the lone tree. We spread out one of the beach towels, saving the rest for later. While I snap a few quick photos. Rick pulls the flotation vest onto Bear. He doesn't seem bothered by it at all, and makes no attempt to pull it off. I ask Jamie gently whether he'd like me to strap the floatie onto his back. He seems hesitant at first but when I explain that it will help him to not drown, he quickly agrees. Rick and the boys lead the way to the water. I follow behind. Before I know it, Rick, Bear, Angus and Pete are already splashing around in the water. I walk up to Jamie and offer to hold his hand but he decides he wants to stay on the sand instead. I tell him that that's completely fine. I wander into the water myself and Rick passes Bear over to me. 

The next hour is pure joy. Bear and I get splashed by Pete and Angus. Bear is at first wary of the water but soon warms up to it. I throw him up and down, and swing him around in the water. He giggles and chuckles non-stop. The two of us chase Pete and Angus and they in turn chase us. Rick disappears into the water and surprises Bear when he emerges right next to us. He also encourages the two big boys to practise their paddling and their kicking. Jamie plays up on the sand but eventually ventures into the water: first he gets his feet wet, then his knees, then his waist. Soon, he is splashing around with the rest of us. Bear is surprised every time his feet touch the ground, and squeals whenver I pull him back out into deeper water. Above us, the afternoon sun shines on.  All of a sudden, I realise that this is the happiest that I've felt in the last six months. Rick and I make eye contact and smile. Out loud, we agree that we must do this again and again as long as summer is around. When Bear starts to shiver, we make our way back up to our spot. I distribute rice crackers, which the boys eagerly devour. We pack up our gear and walk over to a table close to the single outdoor shower. First we towel Bear down and change him into his normal clothes. Rick then washes each of the boys feet in turn. Once we've hosed off the wet sand, we walk back to the car. At quarter to six, we start driving back.

In the car, I ring Tamageta-Ya to make a dinner booking. There is traffic all the way down to Newport Beach, but we manage to get home by about twenty past. I rush upstairs to lay out the boys' clothes onto their beds. I then rush into our shower for a shower. Meanwhile, Rick manages to shower the boys all by himself. Once I'm out, he goes to shower himself. Downstairs, I potter about unpacking our gear and repacking my bag while the boys play by themselves in the family room. As soon as Rick is ready, we head back into the garage to go out again.

We leave the house around quarter past seven. Rick and the boys play Spotto in the car - a game where you score points for being the first to spot a pre-designated type of vehicle (e.g. blue car, black car, Land Rover, motorbike, etc.) As we near our destination, Jamie announces he has 59 points. Angus announces he has 62 points. Jamie announces he has 102 points. Angus and Pete decide to let Jamie win. We park soon after half past seven, and we place our usual order (tuna sushi rolls, gyoza, teriyaki chicken dinner set, tokyo udon, chicken karaage, agadeshi tofu, and an extra rice) no later than twenty to eight.

We wait and we wait and we wait. The kitchen has only one chef, so the orders come out very slowly. Bear is both fascinated by and wary of the Santa Clause balloon. He grows increasingly restless so Rick has to take him outside for a walk. The other boys are amazing at waiting. At one point, I attempt to amuse them with Lode Runner on my iPad but we quickly conclude that it's too difficult. Finally, the agadeshi tofu and the gyoza arrive. Rick asks for a bowl of rice to go with it. However long later, the tokyo udon arrives. Then, finally, the tuna sushi rolls.

At nine o'clock, we finally receive our teriyaki chicken dinner set along with the teriyaki beef that I'd ordered at the last minute. I divvy up the teriyaki chicken with the big boys, and Rick and I quickly woof down the rest of the food. We finally finish eating at quarter past nine. Rick pays, while the big boys and I wait outside. We walk swiftly back to the car. On the way home, Rick, Jamie, and Angus play 'Spotto.' It is absolutely hilarious, and again I marvel at this beautiful twist of fate that has landed me in a family full of boys. As soon as we're home, Rick leads the boys upstairs, brushes their teeth, and puts them down to sleep. I settle down into his office to complete our DITL narrative, eager to get it done so that we can watch a bit of Frasier together before retiring upstairs.

Rick comes to the door of his office. "There's something very significant about the silence upstairs." I look at him, puzzled. "Bear doesn't have his dummy because I didn't know where it was." Amazing. Another unexpected milestone that has me smiling and aching all at once. Rick disappears and reappears with a cup of tea and a a small bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate for me. Legend husband. More writing.

At quarter past eleven, I finish up and we head upstairs. (So much for Frasier.) Shower. Bed. Best new year's day ever.

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For more memory keeping blog posts like this, you can follow LIFE:CAPTURED Inc on Bloglovin.

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Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em