The Flight of the Gay, Innocent and Heartless

This past year, doors have opened while others have closed. For example, I got the perfect job for my current stage of life, while learning to let a few of my housekeeping standards go so that I can keep my sanity. I’ve had to learn to manage my time even better so that I can fit in some of my hobbies and passions. What has been drummed into my stubborn shell through all this is that God has my back and everything always works out in the end because of this. Does this mean I stop worrying? Of course not because I’m a mum, but it helps give me a lot of perspective and I probably have less sleepless nights as a result.

For the first time last year, I set myself a reading challenge. In the past I’ve just tried to devour read as many books as possible. Ever since having Iris, the annual total has plummeted. With the advent of her starting formal school and being much more independent, I thought it was time to get back to my pre-baby reading pace. I have to admit, I cheated a bit by putting in books that were marginally longer than novelettes. However, one thing I didn’t bank on that has been such a boost for both my reading and Iris’s is what I read to her at bedtime. We progressed to longer, more wordy books in the second half of 2016 starting with my favourite Dahls. In 2017 we read, Black Beauty, Finding Black Beauty, Danny the Champion of the World, Peter Pan and Matilda twice! We’ve started 2018 with another of my ab favs, The Secret Garden and intend to continue on to other classics and more modern treasures such as Brian Selznic’s masterpieces. Perhaps when I’ve managed to practise my various British accents more, I’ll do a recording just for posterity. It’s also been fairly interesting to see how my opinion of books I thought I knew so well has changed as I’ve grown up. Where previously I shared in Danny and his father’s opinion that poaching from Victor Hazell was perfectly justified because he was an obnoxious, conceited twit who had too much ill-gotten money for his own good. As I read it anew with my daughter, along with most of Dahl’s work, I realised how flawed his morals actually were. Perhaps that’s why I loved them to begin with. However, what I’ve loved more than anything else, is sharing all my childhood gems with Iris and seeing my joy of the written word reflected in her.

Over the past year, I’ve also witnessed my daughter mature in leaps and bounds and while it’s made me tear while secretly watching her toddler and baby videos over and over, I’ve also had so much to be proud of. So what better book to end the year and teach me about trust, especially trusting my own daughter and her choices than J M Barrie’s everlasting classic?

This is the first time I read Peter Pan. I know, I know, like what?! How is that possible? Well all I can say is, there are a lot of books in the world and I moved on to adult classics pretty early.

I wouldn’t really classify this as an “interactive” book which is how it’s described. Most of the extras are just to look at as seen in the pics. The illustrations are beautiful, however, as is the binding so I’m still very happy with it.

As we started the book I thought the profoundly stilted and old-style language would be too much for Iris. At times she did seem to get a bit lost but overall, I was very pleasantly surprised that she got all the jokes and even shushed me when I wanted to over-explain stuff.

I have to admit I got embarrassingly emotional when the children flew out the window and when they returned. Of course I know it’s all metaphorical but how can any mum not feel when your kids decide to abandon you?

Perhaps it was divine timing for me to read this as a mum than as a child. I’m certainly treasuring every moment she still turns to me for support and cuddles more but at the same time, I know I’ll need to let her fly when the time comes and trust that she’ll come back if and when she needs to. I just have to leave the window open.

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The Final Countdown

Don’t know if anybody else shares my dilemma but my end of year reading selections tend to lean towards the quick reads. This is because I’m trying to bump up my annual number of books read in a last sprint to the finish so to speak. This year, I’ve actually engaged in a public online reading challenge so the pressure is on to finish those last 7 books. Yet I also want them to be holiday-themed. Gosh #firstworldproblems eh?

Well after several days of faffing, I’ve finally narrowed it down and am pretty happy with it. First up, Murder on the Orient Express because of the movie and it’ll be my third reread of the year (see previous post on justifying massive book collection). However, I will read it after the movie only so I can imagine Johnny in his role as I read. #yum

Under the Net because it’s red (Christmassy) and I’ve not read a Murdoch in awhile. Instructions for A Heatwave because we live in WA. The Age of Magic, again Christmassy and has been on my TBR pile for ages. The Snow Child and The Christmas Story obvious.

It’s the last one that excites me the most though. Peter Pan is one of the few children’s classics I have not read though I’ve watched many film adaptations and it is totally my kind of storyline and genre.

I bought this copy as a present to myself last year and was going to read it with Iris in anticipation of watching the WA Ballet’s production of Peter Pan. Though we’ve decided to go to Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk instead, I’m still going to read this with her during the holidays.

Review and (hopefully) more blog posts soon!

Giving Thanks

So I think everyone can agree that 2016 has pretty much sucked. Starting right off with the deaths of major artistic talents, through to Brexit and Trump. For our family, we’ve also had the death of a beloved cat, who’s been there right from Iris’ birth and the passing of my 103-year-old grandmother. While we were sad at the passing of my grandmother, she was 103/4/5. She lived such a full life, I still feel bad every time I sit down for a cuppa or complain about how much housework/childcare/family administration I have to do. Here’s a VERY brief snippet of what she did: she had ten children to look after pretty much on her own, ran three sewing classes a day to supplement the family income and fed, not just her family, but the several workers in my grandfather’s tailor shop. All this while being very active in at least two churches.

With that in mind, for me, all this tragedy has reinforced the wonderful blessings we still have. In particular, the fact that we’ve FINALLY moved into our new house and while it’s not perfect, it’s felt like home right from the start. Here is THE LIBRARY. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Unfortunately, we ran out of space so Iris’ books are in the “craft room”. However, I’m hoping that there will be enough culling of things-kept-since-1980-by-the-husband, who says “I might need to refer to it” in response to why he’s kept his SECONDARY SCHOOL physics text books and notes, that we’ll be able to move her books over as well.

I decided to let her take the lead and clearly she hasn’t inherited my OCD-ness to quite the same degree as she said “just put them anyhow”. Let it go, let it go.

This is the first time in over 13 years that all my books have been housed together. Some of been culled because they were falling apart or not very good or not pretty enough. Some have been with me for nigh on three decades. Along the way, I decided I would only buy books I was going to keep. Unfortunately, that did not have the effect I intended. When Iris came, I had another reason to acquire more books, to amass a worthy library for her to intellectually sup on as she grew. As it stands, I’m pretty happy with how my collection has come along.

So it is with extreme pride that I unveil another treasure to add, which I absolutely could not resist when I saw it in Dymocks even though I am still on a self-induced book buying ban. Ha!

I’ve raved about Robert Sabuda previously so when I saw his version of The Christmas Story, I hesitated for about 5 seconds before trotting it to the cashier.

So this is the real Christmas story, no faffing with rotund elderly men with a penchant for satisfying children’s desires with merchandise.

Once again, I’m going to let the pictures do the amazing and wish everyone a better, more hopeful 2017!

Making Them Feel Special

So about a third of Iris’s library is made up of hand-me-downs from her cousins and among them is Max Lucado’s You Are Special.

You Are Special

We always say the year has flown by at the end of it but somehow this year really has gone quicker than previous years. This is probably because so much has happened and how busy we’ve all been. For Iris it has been a tremendous year! She’s formed her first girl posse; learned to read; learned to swing herself on the swing; had her first successful ballet concert in front of a big audience on a real stage; AND stopped sucking her finger (this one is huge and I will do another post just on this later). I try to let her know just how proud of her I am but words really cannot express it all. What I fear is for her to lose her sense of self-worth for whatever reason because I know the world, and especially other kids, can be cruel.

This is why a story like this is so important.

In the world of the Wemmicks, small wooden people carved by a woodworker named Eli, they rate each other with dots and stars. Those with lots of stars are admired for their looks or talents. Those with dots are looked down on because they’re not pretty enough or good enough at anything. One Wemmick with lots of dots is Punchinello. No matter how hard he tries, he couldn’t seem to stop getting dots. And he believed he deserved them.

You Are Special

Then one day, he meets Lucia who has no dots or stars at all. When other Wemmicks tried to give her a star or dot, it would just fall off. Punchinello wanted that too so Lucia told him to go see Eli.

You Are Special

Filled with self-doubt, Punchinello did.

You Are Special

There, Eli told him he shouldn’t care what the other Wemmicks thought of him because he thought Punchinello was special.  If Punchinello focused on what Eli thought of him, it wouldn’t matter what anyone else thought.  “Why don’t the stickers stay on her (Lucia)?” “The stickers only stick if they matter to you.” “I’m not sure I understand.” “You will, but it will take time. For now, come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care.” As Punchinello began to believe Eli, a dot fell off.

You Are Special

It’s not just about God, everyone should feel special because we all are. No matter your race, religion, colour of eyes or whether your hair is straight or curly. Everyone is entitled to feel unique, beautiful and worthwhile as a human being. As a parent, it’s so important that we help our children retain their sense of self-worth and for the most part I think I do okay. There are times when I feel like I don’t deserve to be a mum and that’s why I’m really glad Iris has someone else, far more qualified than me, to fall back on to tell her how wonderful she is. This is my Christmas wish for her and all kids, that they’ll always have someone to tell them they are beautifully and wonderfully made and no one has a right to make them feel bad for being who they are.

XOXO

Another Kind of Resolution

For Christmas 2014, as it would be just us and the gramps (grandparents), I suggested going camping. Yup, you heard right. Of course after everyone got on board I started having second thoughts. I LOVE having my own loo within five metres of my bed, which is in a house with air-conditioning. There was no backing out, however, so I had to suck it in. What we did do, was actually “glamping” because the gramps had their luxury caravan, so we had power and cooking facilities. There were shared toilets and showers, so no digging holes in the ground, and we brought our automated air-bed, quilt and my ultra comfortable contoured pillow. Even so, after 3 nights of having to unzip the tent, walk 25 metres to the toilet and being woken up at 5am by birds having a conference over our heads, I was ready to come home.

On Christmas day we had our first bona fide Aussie Christmas with a trip to the beach in the morning, lunch off the barbe (bbq) and pot luck dinner with the rest of the camp in a large shed. Naturally the person who enjoyed it the most was Iris. She made a new bestie she played with all day everyday, had a family of goats next door and a couple who walked their cat on a lead. I might be persuaded to do it again if we get a darker tent and I bring ear plugs for all of us.

One evening, as I made my way back to our camp-site from a shower, I was literally stopped in my tracks by the sunset.

WA Sunset, Dec 14, Big Valley

Like an awesome sunset, there are children’s books that have the same effect. Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is one of them and so is Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius.

Alice Rumphius lived by the sea with her grandfather who inspired her with tales of his travels. She wanted to do everything he had – travel and live by the sea. He left her with one more life accomplishment – “do something to make the world more beautiful”.

Grandfather and Alice

So off Alice goes, travelling the world and finally settling down in a cottage by the sea. Then she remembers what her grandfather tasked her to do, but she had no idea what to do.

Travelling to Asia

One summer, she plants her favourite flowers – lupines. She spends the next year or so convalescing. The following spring, on a walk, she finds  a patch of lupines some distance from her cottage. That is her “ah ha” moment.

Ah ha moment

She then spends the summer sowing lupine seeds all around the area. When the fields, hillsides, lane-ways, hollows and stone walls all bloom with the blue, purple and rose-coloured flowers, it appears she has perfectly fulfilled her grandfather’s words.

Lupines, lupines, lupines

I’ve never made a new year’s resolution. Not one. I think it’s nonsense. If you need an impetus to do something worthwhile, the new year is not going to give you enough of one. Take quitting smoking, it needs to be something personal, something that will give you enough will power to overcome your addiction. Likewise with losing weight and all the rest of it, which anyway, if you needed to do, you probably need to do it ALL the time. So not a new year’s resolution, but a life resolution – don’t sweat the small stuff.

Creating Christmas

This has been my most organised Christmas ever. I got my shopping done in November and managed to design and order custom cards and send them off on time! Quite apart from all that, however, is the fact that this year, compared to the last 20, is made fun all over again because of Iris.

I will say it up front, I do believe in God and thus Christmas has always been meaningful. Yet, this year, because there is a little person who enjoys decorations and activities and the whole she-bang, I’ve found myself really getting into the festive mood of the season. So here’s a sampling of the madness: I created a spreadsheet to map out all the activities available this month so we wouldn’t miss anything; I rushed around after her birthday to find a tree (artificial because there aren’t any non-tiny potted ones) and decorate it and the house; I drove 45 minutes to a mall in Rockingham so she could throw fake snow in a life-sized snow globe for two minutes; I went to Spotlight twice to buy buttons to make ornaments, I braved the crowds with Ah Ma and held 13.5kg on my shoulders for half an hour so that Iris could see a Christmas parade. Did I mention the spreadsheet?

Throughout this time I’ve had to keep asking myself, am I doing this just because it’s something my family always did or is this something I want our family to do from now on? It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of Christmas and forget to create a personal Christmas just for the three of us. I’ve enjoyed starting my own collection of tree ornaments and baking up a storm, as well as having an advent candle, which is something I’ve wanted all my adult life but never found the impetus to get until now.

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What makes this Christmas extra special is that it is also our first one in our newly adoptive country. Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland’s An Aussie Night Before Christmas is a cracking take on the season in all its thong-wearing glory.

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From the beer and lamingtons left out for Christmas, to the kangaroo-drawn ute and bottom baring Santa, it’s a chuckle inducing introduction to everything Aussie. I know what I’m giving out to the kids next year!

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A very blessed Christmas and 2014 to everyone from the Reading Mum!

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