Little Kangaroo

May 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Introducing a new, original pattern that I have been working on lately.

He is the first of a series of Australian animals I am producing, available in kit form so far from my etsy shop (they should be available there within a few days).

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Suburban Daze.

May 18, 2014 § 4 Comments

Recently I have been thinking of the film Revolutionary Road, which features Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet  as a married couple in the 1960’s in America. The characters begin as sparkling, independent individuals with dreams to go places and be somebody. Indeed, this determination to experience a full and unusual life is what attracts them to each other in the first place.

They marry, and move to the suburbs. But this is where things turn. Kate Winslet’s character finds motherhood mundane, and chafes against the curtailed opportunites and freedom that having young children can bring, while her husband hates his office job in the city, which he is doggedly determined to succeed at to be a ‘good provider’.

The dreams that the couple began with, the dreams they loved in each other, become pipe dreams as time passes and they feel trapped in suburbia and a life they did not really want. As the family expands, it is harder and harder for them to conceive of ‘getting out’; of breaking free to the life they had always imagined for themselves.

When I saw the film a few years ago it articulated something I often feel. I could relate in a way that made me both relieved to feel acknowledged, and deeply uncomfortable. I have written about these feelings before in the piece Urge to Fly: the conflict – expressed so well in the movie – between the grand dreams one has, and the sometimes harsh realities of needing food on the table, and of little people who depend on you.

I love my large family, and I love my life. But I am not where I thought I would be at this age – in terms of personal goals or life experiences. And I did not realise, when I had younger children, that they would get used to a certain way of life that would feel impossible to change once they were older.

I wish I was a fearless adventurer, certain enough of my love and strength as a Mother to make huge life changes and know the children would be alright. But I am not that….and my experiences so far lead me to think, that for my children, the stability of a long term home and school, and the closeness of our extended family, are really important elements for their happiness (and mine).

I remind myself: I will not be in this phase of life forever. The endless days of school lunches, ballet lessons birthday parties. The barking of the neighbourhood dog, and the weekend taxi service Sol and I have become. It will not be forever. And it is up to me to bring some soul, some meaning and most of all some fun into life right now.

I remind myself: it is all in my thoughts. In how I choose to see things. Maybe it is time to put down the dishes and get outside for a while. Make the commitment and tick some of those smaller goals off the list. Maybe it is time to plan a great family holiday!

 

 

Mother’s Day

May 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

I spent Mother’s Day in a state of dread, rushing to get the grocery shopping and weekly cooking done in case we ended up in hospital with Robin. Illnesses are always worse at night, and I spent hours the night before awake, listening to his raspy, laboured breathing. With Robin’s history, I felt almost certain he would need breathing support the following night.

Now on the other side of that night – I am happy to report that hospital was not needed, and I had the chance to face some of my deep fears and release them. This is the real stuff of Motherhood…..

In the past I have always found Mother’s Day to be rather contrived and fake. However as the years roll by, things change. Now I feel like a bit of a party pooper if I don’t get into the spirit. The younger children so obviously delight in the chance to make and give a gift, and it feels nice to get a gruff acknowledgement from the teenager. Yes, it really does feel good to be acknowledged, even if only on this one day, even if this particular year it was a bit of a bust.

And in turn, it is a chance for me to acknowledge my own mother. I could say all the cliched sentiments here, and they would all be true. But I won’t. I will instead highlight the one thing I admire most in my mother, and this is her determination to experience a loving relationship with me no matter what.

I have thrown my Mum some huge curveballs – addiction to marijuana as a teenager, coming out as a lesbian at age 17, travelling alone overseas at age 20, that navel ring, and then turning up with a life partner at her birthday party one year, swiftly followed a few short months later with a baby announcement. Throughout it all she has always sought to understand, to preserve a connection and find some common ground.

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I respect that determination. I cherish it. And I hope to take that kind of commitment into my own motherhood journey. With five children, I am sure I will receive some curveballs of my own (so far they take the form of Eminem, graffiti and some unashamed materialism).

On Ambivalence

May 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Some nine years ago, I joined a Rudolf Steiner inspired Playgroup. Each week my son and I would attend the playgroup, and while the children had some free play time I was introduced to crafting, Steiner style.

One of the main precepts of Steiner education is a focus on handcrafts, using high quality, natural materials. The Playgroup Leader was an amazingly inspiring woman – skilled in knitting, sewing, crochet, dyeing and every other craft modality one can think of. I can remember as though it were yesterday, sitting there in her glow, dreaming that one day I would be just like her – a mother to many, an inspiration in this little community, and a skilled craftswoman whose products were sought after.

I attended all her craft workshops and learnt all I could. I listened for little clues on where to find the best fleece, or dyes, or wool felt. After a few years she moved away from the school and Sydney. This was an opportunity for me – to step into the space she left with my fledgling craft skills and products.

And I did – I sold hand dyed t shirts at the school market, and a couple of years later ran my first dyeing and felting workshops. I had a couple more children, but kept creating on the side. A good friend of mine turned ‘professional’ with her original and beautiful hand made clothes and silk baby wraps. I was jealous, and so inspired to do that too: to be a ‘professional’ and make my craft into a proper job.

But, I never took the next steps: from creating business cards, to promoting myself and my products, to even thinking of myself as a ‘professional’. I don’t know if it was low self confidence, or just plain ambivalence that saw me shy away from a full commitment to making my passion into a paying role.

That is, I never took those steps until last year, after another couple of children, and after another friend went professional with her amazing wooden and hand dyed products. Again I felt envious, and I couldn’t escape the now insistent voice within that I should be doing this too! I should add, that Robin’s illness made me really examine my life, and firmed my determination to ‘seize the day’.

With the encouragement of a few amazing friends I began referring to myself as a ‘fibre artist’, selling felt and other products with more regularity and opening an etsy store. I began holding workshops again and this year have pushed myself to begin craft workshops for children in the school holidays, as well as a regular craft group for women.

Since my decision to simply perceive  and refer to myself as a ‘professional’ (maybe that was what I needed to do all along!), a few opportunities have opened up, mostly in the last few months. It is a wonderful affirmation of my work, and all of a sudden a grand vision for the future is opening up in my mind, which is mostly exciting, but sometimes scary, because….the ambivalence has hit again.

Last week I was talking with a friend, who has six children and a small business of her own. We were acknowledging the feeling that as soon as we give time or energy to something like our businesses, it seems like our children suffer – in terms of not having us there at night, or simply the kind of time pressure that means we have to cut corners with their diets, or their weekend activities. Sometimes it feels like a full time job just to do all the washing, tidy the house and make sure they are all eating well at school and at home. Not to mention any problems or issues that need handling…

I strive to remain aware of any beliefs I may have that are limiting or unhelpful, and the thought that I cannot run both a business and a thriving family may be one of them….but I freely admit I am stuck here right now. This conflict is not preventing me from taking these opportunities, but it means I second guess myself more than what I would like. How I wish I was a fearless woman who just went for it, without the fear or hesitations, or worry about whether customers will be satisfied.

I think, well I hope, that gradually I am learning to sit with the ambivalence and act anyway. But my commitment to this journey is deepening, as I am learning so much along the way.

My specialties...hand dyed felt

My specialties…hand dyed felt

hand sewn 'Tree of Life'

hand sewn ‘Tree of Life’

and Flower/Vagina pieces.

and Flower/Vagina pieces.

Home is where…

May 1, 2014 § 1 Comment

We are at the end of Autumn school holidays here in Sydney. It has been a busy two weeks, with craft workshops, Sol working many, many hours, and five children of different ages who all seem to go in different directions.

It is not always easy for me to organise outings or activities that all five children will enjoy; frankly it is downright impossible. So I feel deep gratitude to Nana and Papa for taking the girls for a couple of days each week and giving them a great time: trips on the train to the south coast beaches, a trip to the movies, and to the city to a fun children’s park there. The girls come home exhausted, but filled up with fun.

Photo: Lily with one under both arms.

The boys are a whole other thing: William went off camping for two nights with some friends (and no adults), and went to a teenage dance party this past weekend. In between his need for about 14 hours sleep a day, we managed to fit in a movie or two. And Samuel is just the right age for lots of physical activity: the local basketball courts, the trampolining place where there are about thirty huge trampolines situated next to each other, and some rock climbing when we go to the beach. And in the spaces between these outings there is Minecraft with friends on the computer. The balance between screen time and getting out and about has been pretty close to perfect these holidays for the boys (finally!).

The beach seems to be the only place that caters for every age group.

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But between all the comings and goings, there is home. I am not a big believer in having to ‘entertain’ children all day long, or indeed of needing to go out every day. We have, over the years, built up a collection of very fine, imaginative play materials, and I like to encourage this kind of play. I strive to create a home where I can potter and do what I need to do, but where the children can play and be engaged in a fantastic world of their own making.

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Now Robin is a little bit older he is included in the world the girls create. Lily takes really good care of him, and I love it that they can spend hours sitting on the trampoline just….playing.

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Home. It is a place of rest and rejuvenation. It is a place where sometimes the best fun happens.

 

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