Thursday, July 31, 2008

Diary: Sugar and spice and all things nice

Is it really a year since the birth of my daughter Charlotte? She is such a little angel, so different to Tom. Even in utero, much calmer but still very energetic. Her favourite food is banana, although she loves vegemite sandwiches, macaroni and pieces of apple too. She has six teeth, and one pair of shoes. 
She loves music, is not very fond of the stroller and only has limited patience for her highchair. She will not sleep in her cot in the daytime. She loves to be picked up and will make a funny little snort as she straightens and stiffens her whole body before grabbing hold of me like a little monkey. 
Charlotte loves animals. We thought she was accidentally dropping food from her highchair but I have come to realise she is purposefully feeding the dogs. At Daydream Island she took some apple from my hand in order to hold it out to a rock wallaby, which made me a little nervous I admit. She has always loved being outdoors too, exploring grass and dirt and sand, and laughs when I kick the red and white soccer ball. 
She hates lying on her back. Nappy changing is an effort and she has always preferred sleeping on her tummy, preferably on a pillow or my chest when she was very small and had trouble settling. My greatest joy is being able to comfort her.
When we went to Daydream Island I took her in the bath with Tom and I. It was a spa bath and when Tom turned it on she screamed! Even though we turned it off straight away she was still hysterical and refused to go near the bath for the rest of the holiday. I tried taking her in the shower with me but she still screamed and squealed and clung to me, terrified. At home it was the same and I was worried she'd always have a phobia of water (and would be very smelly by her 18th birthday!), but thankfully, by the third night at home bath time had returned to normal.

I don't remember Tom ever being really frightened of anything, except going to sleep, where even as a tiny baby he would become hysterical and there was nothing I could do to give him comfort. Charlotte goes to sleep comparatively easily. Tom pinches when he gets tired, and I never thought anything could be as annoying, but unfortunately Charlotte loves pulling my hair. Still, at bed time she is much more relaxed and spends the first half of the night in her own cot. She loves to cuddle too and my fondest memory of Daydream Island is feeding her after we'd both washed and dressed for bed. She snuggled so close I felt like I was sure a teddy bear must. 
When she was born her eyes disconcerted me. They were deep and dark and steely grey. Now they've changed to an interesting brown and I'm still not sure what colour they will eventually be. Her birth was sudden and violent, and for the first few days her tiny nose was bent from the force of the contractions. For this reason we nearly named her Cameron which means 'bent nose'. But we stuck to Charlotte. While I was pregnant I had caught a ferry from Woolwich, the vessel had floated out of a heavy fog with the name Charlotte written boldly across its stern. The name was beautiful and romantic and it stuck with me. Tim liked it too. I like hearing Charlotte's name in different situations - Charlotte's Web, Apple Charlotte, Charlotte's Pass, Charlotte potatoes. My favourite song Charlotte Sometimes. There was also a ship named Charlotte in the First Fleet. I wonder when she grows up if she'll get Lottie or Charlie.
With every day that passes she gets closer to walking, her little red shoes practicing wide, swaying steps. I cannot imagine how she will look another year from now in dresses and skirts, her knees no longer perpetually dirty from crawling. I wonder what she'll be like at Tom's age, at five, at thirteen, whether she'll wear plaits to school. I wonder if her first kiss will be horrid and forgettable. Where will destiny take her? Will love make or break her? I hope with all my heart she loves herself and others, and that others love her - passionately, truthfully, unconditionally.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Meditation: What are emotions? Part 2

At the end of my last meditation on emotions I felt clearer about what these magical forces are, but still very uncertain of my role in managing them as a mother. Reading Nature & The Human Soul has given me a much deeper understanding. Bill Plotkin who I am fast coming to believe is a genius writes:
"In the Garden (early childhood), the child, through his emotions, consciously learns about himself and about relationships. Good or bad, emotions are not experiences he chooses. They occur in response to his ever-changing relationships to self and others, relationships that regularly and inevitably get out of balance. Through the information contained in his emotions, he discovers how to repair or refashion his relationships, especially with his family members.
Every emotion contains its own lesson. Each type of emotion points to particular kind of lesson about self or about relationship of self to others. Each type of emotion also points to particular kinds of action that can bring the world back into balance.
For example, what makes him mad or feel hurt? The lesson built into every instance of anger or hurt evokes questions, such as: What do I believe I deserve? What do I feel about how I should be treated by others? In what way might I be part of the problem? Each time an Orphan-Explorer feels angry or hurt, his parents, teachers, older siblings, or other adults can help him form these questions and find the answers. His answers will teach him about himself, his relationship to others, and what he must do to make things right again. 
... The value of the questioning is to help the child understand himself - his own beliefs and attitudes - as well as the moral and social conventions of his people. ...he can be coached in how to act on his anger and hurt - in particular, how to respond to others in a way that fosters healthy relationships.
... In the Garden, the child needs to be helped by his teachers, parents and other family members to fully embrace his emotions. He learns, first, to experience his emotions thoroughly, beginning with precisely how they feel in his body. Then, he learns how to identify the different types of emotions, to discover what each tells him about himself, the basics of expressing his emotions to others in word and action, and, in particular, how to act on his emotional truth in a way that makes his social world right again. In this way, he learns, with the aid of his emotions, how to bring his outer world of relationships into alignment with his inner world of self-experience, and vice-versa."
Like I said, the man is a genius.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Diary: Daydream Island

The funny thing about family photos is we only ever see the ones where everyone's smiling, which makes the reality of parenting all the more brutal! Daydream Island was beautiful, warm and welcoming. The decor was utterly disastrous but the Kids Club was heavenly. It has been many, many years since I've kicked back with a pina colada by a resort swimming pool and it was every bit as great as I remembered...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Meditation: Getting Back To Basics

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Bill Plotkin author of 'Nature and the Human Soul'. I am currently engrossed in this voluminous book which describes a template for living what he calls a 'soulcentric' life. It is particularly thought provoking for me as a parent to read his theory as I attempt to raise my children mindfully in an egocentric society.

In the first stage of The Nest the parents' task ... is to preserve the innocence of the child. Innocence is essentially our capacity for present centeredness, our capacity to be here now, in this moment, and that present centeredness is the ground for our ability to be in relationship with anything because we have to be present to it. 

And so from a nature or ecocentric perspective a big part of the parents' task in the first stage is creating a Nest, a family environment in which the child can be present with very little push from the parents to be something different, to learn too much, to prepare for university, etc. The second task ... has to do with the formation of a culturally viable ego and the main way parents do that is by mirroring the qualities and the emotions of the child, essentially saying 'we see you, you're one of us, we notice you, we notice what you want and what you find interesting' and so on so that the child feels fully accepted and belonging in the world.  

This week I will attempt to tap into my own jaded innocence in an attempt to connect more fully with myself, my loved ones and life. I will mediate on the following:
Innocence regained is experienced as radiant presence

Read the first chapter of Nature and the Human Soul at

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Diary: Kambala Girls

Who would've guessed I'd still be in touch with these lovely girls? It doesn't seem that long ago that we were dressed in checked grey uniforms and yet here we are, with dogs and children in tow, nearly 20 years later (!) sharing stories of our lives and loved ones.  
I made cake, Zoe brought fruit for Millie and Tom, Rachel brought toilet paper (I was out!), Yasmin brought Sicilian olives, Cybele brought orange cake, Sal brought champagne and Bec brought her new boobs. We're renovating, we're traveling, we're working, we're raising kids - or hoping to, we're catching boyfriends - or dumping them, we're laughing about our husbands or partners or parents or kids or flatmates or siblings. We're comparing our bodies and our finances. We're drinking but not smoking, finally. We're cursing, talking, laughing and loving - loudly! We are beautiful. 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Diary: Grandparents today

This photo of Tom with Ninny was taken last Tuesday morning. After I was woken up at 5:30am by Charlotte in a wet nappy. After I'd showered and dressed and put on make up and jewellery and done my hair nicely. After I'd eaten breakfast with the family. After I'd taken the wet sheets off the bed, put on washing and folded yesterday's clothing off the line. After I'd stacked all the dining chairs, picked up all the debris and vacuumed downstairs. After I'd gotten Tom dressed and his teeth brushed. After I'd made tea and toast and watched 'In The Night Garden'. After I'd changed Charlotte's nappy again and put on going out clothes. After I'd made a packed lunch for Tim. After I'd locked the dogs out and put everyone in their seat belts and driven half an hour to the office to pick up photocopied bills with my current address, and dropped off Tim's lunch. After I'd parked and bought a parking ticket and taken all children out and down the windy stairs near Central Station to the RTA. After Tom had taken a ticket to wait for our number to be called by a nice man who renewed my license. After I'd taken everyone back up the windy stairs and packed us all back in the car. After I'd driven to Paddington to visit my parents. After Ninny ran off up the street to buy packet pancake mix...
This photo of Tom and Ninny enjoying their pancake was taken before Mum had offered Tom a second helping and before Bar Bar had offered yellow jelly and ice cream. Before Ninny had cooked more pancakes and Bar Bar had put more ice cream on them. Before Ninny pretended to eat hers but really fed it to Tom. This photo was taken before I decided it was time we'd better leave for preschool and before I remembered Tuesdays are cooking day at preschool. It was taken before I suggested Tom do a wee wee before we leave and before we said goodbye. Before I'd buckled everyone in the car again and driven through the cross city tunnel. Before Charlotte had fallen asleep in the car and before I parked in the teacher's carpark. Before I helped Tom on with his school bag and signed him in. Before I'd gone home and taken the rugs out to beat. Before I'd mopped downstairs while listening out for Charlotte in the car and before I'd cleaned the upstairs bathroom. Before I'd heard Charlotte screaming and retrieved her from the car. Before I'd given her some food and made myself something and unpacked the dishwasher. Before I'd put clean sheets on the bed. Before I'd put Charlotte in the car and gone to pick up Tom. Before we'd gone to the park with the dogs. Before I'd driven home and got the kid's dinner and poured myself a small wine. Before Tom had tomato pasta and strawberries and custard for dessert. Before I bathed the kids and then the dogs. Before Tim came home just in time to put the kids in their pajamas. Before I read Tom and story and put Charlotte to bed. Before I turned off Tom's light and kissed him goodnight. Before I went downstairs and made pesto spaghetti with mushrooms for Tim and I. Before we put on Hot Fuzz by the makers of Shaun of the Dead. Before I fell asleep in the movie and Tim woke me up to go to bed. Before Tom woke up screaming and before I told him to pipe down and go back to sleep. Before he started vomiting jelly and pancakes and strawberries and custard in bed. Before I took him to the bathroom to wash his face and get him fresh pajamas. Before Tim cleaned up the mess and changed the sheets. Before I put the sheets in the washing machine. Before Tom went back to sleep and before I finally got back to sleep at 1:30am. Before Charlotte woke about 2. etc.
No wonder I feel like I've lost my mind sometimes.

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