Thursday, 30 October 2014

IMPRESSIONS OF JOY: Paintings of Fanny Brate

Fanny Brate (Swedish, 1861 – 1940) was a Swedish Impressionist who in 1880, at the age of eighteen was accepted at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. She was forced to give up painting after her marriage but became a patron of the arts instead.
She captured the joyful playfulness of childhood which transcends every time period.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Loveable, Annoying Pet

Shadow was the most quirky, amusing and utterly annoying pet we have ever owned. A drooling, big black lab mix with overgrown feet and an overgrown personality, Shadow was an integral part of my children’s lives for 13 years.
This dog grew up with cats.They could cuddle up beside him or lay on top of him and he barely raised an eyebrow. He tossed mice and fish around like a cat and sometimes he played more like a cat than a dog.
Shadow could not stand to be left out of any activity.Thus the name Shadow . This carnivore snuck up and snatched what ever the kids were picking from the garden and eat it- corn on the cob, green beans, strawberries, raspberries…Every week, we collected day old bread, distributed to families in need and of course fed our own family. Any extra went to the pigs. This jealous dog would  dash in to the pigs’ feeding trough, grab a bun or long french loaf and dart away as the pigs charged after him. In a perfect doggy way, he would bury the stolen treasure. Then Shadow would sit, with his back to his stash and guard it. The funniest scene would be in the winter when the french loaf was only half buried, Shadow seemed confident that his bread was invisible. He sat and pretended that he was innocently looking around and enjoying the scenery and not guarding illegal, stolen goods.
Although Shadow had webbed feet and loved to swim, he was reluctant to get wet.The only way to persuade him to swim in the lake and cool off was to cast a bobber with a fishing rod and reel it in as fast as possible. At least once every 20 casts, Shadow would manage to snap up the fishing bobber. It was hilarious because he would keep diving in after that stupid bobber till he was ready to drop.
Our dog’s curiosity caused many mishaps. One night when a porcupine shot 30-40 quills into his face and nose, Shadow could only sleep with his face hanging over the top step in the hall. It took hours of patiently sneaking up while he dozed and pulling the quills out one at a time. We tried to restrain this monstrous beast many times, but he always shook us off .
Then there were the few times, a skunk sprayed him at close range and he rolled the stench into the kitchen floor. Have you ever smelled fresh, Strong, skunk spray? Our eyes teared, heads ached and our lungs burned. The entire house REEKED for days after!!! I even tried washing the floor and Shadow with tomato juice. What did work was liquid Tide.
Shadow hated thunder storms.If he was alone in the house he would jump through  glass windows and doors or scratch frantically at screen windows or doors smashing, ripping, and destroying wood, frames, what ever prevented him from escaping.
In 13 years this rampage happened TOO many times and after every incident, Michael would yell
“That’s it!! This dog has to go!!”
Our older “kids” would shake their heads, smile and say,
“Dad, really, Shadow is part of the family and you just can’t get rid of a family member, no matter how poorly they act.”
Michael, would then glare at the miscreant, and demand,
” Go lay down, you bad dog.”
Suitably chastised, Shadow would slink away and keep a low profile for a few days….but only a few days.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Baby Talk

Now, I could usually tell what my babies need by their bodily movements, facial expressions and by theintensityy, sharpness, or lower tones of their cries. However, even though I had nine kids and I consider myself to be a baby whisperer, I just learned from my daughters  there are four different cries a new-born makes. A cry starting with

  • Neh  means I’m hungry.
  • Owh says I’m sleepy
  • Heh  expresses I’m experiencing discomfort
  • Eairh  or in other words,  I have lower gas
  • Eh  in English translates as- I need to be burped
All I can say is wow, little people are intelligent.
Society must teach all mothers how to become Baby Whisperers. Sometimes I think that horse whisperers learn more skills than new mothers. Don’t you think that Maternity Wards should at least hand out pamphlets with some of these survival tips on them?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Hanging By My Fingernails

When my family was still young and I had only seven children from twelve-years old down to a newborn, I earnestly strove to raise the best children I could. Yet all my effort was actually hindering their development because my anxiety and control acted like a barrier, a prison around my them. I was in fact preventing my children’s inner, natural development into well-balanced, creative people.
I did not take subtle hints, so a powerful inner image rose up from my subconscious which symbolized what I was actually doing by refusing to let go of control.
First I saw an ocean and a tiny black dot in the water. Slowly the image grew larger till I was face to face with a huge octopus.
The scene switched and now 7 tentacles wrapped around each of my children with my husband in the eighth. All of them were grey, limp almost lifeless.
I suddenly realized that I was in fact the octopus; I was in fact squeezing the life out of my family.
In this inner vision, a sword appeared in a blaze of light and severed each tentacle one by one. The severed tentacle shrivelled and fell off each child. As soon as each one was set free, they began dancing and laughing in the sunshine. Soon all seven were joyfully playing.
The eigth tentacle was wrapped tightly around my husband. The kids stopped playing and kneeled on the ground, weeping, desperately pulling and tugging the tentacle but to no avail. Suddenly,in a flash of light, the sword of truth cut through the tentacle, my husband was released and came back to life.
Yet even after this appalling self revelation, I still could not let go of control.
It was as if I stood on the hub of a wagon wheel with my large family balanced on the rim. I crouched on the hub, frantically turning this way and that, grabbing all the broken spokes, desperate to hold the crumbling structure together.
I realized that I had to let go of this futile sense of responsibility and control but I was afraid to stop, afraid that one moment of inattention would cause my entire family to tumble down into the abyss.
I was trapped.
Yet, I realized that once again, my tension, my control acted like a wall, shutting out all life. My sincere concern and earnest self-sacrifice actually magnified everyone’s brokenness by freezing everyone and everything.It took years but I finally surrendered control. Much to my chagrin,the broken spokes of our family were instantly repaired. The kids and my husband started smiling because a huge burden of tension dissipated as if it had never been there in the first place.
Sometimes we just need to “let go” of the things that we worry about (i.e. our children, loved-ones, or family members). When we are able to do that, we (and the people we care about) can then truly experience the freedom of living! Years ago someone told me that,
“The worst sin against another human being besides hate and murder is trying to control and manipulate them because you are stealing their real identity, molding them into a false image.”

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ingenuity And Creativity Are Birthed In Boredom

Relax, bored kids never stay bored for long
Children thrive when they are given ample unscheduled play time. Free time to explore, use their imaginations to amuse
themselves and even time to be bored because boredom is the birth place of creativity and ingenuity.
Surrounded by babies and toddlers, I was not always free to run outside to solve every obstacle my kids faced as they played. At first, I scrambled to help my kids with every problem with a newborn in my arms and perhaps a toddler wrapped around one of my legs. Finally,  I realized that the best way to mother my kids was to stay peaceful, rather than frantically running around attempting to meet everyone's needs at the same time. That meant older kids had to wait for me or try to figure out snags by themselves. Loud shrieks for mum gradually grew less frequent because while waiting for help, my kids often solved their own problems. Impatience is a wonderful motivator.
Six year old Daniel is a prime example. His grade 1 teacher recounted this story to me. It seems that she asked her grade one class this question,
"How would you open the garage door if there were no grown-ups around?"
Everybody just stared blankly at her, except for my six-year-old son. He waved his hand in the air and then excitedly blurted out,
"You just stand on a milk crate, push on the upper left-hand corner of the garage door with a hockey stick and push hard. The door comes up a bit, you jump off the crate and crawl in!!"
Then, Daniel beamed proudly.
You don't have to solve every logistic problem for your kids or give them all the best equipment and toys. Alison was about ten and at our extended family's cottage with a cousin. Every game my daughter suggested, her cousin would point out that they lacked some piece of equipment. After a moment to think, Alison would brightly say,
"Well, we could always use this instead!"
Her aunt and uncle laughed and remarked,
"I wonder whose daughter she is?"
Ingenuity and creativity do not spring into motion if parents give everything to their kids even before they know to ask. We could not buy expensive toys for our kids but we did make sure we always had paper, crayons, glue, paint and other craft supplies in the house. I loved watching card board boxes magically transform into cars or doll houses, especially when little people asked older siblings for help them. Then everyone became excited and involved in the project.
Today my adult children are self-starters, self-motivated and they are all creative at work, school and at home. Boredom has its place.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Raising Children is Not a Default Chore

 Raising children is not a default chore for women who were unsuccessful in the world of power and wealth
I am about to tell you something which goes against what your education has taught you to think and do. Since preschool, adults have pushed you to excel, to rise above your peers. My generation has groomed you for success, to get into the best universities and snatch the most prized careers. Well, it is nice to have confidence, to fulfil your dreams and have a sense of satisfaction in your chosen field of work but that will not make you happy.
Just take a look at the generation that has gone before you. The midlife crisis is a testament to the failure of a life focused on career advancement to the exclusion of family. Men and women bemoan the fact that they did not have time for nurturing and loving their spouse or children. All too often family life crumbles to ashes, sacrificed on the altar of success.As for childcare, society relegates it to women who are often treated as second class citizens.
I want to yell out as loudly as I can, “raising children is definitely not a default chore for women who were not successful in the world of business, power and wealth.” Who raises our children is important because exactly how you, the next generation, raise your children will directly influence the kind of society they in turn create.
Do you want to live in a world focused only on the ruthless accumulation of wealth? Will you consciously create a race of humans who are shallow, cold and cynical about relationships, family and love?  Do you want children who are more comfortable texting, you, their parents, than speaking with you face to face in a warm, loving way?
Family is crucial; it is the foundation of society. Now I see my own adult children beginning their young families and it touches my heart to know how much they value family as well.  Just after his daughter’s birth, my son turned to his dad and said,
”Dad, this is the best thing that I have ever done in my life.”
And, a year later, as his little daughter lay sleeping on his chest, my son said, ”Now I know why you and Dad had so many kids.”