Saturday, 30 August 2008

Feminism, motherhood and all that lies in-between

My brain has been consumed lately with the difficulty that I am having in finding an acceptable balance between mothering Lily and completing my PhD (with any degree of sanity left intact). Interestingly, several posts have popped up in the blogosphere on this very topic and they have really spoken to me.

First Loobylu posted on a book that she just finished devouring on this issue: "The Divided Heart" by Rachel Power. The Divided Heart specifically focuses on the challenges of being both a mother and an artist, but I think that the struggle to find balance applies equally to range of other professions. I particularly related to this particular part of Loobylu's post:
[Power] looks at the mythology that surrounds art and (usually male) artists, and she talks about motherhood and domestic life still being feminism’s final frontier [emphasis added]; the fact that our generation has grown up believing that it is possible to do everything (and let me tell you - reading my 80s journal is a blinding testament to that! I was going to be a film making / writer / mother of FIVE according to my 17 year old self) only to discover somewhere along the track - around the time of breastfeeding is the general impression - that despite the best of intentions of all parties, this is not always so easy. Each of the women she talks to have pretty similar struggles - and her point is made so very clearly that it’s a hard thing to be both a passionate mother and a passionate artist.
This issue of how mothering fits into feminism is particularly interesting to me. I thought that one of Loobylu's commenters had a great point:
I have never studied feminism so I don’t know much about it, but the issue I have is how little respect mothering (in fact, parenting) is given by society. How many times have I heard women say they go to work to be respected and to be a good role model for their kids: why is staying at home looking after, and bringing up your children not considered a good role model in our society? My mum was telling me just last night that in Poland when I was born, women were given THREE YEARS of fully-paid maternity leave. And women there were always expected to follow similar career paths as men, so mothering was just allowed to fit in with job/career. While I’m sure it wasn’t as perfect as it sounds (for a start, it was a totalitarian Communist regime!) it sounds pretty good!
This is one of the big things that I have been thinking about lately. I kind of want to say; well feminism is all about creating choice and so the fact that many women do not feel as though they have the choice to stay home with their kids is partly because feminism has not gone far enough - has not succeeded in changing our very patriarchal workplaces enough to make them sufficiently flexible for such a choice to be made...

However, I think, perhaps, this would be a little bit too simplistic. There are some types of feminism and feminists that seem to have identified the home (and, therefore, children) as the site of oppression for women. According to this version of feminism one asserts one's independence and freedom by outsourcing the drudgery of housework and childcare. If they would just bring in a cleaner and make use of childcare, then women, like men, can be high achieving professionals. Well that's fine, but what about those women who actually want to look after their young children on a full-time basis (or even, gasp, do some housework)? Where do they fit into this particular world-view? Sometimes I get the impression that they are essentially seen as letting down the team - as dupes who have fallen for the patriarchal expectation of women and who are letting themselves become martyrs.

It is almost as though there is a limit to how much you are allowed to give to your children - step over that line and you are giving up too much of yourself or somehow setting an unfair standard. Here I am reminded of a post that went up a while ago on Bitch PhD. The author, Sybil Vane, was writing about her concerns about taking her toddler on an airplane and how it had made her think about her bias "against women who breastfeed longer than a year-ish." She explains that she feels this way: "[n]ot because I think it is in some way 'inappropriate' or 'icky' or whatever dumb sh*t people say, but because I am apt to conclude that the woman in question is more self-sacrificing (of her time, her body, her patience) in the name of motherhood than I think is warranted."

Now, to be very fair, Vane acknowledged that this attitude of her was actually a sexist one. She argues that "I would never dream of judging any paternal behavior in a similar way." However, many of her commenters are not so circumspect:
Re: the breastfeeding thing, I tend to get my hackles up around moms who nurse that long mostly because I've met so many who are sanctimonious and downright obnoxious about their epidural-refusing, home-birthing, cloth-diapering, homeopathic-remedy-researching, vaccine-refusing, organic-puree-making, sling-wearing, Montessori-homeschooling, Dr.-Sears-quoting, Bradley-methoding, designer-parenting, career-deferring ways; and that such moms will usually find some way to unsubtly insult my parenting within 30 minutes of meeting them. Is that sexist? I mean, the whole mommy-perfectionism thing is sexist, yes; but is it sexist to feel defensive because I'm afraid my own mommying is going to be trashed? Genuinely asking here.

(Standard disclaimer about I don't think any of those parenting choices are BAD; I just don't appreciate how they've somehow become the markers of moms who have proven they aren't BAD AND SELFISH BY NOT SERVING UP THEIR VERY OWN HEARTS EVERY DAY FOR BREAKFAST!!! After all, you don't HAVE to work, and they're only small for such a short time, and you can never get those years back so why would you even think of having your own identity [emphasis added], etc. blah blah blah bullsh*t.)
[Blue Milk also has a great post on this particular post and discussion.]

With attitudes like these floating around it is, perhaps, unsurprising that not a lot of consideration is put into how we could make the choice to stay home full-time (while still maintaining a strong sense of self-worth, identity, and perhaps even a career to go back to) a viable option. And it is on this very point that another recent blog post really spoke to me. Shannon Breen guest posts on Blue Milk under the title, Reflections on ‘mother work’ by a stay-at-home mother. She writes:
Mother work has been recast into an indulgent luxury. ‘The only women who don’t work are women like you, Shannon, who have rich husbands to support them,’ a well-paid working mother tells me. Her implication is clear. Unlike the Prime Minister’s wife, I have chosen to be an ‘appendage’. [...]

Later, I reflect on her accusation. I do volunteer work, and study part-time. Why do I have to justify looking after my children? In short, my choice not to avail myself of long-day child-care so I can add another (paid) job to my already busy life challenges the orthodoxy; distrust of long-day care is a heresy. Daphne de Marneffe writes in her 2005 book, Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life, ‘In the current climate, one reflexive reply to (a mother’s) emotional concerns is that they are the luxury of the few; for most, economic realities preclude such subtle objections.’ De Marneffe argues women’s feelings of unease about leaving their young children are not considered ‘reality’, and concludes, ‘…one sometimes gets the sense that economic reality is invoked to shut us up.’
Certainly it does seem that economics and capitalism (for want of a better word) is part of the issue here. The dual-income family is such a norm these days - such a necessity almost - that it is simply unthinkable to ask for society to be flexible enough to allow one person to step out of the workforce for years on end. However, surely this is a choice that we have made and, therefore, surely this is a choice that we can question. What is the cost of being a dual-income family with young children? What do you miss out on by having to go back to work when your every instinct is telling you to stay with your baby and nurture them? Perhaps more to the point: what does your baby miss out on?

The real difficulty that I see is that somehow asking these questions seems to immediately cast you as being an anti-feminist conservative who wants to turn back the clock and 'put women in their place'. But why is it that it is children whose needs have had to be compromised in order for feminism to eek out a little bit of progress for women? Are they just easy targets? Is it simply because it is so much harder to change the rest of the world?

Perhaps it was thought that in an ideal (feminist) world we would have a society that was truly supportive of mothers (of all parents, in fact) - one in which workplaces were far more flexible places; work hours were far more reasonable; living costs were far more affordable on a single income (or two part-time incomes); child-rearing far more respected; children far more welcome in public places (including places of work); etc. but that since that wasn't going to happen any time soon the easiest way to achieve equality was to make childcare accessible and affordable (though that certainly hasn't happened anyway). The other goals were simply set aside as being too hard, too idealist... (Or maybe they were never on the agenda? I don't really know.)

Breen deals with this issue well:
There’s no doubt the early second-wave feminists claimed the family was a potential source of oppression, and that women had a right to equality in the workplace. They’re still right on both counts. If they made a mistake, it was in underestimating the joy, satisfaction and (to use a 70s phrase) ‘self-actualisation’ many women achieve through mothering. Today, the fight for equality in the workplace has overshadowed the right to ‘choose’ mother work. But they needn’t be mutually exclusive. Melbourne academic Marty Grace argues for a ‘third wave’ feminist movement to ‘recognise that caring for children is valuable, not only because it is precious, important and worth doing, but because it takes up time.’
I think that it is true that there certainly is a stream of feminism - let's call it 'third wave' - that is actually taking on the challenge of fighting for 'the ideal'. It is certainly this wave of feminism that I most relate to - although I must admit to a real lack of understanding as to its dimensions before I became a mother myself. I knew that I would find the task of balancing motherhood and paid work (or 'public' work) difficult. I also knew that I wanted society to value and support the work of mothering far more than I thought that it did. However, I also thought that I would be happy to put Lily into childcare (part-time) at the age of 6 months in order to get on and finish my PhD. I thought that I would need to "do something for myself" away from her for significant amounts of time in order to feel like a balanced person. It was in this that I was quite mistaken. As Breen puts it, I underestimated the joy, satisfaction and ‘self-actualisation’ that I could achieve through mothering.

That has been the real eye-opener for me. I really didn't expect to find mothering so satisfying all by itself. Yes, it can be unrelenting and utterly exhausting. Yes, it can be isolating and even tedious at times. However, it is not my time with Lily that I really resent - it is the time that I am forced to spend away from her.

Actually, that isn't a completely honest picture. Certainly it is useful to take a little time to 'recharge the batteries' so to speak. An occasional coffee with a friend (uninterrupted by requests for a 'feed' or a story), a yoga class (yet to be achieved, but certainly on the agenda), a couple of hours teaching at university, a quick blog post, even a bit of my PhD. But all of these things I can do while I know that Lily is napping, or happily in the care of her father or another close family member, and within a time period that doesn't compromise our connection or our breastfeeding relationship. For me, anything else would not be pleasurable.

Of course, I don't wish to question the right of other mothers (other parents, in fact) to find a different balance that works for them. For some that does include childcare. For some it may include full-time work. What I am challenging is the idea that the option to look after my child full-time is some sort of cop out - that somehow I am being both self-indulgent and a martyr who is letting down the feminist cause on all fronts.

I am reminded of a friend of mine who chose to go back to work one day a week when her son was around 12 months old and found herself accused of being lazy. She didn't want to work more than one day a week because she wanted to spend the time with her son who she could see was growing up incredibly fast. She also didn't want to put him in childcare and one day a week was a reasonable amount of time for her husband to be home to look after him (given his current position, etc.). She certainly wasn't doing it because she was lazy. She openly admits that she looks forward to her two half work days because work is so much easier than looking after her son all day. Full-time mothering is bloody hard work. However, to many people working only one day a week wasn't a valid choice. Instead they saw her as being lazy. Surely there is something really wrong with that.


I'm worried that we're setting a bad example for our beautiful L.  She has recently taken a rather   strong interest in our hot drinks.  They all used to be "tea", but lately she has started distinguishing between "tea" and "coppi" [coffee].  

This morning in the midst of the kitchen-breakfast-hubbub L. asked C. for a cuddle.  As soon as she was elevated enough to see the top of the kitchen bench she reached out for C's, still empty, coffee glass and said:

"Coppi. I need it".


Friday, 29 August 2008

Learning to sew

For quite some time I have been wanting to learn to sew (about 12 years, I'd say). I used to circle the 'learn to sew' courses at tech colleges etc. but I never actually enrolled.

Then a family member kindly offered to teach me how to sew. She took me to Lincraft where we purchased some fabric and a skirt pattern (then insisted on paying!) and then patiently walked me through the process of sewing a skirt from a pattern. Well the skirt was great; I wore it all winter, but I still didn't feel as though I knew how to sew and I wasn't sure how to get the practice and instruction that I felt that I needed.

Finally the Christmas before last I requested a sewing machine as a present from my parents (it was also for my birthday since they are not cheap) and then I let it sit there intimidating me for a while. After a while I decided that I better make some use out of it and I sewed something very practical and simple for the house. It seemed to work just fine and so I felt a little more confident, but I still felt as though I needed more instruction. However, I didn't really have time to go out and get instruction (since Lily was very little at this point) and so I did nothing for while.

Then my sister-in-law gave Lily a gorgeous doll for Christmas. She got the pattern from One Red Robin and after a while of looking at the doll I decided that perhaps I would give it a try. So, I downloaded the pattern, purchased some fabric and thread, and I set about following the instructions as though I was cooking from a recipe book. To my absolute shock it worked. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it actually worked.

Well, this was pretty exciting actually and so I downloaded another doll pattern (this time from Inside a Black Apple) and went through the same process. Once again it worked. Hurray! [Yeah, I know it needs a face. The instructions say to paint it on which completely terrified me and so I left it blank. I did start sewing on one in felt the other day though and now she looks a tiny little bit like Jemima from Playschool - 'cause Lily was asking to cuddle Jemima.]

Around this time I borrowed the wonderful Softies book from my sister-in-law and with my new found confidence proceeded to make "Boo boo" and "Dar". Lily loved them and I started to get really into this sewing gig. It was really dawning on me that I really didn't need to wait until I had the time to enrol in a course. Of course there are plenty of tricky skills that would be great to learn about sewing, but the basics, it seems, can just be learned 'on the job' - by doing. It is sort of like cooking. You just have to make sure that you have all the right materials (ingredients) on hand and then you need to follow the instructions carefully - the rest will follow.

My most recent project (with the exception of Lily's Steiner baby) was a dress for Lily. This was a great beginner's project because the pattern was printed directly on the fabric. Once again my lovely sister-in-law was the instigator of this one - she bought it for me from here for my birthday (and then gave it to me ridiculously early!). The has been my favourite sewing project so far. Not only does it really suit Lily, but she absolutely loves it and asks to "Pu-on" (put it on) every time she sees it.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The heart just melts

P is taking Lily out for the afternoon so that I can get some more of my PhD done. As they left Lily blew me a kiss and said "I love you. Bye bye."


Monday, 25 August 2008

A day in the life of

Half Pint Pixie proposed a blog carnival for Monday 25 August - a day in your life. Here is my post for the carnival. It's a little late (and little bit too long), but hopefully you'll understand why when you read it.

P brings Lily into the spare room where I am sleeping because she is ready for a feed. Last night this was at midnight so 4:40 is pretty good. After a few feeds she climbs up on my chest and goes back to sleep.

7:30am Lily wakes up, has a quick feed and then sits up saying "Papa, cuddle." We go and find P in the bathroom where he is finishing a shave. He overslept and is running late for work.

I jump in the shower while P gets Lily dressed. When I get out Lily comes running into the room asking for a cuddle. Her jeans are almost falling off because she is wearing a disposable nappy (required by childcare). I give her a cuddle then pop her on to the couch in the study while I get dressed.

We go out into the kitchen where P is making porridge and coffee. I run around trying to locate the childcare enrolment form and Lily's immunisation records. (Note to self: must do some filing). I pack her bag with the lunch that I prepared last night (soba noodles, tempeh & broccoli; half a banana; a mandarin; some corn thins and a container of dried fruit).

Lily doesn't want any breakfast of her own, but happily eats from our bowls. She asks to watch Playschool and watches it while sitting on P's lap.

8:45am We all pile into the car and drive into town. I remind Lily that she is going to "school" and that I will be going away and then coming back. "Yes" she says. "Cuddle." Oh dear.

P and I are both feeling sick in the stomach about taking our baby to childcare. We discuss other options (again) and I contemplate quitting my PhD (again). We agree to see how it goes.

9:05am I sign Lily into care and take her into the "mini-toddlers" room. She trots off to play with some toys and I am not sure whether to stay or go. I ask the carers to call me immediately if she gets distressed. After a while I tell her that I am going to leave and say bye bye. "See you soon," she says, and keeps playing. I leave bemused.

9:25am I hang around reception trying to lodge our paperwork and then realise that I have left my wallet in the car when I go to pay. I leave my laptop and mobile at the front desk and go to get my wallet.

9:40am The phone is in use and so they cannot process my credit card. I try to decide whether to stay or leave. The receptionist offers to go and check on Lily. I accept, relieved. She returns to say that she is quite upset and so I go straight in.

9:45am Lily is crying and cuddling me. She wants a feed so we sit down on a couch and have one. Afterwards we go to sit down with the other children who are eating morning tea. Lily wraps herself around me and snuggles into me. The little girl sitting next to us, K, says to me "I want my mummy." My heart breaks.

10:00am A little boy opposite us is being forced to finish his food. Obviously it distresses him and I feel glad that I have told them (verbally and in writing) never to force Lily to eat. I worry that this might not be enough though...

10:20am Morning tea is over and the children are playing with toy cars. The childcare workers take advantage of my presence to get some jobs done. I feel uncomfortable disciplining the kids, but have to step in a few times when they hit each other or snatch toys. Lily is happy again now and playing with a doll (her 'baby').

10:45am The children are all taken outside to play. Lily takes off to the far end of the play area and I wonder if she would even notice if I wasn't there. Not long afterwards I see that she is visually checking to make sure that I am still around.

11:00am Lily has gotten so involved in her play that she forgets where I am sitting and wanders inside to find me. She gets upset when she is gently redirected outside and so I go to her. She wants to feed again and so we go inside. K sees us leaving and wants to come too. Poor kid.

11:10am Lily is starting to fall asleep while feeding and so I ask her if she would like to go home. She sits up and decides that she would like to play outside again. We go out and K comes running over to me in tears. I put Lily down to play and pick up K. She sits on my lap while Lily plays in the sandpit.

11:30am It is lunchtime and the kids are brought inside to wash their hands. Lily wants to feed again and so I decide to take her home. We gather our things and head to the car. On the way out I check my mobile. I have missed three calls from P (worried about Lily) and have two text messages from people in my mother's group wanting to catch up in the afternoon.

11:50am Lily is starting to fall asleep while feeding in the car and so I ask her if she would like to sit in her chair and go home. She sits up and asks for a "bissie". On the way home she eats her cracker and yawns, but doesn't fall asleep.

12:05pm Lily and I eat our lunch. I wonder when she will go to sleep. I get another text from someone else in mother's group about this afternoon. Monday is a long day for all of us.

12:30pm Lily wants to play outside and so we open up the sandpit. She pours me "cups-a-teas" and I "drink" them. Then she wants to draw with the pavement chalk and so we get some out. We add to P's street-scape from the day before and I draw a dodgey butterfly.

1:10pm We go back inside and I take the opportunity to grab a muffin and a chai. I have another text from another person in mother's group wanting to know how Lily went in childcare and to let me know of still more plans for the afternoon. Lily and I read some books and play with her wooden animals.

1:30pm Lily wants to feed and gradually falls asleep. I put her down in her hammock and sit down to attend to some emails and start this post.

2:05pm Lily stirs. I am worried that she is overtired and won't have a proper sleep, but she resettles quickly when I go in to bounce her hammock.

2:20pm I get a few text messages about the afternoon. No-one seems to have a concrete plan.

2:25pm Lily wakes up again. She is clearly tired, but seems to be wide awake. She asks me to swing her in the hammock and sings and chats to me as I do. The phone rings and the planning for an afternoon activity begins in earnest. I bounce Lily in her hammock while I chat to a couple of people on the phone. I offer our house for a play-meet.

2:40pm Lily has fallen back to sleep!

2:45pm I get a text message "Cristy's place a 3pm". Oops. I run around the house straightening things up.

3:00pm S and J arrive to play. J is not impressed that Lily is asleep and wanders around looking a little bored. S and I talk about childcare. She pulled J out of childcare early this year because she didn't like it. I am realising that I should have just cancelled our booking for tomorrow.

3:15pm I make some tea and put out some food. J amuses himself in the sandpit while S and I chat. I am feeling bad that he has no-one to play with.

3:40pm M and B arrive. J is happy to have someone to play with and I relax a little. I can't believe that Lily is still asleep!

4:00pm Lily wakes up. She feels a little warm to me, but it was warm in the bedroom so I don't think much of it. She is very excited to see J and B.

5:00pm M and B go home. Lily and J continue to play together. They get along incredibly well.

5:15pm I give Lily and J some cauliflower and potato soup for dinner. Lily is very keen, but J wanders off and so she follows.
Lily and J shut themselves in her bedroom and we can hear shrieks of laughter from inside. They close the door on us whenever we try to check on them and so we chock it open with a cloth.

5:30pm S and J head home. Lily and I go into the loungeroom to read some books.

5:45pm Lily wants to watch Playschool so I put it on, but then she decides to feed instead.

6:00pm P comes home from work. Lily gets her papa-snuggles and I heat up some soup for us.

6:35pm We are finishing dinner and ask Lily if she would like a bath. "No: Feed," she says. I am a little worried about the frequent feeding. I wonder if she might be getting sick.

7:00pm Lily starts to fall asleep. P changes her nappy while she feeds and we take her temperature because she still feels a little warm. It is a little high - 37.5 C.

7:30pm I put Lily in her hammock and try to finish this post.

7:50pm Lily wakes up quite upset. She is burning up. We try to give her some panadol but she doesn't want it. "Lie down," she says. She tries to feed, but gags and then climbs up on my chest and falls asleep with her arms wrapped around my neck. I guess I have just gone to bed.

10:00pm I wake up boiling hot. I have to take off the quilt as Lily is so hot that neither of us need it. She stirs a little and asks for Papa cuddles.

11:00pm Lily wakes up and tries to feed but gags again so she asks for Papa, Grandma and Grandpa snuggles. I tell her that they are sleeping and she repeats it to herself, "Papa, sleeping. Grandpa, sleeping. Grandma, sleeping." Then she says "Hurting." I ask her where but she just replies "Papa." Then she says "Papa, hurting. Papa, fall down. Grandpa, hurting. Grandpa, fall down. etc..." Poor little thing.

12:00am Lily wakes up and feeds. She then climbs up on my chest to sleep and vomits all over my pillow and down my back. I go to get P. It is going to be a long night.

Postscript: After a night of no sleep for any of us I called the childcare centre to cancel this morning's booking. As I had already paid they told me that the money would be 'credited to my account' and that I wouldn't have to pay next time I brought Lily in for care. I decided not to tell them that there is unlikely to ever be a 'next time'.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Boo boo and Dar

I'd like to introduce you to "Boo boo" and "Dar". They are both softies that I made during the last couple of months from the fabulous "Softies" book.

"Boo boo" is called "Albert Monkey" in the book, but Lily named him before I'd even finished his head. In fact, he took a while to finish because she kept stealing the head and carrying it around with her. It was an odd sight...

"Dar" is called "Cosmonaut Devil" in the book and I actually made him for P for his birthday, but Lily adopted him and he didn't have the heart to take him off her. For some reason everyone seems to think that he is a Telletubbie...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Our dream garden

Veg*nism and attachment parenting

I have just starting making my way through a huge backlog of posts on bloglines that accumulated while I was away and have just had the pleasure of reading this post by To-Fu* (guest posting over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess) on the connection between Veg*nism and Attachment Parenting.

I really enjoyed To-Fu's post because it resonated with me so strongly. I like the way she points out the natural affinity between choosing to adopt a veg*n lifestyle out of compassion for other living creatures and choosing to adopt an AP parenting style out of compassion for babies & children (not that these choices are the only way of acting on this compassion - but they are the two that I personally have made).

I also agree with her that adopting both lifestyles can bring you in for a huge range of defensive reactions from other people who see your choice as an implicit criticism of their own (or, at least, of the status quo):
Both the AP lifestyle and veg*nism require a person to strip away tradition and ignore well-meaning but faulty advice [I would say "unhelpful" rather than "faulty" but...]. Talking about veg*nism can be tough for the same reasons it’s hard to talk about extended breastfeeding, sleep sharing, gentle discipline, and all that is AP: People who aren’t into it (for whatever reason) tend to feel judged or indicted.
What I related to most of all, however, was her allusion to the feelings of isolation that this can engender. The defensive reactions I can handle. In fact, they can quite easily be kept to a minimum either through tact or, with the most defensive types, silence on touchy issues. The main issue for me is the feeling of isolation that this silence (and walking on eggshells) can create.

Especially when Lily was a little baby I sometimes found it extremely difficult to share my feelings of frustration over her feeding all night (and all day), over our difficulties in getting her to nap anywhere but in the sling and in the exhaustion that this situation created for me. Most people's reaction to this issue was simply to say - "Put her down to sleep in her own cot!" or "Don't feed her so much." But the thing was that this wasn't helpful to me. I needed support in getting through what is a very short period of intense time in my baby's life - a time when she genuinely needed me to be available to her and to be truly responsive to her needs. For me, ignoring her needs (and I truly believe that they were needs) was not an option, instead what I needed was assistance in building up my own reserves - either through eating better, drinking more water, taking rest when it was available, asking for assistance with tasks that became overwhelming AND (most importantly, I think) truly accepting my choice to parent Lily in this way.

In fact, for me everything became much easier when I really embraced attachment parenting and really truly learned to trust my own instincts - rather than allowing other people's opinions and advice to constantly plant seeds of doubt in my mind and to force me to question myself all the time. Feeding or soothing an unsettled baby frequently during the night can be very tiring, but it is far more exhausting when you are constantly wondering if you should be doing something different and if you have "created a rod for your own back". When you actually believe deep inside that you are giving your child a true feeling of security and connection that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, and when you know that you are sharing this experience with countless other lovely parents around the globe, then the night becomes a lot shorter and a lot kinder.
I could turn around now and link this back into veg*nism and the joy of sharing this lifestyle (and yummy food & recipes) with other people around the world, but I really need to do some work! But, just quickly, this is why I love the blogosphere so much - because it was through other blogs (and lovely commenters on this blog) that I came to find other people who were parenting their children in the same way that P and I are trying to parent Lily and it was by reading their experiences and sharing our experiences with them that I was able to break through my own feelings of isolation and the self-doubt that these feelings created.

(OK, I really am going to write my bloody PhD now.)

[*Found through HPP, thank you!]

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Baby Steiner Doll

Last week my sister-in-law and I decided to make baby Steiner dolls for our little ones. We were inspired by this post from Loobylu, which kindly linked to a nice simple tutorial by Sooz. Here is the result.

It is very "handmade", uhum, but Lily likes it. She alternates between calling it a "person" and a "baby", before "snuddling" it. It is made from 100% wool felt from here and filled up with wool stuffing. I would like to make one with a little more character (like Loobylu's), but am not feeling quite tricky enough yet...

This girl dressed herself

Lily insisted on choosing her own clothes this morning.

"Dress," she demanded as we entered her room.

"OK, which one?" I said, as I offered her a couple of choices.

"This one." (The PINK one!)

It is cold outside today so I offered her a choice of pants for underneath.

"No; tights," she replied. And so I complied. I guess she can always where leg warmers and a jacket over the top...

Where do they learn these things?

Here is a photo of her chosen outfit:

Monday, 18 August 2008

Fronch toast

P had a craving for "Fronch Toast" (vegan French Toast) yesterday and so that is what we had for lunch - topped with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of maple syrup. Not exactly nutritious, but it certainly was delicious. Thanks P!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

17 months

Dear Lily

On Thursday you turned 17 months old.

As usual you are amazing us with just how quickly you are growing up. In the last couple of weeks you grew so fast that suddenly all of your pants were too short. Your language is also getting more and more sophisticated. You are now able to communicate very clearly with us - to tell us what you want, how you are feeling and (most often) inform us as to what you are planning to do next. You will often announce: "sitting" "dancing" or "stomping" just prior to launching into that exact action.

You seem to have taken a little more interest in food lately too, which is probably a good thing. Often around 4pm you will look at me and say "Mum dinner" and when I ask you what you want your usual answer will be "Broccoli", although every now and then it is "Mushroom", "Pasta" or "Rice". Earlier in the day you are more likely to demand "'matoes", "Bissies" (corn thins, rice crackers...), "Blueberries" (sometimes: "Blueblues"), "Strawberries", "Toast with 'mite" (vegemite), "Tofu", "Tempeh" or "Soym" (soy milk). In a somewhat poor reflection on us as parents you have also started to demand "Coffee" in the morning. Fortunately an empty cup appears to satisfy this demand.

You have also taken to asking us for foot rubs, which I think is hilarious. Your usual method is to say "Foot: hurts: rubbing", but "Foot: rubbing" is becoming more common since you have realised that you apparently don't need to provide pain as an excuse. My favourite demand at the moment, however, is when you ask for a "snuddle". Fortunately this is a fairly frequent occurrence, but it still makes my heart swell every time you ask for one.

Last month we went on a family holiday to Brunswick Heads on the NSW north coast. Unfortunately you got very ill with a middle-ear infection for part of our time there, but other than that we all had a wonderful time. Your grandma (my Mum) came to stay with us for a week and you really enjoyed having her around. In fact, you now ask (hopefully) for "Grandma" whenever you see a woman with glasses on and got quite excited when you thought that you had found her in the pages of a magazine.

While on holidays, we were staying just near a wonderful little cafe designed for parents and children and you made good friends with the resident little boy; Charlie. Every day you would ask to visit Charlie - which was just as well for mama and papa, because it allowed us to get a coffee fix while we were there. We were also across the road from a gorgeous park that was set right on the river. First thing in the morning you would look out the window, see the park and demand that we go out. Your favourite part of this park was the slide. It was a tall twisty one and on our first morning there you figured out how to climb up all the stairs, turn around and go down backwards (on your tummy) all by yourself. I was very impressed and you were in heaven.

Once you got over your ear infection we also had lots of fun trips to the beach. We would dig a big hole in the sand to play in and when we got it just right it would fill up with water which was excellent fun to splash around in. Even though it was the middle of winter, the weather was still warm enough for us to actually have a couple of swims too. I was so impressed by how brave you were in the water. You marched out until it was above your waist and even got back on to your feet after being knocked over by a wave.

On the way to and from our holiday we stayed overnight with your grandparents in Sydney. You love being at their house because they have a dog (Midnight) and a cat (Freya). You chased poor Freya around the house saying "Pat, pat" and every now and then she condescends to actually letting you touch her. Unfortunately Midnight is still a bit young and a bit big for you to really pat him yet, but you both love each other dearly from a distance and are no doubt plotting all sorts of adventures together for when you are both older and calmer.

When we got home you picked up every phone (toy and otherwise) in the house, saying "Hello? Grandma? Grandpa?", so it may be that you love their house for more than just the animals. It made me sad to think that we live so far away from them, but at least you cheered up considerably when your other grandparents came over for a visit and when we were able to get over to your cousins' house for a nice long play. I am so happy that you are growing into such a happy little social being and it is so much fun to watch you form relationships with other people (especially the special people in my life).

Next month spring will finally return. I am looking forward to getting outdoors with you more and letting you explore the big wide world.


Monday, 11 August 2008

We're back

We got back yesterday from our two-week holiday in Brunswick Heads (a beachside town in northern NSW, Australia). With the exception of a very unfortunate period during which Lily was incredibly unwell with a middle ear infection (and our crappy accommodation, which I will tell you about later) we had an absolutely lovely time.

Brunswick Heads is such a lovely little town and the weather was mostly warm and sunny. We spent many a day lazing around on the beach, playing at the park and browsing the local markets. In fact, we fell in love with the area so much that we even toyed with the idea of buying a house up there. It was this gorgeous converted weatherboard church on a large country block in the middle of nowhere - paradise. Needless to say we came to our senses when we remembered that we actually couldn't afford it...


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