Sunday, 11 November 2012

That CBF Mood.

Sometimes it gets me in its clutches, that CBF mood, like Gollum with his Precious, it stalks me and does crazy things until I submit.

CBF, by the way, is Can't Be Bothered's vulgar, bullying, older brother. You've probably met him. He's an expensive house guest to have, forcing me to buy takeaways instead of cooking inexpensive, nutritious meals. He won't let me go to the gym, even though I've paid for it already. He turns molehills into mountains in the laundry and every flat surface in the house.

This isn't procrastination. I'm not putting things off for later; it's genuine apathy.

And because I don't want to waste a ton of money on this CBF mood that doesn't deserve to be on the payroll, I decided to have a think as to how I could get the most out of doing as little as possible.

Obviously the takeaways are something I'd rather avoid, but the crock-pot is my friend. I'm going to do something like this.
Proof that it's a CBF day is that I'm linking you to something that's similar to what I'll do, but not the same. I have my own ideas and twists, and while I'll make several meals, it won't be these ones. The mince and lentils part will be the same, but that's about all. I just CBF writing it down. I'm really sorry. Maybe another day.

And then I'll be sorted for a few days, just in case. Also, it cuts back on dishes.

After that, I'm going to snuggle up in bed with some story books and the wriggly three year old and read until he falls asleep and then fall asleep myself.

Probably.

Then maybe when I wake up, I'll feel like being productive.

Till then, folks!



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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Not So Overhead Projecting

There are times, in my role as mother, when I'm not the wonderfully empathic, serene, understanding, personification of perfection I'd have you all believe. I know, right? Who could have seen that coming?

It's happening right now, actually. I'm trying to write a post (which usually takes about an hour these days, when you take into account remembering the html, picture finding, and actual writing, but has been known to take five or six hours in the past) within the next two hours so I can hit the time-stamp deadline. The kids are playing behind me, and so far I've asked them to "just f**k up", at which they asked if they got to be hypocrites too...

Ahh kids. Always so completely honest. And blunt. You don't get to be an arse in my house and expect to get away with it. They have dispersed from the lounge, however. They don't want to risk standing on my land mines and have me project my frustration into them a little more.

Had a quick yap with Mr. Me on facebook chat. (Yes he's in another room on another computer doing his own important work; no we can't swap, what are you, mad? I can't write a blog post on someone else's machine!) To which he promptly quoted me U2:

Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief

Well that's apt.

You see, I had decided to write about some projecting that was happening last night.

One of my kids has fears that are irrational. Big fears. I find it impossible to validate them, because I feel they're invalid (they are valid because they are unresolved from a time when validity wasn't in question). So it's basically my fault they're still happening now, and weren't resolved half a dozen years ago, when they would have been more understandable, but unfortunately I was less emotionally aware.

I try now to be more understanding, but I have to fight down my feelings of disgust. And that's a really cruel thing for a kid to deal with, even if he only knows in a subconscious "Mum's not being genuine in her concern" sorta way. So he doesn't come to me with his pain, he goes to Mr. Me, and that triggers me too, because then I feel not good enough.

It's all my own trash-bag of emotional garbage that I'm carrying around, and the projection part is me saying "here, I'm tired, you carry this for a while." It's completely unfair, but I want to do it anyway. We all do from time to time.

Here's an example:

Random small boy and his father are playing in the park. All is well and fun until the small boy falls from a swing and begins to cry. Father is immediately disgusted and ashamed because he was made to feel shame about crying when he was small. Father picks up small boy and tells him he's not a baby and to stop crying. Small boy now feels shame, and his father less so. The father has projected his shame into his son.

It's not the son's shame. It's most probably not even the father's, or his father's. It's hand-me-downs, inherited through generations, and now the small boy gets to carry it in his trash-bag of emotional garbage too.

So last night, it was all I could do to just not pass on my emotional baggage by going to bed early and talking to no one. It's pretty much all I could do before to ask politely to be left alone, even though I'm in a communal room and everyone else has important things they're using it for too. And I wonder how common an occurrence this is, when we feel like punishing our children for things completely outside their field for blame.

There are a lot of very public examples of projection that have been normalised.

I think Prime Minister John Key and his gay red top comment was a good example of projection, which needed to be addressed. Why else but because of his own discomfort would he be so publicly offensive? It's certain he's been well taught in the art of interview, speaking publicly and being politically correct, even if he doesn't think that way, as all politicians must have to reach as high an office as he has. It's all the more obvious because he's trying to rationalise it as well! Someone who makes a genuine mistake doesn't try to do that.

So, if we're going to raise healthy children, we need to get rid of this projection business. We don't have a right to pass on hate and bigotry, or in my case disgust at fear and slow-learning.

Children have enough emotional baggage of their own to carry without carrying ours too.




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Friday, 9 November 2012

Lunar Planting and Germination Rates

My latest lot of seeds was bought on an on line auction. The price was great, the seeds were plenty and I could get a good 80% of the varieties I wanted from the same person. Win! I knew they were home collected seeds, so maybe they wouldn't be as stringently quality controlled as if I bought a commercial packet, but they were a third of the price and five times the quantity, so if there's a misfire, I'm not going to sob over it.

These seeds came with two additions:
1) A bible quote in each packet (alright, if that's your thing).

2) A caveat stating that if I planted on a full moon, I might only get 25% germination rate, but if I planted on a new moon, the rate would be around 90%.


The second one sounds a bit loony to me. (Yes I said loony on purpose: Luna/loony. Yes, I thought it was funny, yes you're supposed to laugh. Please laugh now at my weak etymological joke, OK? Cheers.) I've heard of planting by the moon before though, so I figured I'd at least look it up.

Without looking it up though, I'm not really convinced. If this were the case, surely seed production companies would have it written on their packets? They want you to believe they have the best quality products, so if you only get a 25% germination rate, maybe you'll try another brand if you don't know about this lunar stuff.

Another thing is, when I did look it up on line, most of what I saw said that, if anything, the opposite was true. Full moons apparently pull more water to the surface of the earth, where seeds and roots live, and so more growth happens. But it's purely a water thing, and I plan on watering my seeds well whatever time of the month I plant them.

So I'm going to do an incredibly basic experiment, just to check.

The next new moon is Wednesday the 14th, so I'm going to plant radishes. I'll plant them in a recycled egg tray that holds 30, and put 1 seed in each compartment, then count the germination rate, speed and overall growth rate.

I'm choosing radishes because they're just so darned quick and easy to grow, and we could probably manage to eat 30 radishes every two weeks once they're ready, without straining ourselves. Also, hopefully they'll be happy enough in the small amount of space an egg carton affords. If not, oh well.

I'll repeat it in a couple of weeks when there's a full moon, and then again during the next new moon just because there may be a temperature issue since we're moving into summer and I want to rule that out.

It's not a perfect experiment, since the weather won't be a constant, but it'll probably be enough to convince me if there's anything significant about the idea enough to make me change my current "plant any old time" practices.

In the mean time, if anybody out there plants by the moon, I'd love to hear your experiences! Let me know either on facebook, or in the comments section below.


Cheers! Knight N Daze.





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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Tattooing My Brain

This is a "before" picture. I'm not showing you
an after picture; I don't know you well enough
for you to see that bit of me.
I can assure you it contains several stretch
marks, one of which doubles the length of the
horn!
Many people would say she's ruined.
She's seen better days, sure. She's stretched, and warped in odd directions, her colours have faded, and she looks sad. Quite honestly, I don't even look at her much any more and I think about her less often.

She's just... y'know... there. Like the old Coca-Cola sign, faded and tattered above the derelict corner shop where you bought ice creams 20 years ago. Quietly waiting, but bursting with memories. Every glance a different association.

She has her story too.

I have a theory about tattoos. (I say 'I', but I really mean 'we'. Mr. Me and I have mused over this intermittently for a few years now, but for these purposes I'm taking credit; I'm sure he'd do the same.) The theory is, that which we permanently apply to our skin is likely a metaphor, or even a direct screaming of our innermost feelings. And it could perhaps go one of two ways. Taking for instance, those who tattoo their babies' names and birthdates on themselves. They may be doing it because they have so much emotion and pride, they need to permanently put it out there. Or they may care very little, feel guilty about that, and ink themselves to try to assuage the guilt. The beauty is, only the owner truly knows the reason, so there's still hiding to be had if it's wanted.

Last night I lay awake and thought of my Unicorn. What did she mean then, and is she still relevant to me now?

I'm going to be honest with you here, I really didn't put a lot of thought into what I would get done when my friend and I decided we'd get tattoos together 16 years ago. I loved horses and so I had a vague notion that it would maybe be of the equine variety. Also, I had decided it would not cost me more than $50, and that's what I took with me in cash. There was nothing in their pictures that I wanted... Except my wee unicorn. And she was $120. Well, it wasn't as if I was painting my wall and could change later, was it? I borrowed the balance from my friend and never regretted it.

Still, what did she mean?

When I look at her now, I am reminded of how she was. Fine, delicate lines. Colourful, wild, feminine, strong... Such a mythical creature couldn't possibly exist, but there she was. And when I think about it: that's how I felt about myself. I was young and strong, almost arrogantly confidant about who I was and what I could do. And at the same time, I was feminine and delicate and empathetic. I felt beautiful.

Is she still relevant to me?

You can see she's been in the wars. She has hugged three children close as they grew strong enough to be born, and paid the price. She has expanded against her will as I have expanded and contracted over the years. She has battled with me.

Just like when you see the weathered coca-cola sign you think fondly of the summers of your youth, when I see my Unicorn, I'm reminded of the real her: courageous and full of self worth. And she in turn reminds me of the real me. The one I very often forget exists. The me who has been stretched and warped and feels blurred and faded and sometimes, so very very sad. She knows me. Yes she's relevant. I love her.



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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Purple Carrots Still Taste Like Carrots.

I don't have a whole lot to say today.

Actually, that's not true, and you know it. I'm as opinionated and yappy about it as they come, so I'm not going to try to convince you there's ever a time when it's otherwise. But the contents of my brain are a bit like freshly shorn sheep's wool: a valuable resource just waiting to be used, but first you have to clean it up, card out the fibres and then spin it into something people can use.

And that takes a bit of work. Work which I've not yet done.

Introverts need a fair bit of alone time to process everything that has gone on, and let their conscious mind catch up with the information their subconscious takes in. And it takes in a lot! I haven't had a lot of alone time over the past few days. I like alone time. I have alone time now. I'm going to use it to garden and other simple tasks that allow me to get lost in thought.

Just as soon as I've finished here.

I've already done a little of that. Spent a tiny 10 minutes or so admiring my growing vegetables. I picked some baby carrots. We're growing "Purple Haze", because, well, with a name like that, how could you not? But they seem to be a favourite of birds too (as seedlings) so there's some thinking to be done about that too.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, picking baby carrots. So I pulled a few up, just to try. They were about 3 inches long, and very definitely purple. I was excited to try them, having never seen carrots of a different colour, and I gave one to the smallest in the family, who was nearby too.

I don't know what I was expecting. Evidently, I wasn't expecting carrot flavoured carrots! Did I think they'd be boysenberry flavoured because they're the same colour? (I think there's a deep and meaningful blog post in there somewhere too, but it's still immersed in the raw wool).

Nope. Purple carrots taste just like carrots. Who could have predicted that?

Sometimes I just can't believe myself.





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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Dear Teacher: It's Not You and Me Against My Child

I've never been a really big fan of school. I was good at it. Very good (no false modesty here). But I didn't enjoy it, and I left as soon as it was legal to do so. I left with Dad's blessing on the understanding that if I was leaving school, then I'd need to still be doing "something" and I immediately enrolled in an adult learning course anyway.

It wasn't the learning that I needed to get away from.

When my teachers discovered my intent to leave, there was a little bit of a fuss made. Like I said, I was "good at school". That kid in the top stream class who could consistently get high marks without trying, who very rarely disrupted the others, who was polite, and who was coordinated and fit enough to generally be one of the first picked in sports.

They wanted me to stay.

They didn't tell me that, though. They had the opportunity; I needed to go around each of my teachers to return my text books and ask them to sign my leaving form. Not one of them said anything then. But apparently they did in the staff room, because that evening my chemistry teacher, speaking for all my other teachers, telephoned my father and proceeded to try to convince him to make me stay at school.

This was one of the moments Dad got really, really right. He said: "It's not me you should be discussing this with," and handed the phone over.

Because, even though Dad would have preferred I stay at school, he knew that it wasn't him and the teacher against me but that I was a person with my own autonomy and preferences, and that to force me into something would only breed resentment. It probably would have hurt my love of learning too.


Now it's my daughter's turn at highschool.

She's nearing the end of her second year, and already she's hanging out for age 16 when it's legal for her to leave. She already knows what she wants to do, the learning she wants to move directly into and the places she'll apply to. She gazes at their pages on the internet often.

Over the weekend, she brought up with Mr. Me and I that she was having a lot of trouble learning in class because of disruptions from other students. She's not in one of the higher streams, and a good many of the children are there under duress. So we asked her to speak to her teachers, get their email addresses, give them hers and ours and to ask for ideas of what she'll be tested on and perhaps some exam papers from previous years to practice with.

She did it.

And she has one teacher willing to help. Who sees her as a person in her own right. Who instead of getting in touch with us, has emailed our daughter with all the information she needs, and offered to answer any questions she may have, or clarifications she may need via email as well as in class. Our daughter spent the evening trawling through all this information with no encouragement from us. Independently learning.

Her other teachers just saw a kid who had non-regulation shoes on, and took the time to email us about that, but nothing to do with her learning. Apparently what's important is a united front between teachers and parents. Apparently that's how we keep 'em in line. A united front and conformity.

I'm told that the common response from one of these teachers whenever the kids remark that they're not learning anything is: You don't know how hard it is to be a teacher.

It may be hard, but I believe the ones that manage it best are the ones who stop seeing their class as cats to be herded, but as a group of individuals to be respected and helped to learn in the subject you yourself are passionate about.

-----------------
I do remember the teacher who phoned to try to change the fact that I was leaving school. I saw him again, in the same lab-coat he always wore, and chatting to a professor, in the corridor of the university chemistry department when I was attending lab classes some twelve years later. I gave him a wink as I walked past. He didn't look overly surprised to see me, but it happened that I was doing the same courses as one of the other science teachers at my old high school, who was updating his skills, so perhaps there had been talk. (Or perhaps I'm a bit conceited.)

I appreciate that he did care enough to phone, and he did try to talk me out of it. It wasn't enough, but I really do appreciate the effort.

And if I could have a do-over, I wouldn't change a thing.



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Monday, 5 November 2012

To Help or Not To Help

Imagine you're walking down the street with two friends on a calm, overcast autumn day. There's hardly any traffic. A girl you know, about 14 years old, is walking on the opposite side of the road to you, a little bit ahead, travelling in the same direction. None of this is out of the ordinary and you're chatting with your friends.

A car squeals around the corner behind you and immediately, easily breaks the speed limit before sliding to a stop next to the girl. A middle aged woman jumps out and starts pummeling the girl with fists and forearms about her shoulders and head, all the while screaming unintelligibly. The woman then forces the girl into the car, gets in and drives off.

All this takes about fifteen seconds.

What do you think you'd have done? Anything?

Imagine you were 14 years old when you saw it, and the girl across the road was a classmate. Does that change how you think you would have reacted?

It's a true story. I knew the girl, and I knew the middle aged woman was her mother. I also knew that sometimes she didn't live with her mother.

I did nothing. Well, nothing except discuss with my friends what we wished we had done, for the rest of the walk home.

Nothing except stare in horror as a classmate was beaten. Frozen to the spot. And nothing afterwards, because I knew the woman to be this girl's mother. Though it was likely legal behaviour at the time, I still knew it was wrong. My friends and I, we longed to have had super powers to react and to protect.

I think I felt as powerless as my classmate did. In a different way, of course, because I've never been subjected to what she was, and as I say it, I feel a crushing weight that you all might think I'm comparing my experience of watching with her of being the victim. No way. But I did feel completely, utterly powerless. Afterward that day I pretended it never happened, and I wouldn't be surprised if she did the same.

I thought it would embarrass her if I mentioned it, so I didn't.

I thought she wouldn't want anyone to know, so I told no one.

And that's probably how she did think, because when people grow up with that, they think it's all their own fault. That they're a horrible person, otherwise why would awful things happen to them? She probably had it internalised and normalised. She was probably very ashamed. Toxically shamed.

All this happened more than half of my lifetime ago.

I still think about it often: probably about once a month, these days. It made an impression. I'm very haunted by the fact that I did nothing. It's cliche, but I wish I knew then what I know now.

I wish I had known that the way to break through that shame wasn't to pretend awful acts never happened, but to recognise that they were indeed awful acts. To let her know that nothing she could possibly do would deserve being treated that way. That the beating was wrong and it wasn't her fault. That she didn't make her mother do that, no matter what her mother said. You can't "make" a person beat you - it's their choice.

It's the aggressor's choice. Their emotions. Their actions. Their psychological baggage. Not the victim's. All the victim is guilty of, is stepping on a hidden landmine.

But I didn't know then.

I didn't know how important being a sympathetic witness is, but I know now.

It's important for that child being scolded in the supermarket for singing too happily - though you may not feel you can step in, you can make eye contact with the child in a way that lets them know they're not bad.

It's important for the person at your office who serves as your boss's scapegoat.

It's important for that bullied kid at school to know that he's not to blame.

And it's important to know, that even if you can't step in and stop something from happening, that a lot of good can come from letting the victim know it's not their fault.



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Sunday, 4 November 2012

My Plants Live in Toilet Rolls?

I mentioned in a previous post, that Square Foot Gardening is my plan of choice for an easy, productive garden, that I can remove in a matter of weeks if necessary.

Square foot gardening was dreamed up by Mel Bartholomew as a space saving, time saving way of growing plants. He quite literally wrote the book on it. This won't be the first time I've tried it, and I had some great success before, so I'm fairly certain of success going in.

What they are, actually, is raised gardens, built on top of the ground with none of your existing soil. This immediately gets rid of the hassle of having a bad soil type, and also the weed seeds that are impossible to get rid of.




For the full post, check it out here on Knight N Daze's Weekend Garden.

I'll be cross-posting onto here for the first few weeks :)

Knight N Daze.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Strawberries by the Basketful

I'm still mostly in the planning stages of this wee puppy. OK, I've planted some seeds to germinate, and I managed to put in a 1 square metre garden a couple of months back, which is doing really well, but basically so far, it's all effort for very little reward.

I guess there's no other way to start with vege gardening, unless you want to buy mature plants, which defeats the purpose somewhat. The plan, over the next couple of months, is to build four more Square Foot Gardens, which, despite the name, are not a square foot in size. These will hopefully, over time, contribute 75% of vegetable consumption for our family of five, without too much in the way of preserving.

But not this weekend!

Mainly because even if I did put them in, I'd have nothing to plant in them, so they'd just be a great big litter box for the neighbourhood cats. No one wants that, except the neighbourhood cats. So, while I wait for my seedlings to grow, I decided to play with:
STRAWBERRIES!



You can read about what I did on Knight N Daze's Weekend Garden - a branch off (pardon the pun) blog from this one.

Have a look!

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Shirt of Shame.

Image source: The Ellen DeGeneres Show facebook page
Sometimes it's really hard, when you come across a picture that's been shared more than 30,000 times on facebook. 30,000 times that other people were in on a joke I'm certain isn't funny. What we have here, is no better than spanking.

Now, I'm aware in its country of origin it's perfectly acceptable to smack/spank your kids, and if that's acceptable, then what's on this picture certainly won't have a lot of people stand up and explain how this form of punishment a)won't work long term, and b) will create long term problems. That those who do are asking to be ridiculed and scoffed at. Told they have no sense of humour, or worse, be informed that they'll be raising a pack of hellions unfit for society, because "that's what happens when we don't instil a fear of punishment into our kids."


Another quote that's doing the rounds though, in many different forms, is one that says:
Most People are Only Alive Because it's Illegal to Shoot Them.
And it's the one that came immediately to mind when I saw the photo of those two little children in the shirt of shame. Not because I thought their parents needed shooting (let's get that clear, because I assume a lot of people thought that was where I was going) but because one is as ridiculous as the other.

I can safely say that NO person is alive today solely because I thought I might get in trouble if I shot them. I also believe that the threat of jail time isn't going to stop a person who sincerely wants to shoot another. It could make them do it in private, however.

Now, these kids are clearly being punished for pissing off one or both of their parents. Not because they weren't getting along, but because their squabbles were annoying.

How do I know this?

Well, because when people we love aren't getting along, and we care about that, we try to mediate and resolve the issue, don't we? If our friends are having a dispute, do we talk things through with them, or do we just ensure they shut up until we're not around? And these friends, we assume, are people who have already learned about resolving their own disputes growing up. The only reason we'd tell them to shut up until we weren't around would be because we both didn't care about the outcome and felt discomfort with the dispute.

So doesn't it make sense, that if the parents both didn't care about the outcome, and also felt discomfort with the dispute, that they wouldn't try to help resolve an issue that these kids were having trouble resolving themselves, but just get them to shut up about it?


Is it any different to this?

image source
If your children were having trouble understanding something at school, would you prefer them to be given extra help, or to be stuck in a dunce cap (shirt, whatever) for not getting it right? Does this form of shaming make them smarter people, or just resentful of the enforcers? Does it build their confidence and interpersonal skills, or does it make them feel small and helpless and stupid and unlovable?

A lot of comments on the "We Will Get Along" picture were to the effect of: Look how unhappy the girl is - it must be working ahahahaha. Of course she's unhappy. She's just been humiliated by one of the people who she should be able to trust more than anyone else. Humiliated, shamed, laughed at by the world, and not helped with her conflict difficulties in the slightest little bit.

Poor kids.




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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Introducing My Weekend Garden!

I often don't post on the weekends, even if I write one, because not a lot of people are around looking. BUT, I like posting! So I've decided to make my weekend posts about my brand new, improving, cheap as chips, fruit and vege garden.

Even though this blog doesn't exactly have a set topic, I figured that since it would be a permanent, regular series, I'd give it its own separate blog (linkable from here) for those who just want to follow one or the other.

So, without further ado, I hereby introduce Knight N Daze's Weekend Garden! First (real, gardening) posts will be going up this weekend, and in the mean time, I"m going to work on making it prettier.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 Things I'm Ashamed to Have Done to My Kids (that I still see happening all the time)

There's never been a time when I considered myself a "bad" mother. Since I've been one for fourteen plus years now though, I'd be remiss if I hadn't done some learning along the way, and if there's a parent who has not changed their style at least a little bit in the course of raising an adult, I really don't want to know them.

So there's no judging going on here. OK there's a little bit of judging, but it's the internal sort, whereby you judge, and then think I used to do that until I found a better way so you stop being critical. Still, you feel sad that they haven't learnt, or have and then decided they were fine all along, and you feel guilty for judging and a little bit superior and smug.

Yeah, I over think things quite a lot.

1) Telling your kid not to snatch, then forcefully removing said object (snatching) from the child to return it to the snatchee
I see this all. the. time. Parents and teachers do it obliviously. They must do, because I never see the furtive, embarrassed glance-around afterwards that would occur if they realised the hypocrisy. Actually, one time I stayed at daycare with my youngest to settle him for the first half hour because he was becoming more and more unhappy being there. The carer did this twice while knowing I was there trying to figure out why he was unhappy. And then she...

2) ...said hey, can I have a look at that? and prised a toy from another kid's hands. He then tried to take it back, so she held it away from him, where he couldn't reach, and made him parrot "please can I have that toy?" after her.
She looked at me for approval after that. A look that smugly said: see how I teach them manners? We left then. And after two more times of my little one screaming and crying when he realised we were going (not when I was leaving; it's not a separation thing at all), we withdrew him from that place completely. But I've done it too. I can point at that daycare and say: "look, how horrible" but the truth is, for my eldest, that would have been situation normal.

3) Spanking, smacking, physical punishment, whatever the kids are calling it these days.
This is a hard one to admit, but there was a time when I even advocated for it. I decided myself and tried to convince others that it was the only way to reprimand a child who didn't have the vocabulary to understand your, what I considered must be, lectures. Until one day about 10 years ago, when my daughter was curled on the floor with her hands over her bottom and I realised I was angry at her, really furious at her, for trying to stop me from smacking her. And I recognised that for the atrocity that it was. It genuinely took another six or seven years for me to get to a point where I didn't feel like smacking - to change my brain chemistry to the point where I automatically thought "how can I help?" instead of "stop it you little...."

4) Sat with my kids at the table until they'd finished every last bite of their dinner.
At the time, I thought I was doing right; teaching them not to be wasteful and such. What I ended up with though, was one child, my poor first born who wore the worst of everything, who now finds it difficult to leave anything on the plate, even if she's so full she feels sick. I should have known better, I think. I myself am unable to eat when I have a blocked nose, because I'm unable to breathe. Breathing through my mouth is not an option for me whilst eating. Thankfully I didn't do this for very long. Just long enough to do damage, obviously, but now, at 14 years old, she's just beginning to figure out the food quantities that are right for her.

5) Told them if they didn't hurry up, I'd leave without them.
It seems fair on the face of it, but the bottom line is that I now have an 11 year old who panics when we say we'll wait for him in the car. It's not the relatively good sort of panic where you do things in double time, but the awful, paralysing kind where you can't think, let alone act, and everything just becomes too hard. Poor guy. We're working on it.


This isn't a full list, by any means; I'll probably write another post next week entitled, "5 MORE things..." and I could maybe even write a third post. But there are a lot of things I've done right, as well. And one of those things I've done right, is learning from all the things I've done wrong. Well... all the things I've come across anyway.




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Monday, 29 October 2012

Love Letter to FlyLady

Image source. FlyLady's logo from her website. I hope she's OK with me putting it here! :)


It's no secret that I'm a big advocate for gentle parenting and conscious living. It hasn't always been the case, but what has always been the case is my love for personal growth and learning, and that's how I got there.

About six or seven years ago, in the course of discovery on the internet, several people on a forum I frequented raved about this FlyLady website that was, they said, all about how to keep your house clean. My house was pretty messy, not due to lack of ability, or lack of desire, and certainly I didn't feel as though I was a naturally messy person, but because of a niggly trait called perfectionism.

I lived under the shadow of "if you can't do it properly, don't do it at all" and so a lot of things were never done. Not because I was unable to do it well enough to suit me, but because everything became so huge! Sweeping the kitchen floor meant I needed to clean everything above the floor beforehand, because that's the order needed for cleaning - top to bottom. If I wanted to sweep the floor, I'd need a couple of hours to get it done.

I was far more than cynical when I went to check out her website, but I signed up and since, at that time, it was based in a Yahoo Group, I promptly forgot about it. Fast forward a few years and I decided to take another look. People were still raving about it and I hadn't given it much of a chance. And now she sends her emails to any address at all, so I could actually receive them. And read them...

Turns out FlyLady is out there gently re-parenting adults. Yes, she gives definite instructions to follow, which I wouldn't usually associate with gentle parenting, but there is no judgement or criticism involved and her ultimate goal is simply for you to Finally Love Yourself (FLY). There's nothing that takes the pressure off better than the line at the end of all of her emails:
You are not behind! I don't want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?
which gives you permission to be at whatever place you are.

She believes in baby-steps and helps you change your mindset from the inner critic that says you're not good enough, to the logical knowledge that a little bit is better than nothing, and lots of little bits really do add up.

Also, it's all free, so that's pretty cool too.

This is just a public thank you, because these ideas have helped with all sorts of manifestations of my perfectionism, not just housework. I would not have even started this blog yet because I'm still learning how to make things work as it is, and I couldn't have started under those conditions otherwise.




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Friday, 26 October 2012

Stop Calling Me Names!

"I'm sorry I got angry when you were bad," he said.

He said that to me! In the middle of the night, with me mostly asleep and my subconscious unprotected. Of course I'm angry - I'm furious! Apology unaccepted, sir, to put it mildly.

How dare he?

It escalated, of course. With me uttering phrases such as, "keep your damned labels off me" and moving to the edge of the bed. When it got to the point where I was named "mean" for being upset, and informed that I must explain why labelling and criticizing weren't the best thing for human growth and mental health since sliced bread, I left the room.

And so, I am here at 4am, calming down, unclenching my teeth bit by bit, considering making a coffee (because it's clear I won't be going back to sleep), and clicking link after link on the ol' information superhighway during the moments when my mind is screaming too loud for me to write effectively.

He was trying to connect with me, but the connection was backwards.

A backwards connection is just the opposite of a real connection, which is based upon two people relating to each other.
...
A backwards connection begins with an assumption or definition of the other, that ends all possibility of a relationship, at least in that interaction.

-Patricia Evans, Controlling People

For the backwards connection to be made, I'd either have to concede that I was bad, or argue over why I wasn't. Either option would be a silent reinforcement that it was OK to define me in the first place.

It's not OK.

The only person who can truly define you is yourself. The only person who has access to your motives, your understanding (or lack of), your emotional history, your five senses, and your perspective, is you, so you're the only one with the full story. A person can accept your definition of yourself and relate, but they cannot invent their own and expect to be relating. What it boils down to, is, they're making things up.

I understand it when I step back, and disconnect with my emotional part in this, but that can't happen for over an hour later sometimes. I'm hurt and I've a right to feel that way.

I know why he felt like I was being mean and attacking him: it was because I wouldn't allow the backwards connection. So he felt rejected. It's not the first time and I'm reasonably sure it won't be the last.

I get it, but it's still no fun. I want him to relate to me, not his idea of me.



I've seen a few blog posts recently, by men, along the lines of: I'm overly critical to my partner and I don't know why and I'm scared she's going to leave me. I've seen very few from the receiving end. I imagine everyone's story is different, but I think the reason behind this is shame. And possibly fear of public reaction.

I feel neither shame nor fear in this. Mr. Me and I will sort things through today in a gentle, loving way, as we always aim to do, so that tomorrow, we don't have to.



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Image credit: photostock.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Banana-Berry Smoothie Muffins

Okay, I know it's not a food blog, but I've been on a bit of a baking binge recently, and it's only fair that I show you some of it: the good, the bad and the ugly.


I'm a little bit pleased with my odd wee brain for the way it came up with this one. I'd just set out to whip up a quick and easy batch of berry muffins, but the berries were huge and very frozen, and adding a cup or so of those would probably amount to one berry per muffin.

Pointless!

So I got out the blender, thinking to break them up a bit. Also pointless. It just shaved round the edges so that I had about a dozen rocks that were a bit smaller, and some mush coating the sides of the blender. Worse than before! Also, it meant I had to clean the blender for no reason, and we can't have that, can we?

I could probably make a smoothie then, I thought. And then it occurred to me, I could probably use that smoothie to make the muffins! Brilliant, if I do say so myself. And judging by the speed at which they were devoured, there seemed to be some agreement.


Here's what I threw in the bowl:
*1 egg
*2 cups of smoothie (mine flavoured banana-berry but you could use just about anything)
*1/4 cup oil
*1/2 cup sugar
*2 cups plain flour
*4 heaped teaspoons baking powder
*2 heaped teaspoons cinnamon

And then you:
Whisk all the wet ingredients together in the bowl and then stir in the dry.
Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins and bake at 200C for 15 minutes or until golden.


Easy peasy!

Then you spend half an hour trying to get a decent picture of one - first by starting out with it on a non-sunny bench where the pictures were too dark to see, and then keep moving when you push the button on the camera (quite the photographer, me) to make sure you get blurry ones. After 50 goes, there's sure to be one that's usable.

All baking and photographic tips gratefully received!!



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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Freestyle Baking: possibly the ugliest pin-wheels ever!

About six months ago, we lived about a kilometre up the road from a bakery that made really addictive spiced pin-wheels with custard in them. Then we had a house fire (I'll get to that story one day) and had to move about 40 kilometres away, and I haven't been back to the bakery since. Now and again though, I want one of their rolls, and finally that's coincided with the desire to bake.

Yay!

Now, because I'm a bit lazy by nature, I didn't really want to look for a recipe I liked and follow it step by step, maybe running out of one ingredient or another, or perhaps being asked to wait over night for them to rise. Lazy and impatient - so sue me. I'm not scared of freestyle baking; mostly it turns out edible.

So I started out with a basic pizza dough, the same as the one on this post, except that I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar. I get impatient waiting for the yeast to rise too (and mine is a little old and slightly dead) but whamming it in the microwave for 45 seconds on high helps it along nicely. If it's still not as high as you want to see it in ten minutes, give it another 45 seconds - too easy.

While waiting, I set to making the fillings:
*A couple of tablespoons of melted butter mixed with a cup of brown sugar and a tablespoon of cinnamon.
*A handful of sultanas.
*Custard. I wasn't a hero: I used custard powder and made it in the microwave.

Well, if it's pizza dough I'm using, I might as well make it like a pizza, I thought, so I stretched out the dough and added the filling. The dough was too thin and the fillings were too great, but I didn't care. It looked pretty.

I even poured the custard into a snap lock bag and snipped the corner off so that I could pipe it evenly onto the top. I didn't want huge globs of custard here and there just in case one of the rolls missed out. Also, I wanted it to look pretty for you - Aww, see what I do for you guys?

This is the last time it looked pretty though (it was worth it.)

I thought ahead a bit: see how it's rolled out onto baking paper? I knew it would be a pain in the bum to roll without that there, and I'd have been right. Even with it, and with the perfectly even rolling I did, filling started to ooze everywhere. There was no panic though - that puppy was stuffed full anyway.

Cutting caused more oozing and general fiddly stickiness. It was fun and gross at the same time. At that point, I wondered if I shouldn't have used a sweet scone dough, but then it wouldn't have been as bready and I wanted that. I chucked them (ten of 'em) in the oven at 200C for about 20 minutes, at which point they felt cooked and bread-like and also had an unexpected toffeeish coating. Bonus!

They're in no way as good as the bakery's, I'm afraid, but still totally edible. Sometimes I wish I wasn't so impatient with the rising and whatnot. But then we'd have had to wait, and who wants that?

As Mr. Me so rightly said: "Tastebuds don't care how ugly food looks."




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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I Love You, But I Don't Give A Rat's Bum!

I had come to the conclusion that being a mother often meant feigning an interest.

Not always. Sometimes your kids have really interesting topics of conversation, things to show and tell and questions to ask. And that's awesome. But how many people have you met that have all the same interests as you?

OK, now how many seven year old kids have you met that have all the same interests as you?

Yeah. S'what I thought. None.

But we love 'em, don't we? And we love that they're excited about things and learning, even if it is about Pokemon (who knows, he could be a future animator or game programmer!) but it never occurred to me, going into this parenting caper, that I'd have to listen to incessant chatter about things I am completely apathetic towards.

Then I realised how fake that was, and if I modelled that fakeness, I'd be teaching my kids that the correct response is to be dishonest. So where to go with it? Obviously we want some middle ground between "I don't care, please don't talk" and "Tell me all about your belly-button lint, I'm enthralled." I want them to know they can talk to me about anything at any time, but for them to also have the empathy to know that some people just aren't as interested in the same topics as they are, and if we want a captive audience, we need to appeal to them.

At any time is also a biggie for me. Yes, I'm available at any time, but I don't want to be woken up so that I can be shown a new colour of nail polish, or be asked through the toilet door if there are any chores they can do to earn money. Surely it's not that time sensitive that it can't wait five minutes?

Sometimes I find myself at a loss as to how to teach these things. And then realise that always, if there's a behaviour that's happening, good or bad, it's been modelled before.

Was it me?

There have been times, I'm certain, that I've callously interrupted what the kids were doing: pulled them away from a game so I can go out shopping or bill paying or visit a friend or relative or any number of things they have no interest in. Because I'm "bigger and more important" you see. This is the default setting of pretty much all new parents. And if it's not, we're weaned into it because little babies don't really have a lot of preferences in that way, and it becomes habitual just to say "let's go" and expect it to happen.

I also remember often interrupting a game just to "remind" them of things they should do, or to ask them if they'd tried on those new, blue shoes yet... something that may be completely uninteresting to them or not time sensitive, because I unconsciously considered myself bigger and more important.

The idea that I'm bigger, and therefore more important, created second class citizens of my children.

That's not just.

I don't want them growing up believing anyone is second class, not because of their age, or because of their skin colour, or religion, or because of any physical or mental capabilities they may or may not have.

It's true, there are things I must do that are very important. It's also true that my children are the responsibility of myself and my partner and so there will be times when they have to do things they'd prefer not - so to us all in life. But there should never be times when preferences aren't listened to and considered. Very rare are the times when negotiations can't be entered into: generally, yes I can wait fifteen minutes for you to finish your game of Monopoly, and I'm sorry I didn't discuss this with you earlier.

From experience, kids get much better at these negotiations with time and practice, or they can be born into it (which is so much easier, you wouldn't believe it!) but when there are slip ups, the only way to deal with it is without hypocrisy. To politely ask for your personal or psychological space back (in an age appropriate way) and remember you're probably the one who modelled it in the past - you or a teacher they had no choice but to spend six hours per day with, but that's a story for another day.

Ahh, what I love about this blog is that I start writing about a problem and then as I'm writing, I find the solution and write that down too. I think that's what I've done here, so thank you so much for listening! You give me a reason to regularly sit down and get inside my own head for a bit, and I appreciate it.




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Monday, 22 October 2012

I'm Grateful for Things Too!

Just now, I was having a gaze through my list of blog posts that just need a few finishing touches before publishing. It's not that I don't feel like writing, but we have a mildly ill wee guy in the house today and he's always going to be more important at times like this. Also, there's lots of clean ups and washing to do, as happens with a tummy bug. Right now though, little one is having a relaxing shower with Daddy and so I thought I had a couple of minutes just to add some minor bits and pieces and then publish - as you do.

Only, all of the titles seemed pretty negative, or broody, or critical, or introspective and I'm not really in a mood for any of those.

Today I'm just happy. Not fully sure why because the day didn't start ideally, but when it comes, you just take it, right?

It's Tuesday, but it feels like a Monday since yesterday was Labour Day here. Mr. Me and I both do what we do from home and day of the week is not a huge factor: things get done when they need doing, not because of the day of the week - for the most part. I think this is totally cool. I remember hating Mondays and dreading the alarm (and sorta liking the alarm a little bit because it was the radio and I'd listen to it for an hour before even pretending to be awake, but I digress...) and knowing time wasn't my own again for another five days. I vowed not to do that again a couple of years back, and there have been times when I have buckled under the pressure, but know that long-term the way to freedom is to be in control of my income, not let some employer do it. And that makes me happy.

Even though the little fella is unwell, he's still in great spirits and it makes me feel all squishy when I'm thanked for doing what all parents see as their duty anyway. Turns it from a chore into loving care. Or maybe the egg came before the chicken, I don't know, but either way it's awesome. Now after his shower, he's asleep behind me on the couch giving his little body time to fight off whatever bug is inside it. And that makes me happy.

I can smell sausage rolls for lunch. It's a rainy day, and I've hung the washing anyway because of the sheer bulk of what needed doing and my hands smell like synthetic white lilies and cherry blossom. I actually like the smell - I guess it makes me think of clean, fresh sheets. I always have the best sleep on clean sheets. I've been noticing nice smells all morning - I'll let my facebook update describe why:
In the early hours of this morning, I woke to sniffing snuffles and "Smell that! Smell it?" Obviously I was intrigued "Smell what?" I asked the littlest person in our house. My words woke him (I didn't know he was asleep). I asked him if he'd been dreaming and he said yes, and I asked what about... "Baking!" "Ohhh, did it smell nice?" "MMmmmmm ye-es!" Haha - I want that kid's dreams :)
And that makes me happy.

It makes me happy when people just make me coffees because they know that 90% of the time, if they ask, I won't turn one down.
When people have the opportunity to argue and fight, but they don't.
When seeds I have planted, germinate.
When I can give things away.
When people say really smart things that make me think...

Even the fact that I've been writing this post over the space of three hours makes me happy, because I have got so much else done in and around it. I wasn't going write at all, but I'm happy that I have, and that I've been able to. Now there'll be a more positive post in with the rest. That makes me happy too.

There are many things that have happened today that I could grumble about. In size, they maybe even outweigh the good things. But, through no effort on my part, today seems to be the day for me to only see the good in life. As far as wins go, I'll take it, and be grateful.

And I hope you guys are all happy too! (Cos that would make me happy.)



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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Terror Lies in the Clean Spot

Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about! You know what the clean spot is... Please tell me you know what the clean spot is and that it's not just all in my head? Maybe we call it by a different name? I'll explain then, just in case.

Imagine, say, that you have a little kid. And said little kid perhaps gets up from enthusiastic messy play, and runs to the bathroom to get clean (look, I said imagine, alright?). On their way into the bathroom, they pass through two partially closed doors and have to push them open. Now each door has a cute, muddy hand-print. Perfectly formed, miniature art.

There's a choice to be made now. You can leave the muddy hand print there. It'll dry. You'll look adoringly at it each time you pass, knowing that those little fingerprints are fleeting and maybe if you wipe these ones away, you might not get the chance to see the perfect little replicas in such an impromptu way again. But then your inner critic (and sometimes outer critic!) kicks in and exclaims about how lazy you are for not wiping it clean.

I have one of these spots on the glass of my back door.

The second choice is to wipe it and risk the clean spot. You thought the door was clean and white, and now there's a spot on it that's just a little more white than the rest. Worse, is when you squirt it with spray and a bit runs down the length of the door. Now you have a clean spot and clean drip-marks.

I have one of these spots on the door between my laundry room and hallway.

At this point, there's yet another choice to be made (kind of like a pick-a-path book, isn't it?) and it's not an easy one.

You can walk away. Basically, I only ever walk away for two reasons: to spite myself, or because I just can't be bothered. The second one is OK. It's clean, that's plainly obvious, and that's what you set out to do, and that's what got done, so shut up already. Perfectionism be buggered, leave the clean spot there; it's proof you do things at all. Yeah! If you clean the whole door, who's going to know it was dirty in the first place? Check out my cool rationalisations for "can't be bothered". I'm an expert.

If I walk away to spite myself, it's not because I can't be bothered. It's because I "know" the over thinking going on in my head is completely bonkers, so it's a punishment of sorts. Not the most gentle way to look after delicate little neural pathways.

Or you can clean the door. The whole, stinking door, for a six centimetre wide smudge, and you know that clean spot is going to stay ever so slightly cleaner than the rest. You'll be able to see it for years to come. I don't know what causes this phenomenon, and if anyone else does and knows how to fix it, PLEASE, I'M BEGGING YOU share your magic knowledge.

This may sound a little bit trivial, but the truth is, as convoluted as I made it, I chose an easy example. Doors don't take too much, even though it's completely true that I have a muddy hand print, a clean spot and several doors containing spots that are ever so slightly cleaner than the rest, and yes they do all mock me. But what if it was a wall? What if you got rash one day and decided to clean the baseboards, and accidentally made a clean spot on the wall? And it's glaringly obvious. Probably not to anyone else, but you'll keep looking back at it using the same compulsion that forces you to bite a mouth ulcer or poke a bruise, just to see if it still hurts.

It's too dangerous. It's OK to vacuum the baseboards, or dust them, but water can't be involved. Because terror lies in that clean spot that might occur. That fine line between perfectionism and things being "good enough". And accepting that good enough is better than nothing at all, or even, "not good enough but still better than it was" is better than nothing at all.

A drop in the bucket is worthwhile, because the bucket of water is made up of thousands of drops. One is not more important than the others. But add enough singular drops and it overflows. Each of those drops is one little clean spot, and, I guess, one more spot you don't need to clean.

I don't know. They're still pretty scary. Does anyone else have this problem with clean spots?



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Handprint photo source

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Overcoming The 5 Big Advantages of Being a Single Parent

In my News Feed yesterday, there was a blog post called The Five Big Advantages of Being a Single Parent. And as someone with a fair bit of experience of being a single parent, and an equal amount of experience team parenting, I can say, those five big advantages really are all they're cracked up to be.

I was damn happy as a single parent. I had the control, baby. If you think there's an adjustment period going from team parenting to single parenting, it ain't nuthin compared to the adjustment period going the other way. The adjustment period into singledom lasted.. ummm... oh about a month, while I got used to the idea that everything was on my shoulders. While the frustration of being stuck in one place while the kids slept eased, and a more forward-planning brain grew. And while I accepted that me-time had turned into we-time and there wasn't a lot I could do about it.

I went from being stark-raving bonkers at going it alone, to fairly proficient - kinda like when you first start out fitness training: something that half killed you at the beginning, is a walk in the park after a few weeks' practice.

I didn't bother dating. Possibly that was a mix of having no time for it and being a bit scared that I could be wasting my precious little free time on someone who may or may not be a jerk... OK, I think I'll just fess up and say I enjoyed my single parenthood and I didn't want to share. Nup. It was mine and I'm selfish. An introvert, and uncomfortable with change.

But sometimes, even when you're actively trying to avoid it, love comes along, grabs you by the ankle and proves itself impossible to shake off. That's what happened to me and I'm not sure I've forgiven him for it yet, but I love him just the same.

He's not a back-seat dad either, which would have made it easier for me to transition, and he won't do as he's told!

Neither will I. Head-butt much? Sure, I often want to stick his head up his . . . wait, no, we're both just as much entitled to our autonomy as the other.

So now, "1) Guess who makes all the decisions." Does not have the same answer as it did before, and was a bit of a hard pill to swallow. I genuinely prefer being the top cheese, and I wouldn't be being honest if I didn't mention that I struggle daily to not be completely unilateral. Ahh well, at least I still get to decide what's for dinner every night. Sigh... almost every night then.

"2) Guess how often I argue about money." Yup, that was another thing that I loved. It sorta ties in with number 1 too, because if I made all the decisions, I'd be making all the money decisions too, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. Alas, I must negotiate and compromise. I'd much rather have a kiddy tantrum and get my way, but fair's fair, and if Mr. Me did that I'd probably have a cry and feel very sorry for myself (rightly so!) and being a hypocrite isn't my favourite.

"3) Guess whose kid gets to learn more responsibility." Well, actually, no. When I was single, aside from the kids being younger and less capable, I honestly didn't have the time for them to have more responsibility. Asking them to do something or have responsibility over something was just ten times more work, first convincing them to do it to begin with, then getting it done to the standard you're accustomed? ... Let's just say, if it takes 15 minutes to do a load of dishes by yourself, it takes 45 minutes and 20 extra blood pressure units to do it with a seven year old and a ten year old. Now we can tag-team that sort of thing, and there's more energy to go around for helping kids keep their responsibilities instead of just doing it for them.

"4) Guess who gets all of dad’s (or mom’s) bonding time." That was a bit of a learning curve, especially for my eldest, who honestly thought she was the queen and I was her lady in waiting. She rightfully felt as though I was being stolen from her. I say rightfully because she'd just never had to share before and it was new and painful. Of course all the time wasn't stolen from her, it just felt that way, I'm sure. Eventually, both kids figured out that there was actually more bonding time to be had through doubling the parents.

"5) Guess who doesn’t have to deal with the drama." True. And possibly that was why I initially didn't want to be in a relationship at all. But when you give up the drama, you also give up the companionship. When you give up the give, you give up the take. When you're by yourself, there's only one person to blame, true, and so you just get on with it, but when you're by yourself there's no one whose knowing glance you can share when things are going your way either. No one to hold you up when you think you're about to fall. There's a synergy about playing for a team, so much greater than one plus one. And knowing that simply makes the drama much less of a drama.

I didn't get to write this blog post yesterday as I wanted to. You see, it was our anniversary and there was more good to be had celebrating that together. But it was good to think about and know what I would write; it gave me a lovely perspective on our relationship in a lovely timely manner.

Happy Anniversary, Babe. xx



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Sunday, 14 October 2012

On Growing Up in the Dark

I have abandonment issues, to put it bluntly. I'm haunted every day by the ghosts of my past: people I love know they can't leave me without saying good bye. No nipping out to the dairy for milk while I sleep, because if I wake with them gone, it brings back all the feelings that I have no memories for.

Confusion, fear and anger are the strongest; the "jacket feelings" that protect the smaller, but more intense, vulnerable ones. These are the feelings you might see if you come across me like that, and if you're the one that caused it, be ready for a tongue-lashing! But we all know anger is a secondary emotion, caused by the other two. It's protective. Holds people at bay or stops them from attempting to go there again. It projects the confusion and fear you're feeling onto those that "caused" it and makes you feel better in the short term.

But it's not fair. They've done nothing wrong. They're just going about their business, not remembering your emotions run a little differently. Not at first, anyway. They learn pretty quickly after the first couple of times.

Injured, feral animal.

Hiding under the jacket feelings is pure primal misery. I have no way to describe these emotions, because I didn't have the language for them at the time, and if you let it loose, you can't think like an adult at the same time. All you can do is either be comforted, or cry it out - cry until your body tells you that crying is worthless, like a baby being sleep-trained. I can tell you which is better: being comforted. It's over sooner and you bounce back much quicker and next time it's not quite as bad. You've been heard. You're loved. Crying it out leaves you wrecked and exhausted, like you have a really shit hangover, complete with headache and dehydration and you can't function worth a damn if you don't sleep it off over several hours.

Most people who go through this don't explore under the jacket feelings. It's scary stuff. I didn't until I'd been in counselling over a year, some of which were intensive 5 hour sessions. (Yeah, I needed a fair bit of help for my inner fruit-loopery.) Tell ya what though, remembering what it's like to be a toddler with big feelings and not knowing what they are, and having no control over them really is an eye opener. Nothing but gentle parenting after that - whoa baby!

I wasn't actually abandoned as a child. Not really. Mum died of cancer when I was almost three years old. It was really quick from the time they found out and when it happened and I didn't really know what was going on. Perhaps I was being "protected", but the upshot is a little girl eventually knew her mummy was gone and wasn't coming back. She didn't know why, or if it was her fault. She didn't know how her mummy felt about leaving her. She'd always come back before - why not this time? This little girl only knew that the one to whom she was most strongly attached, the woman on which her little world depended, who fulfilled her every need and who she trusted completely, was gone. Would no longer be there with her, for her, think about her, take care of her... love her.

And though she knew there were other people who loved her, it could never be the same.

The only memory I have from that time, is going to visit at the hospital. I was standing beside a hospital bed. I remember the metal on the side of it, which was about level with my face. I didn't look at who was on the bed. A woman (I think, my grandmother, but not sure) urged me, "tell your mother you love her," and I did, because it was true, but I didn't know why I was being urged to say it. I'm not sure if she replied. I don't even know if I was heard. I don't remember.

I think that could have been the last time I saw her.

From then on, I knew that to have complete trust and reliance in another person was dangerous and could be earth shattering. At that age, I blocked out my desires for emotional reassurance and became someone who had to know everything. A very "strong", confident, self reliant person. So much so that I couldn't accept help as I saw in it a sign of weakness. Every. Single. School report I received growing up contained the words, "responsible", "mature", "capable", "conscientious". Mistakes were out of the question. I was (still am, though I work hard to repair it) a perfectionist. Adultified.

No, I wasn't abandoned really. But I have abandonment issues still, 30 years later.

I still yearn to know how mum thought. What she was feeling, knowing she was leaving me behind? What did her voice sound like? How did her face change when she smiled? What did she struggle with? Did she have any advice for me? What were her opinions on... anything?

All I have are some wedding photos, some hand-written recipes and her wedding dress.

I wish I had more.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and knowing what I do, this is my recommendation for anyone in the awful, awful position of leaving your children behind.

Write letters. Thousands, if you can. One for every occasion you can think of. Give advice and tell stories of when you were going through the same thing. Letters for birthdays and Christmases and graduations and weddings, and new children being born.

Video yourself reading stories and singing songs (for different age levels as they grow) until you get hoarse. Share your favourites and say why they are your favourite.

Plant a tree, or something else lasting, together, and document the time well, with video, picture and writing.

And share all your feelings. Because as adults, and even as children we can know intellectually that you never wanted to leave. But unless we hear it from your mouth, in your words, we'll always feel in the dark, just hoping.



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Friday, 12 October 2012

10 Times The Rainy Day Toddler Fun

Make Playdough!

playdough photo credit

It's completely easy to make. You do need to use boiling water, but kids can help with all the rest and they can help knead it all together when the dough has cooled enough to touch. Here's a recipe:

1 1/2 cups salt
3 cups flour
6 tbsp cream of tartar
3 cups boiling water
3 tbsp cooking oil
food colouring

Mix all ingredients together. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container. Makes approximately 1.5kg.

You can add glitter for sparkle, or even powdered cordial in place of the food colouring to create different colours and smells (though it's still going to taste disgusting if it gets in their mouth).



Play with the playdough you just made.

'Cause let's face it, everyone loves playing with the dough. For the littlest fingers, it's sensory fun, cause and effect and learning motor skills. Older kids, (and me) learn to think spatially, plan their creations, stretch their imagination and strengthen their concentration. Who could ask for more?

Well, since you do ask for more (because I assume you're a smart-a*se like me) they also learn through role-play (think pretending to be a baker), about shapes and which ones are stronger, physics - how to strengthen their structures, and about art.

Playdough is epic.



Build a fort

fort photo credit

A classic activity for all kiddos, but most of the time we forget, being the adults that we are! Forts are awesome fun to make up, and knock down and make up and knock down, pretending to make a house of cards out of the cushions and using them as gymnastics mats. And then when you have the fort perfect, it's time to clamber inside with a book and torch or some picnic food. Stories and eating are what people do every day, but they're made just that bit more special and memorable in a different place.



Feed the ducks and jump in puddles

duck photo credit

Really, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes for the weather. Kit out in raincoat, umbrella and boots and find some ducks to feed. You'll probably be the only ones there, and ducks, funnily enough, think it's great weather!

While you're at it, jump in some puddles. Hunt for and count all the worms that have emerged onto the paths. Shake droplets out of tree-branches onto each other's umbrellas. Pick flowers. The outdoors in the rain is just as much opportunity as it is obstacle.



Take pictures!

take pictures photo credit

Get your digital camera or cellphone out and take photos together. Look at them and talk about them. Pull funny faces at the camera, dangle from the sofa, sing songs and let your little ones video you. Play it back for them. Play it again the next rainy day, and the next! Let them initiate how to take the pictures. Let them push the buttons. Keep the best pictures as a screen saver for your computer.



Chase raindrops

raindrops photo credit

Have raindrop races down window panes. It's not an activity that will keep kids occupied for hours, or even more than a minute or two, but it's something everyone should do and a memory every kid should have.

It's something they can look back on fondly during rainy days of their own, and repeat. A feeling of warmth that might hit them twenty years from now, stuck in traffic in the pouring rain. It's one of the little things in life.



Dance!

dancing photo credit

Dance! Use up some of that wiggle that's driving you mad. If it's the middle of the year, then break out the Christmas tunes for something different and to jog everyone's memory back to awesome fun times. Play something bouncy and jiggly. Something that kids can remember and scream the words to. Join in! Try to dance just as crazy and sing just as loudly as they are. A favourite song at our place for this, is Snoopy's Christmas!



Blow bubbles inside.

bubbles photo credit

Blowing bubbles isn't just for sunny days. It's for days in the kitchen when you're going to mop the floor anyway! And you get to pop far more bubbles when the wind doesn't carry them away anyway. Probably best done after you've made and eaten your pizza!



Make pizza together, then eat it.

pizza photo credit

Pizza dough is almost as simple as playdough to make, and while it's rising you can be chopping up the toppings ready for everyone to create their own masterpieces.

Dough Recipe:
1 packet of the instant yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar, dissolved in 1 cup of warm water
Add it to 2.5 cups of plain flour and 2 tbls of your oil of preference.
Knead, cover and leave to rise.
When about double in size, shape into one big or several little pizzas and add toppings.
Bake in a medium oven for about 15 mins.

Easy peasy!



Let the kids decide and play along

Children need the opportunity to make decisions of their own. Maybe they have a favourite game they want to revisit, or perhaps they want to invent something completely new? Chances are they remember something they did while away from you that they might want to show you but don't yet have the words for. Allow them to direct their own play. They're the experts at it.

Play along. Enjoy the ride. It's OK for adults to be kids too, now and then.



When I was thinking these up, I remembered I haven't done some of them in a very long time, and it's time I stepped up and remembered how to be a kid again. They're the ones who know how to be free and unselfconscious. They get the job done.

Got any ideas you'd like to add? I want to hear them!



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