Saturday, July 31, 2010

serendipity

I wrote a story once, years ago, as part of a novel-in-waiting. I don't think now it has a place there, but a friend recently wrote about what tea means to her in her blog (yet to be publicly shared, so I was lucky). And just by chance I found this old story tonight. Serendipity, I think it's called. "The discovery of things not sought." But, of course, it's so much more than that.

And I thought, Let us have tea together, you and I. Your tea story and mine. With their little fingers crooked, and the steam curling over the cups. That seems only right…


A cup of tea.

First I fill the jug and switch it on. While I wait for the water to boil I have to make some decisions. Which tea? Which mug? I am thinking Rooibos. A bush from a tiny province in South Africa. It has no caffeine but you can drink it with milk and sugar, so it’s like a regular tea in disguise.

If I had caffeine I would go crazy. I was at a friend’s house the other day and drank two cups of English Breakfast. I never drink black tea, but this day I thought, Goddamn, I’m tired of depriving myself. I’ll just have a little. After the second cup, I told her my life story. It took about five minutes, the words leaping over each other like animals in flight, animals trying to outrun a fire. My head buzzed, my skin tingled. I couldn’t stop talking. When I left, I had to walk out backwards because I was still going, my words ricocheting against the walls, the windows, tangling up in my friend's hair. And the stories were sad and dark, all of them, and her eyes went wide.

Afterwards, when I came down, I thought, What have I done? I apologised the next day, and she said, No. It was okay. I didn’t mind at all. But perhaps she was merely being kind. In that gentle way you might treat a feral cat stuck up a tree.


The kettle makes a murmuring sound that grows louder, an approaching train.

The mug. We have two enormous, truly gigantic mugs from a trip to a tourist shop in San Francisco. They are a committment. You have to be ready for a lot of liquid. You have to be prepared to get up to pee over and over again. If I know I will be writing upstairs for a long time, I think, The big mug. But then they are in the dishwasher sometimes, or still with my husband’s coffee on the bottom, the sediment like tar. Washing a mug this size takes time, more time than I might like to spend.

So I might pick one of the mugs I have been given for Mother’s Day, one for each of the last five years. They show my childrens’ evolution. The first has my daughter at six months old, holding a watermelon rind and peering over it with her big eyes. On the other side is my son who, in this photo, is nearly three. He is playing a toy guitar, but the guitar is huge and heavy, so the strap bears him down and he bends his knees. He is strumming a serious rock riff—his face is contorted with effort, or joy, or both.

Another mug shows the children lying over the dog, smiling up at the camera. The dog lies placidly. He is so gentle, so smelly. On another, the children hold up home-made signs saying, Happy Mother’s Day. I love you. And their eyes squint, because the light is bright outside, so they look worried even though I am sure they were happy. Another mug is fading, the smiles of the children holding fast like Cheshire cats, but the detail becoming blurred. And I think, One day, they will turn white.

The last cup doesn’t exist. Now I remember—my husband missed a year. The shop closed down and he searched through the Yellow Pages with no luck. So he bought me a plastic vase that looked like wood and a box with leather squares on the top. I thanked him but I knew I didn’t want these things. How to explain that it wasn’t things I wanted on this day, but him, and my children, around me, adoring me, keeping me alive.

The kettle has boiled. Today, I choose a butterfly cup given to me by my mother. I put the teabag in, and pour the water. I put in a spoonful of sugar and I stir, with one hand wrapped around the mug. I love this moment. It is pure, here, the time slowed. The cup starts off cool, and as I stir, the tea brews and the cup warms, the china slowly absorbing the heat. Until the delicious moment when the cup is too hot to hold, and I have to move my hand away. I don't mind the almost pain, and sometimes, I see how far I can travel into it. I go with my eyes wide open and I am not afraid.

Once, I burned my fingers badly on the stove. I held them under running water for forty-five minutes. While underwater, my fingers felt fine—in fact, they felt nothing. But I couldn’t stay there. I knew at some point, I was going to have to turn off the tap and face the pain, get in the car, be driven to the doctor to dress the burns.

I took my fingers away. The pain was breathtaking. It hit me as a solid wave, enough to knock a person over, enough to make a person scream. But then something curious happened: I let the pain in. I embraced it. As the pain took over my body I felt I was on the sea. I lifted and floated and held the pain close. So it could not scare me. So it owned nothing. It was almost beautiful.

The tea is ready for the milk. I take out the bag. I pour in just enough milk so the tea is creamy, not too dark. Not too light. Then I sip it. Because it might need more sugar, more milk, more…something.

But today it doesn’t. Today, it is perfect.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

for my friend over yonder

A friend just reminded me of an album that I love. It defined a huge time in my life. A time when I fell in love, found myself so happy I could burst, and just felt alight with inspiration. I used to listen to this album constantly. I'd listen while I wrote, while I walked, while I lay on my bed at night. I'd sing along, harmonise; I breathed the music in.

And eleven years later, my lovely, inspirational friend who lives over the sea, so far away and yet so close, without knowing just how much I love this music, posted a video of one of the songs on her blog. She loves this song—it means countless beautiful things to her and her family. And reminds me of one of the most precious times of my life.

I listened to the song and thought, "Yes, of course. Of course you love this music too."

This is my favourite song from the album (which is called Mermaid Avenue, by the way). It's Way over Yonder in the Minor Key by Woody Guthrie and is performed by Wilco, Billy Bragg and the beautiful Natalie Merchant.

And I'm posting it for you, Jennifer, with love and smiles. So many smiles!





on getting things wrong!

Stop the presses.

I made a mistake.

It's happened before and will one day happen again, I am sure. Maybe, like, over and over again.

I'm not a big fan of making mistakes; I'm a lot like my kids—we are perfectionists and it really bums us out when we try really hard and don't get something right.

But what I try and teach the kids is: "Don't be afraid of getting something wrong." I say, "It's when you take a risk and try something you might not get right, that you are really learning. You practice [insert whatever skill you're trying to attain—maths, piano, squirrel juggling, cooking for a party of 35] and then you get better. Don't be afraid."

All good words and important lessons to learn, blah etc blah, until they actually pertain to you. Until you write something and find you got your facts wrong.

Then the kid in me goes, "Oh. How embarrassing. Wow. How'd I get that wrong? Why didn't I check? Why'd I put myself out there? Everyone will think I'm stupid."

And then the adult in me says, "Well. At least fess up. Then you've got your head held high."

And then the kid in me says, "What if I don't fess up? Maybe no-one will notice. I mean, the only people who really know it's wrong are me and my husband. And he can be bought off."

And then the adult in me says, "It's obvious, dude. Anyone could Google what you wrote in an instant and find out you're wrong."

And the kid in me says, "Who's going to Google? They'll just think, Huh, I suppose she's right. She's the writer after all, and writers are never wrong!"

And the adult in me says, "Now, that's silly."

And the kid in me says, "No it's not."

And the adult in me says, "Yeah, it is."

And the kid in me says, "No, it's not."

And the adult in me says—

[Editor's note: sections of this blog post have been omitted because they stopped making sense]

Anyway. I will fess up, because anyone who knows anything about anything would have seen in my last post that I was wrong.

And I'm not one to run away from admitting my mistake. It can't be that hard. I see politicians doing it all the time.

So here goes:

My husband DID, in fact, write the limerick I referred to in my last post.

He made it up himself. It is his limerick!

And it goes like this:

There was a young man from Ork
Who came to earth on a cork,
He landed in pie
And now he will die
Cause he just got stabbed with a fork.


A great limerick. So great, in fact, and recited so many times by him over the years, that it had entered my memory bank in the section, "Old and Famous Limericks that Everyone knows so you don't even have to quote the whole thing in your post."

Now for the next admission:

I didn't even quote it properly to my kids yesterday. I thought he came from Cork. I thought he came on the fork. I forgot about the stabbing entirely! (Which is the pacifist in me coming out)

I got it all wrong.

All wrong!!

I am sorry, and I will never do it again. *cough*



Anyway. The Lesson Learned is this:


Don't make mistakes.


No. That's not quite right.

Risk making a mistake, but run all references to limericks by husband before I post.

After all, every writer needs a reliable fact checker.

So, husband, you're hired. I will pay you with pie.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

there was a young man

Today we learned about limericks.

I don't know how it came up exactly—we were just driving to tennis lessons and chatting as we always do. The kids were asking really hard questions about things I didn't know the answers to (Note to self: must install voice-activated search engine in dashboard of car so can Google while driving)… and having heard, "Hmm, I don't know," a few too many times… my son changed the subject and said, "I liked that poem Dad told us about the man with a fork."

(Huh?)

"Um, what poem was that?"
"You know, the man with a fork… and something about pie."
"Ah!" I said. And promptly recited the whole limerick. Which, when summarised goes like this: Dude from Cork, comes to earth on fork, lands in pie, does die, and so on.

I was quite pleased I remembered it, and the kids were impressed (finally!). Then I said, "You know, Dad didn't make up that poem."
"No?"
"No, it's an old limerick."
"What's a limerick?"
And we were off and running. I told them the basic structure, and then made up terrible, I mean really terrible, limericks as examples.

There was a pretty good one about a cow and a whale, and some not very good ones about a man named Bob. Then the kids made up really silly ones about grass and…then we got to tennis. And I forgot all about limericks.

Until tonight at the kids' bedtime.

My son had minutes earlier been really distressed about a thought he'd had just before sleep (my kids suffer regular angst at night, as in: "a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general", but we get through it).

As I was talking him down, talking him into calm, he said suddenly,
"Oh, I thought of a limerick, Mum. Do you want to hear it?"

"Sure," I said. (Not phased at all, I might add: I am used to strange and lovely mind shifts in my kids).

So, in his sweet voice my son recited,

"There once was a man named Robin,
Who lived in a shiny toboggan.
But it was too small,
So he went to the Mall,
And bought a bigger toboggan."


"Cool," I said.


Which it was. It really was.


Monday, July 26, 2010

me too


The Sketchbook Project: 2011

Look what I just committed to!


The Sketchbook Project
aka "a Concert Tour for Books"

You sign up to participate, pay a bit of money,
and they send you your very own sketchbook.
(Yum.)

You fill it with drawings/ideas/art/things that matter to you,
send it back to America and it goes on a Grand Tour of the country
with all these other sketchbooks,
by all these other creative spirits,
to be held and read and absorbed.

You will get to see works on-line too, share ideas.
It's a huge, international co-operative art project.

How wonderful!
I'm in.
And I'm already thinking of what I'll put in my sketchbook
when it comes in the post.


So anyway…


I talked about the Project with the kids tonight at dinner.
They got so excited.
They asked lots and lots of questions.
They thought I'd got them a book too.
I said, Ah. I didn't get you a book.


Oh.


I said, How about when my book comes,
we'll go to the shop and get one for each of you just like it?
Then you can do a sketchbook too. We'll do it together.
And you won't have to send yours off; you'll get to keep yours.


But,
said my girl.

But I want to send mine off too.
I want other people to see it.



My girl. Who breathes, sleeps, eats, lives art. Creates constantly.
Who can seem so quiet, so shy and yet,
comes alive with her friends and the people she trusts.
Creates and laughs and
shares herself with the people she loves.

She wants to send her art out into that big wide world

and is not afraid.



That is beautiful.


(my girl and friend in art class)



And yes.
Of course I'll sign them up too.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

fine and warm

Once, years and years ago, when I was feeling sad for most of the minutes of all the time, I tried to write in my journal the good things, and only the good things, that had happened in my day.

It had become very easy to only see the Sad and the Difficult and the Impossible to Overcome. But by writing even just a few good things, I could hold on to them, hold them fairly close, and tell myself that more were to come.

Then life got better, and I got out of the habit of writing down my good things. But this past year, I've found I've been thinking of them again—at the end of a busy day, just mulling over them and smiling inside. Like, Yeah, that was a good moment, and Oh, that one too. That was lovely. And that one over there, yep, that sure was Fine.

And I talk of them to my kids if they are uncertain about the night and the hollowness of sleep. We find the Fine things the day had, and tuck them in—under the blanket, by the pillow, near small, sweet heads.

It feels so lovely, finding the good, Fine things. They have warmth, you know. They actually carry warmth, like rocks baked on beach sand and put in your pocket. They keep you… Safe. Together. Well.



So…

I list my weekend's Fine things, the things that kept me warm:


My son's percussion workshop. When I went to pick him up from the workshop, he was so absorbed in his playing he barely recognised me. My son, in his element.



Friends. My children's and my own. Laughter. Kindness. Generosity. Understanding. Connection.



My kids' sleepover at the house of wonderful friends.

Seeing my children the next morning. They were still in their pyjamas at midday, happy, and so content.

Hearing that my daughter smiled and chatted without hesitation or shyness to people while I wasn't there.

The endlessness of my kids' joy. The little cat school my daughter and her friends built at 10pm tonight, still going, still going—even after 34 hours together—just one more minute, please. My daughter saying just before sleep, "That was fun. That was so much fun."

My date with my husband that went for over 19 hours. Dinner, drinks, movie, talking, talking, talking, a snatch of sleep, then a long bike ride after breakfast, riding past the water, sun shining, being together.



Gifts. The gift of time with my husband. The gift of help and friendship. Thank you.



And now.

A clock ticking. Pets asleep around me. The dog snoring. House quiet.

My words.

Me.




Thursday, July 22, 2010

bliss

Tonight we went to a concert. A trio. Piano, bass, drums.

Simple, and not simple at all.

My kids sat and listened to the entire concert, for the first time ever. Normally they get full by the first set, and need to play outside, go home, be elsewhere. That has always been fine—over the years I've become used to getting a "taste" of the music, and being content with that.

But this time…we were transfixed. The music filled us, lulled us, excited us, captivated us. The musicians explored sounds and rhythms we'd not heard played that way before. My son danced in his seat with a friend; at one point he shut his eyes and just moved his head. My daughter sat on my lap and rested against me, perfectly still.

The musicians talked to each other through their music—it was as though they were a single creation, an invention, a complicated organism. Three music makers, all understanding each other, what the other was doing, what the other was about to do. It felt like being pulled into a kaleidescope. At one point, I closed my eyes, and smiled.

When I wrote—in an earlier post—about the importance of following your dreams, a friend said it reminded her of Joseph Campbell's statement: "Follow your bliss."

Tonight, I could see the musicians were following their bliss. Absolutely. They were inside their own world as they played, where nothing existed but the sounds they were making.

By listening, I was drawn into that bliss, and could make it my own. My kids too, were drawn into a world of Fine, and Pure, and True. Afterwards, it was like they were lit from within.

It was a magical night. I never wanted the music to end.





(Oh, and the name of the band? The Ben Winkelman Trio.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

once upon a time…

I used to be the mother of very little people. I was frazzled and sleep-deprived, breast feeding and on call 24 hours a day. The days then were harder than they are now. There were times I thought, I can't do it. Someone else should do it. I'll get my husband to do it. He definitely would be better at it than me.

Those were the collapsible days, the ones that wanted to fold inside themselves.

I know those days were harder. I should remember they were hard and perhaps feel sad? But I survived them, and so it's a bit like labour. Most of us know logically that it hurt, to give birth. We remember every moment of the process and what we did when. But most of us, I think, don't physically remember the pain. The sense memory actually disappears, in order for us to be able to go through it again.

So when I looked back the other day and found an old email I sent to a friend, I could recognise that the day I had had then was difficult. I was tired when I wrote it, and was feeling pretty miserable. But… when I read it again, so many years later, I thought, Man, that's funny! Wow, that was a bad day! But funny too!

This is what I wrote, over seven years ago, to a dear friend:


If you want to know what went wrong with the day, I'll just say, Everything.

At one point I was in the grocery store with the two kids in the double stroller, pulling the shopping cart behind me, which wouldn't steer straight and kept crashing into my ankles. And then A started screaming with hunger (even though I'd breastfed her just before going out), and so I grabbed a pack of plastic spoons from a shelf, and a jar of baby food from another shelf, and had to plonk myself down in the aisle and feed her, with people walking past and looking down at me curiously. (Why didn't I go out of the store? Well I would have had to wait in the line to buy the spoons and food, so I thought, Do it now, pay later)

So then of course T started yelling about getting out of the stroller, and he wanted to play with the toys, and then the mask he put on his face got stuck so he started screaming about THAT, and then just as I was feeding a spoonful of food into A's mouth, she did a huge sneeze. So there I was—sitting on the store floor, with one screaming toddler throwing toys on the floor, one sodden food covered baby, and shoppers trying to get around me—literally sprayed from head to toe with pureed baby food.


Funny! Terrible, but so funny! Don't you think?

The mental image alone makes you just groan, and laugh, and say, I feel for you, mother of two young ones, sleepless and stuck. It makes you want to give that mother a sympathetic smile, an “I've been there” look, and maybe even a hug.

The email went on. It listed things that happened next, and the whole thing read like a set of dominoes going down, one, by one, by one.

But at the end of the email, I wrote how I loved my kids. I wrote about how the next day my son and daughter greeted me with a smile, and my son said he loved me. I wrote, “And life goes on.”

Which it does, doesn't it. It can't help itself—time passes, and things that were hard then have changed, or disappeared. New challenges come and time passes. Pain comes, and it passes. And you begin to see that even when things are hard, it won't always be the exact same kind of hard. You may even be able to laugh at those things one day, or find the positives inside them. Things may even get easier.

I feel for the mother I was then, but also admire the pluck I had. Because I went on with the day, and loved my kids that day, and kept on loving them and parenting them the next.

And I wrote a story about it that I think I actually knew was funny even then. Because a day that hard can only be laughable, ridiculous. You have to laugh at it, right in the face, if you can.

And then, you pick yourself up.

Try and find the redeemable moment in all of it.

And survive.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

first day


So it was the first day of term in our neck of the woods…

We began with some maths. My son learned about something called an exponent and wrote a question for me that I couldn't answer. My daughter learned about adding numbers to other numbers and not panicking when the numbers had nines in them.

Then my son began writing Part 2 of his Book Series. My daughter chose to do a test in an english workbook that she likes. And she began a story about a ninja puffin named "Puffin."


And then it was time to go.


Time for the first day of term to really begin.



The kids had their tennis lessons here

(or nearabouts):




And then we went here.


Where…


there was a cubby to play in…



a tree to climb…



a ball to kick …



a path to follow…



and a feather to find.




The verdict?

We loved our first day of term.

Monday, July 19, 2010

catching

So my son is making comics.


And now…

my daughter is making comics
and they got me to make a comic
and they got my husband to make a comic.


And now…

my son is looking up comics all the time
and reading comics from the library
and becoming consumed...


And now…

it's 11.30 at night and I'm looking at comics online
(having just finished reading my son's Terry Pratchett book)


And…

I think whatever my son's got

it's catching.



Here's one I liked a lot:


The Ol’ Flower Pocket
I got it from this site


Sunday, July 18, 2010

superpowered

What does it mean when you like kids' books best? And you adore going to kids' movies, and one of your favourite films of all time is The Emperor's New Groove? What does it mean when during the kids' holiday show at the museum you laugh the loudest of everyone in the theatre?

What does it mean when you let your kids have choc chip cookies one night right at dinnertime because they smell so good and waiting 'til after dinner would be a tragedy? And you go to buy a bra at the shop with your daughter and two minutes later announce, "This is way too boring, let's leave," and to the delight of your girl, visit the toy store instead?

What about the fact you easily choose learning to play Poptropica with your kids over doing the laundry? And you love going to pet the kittens at the RSPCA because, yes, they are so cute? And you totally want to pour water onto the campfire when it's time to leave—because it seems so cool to watch all that steam—and you sneak in a turn before any kids notice?

What does it mean when you don't like bedtimes either? And you think maybe there are some monsters under the bed, or in the bathroom at night?

What does it mean when you find logic annoying sometimes because it gets in the way of spontaneity? And talking about money (earning it, managing it, wanting it) makes you exhausted? And you want to get whatever new pet you and the kids have fallen in love with now—I mean right now—because not getting it is way too dull?

My husband has an answer for this. He says, "You're like a kid, Helena. A kid with adult powers."

Which is either dangerous or liberating, or both. Sometimes it makes you get so caught up in the ending to the movie Babe at the age of 28 that your roommates all laugh at you—you're on the edge of your seat, wide-eyed and transported with joy at Babe's powers. Sometimes it means you love the moment your kids open their Christmas stockings because the look on their faces, in that moment when they see what's inside, is too delicious for words. It makes your skin tingle.

And sometimes it means you want to move to the tropics this minute, because winter's just too ordinary, and you spend a good hour looking up houses in northern Queensland instead of looking for an affordable way to heat your home. And it means you buy a boardgame every single time you enter the toy shop with the kids, so you can't go in too often.

And it means you would pick running a free writers workshop for kids a hundred times over teaching adults for money. Because kids are so great; they are true and fine and interesting. And they live in the moment, always, and love to play and be together. And life can be that simple.

It doesn't earn you much, being a kid inside. And plenty of times, I manage to take out my adult powers and use them for practical, sensible things. But the kid in me is always there, and I can't shake her—she is my skin and my spirit, one of the best parts of me I have.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

together and alone


Today I rode my bike, by myself, to a cafe downtown. I rode the bike track that runs along the beach, past a lagoon, over a creek, through pockets of bush, all the way to a gorgeous cafe overlooking the ocean. As I rode, I thought, This is a good moment. This is a good life. This is a beautiful place to be. Here I am.

I saw kids fossicking in the creek. A woman in a wheelchair, rug over her knees, eating lunch at the edge of the lagoon. I saw men powering remote-controlled boats. A girl walking her pet rabbit. A boy in a bicycle seat, almost asleep. Couples side by side beside the sea.

I didn't talk to anyone, that is, no-one except the friendly waitstaff at the cafe and one man—I offered his young son my uneaten hot choc marshmallows and got a warm, Yes please and Thankyou smile in return.

I read. I wrote. I watched. I thought. I rode. All in my own silence.

I couldn't remember the last time I'd been by myself, at least not for so long. My son almost came with me—he said, "I've been wanting to go on a long ride for ages!"
I thought, 'Well, I was thinking of taking time for myself, but…that would actually be really nice.' I realised I honestly didn't mind if my plan changed, if my son came with me on my "afternoon off." I knew we'd have a good time.
"Okay," I said, "If you want to, you're welcome to come."
But, in the end he decided to stay. Because, he reasoned, Dad should have time with him too, and my son wanted to be fair. Which was very kind.

My afternoon was simple and good and I loved the silence I had. But as I rode, I realised that if my son had come too, the "alternate version" of my afternoon would have been just as lovely. Not for the same reasons, but for other good reasons, fine reasons of its own.

I knew I could have joy either way, no matter what I did, because I believed it would be there waiting, and I would find it.


view from the cafe window


view on my way home

lovely, isn't it?


Friday, July 16, 2010

the S-word

One of the things I panicked about when we started homeschooling was this one loaded word:

Socialisation.

I'd heard that homeschooled kids didn't get enough of it, didn't know how to do it, were deprived of it, couldn't assimilate back into school because of a lack of it, and suffered in general because of not doing it properly. It sounded drastic, dreadful, dire.

Our first week of homeschool (with just my daughter at the time) saw me enrolling my girl in Scouts and searching frantically for a homeschool playgroup. I knew I wanted and needed to homeschool my daughter, but I couldn't figure out how we wouldn't be lonely. It was quite terrifying, this concept of isolation I had—my girl stuck in a friendless world with just me for company.

Well, we got lucky. We found a homeschool group in the second week. The kids (and parents too!) were lovely people—intelligent, thoughtful, considerate, amusing, independent, engaging, articulate, lively, unique people. How fantastic. (And kind of unexpected—weren't they all supposed to stare at the ground and mumble?)

At first we only met homeschoolers once every two weeks. I would ask people how they dealt with the S-word—and they'd say, "Truly, it's nothing. It's a non-issue. You'll see."

We began to see families at other times; we were invited to come see how they homeschooled, to have tea, to get to know each other better. They introduced us to other people who introduced us to more people. We were welcomed, with kindness and generosity.

When my son joined us, a term later, the embrace was just as warm. The first family of homeschoolers we ever met are now our great friends. The second family, great friends. Family after family, awesome kid after awesome kid—friends. How lucky we are! (And kind of blessed, which I've said before and won't stop saying until someone comes and hits me on the head with a thesaurus).


The kids are busy outside Homeschool Land as well. They see their old school friends, often. They have found the activities they love, and let go of things they don't.

My daughter does art class, because she adores art. My son plays in a band and jazz combo, because he loves music. The kids take tennis lessons, because the teacher is fun and friends come too. Once upon a time I would have said, "Here, look! Good, solid examples of Socialisation!” Now I think, “Wow. I love how my kids are having fun.”

(And you can be sure the kids aren't gazing about themselves with satisfaction and saying, "Oh Lookit! We're Socialising! How Grand!" To them, they are just playing, and being, and being true to themselves.)

How empowering. (And kind of eye-opening as well)


But I've noticed something else, something important:

Sometimes, we have become too busy.

Sometimes we feel full of seeing people, and actually want to stay home—hang out, just family, together.

Amazing!

We have rainchecked invitations, and not gone to some excursions or get togethers. We have sometimes chosen each other's company first, and not seen other people for days.

We love those days at home. We love having hours to finish a project. The kids are best friends and truly almost never argue. We have fun together. We delight in each other. We talk. Just us. It gives us serenity. Those days feel like a gift.

How extraordinary! (And kind of delightful, to find we like each other so much).



I have seen my children become social, empowered, independent people, outside of the schoolyard. I have seen them like themselves more and more, every day that passes. That is wonderful.

We Socialise without caring we're socialising. In fact, "Socialisation" is a complete non-issue, just as my friends told me it was, over a year ago.

I actually think "Socialisation" (or Lack Thereof—and all the stigmas and judgements attached) is the greatest fallacy about homeschool there is. If people use that word to argue against homeschool now, I think, “Ah, but you don't know what I know. You haven't seen what I've seen. How I wish you had.”

How satisfying it is, to figure this out. (And kind of lovely, to find we aren't lonely at all)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

a vision splendid

So my son became an entrepeneur last weekend. Big word, small boy…enormous ideas.

He's going to try and earn over $300 to buy an archery set. Bow, arrows, finger guard thingy, quiver, something called a sight, and other bits and pieces. These things cost a LOT (which perhaps I could have thought of two years ago when he began his archery dream—I could have steered him towards an inexpensive passion, like building card houses, or collecting leaves).

When he first mentioned he wanted the archery set, I said, "Well, you could let everyone in the family know that's what you want, and ask for it for Christmas."

Then I thought some more. I said, "Or..... you could try and earn the money yourself?"

Super exciting idea, Mum! We began brainstorming. What could he do? There were the ordinary things like washing the car, doing special jobs around the house. But none of these would earn the big bucks any time soon. We had to think Bigger.

So we thought of his special talents. And my son instantly thought of his comics. His new passion is writing comic strips and he's done 11 whole strips already. They're actually really funny— his characters are two somewhat cynical, lazy (and mistake-ridden) roommates who spend a lot of time just sitting around talking, a bit like Seinfeld.

I like the comics a lot, and think they're good, and to prove this wasn't just me wearing Mummy-Goggles, I had them independently tested (in other words my son showed them to some people) and the verdict is: They're Great.

Anyway. We made them into little books last weekend, and printed out 50 copies. He's going to sell them. He's going to sell them all! He's sold 5 already and made $10 whole dollars! He's so close to his target he can almost taste it…… !

I love this kid. I love his ideas and his enthusiasm. I love that he believes in himself so much. I love his gorgeous confidence and optimism.

We're going to have a "Sweet and Funny" stall soon, set up at the music school where my husband teaches, and my son is going to sell comics and home-made brownies. I think there's no way he'll fail.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

discovered

I've discovered I don't much like winter in an tragically-underheated house. It seems to make me gloomy, all this being cold and not being warm. So I figure I have three options: 1. Move to a tropical climate; 2. Move to a house with major central heating, or 3. Get better heating for my house. With our finances, No.3 is the definite front runner, but none of it is the insta-fix I'm after. I want to blink and be warm, constantly warm, like I have my own sun patrolling my bones.


I've discovered I don't need to ask my son every school holidays if he'd rather go back to school. I've been checking in every holidays…um, and whenever he talks about his old school friends… and other times too. I think I have worried, sometimes, that he might prefer to be at school but didn't know how to tell me. I have thought, perhaps, that he mightn't be completely happy to be here.

Today I said, “If you want to go back, you can tell me. Please don't worry that you'll hurt my feelings.”

He said, “Mum, that never occurred to me until you brought it up. You don't ever need to ask me that again. If I ever want to go back, I'll tell you.” (And he's only ten, my little old man.)

“But do you want to?”

“No.”

Turns out he is, in fact, happy. Happy to homeschool, happy to be here, wanting absolutely to be here. Pretty uncomplicated.

My daughter I don't ever need to ask. She has said repeatedly, “I will never ever go back to school. Never. Ever.”

Again, uncomplicated.


I've discovered the beauty of sitting at the computer listening to long forgotten music that my husband has just loaded into iTunes. I remember I used to always write to music. I'd get a stack of cds ready for a writing session, then just fall into the sound. What I listened to would inform my words. It felt like my own personal cloud. It feels like that right now.


I've discovered I'm writing again, regularly creating. The kids pick up on that. They write when I write, draw when I draw, and when I leave off to make a meal or clean something, they keep at it. My son finds the piano and improvises. My daughter does page after page of cartoon cats.

When I'm feeling low they feel it, when I am fired up and creating, they feel it. They are formed by osmosis and by their sweet hearts.

Today my daughter was sad in bed, finding it hard to sleep and weeping over a worry. She thought I might be cross, to be called back to her room for the third time tonight. But I said, “No. I'm not cross. I actually have to tell you a secret.”

“What, Mummy?”

“Well, I've been feeling sad too, today, and I'm not sure why. I was wondering if you could look after me, this time. I wonder if you could tell me it's all going to be okay.”

She smiled. “It's all going to be okay, Mummy.”

“How do you know?” (This being the question she always asks me)

“I just do.”

She wrapped me up in a hug. And I discovered, in that moment, that I was finally, actually, warm. All the way through to my unpatrolled bones.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why the sun


This blog is wildly, relentlessly positive: it means to be.

It won't let in dark and it won't let in sad and if now and then I feel hollow, the sorrow is flipped upside down with flowers and a photo of a child in a tree.

There's a reason, you see.


A liftetime ago, a year ago and yesterday, I suffered from depression. I had the Real Deal, the kind where you have to see doctors, get pills, talk to counsellors, and remind yourself to keep alive. I probably had it from adolescence, this illness, but it came and swallowed me after I had my son ten years ago. I could not sleep for worry; I could barely think sideways let alone straight. I had to scrabble my way out of the darkest hole—time and time again I thought it might claim me.

It took years to find my way out.

Each year is easier, smoother. And since I started homeschooling I feel joy so often because I am finally following my heart. I am with loving, laughing children every day and I get to find my true Mother self. I am lucky. I am blessed.

But I don't get complacent. Sometimes I think I'm only ever just one step out, trying not to look back.

People are amazed to hear I have had depression. That sometimes I still have tough days or weeks. They say, But you're so happy! So relaxed, so calm. It is curious, I know. I don't get it sometimes, either.

I absolutely couldn't understand it when I first faced it, ten years ago. I couldn't figure out how I could have so much, so many gifts—a loving husband, beautiful child, my health, a roof over my head—and still be swallowed by sadness. It took me a long time to understand, that this is how an illness works. It comes and tries to claim you. All you can do, is gather what you can to fight it.


So.

I gather sunshine. I gather joy.

I gather photographs and laughter.

I gather my children about me.

I gather my dreams and the things that are truest.

I gather good, strong words.

I gather lovely friends, loving family.

I gather care.

I gather bushwalks, the sweeping ocean, great gobs of beauty.

I gather small, sweet moments.

I gather kindness. Respect. Patience.

I gather love.


Sad comes, you can't always avoid it. I let it in just enough so it won't bang the door down later. But I don't let it stay. I won't give it room to take hold.

Sometimes sad wants to stick—mess with me, my children. I grit my teeth and I shove it out.


And I go back to gathering joy.