Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Connected through cake

Last night I was a bit distracted, a bit busy, crocheting slippers for the birthday of the gorgeous boy of one of my best friends. He asked for orange and pink, which just filled me with joy, such gorgeous colours! I really wanted to get as much done as possible, to give them to him by the end of the week, so I was focussed and not really interacting with Indigo, and she didn't like it. Usually she is more than happy to play with Mat for hours and hours, but last night, even though he was right there, she kept coming up to me, bringing me books for her to read, placing toys on my lap, asking for a breastfeed when she'd only recently had one. I could tell she was a little unsettled that I was there, but not there for her.

At first I thought to myself, it's good for her to know I'm not there 100% of the time, it's good for her to realise I'm a separate person with my own desires and goals. But after a while I could tell it was getting to her, and I decided we needed a little connection. So I suggested to her that we place a tablecloth on the floor, get out the flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter and coconut and make a cake together. Her whole face transformed into joy, and she clapped her hands and shouted "Yay!" So the table cloth went onto the floow, and I left her with a bowl into which I had cracked two eggs - she likes to play with the raw egg, letting it slip through her fingers and picking up the yolk, eventually piercing it and mixing the oozy contents with the white. It kept her occupied while I got everything ready. Then in another bowl we combined butter and sugar, and stopped to taste. She declared it good. You can't really go wrong with butter and sugar! Then we added coconut, and tasted again. We looked into eaah others eyes and nodded as we tasted, and Mat gave a third opinion, still really really good. Splash in the vanilla, the flour, some baking powder and the eggs, and a bit of soy milk, and now it was time to use the mixer!

A few months ago I bought a bright orange retro hand mixer on ebay and Indi and I both love it! We both hold the handle together while she switches it on, and then we watch the wonderful swirly patterns form in the cake batter as we mix away. Mesmerised, we probably mix more than we need to. Then together we poured the mixture into the lined cake tin and together we placed the tin in the oven. As we waited for the cake to cook, she played happily, her cup now filled as we had been connected through cake.

I'm so glad Indigo's old enough to get that we need to actually cook the cake - it always ended badly when she realised she wasn't getting cake right away and cried and cried as I put it into the oven. Half an hour later she came up to me just as I pulled the delicious golden dome out of the oven, and asked if it was cooked. And it was, to perfection. I smeared some butter on top, and dusted it with cinnamon and sugar, and cut us some generous wedges.

There are lots of ways that Indigo and I connect when we're in need of a bit of closeness, lying in bed and tickling, singing songs, going into the garden and searching for snails and slaters, picking vegies in the garden, crafting - the list goes on... but baking a cake together is the tastiest one for sure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Long days, motorhomes and general loveliness

It's spring equinox today! Hooray! From now on the days win! There is more light than dark, more day than night, and the days will just get longer and longer and longer, with a bit of daylight savings added in for good measure. Such a wonderful thing. For the last week or so it has felt like my sap has been rising with the emerging spring. I felt a big glum there for a couple of months, interminable long grey winter and all, which tends to happen every year. I felt tired and flat, noticeably so. But now I feel back to my usual spritely self, energetic and bright eyed and in love with all the flowers showing off their loveliness in my garden.

Tonight we celebrated by going out to our favourite place to eat out, the Shanghai Dumpling House in the city. What's so 'spring equinox' about that, you may ask? Well, we're not sure, but it was certainly yummy, and we did spent most of the way there discussing spring equinox-type stuff. Maybe next year we'll host a gathering and light a fire and some candles and eat some yummy food.

So, welcome longer days, we love you, and really, deep down, we wish you could stay forever and never leave. I know that the darkness and coldness of winter makes the new spring feel extra specially great, that it's all relative and all that, but really. Melbourne winters are just a bit rough.

Well, may-beee when I get my new (old) motorhome, I can spend the last month of winter in queensland living in my old converted Bedford bus, with my child and anyone else who tagged along, and avoid the hardest bit of the Melbourne winter. Yes, you heard me! A motorhome! Woo hoo! Last saturday I had an idea, a thought, that germinated and has taken over my brain like a delightfully noxious weed, and I am now consumed with the idea of selling up Euroa (though it pains me, it pangs me, I will miss it and carry fond memories forever) and buying a motorhome instead. Something we can use, something we can enjoy, something that can take us around this amazing country of ours and really give us value in terms of life experience and joy and enrichment and adventure. Euroa is nice, but it's stuck in Euroa. Which is nice if you come from Euroa. Also, there are houses all around the 9 acre property, and I know for a fact that at least one sleazy neighbour used to perve on me when I camped there. He told me he saw me swimming in my bikinis in the dam. Damn. That made me feel even slimier than the dam water did.

So, yes, I've spent the last four days madly crazily researching motorhomes, and have realised this:
  • Some people are nuts. They spend $250,000 on a moving mansion, totally decked out in energy guzzling glory, with huge plasma tv's, overstuffed furniture as far as the eye can see, king sized beds and even some with a spa. I'm sure it's all very cushy but it makes me kinda cringe with the American cheese of it all.
  • I can afford a pretty small minibus type arrangement, with very basic bed, kitchen, maybe a table to sit at, no toilet or shower or anything like that. Cramped, ugly, no charm. And only two seats, so not really useful for a family.
  • I can also afford a really old passenger bus that has been converted into a motorhome. A 76 model Bedford to be exact. Again no shower or toilet, but with room for four to travel and sleep in, a nicer open plan feel, with some space to breathe and live without feeling claustrophobic.
So, yes, I am considering getting a truck licence (how cool is that?!) so that I can drive a bus around the country and travel with my child. I could drive around in a car and camp of course, many do. But I really like the idea of stopping somewhere and being able to crawl into bed almost immediately, no tent to set up, no unpacking of stuff and repacking each time. And if I travel with Indi on my own, which I plan to do a fair bit, then setting up the tent with a cranky upset child who has had enough is pretty near impossible.

I have been talking about motorhomes non-stop for days now, and dreaming about them at night. No jokes. Mat is being very patient with me! But how can I not be excited? Will update with more news as it comes to hand.

And as for general loveliness, well, life's just good. We are happy. Things are going well. Mat and I are best friends and still deeply in love after 15 years. Our child is the most beautiful and truly delightful thing we have ever seen, and we both feel totally blessed to be har parents. And she's a funny thing. A real sense of humour, a cheeky sense of humour.

Just one anecdote. The other day, as I was breastfeeding her, she was pinching me, these tiny little pinches all over my chest. It was annoying me. I repeatedly asked her to stop, gently and respectfully, explaining that it hurt me and I didn't like it. She ignored me and kept going. I got firmer with her and told her sternly I would have to stop feeding her if she persisted, that I didn't want to do that but that I wasn't going to allow myself to be pinched. She stopped feeding, looked me in the eye, and said "Yuk mama." !! Mat and I burst out laughing. I said "Yuk Indi." She shook her head and said "Yuk mama" again. Then she said "Mama shit bum." Well, if the first one made us laugh, this one made us totally crack up, tears and all. Probably just the positive reinforcement she didn't need, but really, it's impossible not to.

So, yep, in general life is awesome, I am so lucky to be doing what I am doing, the mama of an awesome girl, the life partner of an awesome man, living in an awesome if messy house, and with six awesome cats, with an awesome and supportive family and dear lovely friends. Really, sometimes I feel like the queen of the world. A queen who will drive a bus. Bet that's a first.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dark dark day

The kind of day where I find myself looking at my child with such anger, with such frustration, that it scares me. The kind of day where the sound of her voice calling me, once again, yet again, causes every single teeny tiny muscle in my body to tense up. The kind of day that makes me want to disappear, or makes me want my child to disappear. Just for a bit. The kind of day I wish I could erase from my memory, and from hers.
I found myself in the late afternoon, curled on my side on the trampoline out the back, sobbing. I was hoping the neighbours weren't in their yards coz they surely would have heard me. I cried and cried and it just didn't seem to be stopping. Eventually I got it together enough to phone a couple of friends, and was lucky enough to get through to one, who listened to my sobbing with a great big open heart, who told me exactly what I needed to hear, and to whom I am so grateful. And I was also grateful that I even had friends in my life that I was prepared to call in such a state. It is actually a really hard thing to do. I suddenly had more respect and admiration for those that had called me up in tears. I never realised it was so hard, that you could feel so vulnerable. In a way, you are showing the person on the end of the line the dirtiest of your dirty laundry. You are balling it up in your fist and holding it out to them, shaking it like a pompom.
And if you are lucky your friend will stand there, they will look at that laundry being shaken in their face, unfazed. Then they will take your hand and lead you straight to the washing machine.
In my case that would involve stepping over the vacuum cleaner, the ridiculously large toolbox, the bucket with the soaking teddy bear in it that the cat peed on, and the many many other objects strewn over the floor of my miniature laundry. We may stumble, my friend and I, on our way toward that machine, we may curse and stub our toes on the way to emotional cleansing and wholeness. But as long as that friend of yours keeps a tight hold on your hand, and encourages you to keep your chin up, telling you everyone's become lost in large bundles of obscenely dirty laundry at times, all too often secret bundles which smell all the worse for being secret, that everyone's had rough times, and that we've all come through on the other side, with baskets overflowing with fresh clean laundry smelling sweetly of the sun and the grass and the spring air, that there is life beyond these dark dark days and that the sun will rise and happiness will return to hearts forlorn, if that friend can do this for you, then you are lucky, and you will be OK.
I am lucky, really lucky, and I was OK in the end. It has been a rough day but my child is asleep, I have a packet of Mint Slice biscuits handy right by my side, and a man to hug me and love me and tell me I'm a good mum.
Did I mention I was lucky?
Fuck I love my child, and fuck it is hard being a mum sometimes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Astronauts are helping me feed my child!

It's true. And it's cute!

After a long and tedious spate of teething and illness, Indi's relationship with food had taken a backward step. While she was under the weather, we were lucky if she had five mouthfuls of food all day. Which in and of itself isn't a problem. I'm not worried she'll waste away or anything. But then she would ask for constant "meme" (Turkish for breast, kinda pronounced meh-meh with less emphasis on the 'h'). Which would drive me bananas. I have made a commitment to breastfeed my child until she is well past two, possibly three, as I really believe in the health and emotional benefits of doing so for the child. But really, personally, I'm not in love with the process. I've never been one of those women who go all doe-eyed at the sight or mention of breastfeeding, who feels physical pleasure and joy whilst nourishing their babe. I wish I was! It would make life so much easier! Maybe I would have been if Indi had fed every two to three hours like a lot of babies do (much to my amazement!). From birth Indi often fed every half hour, extending it to an hour at a long stretch. Sometimes she fed for hours on end, especially when it was hot. It was actually really hard work for me, the hardest thing I have ever had to do I think. Looking back (and really I didn't intend this post to be about breastfeeding, but here we are... ) I think that the frequency and intensity of Indi's feeding probably set the tone for my relationship to breastfeeding. Maybe if I had had a two to three hour break between feeds, I would have felt differently about it all. Who knows?

Anyway, (I've missed my long rambly blog posts!) so she was hardly eating, hardly sleeping, and breastfeeding all the time, and I was going nuts. But gradually her teething and cold subsided, and she got a bit of an appetite back, which was great. But it wasn't really where I wanted it to be. Sometimes it needed a bit of a kickstart. Sometimes she sat there, hungry, but didn't eat. It was as though she had gotten out of practice or something. One day, after preparing a healthy and delicious meal for us all, and knowing she was hungry, I was gettin' kinda frustrated when she, once again, refused to eat anything. She was excited as she saw the meal being served, and happily sat in her special chair with the cushion on it to boost her up. But nope, head turned to the side, chin up, she was not gonna be eating any of it thankyouverymuch.

After unclenching my jaw, I spotted one of her favourite toys at the moment, one which provides her with literally hours of entertainment. It was one of the many little astronauts we have about the place, from a spaceship toy collection of Mat's from when he was a teensy tiny cute little thing. These astronauts have baths with her, they get carried to the car and back when we go on trips, they get pushed around the house on her little trolley, or in her little wooden car, and of course they go on regular trips out into the cosmos on their many little spaceships of various shapes and sizes. On any given day you can look at any part of our house and see one somewhere, anywhere, as there are quite a few of them. So one happened to be on the kitchen table as we sat to eat our lunch. And I had a brainwave. I grabbed a bit of bread, impaled it on the arm of one of these astronauts, and suddenly the astronaut was asking Indigo if she wanted some bread. Well! You should have seen the look on her face. She leaned forward, eyes wide and mouth agape, and happily ate the bit of bread from off his little arm. And asked for more. And more. Success! A full tummy! A happy mama! Once again my brilliance and genius was on display for all the world to see - I love it when that happens!

So, since then, Indigo has been offered lots of food by the very generous and accommodating astronauts. Basically anything that has enough shape to be impaled onto something favoured can be guaranteed of some success consumption-wise, at least for a bit. And other toys have stepped in too, occasionally. She has had bits of tomato impaled onto the tail of one of her Siberian tiger figurines. And today she even had an astronaut straddle a spoon full of pumpkin soup, which turned it from (and I quote) "Yuk!" (this was as I was spooning it into her bowl, she hadn't even tasted it), to a silent but definite Yum.

Occasionally I wonder where this will end, whether she'll be fifteen and asking for food to be delivered on the end of her ipod or something. But for now, it's fun, it's damn cute, and it means a few less demands for the breast, which means a bit more sanity for this mama. And that's gotta be good, surely.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thrice blessed, the return of the sun!

Happy Winter Solstice everyone!
I'm really pleased actually coz this is the first time I have actively celebrated a solstice/equinox off my own bat, in a meaningful way. I have meant to for years, but somehow never got around to it. I only remembered it was winter solstice when I logged onto facebook and saw that some friends of mine were going to CERES to the celebration being held there. I would have liked to have gone, but I'd just got back from being away for a few days with Indi and I wanted to snuggle at home with my baby and my man and my cats and not go anywhere. I still wanted to do something special. So I went about the house and gathered up a bunch of candles of all kinds, candles I've been collecting over the years but which I never really use very often. I spread them around our open plan lounge/dining/kitchen area, some in pretty coloured candle holders, hanging from cup hooks in the kitchen, sitting on top of bookshelves, on the mantlepiece, on the kitchen table, wherever there was a free surface (not an easy thing to find at our place). I lit them all and turned off the lights and instantly it was magical, a transformed space of sacred wonder. It's amazing the effect candles have, and instantly I wondered why I don't do this more often. Then the answer came to me - fire hazard! But it's nice to do it for special occasions. So there we sat, surrounded by our flickering points of brilliance and colour, pretty patterns dancing on our walls and ceiling as the light shone through the patterned coloured glass.
The lighting of the candles, to me, represents a return of the lengthening of the days, a return of the light, the return of the sun. This means a lot to me, as I'm quite solar powered and find it very easy to be joyful and happy when the sun is bright and the sky is blue. Conversely, dull overcast days are to be endured, and often leave me struggling and flat. I think this is quite common. Also, even though we really are only at the start of winter, on some level the lengthening of days tells some deep part of me that on the other side of winter is spring, my favourite time of the year, and that it's not really that far away. Winter has it's charm, to be sure - the snuggling in front of the heater, the nourishing soups and stews that one suddenly wants to cook, the chill of the cold on your cheeks on big long walks that would leave one wilted and frowny in summer, and the brilliance of cold blustery ocean power. But really, to be honest, of all the seasons it's probably my least favourite. I don't hate it, but I don't relish it either. Maybe for a few weeks in Autumn when I'm sick to death of the summer heat and the first few tendrils of cool air wrap themselves around me I enjoy it. But once the cold really sets in and gets below 15 degrees it's just drudgery for me. So raising my chin to the lengthening days and thinking of the spring to come helps me through the dark cold of winter.
So back to our little evening last night. I gazed across at the candles hanging in the kitchen from the cup hooks, congratulating myself on how beautiful it all was, and I spied the bottle of red wine sitting on the bench, three quarters full. And suddenly I thought of mulled wine. I don't know if it's a traditional winter solstice libation, but it damn well should be, and will be in our household from now on I can definitely say. I jumped online for a recipe, as I'd never had it, and was pleased to see I had most of the ingredients in my pantry. Fifteen minutes later Mat and I were sipping with wide eyed delight our first mouthfuls of mulled wine, and wondering why we'd never done this before. Indi had her stemmed brandy glass of herbal tea, which we usually give her when we're having a drink, so she doesn't feel left out, and in her usual good natured fashion she proposed a toast, and another, and another, and I thought it fitting that the Winter Solstice should be celebrated with three cheers. Hence the name of this post.
I sat on the loungeroom floor and sipped my wine, watching Mat and Indi play and laugh together, and I took a moment to harness the energy of the returning sun, to ask for it's blessing on my life and the lives of those I love, to shed it's life giving warmth on us all and help us to grow and love and laugh together, to blossom and thrive. And I felt the energy surge through me, powerfully, enhanced by the glow of the spiced wine, and it felt good.
And suddenly, with a bit of effort and attention and good spirit, we have what I would dare to call a family tradition on our hands, and it feels right. The lighting of the candles, the triple blessing with mulled wine, some time spent together feeling the specialness of it. I'm sure as the years pass, as the kids grow, other things will be added, special foods that they look forward to, special craft activities. This makes me really happy. I have felt for a while the lack of meaningful ritual and tradition in my life, never having been satisfied by those offered up my my own Turkish upbringing or those of mainstream Australian society. For a while I have had an urge to celebrate the solstices and the equinoxes, and to be more aware of the full and new moons. Gradually I'm getting there. These are the events that I feel are worth celebrating, the cosmic points of significance that move and shape us, whether we are aware of them or not. I believe that becoming more aware of them, spending some thoughful time on them, enhances their healing and invigorating power and harmonises us with our environment, with the universe within which we sit.
So here's to a future with many more celebrations, and lots more mulled wine!

Mulled Wine Recipe
1 bottle of merlot red wine
A good splash of brandy and/or whisky (I used both)
1/2 a cup of water
1 sliced orange
1/2 a sliced lemon
3/4 of a cup of sugar
5 star anise
7 cloves
1 whole nutmeg, broken into pieces
2 cinnamon sticks

Pour a bit of the wine (a third?) into a saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for five or so minutes, til it smells really good, but not too long. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the bottle of wine. Most recipes tell you to add all of the wine from the start but I think way to much of the good stuff must evaporate that way, so I chose this method and it worked wonderfully. Strain into a special looking jug or teapot (I used a silver one carved with swirling patterns that my mother bought me years ago from Turkey) and pour into your most special glasses. Sit back with loved ones, cheers each other three times from the heart, and enjoy!

Friday, March 27, 2009

gelati and bourbon

Today has been a mixed bag - like those old lolly bags you used to get at the milk bar, filled with stuff you loved and stuff you hated, but ate anyway.

Jeez hormones are a bitch hey? They make the mundane truly intolerable. For all concerned. I could tell today that there was a serious problem when I came back from my weekly market + supermarket shop with one green bag half full of goods. Usually I spend a lot and come back laden with delicious treats for the week. Today it was some meat for the cats, some chicken schnitzel for dinner and some juice. Even Mat looked worried as he 'unloaded' it from the car.

The day just got progressively worse. What can I say. A combination of out of whack hormones and long-standing family shit. My mum was meant to take Indi for a few hours, so that my estranged sister could bask in her glory. I actually get excited at the prospect of a few hours sans kid - to get our pigshit house in order and regain some semblance of sanity and peace. I get a call, sister has to leave, mum not taking Indi after all. My house is almost walking with all the micro-organisms that have decided it's a COOL place to live, and then she suggests that she come around. To sit in the pile of shit that has become my house. I politely (!) decline, and then begin rocking in my seat, back and forth, while silently breastfeeding, putting Indi's socks on, fighting off three boisterous kittens and trying to unload the dishwasher. Something had to give. It was a really important bit of my mind. THEN Mat bought a really big and strong bottle of scotch, and THEN we heard the beloved ice-cream man's van coming down the road. I took a really big gulp of my scotch and dry, swallowed, took another really big gulp, fished around in the beautiful red carnival glass dish Mat's mother bought me years ago, the one that holds some spare change for when the ice cream man comes around, and dashed outside, weilding child and coins, and bought Indigo a big gelati, all for herself, and managed to not sway one bit. Another scotch and a few more licks later, all was well, disastrous day turned around miraculously, and with a schnitzel dinner cooked up by my magical wondrous love, and devoured by all and sundry, the day was saved. Even the cats felt it, as they piled around us in kitteny feline love, and fell asleep, as did the aforementioned child, while mama and papa watched a bit of much needed pixelated goodness. Thank the good lord for gelati and bourbon I say.

*note - no bourbon was consumed by aforementioned child in above photo. In fact, a bit of artistic license employed as photo was taken a good six weeks ago when Indi was gifted with not one but two magical mystical icecreams (our leftovers) and rejoiced.

** geez it's hard to type when you've had that one too many scotches.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Today is our fifteenth anniversary! Hooray!

Fifteen years ago, I was eighteen years old, just started uni, a huge new world that had me wide eyed and finally free of the cloistered life I had led previously. Within weeks Mat and I were circling each other, and after a few drunken pashes we decided to give it a go.

The funny thing is, I had already started and ended a two week relationship by that stage, with one of Mat's acquaintances, so Mat totally expected me to have my way with him and do the same. He even made a joke of it when we first decided to be an item, by celebrating our one minute anniversary. A good friend of ours, Mr Pi, bought us nachos to help commemorate the occasion. It was 7.22pm on the 21st of March 1994.

And here we are, fifteen years later, still together, and still very much in love. So much has happened, the ups and downs that you hear about but don't really understand when you are young. We have supported each other through deaths, through drug addiction and recovery, through a heartbreaking breakup and a sweet blissful reunion. We traversed the spectrum from not wanting any kids at all, to thinking OK well maybe one day, to yes we will try, and now we have our beautiful baby girl, the most gorgeous culmination of our love that I could ever imagine, even on the wildest of psychedelic trips. And we had our fair share of those as well.

In fact our cosmic union happened while high on LSD, camping in a friend's backyard, soon after we got back together. We traversed the universe together in that tent, and saw that we were indeed the true companion of the other, that no-one else could ever even hope to fill that space. It was during the come down from that trip that I doodled the design of the rings we now wear, the rings Mat's mother asked us to have made on her death bed a few days later.

So what did we do today to mark this most auspicious occasion? I suggested to Mat that we could get my mum to look after Indi for a few hours, for the first time ever, and we could go to fed square and have some Mohito's while watching the sunset, or go to Fairfield Boathouse and have a devonshire tea and row a boat down the river. He suggested we lay in bed and fuck. It didn't take me too long to realise once again that he is a wise man, a wise man indeed.

So after Indi woke up from her afternoon nap, we took her to Anne Anne's house (Turkish for mama's mama), and with trepidatious hearts we left, not knowing how she would handle a few hours away from us, albeit with her beloved grandma. I think Mat was more nervous than I was, coz I have left her with Mum before, but not for so long.

And we spent the most delicious hour and a half in bed that I can remember for a very long time! It seemed that time actually stretched out, so that it seemed we were there for hours, which was fantastic. We made love, slowly and passionately, in a way that has just not been possible for us with a small child, even while that child is asleep. She is a pretty light sleeper, so she would either wake up once we got going (even if we were in another room), or we would hear a dog bark or a bird chirp and think it was her waking, or we would have to keep quiet or be quick, and even though it's always nice when you can get some, it's just not the same as laying in bed, just the two of you, and knowing there is nothing else that will call you away, that you can take your time and focus and immerse yourself and just bliss out. Afterward we lay there and talked and laughed like we used to do when we were uni students and would spend literally all day in bed doing just that, day after day. It was SOOOO nice! I mean, we talk and laugh all the time, but it's just different when you're still tingling with the loveliness of having just made love, and all naked and intimate, and your hands are running over each other.

So after a couple of hours we called Mum and she said Indi was fine, but Mat felt he couldn't relax properly so we got dressed and drove over. As it turned out Mum called us when we were just around the corner, saying Indi was happy but getting tired, so it was good that we left when we did. We were so overjoyed to see her, like we had been gone for days. I'm gonna treasure the memory of that time we had though, just the two of us. Mama and papa got to be just Mat and Nalin for a while, and it was good.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Things I wanna do before I die

I've been thinking about this for a week or so. I think too much of my life has been spent feeling limited in terms of what is possible in my life, more limited than I needed to be. Partly this has been due to my upbringing and the things I was told about what was possible, what was sensible, what I could or couldn't be or do, and partly this has been due to my own feelings about certain things - sort of along the lines that certain activities or professions just weren't a possibility for me, for what reason I don't know, and that only a certain type of person could do those things, people who were clearly more worthy, more intelligent, more creative, more adventurous, etc. And I reckon this kind of thinking sucks. I mean, clearly there are some limitations we cannot avoid, like I am seriously unlikely to ever be able to afford space-travel. I can dig that. But there's a whole heap of things that I really would like to one day do, thankyouverymuch, and I think it's about time I wrote a list and got cracking. So here is the beginning of my list. I'm sure I will add to it as time goes.

One day it will give me great pleasure to:
  • Learn to play the piano, and not be afraid for others to hear me play.
  • Go scuba diving, preferably at the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Become a writer, creatively and professionally.
  • Write and illustrate a children's book. An award-winning one.
  • Travel all over the countryside in a Winnebago.
  • Spend a year in Italy, and get to know Europe, esp the south and Scandinavia.
  • Make a clay-mation short film. Or a bunch of them!
  • Work with hot glass, at a glass studio with a big furnace.
  • Have an exhibition of some kind. Or a bunch of them!
  • Go to Antartica.
  • Go to a bunch of places really.
  • Ride a dirt bike.
  • Get my motorbike license and some wheels and some leathers.
  • Spend a few months in an ashram.
  • Live by the sea for a bit. Or a lot if I like it.
Well looks like I'll be a bit busy for the next 40 years or so! Cool, looks like a fun list. OK, where to start?...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Photo tag, and a rant

OK, so you go to your photos folder, and take the fifth folder, and take the fifth photo in that folder, and post it on your blog. Well, the instructions I received actually involved the sixth folder and sixth photo, but I only have five folders in my photos folder. I figured everyone would live. And even thrive, who knows.

Oh and everyone reading, consider yourself tagged. Go ahead. Have a blast. Thanks Idzie.

The photo actually holds a dear and special place in my heart, and I felt glad when I saw which photo was the fifth in the fifth for me. This was taken at Port Campbell National Park, near the Twelve Apostles, which is one of my very most favourite places in the world, and certainly the most stunning coastline I have ever had the great fortune of visiting. I took it on a crappy phone camera, and I reckon it looks pretty good.

It was taken on my last solo driving trip before becoming pregnant, and certainly my last solo trip for a long while to come I imagine! Which makes me a bit wistful. Which makes me very glad I did it.

I left home planning to drive the Great Ocean Road, and camp along the way, not knowing how far I would go. I thought I'd get to Cape Otway, but when I got there my invisible friends nudged me and told me to keep going, and I found myself aiming for Port Campbell. I spent two nights camping in a really great little caravan park, right by a creek, 100m from the ocean, and a five minute drive in both directions from the most spectacular sights - 90 degree stunning cliffs of such brilliant sheer height emerging from the bluest oceans, clearly so deep and treacherous.

And the apostles, many more than twelve, though the twelve are the larger ones, isolated columns of land thrusting up unexpectedly here and there, their connections to the cliffs they so resemble carved away by the powerful turbulent waves. I was truly boggled in mind and body, and spent many an hour just brimming with the awesome power of the place. It felt truly sacred. I can't wait to go back.

I was gonna rant about the shit day I've had but I feel so much better now after writing the above that I can't be bothered.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Being different, being true

I have spent the last hour reading the blog of a teenage unschooler in Canada, and it's been really great in terms of reconfirming that it really is possible to raise a thoughtful, intelligent, creative and passionate person outside of the school system. Of course my deep inner belief is that it is easier to do this outside the school system, but sometimes it's hard to stay sitting close to your inner truths when they are so rarely shared by those around you. Sometimes the loneliness of seeing the world so differently to those around you can really get to you, and you can start to doubt yourself.

And being a mum, and loving your daughter beyond the ends of the universe, you want to do what's best, that old cliche. There's so much at stake. My child's whole life, her whole future.

And the reactions you get when you talk about homeschooling, or unschooling, can act like waves on a rock, you can feel yourself slowly eroding sometimes, being worn down. People just hold the idea of school so closely, they don't even realise they are holding something, you know? Most people have never, ever, for a second, thought about school as a human construct. They act as though it is as natural for human children to go to school as it is for a butterfly to emerge from a cocoon. But it's not. We invented it. It is possible to not go. This doesn't even occur to people!

So what is my problem with schooling? Many kids love school. I personally had a mixed bag of experiences at school. In many ways I was enriched and exposed to things I never would have been at home. Socially, I had my best and worst experiences at school. Academically I excelled, and gained a lot of pride from being top of the class.

OK, so my issues with school come from a few angles. Firstly, there is the system of heirarchy which forces students to submit to the higher will of the teachers and principals, and basically the way I see it, is in place to train them to be good little worker bees and fit nicely into the capitalist society we live in. After all, if we weren't scared of the principal we wouldn't be scared of the boss, and we might not be as happy to accept our humble place in a world that is out of our control.

Not only are they trained to accept the rule of authority, preferably without question, but they are taken away from themselves, which I suppose is a necessary step in creating an obedient person. Kids are coerced into doing things they don't want to do, at times when they don't want to do them. Yes of course we all have to do things that we wouldn't choose, but I think life throws these things at you anyway, there are plenty of things that we must begrudgingly accept, there is no need to institutionalise it and immerse oneself in a five-day-a-week grind of it. There is little respect for the child/teen and their passions and interests and their in-the-moment feelings. See, to me, that's not on. It's not the way I want to live my life, and therefore it's not the way I want my child to live hers. I want her to feel respected. To feel that if something is important to her, then it is actually important. To feel that if she has a strong feeling about something, that she can truly honour it, and indeed that it is important that she honour it. It has taken me years to learn to listen to my inner voice and then even longer to give myself permission to honour what I hear. I want Indigo to be able to grow up doing these things, because I believe, really believe, that doing these things leads you to happiness and fulfillment.

Also, I don't want her to have to effectively have a full time job. Five days a week, six hours a day, plus homework. It actually seems insane to me. Really nuts. These are children! They should be out playing, climbing trees, digging holes, reading under doonas, staring into space in dreamy wonder, getting obsessed with things and then abandoning them, whatever! And not to mention, spending time with the people they love, and who love them!! It seems crazy to me that the accepted model of how a normal family functions in our society is for the children to be in school five days a week, the parents to be at work five days a week, then for the whole family to quickly rush in dinner, bath, a bit of play perhaps and then bed, all into a few hours at the end of the day when everyone is tired and bleh. Then get two days off to do all the stuff that needs doing. I wholeheartedly reject this model for my life. Completely and utterly. I don't know who decided this was a good way to live, but it doesn't suit me. I like to take my time with things, linger in nice places, and leave space and time for creativity and connection. To allow for last minute decisions to do this or go there. I like to leave room and time and energy to spend growing intimate relationships, and gardens, and ideas. I worked full time for seven months many years ago and hated six and a half of them. I worked part time ever since, and made a conscious choice to do with less money to live the life I wanted.

Then there is the social side of things. About 98% of people, upon first being told of our plans to homeschool, mention socialisation. "But how will she make friends?" Well, my response to this is twofold. Firstly, I make friends and I'm not in school. There are ways to make friends and develop networks outside of school. There are other activities she could engage in, sports, art clubs, homeschooling groups (of which there are many, and who go on camps and have regular excursions etc), via the internet, and many more. With a bit of effort this should not be a problem at all. And secondly, to be honest, the peer influence and pressure that most kids get from school is less than desirable. There is so much bitchyness, so much pressure to fit in and be cool. So much cruelty. In some ways it's very much like a small town mentality. Everyone knows each other, and gossips, and there is a way of being, a social flavour which you must adhere to or be ostracised. Again, the social side of schools seems really unnatural to me. Hundreds of kids all squashed together and kept within the confines of a fence. Kept in line by a few adults with too much power over them. Kinda like a prison.

Also, I've lost count of the number of parents I've spoken to who seem a little sad, a little melancholy, about the way they kinda lost their little ones when school started. So many external influences, so much time away from home. They started doing things and speaking in ways that were really foreign. And to me, five is just way too young for that to start to happen.

Then there is the system of school grading, where my child would be judged according to someone else's schedule, someone elses idea of what is good, what is important, what is necessary or useful. I want Indigo to be her own judge. To really deep down know that her own beliefs about herself are ultimately more important than any assessment she may receive externally. Yeah I got great marks in school, and it made me feel great everytime I saw an A, or A+, or 100%, whatever. Especially that 100%. Only attainable in the maths and sciences of course (and perhaps the reason I felt so comfortable with those subjects). It was as though each time I saw 100% written in red on my work, that little handwritten number assured me I was OK. That all was well. As though it were a reflection of my worth as a person. 98% was OK, but not perfect. And then later in university, when things went not only pear shaped (although I like the shape of pears), I would say banana shaped, and my marks went out the window, so did my self esteem, and now, over a decade later, I am still putting the pieces of myself together again. And yes it is not impossible for a child to have a whole, healthy view of themselves and still go to school. I just think school makes it so much harder. In so many ways.

Ultimately, if Indigo wants to study at school full time, and then later on work full time, that's completely up to her. But while she is young, while I am her parent and entrusted with creating the pond she swims in, that shapes her, it is important, it is imperative, for me to honour my own feelings and give her the life I think is best. It's important I be true to myself as a parent. I'll always respect and honour her, and who knows where our path will lead, but from here, for now, I think we'll be staying away from schools.