Feb 29, 2008

Upon waking...

We woke to the sounds of Miss1 tentatively squawking about 6.15am this morning (as usual). It wasn't long until 6.30, when the alarm goes off and the day begins, so we just let her and ourselves lie in for a bit to finish waking up.

Then we heard a small voice softly call out "[miss1], [miss1], it's okay [miss1], God is here with us, it's okay."

How wonderful to start the day with a smile on my face and in my heart. Read more...

Feb 26, 2008

Thoughts on grief

Had a long txt conversation with a young(ish) relative this evening who is still devastated by my Mum's death. Poor wee thing. We are of course all still missing Mum every day, but J has not got even a basic understanding of how to process death or how to 'do' grief. At 18, this is not terribly surprising, but what is tragic is that I suspect that this txt conversation we have had (more than 3 months after Mum passed away) is the only time she's talked about Mum since then. To anyone.

So here are my thoughts on processing grief and living with loss.

1. Let yourself feel sad. You feel sad. That's okay - you have a darned good reason to feel sad. Just go with it for now - it's easier to go with a wave of grief when it comes that to fight it down and struggle on with a happy face. The happy face doesn't work, and you just end up grumpy/nasty/stressed/sick. And the bad feelings last for longer. A thoroughly good cry can leave you feeling drained and exhausted but clean. If people ask how you are, you are allowed to say "sad today", or "not too bad today", or "um, I have good days and bad days" or whatever you feel like.

2. Be kind to yourself. It's not always easy to know what is the best thing to do. Don't go beating yourself up for things you woulda/coulda/shoulda done. You did what you were able to do at the time. Be as nice to yourself as you would be to your best friend or to your favourite pet when they are hurting. The person who you miss knows that you love them, and forgives you (if there is in fact anything to forgive). Forgive yourself.

3. Talk about her. If you want to talk about the person, find someone who will listen. If that seems too hard at first, or if you don't have anyone you trust that much, then try writing a letter. Remember the good things about the person, her laugh, her talent at baking desserts, her cuddles, her wise advice, her unconditional love. And the funny things. And even the things that really annoyed you - they are all memories to treasure, and all part of making peace with her death. Also, there will be times when you don't feel like talking, or people who you don't want to talk to. That's fine too, you're allowed to say "thanks, but I just don't feel like talking about it just now - I'll let you know if I do", and leave it at that.

4. Realise that it won't be quick and it won't be easy. We "walk through the valley of the shadow of death", not 'run' or 'skip'. These things take time and there are no shortcuts. On the other hand, we don't 'wallow' or 'set up camp' in the valley of the shadow either. Always be looking forward and know that the shadow will lift a little. I should say here, that walking through the valley of the shadow is always better if you have Divine assistance - do ask Jesus for help! Also, watch for events that you know will make you miss her more - be prepared to be kind to yourself around those (Christmas, birthdays, holiday times...) and take time out to have a good cry at those times.

5. Find ways to honour her memory. Go to the cemetery if you are close enough. Say a prayer for her every night. Plant a bush. Wear some jewelery of hers or that somehow reminds you of her. My brother got another tattoo. Have a special christmas ornament just for her. Make some time on birthdays to include her memory in the day. These rituals are important to those of us left behind - they help us to weave her death into our every-day lives and become more at home with it.

6. When you feel sad, take time out to have a cuddle - with a toy or a kind and gentle person, or something. My personal choice at the moment is either Merl or a big brightly coloured cardigan that Mum knitted and wore constantly. This helps me feel close to her when I miss her.

7. Know that her love is still with you. This is possible even for people who don't believe in eternal life. Miss3 has a book by Debi Gliori called "No Matter What" where the little fox (Small), asks his Mummy fox (Large) all sorts of "do you love me" questions, and finally asks
"...But what about when we're dead and gone, would you love me then, does love go on?"
Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night, at the moon in the dark and the stars shining bright. "Small, look at the stars - how they shine and glow, but some of those stars died a long time ago. Still they shine in the evening skies. Love, like starlight, never dies."

Well, that's enough for one night. I have cried enough for now and it is time to take care of myself by making sure I have enough sleep tonight.

Miss3 becomes Miss4 tomorrow, so it could be an early start! Read more...

Feb 25, 2008

tiger tiger burning bright

On Saturday Miss3 went to a friend's birthday party. This friend and Miss3 actually share a birthday, but E's party was last weekend and Miss3's is this coming one (and we have another one to attend the day after... why has my preschooler got a fuller calendar than I do?).

The party was held at the Otago Museum's Butterfly house, which I have waxed lyrical about about before. The kids (all girls) had a 'butterfly food' morning tea, a trip through the butterfly house, made butterfly face masks and had their faces painted.

When I went to collect Miss3, I saw 5 little girls with their faces painted like butterflies, 2 who hadn't wanted their faces painted at all.

And a tiger.

Not one for conformity, our child :-)

Needless to say, her party will be 'jungle themed' - She has repeatedly told me that "it is not 'Jungle' - it is 'Lions and Tigers', cos we like to dress up and go ROAR". But I know for a fact that some of the kids coming would much rather be giraffes or monkeys than lions and tigers (a couple of the girls, funnily enough - the boys will be roaring around with the best of them), so a "jungle" theme it will stay.

For now we are expecting about 7 or 8 kids to come, so hopefully the weather will be fine, otherwise it will be utter chaos in our house this weekend! Read more...

Feb 24, 2008

The education question

I said a couple of posts back that I'd share at some point my thoughts on homeschooling. Well, i have to say that I'm glad I waited cos they've gone through some changes in the last week.

Originally, 'way back before I even had kids, I thought that homeschoolers were reclusive freaks wanting to hide their children from society and that no child taught that way could possibly function in the 'real world'. Now it is quite possible that some kids to have problems after being homeschooled. But many kids fail in the formal school system too, so that in itself can't be used as an argument against homeschooling.

As I read more widely about raising kids in general and explored other ways of doing things, I found several message boards where at least one of the participants homeschooled. And, know what? the parent seemed relatively normal! As did the children. They all had really 'good reasons' for homeschooling and the kids had adapted well. (unhelpful schools, behaviour issues, health problems, learning disorders, giftedness...)

Merl lived in the states for a year before we were engaged, and relates that a high-school teacher friend of his there was adamant that no child of his would ever be subjected to the state school system there.

A friend at my church had homeschooled her two kids while they were working overseas in asia. Both kids achieved very well on returning to New Zealand, and the only difficulties in integrating into the school system here related to the son's learning disorder, the daughter coped exceptionally well and is now an early childhood teacher. Once an appropriate school environment was found for the son he also did very well. He is working at the local university in the physics department.

So I came to the conclusion that if we were living in america then I would homeschool (since my perception of the schools there was so negative). Not that we had any plans to live in america. And still don't. I might also consider it if my children had huge learning difficulties, were exceptionally gifted and talented, or the school environment was particularly 'Lord of the Flies'. But otherwise, I thought, the negatives would outweigh the positives.

I should put here some of the negatives.
- Niece and nephew of a friend from the north island are homeschooled and at even ages 8 and 10 lack basic literacy and numeracy. (in the opinion of the uncle)
- homeschooled kids I know here think of 'school-kids' as dirty, contagious and as all having nits/headlice. admittedly this is definitely the mother's hang-up. But their mother is all they are exposed to.
- Numerous teachers have told me their "oh no, I had a kid come into my class who had been homeschooled and it was really difficult for them to integrate" story.
- I personally worry that some Christian kids who have been homeschooled don't get wrestle directly with some of the shades of grey out there. How non-christians can still be 'good people', and generally quite happy too. This concern also applies to christian schools - I have seen 'graduates' of these institutions with absolutely no point of reference or ability to start any sort of conversation - even superficially - with a 'non-christian', for fear of being 'tainted' somehow. admittedly this usually also has more to do with the home environment than the school one per se, but with homeschooling, the home is all there is.

In the midst of all that, Merl and I had been doing some 'counter cultural' reading, notably "Ishmael" by David Quinn. Which I don't recommend by the way - it's a good starting point in some thinking, but he gets to some wrong conclusions and uses some clumsy 'dirty tricks' of rhetoric to manipulate you into agreeing with his world view. But his analysis in it of the school system was the first time I had come across the notion that school was an experiment in social engineering and that its primary achievement was in creating consumers and worker cogs - not in educating children. That education is best carried out outside of the classroom. Which a moment's reflection proved to be true for myself - school had largely been a big fat waste of time educationally speaking, or at the very least, an incredibly inefficient use of my time.

And that had kindof been that. We were still happy to send Miss3 to the local primary school when the time came, since "our education system here is not as bad as some", and she has good friends at her kindy who will all be going there.

I'm not sure what exactly has changed in my thinking, but it was sparked by reading this post at "Your Sacred Calling". (hat-tip to EllaJac) Now, what she has to say will sound remarkably extremist and separatist to some of you. I personally am uneasy with the faint aroma of fear I sense here - of course that perhaps says more about me than about her that I sense that. I cannot say that I totally agree with her viewpoint here. I still think that many children benefit from a school environment. I definitely think that different education options are best for different kids and families. But for whatever reason her post got me thinking long and hard, and I was unable to sleep.

And then I finally said "Well, okay God, I am willing to honestly consider homeschooling if that is what you want. But you'll have to convince Merl, cos I'm just not that sold on it". And I went to sleep.

Then the next day, I said "I've been revisiting the whole homeschooling thing, what do you think?" And essentially he said "well, I'm not against it, let's look into it."

So there you have it. We are now giving it honest consideration. I do not want to homeschool Miss3 for 'isolationist' or 'seclusionist' reasons, and in fact I find such reasonings make me want to not homeschool (probably because I have always been a contrary child). But today I looked into the resources available for gifted and talented students (a primary teacher friend believes we should definitely be prepared for Miss3 being classified as "gifted and talented") and found that a lot of those families are choosing to homeschool because it gives them greater learning flexibility.

so. now you know :-)

Feb 22, 2008

Zero-waste catch-up

Well, we're not doing so well this week on the whole Zero-waste thing. Miss1 has had a bad nappy rash, which I was attempting to treat with lots of 'nappy off time'. But after 2 days in a row of hunting down where that smell was coming from and inadvertently stepping in it and having to bath a poo-covered baby, wash my shoes and scrub the carpet, I have decided that 3 days of disposables with frequent changes to keep her dry will be better for my sanity, if not the environment! Happy to report that the rash is much better. But I've wiped out about 3 weeks worth of progress as far as waste reduction goes.

I think that we'll go back to using disposables at night - perhaps every second night. She does seem to get quite soggy at night-time in cloth, and if she's eaten something a bit acidic (oranges, tomatoes, yoghurt...) then her poor wee skin takes a hammering.

In other news, I am starting to pull more stuff out from the cellar and list anything vaguely sale-able on TradeMe. Babysteps though - I don't want to get overwhelmed with too much stuff sitting in the house waiting to be sold! Just a couple of items at a time. And I'll freecycle or appropriately donate anything that doesn't sell. Listed this today.

It feels good just to have moved something out of the cellar and to be doing something with it! There is in unbelievable amount of clutter under there - the previous owner was a builder and he stored anything that 'might come in handy one day' under the house. Vast quantities of random bits of wood etc. Also lots of 'empties' - empty boxes, empty sacks, empty bottles, jars, buckets, planter pots... lots of stuff that will go straight to freecycle or a skip I think. Read more...

Feb 19, 2008

our carpet

Not the prettiest carpet, and we were a little disappointed with how 'new' it was when we moved in - this baby has a lot of wear left in it. But that's okay, we thought, it will hide stains really well.

And it does.

But. Here's the rub. And I say this with feeling.

It also hides poo really well.

I shall leave you to imagine how I spent 40 minutes this afternoon. Read more...

Feb 18, 2008

's been a long day

and it's only 2pm.

Don't know why I'm so tired! I'm not pregnant (before anyone leaps to any conclusions). I guess I just haven't been sleeping well. And looking after my friend's little boy, while he is a dream child to care for (self-directed in play, very easy company), is still quite tiring. This week and next I've got him for three mornings each week. Which is going to make birthday preparations for Miss3's party a little more difficult. Today I woke up with a grumpy headache, and Miss3 has been in Time-Out
twice (and was out at kindergarten all morning), and I spent the morning with Miss1 and JB at a friend's house, who is my 'prayer partner' and so we had a good prayer and study time this morning, which is great, but I wasn't planning on spending all morning there, but I did, and now it is afternoon and I just want to curl up on the couch and sleep, but Miss3 is LONG past the stage of needing day-time sleeps, and Monday is supposed to be my house-cleaning day, and I just can't get motivated.

and I don't know what is for dinner.

Oh well, time to babystep it I guess. yay for Flylady - "jump in where you are, you are not behind!"

OK, off to do my morning routine, which got lost in the bustle this morning and then we'll see where we are. Read more...

Feb 16, 2008

kid's game from recycled milk bottles

Saw this on planet green I think, leading us to RePlayGround's instructions.

Worked really well. We haven't decorated ours so you'll see much prettier ones if you follow the link, but they were a hit at our church picnic a couple of weeks ago. Instead of the tin-foil ball that they recommend we used a lightweight plastic ball that we already have (we reuse our tinfoil until it is a mess - not so good for kids' toys!).

Much fun had by all, and I don't worry about the small one sucking them and 'breaking' them - the cardboard handles are in plentiful supply and can quickly be replaced :-) Read more...

Feb 15, 2008

In the world but not of it

Tricky. A hard line to draw at times.

Our church is currently working our way through 1 John - in our sermons and in our homegroups/study groups. This week we studied 1 John chapter 2, in particular the verses 15-18(ish - I think, I'm doing this from memory just before I head to bed so I recommend looking it up yourself :) ) about if you love the world then you don't love God.

Which of course has to be taken at the same time as
"For God so loved the world..."

So, we need to understand that John means a love of self, the pursuing of wealth and selfish desire etc etc as being the 'things of this world'.

In our study we looked at all sorts of things (am too tired too organise my thoughts sufficiently to summarise our whole discussion) - including political parties (see a previous rant here) and christian schooling and homeschooling. We covered the positives and negatives of them (one of our study members has a sister who homeschools, and we have all considered christian schooling at some point so we were not speaking out of a complete vacuum, despite none of us having school-aged children). And then the study questions pointed us to here...

John 17:15-18 (NIV translation)
15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[b] them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

So. Jesus praying for his disciples in the garden asked God NOT to take us out of the world, but that we would be protected from evil.

Given what I understand of Jesus, I think he would have us jump at the chance to have our children be 'salt and light' in our communities and neighbourhoods. (properly equipped with as much as we can teach them about discernment and the resisting of temptation). Balanced of course with our solemn responsibility to protect and guard our children. We also need to teach them to be functioning Christians within this world that is full of temptation.

Difficult. Life as a parent is so fraught with things that will make you feel guilty, yeah?

Of course there are heaps of excellent reasons to homeschool/choose a christian school too. But we are deciding that for us, in this place and at this time, the local state school is a very good option. I don't think I've blogged about my thoughts on homeschooling before. Perhaps another time - it is now well past my bedtime and we have a breakfast meeting in the morning! Read more...

Feb 10, 2008

7 year anniversary

Merl and I have been married for 7 years today.

No sign of the 7 year itch :-)

He is a lovely, caring, warm and insightful soulmate who is currently putting Miss3 to bed, He 'helped' Miss 3 to cook dinner tonight, and let me have a much needed lie down this afternoon (I've caught the kids' back-to-kindy cold). And I've just noticed him head through to the kitchen and start soaking dishes.


We plan to have a special home-cooked meal after the kids are in bed tomorrow evening to mark the occasion. Neither of us are big 'going out' people, so a yummy candle-lit dinner at home will be just the ticket. Read more...

Feb 9, 2008

Look what I made! Woolly leggings!

I used instructions from Joy's Cloth Diapers website. (one additional suggestion I'd make is to do all your seams in a zig-zag to let them stretch a little).

Starting with a $5 woolen jersey from the Op Shop (St Vincent de Paul, for those sticklers for detail), I chopped the sleeves off, and cut them flat. Then I roughly drafted the pattern based on Joy's instructions (tweaking to make it bigger) onto some scrap paper, and just chopped them out! The old sleeve cuffs are now the ankle cuffs, and there's a gusset and everything. I'm extremely chuffed.

The best bit is that they only took me an hour or so to make. Plain leggings take 6 times that long to knit, and I just do not do fairisle.

A few pairs of these will solve our winter trouser shortage for Miss1. So many of the cute little pants that you can get for 1 year olds do not fit over cloth nappies.

Now I just need to come up with something to do with the rest of the jersey. Originally I bought it to make overnaps, but since Dubbin-ing my Down-Undies, I'm back to having 5 that work very well.

The only sad bit is that I used to be able to show off my handiwork to Mum, who used to ooh and aah appropriately. Missing her just sneaks up on me in the middle of all sorts of activities. Read more...

Feb 2, 2008

birthday photos

Miss1's birthday was last Monday and the week has gone by so fast I haven't gotten around to posting photos yet. So here they are - just a couple. I'll get some more from my Dad and my Aunt. Hopefully somebody remembered to take a photo with Miss1 and the cake - I completely forgot!

In other news, I found this great site for all about cloth nappies - Boise Cloth Diapers. It's got a great list of all the options, the pros and cons of different fabrics, how to look after the different types of covers, and most usefully, a good troubleshooting page with tips on what to do if your waterproof covers aren't waterproof anymore - which has been a problem in our house! The answer is to get some waterproofing stuff from an outdoors store. (well why didn't I think of that!) So I compromised and used some Dubbin - hopefully it will work as well on PUL as it does on leather! Thanks to Planet Green for the tip.

Am also immoderately pleased to have found the 12th Matthew Bartholomew mystery at the library. Medieval Mystery novels are a weakness of mine. So I will be neglecting my home and children for the next day or so until the mystery is resolved. Fortunately Merl and Miss3 are off to a birthday party this afternoon so that gives me a couple of hours for reading right there!

Oh I miss lying in bed on Saturday mornings and reading for hours and only getting up when I was too hungry to stay in bed. Unspeakable luxury! Read more...
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