Five nice things

Five nice things that happened this week:

One. Feeling alive and salty

We went into Byron one evening, after a sweltering day hanging at home in the Alstonville plateau. It was ten degrees cooler by the coast. We ate Japanese at our favourite Byron eat place, Japonaise Kitchen. The beach was choppy and blowy, and it was already 6pm. But my daughter and I ran and danced and sung into the ocean. We belly flopped into the waves. I drank the salt water. We felt alive. Then we drank a coconut.

Two. Crying and feeling

I was meant to be working, and the girls and Greg were planning to see Moana at the cinema. I felt exceedingly jealous, but then hung up my keyboard, so I could come along too. I think I started crying in the first five minutes, when Moana sung, and didn’t stop until the credits stopped rolling. I can’t cry about my own problems, but somehow, Disney gets me by the tear ducts. Then Elka got a Cyndi Lauper inspired undercut, and my day was complete.

Three. Drawing and painting

The girls were busy pottering. Greg was working, I think. I have a loose commitment to myself to join the 52 Week Illustration Challenge. I say loose, because if I miss a week or two or three, I won’t be hard on myself. But if I have time, I will use it to paint or draw, instead of aimlessly looking on my phone. I drew a picture of a flying snail called Cleo, and a jealous flamingo.

Four. Playing on rocks

I was given a voucher to get a family photoshoot done by Kate Nutt, which is very lucky, because she is very good. We met at Shelly’s Beach, and the girls played with bubbles and hula hoops. When the shoot had finished, I followed the girls along the black rocks, while Greg bought fish and chips. They skipped from rock to rock, and deliberately sunk themselves, fully clothed, into pools. Picked up starfish which looked like star rainbows, instead of starfish. I didn’t think about anything much as I followed them, except that maybe spending as much time in nature with your kids is about the best piece of parenting advice I could ever offer.

Five. A string of nice moments

Elka went on the big waterslide with her cousins, so I took Rosie down the road to the Serpentine in Ballina, which is my favourite waterside place, because you can sit under a giant weeping fig, and run into the water when you feel like it. We were surrounded by families at first. By lunch time, most people had gone. Rosie put sand and water into the bucket, tipped it out and did it again on repeat for a couple of hours. Under the weeping fig, I decided that if all I can do as a parent is give my children a string of nice moments and pleasant feelings, then that’s okay.

How was your week? Tell me your five nice moments?


Creative busy parents


Hello. How’s your week been? I’ve been a little hamster on a race wheel since getting back from our tour. Run, hamster, run! Most days, I’ve written 6,000 + words for work. One day, I handed my work in at 5pm then made Tinkerbell costumers and a cake for my daughter’s happy cakey day. I made my children call me Super Mum, and vetoed all complaints immediately.

Let’s talk about this busy, busy thing, shall we? Hands up if you are busy. Yes… I see lots of raised hands. Here we are, all scampering around to make party costumes, and cakes, and fulfil our work commitments, and make sure our children are completely happy and satisfied at all times… That last one is an impossible goal. Let’s just aim for – alive and mostly well.

I’ve always thrived on busy, I have to admit. I used to love my busy, sometimes stressful job at the art gallery for that reason. Someone likened working as an art gallery attendant to a duck on water. And we were, busy peddling away to run the place, while appearing calm and glidey to anyone who was watching.

I like tight deadlines, because they get me cracking. I like organising the million of things to do in my head, like an invisible calendar. I like the satisfaction when it all comes together. And as you saw from my book tour post – I am a crazy lady. I feel like I can take on a million things, and stretch like a rubber band to take on just a little bit more.

We’ve had periods in our busy life, which have been more busy than others. Like that time when my husband worked 6-7 days a week. I was writing entire educational books in five weeks.  We had a newborn and a preschooler. AND we tried to renovate. Actually, we did renovate. My husband pulled up all the carpets, tiled, and painted the whole interior. Yes, it was a crazy time. And looking back, we can’t believe we pulled it off.

Generally, we’ve both worked a fair bit since becoming parents. We throw the parenting baton between us. I send off my documents, just as he’s heading out the door to a care shift.

Somehow, we’ve found a way to do a lot, and not feel too hectic while we do it.

But, there are consequences. And sometimes the rubber band can stretch too tightly. It breaks. Or pops off your finger, and pokes someone in the eye. Gosh that hurts.

Like that time, last year, when we thought that on top of all the other things we do, we could start a brand new music project extraordinaire called The Quincys, where we’d release a new song every month, plus an illustrated (sometimes animated) story, an animated video clip, an activity and a learning resource EVERY MONTH! I figured I would just reduce time spent on my blog, and reallocate it.

Of course, we were way too optimistic. And a few months in, I started to feel the pressure. My kids started to complain about the Quincys, because it was taking time away from them. And we realised we needed to pull back. We decided to just release the song, and the video each month. And now, we’ve put the project on ice until my book events have quietened down again, and we can dedicate serious time to producing an album.

Doing creative activities is so fun. And so fulfilling. And when you make it something which the kids can be involved in, it’s extra fun. But sometimes it’s too much, and the result is a deficit of creativity.

At the end of that particular crazy period, I found I couldn’t do anything. I sat down to write, and nothing came. I tried drawing, but just got frustrated. Even I had reached my limit.

I took time out. It was summer, and family were here. So I chilled out beside lakes. I READ NOVELS! Lots of them. I thought about Facebook occasionally, but didn’t bother checking it. I sucked up time with my small ones like it was oxygen.

So where are we at now? The repercussions of this recent busy time aren’t so intense. I feel a little less creative. And a little less motivated. But I am just going to bed a bit earlier, keeping on top of my exercise, and eating well. I am trying not to be too hectic – though that rush to get kids and husband out the door on time for preschool gets me every week. I know my creative mojo will bounce back soon.

In general, I am a big believer in finding your balance between busy, parenting life and creativity. I think the right amount of creativity can help us parent better, and be more fulfilled as a person.

Recently, I did a podcast for a local community radio show, Parenting, Birth and Beyond, which is a national community radio series about parenting. I talked about fostering creativity in motherhood. You can listen here.

How do you balance creativity in parenthood? Do you have any hot tips?

Regrets, I’ve had a few :: How we manage our regrets

regrets i've had a few, frank sinatra

In the days before becoming a parent, it felt like every second decision was regret-worthy.

Why did I leave that school? Why didn’t I take that job in Spain? Why didn’t I spend more time planning my wedding? Why didn’t I include my close friends in my bridal party? Why didn’t I travel more with my husband?

Blah blah blah. Boring, first-world regrets.

They were the kinds of thoughts that kept me up at night, going around and round my head like a merry-go-round.

And then I became a parent.

Regrets like those no longer have a place in my mind because had I done my year in Europe differently; had I travelled more before having kids; had I stayed at the same school – the whole course of my life would be different, and I wouldn’t have the two little snugglets in particular that I have today.

And that is a thought that doesn’t even bear thinking.

These days, I have a different kind of regret. It’s not focused on vacuous life decisions, but on the tiny decisions that happen through the day. Like parking before the sleepy toddler fell asleep only to completely stuff her sleep pattern for the day. Or taking the kids out to a local music concert, knowing it would wreck them for the rest of the weekend. Or getting frustrated at my baby because she is crying, instead of sleeping.

Somehow, these little slip-ups are so easy to regret. And it’s not really a merry-go-round anymore, but a layering effect, where one regret slaps on top of the other and if you had to excavate the mind of a mother, you’d find endless strata of regret sediment down there.

But aren’t these just as pointless as the big, vacuous regrets – these little hiccups that cause so much unnecessary worry?

I liked this thing I read in Womankind {new favourite magazine} that was about taking perspective. Every time something bad occurs, or you feel bad about something, drift upwards and take a bird’s eye view of the situation.

See yourself, with your little one, and whoever else is around. Then zoom out again. Look at your house. Your neighbour’s house. Zoom out. Look down on the town you live in. Keep going. Imagine the countryside around you, then the outline of your state – your country. And then you are so far above your problem, you see the whole world.

You and your tiny little issue are just a speck in the proverbial mass of other people’s existences and problems.

I think regrets have a tiny purpose; and that is they help us stay on course. Regrets mean we wish we could have done something differently. Which is equal to wishing we could do something differently in the future.

And though we might not rectify all wrongs {if they even are such terrible wrongs in the first place}, at least we try to. And maybe the ‘wrongs’ get lesser as we more further through our journey.

What’s your relationship with regret? Maybe you have got it way more sorted than me! Hope you have a lovely, relatively regret-less day.

Linking with Essentially Jess.

Shades of guilt

shades of guilt

It’s not new – this guilt thing. It’s as intrinsic to motherhood as loving a child. With loving a child comes a sense of falling short – for me, at least. There is just so much responsibility in raising a human. Not only do we have to provide shelter, food and the basics, but we ideally need to provide stability, peace and of course a constant stream of love.

And even when the basics, and the not-so-basics are met, there’s still a sense of falling short.

This week I have been feeling a little more sensitive than usual, so the weight of those times I lost my temper, or got agitated at my kids pressed heavily.

Don’t take their emotions so personally, I tell myself.

But as a mum, it’s hard not to. It’s easy to take the final meltdown and track back to that one time earlier this morning you forgot to give them morning tea. Or that one time when you lost it at your partner in front of them. Or that one time you rushed them out the door for no good reason at all.

And suddenly the meltdown feels completely personal.

Then something subtle and tiny changed for me in recent days.

My youngest and I are usually first awake, and have a ritual of playing Lego together in the living room while we wait for her sister to wake. I sip my tea. She chats and fiddles with blocks.

The last couple of days, I have got myself comfortable, half shut my eyes, and breathed in. Deeply. I lighten. I warm. I breathe. It’s kind of a meditation, but I am still present with my daughter, answering her questions, and acknowledging her.

It barely lasts a minute, but that brief meditation somehow sets the tone for the rest of the day. I am way less ruffled. Get out the door, no worries. Huge explosion in the play park. Centred. In control. Responsive. But not ruffled. Not blaming myself.

I feel stronger somehow.

I don’t know… I am not setting out to be a perfect mother, and feel redeemed of all guilt. I think guilt has a place in mothering. It keeps us in check. We lose our temper, guilt eats away at us, and then we try hard not to lose our temper.

But any little kindness towards myself seems to go a long way towards a peaceful, sunshine-y home, don’t you reckon?

Do you have any little rituals or secrets that help you find peace in your day? Have a lovely Mother’s Day tomorrow. Hope you are all treated spectacularly, and have no guilt whatsoever.

Princess problem

my little princess

Something very strange happened this week. I bought a princess.

Not only that – I bought:

1 Disney princess magazine from Coles

1 Frozen activity book from the bookshop

And spent Saturday afternoon watching Cinderella on the computer with my girls.

‘Why are you suddenly so into princesses?’ asked my five-year-old.

‘Um…’ I thought. ‘It’s not that I am into them. It’s just I have relaxed on the whole princess thing.’

‘Oh good,’ she said.

My daughter and I have had countless conversations about princesses. And let me pause for a minute to say that ‘princesses’ refers to the female lead characters from Disney cartoons, such as Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, and of course, Elsa and Anna.

When I became a parent, I envisioned a house full of Steiner rainbows and handmade crafts. As we progressed further into this parenting caper, images of those ‘princesses’ filled me with dread.

Because the more images we saw, the more my daughter fell in love with them.

And the more she fell in love with them, the more I resisted those images filling our world.

The princess problem also applied to Barbie.

‘Why don’t you like Barbie?’ my daughter kept asking.

It was hard to answer. Why don’t I like Barbie? I certainly did as a kid. I loved her.

As a parent, my answer went something like this {though a bit more garbled}:

‘I think it’s that Barbie represents some ideal of beauty, that isn’t real. And I don’t like the fact that girls get into wanting to look like Barbie. And I don’t like that Barbie is plastic, and when you get sick of her, she just ends up in landfill, which is bad for the planet. And I also don’t like that big corporations are making money out of these plastic toys, while things like that are often made unethically etc etc.’

The same applied to princesses and in particular, princess dresses. I think my main resistance against the dresses was a concern that my daughter’s unique ‘princess’ style would be homogenised and forgotten. I told her so.

Surprisingly, she kind of got my garbled answer.

Enter Frozen.

We were so late on the Frozen bandwagon.

My first knowledge of Frozen came from Facebook, and reading about parents’ and children’s obsession with the Scandinavian princesses.

By December last year, the interest had snowballed {pun intended}, and Frozen became the main topic of just about every conversation my daughter had with us, or with her little friends.

She still hadn’t seen it. {But she knew she loved Anna best.}

One day, when she was sick, we sat down and watched it together. It seemed unfair that all her little friends had seen it, and she hadn’t even though she was clearly interested.

As most of you know, it’s a great movie.

She watched it a second time shortly after, then a third. Like most girls her age, she can recite the whole movie. Even her two-year-old sister knows all the songs and bursts out singing them at numerous points through the day.

Most imaginary games revolve around Elsa and Anna. Or some other princess. It even becomes a currency for friendship.

‘Eva gave me a Frozen sticker because I am not allowed princess stuff,’ she said on her first day of preschool this year. ‘I like Eva.’

Heart sink.

It seemed incongruent ~ her love of Disney princesses was so great, yet her mother continued to deprive her.

Someone told me that saying ‘no’ just fuelled the fire.

Why was I holding out?

When she asked repeatedly for an Anna doll, I told her that if we found one in an op-shop that no-one wanted anymore, or on eBay, we could get it.

‘Wow, really Mummy?’ she asked. How little I have to do to please her.

We found a Snow White doll on eBay the other day. It’s cloth, and ‘used’. I guess that’s fine.

A friend gave her and her sister Elsa dresses, which were designed by her friend. They’re pretty cool.

My husband and I chat about this interest in princesses. Why are we, as parents, so resistant? And are princesses really so bad?

I love the fairy tales these Disney movies are based on. The Snow QueenThe Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastCinderella. These fairy tales are so complex. Rich in character, and cut so close humanity’s bones.

In my mind, the Snow Queen is a powerful story about coming of age. It’s about two pure, innocent children, who love each other dearly. Then Kaye, the little boy, is inflicted with a grain of sand from the demon’s broken mirror. The fleck causes Kaye to start feeling bitter towards his little friend, Gerda. He is mean, and becomes hateful.

I feel Hans Christian Andersen was reflecting on how at some point, kids can become nasty. Their goodness, and purity wears off.

‘You know most of these characters aren’t actually princesses,’ I tell my daughter.

But ‘princess’ is the archetype. When you think of the archetypical, fairy tale princess, she is pure, good, lovely, kind, young – she’s a maiden.

She is pre-mother. And she often battles against a crone – an old spinster/witch archetype.

In fact, most of these stories are based on the triple goddess archetype – a maiden, a mother, a crone, which represents the three stages in a female’s life. There is a battle for power between the three characters. It is the princess archetype – the maiden, who we want to win. And she does. ‘Happily Ever After.’

Maybe there’s a psychological reason our little children are deeply attracted to this good, lovely, pure archetype. She becomes a role-model, almost. Of goodness.

Watching Cinderella on the weekend, we so long for Cinderella to have all she’s ever dreamt of because she is the good one. She’s pure, innocent, kind, and is treated badly by her step mother and sisters.

The archetype rule applies also to the prince.

In fairy tales, the prince archetype is good. Except in Frozen, the prince is kind, stoic, strong, calm, honest…Even Harry Potter could be considered a prince archetype.

And is it such a bad role model?

As we know, human character is much more complex that these simple archetypes. But perhaps they set a bar, or standard for goodness. An aspiration.

I’ve obviously given princesses way too much thought. You could say they are dominating my life right now.

But loosening my parenting grip on my princess problem has been to the delight of my lovely five-year-old.

And even after all my princess purchases, she put on a pink dress with puff-sleeves that my grandma made me for a ballet performance when I was about six.

‘I look like Cinderella, don’t I Mum?’

She’s still her. No princess merchandise is going to change that.

Do you have a princess problem? How do you feel about all this?