Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Wise Man Once Said....

Yesterday was International Women's Day. As usual, I was late to the party (today, I rang my dad to ask him a banking question..... then rang him five minutes later and very ashamedly wished him a happy birthday.)

There have been some beautiful posts by different very talented bloggers on the subject of International Women's Day. You can check a couple of them out here, here and here.

I thought I mark the occasion with a little tribute to the role of a woman, which I have paraphrased from the writings of a very wise man. In doing this, I in no way mean to dismiss or trivialise the suffering and inequality that many, many women across the globe experience. I simply aim to celebrate the strength, diversity and value of womanhood.

An honourable woman is a find and a half, better for you fellas than all the money in the world, if you know what's good for you.
Her hubby is grateful that she's got it covered, he's ok, everything is alright.
She is the good in his life and doesn't get him down.
She knows how to shop... only the best! She goes all over town looking for bargains.
She's first up in the morning, making breaky and lunches for the kids.
She buys the things the family needs, saving money here and there to make ends meet.
She works out... sometimes by lifting the washing basket or hoisting a baby around as she does all the housework.She sits on Ebay and Freecycle, trying to make sure that what money goes out, comes back in (or at least, close enough). This may mean she doesn't get to bed before midnight.
She learns how to sew, so she can do the mending... or at least, knows someone who can.
She donates to charity and volunteers around the place.
When its cold, she dresses the kids in red.... its supposed to cheer them up, even if they are still freezing.
She pulls the doonas up when the kids have gone to school and sometimes even makes it out of her pyjamas.
Her husband is pretty well known down the pub, and has to sit through a few 'shouts' before he can come home. (She feeds, washes and puts the kids to bed)
She figures out how to sew, then flogs her products down at the markets.
She often looks more glamorous than she feels (she removes her uggboots before she goes out) and knows that, geez, if you don't laugh, you'll cry, and what's the point in that?
She talks as though she knows what she's going on about, and likes to tell people what to do (the kids, most of all.)
She keeps a close eye on everyone in the fam (and reminds them to take their library bags to school) and keeps the carbs to a minimum. And doesn't believe that an hour of Dr Phil is in any way lazy.
Her kids, if they thought about it, would reckon she was alright, and her hubby says "Good onya, Darl, you're the pick of the bunch" every now and then, too.
Actions speak louder than words, and beauty is only skin deep (thank god) but the spirit and heart of a good woman deserves a good reputation around town.
Give her what's owing her and don't forget to tell her she's beaut when you see her down the shops.

Now that was one wise fella.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Soul-Feeding Play

In one of our many discussions about parenting this week, I said to Nath that parenting is much like trying to shape running water with your hands. No matter how much you try to make it hold its position, it will slip through your fingers and refuse to be contained. We have had 'one of those weeks' in the life of a parent. Just when we thought we were making headway with one particular behaviour, another one springs up and leaves us floundering.

We stayed with some friends over the weekend, on their property in the Toodyay hills. These are good people, and their love of cooking and eating wonderful food I naturally appreciate! They have created an amazing haven there on their little patch of earth, and it leaves you feeling relaxed, calm and contemplative.

My children, especially, loved their time there. They were so calm and engaged, and inquisitive and exploratory. I love it when they are like that. They become little adventurers, discoverers, wonderers.

I sat back in that space to watch them, and it occurred to me... this place has a soul. It is filled with beauty, but, more than that, everything surrounding me was made with natural materials. I tested my theory, gazing around the room. No plastic. Just a vast array of handpicked items made from wood, silk, pottery, felt, stone and glass. I talked to our host about this and she said yes, it had been intentional, as things of plastic have no life force, no connection.

I have been reading quite a bit about the Steiner approach to child development, learning and play. The idea of simplifying your child's play space is something I have come across a bit in my reading... not just simplifying the kinds of playthings your child has access to, but also simplifying the amount. I have been reflecting on the fact that whenever my children are presented with fewer play options, their play is far more focused, far more creative and far more engaging.

I came away from our friends' house inspired and determined to get back into our girls' playroom and transform it from an overly 'plasticised' toy storage zone into a meaningful space that will allow them to play creatively and provide them with some areas to retreat to when things become overwhelming.

Here are the results.

The girls' home corner, complete with a lovely tin tea set.
Quiet space for reading, and toys in baskets.
Miya often needs a space to retreat to - this is perfect.
The drawing/sorting/crafting table.
Small selections of toys - not too overwhelming.
Finger puppets, great for oral storytelling.
Scarves, mostly used for dancing with.
Music toys.
The girls love their 'new playspace' and it has such a positive impact on their behaviour. Their play is contented, calm and creative and they are no longer overwhelmed by the sheer volume of 'stuff' in their playroom (and the mess that needs cleaning at the end of each day!)

And better still, by selling some of their old toys, I have made enough money to buy some gorgeous, WA handmade Waldorf dolls from here!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

May You Keep Your Feet On The Ground And Your Head In The Clouds

May You Keep Your Feet On The Ground And Your Head In The Clouds
It may seem strange to begin my post with a benediction, but this is where I have arrived after a week of pondering direction, choices and our wishes for the future. For the last few months (the entire life of this blog, in fact) I have felt weightless in life. 

Unsure of the next step, waiting, wondering where the wind will next blow.

Like Mrs Robinson hiding her secrets in the pantry, I have worked hard to seem 'settled'. You know the old saying 'fake it 'til you make it'? We have tried to buy a house here... Miya is enrolled in school... I am in committees, friendship groups, involved in weekly activities... we made plans for the future. After years of moving around, shifting house, town, even state every couple of years, I felt I was ready to give being settled a go. It is, after all, what married people who have children do.

Then we missed out on the house. And I quit my job. And we decided to move to Broome.

And the old anxieties started to whisper in my ear... are you sure this is the responsible thing? People will think you are unreliable. Shouldn't you be providing a settled childhood for your children?
I quietened them with a dose of common sense, and by remaining focused solely on the needs of our family. I anchored myself to this plan, this direction, and felt buffered from the winds.

Until this week.

This week, we got options. That may seem like a great thing (how many people in how many countries would not even dream of the options we are blessed with?) but really, all it served to do is re-energise those little whispers in my head.... see? You don't have to do this.... you could forget the whole thing.....the kids are happy here..... and left me reeling. Confused. Unsure, again.

The worse thing is, not even our options are set in stone. Things are open, nothing is certain... there is so much waiting to be done... continuing on with life, knowing things are about to change, but not knowing how, or when.

Many hours have been spent reflecting, discussing, considering the options. I have realised, through all of this, that in the same way many people are terrified of becoming married, I am scared of settling down. I am scared of committing to one place. There are so many wonderful places on this Earth, even just in this great state... and right now, I am torn between just two of them.

It leaves me questioning the premise of home. Our eldest daughter was named Miya, because that word means 'Home' in the Indigenous language of the Yindjibarndi people of the Pilbara area of Western Australia, where we lived when we decided to try for a baby. By the time we welcomed her into our lives, we had been travelling, and were now in the process of 'putting down roots' and setting up home in the hustle and bustle of Melbourne.

It was a hard process. We were broke. We had large gaps in our resumes from the time we had spent on the road. Just feeding ourselves was damn hard work. We felt countryless - like strangers in a land we didn't understand.

The along came our baby.

We understood 'home' for the first time. Home was what we were making for her. Home was us, the three (and later, four) of us, wherever we were. Home was fiercely protecting the sanctity of our family... against work commitments, against the breakdown in communication that often sneaks in without warning... against things that vy for our time and attention and keep us turning away from our most loved ones.

We are relearning this now. We relearn this everyday.. and will continue to do so, I suspect, until our days run out.

I am drawn to the analogy of a tree. The idea of being grounded, yet reaching skyward to our dreams and hopes. Knowing what is good, and right, and healthy... meeting the needs of our family, but not being afraid to think big, to look at the impossible, and wonder.

A tree. A symbol of strength, of tranquility. I picture this, and I know that I can make home. I know that I can be grounded, provide, enjoy my family, wherever we are. I know that, ultimately, it doesn't matter which path we take - what matters is that we continually turn inwards, into our souls, into each other. That we place the needs of our family above all other considerations.
We can do that anywhere. We know this, because it is what we have done in the past.

It's nice, sitting in the shade of our family.
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