Thursday, December 17, 2009

Magic




The box of Christmas decorations that sits in storage for eleven months of the year seems to hold something more than fairy lights and tinsel, and by opening it on December 1st as we do in our house, it seems to release that extra invisible something, symbolising the start of the Christmas season and setting off little squeals of excitement, joy and hope as little hands reach into the box and take out the homemade decorations from previous years and noisily remember the origin of each one.


At least that’s how it was in past years.


This year we have an eleven-year-old in the house, who on December 1st emerged from his bedroom, reached into the box and barked orders at the other two while he stood at a distance and threw the decorations at the tree. Apparently he just wanted to get it over with, as he explained to me one night after asking me if we could go for a walk so he could let me know that he’s ‘not a little kid anymore’ and he ‘doesn’t get big thrills out of decorating the tree and all that.’


In past years, all I needed to do was put up the tree in order to trigger the magic of Christmas that bubbles up inside them. This year clearly was not going to be so easy. Being the oldest, he tends to set the mood for the other two. If he says it’s cool, it is. If he’s excited, they are.


On December 1st in our house we also begin counting down each night with chocolate advent calendars. Just before bed the kids open the little cardboard door and find a little chocolate inside, then count how many sleeps are left until Christmas day. Not-A-Kid-Anymore rips his open and devours the chocolate, then hands back the calendar, completely disinterested, but who’s gonna turn down free chocolate?


In past years after the tree was up, the tree that symbolises ‘it’s started’, they would sit down and make Christmas wish lists for Santa. This year Boy was the one who got it started, announced what he was doing and the other two followed. The younger two had no trouble writing down the few things they wanted. ‘N.A.K.A’ grabbed the Toyworld catalogue and copied directly from it onto his paper, even including the barcode number. On day one his list had over 50 items, and was made up of things I’d never heard him say he wanted. By day two he had stapled a second page behind it and was still copying things, this time out of The Warehouse pamphlet. Now the other two had picked up on what he was doing and had added to their lists by doing the same thing.


It’s hard to explain why, but at this stage I got really really seriously intensely insanely irritated. Looking at their lists I saw things like Bakugan on Wiseguy’s list (I know he finds Bakugan really boring, like most things these days) Lego meant for a preschooler on Boy’s list, and a book by T.S. Eliot on Princess’s list (apparently she likes the picture on the cover).


I sulked in my room for a couple of days, complaining to Hubby that the kids were “killing Christmas” with their stupid lists of a million things and I told them enough was enough, that the lists were too long and they should start again but this time only add things they genuinely wanted, or I wouldn’t send them to Santa. Then I explained that they would only be getting one present from us this year (to the horror of Hubby who likes to buy them presents, and was only comforted by the promise that ‘Santa’ could get them as many as he wants pfffft!) and it wasn’t because we couldn’t afford more than one gift, but because there were starving children in the world and we have a responsibility to take care of them. Shockingly, having a grumpy mum who’s threatening to give up your presents for what she decides is a worthy cause does not make for an exciting and joyful build-up to the big day. Basically I spent several days jumping between extreme immaturity and stubborn determination to put things right.


Eventually of course, determination won, as sulking in my room gave me time to digest the fact that my oldest son is Not A Kid Anymore, and that the way to get the ‘magic’ back was not going to be by depriving them or insisting on continuing with previous traditions. We still have the tree, and the chocolate calendars, and the cards, and the stories, and the presents, and Santa, but the magic didn’t really begin until we started a new tradition. I call it “Following the Christmas star.” No, it doesn’t involve a mad trek in the night, or a donkey or a baby or a stable, but I like to think it contains the essence of all those things. I wrapped a large empty box in Christmas paper and put it under the tree, with a card that says something like “Dear Santa. Please take these toys and give them to children who need them this Christmas.” I watched as N.A.K.A walked past the tree and noticed the empty box, got curious and read the card, watched his face as he contemplated the new thing, the wheels in his mind turning, then he looked at me, nodded and said “cool”. Success?! Could it actually be that simple?


In the hour that followed I watched as word spread to the other two and they quietly thought about it, me staying silent, really wanting them to drive the thing and not me, just wondering what would happen. Then suddenly, Mr Eleven puts one of his books into the box. I tried not to stand staring with my mouth open, because I know how he feels about his books. This is an actual sacrifice.


Gradually the box started to fill up with toys. I watched quietly as each of them brought a toy from their room and described the little boy or girl who might receive them. I was stoked to see them cleaning each one first, and putting into the box toys that they actually like. At one point Boy said to Princess “not that doll, you shouldn’t give that away” to which she replied (very loudly) “Yes! It’s beautiful!” What really got me was the excitement on all of their faces as they did it, and the number of times I heard the words “I love Christmas” said with a small sigh that usually comes from the accumulation of gifts, but this time was all about giving.


By the time Hubby got home from work the box was overflowing and the magic of Christmas was back in the house.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Moments of Madness


My beautiful cat Sophie finally gave birth to her 5 kittens on Tuesday morning, cute wee things that cuddle up together and make cute little noises and have provided us with something new to stare at all day. So it’s official. I’m the crazy cat lady.
For a few weeks anyway, until they’re old enough to be weaned and given away. But still, it scares me.

Meanwhile 3 very excited kids arrived at school on Tuesday morning, bursting with the news of the tiny new arrivals. Princess apparently had the attention of the class as she told them all how “a little kitten came out of my cat’s butt and it was covered in blood and it was so disgusking!”

Had an amusing conversation with Boy the other day, my curious 8 year old son, when he told me he was annoyed with his friends because “sometimes they just say they believe things without thinking about it, and I think they’ve just heard it somewhere”. I was quite surprised at his insight, I mean, I know that, but I didn’t expect that he would know or even really care. It turns out he’d been having a conversation with one of his friends about God, and his friend said he didn’t believe in God because he believed humans evolved from apes. Boy told me he listened to his friend explain how we used to be apes, and thought about it but when he asked him “OK well if you think that then who made the apes?” and his friend didn’t have an answer he just got annoyed because he wasn’t making a lot of sense.
*Giggle*

Boy never fails to amuse. His mind works overtime with ideas and he has this huge need to just sit and talk, often. He’s also a feeling person, which makes him very different from me, because I don’t really do feelings. Hubby is the feeling person, I prefer logic, and have to remind myself that Boy’s this little guy running around having all these feelings 24/7.

A couple of days ago he came home from school in a mood, snappy and wound up about, oh I don’t know, everything it seemed! I was pretty tired and just kind of ignored him until he threw a couple of pretty major tantrums about something or other and ended up sent to his room. I started making tea, he stayed in his room, then Shane mentioned something about a sign on the door announcing “Boy’s alone time, keep out...” with a list of names detailing exactly who was ordered to keep out (all of us), so I told him to just give him some space for a while to let him chill out a bit.

Didn’t think anything more about it. Soon Boy comes into the kitchen and sits down at the table, still kinda grumping but mostly over it, asks me why I bought the ‘wrong’ box of tissues. He was looking at the picture on the new box as though it was a wart or something. I told him ‘I bought those instead because they’re environmentally friendly, and I thought you’d like that cos I know it’s important to you.” (Boy is the guy who told me off for using gladwrap and asked for his lunch to be put into reusable bags or containers, and insisted that I change from plastic shopping bags to reusable ones, and makes us drive him miles out of town on weekends so he can plant trees with some group he’s joined. He hates anything I do to kill the planet, and I know I should care more, but I really only ever do environmentally good things to please Boy. I’m sorry!)

So I showed him the tissue box and how it said it was all made from recycled paper and didn’t have the plastic window thingy, and let him read all the information on the bottom. Next thing I know he’s standing there sobbing and howling and asks me to come into his room with him, he wants to show me something. He gets out his scrapbook that he draws pictures in, opens it up and shows me this hideous picture that he’s drawn: picture Bad Jelly the Witch, crossed with the cryptkeeper, with a giant boogie hanging out of her huge nose and her tongue hanging out. Above it, the words “This is Mum. This is the worst picture of them all.”

I’m standing there biting the insides of my cheeks to keep myself from laughing out loud, while he’s sobbing uncontrollably to the point where he can’t breathe, and I say “Why are you showing me this?” He shows me the rest of the book, trying to explain that this is the book where he creates cartoon characters and gives them names and writes a little bio about them, just so that I really don’t miss what he’s done here, so I really understand that this is a picture of me, and it’s ugly and it’s the” worst picture of them all”. Then he turns the page and there in large letters are the words “MUM SUCKS”. That’s the moment when I lost it laughing, but he didn’t notice since it was also the moment when he started howling even louder. I said to him “Why are you upset?” he said “Cos I feel bad.” I said “Well I think it’s quite creative actually.” He said, between sobs “But it’s so mean...and you bought me those tissuuuuuueeeeesss!”

I managed to calm him down by explaining that it’s ok to be mad at me, and since he took himself away and vented his frustrations artistically, rather than scream and hit and throw things, I could forgive him for the picture, since he obviously didn’t mean it anyway. The whole time wanting to whip out my camera phone and take a photo of his drawing because it was SO FUNNY, but I couldn’t because, after apologising to me a thousand times, he very theatrically tore the pages out of his book and ripped them into tiny pieces, carrying them quite ceremoniously to the fireplace for disposal.

I wanted so badly to point out that a tree died for that, but I held my tongue like a real grown up.

xo

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Awards

So today was a pretty awesome day. I won second place and highly commended in a poetry competition. Actually I won it last month, but failed to go to the prizegiving and received a package in the mail today with awards for two of my poems. Sweet! And then I checked my results online and learned I got a B- for my last Creative Writing portfolio, so I’m pretty stoked about that, although what I’m really interested in is the tutor comments so I’ll be hanging out at the mailbox til that arrives back.


Meanwhile, here’s a lovely little award that I received over a month ago, but only just figured out how to post it!

Thanks to Megs at “It started with a haircut” for awarding me this!


Here is what you have to do when you receive this award:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might not know.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated


Since I’m fairly new to blogging on this site I was only following a few friends blogs, but I’ve had a look around and other than the beautiful Megs, here's my 7 Kreativ Bloggers:


Widge @ “My Guide to Surviving and Enjoying life’s mundane


stinaz81@ “Given blessings, missed in the rush...


Kathryn @ “From the Inside...Out


Simoney @ “Greatfun4kids


iwrite92 @ “a writers life


sisterem @ her fabulous self-titled blog


Cat @ “The Basso Tribe Adventures


So here goes:
7 things about me (that you may not know....)


1. I’m kinda terrified of glitter. Yes I know how weird that sounds. It’s just the way it sticks to your hands and then it gets on your face and sparkles when you turn your head and ohhhh I hate it!! So imagine my delight when my little princess brings her creations home from school – there’s ALWAYS GLITTER!!! And she knows I hate it, and she thinks it’s funny...there’s been many a scene in The Warehouse when she finds this stupid sparkly glitter HAT, puts it on and runs at me menacingly (yes, menacingly!) and then I get horrified looks from other people when I start YELLING AT THE TOP OF MY VOICE at her to GET IT AWAY!!!!!! *Sigh*


2. When I was in my teens I kept a journal (back then they were made of paper, cos the internet didn’t exist) and I named it Jimmy. I talked about Jimmy as though he was a real person and blamed him for all the stupid stuff I did. eg. I left the heater going in my room, mum’s mad, I’d sigh and say “bloody Jimmy!” Mum thought he was my imaginary friend, although she knew I didn’t think he was real, cos I was about 14 at the time. But blaming Jimmy would make her laugh, or at least smile a bit, which was enough to get me off the hook. Little did she know, Jimmy was real, and was in fact the perfect man cos he listened to all my problems and didn’t ever try to hit on me or eat the last of the mint slice (unlike SOME people around here!!!)


3. I once went through a stage of wearing pink every day for several months, I mean LOTS of pink, I even had pink shoes, just because I overheard someone say “she would never wear pink”.


4. I quite often let out a big loud YAWN and stretch during a sad movie scene so that whoever is in the room might think that is why my eyes have tears in them.


5. I almost always wear two pairs of pants at a time, because you just never know when you’ll need a spare pair of pants and I hate carrying a bag.


6. I have a secret chocolate stash that my children don’t know about, and not because I intend to surprise them with it, but because I don’t want to share it. I have had a secret chocolate stash since I was 12 years old and first began my monthly chocolate cravings.


7. I daydream a lot about owning a dusty secondhand bookstore, that has old comfortable couches and wooden coffee tables in front of big windows. We have poetry readings at night with scented candles and only a few people show up and they look scruffy and dreadlocked and wear woollen scarves, even in summer. It’s a cool place, but none of the customers have any money so I guess I don’t sell many books, but it doesn’t matter cos the conversation is so good.
xo

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Love

Sometimes things tick along sweetly, spring arrives, you take a big breath and enjoy the feelings of bliss that come after getting through winter and you cruise into the warmer months knowing that the Christmas holidays are almost here and there’s good times ahead.


But when it’s not like that, when things don’t tick along sweetly, and the big breaths you take aren’t so much a sigh of relief as a pause while you figure out what to do, it’s good to find that in that spring air there’s still a sense that God is standing right beside you, with a questioning smile on his face, as if watching to see what move you will make, while at the same time knowing you well enough to already know exactly what you’ll do, and you know that he trusts you to go into the rough and not leave him.


This last week I learned that my big sister was going through some hard stuff in Christchurch, and as I sat here praying for her, and hoping for the best I felt so helpless and upset for her, and as I talked to God about whether there was anything I could do or should do I knew that this time was different from any other time before. In the past my sister has been the one to take care of us, when we go through hard times, like when we lost our baby, she shows up and supports us. She’s not so good at letting us do the same for her though, and I knew if I went to her I’d be going as the little sister and that’s exactly how she’d see me, so she’d try and be strong and maybe my being there could do more harm than good, since she would most likely hold everything in until I left again. But God said change that. And I knew too, that if I went to her she’d see me as the Christian one, the one who hangs out with Jesus, and she’d look at me and I’d represent everything that she didn’t believe, and maybe in that light everything I’d say would sound text-book and patronising and preachy and unrealistic.
It’s funny how easy it is sometimes to reach out to a stranger or someone you don’t know that well. When it’s someone close, you can make excuses that because they love you they won’t hold it against you if you aren’t there for them right now, especially when they know you have your kids to take care of, and money’s tight, and it’s a long drive and you have your own life...it’s funny how all those excuses, although real and totally valid, all seem so trivial when you’re talking to the Almighty. Cos you know he’s going with you, and he’ll watch your kids, and your car, and your wallet.


Sometimes when you talk to God there’s this moment...it’s like the silence that follows an explosion. It’s a different kind of peace. Something’s happened, something’s changed and you’re a little scared in spite of the fact that you know you’re safe.


What changed in me was my willingness to remain sympathetic. I couldn’t say anymore I wish I could be there, I had to actually go and let my sister know that things had changed. We talked and cried and drank and talked and talked.


And now I’m home with my family and there’s still that scary peace; that feeling that there’s still something required of me. I know right now I’m in the aftermath of some significant moment spent with God, that something is different than it was before I decided to stop thinking, and just go with my gut instinct to drop everything and run, to let my sister have a turn to be the one taken care of.


There’s a reason why he says to love. Because it’s the most powerful thing we can do as humans, and we hold ourselves back from doing it.


You know the feeling when you go to the funeral of someone you were close to? That feeling of love and regret, that perfect combination that makes you speak from your heart about how you felt about the person? You say the sweetest things, remember the good times and the bad, tell stories to others about them. You drop what you’re doing to go to them, wherever they are, even if it means travelling. And you love them without holding back.


What if God means for us to love like that all the time? What if love is only truly working when we do it without counting the cost?


I think I always knew it in my head, that love is a sacrifice. But I think I’ve been doing it all wrong. I try to feed the poor and hungry, and pray for the sick, but I so often avoid really letting my feelings get too involved. I keep my distance in relationships. I mind my own business. I don’t get hurt.


But there’s something so powerful about dropping everything and running to someone, with no agenda other than to be there so they know they’re not alone and know they’re loved.


I came home and tried to slip back into the usual routine, but so much of what I do is worthless and tainted in light of the realisation that I’ve been so closed and distant for so long. I think it’s ever since the baby died that I’ve been like this. It’s no good. I almost didn’t go to my sister because that wasn’t how we usually did things in our family. How terrible would it have been if I hadn’t known it was time for things to change?


No one is meant to be alone.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rollercoaster

What kind of person starts a blog and then doesn’t bother to update it for weeks?

Things have been crazy around here lately. Hubby was off work on stress leave; basically he’s burnt out, and now has to go about making changes to the lifestyle that caused it in the first place. That’s over-summarising a little bit, but I guess we’re still working it out. My initial reaction was to take on everything and not let him do anything, including confiscating his cellphone so I could screen his calls. I pretty soon came to realise that was going to drive both of us crazy, so we’ve had to learn to communicate better about what works for both of us, even though we thought we were pretty good at that.

Study was pretty much put on hold for a few weeks, which was really very stressful. I’m in the last part of the semester now, so not having the time to work and having to ask for extensions on a couple of assignments was so irritating, but I had to do it. I’ve only today managed to get back on top of things. Sent off a huge assignment today, 22 pages, 6676 words huge. The due date was today and it was an electronic submission, so unbelievably I made it on time. Now I just have two more to go and I’m done for the year! Yay!

My little girl, my baby, who was only just born, has her first school visit tomorrow. I don’t want her to turn 5 or go to school, but nobody really cares what I want, and I think that’s very selfish of them. She’s MY baby and I shouldn’t have to share her!

I’ve resorted to having fantasy conversations:

Me: My little girl’s about to start school.

Teacher: And how do you feel about that?

Me: It sucks. I don’t want her to grow up yet.

Teacher: Then she shouldn’t. We’ll put it off for another 5 years to allow for your perfectly reasonable and rational response. After all, she’s perfectly fine at home with you.

Me: Thanks. See you in 5 years.

Teacher: Only if you’re ready. If not, we’ll delay it again until you are.

Of course, this fantasy conversation doesn’t leave room for Princess’s voice, which I imagine would be something ranging between a shrill squeal of anguish and a violent angry protest. She wants to go to school. She’s been ready for months, and can’t wait to finally start. Nearly all her friends have gone on before her and she feels very excited about joining them. But she’s my baby!

There is a sense that I’m about to enter a new chapter of my life, and I guess when you do, something else has to end. And I know that a few weeks into it I’ll probably be lapping up the 6 hours a day I have to do what I need to do, and the fact that for the first time in 11 years I’ll be able to clean the house and it will stay that way all day, and not having to watch Hi-5 and Dora the Explorer every afternoon will be a huge bonus too, since I’m pretty sure that either Dora or Charlie from Hi-5 could be the one to push me over the edge one day, but at the moment, every day, I’m having these moments of gut-wrenching nausea at the thought of sending my youngest off to school every day. And now the cat is pregnant, so there’s a chance I might actually be sitting at home becoming the crazy cat lady. And when the mormons come, I might let them in just for someone to talk to. Or I might burble incoherently and throw a cat at them.

Or I might actually get to write something that’s worth sending to a publisher, or get my Christmas shopping done before Christmas Eve.

It’s a rollercoaster I tell ya.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Opening a Vein

The beautiful thing about a personal blog is that it serves so many purposes. First and foremost, it gets the creative juices flowing, and leaves me with a sense of satisfaction, even relief, after publishing. It gets the brain active, and it doesn’t seem to matter about what. But blogging is something more than simply an intellectual warm-up exercise – I know this because I’m no good at exercising, and when this is what it becomes, I am not disciplined enough to write. I tried earlier this year to blog as a warm-up between the school/kindy drop-off routine and my morning study time, but I found it lacked the satisfaction that comes from exploring and discovering within my own imagination, and so I lost the enthusiasm for it.

Previously I’d kept a blog for several years, which became more like a friend, one that I could tell everything to and not feel judged, or compelled to explain or justify. In the year following the loss of my third child through miscarriage, that blog became my very best friend. I poured out my soul in every post – I questioned, raged, doubted, accused, hoped, feared, desired – and all without fault or interruption. It was beautiful, and it was exactly what I needed.
But the ‘newness’ of my current life requires a new page. The previous blog is, to my mind, leather-bound and complete. Nothing more can be added. So here I find myself, at the prompting of a friend who writes from the heart with such honesty and understanding that it seems at times she is holding up a mirror. My initial fascination with her writing has prompted once again the cravings to blog for myself.


I am hesitant to describe what kind of things I might write about here, since I’m a firm believer in Forster’s idea of “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” But if my life situation is anything to go by then with a husband and three kids, a cat, an assortment of extended family members who feature heavily in my everyday life, the move into a new town just a year ago, a new church experience which can be compared to a carnival ride I went on as a kid called ‘Viper’, the beginning of a BA in English, a background of clinical depression which rears its ugly head from time to time, sports, school, kindy, and the day to day running of a home while trying to maintain some sanity, grace, and the ability to still call myself a genuine follower of Christ, then I would hazard a guess that this blog will have its ups and downs, each post will have its own flavour, and perhaps the best description might just have to be “Reflections of a Stay-at-home-mum”.
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