Wednesday, October 28

praise

I once belonged to a parenting forum that I left because of the extreme beliefs expounded there. One experience was in a discussion about praise. It was very much an anti-praise group. A mother was telling a story about what she saw in a store. A child had picked up a jar and placed it in the trolley, and his mother said to him, "Good job!".
The reaction from the forum parent was - poor kid. How sorry she felt for that child who was not valued.

I was like, give me a break! You feel sorry for the child that is being repeatedly beaten, the child who is neglected... not the child who is being praised. This superior and extremist parenting attitude drives me up the wall.

Anyway, my point is that although we discover that certain approaches in parenting are more helpful than others, this doesn't mean that we are 'bad' parents or are irreparably damaging our children.

So here's my take on the praise issue.

Praise is lovely. It's one of many social tools we use to form connections with others. If we absolutely 100% didn't care about what others thought, we would go to work in our comfy pajamas and fart in restaurants.

So why is anyone questioning the act of praising?

Here's the thing, praising a child - just like anything we do to, around, and for, children - will affect that child's perception of the world and of themselves, during the time when they are forming those perceptions. That's what makes it different to praising adults.

So?

Well, you see, praise is connected to value. What we value. And during the formative years - the years we don't separate who we are with what we do - it can become very easily linked to self-value.

In other words, we learn that there is such as thing as 'good'. Then, we learn that what we do is 'good', meaning that we are 'good'.



And all this takes place externally (others teach us what is 'good', what is valued), and is then internalised. So we learn to look to others for how we should behave and what we should achieve, and how we should achieve it.

A neighbour and her daughter (a few weeks difference in age from mine) visited us last week and she was taking up pictures of animals and asking the girls to name them. The mother speaks both English and Serbian. Around here, the equivalent of 'good job' (USA) and 'well done' (UK), is bravo! .

Whenever she exclaimed bravo to her daughter, the girl's eyes lit up. She pleased her mother, and so she felt good about herself. Whenever she said it to my girl, The Wildflower looked at her bemused - she doesn't know that word bravo, nor is she used to such animated responses because she names an animal.

That mother was saying all this out of love and kindness. I know that. She's a lovely woman and a loving mother. She isn't marking her child for therapy.

However, every time that little girl achieved something, she wanted her mother's praise. The Wildflower, reads, names things, draws, stacks blocks, fits puzzle pieces, and so on, without ever looking for praise. In fact, she occassionaly applauds herself.

Every child is different, so every child will be affected differently by praise. I was a praised child. Praised for being well-behaved and praised for achievements, especially academic ones.

It took a ton of inner work to shed the mask of approval-seeking. I can taste the anxiety of rejection in my mouth, like it was yesterday. When someone didn't like me, I was wrought with questioning. Why? WHY? (which on the flip-side is also very self-absorbed - as if other people's choices always have something to do with us).

When I wrote my piece on when I see a mother, I lost over 20 subscribers. You know what I did? I laughed. I found it hilarious. They might have left because they got sick of me droning on about such things or because they misinterpreted my point (which happened with one reader). But it didn't matter, I laughed because my self-worth is no longer dependant on other people's approval.

As I said, every child is different. And every parent, and every parenting. So the final outcome will vary enormously. However, there is one basic outcome that occurs for everyone. When we look for validation of what we do (who we are), we learn to distrust our authentic Self.

A child who is a natural people-pleaser, will choose to do mostly what pleases others. A child who is less so, and who is fiercely independent, might learn to be extremely self-critical (because only a 'good' result matters). Another child, one who is naturally full of pride, will grow apathetic towards anything that isn't appreciated by an audience - helping mama around the house got praise, now I need bribes to clean up my room.



Sometimes the need for praise is so strong, that the getting of that praise is the ultimate and only goal. Like a child who works hard to get the gold star at school, but forgets her work as soon as the star is given. There is no joy in the work, little value in the finished piece - but the star is taken home to gain further praise.

And that leads me to a couple of other aspects.

Process

The process is often overlooked. We, as a society, place so much value in the done, and so little value on the doing.

When the Wildflower was drawing yesterday, I said, 'you're having fun there!' That's what I found wonderful, that she was drawing. Not anything she might complete. And not that it was 'good'. And not that what she was doing was 'good'. But rather, I supported the process, and supported what appeared to be her joy in it.

And at other times, on occassion, the words, 'good stuff!' have escaped my lips. And I shrug and cut myself some slack. It came from love.

This doesn't mean that results aren't important. Of course they are. It's not much good enjoying the process of learning to drive and not caring if you don't pass the test. Life is a balance of required results and just doing, and often, a mixture of both.

Mistakes

The final aspect, is the value of mistakes. When we are focused on outcome and on 'good' work, we are dismissing the learning potential, and the fun, of doing something 'badly'.

Our eyes light up when they say/do something correctly, or when it's completed. How often do they light up during the process? And when they get something 'wrong', how often do we clap our hands and exclaim with a grin, "cool, a chance to experiment!"?

Oh, ok, just remembered, one more point. Criticism.

When we link good work with self-worth, any criticism is taken personally. Of course it would be! We've learnt from our childhood that what we do is one and the same as who we are.

So if someone says, 'hey Mon, the sidebar of your new blog design is all messed up',
My inner ear hears this...
'Hey Mon, the sidebar of your new blog design is all messed up'
Someone who believes their childhood lessons will hear this,
'You're a crap blog designer. You're crap'.

When we do begin to give praise (because it's not about no praise), we don't link the work with the the child. We might think that telling a child that they are a good drawer (an intrinsic value of themselves) is a lovely and supportive thing to say. What happens when they do an incorrect drawing? What happens when their drawing is criticised at school, at college? Or when they don't win any prize? Saying, that's a great drawing is subtle but different. Possibly more supportive, 'you really tried hard with that one', or, 'you really enjoyed that'.

You know, I think that not praising is really, really tough. Not just out of habit, but because so many of us have been brought up to connect love with praise, and oh how much we want to love our children. And so many of us were brought up in oppressive or authoritarian or unplayful households, that we just want to tell our kids how amazing they are.

But I can tell you one thing. I can tell you when I'm most happy. I'm most happy, most at peace, when the choices that other people make or what they say, do not affect how I feel about myself. And that has come about by detaching myself from external praise and criticism, and trusting my inner Self.

I just want to give that gift to my child.

Crochet: hat and WIPs

I made a sun hat for the girl-child. Not that happy with it. Just looks a bit too Farmer Jane for my liking. No offense to any farmers or Janes.




 

Anyway, I spruced it up with leaves and flower appliques (is that what you call them?)


It was this very easy pattern over here. I modified it a tiny bit for the size and fitting, and I added a picot edging.




WIPs

The yummy yarn I was waiting for arrived. Lovely colour. Am a 1/4 through a cardigan for her.




And I'm doing some great meditative crochet too...



For my other projects take a look over here.

Tuesday, October 27

Mama Records #3

Two days after turning 17 months, you counted to two. You've been saying and understanding two for a few months now.

That same day, you said your first 3-syllable word - budder became budder-fy (butterfly).

You took my breath away when I handed you your bottle and you said, fankyoo mama and walked off!
You now seem to say it when you return the bottle to me. Too sweet!

One night you looked out the window and said eyow moon. (hello moon) My nature child.

Your molars are killing us both! They are taking the longest time and one night you spent most of it restless and the morning screaming and cying. Horrible. All my exhaustion melted away when I saw you wake with a smile.

first drawings, 6th Oct


You understand things going round and enjoy saying round and round while making a rounding gesture with your arm. You have taken this understanding to round objects, as you point out wheels, pendants, play discs, etc, and say round round, so mama is telling you about circles.

At my insistence, you've been on a 2 or 3 20min walks with tata. But on my birthday, you went for a walk for just under 2hrs! This was a big deal for us all. It helped mama be a better parent when you returned. I really could do with this being a regular thing, rather than for birthday gifts.

I bought you a chalkboard and chalk for your first drawing. You gave it a go, but weren't impressed. A week later I bought you one of those cheap magnetic sketchy things and you love it. I think it's the precision of it - you're a detail gal.

You're into frogs at the moment. You look forward to the frog segment on Planet Earth. Mama had planned to crochet you a frog but we spotted a mama & baby frog soft toy and couldn't resist. You hugged them and wouldn't give them up at the cashier. We're exploring frogs with you.

Sunday, October 25

The Great Mind Decluttering Experiment... phase 1

In my last post I said that the loss of mental space to write, "forces me to declutter my desires, interests, and projects."
I'm glad those who commented picked up on that because it gave me further pause to ponder on this issue.

There are people in this world who are focused. Some know what they Want to Be When They Grow Up, at the age of 10.... and go off and be that. Others have a few interests, that the focus on them allows those interests to blossom into areas of expertise, or careers, or Passions. Or simply, a satisfied life.

Then there are people like me, who wanted to be 10 different things When She Grew Up. People like me, who have done 10+ different types of jobs, have lived in varying places, and have expressed widely different personas. There are those like me who have several interests, hobbies, enjoyments, desires.

And not because I was/am fickle. Not because I crave variety. Not because I am indecisive. Not because I have some sort of personality disorder.

It's because I am profoundly interested.

Yes, that's all there is to that sentence. I am interested.

I am passionate about this world's offerings. It's an amazing place. Life is amazing. And I am a seeker (moon in Sag)

However, my soul produced the Impatience Shadow. Profound interest coupled with that Shadow, twists and reforms a passion for living into an intense Fear of Missing Out. From wanting to do all this stuff, to needing to do it. More accurately, believing I needed to do it all.

That Shadow whispers to me - there isn't enough time. Squeeze in more.
For a little while now, I have been telling it - it isn't about time at all.

So, okay, I healed that Shadow, then motherhood triggered it. Then I saw it re-emerge and started healing it again. And here I am on the Big Push.


Woman sifting, Fran├žois Alfred Delobbe


This big push, The Great Mind Decluttering Experiment (just because it amuses me), is to do the practical work of that healing.

I decided to do something that is quite weird for me, make a list. I listed, right here, everything I could think of that I do, would like to do, as well as things I'm interested in, at this moment in my life. I was specific, and I included things I know that I would probably not do, but have been floating around in my mind.
This is what it's all about - the stuff living in my head.

I left it and returned to add to it. I came up with 57 interests. I made myself half the list.
Then I removed everything I wasn't actually doing, or desperate to do.

I also merged some interests. And I reduced the list of interests to 12 items. It was hard work. I found myself fighting to keep things on the list! Like, actually trying to trick myself.

Then I came up with a way to clarify these items for myself. I asked myself to choose 2 items that relax me, two that feed my soul, and two that connect me. I kept well and truly away from the word 'enjoy'.

Relax
1. watching films
2. crochet

Soul
1. nature walks
2. writing

Connect
1. blogsurfing
2. community

So, I had the 8 above, plus only 4 items left over. I can't express how much freer I felt just doing that. It's like I'm giving myself permission to not do all that stuff. But I'm not there yet.

I asked myself to come up with four words that would describe what I find to be essential for me to be content and truly me. I'm sure these words will change, but they just matter for right now.

ponder
express
assist
create

This part was to help me further solidify what I really needed to include in my day to day living. So the 8-item list above shifted as I became more and more honest with myself. And it was, and still is this morning, a bit of a shocking list.

Erm... I mean, hello... why isn't reading books up there, or studying, or researching, and how the heck did films make it?! And that writing one is looking rather ominous....

Stay tuned for the answers to these questions and more. I'll chat with you about how I went about sifting through some of the items. It's a work in progress, so I'm interested in what I come up with too.

Friday, October 23

Thankful Anyway Thursday.... on Friday

It's easy to be thankful for the good stuff, can you be thankful for the not so good?
(as serious or light-hearted as you like)
read more here



I thought I didn't have one this week, and then I remembered and realised I needed this...

A few weeks back I managed to carve out some writing time in the early mornings before the Wildflower woke up. A few nights I stayed up late too. At the time, this was essential. Our days were tough and that mental space helped me find serenity.

But this wasn't sustainable. As we go to bed together at 11pmish and she wakes 4-8 times a night, I'm exhausted. I'm grateful that she sleeps late so that I can sleep in late too. But the tiredness means that choosing to get up before her is a choice of giving up precious sleep. I get a max of 5hrs a night, never more than 2hrs at a stretch.

This last couple of weeks it hasn't even felt like a choice. My body just would Not. Get. Up.

And so that mental space, that time for me, that open breath where I could write... is not there. I had ideas and thoughts that wanted writing that were lost forever because I didn't have a chance to jot them down. And I have felt tearful this week.
I either sleep or I have space. I can make that choice against sleep, but when my body fights me, when I'm exhausted, I have to give it what it craves.

After all I wrote recently about those really tough weeks, she's been so much calmer this week. I believe the teething is on suspension for now. And I'm grateful for that as at least I'm not at breaking point. But, that space, that beautiful space of mine, where my mind exhales....




How can I be thankful for that loss?

I'm thankful anyway because...

... not having it means I'll cherish it even more when I do finally get it.
... it means that I'm prioritising tiny moments, being ruthless about which blogs I read, where I put my energies, leaving FB by the wayside.
... it forces me to declutter my desires, interests, and projects.
... it makes me insanely grateful for the chances to write that I do get however small, like blogging.
... and of course, that lack of space means I have a gorgeous child of my own.

This was tough to find the thankfulness.



I've seen new faces take on this Thankful Anyway challenge. But there's a slip back into the old thankful ways! The idea is to be thankful for the ACTUAL CRAP, to turn it around. So if your boss has been mean and unreasonable, being thankful for your loving husband is NOT the idea. Be thankful for the mean boss because he forces you to learn to stand up for yourself for example. C'mon, if I can do it, so can you.

If you've done your own Thankful Anyway, go ahead and add your link - directly to the post - to the linky below (not visible in feed reader). Grab the button up the top (right click & Save As) and a link back is always nice.



Wednesday, October 21

learning spaces

I find at times that there's a bit of a conflict with my natural bohemian-easy-free-living approach and my academic and even instinctual understanding.

Developmentally, I understand that too much visual noise is unhelpful, and sometimes can be hazardous. The average person, and child, can only take in so much visual stimuli at a time. Our brains filter out the extras (different for everyone), and process only what is of value at the time.
For some people too much visual information can lead to anything from mild stress to deep anxiety.

For children, they don't filter or block so easily, and can become stressed. This is why babies are so easily over-stimulated. They're taking it all in - the visual, the audible.

This is partly why decluttering became such a hit. Not only did our homes function better, we realised that part of our home-induced stress was having too much stuff in our line of vision.

The Montesorri method includes a philosophy about the child's environment. In the classroom it's called the Prepared Environment, and Montessori-inspired parents often create such environments at home.


1. Injust Spring 2. Wildflowers and Marbles
3. Sew Liberated 4. Finn's Room
5. berteig.com 6. Montessori at Home

Among other things, the method makes a point about the quality and beauty of the environment - a few, carefully chosen, beautiful, natural, educational, interesting toys rather than heaps of plastic mindless crap. Order, simplicity, calm, accessibility are all key words.

These toys are not kept in large chaotic toyboxes. Instead, they are sorted and separated. Each toy has shelf space, or they're collected by theme in a basket or a tray, or hung on a hook.

And each toy is put away before the next is taken out.

As far as having a few carefully chosen toys, I'm all for that.
Is that my reality? No. I find that being home all day alone with her means that a few toys just isn't enough. Also, we're not wealthy, and good quality toys are difficult to come by here. So, amongst some beautiful wooden and educational toys, she also has some crap. Not much, but it's there. She is young (18mths) so things like empty boxes are still mildly interesting.

However, I'm big on decluttering and I periodically go through her toybox and throw out those tiny worthless bits that served their purpose.

As far as organisation goes, it was one toybox, that became two, and then a few larger items here and there.




I realised that she hardly ever went through the boxes. Although we bought the main box mostly to have a place to put her toys and thereby tidy up at the end of the day, it's also accessible to her and there for her to pick and choose. Yet she wasn't.

So I decided to organise.

First came the grouping.



The same thing that was happening with her toyox, was happening with her books. She had enough that she was taking out the same ones. Too much visual noise. So I put some on a shelf above her eyeline, so that she rarely reaches for one there. Now those at her easy disposal are less. Then I rotate these as well. No set time, whenever it occurs to me or feels right.



I emptied the cardboard boxes we had stored CDs and DVDs in to collect toys by theme - animals, noise makers, textile bits, soft toys.
These boxes now come out one at a time. But they might stay out for a long time. And the floor might end up full of toys by the end of the day. But usually I will put away as I feel like it.
The other thing was to take out a toy and place it on its own. Like a display (very Montessori). And shake my feathers, she played with those toys that day! And I'm rotating which toys I place like that.

The 'after' pics...





I realise it doesn't look like much, you'll have to take my word for it.
She's played with that xylophone on the bottom shelf every single day, as well as brought out the stacking boxes on her own to stack.

I still have more items to sort and have some ideas.

We're living in a small apartment for the moment and haven't bought any purpose-built storage furniture. So I wanted to share my very simple and do-able re-organisation. But one that's made a difference.

I think that for children, especially young ones, rotating toys must feel a little like getting new toys and books every other day or week.

As for the Montessori idea of putting a toy away when you're done with it, that's another matter.
On a practical level, as she plays with things for less than 5 minutes, half my day would be the putting away and taking out of toys.
Also, my care-free side feels uncomfortable with such control, as well as any possibility of limiting or disrupting creative play. If she just stacked some blocks but then goes to grab another toy, does it benefit her to put the blocks away? Perhaps she'll return to the blocks in a few minutes. Perhaps the new toy will be added to the blocks to create a new game.

Many of the examples of environments that I gave above are what I think of as educational spaces. Pure Montessori is a little too anal organised for my taste. Learning spaces can be much more flexible. And you can take ideas from more than one method and use what works for you. As far as organisation goes, Montessori rocks.And I'll probably be more organised or at least have more specific areas when she's older.

As I don't plan to home-educate in any formal approach, I like to think of Creative spaces rather than educational ones. I love organisation, but I need an environment to feel alive, dynamic, lived in.

My idea of a creative space:



loobylu.com

So I think I've struck a balance between going with my own personality, my ideas about how kids play, as well as my understanding of brain processes and developmental needs.

Tuesday, October 20

touchstone tuesday


Snippets of my life that fill me with simple Joy. Join in.

I heard the space
That stretched between your frown and your smile

I lost my breath in that moment
It remains there still.



July 09

Thursday, October 15

Thankful Anyway Thursday

It's easy to be thankful for the good stuff, can you be thankful for the not so good?
(as serious or light-hearted as you like)
read more here



Here's a doozy (just hover over the tiny icon there) for ya....

The last couple of weeks have been a tough mothering time.

I think it was around my birthday that I said to the Husband, for the first time ever -

I'm struggling.

I said that despite having had a newborn that has been restless, didn't sleep well, the breastfeeding hadn't been working, and I had  a maximum of 2hrs sleep a night for the first 3-5 months. And no more than 2hrs sleep in one stretch ever since she was born, and feeling wiped out or at least very tired Every. Single. Day. And then every day she won't play alone for longer than 5 minutes at a time, and wants a lot of carrying. And no more than a couple of hours as she naps for my own space (we go to bed together, 11pm, and rise together). And she wakes from 4-8 times a night....

but I still hadn't said it until now.
edit: not b/c I wouldn't admit it before, I just was getting on with the work of mothering.

She had been super needy these last weeks. Right on 18mth-old separation-anxiety schedule? This was immediately following 6 weeks of molar teething.

And then a few days ago, I cried.


The Broken Column
, Frida Kahlo

She had woken up fine and smiling. Less than 10 minutes later, she was whining. I find whining a challenge most times, but on just starting the day, this was very difficult. And then later that day she had a meltdown that lasted over 40 minutes. I stayed calm and was close to her as she got it all out. Later she was happy... and then whining in the evening. I was beat. It was the proverbial straw.

So I made sure I got all my own crying out, releasing stress.

I am thankful anyway because
... it was another chance to remind myself the healing powers of crying (for her and for me).
... it gave this once Arrogance Shadow victim the chance to be vulnerable, to be humble, and to admit a vulnerable time.
... these situations deepen my compassion for all mothers.
... it reminds me what true unconditional love is.


Girl With Death Mask 1
, Frida Kahlo

I am a Mindful mama. I never deny her carrying, or cuddles. I read books every single time she asks me to read. I reach  for a centre of calm when she whines, tantrums, or is super clingy. I speak patiently and with respect. I deny her very little. I never raise my voice. We have a lot of giggles together. We are together all the time. She has a stable environment. I come down to her level and speak gently asking her to tell me what she needs. I anticipate her needs most of the time.

yet...

I have a child who
expresses herself aggressively when she is frustrated.
builds up stress and needs to release it in a good cry every other day or a whopper of a rage/tantrum every other week.
needs me physically close.
requires holding most of the day.
will bang her head if angry/frustrated.
becomes easily frustrated.
is hyper-aware over details and so she can find it tough to get things just right.
wants things NOW.
is loud.
is restless.
She is the quintessential Aries.
Others might judge that I'm doing something wrong, or that I have a naughty child, or pity how unfortunate I am.

I am thankful anyway because
... every day she challenges me to find new reserves of patience, inner calm, and compassion.
... she will never be stifled.
... she's not afraid to voice her opinion.
... she is my proof that I'm definitely not repressing her.
... she has no concept of what is 'good' or 'acceptable' behaviour.
... she feels safe to be, and express, everything she is with me.
... she trusts that I will hear all her emotions, unconditionally.
... she adds a dynamic and exuberant energy to my calmer one.
... I feel fortunate to have a child that challenges me to grow as a person, unrelentingly, every day.


The Two Fridas
, Frida Kahlo


I have a child who in public usually,
appears quiet and reserved.
takes her time to warm up to people and situations.
shares objects.
speaks little.
plays quietly.
She is a typical Virgo moon child.
Others might (and have) judged me to be a great parent, that she is a 'good' baby, or that I am lucky.

I am thankful anyway *wink* because

... I have nothing to prove to anyone.
... it gives me a chance to say how I believe that all children are 'good' and that a tantruming or aggressive child isn't 'bad' or 'naughty', nor are they necessarily less generally content than calm children.
... It gives me the chance to let a mother who feels inferior to me (my neighbour) know that what you see is only ever a small portion of the bigger story. And that while some things I do have an influence, it can never change who she is by nature.
... it gives me the opportunity to discuss how quiet and 'good' children might be repressed, afraid, learnt to hide their volatile emotions, learnt to do what pleases or appeases his elders at the cost of his/her authenticity. We don't know.
... it reminds me how inflexible our society is about what is considered 'good' or 'well-behaved', and that I can see through the facade of my own public impression, and accept and adore her whatever she is or however she appears.



If you've done your own Thankful Anyway, go ahead and add your link - directly to the post - to the linky below (not visible in feed reader). Grab the button up the top (right click & Save As) and a link back is always nice.



Wednesday, October 14

Organic Learning - the toddler years in action

Or free-range learning, natural learning, autonomous learning, child-led learning... unschooling in many ways....

I decided on home-education (homeschooling in USA), when I was pregnant with the Wildflower. A few times afterwards I wondered about when the academic or more serious learning, or perhaps, the more obvious child-adult learning would begin. I just mean, the learning that I become aware of as a home-education or organic learning occurence. Hard for me to explain.

I hadn't expected it now. But yesterday I realised that this is what we're doing now together.

So the child-led, or general unschooling, approach is to allow the child to show or indicate or express an interest, and then provide for them an environment to help them explore that interest.

When parents ask panickly (its a word); but what do we do? This is it.
Wait for the child's interest, or anticipate an interest,
be active in their lives,
be ready to provide resources,
let go of expectations.

Anyway, so far I've purchased books, toys, and now DVDs, by what I consider worthwhile - educational, encourage creativity, eco-friendly, fun, etc.

As she's getting older, and really, it starts quite young, she has obvious favourites. At almost 18 months, I can now spot Interests. Although I realise I did this about 6 months ago with lions....




She is going through a frog interest right now. I think it was sparked by a Daintree Forest (Australia) photography book I have, which I gave to her to flick through.

The interest might end tomorrow, it might continue for months. But she's shown an interest, now it's up to me provide. If I don't provide it's not the end of the world, but it is a lost opportunity. Her mind right now is geared towards frogs, why not feed that?

So I had planned to crochet a frog but we spotted a soft toy mama-&-baby frog set in a store and bought it for her. I might still create another one anyway. She adores it, more so than any other soft toy (excluding her beloved Mish Mish mouse of course).

I was fascinated with just how much she enjoys it. It could be simply because she likes the look of it. But I can't help believe that it must be because it has meaning for her. It is a frog, something she's fascinated with right now.

If I hadn't been aware, I might have bought her a dog or teddy thinking it was a nice gift, and she would have hugged it and then tossed it aside. But the frog made a connection.

She knows fogs say ribbit ribbit, and that they hop.

I've ordered a frog book




and I play the frog segment of Planet Earth for her.
She also requests we draw frogs for her, which we do to the best of our ability, ahem
The older she gets the wider and richer the resources we can tap into.

And all this occurs amongst a million other things going on in the day. It's not like we're frog obsessed to the exclusion of other things!

To ensure this 'learning' remains child-led and organic, I  release any expectations of what things related to frogs she 'should' try out, as well as how long her interest lasts. If I purchase 10 books and DVDs on frogs only to have her lose interest, then so be it.


Monday, October 12

When I See A Mother, I Will Assume

When I see a mother
who shouts at her tantruming child,
who ignores whining,
who says something hurtful,
who bottle-feeds,
who grabs her child a little roughly,
who admits she can't wait for school to begin,
who hires a childminder for the weekend,
who sticks on another DVD,
who quietens her child with sweets,
whose child always seems to be crying or whining,
who reprimands the smallest 'bad' behaviour,
who smacks her child on the hand,
who uses time-out.

I will assume
that she is a good person,
that she doesn't do this all the time,
that she might suffer terrible guilt,
that she is going through a tough period,
that she adores her child,
that she desires to do better,
that she is already doing the best she knows how,
that she might have been at cracking point,
that she has little support,
that in other areas she is amazing,
that she is amazing most days,
that her choice might be what keeps her sane,
that her tactic might be saving her from doing something worse,
that this is just one moment out of many.

When I see a mother
who is patient,
who listens,
who repeats requests as many times needed,
who is calm,
that carries, breastfeeds, and co-sleeps with her baby,
who has a gentle response to a conflict,
who sits calmly with her tantruming child,
who seems unfrazzled by whining,
who plays endless games and does endless crafts,
whose child is quiet, content, 'well'-behaved.

I will assume
that she has challenging days,
that she may have had the background to support her mothering style,
that she is having a good day,
that she is supported at home,
that she has a supportive community/extended family,
that she is a natural mother,
that her child is rarely challenging,
that she has a happy and stable life,
that her child has a quiet/sunny/reserved personality,
that this is just one moment out of many.

A mother who makes a 'good' choice might be
a natural mother, she might be strong, mindful, or spineless,
she might have a naturally deeply patient personality
or avoids confrontation and intense emotions...
I have no way of knowing.
A mother who makes a 'bad' choice might be
suffering from PND, have unresolved childhood issues,
be a deeply mindful and spiritual person, believe in the parenting of her parents,
be making the perfect choice for her family...
I have no way of knowing.

When I see a mother
I will assume
that I have no way of knowing who she is
or who she will be.

------------
edit:
a) please read the above c a r e f u l l y
b) it's not a poem, just my thoughts

As a summing up...
We can too easily feel superior. Despite our many mistakes, we judge a mother doing something 'wrong' (in our opinion) as a bad mother, without having a clue to her state of mind, history, regular days. We also quickly forget our own less than stellar moments.
When we see a mother having one of those days - send out an energy of loving support to her. You know you need it on your tough days.

The second part is about not feeling like failures ourselves. I hear mothers online feel inferior because so many other mothers blog about their crafty days and learning and loving together. We forget what we see are just glimpses. And she may have all kinds of support and resources we don't. And that mother has tough days too.

* I wrote this from the perspective of how and what women generally judge. 
What I list as 'good' & 'bad' choices are not necessarily how I evaluate them.

Saturday, October 10

Crochet: tip- the next stitch to stich into

While my recent square was looking fine, and whilst crochet is very forgiving, I knew that I needed to properly understand about where to stitch next. It's all fine when you're simply working every stitch.

What I'm referring to is when a pattern has you skip stitches and then you have to stitch into whatever stitch the pattern indicates. As a beginner, this can get confusing. It's not as straight forward as it sounds in the pattern. Well, not to me anyway.

Using my square as an example, the row below the one I was now crocheting, included a group of chain stitches, a triple crochet and then some more chain stitches. chains-tr-chains

In the current row, the pattern tells me to crochet into the triple crochet (tr)stitch.


So if you're looking at chains-tr-chains, you'll see that there are loops on the left and right of the tr (at the top of it).

So if the pattern says - stitch into the tr, which loop is the correct one?

After some patient help on Ravelry, I got it.

If you are turning your work - the correct loop to stitch into is to the left of the stitch below

If you are not turning (such as working in the round, or granny squares, etc) then the correct loop to stitch into is to the right of the stitch below.

The black shows the left loop, the red arrow shows the right loop. So as this was a square, I must stitch into the red arrow one.


This is what results when you're confused and end up with too many stitches on the last few rounds. The edges ruffle.


This information isn't just for tr stitches or chains, it's to understand any time you need to skip stitches, and then stitch into a specific stitch.
It's basically understanding the anatomy of a stitch.

Here is another way to look at it (if working in the round or a square).
The black arrow indicates the actual stitch, third one in a row, and the red arrow indicates the loop (to the right) that belongs to that stitch - the loop you would stitch into next if the pattern said skip 2 stitches and stitch into the 3rd dc.



I frogged a few rows and it looks a lot better. The pattern is butterfly garden square. This is part of a blanket I'm making the Wildflower.

Friday, October 9

I'm a hermit.... who's called out

Okay, so not the cave-dwelling, burlap-robe-wearing, growling-at-anything-human type. So... a loner, if you will.
Psych tests would say, an Introvert. I find peace, answers, recharging.... alone, in silence, with space.

This doesn't mean I don't let my hair down over sangria with pals - on the contrary, my past is littered with possibly one too many nights of debauchery, but enough said about that....

The point being that I can and do enjoy socialising, but that as an Introvert, I am persnickety about which events of revelry I will partake in. It also means that the number of close friends I have can be counted on one hand, not including the thumb.


But about 4ish years ago, I began to be called to larger events, more people. It was very interesting, often great fun, but I always needed to temper this with many, many quiet days. Yet following my intuitive call, I gained much on many levels.

Then I withdrew again, as we moved to another country and my energies were directed inwards, to my growing baby. About halfway during the pregnancy, I felt the call again. I was called to reach out to others, to make connections.... so blogging began.

I'm not even remotely amazed that I have bumped up against not only amazing women, but ones that seem to float along the same, or parallel at least, wavelength that I do. It's not about Having Things in Common, although that's always pleasant. It's darker and richer and more mysterious.

Along with that, I feel called to create and be a part of community. Community! Me, a loner?? Surely the universe jests?
And yet I can see how the time I spent being 'out there' a few years back was a foundation for what is to come. I can also see how thoughtful the universe is, in giving me community, with distance (ie, the 'Net). Yes! I have my space with connections.

I have spent time frustrated at a) not being able to get into meaty dialogue that can only occur face-to-face (until I realised that distance thing), and b) having to wait on others to accept the connection with me, online only.




Fact is, today, I remain a loner, an Introvert. Yet I am also called to connect with community. And lo and behold, I see my tribe. I hadn't even contemplated the idea of a tribe. It happened. Whether or not they consider me part of their tribe is not important. What matters is that online connections can be profound. In fact, I truly believe that they can be deeper than many offline relationships.

Why? Because here, for better or for worse, we pick and choose ruthlessly. Offline we may be stuck with individuals because we want to be part of a particular group. (ok, that can happen online as well, with forums). Also, because all we have is words (and pics, yes) we are forced to, well, communicate.
Write, or dissolve into the ether.
I know many people who have learnt more about their friends and family just from filling out '100 things about me' Facebook memes.
If we are honest bloggers, if we are raw bloggers, we offer deep connection indeed.

I am always astonished and occassionaly exasperated when bloggers speak of their 'real life'. When they go offline to partake in living. I'm insulted! (not really) And of course life requires balance and we all need a hiatus in various activities - it's more about the reasons given for the hiatus - not being real life.

But seriously, times have changed. Communicating online hasn't been for socially-outcasted nerds for many years. Everyone is online! Well, almost. The globe is a tiny place compared to just 20 years ago. If once upon a time people wrote to each other (you know those primitive tools, pen and paper and envelopes and stamps) as penpals, sometimes having to wait weeks or months for the next instalment of their friend's life, and yet still managing to form close bonds... then what the heck is wrong with us?!

I'm real.




I'm sitting here with sunshine getting into my eyes and trying to maneuver the laptop so that the glare stays off the screen, wearing a purple t-shirt that probably needed a wash.... 2 days ago, vaguely dreaming of the dessert we're to have tonight at a friend's place, swatting the occassional last-of-the-season mosquitos, while the Wildflower naps.

You're real too. I'm quite sure of it.

There is more to come for me, in this whole community shananigans. I see wisps of possibilities - women's groups, retreats, online stuff, offline stuff, something, many things....

In my culture, my soulful role is facilitator at the crossroads. I do this quietly, mostly behind the scenes. Perhaps this will be my role in community, perhaps it will be something very different. I don't know.

It's such an exciting time. It's not occuring for everyone. But I see it occuring to those around me. To my Tribe, and to many visitors here.I think it has only merely sparked off with some bloggers doing Artist's Way, other bloggers exploring their goals, lifestyles, motherhood.

There is shifting.

And I believe that, for whatever reason, it's a shifting that requires community.
But how afraid we are. How unaccustomed we are to simply dive into the deep of relationships. How vulnerable we feel to dance with our very sisters.

I'm a hermit, but I'm willing to take my chances.

Thursday, October 8

toys I won't be buying

We are visiting England in November and there are three items of immense importance (truly) on our To Buy list.

Wooden toys
Books
Yarn

All things that are outrageously expensive over here, or to deliver over here.

Anyway, I've ordered a few things already, getting them delivered to the In-Laws' place. But I wanted to share, for a bit of fun (because it's so bizarre and wrong you gotta laugh) the items I won't be buying.

Pole Dancer doll


Nipple Tassle Toddler T-Shirt
yes, toddler



Doll
multiracial gone very odd?


Larvae Plushie


Learn Not to Count


Child's ATM Machine

Pee & Poo
snuggle with these kids


Strutz
yes, the horse is wearing heels and makeup


Bling Bling Barbie
because we didn't have enough issues with her


UFO Player
Disney heroines, yesss.... sing karaoke, hmmm... into a ufo... I see