Thursday, June 30, 2011

Playing cowbabies and Indians

 Then indian headresses were required - which we fashioned from feathers and elastic for him and ribbon with daisies sewn on for her. We talked of sweat lodges, smoke signals, peace pipes, dreams, living lightly on the land, and stolen land despoiled - we did a raindance and a war cry. Then whilst I put the cowbaby with her pop-gun to sleep a feast was set up - the famous American Indian staple of marshmallows and Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate, served up on the platters they had made themselves. After which we read Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, which inspired him to make sun signs to decorate the teepee. We're off to try and make a bow and arrows now! Happy days! (except my flipping return key is broken and Blogger is being weird -grrr!!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The comfort of strangers...

So following on from last night's post. I am feeling really odd about those I know reading my work. Any of my stuff, but especially this book in progress...

Why do we feel easier being completely honest and open with strangers rather than those closest to us? (see comments from last night's post - it's not just me!)

It's like we must be acting a role with our closest people, which doesn't seem right at all - they hold keys to our identity, our history, our limitations in their hands, they feel they know us because they have spent time with us, we owe them the honour of parenthood, sisterhood, friendship...and so we play the part... to keep their love and acceptance...even if their vision of us is not really who we are NOW...

Or perhaps it is because we know they can catch the bits of us which are not entirely authentic - the bits of us that we are still trying out, the bits where we have papered over the cracks...

Or that we do not really tell the truth to those we live with, we play nice, play politics - when the truth is actually far richer... and more potentially painful... it threatens to shatter our nice illusion of reality... but offers the potential to replace it with something more dynamic, more truthful in reality.

Our social constructs of relationships, of self, of how the world is threaten to crumble if too many of us chip away at the facade. We fear that we might find the foundations too shaky. We will find we live not in a palace but a house of cards.

We all do it I know - but us writer's threaten to be the little boy shouting "the emperor has no clothes!"

And so the comfort of strangers allows us to develop a persona of who we want to be, rather than who we have been - an image of ourselves to grow into, rather than the empty chrysallis of who we were.

This is my butterfly self which I share with you, dear reader. My highest hopes, my secret thoughts, my caterpillar self, all wormy and small. It is this self that can fly free - you and I have no bonds of attachment to it. So I can be be to be me. Because you don't know who I should be, was or am.

PS I know I said I wasn't going to write... couldn't help myself - anyway it is book related and it's helping my book process!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The book that cannot be read!

Here's the thing. I'm writing my book (about creative mothers), and I'm really pleased with it, with how it's taking shape. It is nowhere near finished, but I am please with how it is forming. I have tried to explain to non-writers how it works - it is a two fold process - partly it feels like you are groping in the dark, trying to find the form which is already there. It exists, but I have to reach it. And partly it is totally up to me to channel the sparks of inspiration that come to me to be born. It is a completely different experience to writing a blog, an article or dissertation.

I have started books before and abandoned them way before this stage. So I am really pleased. I am moving at a good pace, and it feels good, it is a challenge, but at the right level, I feel I have the experience, the ideas, the voice...

I know people are enjoying the blog. I know I can sell my articles. I know they like my style and that my subject matter touches a chord with many...

And yet...

The absolutely terror and embarrassment of showing my work, my baby. It is like walking in a shopping mall with no clothes on. I feel very vulnerable.

I am proud of it... and yet I am terrified.

I keep telling my husband not to look - I am a book virgin - please be gentle! Good friends are allowed to touch it, to attest its reality, so I can share my excitement. But not a word can be read...

How crazy is this?

I'm writing a book... which is going to be read...

But I don't want anyone to read it, well at least not anyone who knows me. Every word makes me cringe - it is too real, it is my deepest thoughts, my motivations, my ways of functioning laid bare on a plate. I don't want people to read it and cringe inwardly and say nice things. I want it to work for my readers, for it to change lives, to inspire, to be of interest, to set lightbulbs off... but I don't want anyone to read it...

Go figure!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Where I'm at...

A lovely weekend - dinner out and two lunches out. A half day watching a demo at the Cookery School with a dear friend on Friday. And SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much writing time. My mama batteries are recharged. My kids are being nice. I'm being nice. We're having fun again. Hurray!

The book is flying - printed out a first draft last night which I am now working through- 43,000 words -  most of the structure is there just some parts needing to be fleshed out. So my mind and heart are there right now.

So feel free to talk amongst yourselves... but no climbing on the furniture with shoes on!

Behave yourselves - I'll be back soon!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Something for the weekend: Desiderata

 (from the Latin for 'things desired as essential')

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

– Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), written in 1927

We had this hanging on our toilet wall for my whole childhood. I have read so many times, and am sure you have too. It is a good centring meditation which I felt in need of these past few weeks. And so I  looked it out again, and am sharing it with you. 
Happy weekend.

Have a lemon ginger cookie with love!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bye bye baby

The time has come. Weaning time. But it is bittersweet, as weaning always is for me. I love the closeness, yet I resent the being tied and demanded of to this extent. I never want it to end on a bad note, nothing drastic. We will follow our own internal timetables. But I know the sadness will come, and the hormones will slump. There will be tears as well as relief. One of the final chords of babyhood, our intimate physical connection, will be cut. Not visible like the umbilical chord, the first cutting, but just as real.
She doesn't need milk any more, she can eat caterpillars with a fork now!
As this is my last baba the feeling is even harder. This will be my last feed ever. But I am not prepared to go on and on, just for fear of this sadness. But the tears are rolling now. It is always a big step. And I know from friends who have weaned at seven months, two and a half years or four and a half, this bittersweet is always there. The visceral tug of the heart strings. I do not think that extending this will dissipate that sadness. It is inevitable. That is the nature of weaning.

But I am giving myself permission to, and ask that you respect this. I am not looking for people to encourage me to feed longer. I need to bring my energy back for myself, I am so drained and constant feeding and night waking is draining me beyond my capacity. She is 16 months. She has had a good stretch. My other two were 25 months and 16 months when I weaned them. In hindsight 25 months was too long for me. I feel comfortable that I have give them each a great start in life, but I do not need to be so tied to them. I feel a change of energy in feeding as they enter the toddler zone, a level of control that comes from their need to feed. A need I would prefer to meet in cuddles and kisses and other forms of togetherness.

I have made a decision to have an "end of baby celebration" when we wean, a kind of naming party - as we don't christen our babas. We will bury her placenta ( which is still in the freezer) and re name her- she has been "baby Ash" since she was born. When I stop feeding her she will become her full name, Aisling (which means dream or vision in Irish), to mark her move out of babyhood and into little-girl-dom, and as a way of marking our movement out of being parents to babies for the past six years.
Baby curls - oh how a mama's heart loves baby curls!

We will take each day at a time, it may be two weeks or two months hence. But I feel the change coming. She is more and more like a little girl every day - solid, cheeky, playing with the family, words and communication are tumbling out to surprise us almost daily. She is leaving her baby days behind and this is one more step on that road. I hope this ritual will help us all move forward in celebration and give us a chance to process our sadness. It will symbolise another step on our journey as parents, for us as a family, with three children, rather than two and a baby. And it will be a special day for Aisling, our sweet dream, herself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Mother's Prayer

All mothers,
Who art down the road, in the house next door, all around the world,
Hallowed be thy names,
Thy time will come, thy work will be done.
You give this day the daily bread - endless sandwiches (with crusts off, and cut the right way), wraps and pittas, with hummous or ham, jam or peanut butter, with butter or without, that will be left half-eaten.
Forgive us our shouting and lack of patience,
As we forgive those grubby fingered little sods who drew on the walls with our lipstick, sat on their sister, spat out their dinner and said mean things to their brother, and decided he'd prefer another mama.
And lead us not into temptation - three slices of cake is enough for a mama, and the grass is not always greener despite what you might think.
But deliver us from repeating cycles of abuse, hurt and destruction upon our precious charges,
For theirs is the future,
The power and the glory are not apparent right now,
Forever, and ever, and ever they seem to take to go to sleep, and it all seems a blur,
But one day we will see the results of this daily drudge and give thanks for our part in this miracle.
Ah men, don't know how good they've got it, or what they're missing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Let's Play, "Yes, Let's!"

"Let's play", she says.
"Yes let's", I say.

That's the game: "Yes, let's". It's an old drama game I used to play with my students back in my drama teacher days. Its purpose is to teach actors to accept situations offered them in improvisation situations rather than shutting down and rejecting possibilities. Every idea offered by one player must be accepted with open arms and hearts by the other participants, for example: "let's pretend we're on the moon", "yes, let's!"

Only she doesn't know it's a game... or that I'm consciously playing it.

I thought it might be worth a try after yesterday's day of hell on earth with my girl. And after my letter of quittance, another day dawned and I was still in the job. We needed a new approach: o new day called for a fresh start.

I realise that control is a major issue for my daughter (and of course me, in fact most of us - see here for a great post on Letting go of control someone shared with me yesterday). She struggles with constipation - a physical manifestation of control. She is three, learning about how much control she has/ wants/ could have. She is a middle child. Her baby sister quite close in age. She is in need of feeling in control. Of being the leader. And I think this could be contributing to her furies.

So we went to the playground and I played "yes, lets". She was in charge. Flitting from swing to slide, to hopscotch to playing pirates. And rather than resist, or saying "mama wants to sit down, why don't you play by yourself." or looking after a baby (who was asleep), I was right there with her. With every request either with my voice or actions I affirmed her desires: yes, lets. No resistance, resentment, control. I was right there with her, waiting for her lead.

Because it struck me how often children this age hear: no, not now, leave that, wait... what power to give her an hour of yes.

I'm hoping it'll contribute to a yes culture from her...

Monday, June 20, 2011

I quit

To whom it may concern,

Please let it be known that I am handing in my notice with direct effect.

I am not sure who would be willing to take on my responsibilities, but am sure that there are plenty more confident/ capable/ qualified/ mad people out there who would be only too delighted to fill this position. Sure the hours suck, as does the pay, and the employers are irrational and demanding, resorting to regular violent tantrums. But I know that you will find someone else who would have the patience to deal with our three-year-old's melt downs and demands, who would breastfeed our baby day and night, or just wean her, and would keep the house looking far more respectable. I know many who would kill to be a stay-at-home mama. Right now I feel I could just kill.

I quit. With direct effect.



P.S Can I take the car?

Happy birthday to me!

Too tired to bake my own cake - so a dear friend baked me one.
This is not it! It is eaten!
But this is one of my most favourite looking cakes ever in the world which I ate at an apple blossom picnic last month and  haven't had the chance to share with you.

Birthday wishes
For this year I wish myself...
My first finished book
A full night's sleep
A sexy red lipstick
Globe artichokes for supper tonight
And lots more lovely meals throughout the year
More head-space... and body space
A house with no more boxes
Lots and lots more wonderful books in my life
More learning, growth, discovery, understanding and healing
Good health for me and mine (and you and yours!)
Peace in my mind, my heart, my world
Sunshine in my garden, sunshine in my mind
Love - lots of love and happy togetherness with my wonderful friends and family
Lots more happy days!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blogging Carnival of Emotions: breaking taboos

Women all over the blogosphere have been tackling taboo emotional subjects over the past few days. It has become an informal blogging carnival as mothers have been looking at the different sides of oft denied emotions. Finding great personal courage to explore and express subjects which are usually left untouched.

The genie is out of the bottle. Together we are learning, healing, finding resources, strength and encouragement through reflection and unity rather than fear and judgement.

I am bringing all those that I know of here together, topics include post natal depression, anger, isolation... Do take time to read these insightful posts, and the discussions in the comments section underneath.

If you haven't already, do bring your energy and experiences to the party. I invite you to join the discussion - comment on a blog post, write your own and link up to this post, or link up a previous post you have written on the subject.

Rachael at the Variegated Life reflects on why she gets angry in Knowing Anger, it's all about needs... but does she really need what she thinks she does?

Laura at Nestled Under Rainbows deals with post natal depression and maternal burn out in PND

The New Mommy Files deals with Isolation- knowing you are not alone which is for you if you are still dealing with the baggage from a damaged childhood.

Earthenwitch leaves an important Note to self: it's not all bloody

My two posts - Is the silencing of mama anger a feminist issue?  and the white heat of mama anger deal with anger.

Apron Stringz opens a can of worms in Mama Rage (and later in the week opened a real can of worms when she discovered maggots all over her kitchen floor!)

Code Name Mama reflects on how it can all go wrong when we're out of our comfort zones in Forgetting Connection

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is the silencing of mama anger a feminist issue?

I have been thinking much the past few days about mama anger...after my post at the weekend. My dear girls are down with chicken pox, part of me is feeling bad about being angry, part of me is relieved that there was a reason for the hellish nature of last week.

Part of me is glad to have shared- I feel an ethical duty not just to show the sunshine on this blog, I certainly do not want to hold myself up as someone who has "got it all figured out" - far from it... the reality of life in my world is not always shiny, not at all...

I am glad I touched a chord with many...

I worry that some think I am perhaps a danger to my children or setting a bad example of acted out anger...The comment that that worried me most was the last... I had been expecting it...

I have just discovered a seminal feminist text on mothering: Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich. I didn't know that there was such a thing, nor did any of my feminist friends, so perhaps you didn't either. One of my major issues with feminism was the lack of acknowledgement of mothering (as I explained here and here). And so I wanted to share an extended extract from it with you on the topic of mothers' anger:

Opening with a quote she takes from a 19th Century manual for mothers, written, yes, by a man:
"can a mother expect to govern a child when she cannot govern herself?... She must learn to control herself, to subdue her own passions; she must set her children an example of meekness and equanimity... Let a mother feel grieved, and manifest her grief when her child does wrong; let her, with calmness and reflection use the discipline which the case requires; but never let her manifest irritated feeling, or give utterance to angry expression."  

She goes on to detail Marmee's instructions to the hot-tempered Jo in Little Women: 

" I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo; but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years."

"Mother love" Rich concludes " is supposed to be continuous, unconditional. Love and anger cannot coexist. female anger threatens the institution of motherhood."

Seems like not much has changed...

I definitely think when we, when I, scream at my kids, it is more than just screaming at their behaviour. It is screaming at the frustration which motherhood and children bring. The seemingly closed off world and opportunities which the children brought with them, which I didn't fully understand or anticipate. No one can understand the totality of the mother lode until she is up to her eyeballs with no way out: the lack of support, the drudgery which no one can, or will, take from your shoulders.This is the institution of motherhood as our society has built it: isolated, moralised, judged, the mother expected to be almost everything to her charges. I scream at the walls of Jericho, willing them to tumble down.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Caught red handed...

Summer for me is strawberries. It is perhaps no coincidence that we live across the road from a strawberry farm. Or that my birthday is mid strawberry season. So today I
took the strawberries outside to hull them in the sun, before my husband magicked them into jam.
I went inside to answer the phone... and when I came back out...
Lots of them had been nibbled... was it slugs, birds, mice...
Nope, here's our strawberry thief. Just one nibble out of each!
With her willing accomplice!
They take after their mama, I was the finest strawberry thief in the West according to my Papa.
And me, caught red-handed, devouring dada's finest strawberry jam - nice one PT!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The white heat of mama anger

Good mamas are supposed to be nice, gentle, calm, loving, quiet.... so goes the myth.

Bad mothers are angry, violent....

We aspire to be gentle parents. Peaceful parents. Natural parents. So we should know better, do better...right? 


Some scenes from this week...My child keeps pulling out my hair by standing on it repeatedly, the "baby" pressing the delete key on my computer with glee shrieks of delight, the three year old kicking her baby sister in the face on purpose, sitting on her, stamping on her, strangling her, having a half hour long tantrum because her toast was cut the wrong way, he hates school and doesn't want to put his clothes on and we're already twenty minutes late, she draws on the wall knowing she's not allowed, he calls his sister stupid idiot and stinky yoni, she wakes up the baby on purpose, screams "I'm not going to sleep" for an hour or more every night. Every request I make, every meal I produce is met with screams and whines and complaints...

Day after day after day...

These days would challenge the combined sainthood of the Dalai Lama, The Pope, Mother Theresa... (are you just a little suspicious that they cultivate such spiritual calm - none have been parents!)

Parenting shows up your yuckiest sides. The sides that, in any other circumstances you can deny. That until you are up to your eyes in exhaustion, frustration and pain, you do deny...

You see, I'm afraid I don't subscribe to the belief that children are born as perfect little angels who should be allowed to express everyone of their god given emotions, whereas all MY adult emotions are bad, wrong and to be supressed. I am supposed to jump with joy when my daughter expresses her anger. But I have to bottle mine. According to these philosophies I have to be kind and gentle and understanding - despite being screamed at whinged at, pulled and kicked and demanded of on very little sleep.

Sorry - no can do... no will do ... it's not right, normal or fair...

I respect I am bigger and scarier.
I respect I am stronger.
I respect that they are still little and learning.
I respect that I need to teach them how to handle their emotions and positive ways of dealing with conflict.
I respect that I will not hurt them in uncontrolled anger or for premeditiated punishment.
I was smacked as a child and don't agree with it.

And yet...

There are times when I have been nice, I have been firm, I have distracted and explained, cajoled and negotiated, shown other ways forward, in gentleness, kindness, giving the benefit of the doubt for tiredness, hunger, age.... I have taken deep breaths and tried to remove myself from the situation, but the child is beating on the door or hanging onto my leg.... and actually, you know what....

Somewhere, surely there is a place for my expression of physical and vocal frustration, of tit for tat in physical language, look, pinching hurts - demo- so that's why we don't do it. A firm shaking hold - "I feel "this" cross right now. Do you understand me?" So that they can see that actually I am not a door mat, a slave, a kicking post. I am a human with feelings, just like them.

At this moment very little differentiates me from the mama bear who swats her baby away in frustration - her swat is not meant to damage or injure and nor is mine. It is a warning shot, a physical boundary being drawn. This far and no further, little one, it says. No means no. I said no, I said no again and again, and I mean NO! Now back off....
Periyachi - fierce Hindu goddess mother 
So when my child screams and screams at me and I have exhausted all other options, I scream back. The pure scream from my belly. The scream of frustration. And it feels right. Better. It changes the tone, for us all.

You can keep your pillow pummeling and deep breathing - at this point I need instant physical relief. It is not just my children who have this need. Or this right.

Why is mama anger not OK? And dada anger for that matter? We are scared of it. We are scared of strangers judging us or reporting us to social services. We see stories on the news of hideous child abuse and it puts the fear of our own anger in us. Could that be me? Could someone think that might be me?

The feeling of anger and overwhelm is scary. Parenting books tell us to be calm and patient. These are written by people away from the coal face of parenting, sitting at quiet desks, at professional remove from the simmer cauldron of emotions that real-life parenting brings. Self-help books tell us to express our anger. But not HOW to do this when we are parents.

Anger is a primal emotion - it comes from the reptilian, primitive brain - the part of the brain that does not work with language - so trying to tell our children calmly that we are experiencing anger is both unreal and unrealistic.

I think we must, as parents, show our children what anger really is, how it looks, and how it can burn, though not too deep - the scars of the white heat of anger last a lifetime. I still remember my mother's anger. The physical pain, the terror of this unknown storm, the unpredictability. 

And now I am the mother storm. I dig my fingernails in, my voice rises to a screech, the tears of frustration rain down, my lightning temper flashes... and then the storm abates. We make our peace, the sun breaks through. We are all still here. Survivors. None of us blameless, all a little shaken.

We live to fight another day.

A couple of other great links on mama anger on the blogosphere this week
Apron Stringz: Mama Rage
Code Name Mama: Forgetting Connection

And some of my own...
I am your mama bear
Happy Candles
Dealing with Overwhelm

Is the silencing of mama anger a feminist issue?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Something for the weekend

A quote
"if a woman does a useless thing, none reproves her, 
if she does a harmful thing, few seek to restrain her; 
but if she seeks to imitate the goddess and to encourage others, 
all those in authority accuse her of corruption. 
So it is more dangerous to teach truth than to enter a gun powder store with a lighted torch."
                                                                                        Tsiang Samdup, The Book of Sayings

An image
A half eaten mandala cookie - is your cookie half eaten, or half still to eat? 

A thank you
It's been a big week at Dreaming Aloud with three top rating posts (To school or not to school
and two other rather contrasting posts - one on the beauty of co sleeping, and one on not wanting to go to 
bed and lose being me.... that was the second post in one day, so some of you might have missed my 
rather poignant, and humourous I am your mama bear)
I've had loads of new readers coming in via all your Facebook shares...
 51 shares of the Shared Sleep post, and counting... 

Thank you all those who share the love!

A request
If you like what you're reading here why not share the love (if you don't already!)!
  •  Add me to your blog roll
  •  Sign up as a Facebook follower 
  • or a Google Follower
  • or get Dreaming Aloud by email using Feedburner.
 Another thank you...

Top referring URLs this week...





All time
2011 Jun 4 09:00 – 2011 Jun 11 08:00
Referring URLs
Gypsy for her Magic Mums share                                                   4

So do head over and check them out too!

A reminder- that she is cute and huggable and stops screaming - sometimes!

A question
What are you doing this weekend to share the love with yourself? 
Me? I've got women's group and hopefully a couple of hours dedicated book writing time 
- am loving it!

Happy Weekend!


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