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Dear Avery, goodbye.

Avery, your mama and I met a long time ago, back when she had your big sister in her belly, and I had my big girl growing in mine.

We had those daughters within a day of each other. We've been friends ever since, sharing the occasional joyful meeting, and a lot of computer-assisted chat. She was one of the first people to call me when I was hurting badly. I wish I knew how to help with the pain she is feeling now.

I am so sorry your stay was short. I would love to have met you. You would have loved your big sister, with her cheeky fae grin - everyone does. And your mum and dad? Your parents are amazing, and will love you forever.

Go well.

3x9 meme

Yoinked from Chally and Lauredhel.

1. Siobhan
2. Mama
3. ...baroquestar?

1. Best. Jacket. Evar.
2. "Why are owls smart?" t-shirt from Threadless
3. Glasses

1. Perfect teeth
2. Freedom from anxiety
3. Inspiration

You, you, and you.

1. Had lunch and Koko Black goodness with a visiting friend
2. Saw "How to Train Your Dragon" in 3D (Awes.)
3. Bought jeans, finally (i.e., I found some that were dark with no fading or whiskering, fit properly, didn't give me horrible bulgy/pinchy bits)

1. Lorina
2. Woman from vaccine research study
3. Mum

1. See a staff preview of Titanic 3D
2. Work
3. Parent (see 2)

1. The fruit granita from Pellegrini's
2. A good G&T
3. Warm mead

1. Tickets to the opera
2. The lumpy ineptitude of my first pincushion
3. My kid

Thanks and a disclaimer...

I know no easy way of notifying you all of this comment, so the most effective thing to do is make a new post...

I thank you all for the very kind words about my mothering. But I feel I should issue a disclaimer - there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and things I do don't have to work for others. Particularly those of you without kids yet (the parents will assume this already!), I DO NOT get it right all the time. I have moments of irrational anger, I take my own tiredness out on my kid sometimes, I explain things wrong on occasion.

Everyone does it. My way of recovering from moments of serious parenting fail is to apologise once and move on. But I'm aware I tend to blog the funny, cute, win moments - it's not like that all the time!


Adventures in Parenting in Public.

So, Maeve picked up a copy of the daily rag on the tram today, and was flicking through it. We were seated directly across from a suited chap, and behind an elderly Italian woman talking nineteen to the dozen at the tram driver. I mention the chatting, because there was no way I would have thought she would overhear or be able to listen to any other conversation.

M. turned to a page with an advertisement showing a statue of a seated Buddha. She pointed and asked, "what is that, Mama?"
"It's a Buddha statue."
"What's a Buddha?"
"Who, really. Buddha was a person. He lived a long time ago, and people revered him as being very wise. Sort of like a god, but not really."
"...what's a god?"
"Oh, wow. OK. Um, you know ghosts? Hang on, start again. Gods are beings. Not people, sort of more than people. They are meant to be very very powerful and can do almost anything, and know almost everything. Some people believe they CAN do anything, and know everything!"
"Well, some people believe in gods. Some people believe in many gods, some people believe there is just one God. Some people don't believe in any gods at all!"
At this point, M got distracted by some other shiny thing or concept, and we had to ding the bell to get off the tram.

As we disembarked, the black-clad Nonna leant forward and poked me in the hip. "You are a GOOD MAMA. You do good job. They ask hard questions sometimes, eh?" I couldn't do anything but beam at her and say "thanks" as I was wrangling a 4yo, two bags and a pile of kinder artwork off the tram. She waved to Maeve. "Bye bye, Bella."
Maeve twisted in my arms, and yelled, "I'm MAEVE! Not Bella! My name's Maeve! Bye!"

M turned to me, amused. "She called me Bella, Mama!"
"Hee! Bella is not a name, sweetie, it's a word. It means beautiful girl in Italian."
"Oh. I AM beautiful!"

Yep, that you are. And so was that woman. She made me feel awesome.

Parenting in public is really hard. Kids are a marginalised group with very little individual power and only developing autonomy, and it is fashionable and acceptable to hate them and wish them out of public spaces. People, who would otherwise describe themselves as accepting and tolerant, feel quite free to make horrific generalisations about all children and their behaviour and state the most appalling resentment towards them for existing, using the kind of language and terms they would NEVER consider acceptable about, say, POC or homosexual people.

And the same resentment is often directed at parents, most usually the mother. There's a definite raison d'etre for I Blame The Mother - motherblaming is practically a sport in our society, and certainly a rich source of revenue for companies who maintain a vested interest in making mothers feel inadequate. I specify mothers, because we are still perceived as the "default parent". Fathers taking care of their children are referred to as "babysitting". A friend of mine, out with his son, is asked, "so, you're giving Mum a break?", totally negating his role as co-parent to his child. Fathers are practically awarded medals for performing any onerous or odorous baby-related task, whereas a woman expressing distaste for the repeated performance of same will be met with "well, that was your choice when you decided to have a baby!"

All this is part of one's daily lived experience when being a Parent in Public. The raised eyebrows, child-hating language, relegation to Default Parent or Understudy depending on one's external gender appearance. I've experienced all of it, and I have what people refer to as a "good" child; one who rarely arcs up in public, does what is asked of her most of the time, and is friendly and outgoing. No matter what we do as parents, we will inevitably be the target of resentment and criticism by people who don't agree with our parenting decisions, or who merely resent our very existence.

So, for once, it was a delight to be told I was doing a good job when I was answering the hard questions as best I could.
"Mummy, do you know what I hate? ...hang on, what does 'hate' mean?"
"Well, it means you REALLY REALLY REALLY don't like something. But it's more than dislike. It's like you wish it didn't exist. Not a nice word, but useful, sometimes."
"Oh. Well, do you know what I hate?"
"...Cupcakes made of poo. I really hate poo cupcakes."
"...um. Fair enough."

Hello there, journals!

So, it's been over two months since I blogged.


Insert whatever excuse seems good to you, but it's fairly obvious that it dropped off when I discovered facebook, and ceased almost entirely once I became a twit. Tweeter. Whatever.

Uni: This has been so, so hard. My old habits of "argh...run away!" as soon as something becomes academically tough (and immobilising perfectionism kicks in) have been very hard to fight back, and I've not always won that fight. Two months of total inertia around August/September, most notably. Luckily, my extension continues, and the work continues, my interviewees will hopefully return their interviews to me soon, and I'm more than halfway there in terms of writing. About 2/3 of the word count, actually, but that's not the point. I'm so going to bust 15K. I hope TPTB can't count...

Around the time that my academic inertia was hitting crisis point, so was the rest of me. I was putting off writing the dissertation, but I wasn't doing anything else, because I felt guilty doing anything that wasn't Thesis. So I did nothing but work, parent, fart about on the internet...it didn't help. I got to a point where I'd been desperately needing to cry, and unable to, then started and couldn't stop. I really felt like there was nothing chemically wrong in my head, it was severe dissatisfaction with how I was living my life. So, I dealt with it in a swotty kind of way; I wrote a list. Everything that was missing, everything that was actively causing me angst, everything I was doing that was helping, and everything I was doing that was detrimental. I then made a concerted effort to fill in the blanks, do more of, or eliminate as applicable.

I didn't just say "stop doing ANYTHING that's not Thesis, and just do it", I knew I'd feel miserable and helpless and frustrated when I failed to do it. I stopped putting things off "until after I'm done", and started reconstructing the kind of life I wanted to be living - one with a healthy dose of creativity, fun, work, play, music.

It worked. I started small, moving my sewing table in to the study and getting the sewing machine out. I read a book for pleasure. Then I did something really scary and GOT MYSELF A SINGING TEACHER.

Weirdly enough, I've gotten more thesis-work done since I gave myself permission to be happy than when I was furiously punishing myself for doing fuck-all. I'm not saying it's perfect, I still would like to be finished and done and *dusting hands off*, but I'm getting there. And I think I'm much nicer to be around, on the whole.

Maeve: The elflet is doing brilliantly. The trips to Perth take their toll on us all in terms of sleep deprivation, financial outlay and emotional upheaval, but I still think we're doing the best thing possible. Maeve has three brilliant parents who work very hard to keep her feeling secure and loved, and it shows. She's charismatic with enough empathy to not indulge in tyranny. She loves to dance and write and make up stories. Currently her favourite colour is red, but as with everything, when you ask her preference for something, the answer always begins, "well, TODAY my favourite is [...]". Her new haircut is adorable, and I've made her a bunch of practical and lovely clothes. I really can't honestly believe she's almost four (and it's time for me to write one of my birthday letters), but then I'll look back at baby photos and be totally bemused that she was ever that tiny fresh being with the visitor-from-the-stars look still in her eyes.

Music: You know what else was making me miserable? I had stopped referring to myself as a singer, feeling like a humbug whenever I did so. I'd lost an integral part of who I was. So, I mentioned I got a singing teacher. Annalisa's fantastic - is very good at identifying my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and giving me strategies to tackle them, and also my strengths. She's helping me work on the longstanding tension problem, and I swear I'm sounding better within 3 lessons. It's hard, of course, when you're working with new techniques and new methods. I feel like I'm working with a totally unfamiliar instrument, and it's nowhere NEAR reliable yet. I probably get one in 20 notes in the right spot. But she's made me feel very positive about what I can do, saying that my ear is fantastic, and that the voice is beautiful (nice of her - I am looking forward to hearing myself when I'm getting a more consistently good sound) and big. Very big. I know that, but it'll be good to have a voice that carries beautifully, rather than being applied like an assault weapon.

Next weekend I'll be participating in a vocal performance and interpretation workshop run by Annalisa and Suzanne Johnston (I think?), which will be both terrifying and extremely good for me. She said I'd be "fine", so...argh.

Hopefully, by January, I'll be a little more stable, because at long last, I'm doing TSSS!

The other "musical" (you'll see the reason for the scarequotes in a sec) adventure I've embarked upon is learning the tin whistle. Again. I used to play in a very limited way, and always swore I'd pick it up again and get good, with the ultimate goal of buying myself a Irish wooden flute one day (the fingering is the same). I even bought a beginner's set in Ireland, back in 2005. On a whim, when hosting some friends for a Samhain celebration, I picked it up and made some godawful squawking noises. Since then, I've practiced when I get the chance, and I'm getting better! My fingers now mostly remember where they're meant to be without a chart reminder, I'm getting the hang of tonguing, and I can usually switch between the octaves without trouble. Except when condensation gets the better of me. Wind instruments, they're disgusting!

Speaking of which...

Robin: This is the most difficult aspect of my life to write about with any candidness, or without resorting to leavening humour. Not because it's difficult or bad (oh, SO the opposite), but just this kind of reticence about looking too ridiculously sappy in "public", and a lingering superstition from the Days of Horrific Anxiety that to commit something to words is a deathknell. But to not write about it leaves an obvious hole, or rather ignores the warp-thread of my life. Not a single discrete aspect, but an all-pervading joy - someone who rejoices in, assists, allies with what I do and who I am. I am happy. We are happy. There is a sense of absolute rightness about where we are and who we are with Right Now. Even negotiating a way through conflict is a reinforcement that we're doing the right thing.

That was more an "Us:" than a "Robin:", true. Well, I'll let him blog for himself, but he's well. There's been a sad loss in his family after a difficult time watching the loved one fade away. But otherwise, he is flying, and singing, and doing an excellently good job of adapting to Insta-Parenthood(tm) ("Just Add 3yo!!").

Melbourne: I love it here, from the ridiculous (I have so much fun finding beautiful clothes here) to the sublime (plays! exhibitions! etc!). I've strengthened friendships with people I already knew, and have been meeting new people. The move took it out of me pretty seriously, as I've explained before, but it's definitely the best idea of my life. Work is going fine, for the most part. I've now taken on the task of producing the Indigenous Cultures content for our section of the website, and I'm well chuffed about that.

So, that's about it, really. Not much has happened this year, eh? Just, you know. Stuff.
This article, and the resulting discussions and critiques of it, really hit close to home at the moment. I particularly recommend Lauredhel's response at Hoyden About Town.

Lauredhel summed it up beautifully, getting right into where I feel worst about the whole dialogue with this one paragraph: Stuff is not what feminist parenting is about, nor is it what parenting is about. Parenting is so, so, so, so (x etc) much more than what you freaking spend your money on. But the Barbie Question is a convenient, simplistic, attractive way to encapsulate What Feminists Are Doing Wrong This Decade.

We are still, decades after second wave, met with faint disapproval when we raise incongruities or incompatibilities between our feminist beliefs and the type of parenting that is supported/facilitated in our society. Inevitably, it's our feminism that's the problem, not the Barbies or the Bratz or the flashcards with white male doctors and firies and white female teachers and nurses. In any conflict between the two modalities, we are expected to sacrifice feminism, because to do otherwise, to deny our daughters the Bratz doll or our sons the mock assault rifle, is to be humourless, and, it's implied, a Bad Mother. The feeling one gets is that Feminism is a choice you make, discrete from everything else, and to inflict it on a child is ultimately selfish.

My feminism is not in competition with my parenting - it is inextricable from it, something I am. And that something means I do not invite sexism into my home, will not support it economically by buying Stuff that enforces problematic gender patterns, and will not encourage my child to limit herself to popular ideals based on configuration of genitals and chromosomes. And it's so much more than what I *won't* do - what WILL I do, and what DO I do? I encourage her when she wants to paint, climb, draw, use big words, pour her own tea at a tea party, be a mermaid, build a crane. She gets hugs when she's sad, comfort when she's lonely, support when she's frustrated. We respect her bodily autonomy, and expect her to respect that of others. When she asks me if girls sometimes turn into men, and boys into women when they grow up, and if sometimes boys like to pretend to be girls, I answer her honestly ("Yep, sometimes!"). When she tells someone off for calling her a "princess" and says, no, she's MAEVE, we've got her back. We talk about where our food comes from, how we can grow it, and why the worms are our friends. When she asks me awkward questions about STI infomercials on public transport, I answer her, even when it means a tramload of people quietly LOLing at me. The house is full of laughter, love, craziness and, for some reason, socks with no pair.

Do I sound like a joyless, negative, childood ruiner to you? Does telling her I won't buy a Barbie (and this is why) negate the rest of it?


Time for my naked scene? Oh wait, my life's not a musical.


So, for the first time in almost four years, I've had a haircut.
Actually, I had a lot of hairs cut! Har!Collapse )

Not back for a 1/3 life crisis, eh?

Content? Good heavens.

Well, I'm feeling guiltily like I'm camping on my favourite handle, here, so how about I post some content? LJ readers, this will be cross-posted, thus the new journal reference. My apologies to those who'll get it twice. I only really have a little time before I must be in bed, but I've been meaning to do a run-down of the Cultural Events (tm) I've attended since I moved to Melbourne. Aside from work, I mean!

Comedy Fest gigs: Adam Hills, Josie Long, Tim Minchin.All charming and hilarious. Didn't get a dud gig in the lot, though I would have liked to have seen more performances if I'd been able. Next year!
Wicked - So, SO worth it. Really enjoyed it, and I thought it would be overrated, or something. We had the understudy for Elphaba, and can't imagine how anyone could do a more accomplished performance.
MSO kids' concert - MSO does little snippets of popular works to showcase each section. Elflet enjoyed, particularly stamping up and down the riser on which she was seated. Oh well. We can't dictate someone else's interaction with a performance, right?
The Magic Flute - Hmm. Really, really enjoyed the individual performances, but something about the direction left me a little cold. I was cheering on the Queen of the Night to win, and not just because she's a friend.
Cirque du Soleil - LOUD! And impressive. The Elflet managed to get through to the bows before melting down in over-stimulation, which I thought was excellent timing, on her part.
Star Trek movie - So THAT'S where all those pop-culture references come from! Not a Star Trek fan for the most part, but I'm glad I saw it.
Avenue Q - So glad I saw this. Very funny. Was a more low-key production than I was expecting, for some reason. Performers were very good, though.
August: Osage County - This was BRILLIANT. I'm not a theatre buff. I'll actively avoid plays, normally. But I might have to revise that attitude. I was brought very close to tears at one point, and laughed harder than anyone should at drug addiction and family collapse and incest.
Collingwood Children's Farm's Winter Solstice Bonfire - As I said on FB, this was all vegie burgers, hot chocolate, children everywhere, fire, and of course, Melbourne's entire complement of affluent urban white hippies. Enjoyed it, although very crowded. And, you know, now the sun will rise. :D

And a getting-to-know-you-again memeCollapse )


Spinach and Cheese Tart

No, no content beyond a REALLY SUPER YUMMY recipe. This rocks. Don't mess with the seasoning, it makes the whole thing just... work.

recipe belowCollapse )
It is not a particularly fragile dish, it would be great to take on a picnic. By the same token, it is unbelievably tasty and pretty enough to serve to dinner guests. Go forth and wallow.