Cloudbusting moments

When I started this blog I was thinking of my life in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria, Australia. I have since come to realise that life is a series of hills of varying topographical detail; some a barely bumps, others are the hill climb of the Tour de France that the faint-heartened never approximate. I have also come to appreciate the distinct advantage of setting hills in my sights with the aim of seeing life from the other side with a raised heart-rate. My 'comfort-zone' exists to be busted, and I intend to continue venturing far away and beyond my comfort-zones for as long as I have a reason to live. From the foothills of the Dandenongs to the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges, and still cloudbusting, I hope. It's what I want my kids to do, so I'd better show them a bit about how it's done, and how to push up and over the hills they'd otherwise avoid...

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The View From Here

A place. An anchor. Somewhere that feels like somewhere, the kind of somewhere my spirit needs to be.
It smells like gentle wattles in an early Spring.
It feels like liberty to plan and to see out dreams that have steered a short lifetime.
It sounds like magpie song on moonlit nights and soft munching sounds of beasts.
It looks like the green, brown and blue hues of all that is important to support living and breathing. It looks over the solid unchanging of ancient land mass and eternal sea.
It tastes of spicy eucalypt on frosty mornings, or of brackish creek water on a Summer’s day, promised after tasks have been completed and patience tested by small human spirits. It’s the taste they know, the taste that helps them grow.
Trials endured because of hopes that have lured.
A place. An anchor. Somewhere that feels like the kind of somewhere our spirits needs to be.

Monday, 4 March 2013


So, what do you conjure in your mind's eye when you read the title of this post? Let me guess:
Buff men posing in half of their turnout gear with ripped abs?
Buff men in full turnout gear on a ladder with a passed out or grateful female or juvenile figures over their shoulders?
Cobbers with black streaks across their faces after putting in some long hours fighting wildfire?

I'd be pleasantly surprised if any of your imagery included a woman, who wasn't draped in overalls with pumped up boobs and a "come and get me" pout on her, who was actually engaged in ANY aspect of firefighting.
Chances are that you didn't have that, though. Even if you're female.
I take it for granted that men just don't figure women as firefighters in all their fantasies about being firefighters. Many of them adjust extraordinarily well to the reality, when it happens, and many don't. It's not just men, though, whose apple-cart is upset by the nerve of some women to cut into the frame of the hunky firefighter.
Why would a woman want to be a firefighter? Like, a real one who trains in fire suppression, even if it's just the mandatory training so that she can help out more 'behind the scenes', where those scenes don't include sandwich making and boosting the morale of the 'troops'. My skin crawls when I hear the old chestnut "they're only joining to prove a point", or commentary along the lines of accepting the women who aren't just joining to prove a point. Umm...think a little further along this trajectory and ask, "what point?". Because I've never heard that 'point' being extrapolated on - it just seems sufficient to accuse a woman of having a 'point' or agenda and writing off her intentions or capabilities.
Do men and boys never join career or volunteer ranks with no point to make? What constitutes a 'good' point to make and an objectionable one? And who interprets what that point is? Who judges the point to be worthy?
One interpretation I make of a 'point' is that the woman somehow wants to prove she can do what men do. Which is probably true, insofar as men do firefighting and many women can, too. What many men AND women do, though, is interpret that contingent on the assumption that firefighting IS a male interest, rather than an activity that has, thus far, been dominated by particular male participation and, hence, its organisation and operations have reflected certain male roles and the male biological experience. There is no natural determination of firefighting being something that men are interested in, can do and sometimes, by some anomaly, women want a cut of, too.
Cos, it's not just women who have that point to prove. There are plenty of shorter, leaner men without the popularly-conceived physique who also want to prove that they can do firefighting without pumping steroids and weights. Or men of any height who carry more weight than is even medically ideal. These men, however much they may have to fight against the grain, still find themselves on the right side of prejudice when it comes to the great divide: biology. There are not many men in the ranks who cross over to be seen and heard in defence of their firefighting sisters. I've known notable examples of such men, and more men who wouldn't step up to protect and defend my right to a level playing field.
There are not many men who are willing to see that 'equality' does not mean 'sameness', and that by wanting equality women mean that the barriers that exist keeping them from fulfilling a firefighting experience are removed, redesigned and accounted for. It's not just women; it's also homosexual firefighters, firefighters from non-culturally dominant backgrounds, and firefighters from more white-collar backgrounds (thinking of the volunteers whose day jobs don't involve dirt, manual labour or any day to day grunt). One challenge at a time, though - I'm just not clever enough to tackle the world's problems in one blog post. So, for now, women.
So, women enter the world of firefighting having to navigate a culture that hasn't developed with them in it, or with their requirements. My own experience is a volunteer one, so I'll borrow heavily from the volunteer world.
Some women enter as volunteers in junior brigades. Lots do, actually. There's just not a lot of translation of junior participation into the senior ranks. No-one knows really why this is. Locally, we have at the local high school a program for kids to learn firefighting and to train with some of our firefighters once a month. We have a good rate of recruitment of these participants to our brigade proper; all boys. All are boys that join, that is - the girls from the school program don't come through to our brigade and I don't know why. No-one's really asking why, and that's a cultural thing. I mean, hey, girls aren't joining and the boys are, so let the girls go and figure out what they want to do. If boys weren't also joining we'd be asking questions about what we're doing wrong that we couldn't recruit kids already learning firefighting. But it's the girls and we don't see much of them in brigades anyway, so it must be something about being a girl and we'll leave it at that, shall we?
Well, no, we shan't, and there are people making it their business (WAFA, for instance) to find out why girls not only don't tend to see firefighting as a career option, but also won't consider pursuing it as a volunteer option where skills can be built on including rapport-building, team work, conflict-resolution, housekeeping, administration...none of these are particularly male-oriented. The physical aspect of firefighting needn't be too onerous to overcome, either. No-one is expected to go above their physical limitations, and whilst it is generally thought that girls and women aren't as strong as male firefighters, I know many women who would be stronger than many of the men I know who are firefighters. I also know that good firefighting isn't about the physical strength you bring to the fireground or incident, it's about how you employ the safest tactics to make the scene safe, efficiently. And brute strength is so often not part of that equation, in most of the jobs I've ever attended. If it is required then even of all the men in the scenario, only a few of them are physically capable of the relevant task unless it is a task where a few hands get the job done. In the firefighting I train for it has always been drilled that you work with a buddy and never alone, so most tasks, between two firefighters are quite achievable. Even holding a branch on the end of a 32mm charged hose for 15 minutes at a house fire, providing asset protection is achievable between two female firefighters or a male and female one of any physique. I know, I've done it. But for longer than 15 minutes, mostly.
So, you see, I get quite peeved when newsreaders insist that the only firefighters worth telling a story about are male ones, hence the ubiquitous "firemen" (never mind that one of those is what feeds the fire of a steam engine). In one fell swoop, all female firefighters cease to exist and the public conjures up the image of the beefy hero come to save the day, instead of the trained tacticians who will employ safety for all involved before any bravado that we see in the movies.
"Firemen", really? I've heard it in news items where I knew for a fact that the crew had at least 3 women on board. It's not like a kick in the guts. It's more like a slap in the face, turning me around and giving me a boot in the back. "We don't want you in our fantasy! Go back to something more palatable to the public and leave our macho image intact!". It's up there with engineering and the trades, in terms of career choices for women. It's there, technically, as a choice, it's just not really made accessible as a choice. Women aren't procedurally prohibited from applying for these vocations, they are mostly culturally prohibited. As far as volunteering goes, firefighting is a choice of mine often met with "You don't actually get on a truck and fight fires, though, do you?". Firefighting is much more than getting on a truck and fighting fires with water and other extinguishing agents, but yes, I've done that, too, because I wanted to and nobody stopped me. If I said I were a veterinarian I wouldn't be asked "You don't actually anaesthetise the animals, cut them open, find the ovaries, cut them out, stitch up the opening and remove the intubation, do you?" (I've volunteered as a vet nurse assistant, too, so this is not unfamiliar territory). Even though being a vet used to be a male pursuit. No-one has a vested interest in keeping the vet image macho and maintaining a fantasy for an adoring public, always hungry for a 'hero'.
Needless to say (or maybe it's not, hence what I'm about to write), I never bought into that 'fireman' fantasy that my peers and other women appear to lap up and perpetuate. I wasn't encouraged whilst growing up to volunteer as a firefighter, (though I wasn't encouraged, either) and neither did I have it in my life experience to consider the firefighter as an untouchable symbol of the masculine ability to save the day. Perhaps this made the idea of volunteering more accessible to me when I noticed the recruitment signs in my area. There is a demand for this imagery. Women demand it and men demand it. But not all of us do. Some of us demand access to be and do what calls us and to have our experiences valued and validated. Some of us want more women in fire stations. Some of us want girls to know that they can aspire to fight fires, as a community service or as a career. Get rid of the outdated limits on our boys and girls and use proper language that reflects equality of gender and equal access to opportunity.
I'm not even going to ask nicely, as 'befits' my female state.

Friday, 31 August 2012

I rode a Grand Prix schoolmaster!

Maybe one day I'll fill you in on the backstory to the interim between last post and now. Meanwhile, something really cool happened to me in June, when I won something very special, and then redeemed my prize this week. The delay occurred because I broke a finger whilst surfing some crappy conditions the Friday of the long weekend in June, and I had to follow doctor's orders for the bone to heal. Read all about it below (not the finger break, that's another post!):

The Carrock Tambo at Ebony Park
A dream of mine was fulfilled on the 29th of August, 2012. I finally had a ride on a schoolmaster at Ebony Park; The Carrock Tambo is a special horse – doesn’t get too much more educated than Grand Prix level! I had Sarah J with me for emotional support and chief photography, as witness to what was to unfold.

Going from my faithful Stormy Rivers (aka Dante), a cute 15yo QHxTB, to a half-Friesian FEI Grand Prix beastie was going to require extra attention to detail and taking in every bit of expertise Loes could throw my way to help me ride him. By way of background, I found my boy at rising 4yo and due to uni, work, family, more uni and then a big move away from the city, we haven’t managed to get out of HRCAV Level 4 as a result, though we always placed in dressage outings. For this reason, when I work him now I sometimes feel like I’m still training a young horse. His movement, bless his cotton socks, will always ultimately be limited by his breeding, and I also believe that I can get some lovely work out of him despite his disadvantaged lineage, if I work at it to compensate for that. Approaching this lesson I had to really think about what I wanted to take back to my boy, and how it should feel when we’re doing it right. Another day, another time I will come back and work on movements I am only still dreaming about. This day was going to be about more tangible goals to kick.

Loes began by asking me about my work with Dante and what I wanted to do with him that Tambo and she could help me with. I explained the above to her and her brain formulated a lesson plan in zero seconds flat. I swear it was that quick! Loes verbally mirrored my ramblings back to me as I mounted and adjusted my stirrups and warmed Tambo up. For a horse who quietly plodded along beside me to the arena, his walk was swinging and active without much driving work from me. 

It took a few 20m circles for me to find a nice level of contact and I think he was about to give up on me when we hit our stride and he submitted to my hands that were afraid of asking for too much – the last thing I wanted was for an educated horse to roll his eyes at me and wonder how I got through the gates. Loes got me to rotate my pelvis back further than I had really ever done and it felt so much more connected. As she explained, it helped me feel which hind leg was coming up; something I’d never really worked on sensing until then. The other main point worked on in the 20m walk and trot circles was to insist on MY rhythm from us and not settling for Tambo’s decision on what that rhythm should be, and this was done through seat and the timing of my rise in rising trot.

Once we got this pattern of cooperative submission established it was time to transpose that into the trot-canter transition. I can be a bit of a dragon with my transitions on Dante, so I didn’t have to be told twice to pull Tambo back into trot to ask for a more willing canter transition the next time – I DO know what a nice one is supposed to feel like and I tried it again to get it right and, voila! Loes helped me understand that I could ask with my leg for the same rhythm whilst half-halting before the canter aids and if I needed to, to wait an extra stride to make sure I did have his submission in the transition to canter. After a few attempts we got there without him resisting me.
Once in canter I played with Tambo’s lengthening and recollection and that was lovely, because of the ground he covers in one stride and the softness of his stride that my choppy little QH takes heaps of work to achieve a fraction of.

From here Loes helped me get a leg yield and it was a rocky start with me not asking enough with my outside leg for Tambo to push his quarters over. Once I stopped being afraid of that, and when I steadied my inside contact whilst half-halting for softness I was able to sink into a nice position with shoulders back and pushing with the core strength in my abdomen. When leg yield was consistent we moved on.
For the shoulder in Loes gave me a quick revision on what we were aiming for – hind feet on one track moving straight and front feet on another track moving forward with straightness. Once I stopped confusing ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ rein (which I thought was a confusion of the distant past!), scaled back to a walk and I set my focus on the corner at the end of the track I had some good results. How refreshing to be able to achieve a shoulder in with leg, seat and a steady contact, and no whip in sight! I moved up to a trot and repeated on both sides of the arena, and whilst I lost my focus at times I had some gorgeous moments of connection and rhythm.

The last movement for the lesson was the walk to canter transition. This is something I managed to teach my own horse. I loved listening to Loes description of what my pelvis is to do in this transition. Prior to this lesson I had worked it to a point where I would ‘think’ canter from walk and it would happen much more consistently and willingly than our trot to canter transitions and I couldn’t figure out why. Loes explained about lifting my inside hip and ‘popping’ it forward, and this made perfect sense – I do this much more subtly when I think ‘canter’ from a walk, than activate a canter aid from a trot (which just flags another area to work on!). These were the loveliest transitions of the lesson and I was able to maintain a soft contact into the canter most of the time that I asked for the transition. The work for me was in keeping my leg on to ask for impulsion, keep my outside rein steady and half-halt so that we didn’t break into trot.

The things I found challenging were getting a soft enough trot for a nice sitting trot, and my feet kept betraying me. My heel was bunching up, or toes pointing outwards, which, as Loes explained, was unbalancing my top half in those instances and that’s when my shoulders would come forward. Pushing my heels down on every second footfall of the trot in the sit was her advice to me and I will be working on that at home. It didn’t help that, in hindsight (and with the benefit of Sarah’s observations of the same thing), my stirrups were a bit long and it’s a bad habit of mine not to recognise that. In trying to be a ‘proper’ dressage rider I tend to deceive myself into thinking that I can lengthen my leg by riding longer. I just need to accept that I’m a shorter rider and remember to pull up one or two more holes just when I think it’s high enough. It’s that or, next time I have a lesson here I’ll just cross my stirrups over and be really tough on myself! The other take-home lesson that Dante will appreciate is that I didn’t realise how tough I can be with my outside hand and that I need to release a lot sooner than I have been after establishing the contact.

During the lesson Loes asked me at regular intervals if I had any questions. I elected not to think of any and to just take her instruction and direction, knowing I’d come up with something to discuss at the end. I didn’t go out of my way to try anything fancy I’d picked up in my travels and I wanted to make an honest and working connection with Tambo using the same sensitivity for his attention to me as I can with my horse on my better riding days. I was aiming for mindfulness with him, rather than seeing how many of his ‘go’ buttons I could find to bluff my way into a piaffe or one time changes. As much fun as that might have been to try, it wouldn’t have helped me with my horse back home, even if I managed to get anything like that out of Tambo. It sounds age-old, and we concluded with the truism that when all else fails, and even when nothing else is failing, working the basics of rhythm and contact will get me everywhere; it’s all there in ‘the basics’. 

My lesson on Tambo was a dream come true, as I had told all and sundry that I was going to ride a horse at Ebony Park, come hell or high water. In the end it was a simple Facebook competition to promote the Ebony Park page that got me there – not a hard task at all, being that I have loved the EP ethos (and the horseflesh) since I first became a subscriber a few years ago and I only lived a short drive away. I will book myself in for a lesson again when I’ve done some more work with my fella and need to set my sights higher again for us as a combination. One day I’ll have a Friesian cross, or even a full Friesian because I still believe it is the breed for me in terms of work ethic and general temperament. Meanwhile, I’ve got a fun and willing horse who has heaps yet to learn and to teach me and after a very constructive and fun lesson with Loes I’ve got some extra tools in my utility belt.

Thank you so much, Ebony Park, for a wonderful afternoon and sharing some of your magic with me! I don’t plan for it to be the last time.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Surfing Summer

Yes, I realise, it was Winter when I posted last... my bad...I was studying and on the treadmill of life (you know, using the 'hills' program) and the blog just got away from me. You may or may not be comforted to know that I began many a draft in my head, even if none of them ever saw the light of backlit keyboard. Apologies.
On Friday, I partook of a Surfing Victoria initiative called Play it Safe by the Water Surfing for Girls. It has been taking place all over the Victorian coastline and this is the final week, with Friday being the day for the Inverloch Swell Mamas, which I joined in late October (sounds awfully like a time I was stuck in books madly cramming for exams, doesn't it? Everyone needs a study their nearest beach break...) and have been attending the Friday surf sessions ever since, with the kids in tow.
I took up surfing when I was 16, after enjoying surf beaches for most of my childhood and finally taking the plunge. Surfing was something I did for a couple of weeks over Summer on camping holidays with my family, and soon it dropped off my list in favour of clubbing with friends and, later, horse riding. I still wanted to surf, I just had other things to get done, too.
I took it up again when my sister and I were in our early 20s and more mobile, and at this point Brett, guitarist extraordinaire came into our lives. In a semi-complicated twist of fate, Brett became my surfing buddy and, then, my guitarist. We surfed almost into Winter when a work injury cut short my Winter campaign and it took me just over 9 years to dare to fit into my wetsuit again.
Moving to Sth Gippsland meant we were a lot closer to surf beaches than we had been previously and I have been dropping the hint to Big Fella about my intention to get back into surfing all year. I think he didn't believe me, but when I heard about Swell Mamas, quite by accident, I knew I'd hit on the jackpot. A group of mums helping each other surf by looking after the kids on the beach while mums take turns getting water time - how innovative! It's not just for mums of current small people - there are grandmothers and some women who don't have children and are willing to help out with the kids who come with their mamas. It's a girl-fest, really, and such a supportive network of talented and smart women. I wasted no time and joined us up. The gap in time between surfs wasn't too much of a disadvantage, and before I knew it I was back at the point I'd left when my shoulder gave me an enforced break. Borrowing club boards, and now the board of a very generous friend who offered his relatively unused board to me, I'm getting more and more confidence, and working on my backhand, out of necessity in order to avoid collisions, being that I'm a goofy footer and the waves break the other way...there's one in every crowd, I guess.
I've been attending every Friday since, as mentioned, and on Friday the 9th of December I was a participant in the Surfing Victoria initiative that brought a clinic our way, with world ranked #14, Bec Woods.  Due to having the kids with me (I was meant to have divested myself of children-folk, but Plan B worked out well, too) I didn't get as much water time as I would have liked, but ya win some, ya lose some.

Turns out, I won. I won a voucher for 50% off a Global Surf Industries surfboard, in a random draw, so while I save for the other half I can research which board will suit my needs best! As someone who never wins raffles or door prizes, I'm pretty chuffed about this. When the time comes I'll give my new board a write up and show her off. Meanwhile, (while you check out the write up at Surfing Victoria) I'm off to do some window shopping and back to visualising my technique between surfs.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Spring into Winter

Winter is here, friends. There is no mistaking it's calling card. Freezing nights followed by mornings so cold that our feet hurt. The loooooong Spring is over. Hmmm, wonder where Summer got to this whole time...
Anyhow, the last week has seen a brief cessation of rain to allow some mud to dry out. We ordered in some crushed rock for the car parking area so that we wouldn't have to wallow in the bog getting filthy just to get to the cars. I even got to ride Dante! Well, just along the road - no lovely paddock rides, because there are no lovely paddocks...they're ankle deep in water because the hills have taken in all the water they can.
The cold brings with it some very lovely sights, though. Mornings greet us with dense fog that reveal grazing steers, one by one, hour by hour, until the fog lifts over the hills and we have visibility again. Dusk sees the fog descend into our valley and over the creek line, like a fuzzy, white and sleepy dragon.
Yesterday afternoon, during my venture with Dante, I rode out of our road to see a haze over the hilltops that hadn't moved all day. I rode as far as the neighbour's, and by happy coincidence she was home and about to ride her own horse. I took my tired boy onto her arena (having been four weeks since the last riding opportunity), coaxed some nice work out of him before he just ran out of puff and convinced me to take him home. The neighbourly escort half way home was very welcome. One round and elegant Clydie cross, one fine and alert pony with their riders made for pleasant company. As we clipped and clopped softly down our road, after parting ways with my neighbour and her daughter, I could see it closing in on us and creeping back towards the creek bank. Ambling around one corner I peered out to the paddock on the other side of the creek and recognised a ghostly collection of slender eucalypts, as the white mist hovered over the pond those trees oversee; it was quiet all around and I failed to imagine The Brickyard Flats full of life, teams of navvies working on the railway cutting, the boarding house and numerous bark huts that once filled that section of Crown land. I just couldn't, it was far too peaceful.
As I approached the shed, I noticed the fog was encroaching on the road itself and I could barely make out the caravan. I saw a long shape move out to the road's edge, and two shorter shapes calling out "Mum!" following closely. It must have been a magical thing for the kids to see horse and rider materialise from the misty shroud, and I felt a pang for all the words, all the paintbrush strokes, all the shutter priorities that could never capture that moment and do it justice. The memory of the moment will have to suffice.
As the horses have been moved to a more grassy paddock further down the creek line, I continued down the road and around the bends at a trot, with Dante calling out continuously for his beloved Nook, to let him know of his imminent return; "Fret not, friend, I return from the mists of time!".  Sure enough, rounding the bend that comes out to the waterfall, Nook's anxious bellow filled the thick air, and black legs in an elevated trot were all I could see first through the saplings and bushes, as he paced along a flat section, stopping at the fence line and pacing the other way after a neat little turn on the hindquarter. Again, all art would despair to depict the sinewy passage of a black horse through scrub and mist, in sweaty anticipation of the return of his paddock companion and best friend. I do believe only Peter Weir could execute such imagery!
So, my ride at an end, I untacked my beast, brushed him down and let him out with the others, who were glad to have their equilibrium restored, their herd at full number. I packed my riding gear onto the back of the quad bike and rode back down the track to the shed, thinking it was getting very late to be starting on the dinner I had planned. I brought my saddle bag into the shed to unload it later and the aroma of a hearty meal filled my senses...ahhh! Osso Bucco, ready for a set table and some eager consumption by all, accompanied by a soft and creamy potato mash.
A perfect ending to a day, that first one of official Winter; our first Winter in residence at The Farm.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Got her big girl undies on

Girl Face rocks my world. Training undies were annoying the crap out of me, so I had her in no undies for a while there. It took an extra step out of the evacuation procedure. I did this with Boy Child, too, though it attracts more attention and tut-tutting when you let a girl go round undies-less. Anyway, thoughts on that aside, I decided it was time to experiment with undies. Problem: we didn't have any. Undies are one item of clothing I would rather not purchase from an op-shop (one day I will write about my op-shopping, though mine is only the humblest of examples of successful op-shopping!), so I submitted to the greater power of the retail gods. The smallest undies I could find readily available were in Target. Size 2-3. A bit saggy, but she'll grow into them. She LOVES them! They're not pink, nor do they have a splash of pink on them. And when she needs to go, she pulls them down and calls out to me so that I can find her a receptacle or appropriate flora. She turned 19 months old today. Some people call me 'lucky', but we all know there was more than just chance at play with this one. If I'm smug it's because I've earned it. But it's not smugness I feel, just great satisfaction with my instincts and knowing that they're in fine working order.
Whaddya think of the Elimination Communication caper, now?
Some people say I'm like a parent out of the Continuum Concept. Others like to call me an Earth Mama. I don't mind either of those or variations on the theme, they are just not of my own construction. I'm following and trusting my instincts, and backing them up with some research and traditional knowledge. I feel better for it, and it's not intended to cast judgment on how anyone else does their parenting. We're all doing the best we can according to the best information we have at the time, I hope. This feels right for us and anything else now sits at odds with what I have come to know. Just like full-term breastfeeding. Just like how I 'do' childbirth. Just like parenting without rewards and punishments. In the end I only answer to my children, I only apologise to them. We're doing ok, so far - no worse than parents 'doing it' any other way, at the very least. I'm confident that I'm going to unleash upon the world children who trust themselves and have self-belief, and I also know that my work is not done, though the bulk of the foundation has been laid. If that's 'Earth Mama' of me, then I'll wear that, too.
I now understand what Ingrid Bauer means in her book about Natural Infant Hygiene that Elimination Communication is part of a bigger process, and it's not the weeing in a receptacle that counts, but the relationship of trust and communication that facilitates the process of learning to trust oneself. By listening to my baby and trusting her own, innate knowledge of her requirements, and trusting my own ability to be aware of these, I impart a very precious gift to her; on a much deeper level I teach her to listen to the inner voice that will accompany her for the rest of her life, after my time is up and much, much longer than I have any real influence on her and her self-conduct. It's not just because I practice Elimination Communication, it's ALL that I do with my kids in combination. I aim to empower my children and arm them with sense of agency, even when it's not convenient for me, because the effects will outlast my time on earth, and the effects ARE my effect on earth.
The simple action of my girl pulling down her new undies to use the toilet reassures me that the relationship I have with my kids is based on trust. They trust me implicitly while I teach them to trust themselves in return, and I look forward to their teenage years when my chickens will come home to roost, in a manner of speaking. Because adolescence will be the true test of the parenting I've consciously chosen to do with these kids, and then I have to set them free.
Meanwhile, my baby wears big girl undies, and I pause to give myself a quick pat on the back before the next challenge presents itself.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Beach-clean feet

The days are cooling off here, and the layers are getting thicker and longer on all of us. Gumboots are de rigeur and the rain coats have been moved from the back of the wardrobe to any available hanging space in the shed (and they are ever-changing, as walls are dismantled while Tom works on the shed conversion).
Mud follows everywhere, and if it doesn't follow from somewhere else, it's created right where it wants to be after fresh rains. The paddocks are super mucky and the pugging in some sections really makes me impatient to have some spending money for fencing off the streams from springs.
The caravan heats quickly enough with our little ceramic heater and we now have dinners inside the van, ferrying the kids straight inside after a bath on the step of the shed, wrapped tightly in towels.
Our showers are had at night, under the stars or clouds, as the case may be. Some nights are kinder than others. Breezes are no longer welcome. The water comes out hot, which is a reprieve. It's the kind of shower only an Inuit could envy - at least the drops don't freeze upon skin contact. And the shower gives us more shower time than the recommended time for a household on town water - we're having 5 minute showers and still using far less than 55 litres of water, per person, per day. Still, I feel invigorated and glad for the cool night air on my skin when I'm done and walking back into the warmth of the cocoon.
In the mornings I pull on some thick socks and if I'm going out I zip on some nice boots, if I'm staying here it's either my ropers or gumboots. If it hasn't rained the ground is compacted and smooth. If it has the ground is slippery or muddy.
I love it here. It's exactly where I want to be and the caravan is temporary. The shed will be bigger, drier, warmer and fit more things in the one place without having to get muddy to fetch food from the fridge or pantry. I really do love it, and for the first time in years I'm not itching to get away somewhere for a change of scenery.
At the end of the day, after I've had my shower and used some potions and lotions, I look down at my feet. The NZ tan is fading from them, and once again, for a fleeting moment I miss my beach-clean feet. Only for a moment.