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.

Here Is My Body, Broken For You

A woman’s body is broken for her children in a way a man’s can never be. We carry our children for nine months — and then an other nine months, and another, until they are simply too big to carry, and then we can only hold. Our bodies are changed forever: stretch marks and scars, feet perhaps a different size or shape, hips wider than before, breasts perhaps larger, suffering the lingering after-affects of gestational diabetes or loose joints or back pain, RSI in wrists and elbows – not Tennis Elbow, but Mother’s Elbow, holding them when you are just so physically sore that you can’t possibly hold them any longer, our bodies are broken down again and again and again.

I can carry two giant bags of dog food by myself, thanks Mr Pet Store Man: I have mother’s arms.

Can you please carry the baby upstairs for me, husband? My wrists are broken and I can’t face one more stair climb.

Our bodies are broken, and rebuilt; we are weakness, we are strength.

Christ said it best: Here is my body, child, broken for you.

Stop! Hold everything!

Just officially noting that blogging is temporarily on hold due to the following:

Small People Mum & Bub 20150601_082230

Happy upcoming solstice, end of financial year, and whatever else there is to celebrate. I’ll be back at some point, although we are also moving house in 6 weeks, so life is rather chaotic. In the meantime, be good, have fun, and go read all the free stories up on the Darkness & Good site 😉 Rah *\o/*

Okay, I’m Back.

Although those of you who’ve been reading for any length of time know that my version of ‘back’ is always a little sporadic and unpredictable at the best of times: let’s face it: I’m not great at regular blogging. That’s going to apply doubly this year, because – and although this has hit social media, I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted here – Minion #2 is due at the end of May, and in true Minion style this one’s been keeping me pukingly sick pretty much the entire flopping time. RAH.

Also, for those who care about such things, SmallBoy will be three and a bit when SmallGirl arrives; yes, this minion is female. Woot.

Right. On to more writingish things. I know it’s a month past time when people usually do their annual recaps and set their new goals for the year, but a) better late than never, b) I am ALWAYS late (despite my best intentions), and c) I actually had to wait for a few pieces of writing-related data to filter back in after Christmas/New Year before figuring out what I was doing this year.

2014

2014 was a chaotic year in many regards for my family, but writing-wise, it was the year of #FGU, more properly known as From The Ground Up. This is my non-fic book on worldbuilding for writers that will be coming out some time in the second half of this year – I’m working on edits at the moment, rah.

It was also the year wherein I co-opted the Twinny One,* Liana Brooks, into starting the Darkness&Good blog with me, whereon we post short, totally unedited stories somewhere between once a week and once a month, although we got better with that towards the end of the year 😛

Finally, 2014 was notable for me because Liana and I officially started using our self-pub imprint, Inkprint Press. Hurrah! Under this label in 2014, I launched my short story collection Cherry Blossom and Other Stories, my book of (church) plays Where Your Treasure Is, and the print edition of The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Dogs. Much excitement indeed.

Some quick overall stats:

  • Words edited: about 266,000
  • Words written: about 90,000
  • Words rewritten from scratch: about 8,000

Which means, I think, that if I was really rigorous about counting up every single word I wrote this year, I probably just cracked the 100k mark. Which is actually way better than I would have expected – I feel like 2014 was a pretty slow year for writing, but it turns out it was significantly better than 2012 or 2013! So that’s cool.

* She’s totally my twin. Just separated by the Pacific Ocean, about three years, and totally different sets of genetics. But, y’know. TWIN. 

2015

Where to from here, that’s the question. Now that I have all my data points, it looks like this year is going to be another ‘light’ year for writing. I had postnatal depression after SmallBoy and although I think I’m in a better place mentally with SmallGirl than I was at this point with SmallBoy, I absolutely can’t guarantee that I won’t get it again – and as anyone who’s experienced any kind of depression knows, it kind of puts a damper on creativity. On top of that, I have FGU due in and a much fuller workload this year than I’ve had before. So I have to plan for multiple small achievements, rather than any large ones this year.

Things I really plan to do:

  • Get FGU done and in on time so it can release on schedule in the second half of the year. My first book launch with a real publisher, you guys! So much excite.
  • Write enough short stories to stick to my once-a-fortnight schedule at Darkness&Good. I have the first quarter of the year scheduled already, so I need another 15 stories to make this happen.

Things I’d really, really LIKE to get done:

  • Liana has an awesome choose-your-own-adventure sfr novella ready to be published under our Inkprint Press umbrella – once I’ve done the editing.
  • Marked, my tiger novella from fifty million years ago, is in advanced editing stages. I’d love to pick this up again and finish it off so it too can be released.
  • I have a choose-your-own-adventure sfr novella of my own that’s about half done; top of the list for completion and eventual release.
  • Aphelion, another sfr novella (although NOT choose-your-own-adventure) is also half written, and even has a pretty cover ready to go.
  • Finally, Liana and I are tossing around the idea of a Darkness&Good 2014 anthology. There’s at least 45k of fiction there, the length of a decent novella or a short novel, and it’d be fun to do a print edition to sit on my shelf – after editing the stories first, of course 😉

So. Nothing long and novelly, unfortunately, but if I can manage it Inkprint Press will see a decent number of new releases this year, so you’ll be well stocked on things to read – and hopefully, for the first time ever, you’ll get to read something of mine longer than a short story! 😉

I think that’s all from me for now. What about you guys? What are you up to in 2015?

 

~Amy

The Education of a Witch

Which could also be titled, “The Education of a Large Segment of the Population Deemed to be ‘Bad'”. Anyway, you should really go and read this short story by Ellen Klages, who had been added to my ‘authors to investigate’ list because this story is just… intelligentheartbreakingrealhonesttrue.

Here’s the comment I posted to Ada Hoffmann’s blog, who initally linked to the story.

Yes, [Lizzy is treated almost entirely as a problem and not a person, and there seems to be no one willing to acknowledge that she’s feeling scared and abandoned,] although there’s almost a touch of understanding when Mrs Dickens goes ‘ah, new baby, of course’. I confess, I hoped at that point that Mrs Dickens would know what was going on and had isolated Lizzy in order to come talk to her about witches being real but that she had to be responsible with her talents etc etc… Mm, been reading too much Pratchett lately, I think. (Not that it is ‘too much’, just that my expectations were clearly set too high).

I feel ridiculously sorry for Lizzy; I love that she’s challenging the dominant narrative; I am annoyed at the parents for their blatant disrespect for that, and depressed because so many adults do exactly that.

I didn’t read the ending as intented murder, though. The narrative says she was angry at Mum and the baby and wotsie, the boy, so she made the boy’s nose bleed. She’s drawing up the fire at the end not to kill anyone (though granted that may be an unintended consequence) but to express her anger, something that no one has been allowing her to do before now.

Kids are not born knowing how to express their emotions. It’s something adults are supposed to teach them as they grow up. Poor Lizzy has no one even ACKNOWLEDGING her emotions, let alone showing her how to appropriately express them – of course she’s going to let them out any way she can.

But for me, this was not the least bit creepy, and was terribly, terribly sad. Horrific, yes, but not in the scary-creepy-horror story sense. Rather in the ‘that is so tragic it is horrifying’ sense.

Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. A very intelligent and commanding story.

 

Basically, it boils down to something it’s trendy to call ‘ageism’, which frankly as a term I do not like, simply because a lot of people (willfully) misunderstand it to mean that children should be given free rein. However, this is a misunderstanding caused by a conflation of the two concepts ‘rights’ and ‘freedom’, and a whole lot of nineteenth century notions about the supremacy of the individual versus society, etc and so on. Having equal rights does not entail being allowed to do whatever the hell you like.

Ageism, therefore, is not about treating kids the same as adults, i.e. never telling them what to do, not forcing them to do anything they don’t want to, etc (why? because frankly that’s stupid and unhealthy :P), but rather about giving children equal RESPECT to adults – which, ultimately, is what we actually mean when we talk about ‘equal rights’ anyway. Equal doesn’t mean identical, and there is no way that everyone on the planet ever CAN have identical lives – also, HOW BLAND. Rather, we want everyone to be equally respected, and have access to things based on that respect. Though, dude, clean water and food would be a nice way to begin with the ‘equal means identical’ thing.

Ahem. Sidetracking. My specialty. Ageism, therefore, is a concept that refers to the way that children are discriminated against not in the behavioural sense per se, but in terms of respect for their emotions. People who say ‘Oh, I wish /I/ was a baby again!’ (and with a currently-10-month-old, yes, I’ve heard that several times in the last year) MAKE ME MAD. OH, SO YOU’D LOVE TO BE UNABLE TO MOVE YOURSELF AROUND, TEND TO YOUR OWN BASIC NEEDS, COMMUNICATE ANYTHING BUT THE MOST BASIC OF CONCEPTS (smiling or crying), EXPERIENCE HORRIBLE PAIN THAT IS ALSO TERRIFYING BECAUSE HEY, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS FEELING THAT I HAVE NEVER EVER FELT BEFORE AND WHY DOES IT HURT AND WILL IT EVER STOP AND HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT DYING? (Also known as stomach upsets and teething). Oh YES, being a baby sounds FREAKING AWESOME. NOT.

And yet, there are people out there to whom I have said almost exactly that (though I promise, with less capitalisation), who still go – eh, they get to sleep all day and don’t have to do anything.

Way to completely dismiss someone else’s humanity, moron. A cow gets to sleep all day and do nothing too. Maybe you’d be better off bovine.

So. If you haven’t yet, go read the story. It’s a beautiful (if fantastic ;)) example of what happens when children’s emotions are dismissed as not real, or not real enough, or simply just not as real as adult feelings. Guys, I REMEMBER being a child. Compared to life now, sure, I had it good; most kids do. But at this time, being a kid is all you know, and pain still hurts. Give the little people* some respect.

 

* And yes, all of this is a large part of the reason why the 10-mth-old has been called Small Person and Small Boy his entire life. I feel awkward calling him a baby, because it’s too close to synonymous with ‘squidgy thoughtless blob’, and he is anything but. He IS a person – just a very small, very inexperienced one.

Randomly, Wet Wipes

Another baby-paraphernalia post, but in case anyone is a) interested and b) in Australia, Woolworths Select brand wet wipes are the free-est from chemical nasties. I wouldn’t advise munching on them (much to Small Boy’s intense displeasure – he loves the things and will hunt down the packets with ridiculous focus), and there are a bunch of ingredients listed as skin irritants, but nothing actually toxic in and of itself, and nothing carcinogenic, and nothing listed as an environmental toxin.

 

Double check for yourself at www.ewg.org/skindeep, of course, but I’m happy enough with this as an alternative to flannels and spray (which I do still use, but let’s face it, there are some nappy changes where you really want to be able to just toss everything away >.<).

The Making Of…

We’re nearly out of baby wipes. I went to the supermarket about a week ago, intending to buy some (along with groceries for the week), and came out with none. Every single brand except one was choc full of parabens (emerging research – example – shows that high concentrations of parabens are found in breast cancers, and that they encourage tumour growth; the exact link is as yet unknown, and of course, for every study linking the two, there is a study claiming no link – and bearing in mind the fact that a lot of scientific reserach is funded by companies who have a significantly vested interest in parabens NOT being linked to breast cancers… Well, let’s just say I’d much rather be safe than sorry.), and the one that had no parabens was – yay – the organic brand, but – boo – more expensive than I was willing to pay.

Given I’d read like a year or more ago, when still pregnant, that making your own was dead easy, I figured it was time to give it a try. It’s taken a week and of course I decided to do it on the day when I’m sick and feel like my face is going to explode. Maybe trying to distract myself from how ick I feel? But anyway. I’m quite pleased with the result.

I decided to go with the spray-on method. I’d bought a box of wipes (rather than a packet) relatively recently, half-thinking that I’d use the box to make my own wipes when it was empty, but reading around and thinking about it, there doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid making new batches of wipes pretty frequently with this method – too much liquid in the box, it’ll spill everywhere, and the bottoms ones will be soaked and useless, not enough liquid and the paper towel that is the base of the wipes will dry out, and as a friend pointed out, there is always the potential for mould o.O

So. Another blog I found talked about using cloth wipes, and to do that, you just dampen the cloth before using. Tried that at one point, and it was massively inconvenient, because I’d sit down to nappy-change and realise I haven’t wet the cloth, and kid was now half naked, and it was all just too late.

Enter the spray bottle. Which, once I thought of it, I saw in a bazillion places around the web, so you know. A friend linked me to this page, with some ‘recipes’ on it, and being the person I am I mixed and matched. This is what I ended up doing:

 

  • Boil some water, and make a large mug of chamomile tea. The brand I have also includes citrus peel, rosehip, and liquorice root. Double checked, and all are not only safe but good for the skin, so win there.
  • Add the mucousy pulpy insides of an aloe vera leaf. I think it was probably a little less than a tablespoon of the gunk in the end.
  • 4 drops of lavendar essential oil (remember to go easy on the essential oils as they can irritate the skin otherwise).
  • 2 ish tablespoons of grape seed oil (or any good-for-the-skin oil).
  • Put it all into a spray bottle, top it up with cold water if there’s room, wait for it to cool, and use! Spray it onto cloth wipes or paper towels or whatever else you’d like to use, and change those nappies! :o)

 

Also under the category of ‘making of’, I’m in the middle of making a batch of the world’s most heavenly body butter today – it’s in the fridge cooling. It smells like chocolate, you can spread it on toast, it hydrates without stripping your natural oils, and it really is just amazing. Recipe is from my friend Steph here, but instead of coconut and macadamia oils I used grape seed and apricot kernel (and lessened the amount slightly to compensate for the fact that neither are solid like coconut oil). Can’t wait to see how it turns out!