I can’t wait to introduce you today to Janice and her charming family of people and animals who live in Perth, Australia. She’s an artist, so are her children, and her husband is a musician — you can feel the creativity flowing through their home with the ongoing art projects, bright colors, and texture upon texture. And because the summers are mostly sunny and warm in Perth they have beautiful gardens and livable outdoor spaces. It’s also so interesting to hear about a totally different experience with COVID and the shutdown. Welcome, Janice!
Hi! My name is Janice and I am married to Simon and we have three children — August who is our eldest daughter (8), Fox our middle boy (4) and our baby girl Marigold (1). We have three chickens (Ash, Lilli Pilli, and Rose), three cats (Wellington, Nelson, and Gary) and two chihuahuas (Chip and baby Kewpie).
I am an artist and studied Glass Blowing and kiln work at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, though I have an alternate ego of an office worker and am a Personal Assistant to a Director of a State Government Department, but I am currently on maternity leave for another few months. I love the people I work with and the stress of my job stays at work. My art is just for love and happiness which is a good balance I find. I think trying to make money from creativity can suck the fun out of things.
Simon is from Perth. He and I met in our government roles when I first moved here; I was in Western Australia traveling with another boyfriend. Simon asked me out for a whole year before my long term boyfriend and I parted ways. Turns out being in a new country together changed our relationship and we became just friends.
That small temping government gig I got when I first moved here was fate. The next big piece of my life puzzle fell into place as it turned out meeting Simon was meant to be and the job is what brought us together. I now have been here in Perth for nearly 12 years. When I came here I only thought I’d be away from home for a year at most!
My Mum and Dad and brother are in Ireland and my sister and her husband and children are in Canada. We emigrated from Zimbabwe to Ireland when I was 13 and I very much wish I could get my family all back together but it seems Zimbabweans who had to leave Zimbabwe have this scattered seed aspect to families now from being displaced and it’s very hard. I am always trying to solve an insolvable puzzle and as happy as I am here, always feel a huge part of me feels incomplete and missing my family. I want to share my life with them.
Perth is very similar to Zimbabwe climate-wise but is a much more affluent and has beaches where Zimbabwe is landlocked. I’d love my mum and dad to be able to come for an extended period — visas and permanency may be the next puzzle piece to fall into place if I trust in serendipity and fate more!
My children are so sweet and all very blonde! They get this from Simon. He had white blonde hair until he was a teenager. Marigold is the most like me in looks. They are all very similar but also totally different to each other, in looks and personalities. I love having three. After the first two I knew there was one more baby for our family and we were so lucky, Marigold (Goldie as we call her) came so easily to us when we were ready. She makes us all so happy and I honestly I feel so lucky to have these kids. No more though! Three is a the perfect chaos for us!
We are all creative – Simon is musical and I am artistic. The kids have these aspects from us both and they are very much big personalities with everything Simon and I combined in them. Fox is Mr Fixit; he is clever like my dad and wants to know how things work. Augie is a little mother and very kind. Marigold is very social and our most energetic child. She has been walking since she was 9 months old. All of the kids love tiny things and little treasures and comb pavements and parks and beaches for little finds — just like me! I have collected bottle tops for years and hammer them flat. The kids find and bring me bottle tops where ever we go. I’ll use them one day when the project reveals itself to me.
We live in a really old house in a suburb called Mount Lawley. The frangipani and roses out the front are as old as the home. I think it’s about 100 or so years old. It’s not ours though! The house is Simon’s very good friend’s house which he inherited. Houses in this suburb go for millions and this one is on a huge block. So it’s way out of our price range, but to be honest the idea of a giant mortgage terrifies me even if it was something we could afford.
Trystan, Simon’s friend asked us if we wanted to mind the house for him when he moved to Darwin about 5.5 years ago — we pay a tiny bit of rent and he keeps his things in the one front room. He used to also keep a Mustang convertible in the garage for years. One day he came and collected it and Fox’s eyes (the car lover) were like saucers and asked “how long has there been a sports car in our garage for?!!”
It’s a great situation as Trystan isn’t coming back for years and I have totally transformed the house and gardens — and he trusts us and doesn’t worry. And we are buying a little house ourselves to have one foot on the property ladder at the same time as this nice situation.
The house has wooden floors, super high ceilings and it’s lovely and cool on summer days. The scent from the frangipani at the front comes right through the house. It’s a house that is at its best on warm days when it is all open and breezy. My granny, who has just passed away, gave me a wind chime we hung out the front a few years ago. We all think of her all the time when we hear it chiming. A wind chime is a great present. Her sound weaves it’s way through our days and nights.
We are used to it now but the house is on stilts and is freezing in winter. People don’t think Perth gets cold like it does. When I tell my family and they laugh, compared to where we are at, but it really does get freezing! It’s a house with zones. We move around the house in warm weather to the zones that suit us. Out the back is cool until the afternoon so we spend so much time out there. It’s our favorite “room.” In Australia being outside so much, it’s very valuable to have somewhere you love to be in, like this space. I have made it very comfortable out here, with all my plants and greenery, and daybeds and couches — we all gravitate to this part of the home. Friends pop in and hang out for ages and we hear the chooks whistling and making their happy little noises while they potter in the flower beds.
On summer days it gets hot in the afternoon out the back, and we then move to the front verandah and read books and play and sit in the egg chair. We eat most meals outdoors.
We love our neighbors. They have changed a couple of times while we have been here. I love neighbors who pop in for coffee and chats like they do. I don’t know the other neighbors as well, but they do have a big lemon tree who dangles his lemons over our wall and I sneakily pick them. They also have a passion fruit tree that drops fruit by our pool. So that’s cool! Other neighbors have a huge pecan tree and we collect heaps of nuts off the ground once a year. It also gets full of black cockatoos when the nuts are green. They are so amazing. They love nuts, but shred the tree. I can’t tell you how beautiful these birds are. When I was first pregnant with Goldie I knew she would be a girl when I found a female black cockatoo tail feather on a walk. It was a sign.
Beaufort Street, the main strip in Mount Lawley, is about five minutes away from us and has lovely shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. Coffee is so good in Australia! There is a lovely shop called Fresh Provisions just off Beaufort and you can buy all the most amazing ingredients there.
The last 18 months have been strange. We are in a bubble in Western Australia.
We started the COVID journey with the world and then sealed ourselves off from everywhere. If I can think of it with a balanced approach, we are very lucky and we have pretty much at this point moved past the pandemic. Which seems crazy, but it’s also frustrating. Complacency means slow vaccine rates and we need to join the rest of the world now. COVID zero is unobtainable and I feel panic rising when the rest of Australia will try to reopen national and international borders in December and our government here in Western Australian say they will maybe only consider April 2022. People here are terrified of COVID, no one knows anyone who has had it. If there is a case they list everywhere that person has been and at what time due to contact tracing and everyone freaks out and calls each other! This situation then means press conferences and snap lockdowns, panic buying and everyone has to wear masks for a week or two at a time. Currently there is no travel permitted anywhere from here without a hard to get exemption. No one in or out!
Last year when we did some home schooling and the slower pace was amazing. I loved having August at home. Fox luckily hadn’t started kindy and didn’t miss out of this first year of fun at school, he just stopped daycare and he also loved Augie at home to play with. It was nice not being so busy with constant plans and the opportunity to not be so social was relaxing. It was helpful to know everyone was also at home with nowhere to go and no one was doing anything exciting so there was no fear of missing out on anything.
Last year I was pregnant with Goldie and the scans and pregnancy milestones waiting for her helped through the year. This year has flown by a little aimlessly at times. All we really want really want is family now, my mum and dad to meet Marigold and see the kids and some freedom on the horizon.
I hope this experience helps us all feel more grateful and in the moment and reminds us to keep things simple. We all need less than we think, and life doesn’t have to be jam packed with plans for us to be happy. We all quite liked some quiet time when we were forced to slow down. I think what we took for granted is that we could travel to fun destinations and have adventures, and now I want to just travel to see my family. I definitely will feel so grateful to travel when I can again.
My super mum powers comes from my own Mum and I channel her in how I parent. I love being a mum because it has shown me that I am more like my own Mum than I realize. She is like my granny and I am like her and I come from a line of wonderful women. On both sides my grandparents have given me my creative parents who are so interesting and have taught me to be interested in everything.
The love of gardening thread comes right through my family on both sides. My grandad on my dad’s side grew fruit and vegetables and most memorably, bananas. When we would visit and go to leave, our car boot would be full of hands and hands of bananas. That is a memory I love.
I love nature and gardening and I feel plant love and an interest in nature is a life long gift to pass on to your children. There is nothing more rewarding and meditative than gardening. My children notice and show me new leaves unfurling, self seeded baby plants growing in the garden or a flower just popping open after we have been on bud watch — and we all respect our growing and evolving plants. My house is full of plants and this greenery shapes our world, cleans our air, and makes each room alive. I think I have a natural understanding of plants and my green thumb is my super power.
One of the nicest home compliments a friend gave me once was that when she visits she feels equal measures of inspiration and relaxation from our home. This is how I feel in the house. Fresh energy is maintained through moving things around, we are always reinventing rooms and reconfiguring spaces. Moving things makes way for big cleans and a I love a good reshuffle. Spaces need to evolve. Plants go inside and out when they need a holiday. I like to reassess what’s working and what needs a refresh. Simon is my perfect team member with this. He also loves a switch around.
Our house has both a calmness and a colorful buzz to it. It can be chaos with all the games going on and life just being busy but we return it to calm at the end of each day. Putting things away and a quick tidy up is how we reset and close the day and it’s so important to Simon and I that the children respect their toys and things. I love our collections of toys and we have baskets and places where things belong so pack up is easy and the process well understood. Packing away is like a daily audit.
We have a lot of pets who I feel make a house a home. I love the cats lazily stretching and coming out of the woodwork to greet us when we get home and the dogs jumping around with happiness. The chickens are always pottering somewhere. They all make us so happy.
I always have lots of projects on the go. I recently finished my gum nut chandelier. I collected all the different varieties in my neighborhood and drilled them to create the piece. I love painting furniture and my children and me do lots of craft. The giant dolls house out of very old post office pigeon holes is a work in progress too. We love it!
A tradition I started when August was a baby is fresh sheet Fridays, and we change all the beds for the weekend. We all love fresh sheets. I love buying bed linen. Beautiful sheets make me so happy. I know my kids appreciate this weekly tradition and I hope they don’t forget it and carry it on themselves. Another big part of our lives is going on night time walks around the neighborhood. We all talk and listen to the night sounds. We take the dogs and the cats all follow us which is amazing! I hope they always remember these walks.
I hope they forget me being cross or grumpy with them on the days when I’m just exhausted and it’s all too much. As a mother it’s hard to have energy for each day’s workload and the doing and redoing and constant undoing. Some days I want to just want to escape! The monotony of housework and snack making and everything that goes along with having children is back breaking. There are always hard days and then other days I absolutely float through the workload. I hope my children don’t think of the days I didn’t float! Or if they do, that they maybe see me turn it around and they realize I am a person who fails and then picks up the pieces and keeps going.
I love how much they love me. I know how much I love my mum, so I know how much they love me, and that’s amazing. I am the person they seek for everything! They seek me to show me things, to fix things, to find things, to hold things, to solve and help with things, to feed them things, it goes on and on. But it’s nice to be so needed and so comforting to someone. I can help them process how they feel and guide them through their day. When I call my mum (every single day!), her words are balm to my worries and she is all I need. I am 35 and I still feel like she is everything to me. She still guides me through my life.
I love that about being a mother to my children. I know them inside out and how to help and what they will worry about before the even realize it themselves.
Maybe I miss them being little and needing me this much and playing with each other around me, already. I know all ages bring different things to enjoy but these little innocent times are so special and going way too fast. As a mum you often think you get no personal space, and often crave some time out, but I think when I get the space and time I’ll miss this stage so much.
I wish someone had told me when I packed my backpack to go on my South East Asia and Australian adventures how far I was going and that life would happen all around me and I’d put down roots and that I was going permanently. I don’t know if I would have not gone but I honestly didn’t mean to move so far away and might have reconsidered. I do wish I could ask someone if I’m making the biggest mistake ever by raising children in a country so far from my parents. I have the most beautiful life here and I know it’s best for the children but it really is something I think about so much and wonder how to change.
No one needs to tell me that life is short and precious and it’s all about decisions. The path you take can change everything, but I guess if I were to listen to someone wise they would say to be happy and appreciate each day and things work out as they are meant to.
In this chapter of my life I live in Western Australia with three beautiful babies and it’s very lovely, I am so lucky, and who knows what’s around the corner? I need to soak it all up and right now I’m taking little pathways on my journey (without me even realizing it at times). People I meet and things I do are all linking up and I’m arriving as I am meant to at the right time for the right things for me. I think my parents together with us are the next chapter. I just need to wait and see.
Thank you, Janice! It’s so interesting to hear about a different perspective and experience with COVID and the shutdown. On the one hand, the shut downs and tight controls have kept the virus at bay, but it was interesting to hear that people are more fearful about it. And is that a good thing or a bad thing? And I think so many of us can agree with Janice’s thoughts about travel. It would certainly be amazing to take some adventure, but it would be even more wonderful to reconnect with family and friends.
I also couldn’t help but admire all of the gorgeous plants around Janice’s home and in her outdoor space. You really can tell she has a green thumb and I love the idea that this love of plants and growing things is something she learned from her parents and is passing onto her own children. I love when we have common threads in families that we can all sort of relate to.
Do you have any family passions or hobbies that are part of your family story? Something you all did as kids? Or something that was part of your life growing up that you have handed to your kids as well? How do you keep these traditions and practices alive.
Seven Moons calendar
Star Sign Mini Tiles
Felt hanging fairy pods
Giant Lazy Daisy Cushion
Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at email@example.com.