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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image credit

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.


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.


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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picture credit

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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ring photo credit

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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lily image source

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.


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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So You Think Your Child Is A Nazi...

Nobody wins a war.

Yes there'll be one side who will be stronger eventually, and they can dominate, take over, enforce their will on the other side, but no one actually wins. There will be casualties on both sides.

The "winners" of a war will be the ones with the most training. Those who have been taught - had it beaten into them - how to look past the humanity of their opposition. How to ignore the suffering of their foes, or to pretend it doesn't exist at all.

In a war, you have to switch off your empathic function or you're no good. It's pointless being there if you can feel the affect you have on each and every participant you have interactions with. You could start caring that your opponent is so terrified from your last encounter that they just buckle and plead, follow your instruction and apologise for being who they were born to be. You could start caring, and then how could you finish them off? How could you win? No. In a war, you must turn off your empathic function.

In a war, you must follow orders. This is drilled into you by people with more power than you, before you even get near a battle. You learn from their example, and if you do not, you'll need more drilling until you do. There is no place on a battlefield for someone who thinks for themselves. You'll have been given your tactics for winning long ago, by those who were better at it than you, and you must know them so well that it's automatic. There will be no time to stop and think. You must turn off your creativity. You must fight your innate impulses until you have replaced them with the impulses of your superiors.

In a war, you must fight through pain. You will be damaged, that is guaranteed, so you must have the will of mind to ignore your own pain. If you take care of your own hurts, that's a weakness. A weakness in yourself and in your battalion. Your comrades require you for their own safety and you do them for yours, so if you fall back, you could be the weakest link in the chain and cause defeat. If you're fighting alone, to consider your own pain, to break, means certain death, assuming your opponent has also been well trained, and turned off their empathy.

So, to win a war, we must turn off our empathic mind, our rational and intuitive minds, our sensate function and our free will.

Once a person is trained in warfare, it's very hard to go back to being untrained. A lot of times it won't happen and the returned soldier will never regain the connection they had with loved ones. They'll spend their time yearning to be in their comfort zone - the place they were trained to be. They'll feel angry and betrayed by those they came home to, who are scared and confused by the soldier's lack of empathy and love and understanding. Their loved ones will do as the returned soldier wills, and call it respect, and convince themselves it's respect, but it will really be fear. Loved ones will understand the battles were fought on their behalf, whether they asked for or wanted it or not and will feel compelled into gratitude.

But in the end, fear, disguised as respect, and gratitude, aren't fertile soils in which to grow love. In the end, we're often left with a lonely soldier at the Veteran's Association, surrounding himself with the only people who can identify with how he thinks. A lonely soldier who goes to visit a different family member each Christmas - passed around like dishes duty.
I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
Nobody wins a war.

And when you see your home as a war zone, the same things happen.

When you fight battles with your partner or your children, you are turning off your empathic mind, your rational and intuitive mind, your sensate function and your free will. It must be done to win the battle.

Your children, buckled and pleading, follow your instruction out of fear and apologise for being who they were born to be. You call it respect, and so will they and they'll forever confuse the two. They'll love you through duty, and because they see the sacrifice you have made on their behalf whether they asked for or wanted it or not and will feel compelled into gratitude.
I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.
But they're not fertile soils in which to grow real love. They'll grow up and move away, half way across the world, and you'll lose regular contact. And they'll fight their own wars at home as they've been taught to do. They've been trained for years, and now they know how to win with their own innocent offspring and spouse. They'll know to turn off their empathy to win. They'll flip into irrational rages against your grandchildren and they won't know why. They'll blame the kids, for being who they were born to be. Maybe later they'll feel guilty. Maybe not.

If not, the cycle continues with their grandchildren... But maybe they want for their children the freedom for the full expression of their personalities. And that can never be achieved through violence, only love, genuine respect, peaceful resistance and teaching through role modeling.
Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
We are going to make mistakes. Our spouses are going to make mistakes. Our children are going to make mistakes. Our parents are going to make mistakes.

Imagine living in fear of making a mistake. Trying something new would be terrifying. You'd hide away so no one would know. You wouldn't be able to share your ideas or get excited about them for fear you would fail. Life would get procrastinated away as you dissociate away your anxiety and you'd live in Dr Seuss's "Waiting Place" where most people stay.

I am not at war with my family. Not any more. There have been times I thought I was. And there've been times, because of the way I have trained them, that I'm incited into battles and I feel like I must fight. Be violent. There are times when I've made mistakes, and though I resolve not to, maybe I'll make them again. I hope not. I hope I always have the strength to peacefully resist the battle-cries of others. I resolve to model peace, not violence, at all costs.

I never want to give up my capacity for empathy. I want to keep my intuition and my rationality. I want to remain self aware: to know how I got that bruise and to listen to what my body is trying to tell me when I have that headache or I can't sleep.

I will remain whole.
You must be the change you want to see in the world.

Please take the time to share this post with those you care about. The less people there are at war at home, the more whole, free, loving and happy people there will be in the world. Be the change.

Thank you.

The quotes are Mahatma Gandhi's

Image credit: Wikipedia

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A Fishy Toothbrush Update

I had this toothbrush a few days ago, that tasted a little fishy and since yesterday was shopping day, I bought myself another.

I'd been making do with mouthwash and floss, so was looking forward to a nice, fresh, new, clean, non-fishy toothbrush.

Something you don't know about me, is that I have this weird aversion to putting things in my mouth that don't belong. By "don't belong" I mean not meant for human consumption. Toothbrushes are included in that. I push through it and brush my own teeth, sure, but the sound of anyone else brushing their teeth actually makes me violently dry-retch.

Seeing anyone else put anything in their mouth that doesn't belong makes me violently dry-retch. I'm that sap who sees toddlers (including my own) mouthing things and calls for help while gagging and running away. I'd be no good in an emergency - it really is that bad!

I also can't put anything in my mouth that has been in another person's mouth. Yes, this includes having a bite of someone's sandwich. It has to be from the uneaten end. And it includes drinking out of a drink bottle someone else has used. If my toothbrush is wet when I pick it up, just the thought of what may have happened can make me gag.

With that in mind, you can likely understand why someone messing with my toothbrush is worse than you may have first thought.

So anyhow, yesterday I bought my new toothbrush. I considered buying two, nearly did, then decided I was being foolish. Toothbrush interference isn't a common occurrence in my house. Nor should it be.

I chose a colour I liked that was different to the other four in the house, and brought it home with the rest of my groceries. So far so good.

We had done the shopping late in the afternoon, so the grocery bags got dumped on the table with only the things that needed refrigeration being put away immediately. I started getting dinner ready with the knowledge the rest would be put away soon enough. And while I was cooking, I was distracted from what was happening over at the table.

Never trust a two-year-old, is all I can say.

Ten minutes later he wandered into the kitchen, looked at me all adorable-like and said: "Kiss my minty, Mum." Which, of course, is a direct translation of: "I just brushed my teeth; now I want a kiss." So I did (who wouldn't?). But I am, now, a more suspicious person. I knew he had been fossicking in the groceries earlier on.

"Which toothbrush did you use, sweetheart?" I asked nervously.

And he looked at me. And he giggled. And he giggled some more. And then he showed me...

So, today, I need a new toothbrush...

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Image by: digitalart

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Smells Minty... But Tastes A Little Fishy!

We're not opposed to a little practical joking in our house.

Innocent jokes, of course; ones that don't cause humiliation or harm or fear.

And the one who gets away with the majority of them hasn't yet turned three years old! It's hard to practical joke a two-year-old in return without feeling mean and more than a little over the top.

Yesterday, he got me good.

Every morning after breakfast, I take a couple of fish oil capsules (jus' makin' sure I get me my omegas; wouldn't want to run out of brain function). A couple of times, Mister-Almost-Three has asked for one too. I know what he's going to do: bite it, get a mouthful of cod liver oil, announce how putrid the stuff is (in his own special way) and spit it all into the rubbish. And so I allow it. Fun times.

And that's what happened yesterday morning.

Only, first he spat the capsule into his hand, and got oil all over it, before depositing the casing into the rubbish bin. He then enticed me to smell his oily hand, which was indeed as putrid as he made it out to be. I suggested it'd be a grand idea to wash his hands, and off he went to the bathroom, without hesitation.

That should have been my first clue.

What should have been my second clue, was that he came back five minutes later with still incredibly oily hands, that didn't appear to have seen any soap at all.
So I helped him - as you do.

The day meandered on uneventfully, eventually darkening into night and I thought no more about it, except to tell Mr. Me, in passing, why there might be some residual fishy odour wafting from our youngest offspring.

Eventually, everyone went to bed, and I, being the last one up as usual, shut up shop and mindlessly performed my bedtime routines.

Innocent, I was.

Toothpaste has a strong smell. Apparently it's smell is stronger than its taste, because I couldn't smell anything amiss as I lifted the paste-laden brush to my mouth.

Boy, did I taste it!

I garbled a foamy, fish flavoured oath, and heard giggling from my bedroom.

I peered in at two delighted faces. "He said he made it yucky," grinned Mr. Me.

And the little one said: "You just shh," his little fingers held up to his lips. "I'll fix it later."

Except now I'm scared more than ever!

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Image courtesy of RJSSIGNSCOM

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Incubating a Tantrum


That's what I'm doing right now.

I know it's not exactly healthy, physically or mentally, but it's satisfying the twisted, sadistic, brutal, raging Devil-On-My-Left-Shoulder. Bastard that it is.

Feels good and awful all at the same time. I'm sitting on Pandora's Box here and guarding it something fierce for the good of the world. Yet also to the detriment of society too, because let's face it, she's gonna blow. And it ain't gonna be pretty when it happens.

So I've tied Pandora's Box shut with chains and straps and I'm sitting on it with my legs crossed (which, by the way, is rather uncomfortable; particularly the chains bit) trying to save the world. And the more I try to keep the box shut, the more I am haunted by a certain knowledge.

I know something Pandora didn't.

Stands to reason, since she was the first one with The Box.

I know, that in amongst all the sh*t that's dying to get out, there's a whimpery little being, laying on the bottom, waiting for the pressure to ease.

And that's the little blighter I want to get my hands on!


I'm scared to let the nasty stuff go, because basically I know that no one around me has done any wrong and they don't deserve it. But if I don't let go of the nasty stuff, not only will I miss out on hopeful, therefore also curious and optimistic, me, so will everyone else!

And we can't let that happen, now can we?

It's a scary thought... I'll try to let the demons loose responsibly.

Good luck World!

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Friday, 5 October 2012

Shower Paranoia

I don't know who to credit for this picture; it's floating around facebook. I didn't make it, but I love it!

I love how apparently not alone I am.

Because preschool kids have ESP, don't they? They can be in the deepest stage of the deepest sleep, but the second your toe hits the bathwater, they're on full alert.

I recall doing it myself to a point. In the car, I could sleep through the majority of a road trip and magically open my eyes and be wide awake just as we were pulling into the destination. I still don't know how I did it; it's not as if we weren't turning sharp corners or coming to a stop at other points in the journey.

Now that I'm not a preschooler, I've lost the skill.

Now that my older two kids have reached double digited age, they have lost the skill of desperately needing my attention the second I think I have a safe moment to shower or visit the loo.

The preschooler I do have, only has that skill when it involves his Daddy. I'm off the hook there! (Be grateful you can't see the sly happy-dance.)

Nope, I'm sweet as. I can shower without hearing a child crying - almost any time I like! Unless you count the imaginary crying. The ghosts of ESP past. The post traumatic stress of about seven years of constant interruption. Of dripping down the hallway with a headful of apple-scented lather. Of sometimes keeping that headful of apple-scented lather for an hour and a half, before wading back through the lake of now cold water on the bathroom floor, because I didn't take the time to dry off before stepping out.

I expect to hear crying.

It confuses me when I don't.

So my brain invents it for me.

Either that, or some sneaky cat with ESP is wailing outside the bathroom window just to mess with me.

In any case, I'm not alone. At least one person was afflicted enough to make the picture. Hundreds of other people could identify with it enough that they shared it!

And now, I suddenly feel very normal.

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