Tag Archives: craft

It’s Been Flubberized!

While intrepid jungle explorers receive all the kudos, quite frankly, I feel any parent brave enough to delve through their child’s school bag deserves a gold medal, a statue in their local park and their own TV show. This is where such lofty ideals as COURAGE, BRAVERY, PERSEVERANCE and PERSISTANCE  hit the road, and you find out whether you are mighty… or a mouse.

Rowena 1981

You’d never suspect this neat girl would have rotting yogurt or a squished banana in her bag, would you?!!

Thinking back to my own school bag, there were definitely some serious horrors in there. Indeed, there were horrors of Elm Street proportions. Undoubtedly, the worst of it had to be the burst yogurt. Don’t ask me which fool put a yogurt in their bag without a raincoat or any form of protection. No one likes a dobber. However, I still remember the stench, and fishing out wads of soggy paper caked in the stuff and trying to salvage affected exercise and text books. Of course, I didn’t clean it up very well and the smell only got worse, and no doubt even mould set in. This was pure YUCK in capital letters!! A school kid’s equivalent of a toxic spill. I don’t remember Mum cleaning it up either. That was my job…along with cleaning out the squashed banana, which was also brutally slaughtered in that very same school bag. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but I was evidently a repeat offender,  who didn’t learn from her mistakes.

Unfortunately, my daughter has followed in my footsteps. While she did a fantastic effort with a squished banana, she’s now found a whole new catastrophic realm. Her school bag has “flubberitis”.

Flubber is a type of slime. If you’re from my era, you might recall that you could buy slime in a little green plastic can. I loved this was fanastic, goopy ooze.

On the other hand, this slime is quite different. You make it yourself and it looks and smells like some deadly toxic pestilence straight out of Ghost Busters. Slime replicates very, very quickly and is currently spreading through schools and homes faster than the common cold. If you have a good look around in the playground, you’ll see its tell-tale \ smear on just about everything, just like another substance we’ll simply call> “nasal secretions”.

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Flubberitis…goopy slime on the march inside my daughter’s school bag. At least, it smelled like fresh apples. 

My daughter’s been operating a slime laboratory in her room for the last six months and I haven’t been impressed to find slime stuck to her sheets, carpet, school hat, skort. Depending on the type of slime, it’s footprints vary. Not quite as bad as chewing gum, it still likes to stick around and can be a beast to get rid of. Moreover, there’s all the apparatus used to make the slime. That’s simply mess on mess on mess, even if you can appreciate that it’s “art”, “science”, “an alternative to screen time” or “better than drugs”.

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My daughter is keen to export slime to even the remotest corners of the globe…a budding entrepreneur. 

I have mixed feelings towards my daughter’s obsession with slime. On the positive, making slime is a creative and scientific venture. She not one mixes the core ingredients together, she and her friends add things to vary it’s texture and colour such as foam balls and glitter.  There are a multitude of different recipes and kinds of slime out there and it really is quite fascinating for anyone with a science bent. Moreover, many people also enjoy the sensory stimulation of playing and fidgeting with the slime. This can be a lot of fun and may also relieve stress. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like stuff sticking to your fingers, some slimes won’t be for you. I personally find many of the slimes feel quite icky on my skin and I don’t like touching them at all. Smell is also a problem and has caused breathing difficulties in our family. I also find the mess and the smears across just about every surface annoying. I’ve also been concerned about her sniffing all that glue, and she’s now been told to make it outside.

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Like Mother, like daughter. This was where I made potions out of wildflowers when we were living on acreage out at Galston, Sydney. This was my happy place and this has always been a much-prized photograph. 

That’s how I see the stuff. My daughter finds it mesmerizing and a real sensory indulgence, especially when she’s added things like foam balls, sparkly glitter or sand to the mix. I’ve seen her squishing it for hours, as it releases some kind of magic I struggle to understand. Yet, that doesn’t matter as long as I can show some interest and listen to her accounts of the ducks’ guts of slime.

It could be better. It could be worse.

Have you or your kids had much to do with slime? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share 24th September, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’ve chosen a great day to join me for coffee. This time, I’m not offering you Vegemite toast with your beverage of choice. Rather, I have been to the bakery and bought a try of delectable Chocolate Profiteroles with a rich Crème pâtissière filling. Trust me! I’m very discerning about anything involving chocolate or desserts and these are to die for. Or, worth paying me an actual visit. They taste nowhere near as good in cyberspace!

How was your week? I hope it’s been a good one but this coffee share also offers a great place to vent a bit about your week and let it go. I had a fairly stressful week with a whole lot of strange things happening, which stressed me out quite a lot. On Tuesday, my daughter’s train was cancelled and a friend gave her a lift part of the way and we were told the trains further up the line were fine but they weren’t. So, this meant my daughter and her friend were walking for an hour to school when I was told the bus company had it covered. That afternoon, her train was running 40 minutes late so she rang me and asked me to pick her up from the station. However, she didn’t say which station so I was waiting for these trains there for 40 minutes and then she wasn’t on there. Of course, I had to leave my mobile phone at home during all of this and her phone is missing. She ended up getting home at 6.00PM and was very rattled. Thursday, I witnessed something rather concerning involving a child on the train and had to report that and follow it up. Friday, I couldn’t find my wallet and searched all around my lounge chair and couldn’t find it but then it only took Geoff five minutes to find it down the side. Don’t you hate that? I swear sometimes my eyes just don’t work!

After all of that, I felt like I needed a long bath but life goes on.

During the last week, I came across a series of interesting dog stories after trying to find out more about a story about a guide dog stealing Pal from the supermarket and winding up in court. So, if you like a good dog story, you might want to check these out:

Judge Reprimands Thief Dog

A Different Type of Rescue Dog-Newfoundland

The Dog and the Omnisient Narrator

The Dogs’ Commandments

The week is finishing up on a more relaxing note. We had stunning Spring weather today with bright azure skies and several of our native Australian plants are flowering. So, it was lovely sitting out in the garden and having lunch.

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The Sun Catcher Kit.

Later in the day, my daughter and I made a suncatcher or stained-glass window cat from a kit and baked it in the oven. We tried one of these four years ago when she was 6 and had a bit of a disaster with the metal frame shifting and the plastic crystals spread far and wide and overflowed the frame. I still remember our disappointment and reblogged a post I wrote about it at the time.

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The “Stained Glass” Fairy

Disaster Crafter-our first attempt at the fairy.

The Craft Master- Making the Stained Glass Cat.

Today’s effort went really well after my daughter with her x-ray vision, still found mistakes. I probably don’t notice them enough and have quite a “she’ll be right mate attitude” unless it comes to my writing.

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The “Stained Glass” Cat we made today.

The kids are now on school holidays and we’ve booked our son in for a three day sailing course and they’re both doing a three day surfing course the following week. Sounds like fun to me!

What have you been up to? Do you have any plans?

I’d love to hear from you!

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the Linky.

xx Rowena

 

The Craft Master.

Today, my daughter and I revisited the toy shop, AKA “the scene of the crime” and decided to reattempt our previous craft catastrophe. Hopefully, an extra four years and learning from our mistakes, would bring about a different result. After all, we’re not too keen on mistakes.

So what was our illustrious craft project?

We bought a Suncatcher Making Kit. You’re probably familiar with these kids’ craft kits, which come with a metal frame and little plastic packets filled with multi-coloured plastic “crystals” which you pour into the gaps. Or, if you’re more meticulously inclined, or have a more detailed design, you might use a pair of tweezers to carefully place each and every crystal into its intended place. Once all the gaps are filled, you bake it in the oven and after 20 minutes or so of magic, it comes out looking like a stained-glass window. I still remember the incredible sense of magic when I made these as a child. Wow! How I loved making my own stained glass window!

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Our Cat Suncatcher Kit.

By the way, before you get all excited and rush into making one of these, there are a few pitfalls for the unsuspecting parent and child. Firstly, before you even think about adding the crystals, that you need to put a sheet of foil down on a metal baking tray and ensure the tray is on a flat surface. This might sound like stating the blatantly obvious, but you can get caught up in the creative moment and sweep over all sorts of details, leading to catastrophe. That’s right, you can send all those multi-coloured crystals flying faster than Jaffas down the aisle.

Trust me! I know!!

Although all those tiny crystals are only plastic and aren’t going to cut little feet or anything nasty like that, if they spill all over the floor, there will be tears. Nobody likes to see their artwork break…especially a young personage matching the age ranges mentioned on the packet.

There will also be tears if those crystals only spread over the tray.

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After all, if there was ever a moment for “a place for everything and everything in its place”, this is it.

Anyway, as you might appreciate through my previous tales of catastrophes with kids’ craft, baking and just about everything I touch, I know all about how to screw up something which truly should have been Simple Simon.

You can read all about that in my previous post: Disaster Crafter

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Mummy needed more help with this attempt than the child.

When it comes to doing craft with your kids, you can say that the outcome doesn’t matter. That it’s all about spending time together, being creative and having a go. However, if your budding artist is adding those coloured crystals with meticulous precision, I warn you that there could well be tears… even if nothing seemingly goes wrong. This time round, my daughter wasn’t happy with the number of very small gaps in the “glass” and I guess I’d suggest being generous when you’re applying the crystals to get around this. We had quite a few left over.

“I have to say that I’ve always believed perfectionism is more of a disease than a quality. I do try to go with the flow but I can’t let go.”

– Rowan Atkinson

However, you could say that the resulting conversation was an important life lesson. That when it comes to home made, there usually isn’t pure perfection because we’re human. There are themes and variations in the things we make by hand and while they might like that factory-made uniformity, there’s so much pride in making something yourself and unless you’re into cross stitch and someone always has to turn your work over and inspect the back, no one else is going to notice those infinitesimal mistakes or imperfections. They’re not going to look at it under a microscope and wack you over the knuckles with the proverbial ruler.

“These ‘mistakes’ occur in my books for a reason. I have an agenda: I’m secretly trying to inspire kids to create their own stories and comics, and I don’t want them to feel stifled by ‘perfectionism.'”

Dav Pilkey, author and Illustrator, The Adventures of Captain Underpants.

I should also share that when I showed my daughter a photo of our last fairy suncatcher and my post, she actually really liked it and she was quite embarrassed about telling me I should “go back to kindergarten and learn how to stay between the lines”. So, I’m hoping that she comes to like today’s effort and won’t be so critical.

“If you look in the dictionary under ‘perfectionist,’ you see Henry Selick* correcting the definition of perfectionist in the dictionary. I mean, he is so meticulous.”

John Hodgman

After all, isn’t the point of art and craft, especially as a kid, that you have a bit of fun?!!
So, forget about staying between the lines and throwing all those luscious rainbow colours to the wind.

 

xx Rowena

*Henry Selick is an American stop motion director, producer and writer who is best known for directing The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach.

Disaster Crafter!

Kid’s craft should definitely come with warnings. I’m not talking about those warnings such as: WARNING! CHOKING HAZARD- Small Parts. Not suitable for children under 3 years.

I’m talking about warnings for parents.

THIS PROJECT SHOULD NOT BE UNDERTAKEN UNLESS YOU HAVE THE PATIENCE OF A SAINT

Or…

WARNING! MUST BE QUALIFIED SURGEON/ENGINEER/ARTIST TO COMPLETE THIS PROJECT!

Perhaps, I should have confessed upfront. I have failed kid’s craft again. This time I have screwed up a relatively simple project that any 8 year old could do but was somehow beyond my abilities! I guess that makes me a loser! Make that loser loser!

Our latest craft project, aside from obligatory choking warnings, advised that children 6-8 may need some help and children 8-10 should be able to do it themselves.

I thought our 6 year old daughter would have no trouble completing it. She is very advanced like most people’s children. What I didn’t envision was that I would have trouble doing it. In fact, that I would sabotage and almost destroy our fairy completely!

Yesterday, we visited our local toy shop. So far, so good. Well, I came across a kit where you can make your own “stained-glass” fairy. She even comes with her own pet unicorn. You simply pour the crystals into the metal frame and put it in the oven to bake. Miss and I were both very excited! She loves craft just as much as I love revisiting my childhood!

You see I loved making these as a kid. That’s why I bought it. I remembered pouring the crystals into the frame and then watching them metamorphose like magic in the oven. They were so much fun and so easy. I wanted our daughter to share in the magic. Our son too if he hadn’t disappeared.

In all my excitement, I didn’t look that closely at the fairy and didn’t appreciate the fine attention to detail required. The metal frame was indeed quite intricate in places and we needed to apply one crystal at a time with the precision of a micro-surgeon.  This is all very well if you are the micro-surgeon type and you have the time to be so meticulous. We, on the other hand, were making ours’ before school. While we weren’t exactly rushing, we didn’t have all day either.

As I said before, my experience of making these stained-glass thingys was pouring the crystals into the frame. That is much more my style. I’m much more of a broad-brush kind of artist. Slap on the paint. I need a style which is a bit forgiving and allows a lot of scope for mistakes. Precision isn’t my thing and when it comes to staying within the lines, I couldn’t be bothered. After all, aren’t lines  meant to be broken, extended, challenged? Isn’t that what being creative is all about?

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Miss Aged 6 with her doll.

Miss Perfectionist, on the other hand, is very particular. Precise. Without any consideration for my poor, wounded self-esteem, she very bluntly lets me know when my artwork isn’t up to scratch and doesn’t look like the real thing. She is also 6 and one of the first rules of colouring-in is that you stay inside the lines. I’ve been told before that I need to go back to kindergarten to learn how to colour-in properly.

As much as Miss is precise, she is also a perfectionist. Of course, she started off with the most fiddly bit where you could only apply one crystal at a time. She was struggling and quickly became frustrated and that’s when I was called in. My approach of tipping the crystals in wasn’t really appreciated. I also mixed the colours and I thought the fairy would look quite nice in a pink dress with purple spots but this wasn’t good enough. It didn’t meet Madam’s high standards and so she started to remove the offending dots. Well, I obliged and was using a fork to get them out when disaster struck. The fork clipped the metal frame lifting it ever so slightly off the tray and the crystals all tumbled out of position. To make matters worse, I couldn’t wriggle the frame back onto the tray either. It was resting on top of the crystals instead. The crystals had all gone AWOL.  On the brink of despair, I shoved it in the oven. It was a done deal!

At first, Miss was surprisingly impressed. She was quite excited and told me it was “pretty”. It didn’t take long for either of us to see its short comings. There were quite a few “extensions” added to the frame. You know…extra bits. I even managed to fill up the hole at the top. Yes, that’s right. That hole where you put the piece of ribbon to hang it up. At least, I could have got that bit right!

I soon found her chiseling away at these offending additions with a sharp knife. As I carefully removed the knife, once again craft had become yet another lesson in “acceptance”.

I know this won’t be our last craft project. As much as I protest, I keep finding more craft activities to frustrate us.

For the time being, however, we’re going back to baking. You can’t go wrong with cupcakes!

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A Cupcake…the safe alternative.

Do you have any craft disaster stories to share? I’d love to hear from you!

I have reblogged this post which was first published in 2012. My daughter made another one of these sun catchers today and wanted to share this with you as a back story.

xx Rowena

Bangalow Markets- Byron Bay Shire.

Recapping on our road trip to Queensland last weekend, we had driven up to my in-laws place at Nureybar in Byron Bay’s hinterland on Friday. On Saturday, we’d  driven across the border into Queensland for a birthday picnic in a park in Surfers Paradise and went back to our niece’s hotel with breathtaking views across the beach and  nightlife (or was that wildlife?)This takes us through to Sunday morning, when we had a fleeting visit to Bangalow Markets before we headed back over the Queensland border for high tea at the Old Teahouse Gallery in Mudgeeraba.

Bangalow is a quaint historic village, located near Byron Bay in the Byron Shire with a population of 1,902.The town is 765 kilometres (475 mi) north of Sydney and 167 kilometres (104 mi) south of Brisbane, just off the Pacific Highway. The town’s name appears to have been derived from an Aboriginal word, “Bangalla”, said to mean ‘a low hill’ or ‘a kind of palm tree’- Wikipaedia.

Every time we visit my in-laws, I escape to Bangalow and after I’ve meandered through the numerous arty, fashion and food shops, I usually set up camp and write in my journal. I love each and every nook and cranny in Bangalow and if we’re really lucky, our trip coincides with the Bangalow Markets, an ecclectic fusion of Nimbin counter-culture and hippies, produce stalls, music, fashion as well as massage and other so-called “alternative therapies”. Bangalow Markets are held on the 4th Sunday each month at Bangalow Showground.

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Interesting that dogs are banned from the markets in such a such an alternative community but with the heavy crowds, there’s not a lot of space.

Fortunately, our trip coincided with the Bangalow Markets but unfortunately we only had half an hour up our sleeve before we had hit the road driving North. While 30 minutes was better than nothing, such a fleeting sprint-by could only be described as sacrilege. How could I possibly see anything in a measly half-an-hour?

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We spotted this split-screen Kombi at the markets.

Well, I’m a fast mover and I even surprised myself. While the rest of the crowd was chugging along on “Byron Time”, I flew past the stalls posed for photos in front of a Kombi and that was when I was greeted by a very friendly familiar face…our friend Kathy who is a local jewelry artisan. It was so good to see her and share a spontaneous and embracing hug. Wow! it was so good to see her again!! Of course, we bought more jewelry. Kathy has designed and manufactured most of my jewelry and it was really good that I was wearing one of her pieces at the time.

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Catching up with my friend, jewellery artisan Kathy Bass from Peekaboo.

Although our visit was incredibly rushed and fleeting, Bangalow Markets is a place for chilling out, relaxing and immersing yourself in the region’s hippy counter-culture. However, don’t mistake it for a free ride. I go through buckets of money whenever I go to the markets. With so much creativity in one location, it’s hard not to.

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Jewelry by Peekaboo.

Speaking of buckets, there was one trip to the markets when the heavens suddenly opened up and drowned the stalls in metres of water. Indeed, the markets were overtaken by raging torrents and I remember seeing tables and chairs buried by the heavy deluge.

I think this could be why we seemingly visit my in-laws when the markets aren’t on. Of course, we could and have visited the other local markets, especially the Byron Bay Markets, but these are a little further away.

As we leave the markets to return to the open road, I thought you’d enjoy losing yourself in these mesmerising bubbles.

Queensland awaits!

Do you have a favourite market? Please share.

xx Rowena

PS I couldn’t resist adding a photo of a little lemonade  stand being run by a couple of young kids and their dog.

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Mother’s Day & the Ghosts of Mothers Past.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Today, it’s Mother’s Day. That means roadside stalls have sprung up along the main street overnight, bursting with white chrysanthemums. The rest of the year, we don’t even think about chrysanthemums and to be quite frank, they stink…at least a little bit. However, here in Australia, white chrysanthemums mean it is Mother’s Day. Chrysanthemums flower in Autumn and because we’re upside down and topsy turvy, we don’t celebrate Mother’s Day in Spring. Indeed, it’s almost officially Winter.

Of course, I have no idea what white chrysanthemums have to do with being a Mum.

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After all, no sensible Mum with little peoples has anything to do with white. Indeed, white to me evokes images of the elderly. There’s “Kids! Be careful on Grandma’s white carpet!!!” Or, visiting someone in hospital where there’s white on white on white and the sense of being trapped inside a white antiseptic cloud. White to me means sterile and has nothing to do with dirty fingerprints, washing, dirt and sundry mess. Or, of course, warm hugs and having my toe nails painted rainbow colours either!

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Me and my gal.

Being a mum doesn’t mean peering at your kids through a keyhole. Being a scientific researcher in their white lab coat observing children in a laboratory environment. It means getting down on the floor and being a kid and getting your fingers dirty…playdoh, paint, mud, food and unfortunately there’s also what we’ll call the “business end” to contend with.

Children were never meant to be clean!

That, to me, is also unconditional love. Giving your children the space to be and express themselves, albeit within some kind of limits.

Jonathon & I reading

Mister and I 2007

Giving birth was just the beginning and parenting is forever. A parent’s love has no end. Being a tad exhausted and cynical, I’ll add that a child’s demands never end either.

That said, I have always needed “me time” and don’t believe any parent should become their kids. That you can be involved and know your kids, while still maintaining your self. For me, my interaction with my kids is a fluid thing. Sometimes, they need me more than others and there are times when I can also give them more or less of my time. A word of encouragement to parents of little ones, that you do get more of a balance as your children get older and more independent. It can be really difficult when they’re small. Hard to get a break and even enjoy that elusive hot cup of tea (having hot drinks around little ones is verboten and I still remember how much I longed for that hot cup of tea!!)

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Launching into Motherhood.

Yesterday, I visited my cousin in hospital with her brand new twin boys. I hadn’t quite forgotten that elation of a new baby but it was really delightful to have such a poignant reminder, especially x 2. Of course, I remembered and savoured when my two were first born. They’re now 12 and 10. So, even I’m starting to turn back the clock. Do a bit of time travelling remembering what it was like right there at the very beginning when my children were nothing but a blank slate. Moreover, when my son was born, my knowledge of babies was a blank slate too and much to my surprise, they let me take him home without sitting any kind of test…just a “Good bye, Mrs Newton. Bon voyage!!”

 

Thinking about my cousin becoming a mum these days, makes me reflect on what becoming a mother meant in the past. Just a few generations ago, there was no contraceptive pill. Having sex meant the likelihood of having kids, regardless of your plans. My grandmother had seven children while juggling an international career as a high profile concert pianist and her grandmother had 8 daughters living out on a sheep property in the bush.

There was no choice in the matter, although there were some contraceptive strategies around.

This puts an altogether different slant on motherhood with motherhood being more of a destiny, than a choice.

I wonder how that impacted on being a Mum. Your children are still your children and your own flesh and blood but it would have been hard going through strings of pregnancies and births under difficult conditions, while bringing up a handful underfoot. No sitting in your seat and being waited on hand and foot, even though there was “help” for some.

Jonathon & Amelia Cutouts

The Kids.

We forget that this idea of having 1-2 children to give them some kind of privileged existence, is a very new concept. Indeed, so is being able to feed the family without having to grow your own food.

 

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The Thinker: me as a baby back in 1969.

Personally, it is important to understand that our modern way of life and the things we take for granted are very, very new and not something which we should take for granted. Indeed, it’s strange because for so many now, the question is not about preventing pregnancy but enabling conception. We’ve been able to work out the stop part but not the go and not having children is the new heartbreak. Well, not new but it’s certainly replacing the lament of the old woman in the shoe who had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

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Just ask Virginia Woolf: attending University hasn’t always been a given.

While becoming a mother isn’t revered in our modern world, I encourage younger women to make their own decisions about what’s right for them and find your own path. Does money buy happiness? Parenting may not give you happiness either but somehow you need to find out what you want. You can find a heap of ways of finding intellectual fulfilment without working or by working part-time. Or, you can be a parent and work full time. You need to find out what rocks your own boat and be firm. If that means, not having kids, no apologies required. Good on you for not going down the wrong path for you.

No woman or man should have a gun at their head forcing them to have or not have kids. At the same time, you need to be honest with yourself and your partner and know you’re both on the same page.

While that might not be the pink fluffy Mother’s Day message you anticipated, it’s a helpful reality check. Children are such a precious and priceless gift but they also come with huge strings attached and we can’t just send them back. Or, just tie them up round a pole like a dog when we need to duck into the shops or have a quick break. Thank goodness for family, day care or a good friend.

So, after that fairly deep journey through the pros and cons of motherhood, I wish you all a very Happy Mothers’ Day, sending my Mum a huge THANK YOU for all her unsung assistance throughout the years. I love you!

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day today? Are there any Mother’s Day traditions where you live? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

 

The Quest for Compassion at Christmas Time.

Every month, I take part in a global blogging movement:  One Thousand Voices For Compassion. For almost a year now, we’ve been writing a post every month about some aspect of compassion which we’ve come together and shared. I know that for me, focusing on compassion every month and sharing these values with like-minded crusaders has truly expanded my horizons and my world. It’s been such an inspiration!

Here’s a link to the link-up: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=592285

So, here I am back again thinking about compassion. I haven’t watched the news for a few weeks so events beyond my own microcosm are something of a mystery but I know our world is in crisis on many, many fronts. However, I also know that there is much beauty and love in our world as well. As an optimist, I have to believe that ultimately goodness will triumph evil. That one person, even one little person like myself, can actually be a part of what makes a difference…especially when we come together… just like grains of sand joining to make a rock.

I have already contributed a post about visiting Sydney’s Lindt Cafe 12 months after the terrorist siege which shut down the Sydney CBD and resulted in three deaths. This was a very emotional moment for me, especially as I knew one of the hostages: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/sydneys-lindt-cafe-12-months-on/

However, while it is important to be mindful of events making headlines around the world, so much flies under the radar and I feel that by addressing some of the smaller stuff, that we could indeed make inroads on some of the bigger issues.

After all my pre-Christmas trials and tribulations, I have been reminded yet again about the dangers of perfection. Moreover, in the context of Christmas,  how expectations of perfection can all too easily destroy the spiritual, social and fun aspects of Christmas turning it into a horrific ordeal where everything we truly hold dear could well go up in smoke. By the way, I’m not talking about your precious turkey or Christmas pud here but relationships. Love exploding into smithereens under the pressure as nothing or no one could ever possibly measure up to those unrealistic standards of perfection. After all, who really lives on the set of Vogue Living…especially if they have kids, pets and experience any sort of joie de vivre?

Even though I’m pretty laissez-faire about the house, even I’ve found myself getting caught up in this perfectionist trap this Christmas.

Let’s start off with the tree.

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Our Christmas Tree

Even though our tree might look pretty slap-dash with it’s cluttered eclectic menagerie of mismatched ornaments and the poor angel precariously perched at the top looking like she about to jump off, a lot of thought went into that tree. The tree is fresh and was specially ordered in, as we didn’t want a big tree. We have way too many ornaments and so I went through the boxes with my daughter only picking out the best, the favourites and made a mental note to chuck out the broken ones. Cut back.

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Christmas Stocking made 1982, aged 13. Close-up of my crappy needlework.

I know it’s not the done thing to hang your broken ornaments on your tree, especially pride of place. However, what are we supposed to do with broken people? Do we throw them out as well? I don’t think so, especially when you think this through a little further and realise we’re all imperfect or broken in some way.  This, of course means, that we’re either all in. Or, we’re all out!

Shortbread Christmas trees 2015

My not so perfect shortbread Christmas Trees.

Again, I was struck by the perils of perfection while baking shortbread Christmas Trees. While turning shortbread into shapes seemed like a good idea, it certainly wasn’t child’s play. Trying to extract the shortbread mixture from the cookie cutter involved surgical precision, especially when it came to removing the trunk intact. It even required a scalpel AKA butter knife. By the time I’d finished, no two trees were exactly the same. Yes, you could tell they’d been cut by the same cutter but there was also some other force at work. It’s called being handmade. Not something churned out by a factory where each and every detail is identical and any variation is either chucked out or sold off cheap as “Factory Seconds”!

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Heart Teddy is missing an eye. Does that mean it’s officially broken and should be chucked out? I don’t think so!

That is also what it means to be human. Excluding identical twins, no two humans are exactly alike. There are themes and variations and just like my shortbread biscuits. We need to embrace everyone without expecting to see ourselves reflected in every mirror. Well, may be not embrace but at least accept. After all,  I’m not suggesting that you need to go hugging complete strangers to be compassionate.

Humanity needs diversity, a kaleidoscope….certainly not identical, factory-made clones.

However, accepting diversity doesn’t usually come easily. It requires compassion, empathy and, above all else, love. Not just towards others but also ourselves. If we can’t accept imperfection in ourselves how can we possibly hope to accept it in others? That said, for some of us we’re much more critical of ourselves than others. Then, our journey is more about learning to show compassion, love and acceptance to ourselves at least to the same degree that we shower it on others.

This all leads me to my greatest Achilles Heel…having the house neat and tidy for Christmas. Quite frankly, this just isn’t going to happen. All house is bursting at the seams. We’ve had to move and rearrange things to fit in the tree and a piano load of decorations. Moreover, we’ve had so much on, that we’ve only had time to dump and run, which does nothing for maintaining the house. Yet, we’ve performed in end of year concerts. I’ve been doing my blog. Made a Christmas cake, shortbread and I posted 35 Christmas cards today. Is a spotless house really going to bring any joy to anyone? I don’t know but fortunately, we’ll be having Christmas lunch at my aunt’s place. This, of course means, that the house can wait! As long as Santa can squeeze in, we’ll be happy!

Our home might be somewhat overstocked but at least it has a heart and there are far greater crimes about humanity than a bit of dog hair on the carpet!

After all, Baby Jesus was born in a very humble manger in a stable surrounded by barnyard animals and his first visitors were lowly shepherds. That is what we are really honouring at Christmas which is so, so far removed from our contemporary notions of the “perfect Christmas”.

Yet, I am who I am and I still feel like all my efforts have fallen painfully short. That nothing’s quite right. I don’t even know if I’ll manage to convey what I know matters most…love. Trying to show others you love them isn’t a perfect art. We all know how those efforts can backfire. I can only hope that the spirit of Christmas somehow fills in all the cracks, converting my best intentions into something which touches their hearts like a magic wand.

After all, isn’t that’s what’s truly important? To know you are loved and for others to know you love them?!!

heartman 24.6.2010

“Heartman” Drawn by Mister 2010 aged 6.

So, embracing the spirit of compassion this Christmas may we embrace each other and ourselves with love and acceptance just as we are…whatever that means!

If you would like to read more about compassion, here’s a link through to the link-up:

Our family wishes you and yours an Australian “Merry Christmas”. This is a greeting which covers most creeds and cultures here and largely refers to the man in the big red suit, some Christmas “cheer” and time off work, which could well be spent at the beach. This is how so many Australians unfortunately find themselves wearing patchy red birthday suits. More compassion required!

Love and Best Wishes,

Rowena, Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo and Lady

PS: “Happy Holidays” is not a greeting used in Australia and so despite wanting to be culturally sensitive and all-embracing, I feel that I need to be true to where I’m from and what these words mean where I am. Merry Christmas is just like saying “G’day mate” and has lost much of its Christian heritage. I’m not too sure what I think of that either.