Thursday, July 4

What's my contribution?

Its been a year since I last blogged. I feel that some penance is in order, but who has time for that?

I've been busy, had a baby in that time [which could be a major contributing factor] so now I have 3 kids under 4.

That leads me to my navel gazing for this week. I'm struggling with that gem that haunts many mums I think. What contribution am I making to society? If I focus on raising my kids, and I don't 'work' in paid employment, if I don't volunteer and help a worthy cause - am I still ok?

Is it a cop out or is it fine to say 'no' to helping out with this and that, or to running a program, and is it fine to quit things that I've been doing for a long time? I know the answer I think, but its an adjustment as the things that I can demonstrate my worth with diminish.

When you study, your marks show that you're doing something worthwhile. When you work, your pay packet says "well done you". When you volunteer, you can still say "I am Tab, I do...". When you're 'just a mum' - and a poor housekeeper, it gets a bit harder to show your value I reckon. Seriously. I can't say "I give my family awesome food" because, I don't and even if I did, they wouldn't eat it. No one says "what well behaved children" because quite frankly 3 small kids are pretty rotten even at the best of times and usually they are pretty embarrassing.

A friend said to me yesterday - "but its an investment". I disagree. Its a gamble! We all know awesome dedicated parents who end up with kids that make choices and have outcomes so far removed from the loving nurturing environment they were raised in. There is no way to absolutely guarantee a return from this investment.

Blah blah blah. Clearly I'm no philosopher or inspirational writer. It sounds all a bit depressing, but I assure you that [today] I write this in good humour. Its just that familiar angst that I was sure would leave when I turned 20 and left my teenage years behind.  Hello angst. Thanks for coming, now you've said your piece, leave me be and let me potter along trying to do my best for these kids, let me give the gamble of raising good citizens and loving humans the best odds possible. Also pride-in-visible-achievements, you can go too because really I am ok even if other people can't see my awesomeness from my good works.

I do love my life, this little existence here of being a mum, a [fairly incompetent] homemaker, educator, wife, friend, nosey parker, amature internet sleuth, ever doubting person of faith [now there is an oxymoron] and all the things that I am. Blah blah blah.

The end :)

PS Its all good, really it is!

Sunday, July 15

Why I don't smack my kids and how thats not neglect.

Sometimes I find my facebook news feed interesting, informative, funny and entertaining. Occasionally its annoying. Other times I found it downright confronting and I feel attacked for something I do or believe. Thats not necessarily bad. I dont believe I have the right to always be comfortable and only hear my opinions reflected back to me.  The things that I find hardest to ignore are those that attack my parenting practices - things that Andrew and I have thoughtfully thought through and decided upon for our small family.

Here is one such posting that has been making the rounds of facebook in the form of "repost this if..."

Truth be told, when I see this, and other similar statuses it makes me really angry! I feel attacked - and you know what, it IS an attack. Maybe those people don't know they're attacking me, but they are by default. Worse, this parenting is the single hardest and most intentional thing that I've ever done in my life and I feel my life's work is being rubbished. I have to get over the personal thing - arguing back doesn't do much good I've found. The proof will be in the pudding so to speak. 

I do want to share, for those still reading WHY I chose not to smack my children and why I disagree with their dire predictions of monster adults. 

 I believe children can be taught discipline without being smacked, and can be smacked without being disciplined - it is NOT one or another! Dr Sears, a man whose writings I have found much wisdom in, says  "Discipline is something you do with a child not to a child...from the basis of mutual trust and mutual sensitivity grows your role as authority figure. Discipline is basically giving your children the tools to save their souls and succeed in life." - Dr W.Sears

Many people quote parts of the Christian scripture to back up their assertion that the 'rod' should be used to teach discipline, and as such my objection is invalid. Wrong I say. As much as I believe the scriptures are the words of God, I also believe that this is wrongly interpreted. Scholars [which I am not] have said that the word rod is not one of beating, but one of authority and directions. Teaching our children the way to live, not beating them into it. 

 I WANT my kids to question me [even though I'll often find it annoying!] because I WANT them to question other adults- I want them to respect other adults in the same way that they respect ALL people, not just blindly obeying them. I want them to push life's boundaries, and hopefully also know when to be quiet, to do things out of respect and to be people who are kind because they WANT to be, out of LOVE. 

I know it can happen this way. Ours is not the first generation of parents to think this way, and I"ve seen wonderful adults from parents who have not smacked them. It takes guts -at least in my culture- to stand up and refuse to use physical punishment as a behavioural correction. Its tricky. It takes so much thought, intention and energy. Its freaking difficult!! 

 Absence of smacking does not mean absence of consequence, boundaries or anything like that. It simply means refusing to use physical violence [or correction] against my children, a commitment to only touch them in love and protection, not anger or punishment.  

In our family we use preventative action - helping the girls stop before they start. We talk a lot about loving each other [and what that looks like], kindness and right behaviour. We use consequence - so far that is limited in it's effectiveness as Addie is only now beginning to think in concrete ways, but she is on the cusp of realising her choices have consequence and the power she has there. We try to communicate, explain over and over again what is happening and why. We try to find the root of the issue - why are they doing what they are? Its usually for a reason and not just because they need more hitting. We practice restorative justice, so when Addie hurts her sister she must make amends [as directed by me at this point]. There are consequences for behaviour. There are things that are clearly unacceptable in our family. As self awareness and understanding grows, the more the girls will learn that they are in control of their behaviours, can tame their impulses  and be self-disciplined. They will also see how Andrew and I live and discipline our ownselves too. I only hope that our self discipline grows as a result. 

I believe that all this can happen without raising my hand against my children. I do. Smacking is not an option for our family. Perhaps it is for yours - that is for you to decide. If you ask my opinion I will gladly [and respectfully I hope] give it, but I will not decry your practice as being the downfall of society. Lack of community and connectedness, absence of love and role models, being too busy for our kids, too in love with gaining wealth and things - these are the downfall of our times. 

*Were I a good blogger, I'd link you to people who have said these things far more eloquently than me, but I'm a bit rubbish and a bit tired, so I'll leave that for another time. Sorry about that. And yep, I was smacked as a child by parents who loved me but I'm still a bit lazy and stuff, so you know. 

Tuesday, April 17

Feeling stinky?

Anyone else a bit worried about comercial deodorants & anti perspirants? [google it, even if you're not a lot of pople are]. I have my concerns on a number of levels. First, many are so heavily fragranced that they give me headaches and make me want to vomit - and thats just when other people are wearing them! Next, most contain aluminium as the secret weapon to block sweat. A lot of people think that it has strong links to breast cancer, and that aluminium isn't a great thing for your body in other ways too.  Lastly, there is the ethical/moral issues where the big companies have questionable animal treatment records, and dodgy advertising that seem to suggest that the right deodorant will get you laid.  For some of the things people worry about, go here. There is nothing proven, but you know, I'm not happy with the risks.

So, I've tried some basic hippie things like the crystal thing - ok in winter, but in summer in the Australian outback- not so good. Bi-carb soda can work to a point, but is messy and hard to put on and left my armpits feeling gritty.  Wearing natural fibres helps a LOT but still doesn't fix the 'problem'. [If I was to be a fully committed earth-child I would say that perspiration isn't a problem at all and that it is nature's way of transmitting pheromones etc etc - but I kind of want to be somewhat socially acceptable!]

What then? Well never fear, google told me a solution which seems to work...GREAT! So here it is. 

The deodorant in it's sexy plastic container. 

You will need:

Bicarb soda - in the cooking section, with the food colours usually.
Cornflour - Near the flours. You can get wheaten or corn types, unless you're gluten sensitive either is fine
Coconut oil— I made it from copha because it is easy peasy to buy from the supermarket. For those who don't know, you make chocolate crackles with it, and it lives in the fridge with the butter & marg.

*Optional* Essential Oil.

Why those things?

Bicarb soda is generally the bomb [just ask my BFF Shannon Lush] and absorbs odour. 
Coconut oil is antimicrobial so it vamooses bacteria which cause the stinky smell in the first place. 
Cornflour absorbs moisture, so you aren't at risk of slimey wet pits. 
Essential OIls smell pretty. Choose the right ones and they will assist in the anti-bacterial action. For that reason I use lavender. Rosemary or Lemongrass would work well, as would Oil of Cloves if you want more of a spicy aroma.  

The recipe:
Mix equal parts cornflour and bicarbonate of soda. Then melt some coconut oil in the microwave [careful it melts quicker than butter!] until is is mixable and add to the cornflour/bicarb mix until you're happy with it, it should all mix in well but not be super runny.

What I do is get half a cup of cornflour & half a cup of bicarb, and add to it about a 1/4 a block of copha to begin with and see if that mixes well. Then I melt another 1/4 and add bit by bit until it seems about right. I add a few drops of the essential oil about now too.

 If you make it and then find you're not happy with the blend, its easy to rejig and add a bit more of something.  If your mix is too gritty, add more coconut oil. If it’s too solid  or too runny add more cornflour and bicarbonate. 

Store your deodorant in a container with a lid. Simply rub a bit under your arms.

When it is cold and the mix is all hard, I dig a bit out with my fingernail, and it warms up in the palm of my hand in a few seconds, and then it is easy to apply. 

On a hot day you'll probably need to put it on twice, because it doesn't have sweat blocking aluminium, it just deals with the wetness and bacteria - but hopefully it works for others as well as it does for me.

Sunday, April 8

My Faith and the reasons for [and against] it.

I thought I would share this piece that I wrote and shared at a woman's coffee evening recently. The request was to share how Jesus helps me get through the 'daily grind' of life.  For me its a head game, and this is what I shared about my faith. The entire Studdard Kennedy poem can be found here. I would love it, even if you don't share my faith to read it and see why it is that I choose what I do.

Hi everyone, I’ll start with a quick bio - My name is Tab, I am 30 years old, I am a wife to Andrew and mum to 2 year old Adelaide and 1 year old Clementine. I’ve lived in Broken Hill 7 years and I spend my days watching my children, making 'creative' messes and cleaning them up.
As you’d have guessed by me being here talking to you, I am also a follower of Jesus. 
I’ve been fortunate, blessed, to have known Jesus my entire life. My parents took time to teach me the scriptures, encouraged me to learn particular verses and understand the lessons we can learn from the history in the bible. It would be wonderful wouldn’t it, if a solid foundation would guarantee that as a child grows to adult that they would always follow Christ? The free will that God gave us all means that it just isn’t so. 
As my mind grew and matured other things became known to me. I learned of chemistry, physics, biology, philosophy, other religions. My world view grew. As this happened, other things changed. My mum’s mental illness - always a part of her - changed in it’s effect and became toxic for our whole family. I won’t go into detail here, but needless to say it destroyed a lot of things and has given our family some horrific moments and hellish times. 
So then, did I stay strong in the face of all this? No. Not really. To be honest though, the things that have shaken me most are my studies in science and my reading of literature. How can we be certain, beyond a DOUBT that the God of the Christians, the God of the Jews, the God of the Bible is the true God and God of all. How can we even be sure that he exists? Perhaps this God is something that we humans have devised, an apparition to comfort us, a way to make sense of this universe and feel that we are important in it.  
From what I’ve seen there is much to hate about this world. Much suffering, senseless pain. We all carry scars, some of us gaping wounds from people who have hurt us - even though they meant well and many more who didn’t. How do you make sense of all this? What is the point of living if even with the best intentions we cripple and maim our fellow humans? 
My children live in this depraved world. I worry about how I’m going to screw them up. Too much love? Too harsh discipline or maybe not enough punishment. Can I protect them from all the pain? If only!  How can I be sure that my husband will stay healthy, well and able to provide for us? Where will we live when the house we rent is sold? Why do I live with chronic pain, and what purpose does it serve?  Why do my words hurt people that I love - particularly when I don’t mean for them to. Why is there so much sickness, death, destruction on our planet? It reeks. 
And then, there is beauty. There are the mundi mundi plains with their breathtaking views at day time, splendid sunsets and dazzling night display with more stars than imaginable. There are incredible birds that catch your eye when least expected. There is selfless love, life that seems unquenchable even in the worst of time. There is food thats taste triggers more pleasure than can be good for you, and joy.
Something in my gut whispers “It is more than just physics, the good and the bad don’t just happen, there is more than what we can calculate, verify and reason.”  Maybe the reason humans persist with religions, stories of gods and rescue is that we need God, because he IS real. God has put the story of Jesus into our hearts, like a watermark showing that he made us and ultimately, we “know” we are his. 
When my mind puts up these questions - as it does often - I remember that God is Good and I’d rather trust his goodness than a random set of physical laws and coincidences that give me no hope for tomorrow. A phrase I use when I doubt comes from a man in the bible who when asked by Jesus if he believed said ““I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” There is a reason that Jesus says to come to him as children. Adult minds are complicated with reason and doubt and questions - all of those can lead us to God, but he wants us to chose to humble ourselves and choose to be simple and believe and wonder. Easier said than done.
After years of grappling with all of this, I came across a poem by Studdard Kennedy which explains precisely my journey of thought and belief. I’d like to share a part of it with you as I finish.  
HOW do I know that God is good? I don't. 
I gamble like a man. I bet my life 
Upon one side in life's great war. I must, 
I can't stand out. I must take sides. 
I can't stand shiv'ring on the bank, 
I plunge Head first. I bet my life on Beauty, Truth, 
And Love, not abstract but incarnate Truth, 
Not Beauty's passing shadow but its Self. 
Its very self made flesh Love, realised. 
I bet my life on Christ--Christ Crucified.
So through the clouds of Calvary--there shines 
His face, and I believe that Evil dies, 
And Good lives on, loves on, and conquers all-- 
All War must end in Peace. These clouds are lies. 
They cannot last. The blue sky is the Truth. 
For God` is Love. Such is my Faith, and such 
My reasons for it, and I find them strong 
Enough. And you? You want to argue? Well, 
I can't. It is a choice. I choose the Christ.
So, my conclusion is this.
I can’t divorce my head and heart. My head asks these questions, but my heart thanks to God knows that there is truth in the story of God, it is the very definition of truth. That God IS sovereign, the ultimate power in this universe. More than that, he’s not just all-powerful but he is GOOD. God is GOODNESS itself. Even if everything that I can see turns to a rotten, stinking mess, HE is GOOD and knows how the ending goes. I can trust God with my mum, my family, my daughters and any future children. I can choose not to be anxious, but be assured that his goodness is achieving purposes that I can not presume to understand.  For me... it is a choice, and I choose the Christ.  

Wednesday, March 7

A year on with Painting

About a year ago I shared about Addie's first foray into the world of painting. She was about 17 months  old and had a ball. I've greedily hoarded her paintings since that time, but recently she's made some exciting advances. 

So, she still likes to paint with her clothes off. Who am I to complain? A bath is much quicker and easier than trying to get paint out of clothes. I know, I learned the hard way. Also, smocks are good, but somehow the paint always finds its way to the clothes even still. So naked it is. 

Today Addie painted while her sister was in bed asleep. We can't quite paint around Clementine yet. She just doesn't 'get' it yet so she just wrecks everything instead. Give it a few months though and we can all get our paint on. 

Addie now knows her colours - getting them right about 90% of the time. So today she actually asked if she could paint with red yellow and orange. I also gave her a few more colours to paint with. I had no orange though, so she asked for it specifically again. I showed her how to mix yellow and red. She doesn't understand that of course, but one day she will. 

Addie no longer paints until the paint runs out. Today she used separate brushes for the different colours, and put them back when she got a new one. She was respecting her tools. She looked at her picture, deciding what to do next, and thoughtfully loaded her brush with colour. 

Her strokes were also planned, and she talked about what shapes she thought she was drawing. I was pretty amazed to watch her put down the blue brush that she had been using for circles, pick up the red brush, do two ticks, and put the red away. 

Addie is not a neat child, and certainly not an organised one. Respecting her things is totally foreign for her, so I was pleasantly shocked at all of this. Even more shocking is that she sat at this activity for half an hour!

 And then of course it turned into this. She said to me "Look mummy! Colours on Addie!" After painting her toes on both feet and putting what she called "spots" on the top of her feet, she proclaimed "Ta-da!! All done"

Her master pieces.

Then and now. The baby turned girl.

Friday, March 2

You CAN be a kitchen superstar (or at least chop up a whole chicken) in a few easy steps.

Woolies had free range chickens on special this week, and having just seen a Stay At Home Mum vid on how to chop up a whole chicken, I imagined myself having some mad skills, and decided to get 3 and practice. Here's how it went.

A whole Chicken - minus it's feet, head & neck, guts - you know, straight out of the packet!

Cut up into recognisable cuts, and yep, so easy you should try it.

3 chickens cut and bagged, minus the thighs and carcass.

The thighs + one breast became a curry for dinner.

The carcasses went into the slow cooker to make up my first stock. I'm not sure if it is any good? How do you tell those sorts of things? I let it evaporate off and reduce down, it's in the fridge getting nice and cool so I can put it in ice cubes in the freezer. Hopefully I remember to use it one day, but to be honest, I've not really used liquid stock so it sounds a bit daunting. I just felt bad chucking out the left over bits of chicken body once I'd cut it all up.


Anyway, it's surprisingly quick and easy, so why not watch the video and give it a go hey?