Friday, December 31, 2010

iPhoto Year In Review

In January, to escape the ongoing catastrophic money pit home extensions, we spend two very slow-paced nights down by the beach in Gippsland. That's about all we do in January. Ahhh.

January:  On seeing Daddy in the ocean on his own, a blue-lipped and alarmed Lolly (the wind off the Southern Ocean was fuh-reeeezing) sat quoting her swimming classes' water safety motto to herself out loud - "Swordy says.... never.... swim.... alone." Daddy got a full reprimand on exiting the waves and rejoining us at the towels.

In February, I take the best macro photo I've ever snapped: a single dandelion seed for my sister inlaw's website. I try to burn the kitchen down by way of a pot of oil left on high flame on the stove (I don't think I ever even admitted to that one on the blog..... so ashamed... ruined a bloody good pot - and set of lungs - as well, damnit). Steve and I finish the back-breaking laying of the bitching bastard fiddly fuckers bamboo hardwood flooring and it looks spectacular. In fact, all the rooms - including the family and bath rooms - are finally coming together nicely, after works that began in August 2009. The dog gets in so many photos that I pander to her neediness for inclusion and take her very own special photo (smiling dork cutie that she is) so that she leaves me alone and stops getting her arse, waggily tail or head in all my shots. I ponder what else I could be doing with my time instead of hanging out black sock after pissing annoying black sock so much that I take a photo of them when I'm only half way through pegging duties.... The offending culprit black sock wearer poses alongside his Magna-doodled likeness (as drawn by the LGBB). Lolly starts writing her 'signature' and is very proud of herself. I rest easier at night, having finally found the right green for her bedroom walls ("Willow Tree" by Bristol, if you're wondering).

In March,  on the 6th at around 3pm, a once-in-a-lifetime storm event hits Melbourne ... right over our house. After 20 minutes on the ground, the hail stones are still about 20cm in diameter even after melting on the previously warm day. The damage sustained to our home, and more to others in the neighbouring areas, reaches well into double figures in insurance. We have to replace our annihilated roof - a bucket placed on our kitchen bench yields 5 litres of water through a ceiling light in the space of less than 2 hours. It's scary and a big clean-up but not as much as many others in the area. The hail bounces off the ground to around 10ft in the air (watch the video - the sound of running water half way through is actually a leaking window that was literally pouring water in onto our floors), the hail strips paint off our fences and goes clean through Lolly's trampoline and outdoor play equipment. Steve's car is totalled (a boon, which nets him a nice brand new car... small bonus, really) and we have to replace all our outdoor furniture and toys: thank you, RACV, what a blessing to be insured. The storm puts significant halt to our garage/home office plans (final stage of extensions), so we run away to the beach again, this time to Wilsons Prom with some dear friends for a memorable short vacation.

In April, the last surviving great-Aunt on my mother's side passes away. I visit their rural property in South Australia with my brother on a hastily arranged trip for the funeral. On reaching their homestead, I am overcome and overwhelmed with the feeling of home-coming for me, the house turns out to be a stately, welcoming old family friend, with many ancestral heirlooms - including the bed our great-grandfather spent the final seven years of his life sleeping in - and I feel a deep sense of belonging to this land which I have not visited since I was barely three. I cannot quite comprehend that in every direction I look, on waking to capture the sunrise the first morning, the family owns the farming land. I am choked and humbled and feel very small as I think of the original owners who have long since been driven out by white settlers. The colours are different here. And although it is razed almost completely and there is hardly a landmark in sight, the place is captivating, haunting and stunning. When I arrive home, the new tin roof is up and it looks marvellous.

In May, we go to Phillip Island for the day and have a blast together. This is despite the LGBB's very best hand-on-hips-ish pre-four year-old behaviour throughout the day, which is tedious and confusing and full of contradictions to say the least. Still, forging on, we visit a farm and Steve milks a cow, we go to the koala conservatory and make the obligatory Penguin Parade stop to watch the fairy penguins come ashore at the end of a long, cold trek for their food. Phillip Island: A highly recommended place to spend some time, if you're ever visiting Victoria. By the end of this month, we have dismantled the wall that surrounded our outdoor deck and the garage/office wall is up and ready for frame stage.

In June, I am lovingly made a chocolate birthday cake and the cake topper is chosen by Lolly herself - something to perfectly capture the love between a mother and daughter, a timeless gift that says "I was thinking of you when I chose this"... See it there in the photo? It's a rubber dinosaur. I take a photo this month of our old dog, Pepper, thinking for sure her days of warming herself in the winter sun by the window must surely this time be numbered (six months on, I'm still taking "this may be the last photo" photos of the old battle-ax). The LGBB has her mid-year toddler dance concert (her last in this class before she moves up with the 5-7 year-olds) - her motto seems to be "better to be over-dressed than under-prepared for any occasion, dahhlinks", as the other littlies turned up in sweats and hoodies, a floral dress at best. I blink and apparently miss my leggy little blondie-girl getting suddenly all child-looking... this is the month Lolly appears to drop the remainder of her 'baby fat'. She also discovers the joys of stay-on lippy and I catch her literally painting her face with it - after this photo, she covers herself from forehead to chin, colouring in all the bits she'd missed, and it will take me almost an hour to patiently scrub it off.

In July, our little girl turns four. I almost commit hara kiri with her birthday cake on the way to the party, Scraps discovers his hot chocolate addiction is serious and Lolly perfects her portraits of her Dad, adding features such as the all-over-face stubble and toussled-hair. I walk in one lazy Sunday morning expecting to find father and daughter sharing some quality time together and they are.... on their respective Apple gadgets, happily sharing high-score results and occasionally grunting to each other. They're happy. I shudder slightly and snap a photo, assuming this is just a taste of things to come.

In August, we take the LGBB to see the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for the first time. Steve gets arty with his iPhone4 and a bunch of My Little Ponies, I get arty with bento (Japanese take-away/snack-box lunches) and Lolly gets arty with posing dogs. On heads of other dogs. It's a slow month.

In September, Lolly inexplicably begins breastfeeding Scraps out of nowhere and it is absolutely gorgeous - she even stops play to attend to her doggy every morning and asks to see photos of herself being breastfed as a baby to ensure she's doing it realistically. I take yet another last photo of Pepper (who is still wheezing alongside me while she sleeps as I type this post), and I capture the most delightful set of images on the way home in the long afternoon Spring sunshine. Pity about the dog's piss.

In October, Steve brings home his new baby - the iPad - and we're all immediately besotted with the dear little thing, Lolly takes to using the painting app on there and is chuffed with her hard work and even more excited that she can take a screen shot of her paintings and then print them out. Our beautiful old tree begins to get its leaves back. I'm treated to a Party In The USA impromptu tutu-clad dance routine (about 19 times in a row.... GET OUT OF MY HEAD, MILEY CYRUS!). Steve gets dressed up by Lolly. And we plant ourselves a little vegie patch.

In November, surprise-surprise, yet another 'last photo' photo of Pep, standing (barely) this time. Lolly gets quite taken with the sun shade being put up for her and Pepper to have picnics in the front yard. We're so proud of our girl who has her first end of year concert in amongst the older kids - she's tall for her age at four but is towered over by them - as she holds her own and keeps up with all the moves (wearing her Best, once again). We have a guest visitor on the first warm day - a possum who falls asleep for several hours on the clothes line under our deck. And speaking of decks... it's getting there! The office and garage are finished (shells only, still plastering and painting to finish), the outdoor room is looking good. Just need to decide what colour to put on the blue-board.

In December, there are cupcakes, carols and Christmas trees! Grandpa's tickles and Mummy's kisses. Fun under the Christmas tree. Kindy graduation and baked cookies. What more to life can there be?

So 2011 begins tomorrow. I have plans. Big plans. A few things already in the works. But for now, I'm so darn tired of 2010 that I just don't wanna talk anymore.

Have a good one, please have a safe one. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The new Mother's Anthem?

I'm absolutely certain that when I used to watch Annie as a ten year-old, I never properly understood poor Miss Hannigan's plight.

NOW..... after days like this when the LGBB and her sweet little terror friend make Christmas snow in my living room, their attempts to sweep up the tiny little beanbag balls just creating flurries against all my skirting boards (a week later and I am still finding rogue balls.... don't read too much into that.... under couches, under beds, falling out of cupboards when I open them....), I can more fully understand the poor woman.

The girls squirrelled away a dustpan and brush and attempted to clean it up themselves. When I checked in on them, this is what I discovered. Diligent workers, both talking but not really to each other, making noises about cleaning up "the Christmas snow". When I was spotted standing with mouth agape at the doorway, they were quick to assure me they were tidying it up. But with every sweep of their arms to indicate where the "snow" was, the "snow" lifted and spread to even further corners of the house. I would have sobbed but it was just so darn funny, I had to stuff my fist into my mouth to ensure they didn't see that this was actually so disastrous in terms of my attempts to have had a friend over to play so that Lolly would stay out of my hair while I got last minute prep's done for our Christmas Eve visitors that I just had to laugh. Sternly. So they knew this was not good. In one fell swoop, I had created even MORE work for myself. They have also annihilated the beanbag chair, bursting its seam by jumping into it so it now has a 20cm gaping hole that I have to try and fix.

This photo actually makes it all look quite tame... they spread this same distance in all directions of our living room.

You know what, though, I was thinking Miss Hannigan's actually got it pretty good. The orphans do all the housework for her. She has no significant other so can listen to whatever she pleases on the wireless. Heck, the old lush even has time to take a bath! What's her problem?! She should quit her whining, enjoy what she's got and consider herself lucky.

This song is a hoot. It's one of my favourite songs from any movie musicals (and I've seen a lot of 'em). Now, if only I could get wine to help me tune up my own voice....

Little girls
Little girls
Everywhere I turn I can see them

Little girls

Little girls
Night and day
I eat, sleep and breathe them

I'm an ordinary woman
With feelings
I'd like a man to nibble on my ear
But I'll admit no man has bit
So how come I'm the mother of the year?

Little cheeks

Little teeth
Everything around me is little

If I wring

Little necks
Surely I will get an acquittal

Some women are dripping with diamonds

Some women are dripping with pearls
Lucky me! Lucky me!
Look at what I'm dripping with
Little girls
 Lyrics link credit

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Good night, my angel

Today was a typically lovely home day, the "us time" wind-down after Christmas Day and all the excitement and socialising.

Steve and Lolly were outside making play dough cakes. I was doing some tidying up inside. We were surrounded by great music all day - our deck is central to the house, which is shaped like a U - and I had been enjoying doing some physical work and taking advantage of the mild weather.

And then this song came on as I was moving about the lounge room. I was suddenly overcome and had to sit down, affording myself the time to have a good, long, hard bawl. It's been many months, possibly even a full year, since I cried this much whilst thinking of Ellanor. The next song in the playlist was "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You" by James Taylor (another dear favourite artist of mine) and the sunny beat of the tune was in contrast to my heavy tears. It helped to lift me out of wherever I might have been headed in my thoughts for the rest of the day.

Good night my angel time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say

I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away

Good night my angel now it's time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay

And like a boat out on the ocean
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark and deep
Inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me

(Musical Bridge)

Goodnight my angel now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me

Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die that's how you and I will be

Billy Joel's 'Lullaby' is one that I have always found just so profoundly beautiful. The tune is all at once strong and supportive, sweet and wistful, a little trepidation thrown in that turns to a sort of bittersweetness again. But it's the lyrics. The lyrics are just masterful. I sing it to the LGBB sometimes. It could be at home being sung to a child for so many different reasons, and Billy Joel himself wrote it for his little girl after his marriage to her mother ended.

But today, I heard the meaning in it for both of my girls. At times I felt like I was wrapping them both within my arms, one girl on either side, drawing them in to me and holding them close. Energetically, I suppose that is exactly what I did, for Lolly was not physically in front of me either - rather, she was as much 'there right beside me' as Ella was.

And this is the funny thing about Ellanor. Sometimes she might as well just be in another room. When the book comes out *cough...must keep momentum on publishing progress in the early New Year* I hope you will gain more of an understanding of our deep connection that she herself showed me was there - before she was conceived.

Yesterday was one of those days where we were surrounded by the most supportive members of the family within easy distance. It was a good, heart warming day. Lovely food, gorgeous company. But even amongst these familiar friends there were fragments of niggling disappointments. I don't think they will ever truly leave me, not regarding Ella and how one is treated when one has to continue to endure celebration after celebration with one child missing from the fun. I felt stymied. Have I not stopped mentioning her on my timeline yet!? Goodness, how can you still not be "over it", it's been almost seven years..... I can practically hear some people think it. And I know it's not intentional of them, that at the forefront of their intention would always be helping me to avoid inflicting pain on myself by "going there" (down that conversation path). In fact, they would be mortified if they knew it hurt me when they changed the subject or otherwise stopped me from talking any more about her.

The thing is, though, it comes down to this: she was our flesh and blood, bones and hair, living, breathing child. She lived. She was here, she laid eyes on me, eyes that would follow the sound of my voice around the NICU bay... I cannot deny her the short month of her full life by not speaking her name! There is no "just stopping" anything and there never will be - it pains me less to mention her. It is normal and doesn't agonise me at all to mention my daughter. But their comfort levels, I mostly try to abide by - it's a tricky thing to gauge, in a crowd, and I've had to keep quite a long mental list of inner-circle loved ones and their various comfort levels, in order not to cause them discomfort or unwittingly hurt myself if this is their inevitable reaction. It was the most subtle mention, too.... I wasn't meaning to fly a flag for bereaved parents on Christmas Day, believe me! It's just simply there sometimes. In the room. Like that good ol' elephant.

Today's cry was good. It was cleansing and releasing. I continued on with my afternoon, a little more bloated and blotchy-red of cheeks and darkened of eyes, but still good to carry on.

I will never completely "enjoy" Christmas. How could I possibly? But I do savour the time and don't rush things because of what we have lost and what we have gained from that loss. There is no denying, we would not have Lolly if we had not lost Ellanor. It boggles my mind quite often.

One huge, rolling, continuing lesson, this life we live. I hope you all slowed the pace and enjoyed your loved ones.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Windy, foggy Christmas Eve

I cannot believe she's grown so much since I filmed this! I thought she was the oldest she could possibly get. Mental note: may be something to do with not believing we'd ever have a child full stop. It still felt surreal back then in 2008.

But, anywho, here is our good thing LGBB in one of my faaaaavourite ever bits of footage of her - please excuse the lighting, there is no time for anything like that when you've got Toddler Comedy Gold going on (lest you interrupt the gorgeousness).

I could watch this over and over, honestly. And I have in the past! Here she is, aged just 2 1/2 singing that old classic, Rudolph the Red-Nose Ray Deer:

It Glows from Lolly Lovers on Vimeo.

And if I don't get back here, or around to yours before, please accept my warmest blessings for a gorgeous Christmas. I hope the days are pleasant, restful and fulfilling. NOT stressful, exhausting and crammed full of too much (unless that is what fulfils you!). Everyone who commented on this blog this year, I thank you sincerely for your humour, support and frankness.

You are all cherished. xo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How the craft ended up

Can't get enough of looking at our tree! It looks grand this year.

Thought I ought to post a couple of pics of where our craft ended up. It was just what we needed to add some homely touches to the place, on the mantelpiece there:

I thought we wouldn't be needing the fireplace... but I may have spoken too soon.

Yesterday was so cold, it was hot chocolate and marshmallows weather. There was snow on the Vic Alps and it was bone-chilly. Okay, so not quite anything in comparison to the UK. Possibly balmy, at 11ÂșC. But still. Not Summer!
The LGBB would like you all to notice her nailpolished, star-stickered fingers please (hence their strategic placement in shot):

I already told you... I just can't stop looking at the tree at night!

Monday, December 20, 2010

"I miss Ella"

That's what she told me this morning as we were on our way to a meeting.

I had to take the LGBB with me, it's just "that time of year" when there is no other alternative. So we packed the car with little books and crayons and a bumper Pre-School Activities book (she likes the dot-to-dots and mazes the best) and set off a little before 7.30am.

My daughter, this second child of ours, is really quite remarkable. Her attitude and co-operation today were nothing short of exemplary. When she blurted out, on the back of talking excitedly about Christmas, that she misses her sister (whom she never met in life, having been conceived almost two years after Ellanor passed away as a newborn), I was reminded once again just how remarkable she is, and of the Big Questions and how I would always have to be ready with an answer... even if that answer was a sympathetic nod of acknowledgement.

And so it was today, for after she announced she missed Ella, the LGBB then told me informatively, "A long, long time ago, when I was just a leeeeetle little baby (she laboured the point for good effect), I used to play with Ella when she was a girl." Oh, I see! I replied, remaining neutral as always so as not to taint this either way. "And then, when I got older, I wasn't Ella anymore."

I get confused and intrigued by these seeming slip-ups of the LGBB's. But the thing is, they are such consistent "slip-ups" that I do wonder sometimes. She is adamant she used to be Ella, before she grew into being Lolly. I am berated sharply by her and always have been for trying to correct her. And I have read before the stories of kids blurting out details to their astonished parents (mothers, usually) about how they used to be So-and-so but were now - well, duh! obviously - themselves.

Honestly? I don't like the idea that this is her perception. Of course I don't. But I also accept that this is her perception. Perhaps for now, it is the way she is integrating the understanding about how her big sister can be both dead and still a part of the family. Perhaps this is how she feels close to Ellanor. I can hardly blame her for that. This is an area where I have to use much tact, caution and some gentle boundary-keeping. That is all I feel I am permitted to do, for this is not just a "while she's young" thing. The passing of our firstborn daughter will affect our living daughter for the rest of her life too.

She misses Ella. It may seem strange to you, dear reader, but this statement warms my heart so much that it might just fill to bursting. My most precious thing in this world - Lolly - is including our other girl, our guiding light, even in this busy, exciting, festive atmosphere we've got going here. Perhaps this is what makes her feel more keenly towards Ellanor. I know it pulls me closer to her around this time every year.

I know it's not meant to be, but I feel like it's our little secret, Lolly's and mine, that this week she will be hand-holding with Ellanor somewhere in the ever-after "out there". And I feel the luckiest, because I will have her other hand tightly in mine.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Universal You

Perhaps this will be relevant next Christmas as well and will become a bloggy tradition of mine, to post it at this time each year. But I happened across this post as I was searching for something else and was struck again by these very fulfilling words. Now that the LGBB's room is complete, a copy of this wall poster I made is hanging in there. Sometimes, she asks me to read it out to her. It's especially cherished because it's a photo of her and her Daddy that I took when she was just two, on vacation to her beloved "Squeezeland".


Saturday, December 18, 2010

My weekend loves

Today, I am grateful for...

• Being able to hear a barrage of happy made-up songs in my girl's tinkly little sweet voice, singing like nobody is listening, singing without a care in her world. I am humbled, hearing her sing.
Earlier this week a local girl, seven year-old Mikayla Francis, lost her life to a rare form of cancer after a brief battle with the illness. Her parents had been advised to move Christmas forward by two weeks and celebrate it with her, which they did. They will not hear their little girl again this lifetime. That is a long, long time to go without a sound that fills your soul as a parent. I have great empathy for any family going through their first Christmas without their child/ren - Steve and I will go a lifetime having never heard Ellanor's voice (save for a few sweet-sounding premie 'mews') and it is still something that gnaws at me, haunts me. My heart goes out to this brave and beautiful family and the many others who are sheltering their own torn and broken hearts this festive season.

• My iPhone.
There, I admitted it (after previously making the grand statement to my husband on being presented with it - as a hand-me-down - that I didn't need any "fancy-shmance phone that has no buttons"). Even if only for the awesome camera, which isn't nearly as good as the camera on his iPhone4 (which is amazing... and the video recorder? even MORE amazing!).

My phone enables me to take photos like this...

• Our stupid dog.
She still, after six years, makes me laugh so much. We took her for a 90 minute walk yesterday. Apparently, she's a little out of shape. When we got home, poor Jazz flopped on the floor and there she stayed until dinnertime. At the time of taking this photo, she couldn't be roused for comment.

• Despite my disdain of all the rain (when will it stop, already?!), I am really quite awed by this crazy weather we're having. 
As long as it doesn't cause any more property damage, I'm quite happy to be stunned into silence when I see views like this outside that make me dash for the DSLR and race to the front yard because nobody will believe me that I was standing under a clear blue sky with sun shining on our trees while watching this darkening (so black with the sun shining on it) "cloud" - if it could be called that, for it was truly ginormous - coming towards us. This huge front passed over our heads and ended up dumping a huge deluge...

So there you have it. Just a few things I'm grateful for, in photos. Of course, that's not to mention the twinkly Christmas lights, not having to go to the shops because I have no Christmas present shopping to do (we have done away with the gift giving and are going with gift making this year... yes.... we are *those* types of friends/relations - the ones who don't get sucked in to duty-bound materialistic giving - so deal with it!), a husband who is cleaning the kitchen for me, a week full of pre-Christmas excitement and advent calendar opening... I could go on and on.

How about you? What are you doing this weekend and in the week leading up to Christmas?

This is part of today's Maxabella Loves.... linky. One of the most feel-good link-ups on the net!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Party: hard. Walking home: harder.

On her way back from the kindy break-up party *sob-sob* the LGBB's legs just couldn't work a step more. I love the dramatic ending the best. How could you not carry that cute li'l thing home the rest of the way?

Party hard from Lolly Lovers on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A post for the little girl who will never be forgotten

Mikayla Francis, a little girl who was scared of being forgotten after she and her family were told she had a rare terminal cancer, has died aged 7. Her father has said it all, I think, in this audio. I hope you have time to listen...

Andrew talking to 3AW Breakfast

A beautiful story. An absolutely heart-rending story.

Caricatures of parents

I left this video playing on my laptop while I went to another room the other day. The LGBB gravitated over to it - as all children seem to do when there's something moving on a screen (mine does, anyway) - and began to watch.

Steve walked in at around the five minute mark and asked her what she was watching. Okay, now, I want you to watch it please and I then will tell you what she replied... Or, y'know, you could just cheat and scroll down and find out. Either way, it's horrendously embarrassing or telling or something. I feel the urgent need to earnestly plead to you that we haven't been through a drive-through more than a handful of times since our child was born. And it certainly didn't go like this.

Or did it?

So Lolly, after watching several minutes of this and being questioned by her Dad, turns to him and says rather excitedly, "I think it's a movie about you and Mummy!"

Head in my hands. It's fairly close, I'll give her that...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Perceptions and Truths and Mandalas and Cookies

I'll be spending a bit more time over on my other blog in lieu of doing too much on here. I'd be really pleased for you to join in on those posts! Do drop in and visit if you haven't yet, I love to hear people's thoughts and reactions to the posts. They are quite different to this blog.

I will also be returning to the regular Monday Mandala Meditations that I had begun on here. The first one on the Earth Healing blog is up today if you're interested.

There is also a post about Perceptions and Truth, an excerpt from a regular newsletter I receive which I found particularly interesting and thought I'd share. Go check it out if you like.

Today, Lolly and I have a full day of baking ahead of us. She is calling me now from the kitchen and getting out ev-er-y-THING, including marshmallows, patty pans, Lindt chocolates (we're making Christmas cookies for her teachers today and I'm chucking in some of chocolate gold for them in case they need some more..... oh to be a kindy teacher, if only for the end of year scores!).

So, better go before it all ends on the floor. Have a great week, all!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Island oasis in the midst of the silly season

I just spent two days without internet. Forcibly removed from my one outlet in this home-mum life, I was sure it spelled certain insanity. The first day didn't bode well. The LGBB had obviously got up on the wrong side of the bed, at 5am, and found her way into ours so that was the time my day started. When she woke again at 7am as Steve got ready for work, she started with her... ah, "four year-oldness". It was going to be a whingey day. And I had already discovered, at 5am, that our internet was down and out for the count.

By 7.30am, Steve was ready to leave, I had had Dame Whinge-a-Lot in my ear for a solid half hour and felt like I wanted to just go back to bed to reclaim even an hour of the two hours' sleep I had lost. As Steve stood at the front door lacing his shoes, I came towards him with a demanding, belligerent and determined miss following me at the top of her voice, and I murmured over and over under my breath so only he could hear, "Don't leave me alone with her today, Don't leave me alone with her today, Don't leave me alone with her today..." It's a running joke we have with each other, whereby we turn into the kids who need our mummy or daddy to rescue us if we think it's going to be too 'scary' to handle.

Let me tell you, with not enough sleep under my hat and no internet, it was indeed a scary start to my day. But I had no choice. I couldn't run home to mother. I just had to suck it up and see what a day with no contact with my cyberworld was like. And...


Away from the distraction of "just checking this blog" or "just going to hit refresh on my Ebay listings", unable to upload the latest finished site for a client (okay, so that part was a bit more painful as I despise letting people down, especially if they're paying me!) and not even able to receive emails from dear friends, I actually spent the past couple of days chillin' with my daughter.

We went to Spotlight (OH my very goodness, they are practically giving away Christmas decorations and crafting things down there!! Have you been?) and came home laden with wire-edged ribbon and wooden letters that spelled the word "MERRY", we had glitter and baubles and holly. We made a mantelpiece hanging together.

We hand made twenty-six kindy class cards, each one hand signed by the LGBB and some with very special messages that I helped her to write, like the one to her kindy teacher that read "I love you and I will miss you so so so so so so [I had to abbreviate and could only put in about five of the dozen or more "so's"] much. Love heart, kiss and cuddle..." which makes me tear up every time I look at it. And one to the teacher's assistant, "To Lisa, Merry Christmas. I put my tree up already. I will miss you." And the one she wrote to herself... using her actual name, of course (not Lolly):
"To Lolly, Love Lolly. I love Lolly so much. Merry Christmas." And then she's signed that one with her name as well.

We decorated the tree and shared turns to climb a chair and hang the higher decorations (a very favourite of the LGBB's, she thought this was an incredibly grown-up thing of her to do).

We went to the local community centre's Christmas party, an annual lunch time invitation that is open to the community. As you can imagine, there are plenty of elderly folk with nothing much to do who wander in. The staff at the centre, which is impeccably run, put on a brilliant spread, as good as any lovingly made food. What's more, only four of the kindy kids (Lolly has been with their brilliant early learning program for children which is like a pre-four-year-old kindy program with lots of structure and adorable staff and wooden toys and teacher-led songs and stories, since she was two) turned up and their teachers were there so she got to spend some really gorgeous one on one time in this casual, family atmosphere setting. It just filled my heart to overflowing hearing her teacher tell me she was "really going to miss this one" as she squeezed my daughter. Deb has been an incredibly warm and caring teacher to the LGBB and her kindy mates and we are going to sorely miss her next year.

But, ahhhh! I feel like I have been on a mini-vacation, in my mind.

I also realised that even when I don't blog so much, I'm still at this computer more often than not due to work and as a social/news portal. All very well and good. However.... what's been highlighted to me is that I don't have enough of a variety of outlets. I have more of a clue now what the balance might be and how to strike it. During the course of the day yesterday, I got really talking with a neighbour who also just happens to be the mum of one of Lolly's best-best-best friends (children love repeating words for emphasis don't they! or mine does) and as I stood and eyed off their gorgeous garden decorations, she told me she and her husband had made them. They are stunning. Honestly, I thought they had been shop bought.

So I have received a casual invitation to come over and make some of my own with them in their work shed. The girls can play in their beautiful huge back yard and we can let the guys do the jigsawing (I'm sure champagne was mentioned as part of the deal, so probably best not to drink and drive a piece of machinery, lest my hand take on the shape of Rudolph's antlers.. or something).

And today, they have Lolly again - who I think would love to move in to their house and just drop us a wave from their front porch (we can see door to door) every now and then... - and are walking to a local kids' Christmas activity day. Steve and I are spending time together alone at home. A rarity so bleedin' rare that, actually, there hasn't been a time in the past 4 1/2 years that I can recall. What a change that has been, from the days of old when we wished so fervently that we didn't have to spend another season in our big empty house alone without any children to fill it. Wow. Big moment, recalling that one.

No rushing about at the shops, Lolly and I are making Christmas baked treats for everyone (ok.... we all know it'll end up being me doing the lion's share, if not all of it). We have no desire and no need to enter into the materialism that has taken over. The kids will get toys, of course, but none of this gnashing teeth over what to get him and her and wonder if it will be received well. Ugh! Thankfully, we did away with that, oh, about six years ago - wholly and solely thanks to our very own guiding angel, Ellanor, who taught her Dad and me there is much more to life.

It's beginning to really feel a lot like Christmas. Real, genuine, people caring and looking out for their neighbours and fellow men and women, Christmas. Like I felt it as a kid. This feeling has eluded me for nigh on two decades, maybe even three. And it is seeping in to my soul in a very fulfilling way this season. Enjoyment of others, providing a home spilling over with excited kids, spending time chatting with neighbours. Now that I have allowed myself the time to step out of the life I had created, with its walls (which I hadn't really noticed were there) and distractions (which I absolutely know are there!), I'm feeling happier. Lolly is happier.

I wonder how long I can keep this going. This wave I appear to riding the crest of.

How about you? What are you feeling leading up to Christmas?

This post is loving it up with all the others this weekend over at Maxabella's place...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Message in a bottle... on a blog... via a song

Have you ever done or said or believed something at one point in your life and then felt like you couldn't go back on your word or belief without losing face? 
Have you ever felt so stuck in that decision, even if it was years ago, that it just became your way of life even if you didn't even feel that way anymore?
I'd love to hear from you if you have ever been this way. How did you resolve it? Have you resolved it?

Michael Franti is one of my all-time favourite artists. The peace and hope oozing out of this guy is inspirational.

I'm going through some pretty tough stuff right now. Indignant thoughts in my head are arguing with the responsible, counsellor part of me which I hope will be able to filter the learning through into something coherent and constructive (which I will post on my Earth Healing blog, once the thought eventuates into something useful to others!).

Mostly, though, I would right now like to send a message via this song to someone who probably won't even know it's for them (if they still stalk me here, perhaps there is hope yet). The messages in this song are undeniable and, given it is my only chance to 'get a message through', I have to settle for passively presenting it here with loads of love and hope for change. The Universe in all its wisdom will do the rest.

Read along, the lyrics are sublime. So simple, it's easy for us mortals to forget we need to remember....

It's NEVER Too Late.

Don't fear your best friends, because a best friend would never try to do you wrong.
And don't fear your worst friends, because a worst friend is just a
best friend that's done you wrong.
And don't fear the night time, because the monsters know you're divine.
And don't fear the sunshine, because everything is better in the summertime.

And it's never too late to start the day over, it's never to late, pick up the phone (pick up the phone and call me)
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders,
It's never too late to come on home.

Don't fear the water, because you can swim inside you within your skin.
And don't fear your father, because a father's just a boy without a friend.
And don't fear to walk slow, don't be a horserace, be a marathon.
And don't fear the long road, because on the long road you got a long time to sing a simple song.

And it's never too late to start the day over,
It's never too late, pick up the phone (pick up the phone and call me)
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders,
It's never too late to come on home.

Don't fear your teachers, because if you listen you can hear music in a school bell.
And don't fear your preacher, if you can't find heaven in a prison cell.
And don't fear your own self, paying money to justify your worth.
And don't fear your family, because you chose them a long time before your birth (yes you did)

And it's never too late to start the day over, it's never too late, pick up the phone (pick up the phone and call me)
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders,
It's never too late to come on home.

Hold to your children, hold to your children, hold to your children, let them know.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Please retract my Mother of the Year nomination

I'm so proud! Look at the words sounded out - "SOBH" for sorry, "ADICST" for asked... It's so exciting to see our child's expression in writing!!

This here is the Sorry Note that I was presented with most forlornly (and not a little manipulatively by my tongue-in-cheek smirking) four year-old daughter yesterday.

The events leading up to Sorrygate were your usual Sunday afternoon home life antics:

Mum and Dad, in kitchen, trying to work out about half a dozen things at once. Also hoping desperately to hear each other over the din of their dear-born, making as much noise as a classroom of roudy children on a Friday afternoon. Mum snaps, says to child, "Oh for heaven's sake, would you PLEASE go and find something to do! Just for ten minutes!" Child walks away, arms by sides, not swinging, shoulders slumped and feet dragging ever so slightly for added effect.

At moments like these, I do not go after my child and placate. I can't. I have to give it a few minutes at least and then, more often than not, I go down to her and sidle in while she's playing. It's rare, for she is usually with me, nagging to be entertained, every minute of the day when she is here. We are still trying fervently to explain that there are days, particularly during the long stretches of weekends, where she needs to learn to amuse herself using her own imagination. That it's important she does this.

Yada-yada. We're still hoping it'll sink in.

So then. The note comes. By way of a morose-looking (but ever so cheeky still) LGBB, presenting it to me and telling me it says:

Mum. Sorry I asked for food. (name). Happy birthday.

Well just plunge a knife in my heart and be done with it, why don't you! (By the way, it's not my birthday, it's just something the LGBB likes to offer, it's her version of "Have a nice day!") Asking me for food, were you? How was I to know, when I was listening to another adult and trying to make a coherent reply and push that little nagging voice to the side for thirty seconds?! How was I to know that you needed food so badly that you had to ask for it while jumping and jiggling and writhing around as though you'd already eaten a bowl full of jellybeans and downed a litre of red cordial?!


The rest of the afternoon passed by relatively peacefully. And I am just quietly ever so proud of our girl. Her first 'letter' to someone! Pity it was to highlight my apparent shortcomings as a parent.....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Who is this Carol anyway?

Last night was our community's Christmas carol night and it did not disappoint (well, okay, perhaps the deafening volume was a bit of a let down for me, but that's just me showing my age and sensitivity to the champagne I had drunk).

It is always one of those nights where I feel incredibly happy about the community I live in. We feel like the luckiest people in the world - as millions of very lucky people around the world feel, about where they live - when we go to one of these events. Our council is one of the best around, from their initiatives to involve residents in sustainability (the LGBB's kindergarten next year is part of the council's program to create frog bogs, butterfly gardens and more, with its own dedicated nominated Sustainability Officer on the committee!) right through to these turn-outs and festivals.

Anyway, enough of my council. Let's get to the photos!

Unpacking all the friends, waiting for this Carol... whoever she is

Officially "Squeeee!"-worthy. AKA Strangling Pa.

Payback from Pa for being strangled.

Strops are on because sweets before dinner have been denied.

....all is forgiven a moment later when Carol's imminent arrival is remembered.

Me and my girl. And her lollypop. AFTER dinner.

Don't let this blinding light fool you. I was having no epiphany at the time, other than the champagne being a bloody brilliant idea.

An ethereal moment (LGBB at left) on a jumpy castle

Lolly was "so, so, SO excited, Mum" all day yesterday and kept asking if it was time to go to the carols. It clearly wasn't. But I liked her determination... At one point in the late afternoon, after the umpteenth query of the time, her face took on a puzzled expression as she looked up at me and asked, "Mahhm... who is Carol?"

My funny girl.

Dorothy the dinosaur was there and that was the part where I was grateful for my waterbottle full of champagne (hey... it might be a great event but, come on, if you have to get there THREE hours before the carols actually begin, just to get a good spot in the 15,000+-strong crowd, then you'd better believe I'm going to partake in a non-glass container of something alcomoholic or other).

Lolly lasted right through to Santa's arrival on stage - which was superbly choreographed (with 'staged Santas' being lit up by the spotlight around the venue.... silly Santa couldn't quite get to the stage without the kids' help) - and then crashed in a grand spread-eagled display in bed. We only got a few hours' sleep before she came into our bed, her head full of "bad dreams" and I was kicked out. No room for the wicked (I had been the one drinking the champagne at the alcohol-free event, after all.... *cough* hey, at least I wasn't being obvious about it, unlike all the parents around me popping corks and necking beers in glass bottles!)

So I took Jazz for an early morning fast-paced walk for forty minutes around the parks and my morning was topped when a woman stopped me and asked if I live here. I replied that yes, I did. And she gushed, "Oh! We're up from Geelong for my son's game and my goodness, I never realised it was so beautiful up here. Do you just love it?"

I had to gush back that yes. Yes I really do. If she read my blog, she'd know that by now! Silly woman.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Me time

For the past couple of weeks, my posts have been light on. Much of the reason for this has been a combination of workload and personal burnout. But the bigger, more important reason for this lack of www-time has been this...

Good old-fashioned attack of the guilts at some of the obvious things our little Lolly Gobble Bliss-Bomb (aka The LGBB) has been saying - imaginative, innocent and honest insights into her inner world - that have left my Maternal Radar in overdrive.

Exhibit A:
One morning last week, I was hastily patching together a section of my book which I had been working on before the house woke up at 7am. Not wanting to leave the train of thought hanging when Lolly had come up for cuddles and breakfast, I distractedly tended to her and made a dive back to the laptop before I lost my place in the story. She found her way to her Etch-A-Sketch on the rug near my feet and was happily lost in her drawing for a time, before I asked her, "Whatcha drawin', Lollypop?" I only had half an ear out for her reply, as I was still steeped in what I was doing.

"A baby dragon," she replied, not looking up.

"A what?!" I asked, incredulous and not sure I'd heard correctly. Lolly has no interest in dragons and doesn't speak of them. She repeated herself and had, indeed, been drawing a baby dragon.

"What's the baby dragon doing?" I asked, stopping my work and giving full attention this time to my daughter, who had still not looked up.

"She's curled up, reaching out for her mummy," she said, more just out-loud to the room than to me in particular.

"And... what's her mummy doing?" I hardly wanted to know her answer.

"She's working."

It's all I needed to hear. I dropped the lappy like a hot potato and made a casual dash (you know those ones, where you don't want them to know how eager you are to capture a moment?) for the camera, asking if I could take a photo of her baby dragon. She obliged politely by saying I could. The dragon was, indeed, reaching a 'paw' in the direction I had been sitting.

After an intensely trying weekend, in which everything basically piled in on top of me while I was down a pit, I surfaced to face a new week only to find that my daughter was deeply affected by my exhaustion. She has always mirrored me in this way. Even as a young, young baby, the LGBB would preempt me getting run-down or sick by going under herself. As she became older, she had spells that would force her to sleep for a day or two at a time - following the pattern for the past four years (and she has mostly grown out of these 'moments' now), they seemed to coincide with me being called in to be of energetic service to someone, somewhere in the world. Odd. Fascinating. Just The Way We Are. She is a sensitive, deeply intuitive little kid and I always, always seem to forget. I STILL smack the back of my own hand sometimes when, in hindsight, it always seems so clear.

And this time, there is a direct correlation between all this happening and all of my spare energy and time being frittered away on the strain that is sharing the house for this extended time with my parents inlaw. "Fourteen more sleeps," Steve tried to console me tonight. Dear oh dear. And it's not anything necessarily awful, it's just simply that feeling of not being able to completely relax in your own home - I hadn't quite realised how much it got to me, but my little sponge-child has shown me just how deeply it is affecting us all.

As her mother, part of my duty is to guide my child and help her to both embrace her gifts and abilities (as any mother would with her child and his/her own unique strengths and talents), to normalise what it is she feels, at the same time as helping her see herself as a special gift to the world, as much as she is a gift graced to her father and me.

I can't give her my undivided attention all the time - a difficult thing for an only child (for in essence that is how she is being raised) to understand because there is nobody else vying for my attention - but I can see by these utterings lately, as evidenced by her baby dragon drawing, that my balance of work-Lolly-me time is sorely out of whack lately.

On Monday afternoon, after four hours at occasional care (the only day she goes now), I knew exactly what she needed. I had told my mother inlaw in the morning that I would organise dinner. By 4pm pickup time, it was quite clear I was needed as a mummy first. I spent thirty minutes at the park pushing Lol on swings, riding on giant bendy-"necked" animals, applauding at slide dismounts and generally just hung out with my daughter. Then, as we made our way home, I phoned Steve and told him that he and I could grab dinner later and if his parents could please get theirs, as there had been a change of plans. As it stands, I'm still not quite sure they understand why I reneged on the dinner-cooking I had promised (for my mother inlaw had offered but, honestly, I was too tired to even do the "are you sure, it's no problem for me to do it... now, what do you want, where is everything, what does Lolly not eat..." caper that it seemed easier for me to just handle it myself). But I don't really care. My little girl went to bed that night much happier, having been absolutely soaked in an afternoon of my undivided, uncomputerised attention. We read stories, did Christmas jigsaw puzzles, had a bubble bath... reconnected.

It is difficult, I would gather, for all parents to get that balance "right" - and that is a rather dicey word to use here, but for want of another I'll leave it in - between attending to all of their children, if they are blessed with more than one, juggling work commitments, holding extended family at arms' length when needs of any of their children dictate it, and of course spend that all-important alone time together. Let's not even touch on how messy my house is right now, either. I can't do it all, I see that. We went to the library for two hours today and returned to the house exactly as it was at 10am when we left this morning before dropping in on friends prior to getting to the library. I despise a messy, unclean house. BUT...... I'm more concerned with a child who has begun to act out her need to see more of me via her pictures and toys.

This "me time" I keep hearing getting bandied about, I had let it go to my head. A reflection on myself only, which I am doing here "out loud" for the sake of reminding myself down the track if it ever happens again, I see now that I had begun to act out against all these demands placed on me as the family Maypole. Desperately clinging to whatever "me time" I perceived I had to fight for, I was missing the one obvious thing. This very blog, and the collective blogosphere (and ... er, Twitterdom, shall we call it?), this is my "me time" and I have previously been getting scads of it. I have simply allowed myself to incorporate "blog time" in "work time" and it's simply not the case.

Rather like a budget, where Groceries allowance can be separated into household items, nappies, cleaning products and the likes, so that your actual food allowance is much more healthy-looking, I need to make clearer boundaries in the way I am conducting my free time. My "me time". It's not entirely accurate of me to say I get next to none of it. In my own feeble defense, I recognise it's because my entire work life is also spent at the computer - the book and my paid work all cause me to be chained to this thing I'm sitting in front of at this very moment - but it's time I started clock start/stopping so that I can get a more accurate Time Budget going here. And if my computer time has crept into this so-called "me time", then I need to seriously ask myself if I am cutting my nose of to spite my face if I "just quickly check this blog to see if she's updated her comments" or "hop into Echofon to see who's on Twitter" because in my mind, I'm here working already and a brief drop-in on a site won't make much difference at all.....

But it does make a difference. A huge difference. I need to spend time to make time, this distance I have placed between me and other blogs (and my own) this past fortnight has really helped me see that. I'm thinking a whole lot more internet surfing and blogpost writing is going to be happening after a certain little someone's bedtime in future. And then, I will be choosing between sacrificing couple-time (which I will be answerable for to my patient, tolerant - up to a point - partner) in favour of "me time" and I will be forced to see that THIS, what I'm doing right now, counts as that "me time".

Confused?  I'm not!

And I'm raring to go with it, for I see that my work life is not about to change anytime soon. So the balance has to be redressed by me and me alone. I have to stop whining about what I don't get and don't have to myself and start looking out for those moments where I can make some more of this happen:

Ultimately, that toothy wide-mouthed, all-over-face grin is the reason I still live and breathe.

This post is also part of Naomi's Mother Heart linky - every Thursday at Seven Cherubs.

Now... let's go flogging on this fine Friday!

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