Mamatography Week 11: All About Daddy

My husband, Martin, arrived in Australia this week for three weeks, and then we’ll go back to England with him. I’m so grateful that he came out, as I must admit that the burden of single parenting was getting to me. I am so tired, bone tired, and I am looking forward to some equilibrium again. I’m also looking forward to some snippets of time with my mother, without the children distracting us. While his coming to Australia isn’t a holiday anyone would want – we aren’t going snorkeling, sight seeing, diving or any of those things you’d come here for, and it’s more about just ‘life as it is’ – I’m still glad he’s here, so we can show him first hand some of the key parts of the last four months of our lives.

Also, he brought the camera my parents had bought for me for Christmas, and we’d sent to our address in England for warranty purposes, with him. Yay.

65/365 – New Camera

Of course I had to spend some time trying out all the different features. Ameli cracks up laughing at the Fish Eye pictures every time. Daddy looks like Shrek.

66/365 – Margaret River

One of my favourite parts of Western Australia is the Margaret River area. It’s wine routey and fresh producey and arty and I can just see myself running a forest school there some day in the far off future. We went straight to Margaret River from the airport yesterday, so that we could have some ‘family time’ before joining the rest of the family again. I think Martin was really too tired to enjoy it, but not too tired to enjoy the cheese at the Margaret River Cheese Company. For the record, they had the best Feta I’ve ever tasted, and that’s the only place you can buy it. Bummer.

67/365 – A Walk On The Beach

I am 33 years old, but some of the most secure moments I can look back on in my life are ones that involve my dad and his presence by my side. This picture of Martin reaching his hand out to Ameli may not have been a life altering moment for her, but one day, in time, it will be symbolic of the daddy that was always there, by her side.

68/365 – Nap Time
Sometimes you get caught out on the road with two napping girls. Those times look a lot like this.

69/365 – First Easter Egg

I think this is Ameli’s first big Easter Egg. She pretty much devoured it too at a rather alarming pace. She was really focused on the job at hand though, as you can tell. 

70/365 – Cruising With Daddy

Another princess, loving being on the boat again and quite content with Daddy.

mtbadge2This post is part of the Mamatography 2013 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Talking To Children About Death

Six months ago, my mother was diagnosed with Peritoneal Mesothelioma and told that without treatment she would have four weeks to live. Our visas were taking longer than that to be granted – my mother lives in Australia, I live in England, and the Australian government had no sympathy or compassion and made it as hard as was legally possible for us to get the visas for reasons I’ll never understand. My mother decided to have chemotherapy so that we’d make it to her, to say goodbye, and we arrived in Australia the day before her second round of chemotherapy, a treatment that nearly killed her.

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Between my mothers diagnosis and our leaving, I wasn’t very emotional about it.

That’s what I do. I go into ‘how can we solve this’ mode, and I need time to process what I’m feeling. People who know me well know that the things I’m talking about I’ve normally dealt with. It’s when I go quiet that I’m not really coping. When I don’t know what to say I haven’t processed it yet. Really, it’s when I go quiet on a topic that those closest to me know to start worrying about it.

So, between those two dates, I was given a copy of the Mother Magazine, which had the article A sacred transition: children and the death of a loved one by Starr Meneely, of Gentle Mothering. Her mother had recently succumbed to cancer, and she had flown half way across the world with her children to be by her side.

Her words wrenched at my heart, and my emotions broke. I sat in the corner of the room at our mother’s circle and sobbed. It was the release I needed, and it provided the gateway to being able to talk about it.

I guess, then, the first lesson I learned about talking to children about death – specifically a long, protracted, pending death, rather than an accidental or sudden passing, is having at least in part dealt with some of the emotions yourself.

If I had broken down that way in front of Ameli, I fear that she would have looked at death as something to fear, something painful. (Of course, it is these things, but it also isn’t, and I think the best thing under the circumstances is to introduce death as something not to be feared.)

Telling Ameli that Nana is dying was interesting in itself. How do you convey meaning in a word that has no context? Hot you can explain by providing low heat. Run you can explain by demonstrating. How do you explain ‘say goodbye, because we are going away for a while?’ And how do you explain going away for ever? How long is for ever?

These are vague concepts, mere words, to a child.

I told her Nana was going to die and we wouldn’t see her here on earth again. She said she didn’t want Nana to die. I said none of us want Nana to die, but we all die eventually, and it’s okay.

She tried to rationalise it in her mind.

“I have a good idea! Maybe we can go visit Nana when she’s died.”

“I’m afraid we can’t visit where Nana is going. We’ll miss her sometimes though, and that’s why Mama’s a little sad.”

“It’s okay. We can just look at photos of her. That will make us feel better.”

“That’s a very good idea, I think.”

“Can I have some juice now?”

While she hasn’t been able to experience the finality of it, and doesn’t have the apprehension of the longing, it’s impossible to explain.

In fact, I’m 30 years older than her, and I find myself trying to imagine what life without my mother will be like, and I can’t really imagine it. It’s the closest I’ve come to imagining what life with a child will be like, versus what life with a child is really like. It’s oddly the same process. Simliar to our five stages of grief, Ameli seems to have traversed the stages too, but without the sense of fear or loss. She’s faced:

  1. Denial – “no, she’s not dying” – I’m afraid she is, darling, even though we don’t want her to. 
  2. Anger – “I don’t want her to die!” – None of us do, but sometimes things happen, even if we don’t want them to. 
  3. Bargaining – “I know! We can just take her to the hospital. Then she’ll get better” – Not this time. This isn’t something the doctors can fix.
  4. Depression – “I don’t want Nana to die {with tears this time}”. I know darling. Neither do I. It’s okay to be sad. 
  5. Acceptance – “When Nana dies, we won’t be able to see her anymore, but that’s okay, because one day we will be with her again and till then, we can just watch our videos of her.” – That’s a good idea girlie. Do you want to watch one now?

Something that has been helpful has been allowing her to ask questions, make {crazy} suggestions, and at times be almost hurtful in her throwaway comments – I wont miss Nana. I don’t mind if Nana dies. I don’t want to see Nana.

Separating her child behavior from my loss has been essential in gently explaining death to her. You can’t fear loss if you’ve never felt loss, so expecting an adult level of saying the right thing at the right time from a child only sets you up for pain.

I remember when my dad’s grandmother died. I didn’t really know her, and I didn’t have a relationship with her. I was really upset that I had to cancel my 13th birthday party. I saw it only in light of it’s impact on me, but having never known the loss of a loved one, I didn’t understand.

I asked a group of friends one day how you deal with this type of death, and how you explain it to a child. Most of them agreed that the children tend to accept death as another part of life. It’s just something that happens, and while they may have vague fond memories of the person, and might even ask for them, for the most part, life goes on. (Assuming it’s not a direct care giver, I think!)

Of course, in our situation, despite the terminal diagnosis my mother is still going strong, making the concept even harder to explain, but when we arrived in Australia, and the chemotherapy was eeking the life out of her faster than the cancer was, it was simply a matter of reinforcing, explaining, reminding what was going on.

Now that she is on so-called alternative therapies and thriving, getting stronger and even thinking of returning to work, it all seems a bit confusing, but, with the true resilience of childhood, Ameli carries on.

How to talk to children about death:

  • Talk to them when you are calm and relatively controlled in your grief
  • Talk to them at a good time, when there aren’t distractions and they aren’t tired or hungry
  • Explain in age appropriate terms, and according to your beliefs. We believe in heaven, so we were able to explain that we will see her in heaven again one day, once we’ve died too. 
  • Allow for questions generally based on the stages of grief – this is a good measure of their understanding too
  • Don’t take hurtful or insensitive comments personally. 
  • Be led by your child. Don’t put your feelings and emotions on them, and don’t expect them to have an adult understanding or response to your grief.

How do you talk to children about difficult situations? Do you remember when you first lost someone? How was it dealt with and how do you think it could have been handled differently?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn’t Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she’s explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she’s learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren’t so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she’s had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller’s Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter’s horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges–when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who’d want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn’t have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

 

Under The Sea Birthday Party

Aviya’s 1st birthday is just over a week away, and while knee-deep in preparations for it, I realised that with the mayhem and madness of visas and flying to Australia in October, I never posted the photos from Ameli’s 3rd birthday party. For her party we had an Under The Sea party at a Puck’s Oak Barn in Compton. It’s an absolutely stunning venue and it happened to be one of the rare beautiful days of last year, weather wise. It didn’t rain, and in fact the sun came out and cast that golden hue around the orchard. It was simply breathtaking, even though it was still a little cold.

We didn’t have entertainment, because we were in an orchard, and while it took everyone a little while to ‘warm up’ to the venue, once they did I think everyone enjoyed just being outdoors. The kids made up a treasure hunt with pretend maps and it was – to me, at least, – an idyllic afternoon.

Under the Sea Birthday Party (10)[pinit] The barn is attached to an orchid with a great play area, wild forest bit and a stream. It’s the most perfect place for outdoor play.

Under the Sea Birthday Party (9)

As guests arrived they walked through the door with hanging fish garlands* (US Link) meant to represent the ocean, like they were ‘swimming’ through a school of fish. I had some of these same fish on the floor inside the hall.

Under the Sea Birthday Party (1)

There were also “bubbles” – aka clear balloons (US Link)– strewn across the floor. This provided great entertainment for the little ones. Here’s Aviya crawling after a balloon.

Under the Sea Birthday Party (2)We had a great big blue sandpit shell that we borrowed from a friend. I set up balloons around it – they’re missing in this picture – and put a white blanket inside and set up a camera on a tripod so people could take photos of themselves in the shell, like perfect little pearls.

Under the Sea Birthday Party (6)

I spent a lot of the days leading up to the party planning and preparing food for it. There were octopus red peppers on the home made hummus, and a platter of vegetables to choose from. I had a treasure chest – far right- with Starfish Haribo (US Link) pouring from it like treasure, and kiwifruit lollipops covered in dairy free chocolate with edible fishy printed ricepaper. Under the Sea Birthday Party (4)These icecream cones are an unhealthy favourite in our house, originated from the icecream week we did for Andrea’s Summer Camp At Home. Not quite under the sea, but close enough to the sea to be welcome.

Under the Sea Birthday Party (7) These ice cream cones were gluten free, with cheese and chicken or ham, pressed out of bread with cookie cutters (US Link).
Under the Sea Birthday Party (8)
And there were white and brown bread fishy sandwiches (US Link) with Tuna and sweet corn and home made mayonnaise .
Under the Sea Birthday Party (3)

A lot of effort, but worth every second for this, my beautiful princess, my three year old.

I hope, my gorgeous child, that every year affords me the ability to make your birthday as special as your life has made mine.

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*If you purchase through any of these links, you will not be charged any extra, but Amazon will pay me around 5% of the purchase price. If buy without an affiliate link, Amazon just keeps the whole amount!

** You can find many more ideas on my Under The Sea Pinterest Board

Dear Aviya – Letter To An 11 Month Old

My dear Aviya,

It has been so many months since I last wrote to you, and I feel absolutely awful about that. You have changed so much since we arrived in Australia. You’ve gone from just pushing yourself up on your arms to walking properly, without assistance, and sadly, I’ve missed out writing about so much of it. I’ll make it up to you though, sweetheart.

You’ve adjusted to life in Perth incredibly well. You manage the temperature well, and while you wake up covered in sweat some mornings, you’re doing pretty well. You spend a lot of time just in your nappy, and you’re okay with that.

Aviya, you are the smiliest child I’ve ever had the pleasure of having anything to do with. I never thought Ameli was miserable or anything, but I don’t remember her smiling about everything. You do. You smile almost all the time. Your eyes light up, your face brightens. Your beauty radiates. And yes, you still look like a pixie, and you still make my heart melt.

You have begun to show so much character over the last few months, and while you are smiley you also have a temper that can scare the pants off an unsuspecting onlooker. Wow. When you get mad – like at the water bottle for not having water in it, or a toy for being stuck under furniture – you get mad fast, and loud. It’s impressive.

Milestones you’re knocking out the water too. You didn’t crawl for very long, but you crawled, and then on the 20th of December, you took your first steps, holding on to my hand – actually you were pulling me towards the water in the waterpark in Geraldton. You wanted to get wet and really, all holding your hand was doing was slowing you down!

On Christmas day – your first Christmas – you were beautifully dressed in a white dress with golden butterflies. You looked so lovely, but you were a bit miserable whenever anyone tried to pick you up. We didn’t know why, but when you were on your own you were okay. It was unusual for you, but we were all doing Christmassy things, so didn’t think too much of it.

You spent a lot of the day pushing around a heavy chair. You were ‘walking’! You pushed that chair up and down the room. I was so proud of you.

All in all, I’d say your first Christmas was good, apart from the fact that you were a little tearful at times.

The next day you screamed every time anyone tried to pick you up, so I decided enough was enough, and took you to Perth Children’s Hospital. After an x-ray, we discovered you’d broken your scapula! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad about anything in my life. My poor baby! You were crawling around with a broken shoulder for days! No wonder you were miserable!

We tried to put a bandage on you, but you weren’t really having it, so you had to go without it, eventually. Thankfully it seems to have healed by itself and well. You don’t have pain anymore, at least.

You spent much of January walking holding on to someone, walking along the furniture and pushing furniture to where you wanted to be. Your confidence has grown massively, and we knew it wouldn’t be long till you took your first unassisted steps. And on January 23rd, you did! Almost a month after your first assisted steps, you took your first steps all on your own. Hesitantly at first, and you plopped on your bum a lot, but at 10 months and 10 days, there you were: my toddler.

By a month later, you don’t crawl anywhere anymore. You just walk now, confidently and beautifully. It’s a quick transformation, and while I mourn the end of your babyness, I am loving watching you grow into a little girl.

Nana asked me the other day howcome I haven’t really done any baby signing with you, while I did a bit of it with Ameli. It’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure whether I have changed and am just more perceptive of your needs than I was first time round, or whether we just read each other better, or whether you’re just better at expressing your needs. Maybe it’s a mix of all three. Today, for example, you are 11 months and two weeks. You wanted a cherry tomato out of the bottom compartment of the snack box. You brought me the snackbox, and tried to climb on top of me. I opened it and offered you some hot cross bun. You shook your head, vigorously enough that you plopped down on your bum, off balance. So I offered you the cherry tomatoes. You took one, wombled off, plopped down and ate it. Then you came back to me, climbed on top of me again and we repeated the process.

What I will say, though, is you have a MEAN temper. When I don’t get your wants right, yu’re not shy in letting me know.

You’ve spoken your first words over the last couple of months too. It’s really cute. You crawl or walk through the house saying ‘Opa. Opa. Opa.’ That’s Oupa, or grandfather. It’s really sweet. When you see him your eyes sparkle, your face lights up, and you radiate your beautiful smile. You do love him.

You also say Kyra – although it’s more ‘AYA’, but you like it when she answers your call too.

And then you wave. You wave at everyone. You say ‘ALA’ loudly, and wave. It’s beautiful.

I’m not sure what happened to Mama or Dada in your vocabulary, but I’m sure they’ll come.

You’ve started having solids, but not much. You’re still mainly milk fed, but you will anihilate a cherry tomato as well as the next guy. Same with pasta and bananas. You also really like Pronutro porridge, but so far I feed it to you, because baby led weaning is really only acceptible so far in someone else’s house! You have six teeth now, and seem to be constantly working on new ones.

You are a lot more ‘attached’ to me than Ameli was. It’s rather nice, actually. In a playgroup or park or around other people, you’ll stay by my side, playing with whatever I have on hand. Occassionally you’ll follow Ameli into a sand pit or something, but for the most part you stay close. At this rate, she’ll be the one who makes friends, and you’ll be the one who sits at home reading a book. That’s fine. I’m happy with both those girls. I’ve been both those girls at different times in my life.

You’ve taken everything we’ve thrown at you so far these last four months entirely in your stride. You moved rooms without it distrupting your sleep too much. You’ve had accident and emergency and still, carried on smiling. You get super excited when you see Daddy on Skype and while you don’t ‘talk’ to him, you spend the whole time waving and being generally excited.

You are an absolute pleasure. A treasure and a joy to be around. Your Nana loves spending time with you and your Oupa adores you. You make him smile, and I think you bring him great joy.

Keep doing what you’re doing my beautiful pixie girl. It’s your first birthday soon, and I’m holding on to you as tightly as I can right now.

I am so proud of you. I watch you when I get into bed at night, and I thank you for choosing us. I thank you for coming to us. I thank God for you. I can’t imagine a life that didn’t have you in it.

You are my beautiful Avi, and I love you.

Mama

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