Let’s See How Much I Love You Today

Sometimes, kids are really just there to teach you not to be a jerk.

Kid1 started Kindergarten this year, which involved a school uniform and, among other things, a school bag. Because the bag is uniform, everyone has the same bag. Because everyone has the same bag, the first week or so of pick-up involved opening bags to find which one had contents that I recognised. Clearly, this is not efficient, and a bag tag was in order. So bag tag shopping we went.

I was, to put it mildly, surprised and disappointed by the lack of range, especially since I was more than happy to consider keyrings also bag tags. But no, these were the illusive treasure of the Back-to-School season.

Eventually we found some that were about $5-7. They weren’t great aesthetically, but they’d do the job.

Mr5 turned up his nose. I could have just put my foot down, but I wasn’t that keen on them either, so I thought we’d keep looking for a bit. And then we hit the jackpot: Star Wars keyrings and bag rags.

The only problem? They were $15 each.

Dude, $15 for a BAG TAG?? NO THANK YOU.

But it was Star Wars, so Young!Spawn was naturally enamoured (even though he’s never seen the franchise, he’s obsessed with it). I consulted the husband via phone (again, it’s a measure of how unaesthetically pleasing the cheap ones were that I didn’t just put my foot down there and then) and he was like eh, call it a non-birthday birthday present.

*SIGH*.

I did narrow his choices to the Chewbacca or the R2D2 (the other options being Darth Vader or Marvel superheros which, while I enjoy them personally, encourage too much violence in my already physically active child), and he chose the R2D2, and I begrudgingly handed over my $15, and we went home and he was overjoyed to discover it came with a build-in torch (ah, THAT was the reason for the price hike) and we attached it to his bag.

Two days later, we were in the car together on our way to school. I’m tired and mostly silent (because this is my morning mien), and he is bubbly and peppy and loud (because this is his permanent mien, generally speaking). And then,

“Mummy, let’s see how much I love you!”

Confused, I glanced at him in the rear view mirror.

“I’ll flash my torch,” he continued. “And the number of times I flash it is how much I love you.”

I confess, I melted a little bit. Maybe I didn’t resent those fifteen hard-earned dollars quite so much now as I did yesterday.

“Sure,” I replied. “Go ahead.”

He held up the tiny R2D2 torch, awkwardly constrained by the weight of his bag, and flashed so I could see it in the rear-view.*

Flash. Flash flash flash.

Y’all, the kid loves me.

For the next week, every morning, this became his routine. “Mummy, let’s see how much I love you.” Cue five million flashes.

Y’all, the kid loves me.

And you know what? The R2D2 is missing its legs now, and he doesn’t really care about it either way any more, and I could have just spent $5 on a dodgy-looking tag that would have adequately done the job. But kids don’t see things the way we do, and it was totally humbling for the thing I resented acquiring to become the means by which my kid expressed his love to me.

I’m pretty sure there are many things in my life that I resent ‘acquiring’ that turn out, in the end, to be expressions of love. And I’m pretty sure that if I was better at looking for them, if I practised so I could get better, there’d be a lot less resentment in the first place. And that’s not a bad lesson to learn from $15.

 

* It’s not a very bright torch.

I’m Never Allowed To Make Mistakes (Also, A Free Short Story)

Darkness & Good button with red text on a white background, with shadowed, dark grey leaves in the background. The leaves have red ribs and stems. Link goes to http://darknessandgood.blogspot.com. I was trying to think of a story for the Darkness & Good blog the other day, because it’s my turn to post this week, and me and short story ideas are kind of hit and miss sometimes (AH HA HA ALL THE TIME HA HA SOMETIMES HA), and first of all, I ACTUALLY THOUGHT OF A STORY RIGHT WHEN I NEEDED ONE AMEN HALLELUJAH, and second of all, in doing so I had a bit of a revelation about myself. The story starts with the protagonist making a stupid mistake that they really should have known better than to make, and it puts their life in danger. Usually in my stories what happens next is sudden, inescapable DEATH.

But this time, I realised that that’s how the story would usually go, and it made me realise something else: I’m really not good at giving myself permission to make mistakes. Like, really not good. I’m better than I used to be, and I know enough now to recognise when I’m beating myself up over something I shouldn’t be and to take steps to stop that, but yeah. I still have this subconscious expectation that I really should be superwoman. Making mistakes when I didn’t know what was going on or what was happening? Yeah, okay, that sucks, but it happens. Making mistakes when I really should have known better? That is pretty much unforgiveable.

Except, it shouldn’t be. I’m human. I’m not *actually* any better than anyone else, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to retrain damaging perfectionist tendencies. I’m learning where the boundaries are between ‘good enough’ and ‘killing myself with perfect’, and I’m getting better at realising innately what my mum taught me while I was first married and studying at uni: I only have 100% of myself to give, and the more things I spread that between, the less I have to devote to each thing. I can’t expect to achieve 100% in fifty-million things, because that’s fifty-million-hundred percent, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

But. My fiction, apparently, still keeps telling me otherwise. I still keep writing stories where stupid mistakes cost people their lives, out of this perverse and totally subconscious belief that I’m not allowed to make stupid mistakes, that I’m better than that, that doing so is a failing on my part.

So this time, I let the protagonist win. This time, she got hit by a mistake, and came back up swinging, learned from her mistake and triumphed in the end. Because let’s face it, that’s what I do in life. You make a mistake, and you’re allowed to beat yourself for a minute or two, but then you have to figure out what you did wrong, what you’re going to fix the situation, and how to avoid making the same mistake again. Sometimes that actually means remembering to not over-commit yourself, or making sure you protect your sleep so you’re not walking about like the zombified dead–shockingly enough, sleep deprivation is not conducive to avoiding mistakes!!!!!!

If you’re interested, you can read my short story over on the Darkness & Good blog right here. But either way, leave a comment and let me know: Do you get frustrated when you make mistakes too? How do you cope with residual perfectionism, if so?

New Year’s Resolutions: Love This Radical Approach To Weight Loss!

I read this fantastic article the other day by Jane Caro about weight loss and dieting. It’s not a topic I usually do a lot of reading on, but the link was part of a conversation on Twitter that was passingly intriguing, and I rather like Caro’s commentary on life (not that I realised she was the author until I read the byline at the end of the article!). I really do need to get myself back to a healthy weight this year, or at the very least a healthy level of musculature, because at the moment my 4-yr-old can literally whip my arse in a run around the block, and my lack of core strength means my loose joints fall out of place a LOT. And joints falling out of place HURTS. Just FYI.

So anyway, I clicked and read, and what I discovered was, actually, a radical approach to weight loss that, instead of advocating dieting and willpower, was actually advocating a social revolution: what if, the article supposes, we all changed our societal expectations of working 12-hour days, of getting home exhausted and dialling for a pizza, of high-stress, low-sleep lives, and instead focused on reducing social pressure? What if we tried to change society so it was acceptable to get the right amount of sleep, to take time off for family, to get home at 4pm so we had time to cook a healthy and nutritious meal?

You guys, I LOVE this. Stress and lack of sleep are, as the article notes, major causes of over-eating, especially for me–and over-focussing on what we eat can lead to all sorts of psychological and emotional drains, and even damage. So, this year, I’m going to choose to prioritise my sleep, not just because I know that I overeat most when I’m overtired, but also for the other flow-on benefits that better/more sleep will allow. 2017: the Year of Good Sleep. Because sometimes, you can’t change the world, but you can at least ensure that you’re equipped to cope.

<3
A

Decisions and Creativity

Read this article tonight – this one, here. It’s thesis is that you have a limited capacity for decision-making in any given period of time, and once you use them up, that’s it. Creative work involves a LOT of decision making, so if your daily life involves making a lot of hard or intense decisions, it’s unlikely you’re going to have any left over by the time you come to doing your creative work. So, the article says, what can you turn into a routine to avoid making unnecessary decisions?

 

Boy do I resonate with this article. This is EXACTLY how I feel. Most days, the first chance I get to sit down and think about writing is 8pm after being on the go with decision-making since 830am (after getting up and following a routine at 7). By 8pm, my decision-making brain is shot. Writing is like the proverbial blood from a stone – every decision a wearying thing because my decision-making machine has already run to capacity for the day.

There’s not a lot I can do to reduce my decision-making in a day, given I’m a high school English teacher. But I’m definitely going to have a think about what I can declutter in my life to make room for creative decisions.

Any thoughts, other than the obvious things like food and clothing, about what can be routinised to minimise unnecessary decisions? 🙂

Link-a-Bet Soup ;)

Wow, it’s been forever since I did a link-a-bet. I think maybe not since the blog lived on Blogger! o.O But anyway, tonight: a selection of Things I Have Found.

 

First of all, I am tremendously excited. My writing – I hesitate to say idol, because in my social context that’s a no-no, but you know what I mean 😛 The writer I admire most in the entire world and who I want to BE when I grow up answered an oddly stupid question from me on her Tumblr. Behold, Maggie Stiefvater on whether or not a writing career is fun.

Also in writing-related things, this highly awesome graphic of The Story Coaster (if a book was a roller coaster)! 😀

In non-writing-related things, this stunningly beautiful post on “What I Won’t Tell You About My Ballet-Dancing Son” prompted a tear or two.

And in popular news, Elizabeth Esther says it best: Miley Cyrus. How predictable of you. She also has wise words about the importance of moderation in parenting, as in all things, reminding us that Princess Excess is just the other side of the Princess Banning coin.

Sarah Bessey agrees: maybe Barbies aren’t so evil after all. 🙂 I’m really feeling these ones. I grew up with Barbies, as well as copious dogs and horses (especially Puppy in my Pockets! The originals, not the scary modern ones [website music warning].), a few dolls that my sister loved and I ignored, a million billion and a half stuff animals, home-made marble mazes, lego houses, books, trampolines, drawing pencils, and more. The Barbies were just one facet of play – exactly how any of these things ought to be. Moderation. Not just for assessment!*

*(Sorry, that was a bad joke only Canberra college [yr 11/12] teachers will get.)

And speaking of teachers, Twitter is the newest Thing for us; have you heard? 😉

And finally, should you happen to be a) a teen or teen-at-heart, b) in Canberra the first week of October, and c) at a loose end for entertainment, I have recently discovered that the second (there was a first?!) Festival of Australian Children’s Literature will be on sporadically throughout October, but mostly in the first week.

 

There. Linkage for everyone! No, wait. I see one base uncovered.

Here, for the science crowd. I don’t think I’ve linked you yet to the Mars One expedition? Well, watch that space (haha), because if all goes according to plan, people will be living on Mars in a scant decade: the first humans are scheduled to land late in 2022 or early in 2023. And it’s not too late! You can still apply to be one of them! Though this is probably the bit where I mention the fact that it’s a one-way ticket…..

 

Right. Now we have linkage for everyone. /nod. My work here is done. I’m off to bed.

Night!

 

I Can’t

I cannot change others, save others or wait for others to change before I change myself.

I can’t wait for others to take care of themselves before I take care of myself.

I can’t wait for circumstances to change before I take ownership of my own happiness.

I can’t wait for others to recognize my talent before I start exercising my gifts.

I can’t wait for someone to rescue me before I save myself.

I can’t wait for others to join me before I embark on the journey.

 

~ Elizabeth Esther.

 

Yes. Just, yes.

Clothing Disposal

It’s funny how once you begin to question what you put in your mouth, on your body, and into your environment, there comes a point where one day it’s just a habit. The other day, I did another big sweep through my clothing – I’m a little sick of the floordrobe, but the primary reason for it is the lack of space to really put everything away. Might as well stay on the floor, right?

So anyway, as much fun as the facebook clothes declutter was last time, where I took pics of all the clothes, posted to FB, and people commented to claim the clothes, it took forever to get all the unwanted clothes out of the house. So this time I just bagged them all up and sent them to the wotsie shop. Charity. Secondhand clothes. You know the place I mean.

But, I still had a small pile of clothes that really weren’t fit for the charity bin, so I was just going to toss them. I was putting away Small Person’s folding earlier today and did some reshuffling of the drawers to fit in his cloth nappies. Dude, the kid has more bibs than hairs on his head. I pulled out all the small ones and tossed them in the ‘small clothes’ box behind his chair, but a couple were manky enough that I figured the fastest means of disposal was the rag bag. I have to keep up the supply of rags to the rag bag, see, or darling husband does things like nabbing good teatowels for the purpose. Or my singlet top. Though granted, that had somehow been mixed up IN the rag bag, so he’s forgiven for that one.

So. I chopped the straps off the bibs to make is super clear that HELLO, THESE ONES ARE THE RAGS, and while I was doing so it occured to me that I could do the same to the clothes I was otherwise going to bin. I picked them up to begin chopping – and stopped. Could I really condemn these clothes, just like that? Some, apparently yes. A bra went in the bin, because no one wants a secondhand bra and they’re not really great rags, but everything else I forced myself to take a second look at.

Pair of pants that are wearing out in the thigh seams? Well, they have to be rags, right? *snipsnip*, off came the legs – and I realised that I was now left with a perfect good pair of brown cut-off shorts, only in need of a hem.

Black knitted 3/4 sleeve top, with a cute keyhole in the back? REALLY didn’t want to toss this one, as i’d only worn it once, but the fabric had broken under one of the arms. probably, I could learn how to darn and fix it – but that’s a little too much effort. So, the sleeves had to come off at least – and after they did, I realised I had a sleeveless tank top, if I could bind up the armholes again. Or, I could buy a little bit of black chiffon or something nice and floaty and make some pretty ruffley cap sleeves for the top.

Ditto the pink turtleneck jumped that’s seen better days and is nearly worn through under the arms – off with the sleeves, and I’m going to investigate about putting in some new ones (or just leaving it sleeveless). I might not keep this one, but at least I’ll have made something nice enough to go to the op shop :o)

A cotton t-shirt that was worn through became a genuine rag, as did a pair of fuzzy socks (snipped through at the heel so Husbands can confirm their rag status!!). Two 3/4 sleeve knitted tops that I love, but that were looking daggy, were slated for the bin, but I realised one of them will probably be okay with some serious depilling, and one, which is luckily white, might actually come good with a bit of a soak in some bleach.

I don’t really have much more of a point to this post, except to say – hey, you know what? Of all the items of clothes I was just going to bin, I actually found a use for all but the bra. And if the sewing works out, I might even have a couple of ‘new’ items of clothing that I’ll actually like wearing :o) Now there’s a happy declutter win! 😀

And We Shall Change The World (If But Slowly)

Sort of as a follow-up to the last post, and because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about the last few days, I wanted to make a list of all the things I’ve done/am doing to work towards my manifesto. It’s nice, when things get overwhelmingly BIG, to focus on the small picture sometimes. In fact, I’ve found that works in all aspects of life; invariably, when I’m getting overwhelmed it’s because I’m tired (though that too) focusing on either the big picture of the little details too much. Rebalancing is often as simple as remembering to look in the opposite direction for a bit.

But anyway, list.

1) Get rid of excess stuff.

The facebook declutter. Basically, I rounded up a whole bunch of things I no longer wanted (a lot of clothes and books), took photos, posted the pics in an album on my FB, and people could comment to claim things they wanted. Not everything was claimed, but at least 2/3 of it was, probably more like 3/4, and it was FUN! I knew my stuff was going to ppl who actually wanted it, and I got rid of stuff. This was so much fun I definitely plan on doing it again at some point.
2) Find homes for rest of stuff.

Yeah, nothing much acheived here. Really need to do something with my floordrobe, and the front room.
3) Eat more sustainably.

I convinced the Boyo to join me at the local farmers’ markets, which I had just discovered, a few weekends ago. With much protestation, he came – only to discover that lo, the food was better quality, fresh, tasty, and pretty much an equivalent price to supermarket goodies. #WIN. Though we have discovered also that it IS important to be careful which stalls you buy from, because some of them are not farmers, but agents, and their food might as well be supermarket food. But the potatoes and honey in particular are worth the trip.
4) Eat real food.

Ever since the Boyo discovered how easy it was to make your own butter (i.e. I casually mentioned it one day, and he latched onto it with verve and enthusiasm), he has been making it for us – which has two benefits. 1), no artificial crap (though to be fair, we’d been buying mainland spreadable for a while, which has only cream, water and salt) and 2) we’re actually eating a lot less butter, because it’s been hard to get the ‘spreadable’ bit right (we still haven’t), so while it’s more spreadable than pure butter when we add a bit of water, it’s still not great for nonsense bread*.

Making our own bread. This is a bit of a long story, revolving around the fact that I’ve developed a yeast intolerance in recent years. I can eat small amounts of it, but if I eat too much, especially paired with sugar to feed it (and by ‘too much’ I mean maybe two or three times in a week, depending on how much sugar I’m having – a ‘time’ being pizza for dinner, or a sandwich for lunch, or a croissant, or something – or once a week consistently for an extended period of time), I end up with debilitating exhaustion (which is JUST what I need with a 7 month old), blood sugar crashes (so I have to eat every couple of hours or CRASH), and if I let it go on long enough, depression. Yay! Sigh. ANYWAY, this paired with the fact that Boyo has apparently long been entranced by the art of breadmaking means we’ve successfully grown a shoggoth and today made our first successful loaf of fully-sourdough bread. YUM!!

Also, because I got really quite sick with the yeast-thing in 2010, I became a compulsive label-reader (sugar hides in everything), so we tend to avoid anything that isn’t ‘real’ food now too (which is to say, food made exclusively from ingredients your grandmother would recognise, or that are pronounceable for the average six year old, or that are not highly processed, etc etc, pick your definition). This has also extended to making our own baby food, which is so ridiculously easy it’s hard to see why you’d bother buying a packet of the stuff, especially when, for example, we have soup for dinner and ‘baby food’ just means taking some soup out before I add the salt at the end.

*Nonsense bread: any overly-fluffy bread that tears if you even hover a knife near it, made so overtly soft by the inclusion of such wonders as plaster of paris (I kid you not). Especially refers to white bread, which has so little substance so as to render it nonsense, but also any over-processed, additive-packed, easily-torn bread-like-thing.
5) Consume less/waste less.

Boyo has developed a rather passionate loathing for my Tupperware lunch containers, mostly from having to deal with one too many left on the bench too long mould episodes, and the fact that the container never seems to come 100% clean. He’s been on at me for a while to replace with glass/pyrex, and a few months ago I gave in and bought some glassware, and it’s so easy to clean and sterilise, and is environmentally friendly, and isn’t going to leech anything nasty into my food when I heat it (plastic is okay at cold temps, but when you heat it it leaks into your food). So, it seems we are now on a mision to progressively replace plastic with glass, at least for anything likely to be reheated (pantry will stay Tupperware, though I insist on the actual expensive Tupperware, because the cheap stuff I have noted makes the food smell like plastic, which quite besides all the stuff that means it’s leeching, tastes gross).

We’re also slowly making the switch to cloth nappies. A friend recommended the Bambooty brand, and we ordered a day’s worth to test, and we LOVE THEM. Well, I love them; Boyo is probably merely satisfied with them, as I don’t think it would ever cross his mind to love nappies O:) 😀 hehe. So, we have ordered more, and will progressively add to our collection.

I’m also in the process of trying to work out a better system for replacing disposables like paper towels and wet wipes, at least on a partial basis. Nearly there.
6) Consume responsibly (sustainably).

I take this to mean ‘use things that will not irrepairably damage the environment’, among other things. I’ve tried using eco-friendly laundry detergent and dish washing detergent at various points; but despite my protestations to the contrary, Boyo couldn’t deal with the fact that the dish liquid didn’t foam enough, and who can compete with super cheap bulk laundry powder at Costco? HA! One of my most recent discoveries can: soap nuts. After ordering a sample pack for a mere $7.50 the other day, I completely forgot about them, and was puzzled by the parcel on my doorstep on Friday. But I opened, remembered, and trialled – and promptly fell in love. All-natural detergent that literally grows on trees, is eco-friendly, reusable, cheap, low-allergenic, and leaves my clothes at least as soft as if I’d used fabric softener (which I basically never do because of the effort :P)? #WIN.

Also, there was the freak-out over small person’s bubble bath wash stuff thingo, which has led to me slowly going through my stash of bath and beauty products with www.ewg.org/skindeep and putting up for regifting products that I’m not happy to keep using. I’ll use up the stuff I have left, but then I’m planning to investigate natural alternatives, especially for shampoo and hand soaps, since detergents (basically, think anything that foams) are the worst culprits both environmentally and human-healthily. Apparently bubbles = bad!!

(Also, it’s ridiculously, laughably easy to make your own body butter – one recipe I found is just 50/50 cocoa butter and choose-a-vegetable-oil, like coconut or grape seed.)
7) Spend time intentionally.

I’m trying to put the computer away earlier at night, make sure I enforce my ‘no coulds or shoulds’ attitude, and prioritise my time better. No specific strategies here, though.

Wow. This was a long post, but I guess it just goes to show that little steps really do add up. I feel like I’m still doing so much that I want to try to avoid – but looking at this list, I guess I’m doing pretty darn well compared to where I was a few months ago. Hurray! 😀

(Also, when the Boyo is next to me and comments on an ad for microwave meals by wondering how many preservatives and other rubbish must be in them, I am MADE HAPPY 😀 #PROGRESSWIN.)