31 January 2013

Breath of Spring

I'm likely to ramble terribly today.  Somehow there seems a lot to say, and I can't grasp hold of enough logic to order it into something meaningful and considered.
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Perhaps it's the warm sleepy weight of baby, heavy in my arms, slowing me to pace myself to her heartbeat and soft breaths on my shoulder.  She is so very present, and once I slow myself to tune in to her the words come slowly.  This is the trick of mothering babies, I think, to accept and welcome the shift to their rhythm.

The older girls and I have been stuck in a rut lately, doing almost nothing in the afternoons and finding it increasingly boring and frustrating.  It isn't that there aren't lots of things to do, just that we've all been tired and screen time has taken over as the easy option.  I asked them all a couple of days ago whether they aren't finding the afternoons drag on rather at the moment, and whether they would like to do more together when Daddy is at work.  They leapt at my question with a torrent of ideas and enthusiasm.  Can we do this, can we make that?  It seems to me like they were just waiting for me to look up from my work for long enough to ask them what they wanted help with.  I felt a moment of guilt before jumping right in to their enthusiasm.
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We made a plan - starting over with Spring Circle time and making space for project time in the afternoon.  The list of things they want to try and make and do and explore runs to two pages!  We've made a good start, this week.
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Rowan is totally sea-life obsessed, and learning a rapidly increasing level of detail about her beloved oceans. She has been talking endlessly about orcas this week.  Although she does insist that seals eat them, rather than the other way around...  (The model is a dolphin, by the way!)
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It might be just my tortured imagination, but I *think* the baby may be sleeping better since we started having more interesting afternoons...  Yeah, probably just wishful thinking.  She has been waking at silly o'clock in the morning for months.  I'm not a morning person.
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Today, we just had to get outside for a couple of hours.  The sun has been beaming down, gloriously warm and comforting.  The breeze is fresh, and smells deliciously of Spring.  All day I have been almost humming to myself with it - Spring is almost here!  The promise of it is on the wind, and in the warm baked brick of the neighbourhood, and the cool fresh aliveness of the brown soil.
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Morgan found our first daisy of the year.  :)
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The girls all have such an affection for this little patch of park that is our nearest green space.  It isn't much.  It's often grey and bare, and so much of the nature in it has been pruned and weed sprayed and boarded.  The colourful graffiti is around the court where the bigger ones learned to cycle.

As if to prove to me that I'd better enjoy holding her close while she still allows it, this little Tali person walked there and back, and ran around on the park squeaking her disgruntlement that her sisters run too fast for her to keep up.  Oh she has grown so fast...
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And already, we are heading into the Spring warmth and rebirth of this year!

27 January 2013

Filling Jenna's Cup

Jenna is about as Extravert as it's possible to be.  She thrives on busy, and meeting new people, and talking (ohh the external processing, it's like a constant running commentary on everything that goes through her head).  As she gets older, it gets harder to meet those needs without planning and concious thought.  *I* need to get out, and love to talk.  *I* intensely need social interaction and time with friends.  We get out of the house every day, and half of every week those are places with people to talk to.  Still it's not enough for this girl of mine.

As intensely as she needs people, though, she passionately values her freedom and choice.  She is definitely, defiantly, adamant that she does not want to go to school and believes that she is happier at home learning what and when she wants.  Even at the times when I'm tempted to enrol her just so that she is in a large group for much of each day, she tells me articulately that it wouldn't be good enough.  She says she would still want to  have someone over every evening, she would still want to go out to exciting places at the weekend, she would get in trouble for talking *alll* the time.  (She's probably right on that one!)  So we do what we can, even though to date we've not had a great deal of luck with home-ed groups.

Drama group is *definitely* helping.  Once a week she gets a good chunk of time in a large group, doing something she absolutely loves and wants to do, with her friends.  It's great for her.  Even the very gruelling week of late night rehearsals and long performances this week has been great for her - she has thrived on the pressure and the intensity.

Her last night was magical.  It was the show we were going to as a family, and we'd quietly arranged to take two of her very best friends with us and keep them afterwards for a sleepover.  :)  Jenna was so fabulous in the show.  She's really enthusiastic, un-self-concious, and had been driving us crazy with practising so that she would hit every cue.  She really shines when she's performing!

Next on the list is getting a space for her in the dance class she's been looking at for over a year now...

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26 January 2013

And the winner is....

Oh look, she even had her eyes closed.  Cuteness!
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Shall I talk on for a little while and keep everyone full of suspense?  That would be just a little bit mean, though, I'm sure...
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Leanne Taylor aka Squee, this bright green sparkly yarn is YOURS!  Lucky lucky you!  And for everyone else, for the next two weeks you can have free shipping in my Etsy store with the code LOVEPOST - just a token of my appreciation.  There will be some little Valentine and Easter gifts up really soon.  :)

25 January 2013

January Unschooling

It's been a very bookish month.  Jenna has read Charlie and the Chocolate factory, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the Just So Stories to herself, and I've read about a quarter of Order of the Phoenix aloud to her in the evenings.  We've read a children's edition of Beowulf together as a family, some more of The Story of the World, finally made it through Peter Pan - and spent more time with an Atlas and a book of aerial photographs of the world (this is Rowan's favourite activity after painting and running around pretending to be an Octonaut).

It still feels strange to actually do things together like this.  Three or four of us, because Morgan really "gets" what we're reading and spends less time inside her own head now, and Rowan is so curious and so determined to be taken seriously as one of the "big girls".  It used to be mostly Jenna and I, and Morgan dipping in when something caught her imagination.

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I bought some fun resources this month.  We are noticing a slight easing in our budget recently, it has been *so long* since I could just buy new books (well, second hand) without months of waiting and compromise.  Jenna's interest in visual illusions has taken her to Escher's life and works.  I bought isometric graph paper to see what they'd all do with it, and she has produced lots of drawings involving cubes at different angles, and sets of steps.  Her interest in space has taken her mostly to a lot of drawing and writing little science fiction stories, and she is also learning a lot about the night sky from a favourite computer program, Nova.

Morgan is still using a lot of plain paper, and finds writing on lines terribly distracting, so I bought pretty novelty recycled paper from Oxfam to add to her two blank journals.  Morgan is also reading a lot of short picture books.  Rowan loves writing on lines, and writes very neatly and very small, usually exclusively in upper case letters.  They both love painting, but I have to confess that since Talia became so very mobile I have resisted getting messy crafts out so much.

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I keep telling myself that THIS week I will get out the paints and let them go crazy, THIS week I will get out the watercolours and spray bottles, THIS week we will get the clay out again and I will breathe and not keep commenting on the mess or trying to get them to make a "product" that I feel good about!  Our messy craft fix is mostly happening at the Museum on Fridays where the baby can be mostly kept out of the glue (though she did manage to cut me with safety scissors this morning)...

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Another book buy this month, The Unworkbook, is full of inspiration and worksheets for unschoolers.  We haven't had time to dip into this very much (my mum made off with it) but it looks like fun!  I feel like I've been needing inspiration this month, and a bit of a lift from other people.  Getting to groups has been harder but more necessary for my sanity.  What would I do without a circle of mamas to make me feel normal and distract me from bad days and endless laundry and cold wet feet from my leaky boots?

The children don't seem to need any kind of extra input apart from all of the things they are reading.  Jenna has been directing lengthy games of Narnia with talking animals and dryads aplenty, including sessions of map making and crown making.  Morgan's game of choice is most often Harry Potter or pirate related at the moment.

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Jenna's performances in a local am-dram company's panto have been going well and she has really enjoyed the whole experience, even if it *has* meant more impromptu performances being put on for me every day - and a lot of late late nights leading up to the week of shows we're in the middle of.  (I have to share these two dance pictures, because the intent expressions on their faces crack me up every time!)
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Media-wise Jenna has been borrowing my e-reader and treating it so carefully.  They also argue over Angry Birds on Martin's phone, though they probably only get hold of that once a week at most because he worries about it getting broken.  Jenna's favourite film right now is Matilda and her favourite program is Horrible Histories.  Morgan's favourite films right now are The Lorax and Brave.  Rowan's favourite film is the Scholastic Maurice Sendak DVD, and she is still Octonauts obsessed.  None of them are having much computer time at the moment apart from the odd turn on Poisson Rouge or Nova.

This is one of the things I hoped for - that they would make choices about electronics usage that didn't turn me into a neurotic wreck.  :)  There is a healthy balance, and they are so great at respecting everyone else's limits at the moment.  The bigger ones will often initiate conversation asking each other for permission to turn the television on (or for agreement to change programs or turn everything off to have music on or a quiet time).  It has taken a long time in coming, but it's funny how when the biggest starts to do something the others are often quick to imitate, good or bad!

Meanwhile, Talia, that little monkey...  She has mostly been learning this month how to turn things on and off, how to make a tower of seven blocks, how to hoover up any food her sisters put down the instant they turn their backs on her, and how to torment everyone by winding herself up in my yarn, eating corners of books, breaking favourite toys, melting crayons on the radiator, and all sorts of other mischief.  She's such a bundle of fun!

Here she is trying to get a normal camera battery to fit into Jenna's little book light:
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23 January 2013

Yarn Along: Spring Colours

Joining in with Ginny and friends for a weekly roundup of knitting and reading.

I have been busy with so many little things this week, a bit of this and a bit of that.  I think I need to find a nice big project to ground me in the midst of all the little details of work and life and trying to keep things together in the middle of the week of Jenna's show with the drama group.  Today we met some crafting friends at soft play and while the children ran off some steam I knitted a whole hat (and ran out of knitting projects because I hadn't taken anything else with me)!

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Talia was rather attached to a tiny squishy new baby, and got actually real-tears distraught when I wouldn't pass him over to her.  She cuddles quite hard - he was a very patient baby.

Cabbage hat:
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I've finished this little cardigan now too.
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It's nice being able to tick things off the list.  Even if it means the books I'm reading have been totally neglected all week long.  Yarn plans are slowly turning into skeins hanging drying by the back door.  It's the coldest place in the house, but there's no help for it - there aren't many other places where children can't pull skeins down or dirty them.  Everything in me is looking forwards to celebrating the new Springtime growth and light.

22 January 2013

The Peacemaker

Do I speak in the voice of warfare; do my words kindle shame and hate?  Am I the sword, tearing and rending, or can I even wield the flaming arrow - able to distance myself from the burning hurt?  Are my words the drums for marching, pulling us apart or setting us against each other?

Do I build walls?  Retreat and hide behind calcified boundaries?  Are my words staking claims and setting up fences that will neither flex nor allow any gate?  Is my voice the wounded animal, protecting my pain by pushing you away?

I am the warrior, named to it from my birthing day.  I am the advocate, in the in between spaces, defending with strong voice.  How do I lay down my weapons and trust in that voice not to waver?  When will I speak peace, smother the flames, become the place of safety my life was prophesied to be?

There are days when I see the growth and the building of muscle-memory and soul-strength, and days when I realise how far I have to go. I will strive for love.  I will strive for words of kindness and gentleness and truth.   I will strive for peacemaking.

21 January 2013

Some Blessings

When the world outside is grey and there is conflict and anxiety builds, I need this list.  Count with me, all the tiny everyday graces.
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713.  her Grace - and art materials
714.  two-armed hugs from Talia
715. a first tiny baby tooth
716. new shoots of green pushing through on the park

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721. icicles
722. baked apples
723. fresh vegetables
724. fat squashy parcels
725. the smell of mint from the toddler's shampoo

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The guy who came to do our gas safety inspection was really pleasant and lovely with the children, chatting away to them and showing them his work.  He was astonished by how they spoke to him, and kept saying how smart and knowledgeable they are.  I was so filled with concerns this morning, and this guy totally reversed my last experience with the council and their contractors.

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After two weeks of sibling fighting and bickering, Jenna has been extraordinarily gracious today.  She gifted her favourite sheet of notepaper for Morgan to write on, offered her (begged for) cake to Rowan who didn't like the biscuit she had chosen, and has been so gracious and thoughtful towards them.  It's like a different house today.

The brown slush of the world outside is mitigated by the sparkle of ordinary hedges, the garlands of spider webs, and the perfect spires of clear icicle brilliance over the front door.  And when I return home from the post office with wet cold feet, there is mint tea, a blanket, and my knitting.

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20 January 2013

GIVEAWAY Cheery Spring Green Sparkles

I promised a silk giveaway, and I am *still* waiting on silk, but not only is waiting not my favourite thing in the world, I also feel that all of you yarnies have somewhat missed out so far!  So, who likes green?  :)
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I love those first signs of new Spring growth and while the novelty of snow enchants me for the first few days, I'm impatient for Spring festivals and plans and joyous outdoor-ness.  I dyed this popping green merino  (with silver sparkle) especially to gift it.  One lucky person will be pulled out of a basket of names by one of my little daughters, and the rest of you will have to console yourselves with a Spring Discount code instead.

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For some reason, my camera rather liked the yellow tones in this yarn, which are not really that prominent, but YES it really IS that green!  :)  And all you have to do to win it is comment here and wait until next weekend to find out if you won.  No sharing or "likes" necessary, though of course you may (if you really do).  If you feel like it, you could tell me the thing about Spring that you are most looking forwards to!

For me that's a hard one, but I would say the willow tree coming into leaf.  I am *longing* to be able to sit outside under the willow tree with a book in hand and yarn drying on the line...

My first concious thought this morning...

...was honestly, I can't do this.

I had another of those moments of crushing existential dread, the tight-chested feeling that I am failing at *everything*.

My house is messy.  I'm anxiously waiting for a supplier to get back to me.  My children are fighting ALL the time.  The baby is not sleeping.  I feel cross or sad a fair proportion of the time.  When I try to help the girls negotiate calmly for what they want, they stop screaming at each other only long enough to start screaming at me.  Two different children told me they hate me yesterday and I didn't get ONE single job ticked off my list.  Yesterday Talia got hurt twice when big ones got fed up with her and used their hands not their words.  I cuddled a distraught baby to sleep: She wouldn't even feed.  My husband tends to fall asleep putting the children to bed so we have lost our evening.

Every little thing feels like evidence that I'm getting it all wrong.

Failing.  Falling.  Flying apart.

I haven't felt like this in the longest time.

I won't be taking a picture of the living room today so that you can all tell me it's not that bad.  It's that bad.  I tidied up in here FOUR times yesterday, and hoovered once, and this morning it looks like a cereal box and a Waldorf toy shop and a wardrobe all exploded in here (which is pretty much realistically analogous to what actually happened).

A naked baby is sitting right in the middle of it hoovering up bits of the cereal she threw everywhere at the same time as trying to fit a peach-coloured wooden brick into her little ball run.  She's sitting on a pink play silk and a rainbow bean bag frog.  My toddler in her spotty red pjs is counting pennies on and off the arm of the sofa and talking to herself in an American accent.  Her hair is lightly dreaded at the back where she pulls it in her sleep.

This life is SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL.  But it's also bloody hard.

I know I'm not alone in having broken days.  I know this is a universal of motherhood - finding it top-of-the-world awesome one day, and the next day pushing down the urge to run screaming out of the door.  In the trenches of motherhood, peacemaking and picking up and cooking and planning and doubting and trying, it's so easy to lose perspective and hear only the internal voice of self-criticism.

This morning I painted the bathroom before breakfast time.  I nursed my baby, helped write a letter, inspected icicles, made hot milk, knitted two rows of a jumper, put one bag of laundry away, folded towels out of the tumble drier, laughed at a wrinkly-nosed face-pulling baby, re-hung the canvas which Rowan knocks off the wall every other night in her wrestles with sleep, brushed a big girl's hair and helped her pick out a dress, showed a baby how to use a little clay whistle, emailed a customer, and built a tower of bricks simply for the joy of the child knocking it over.

So why am I grieving all of the things I can't do, didn't get done, am *not* able to use as a measure of success?  Looking at that list, today is about thirty or so times better than yesterday!  And yet, I woke up grieving, and I'm sitting here writing this and crying, thinking of all the ways in which I am not and will never be the mother I want to be.

My plan for today is just this: breathe the beautiful, find every tiny scrap of light in today.  I've given myself time to reconcile myself with my ideals and my sadness, and now I'm looking to the wild and crazy grace to pull me back out again.

19 January 2013

Morgan-isms

"We're going to play that game called Doodle!"  (Dreidel)

"We do eat vegetarians sometimes."

Whilst playing tea parties and pretending to be a Victorian lady [in a fake upper-class accent]:  "Oh *dear*, there appears to be something wrong with my baby."

"I'm being a baby, that's cause Jenna put piglet tails in my hair!"

"Why are we eating yucky green stuff again?"

"I don't like flamingos."

Rowan: Why is that person green?
Morgan:  Because this is Greenland!

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18 January 2013

Gifted Warmth

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This baby wears these booties every day in this weather.  They're the only ones I can get her to keep on those wiggly feet of hers.

It's the small things that make a day hard or easy, painful or pleasant.  Reminders that we are loved, that there is always an ear to hear our moments of triumph and failure, and that someone's arms are always around us when we need them.  That's what this little pair of knitted shoes symbolise.  Knitted shoes are a kind of love offering, you know.

17 January 2013

Yarn Along (belated) - reveals and disjointed thoughts

So, yesterday's big catch up of our week of mayhem and visitors took over, and I totally forgot about joining in with Ginny and friends to share my week in knitting and reading.  :)  And I have finished garments to share!























The cable trousers for a friend's little girl are just lovely, I really wish these actually were for Morgan.  The legs took a while, but as usual once I got past the moaning and cries of "these will take FOREVER" they didn't take so long after all.  The vest top is a shop commission in my hand dye, with mismatched vintage buttons.  I love mismatched vintage buttons.  And I love simple vest knits.  Morgan was very happy to show these both off.

So, now, I'm on to a little stripy cardigan for the shop, while I wait for yarn to dry, and I'm reading The Drums of Autumn (in those moments when Talia is nursing in such a position that I can't knit or crochet).  I also started re-reading Sitting at the Feet of the Rabbi Jesus.  I love both of these books.  I love finding fiction series that grab me and carry me along - and I dread coming to the eventual end!  I have been intending for the longest time to do a big post of all my favourite non-fiction books, but somehow it hasn't written itself yet.  One of those things that just sits in my mind for the longest time before spilling out onto paper (real or electronic).

Anyhow, obligatory picture of things in progress:
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I am trying to rest and relax, do the minimum to get by for a couple of days, and make the most of the little moments.  Too much doing burns us all out, and we are about ready for some nothing kind of days.  :)

16 January 2013

A Week Of...

Rainbows...
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Teaching impromptu crochet lessons...
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Craft activities...
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Computer time...
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The most ill-advised walk ever...
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I thought it was a great idea to get out, but hugely underestimated the length of walk.  Three toddlers cried most of the way round whether in arms or on foot, and by the time we got within sight of the visitor centre two mamas were nearly in tears too.  *sigh*
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My back doesn't thank me for carrying two of them...
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Shared meals and warm food...
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Breastfeeding and baby snuggling...
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Snow...
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Running around...
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Sleeping in the sling...
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Octonauts and Indigo and friends...
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And sewing...
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So that's where I've been!  Our visitors went home today, and poor baby has slept all afternoon so we have obviously exhausted her being so busy.  I'm sure our guests will need a week to recover, too.  ;)