Today is Photo Challenge Day over at Mountaingirls Musings.
I haven't played in a while, but this week Miss F and I were in the mood for a challenge we could tackle together (as opposed to the kind of challenge where we tackle each other), and this one was perfect.

As always, this photo comes with a Kewl girl moment.
When Miss F was looking at the photo on the computer, I asked her what she was seeing. This is what she said...

"At the start the trees are big and really tall. And there's lots of shade. But look mum! I can see the sun down the path there! It's going to be really sunny soon, mum."

Amen to that, Miss F.

By Miss F

Silly Caterpillar!

Reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar book to Miss V...

Me: "..... On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon! ..... That night he had a stomach ache!"

Miss V: "Of course he got a stomach ache! I bet the chocolate cake wasn't gluten free and the ice cream wasn't dairy free and the lollipop had too many pes-er-tives and the sausage wasn't vege-ti-an... Silly caterpillar! Doesn't he know how to make good choices?!"

Me: "And there was no sympathy for the very hungry caterpillar, was there Miss V?"

Miss V: "No. Silly caterpillar."

Me: "The next day was Sunday again and the caterpillar made a great choice! He ate through one nice green leaf, and after that he felt much better!"

Miss V: "Well, that's something, at least. Silly caterpillar."


Bedtime Weather Report

"How's the weather over there Miss F? Not too windy?"

"No, not too windy... The sun is in my heart and it's dripping smiles like a melty ice cream!"

"It's spectac-li-ar!"

My Emotionally Intelligent Princess

Before Zy died, I had a super crazy amount of energy. I was up most mornings before the girls, usually by 4:30am. Five days out of seven, the girls were with me all day. Two, sometimes three of those day I ran child focused groups of some kind that the girls attended too (obviously). At home I rarely slept during the day, even when the girls did. At night when I put the girls to bed, it was generally with the renewed energy of a second wind that came to me with the prospect of a couple of hours child-free time.
When I think about it now, the girls rarely saw me tired.

Since Zy died, I have been sleeping (or 'resting') a lot. Partly because my body is recovering from a c-section, but mostly in an attempt to deal with the grief. As the most acute grief passes, I am stepping back into life, and more importantly, stepping back into my role as sole carer of my girls.

My kewl girls are the most important people in my world and their well being - their happiness - is my greatest wish. On the other side of the coin, one of my greatest fears as a mother is that I will make my children miserable. The thought that my grief is something that will have a negative impact on them is one that I find quite sickening. Their life experiences already include the death of their father, and now the death of their surrogate baby brother. I would be absolutely mortified if they grew up with predominant memories of their mum as being sad and miserable.

So, with much conscious effort, every bit of good energy I have had recently has been going to the girls - to their well being and to their happiness. Apart from a not so great week leading up to New Year, I thought I was doing pretty well. When I am with the girls, I am always fully present and almost always 'in the moment'. There are many joyous times and even the times where the girls are pushing my (or each other's) buttons, I am aware of what they are doing and able to respond from a place of awareness, rather than react from a place of ignorance.
I am still sleeping more than I used to - I go to bed earlier, wake up later and sometimes sleep during the day - but I rarely choose to sleep when I could be spending time with the girls instead.

I thought that, as far as the girls were concerned, things were somewhat back to 'normal'.
Just like I thought that the current turmoil with Miss F was just a four year old phase.

It seems I thought wrong.

Me: "That's a very energetic picture Miss F. Can you tell me about it?"
Miss F: "Yes. It's me blowing a tree over with my nose."
Me: "Wow, blowing a tree over with your nose! That's some pretty good breathing! Why are you blowing the tree down?"
Miss F: "Because it's a stupid tree and I don't like it."
Me: "Did it do something wrong?"
Miss F: "Yes. It is stupid."

At this point I would usually stop giving the conversation much energy or attention. "Stupid" is not an acceptable word in our family, although it is one that Miss F has been using (I thought for the shock value) a lot lately. This time though, something urged me to try and dig a little deeper...

Me: "I heard you say stupid already. I know that you have better words than that, though. Can you tell me something else about the tree?"
Miss F: "NO! I just hate it and I blew it down and now it's sleeping!"
Me: "Oh, it's sleeping? That's a better word. Why is it sleeping?"
Miss F: (major change in body language) "Because it's stupid."
Me: "Don't you like it when the tree is sleeping?"
Miss F: "No."
Me: "Do you feel tired when it is sleeping?"
Miss F: "No!"
Me: "How do you feel then, when the tree is asleep?"
Miss F: "Windy. Because there is too much wind. That's why I blew it down and now it's sleeping."
Me: "Too much wind sounds a bit scary. Is it a happy wind or a sad wind or some other kind of wind?"
Miss F: "No it's sleepy. And when it cries it stings my face. It's sad a sleepy and stings."
Me: "Hmm. Too much sad, sleepy wind. I can see why that would sting. Does the wind only sting your face? Or does it sting some place else as well?"
Miss F: "It stings my face and it goes up my nose and down my neck and stings all the way down my ribs and hurts my tummy until I stand like a ballerina."
Me: "It doesn't sound like a very happy wind at all, Miss F. It must be hard to dance with all that wind stinging under your ribs... (Nodding from Miss F) ...What happens to the wind in your body when the tree wakes up?"
Miss F: "It spins like a twister and then I spin and get dizzy and then I blow over. But I don't really blow over. Just sometimes, if I'm not looking."
Me: "I don't think I would like this wind in my body. Do you like it in your body?"
Miss F: "No."
Me: "No, I don't want it in your body any more. Do you think we can work out a way to get rid of it, together?
Miss F: "Yes. But I already tried holding my nose though."
Me: "That's a good thought. I have another thought... Actually, it's a thought and a question - Can I ask you a question Miss F?"
Miss F: *Nodding*
Me: "I've been sleeping lots lately, haven't I?"
Miss F: *Nodding*
Me: "Does the wind sting your face and nose and tummy when I am sleeping, Miss F?"
Miss F: "Yes.."
At this point Miss F started to cry and I put my arm around her for a cuddle.
Me: "Does it make you dizzy when I wake up, too?"
Miss F: "Yes. Because I don't know how long you're going to be awake and then it bes all windy again. I don't like it when you sleep mum! It's too windy!"
Me: "Oh Miss F. I am very sorry that I've been sleeping so much and I am sorry that all this wind has been stinging you and I didn't see it. I promise that I will not let it hurt you any more. Sleeping was a way to help my body heal, but it is not fair of me to sleep too much and I promise I will find a different way of healing so that doesn't happen any more. I love you bigger than the universe, Miss F."

Then we cuddled for a while until Miss F seemed somewhat settled, and I said, "Thank you for using your words. You spoke very well even though you were upset, and now that I know what was hurting you, I can help you and we can fix it!"

We have had many conversations, both before this one and since, about grief and about me being sad. Whether I like it or not, the girls are going to see me grieve. They are going to have their own grief. There is no getting around it- grief is a significant part of our life experience. It just is.

But I still have choices. We still have choices.

Even though the realisation that my child has been hurting because of something I was doing (even unintentionally) has shaken me to my core - I choose to see this as an opportunity for healing.

After this conversation, Miss F and I went shopping. We bought a mini fan, some party blowers, some bubbles and a garden butterfly who's wings flap in the breeze.
When we got home we decorated the mini fan with pink ribbon, so now Miss F can see the wind, it is pretty - not stingy, and she can point it in which ever direction she chooses. She has control.
The party blowers are for Miss F and her kewl sisters, so if ever the sleepy, sad wind threatens to blow up their noses, they can blow it right back out of their mouths! They are also very loud and perfect for waking sleeping mums - something else Miss F can feel good about having control over.
The bubbles... Well... Who doesn't love bubbles?!! Ballerinas certainly do and if we can use some 'wind' to bring us joy, then this ballerina is all for it.
As for the butterfly - She is now waving to us in the breeze and reminding us that wind can be gentle and calm, as well as energetic and fun!

Miss F is already seeming a whole lot more content. The recent princess moments may still be a four year old phase, or they may have been her four year old way of trying to tell me that something wasn't right. Either way, I choose to be grateful that Miss F has the emotional intelligence to communicate her distress to me. 'A sleepy wind that stings her face, goes up her nose, down to her stomach and stings her ribs until she stands like a ballerina' is a fantastic explanation of her feelings! Way to go, Miss F!

I am still feeling a little shaken after our conversation - after hearing Miss F's distress and realising that things are not as ok as I thought - but I choose to hear my child's 'wake up call' and I choose to use my shaky feelings to shake the sleep out of my eyes and inspire more positive action.

Today is a new day, and I am celebrating a new found respect for princesses.

Warrior Wednesday - Dear Zy

I had a whole other Warrior Wednesday post written for today, because I didn't want to miss another one... Then last night we had this moment that is as much to Zy, as is is about him, and I just have to share it.

After a big day yesterday, I set the kewl girls up with some paper and colouring in things so they could have some down time before dinner. While I was chopping up the veggies, I noticed Miss J had been working very hard on one particular piece of paper, writing lots of letters and 'words'. I asked her what she was working on, and she told me, "Writing a letter to Zy." I asked if it was only for him, or if it would be ok for her to read it to me, too, and lucky for me, she decided it would be ok to read it to me.
This is what her letter said...

Dear Zy,

We are having stir fry for dinner tonight. Do you like stir fry? I think you would like it.
You don't have your body any more, do you? Mum says you don't have to eat dinner any more, either. That's OK. If you want to come have dinner with us tonight you can use my body - I don't like stir fry.

Love from Miss J.

I love that Baby Warrior is still part of our lives, and I especially love that even if he isn't here in body, his big sister is still trying to palm her veggies off onto him!

So... What are you having for dinner tonight?

Miss V: "Mum?"

Me: "Yes Miss V?"

Miss V: "Does that person have a penis or a vagina?"

Me: "He has a penis, darling."

Miss V: "Oh... Mum?"

Me: "Yes darling?"

Miss V: "But why does he have breasts?"

Me: "All men have breasts darling, they're part of the chest. They are not like female breasts though, there is just muscle and fat under the skin, they are not made for feeding babies and they are not private like ours are."

Miss V: "Oh. But why do they look like your breasts?"

(Ouch!!!) Me: "Every person's body is different. Sometimes men have more fat under their skin and it makes their breasts look bigger."

Miss V: "Oh. Did he eat too much breasts?"

Me: (laughing) "No darling, people don't eat breasts."

Miss V: "But 'friend across the road' did last night!"

Me: "Oh - That was chicken breast. People who eat meat sometimes eat chicken breast. I don't think that makes people's breasts grow bigger, though."

Miss V: "Why do they?"

Me: "Why do they eat chicken breast?"

Miss V: *Nodding*

Me: "I don't know, darling. Maybe we could ask them."

Miss V: "Ok. Mum?"

Me: "Yes darling?"

Miss V: "Do they eat chicken vaginas, too?"

Me: "I hope not, darling."

Miss V: "Me too, I hope not. Mum?"

Me: "Yes darling?"

Miss V: "I like being vege-t'ian."

Me: "Me too darling."

So, all you flesh eaters out there...

From Miss V:
Why do you eat chicken breasts?
Do you eat chicken vaginas, as well?

And from me:
What are you having for dinner tonight??!

P.S. After missing a couple of Warrior Wednesday's in a total blogging absence, I am ready and looking forward to tomorrow! Thank you to darling Tiff from Three Ring Circus, who joined in last time. All Warrior Parents are more than welcome to celebrate their Warrior moments tomorrow, too!

Breath Taking

Miss F is having a bit of a difficult time at the moment. More specifically, she is having a rather big bit of difficulty accepting that she is not the centre of everyone else's universe, every single bit of the time.
Mary Poppins has named it the "Princess Phase", and even though I am not particularly fond of the whole "Princess" concept, it seems quite an appropriate description for Miss F's present phase.

We have had quite a few princess moments of late...

There was the one where, after being complemented on her puzzle completing cleverness, Miss F replied angrily, "I don't want to be clever - I want to be cute!"

Then there was the one where she went to hit Mary Poppins with a swing because Mary Poppins had the nerve to wear a necklace, and, as Miss F said, "I'm the pretty one, not you!"

This was shortly followed by the very sincere - but not quite in the right way - apology of, "I'm sorry you're not the pretty one."

Just this morning, Miss F was decorating some paper with some stickers of ballerinas. Ballerinas are somewhat of a favourite of hers at the moment. In fact - anything ballet is a winner. Untill she decided that this ballerina was a better dancer than she was. Then the poor thing was a gonner...
"I don't like this ballerina any more. I hate her. I'm going to rip her head off!"
(And yes, her head was indeed, ripped off.)

Tonight though - Tonight we had the most breath taking princess moment to date. So breath taking, in fact, it threatened to be fatal.

Darling, angel, apple of my eye Miss F, decided that she did not want to go to bed at the same time as her sisters. She also decided (some time ago, actually) that anything she does not want to do, she does not have to do. Only she hadn't counted on her mum also having decided that for an over tired four year old, on this particular night, bed time, is bed time. Period.

In an attempt to calm down a quickly escalating tantrum of princess proportions, I asked Miss F to please slow her body down and take a big deep breath, just like a ballerina does.
I was hoping that, having said the magic word (ballet), I might be able to avoid a full blown melt down.

Not going to happen.

With barely a moments pause to consider her response, Miss F yelled, "No, you take a deep breath mummy!!"

Then, after a split second's reconsideration....

"And you're not a ballerina! So STOP BREATHING!"

Yep... Just like I said.

Breath taking.


I never used to believe in New Years. The idea that one year was 'over' and a new year 'began' simply because the calendar tells us so seemed pretty ludicrous... And as for staying up until midnight and counting down to a single second in an attempt to welcome this supposedly 'new' year... Well... It all seemed like a load of mass consciousness crap to me.

I never thought I'd be one to get married, either. I didn't need a piece of paper to tell me I loved someone, and as for the whole ceremonial extravaganza... Yeah... What was that I was saying about mass consciousness crap?

On the same token, I never paid much attention to anniversaries, or even birthdays. Really, they are just another 24 hour block of time where society tells us we are supposed to do something that we otherwise wouldn't, and half the time don't really want to.

Now, I realise that I sound like a miserable pain in the rear - but it didn't feel that way at the time. I never felt like I was missing out on anything and I always had more fun not getting involved, than I would have had taking part in celebrations, just because I thought I should.

For me, it was a choice - and I simply chose what brought me the most joy.

Then Daddy Kewl proposed on New Years Eve, we got married, I gave birth and experienced a wedding anniversary (ok, I experienced wedding anniversary sex) and suddenly New Years, marriage, anniversaries and birthdays weren't so meaningless.

The night that Daddy Kewl proposed we were at a festival watching the midnight fireworks to 'welcome the new year'. As we sat watching the sky light up, I had a deep and rather content feeling of one chapter ending and another beginning. Not particularly because it was "New Years" though.
We'd been on the festival circuit for almost 2 years and at the beginning of this particular festival, we had decided that this was the last one we were going to do for a while. After the festival ended we were going to head back 'home' and set up a more stationary base for ourselves, together. We'd spent much of our time at this festival planning our new beginning and in lots of ways saying goodbye to what had been our life for the past 2 years.
That night, as we sat on our picnic blanket watching the display, the sky turned purple in a sudden explosion of sparks, and M said,
"I want to start my life with you every day, Al."
I lifted my head up off his shoulder and took his hand in mine.
"Me too."

There was a pause so still and so silent that I swear the entire universe was holding it's breath. Then hundreds of spectacular golden sparks burst into life above us... M said, "Let's get married".... And I nodded and I said, "Kewl."

It really was that perfect.

We got married in a stunningly beautiful valley over the Chinese New Year, continuing with our theme of new years and new beginnings. It was a new beginning for the two of us, and more amazingly, it was the beginning of our family. A moment after we exchanged rings, Daddy Kewl wrapped his arms around me, took my hands, placed them on my stomach and whispered to me, "Guess what honey? We're pregnant."
He was right.

Almost nine months later, Miss F and Miss J were born. We wanted a home birth, but considering this was my first pregnancy, my mother had an emergency c-section and there were not one, but two babies - we compromised. The girls were born just 3 days before their due date, at a beautiful midwife run facility, in a big floaty bubble bath with their dad waiting to catch them. It was nothing like I had expected and everything more that I'd hoped.
They were also born on my birthday.

Our first wedding anniversary was just a few months later... But I am not telling that story (hi mum)!

So, with New Year, marriage, birthdays and anniversaries (hi mum!) now having their own 'personalised' meaning to replace what society had previously offered - I made a new choice. These 24 hour blocks of time bought me joy, and so I chose to celebrate them.

Then Daddy Kewl died.

He was not there for Miss J and Miss F's first birthday. He was not at Miss V's birth. He is not here - will never be here - for New Years, nor for any future birthdays or wedding anniversaries, nor even to be the other half of our marriage.

But I still chose to celebrate these occasions.
Not doing so would have made me even more miserable. There were moments of intense sadness, sure, but on the whole I was starting to find joy in them again.

Then Zy died.

His birth was quickly followed by his physical death. He was here for little more than one block of 24 hours.
Do you know how short that block of time is?
Far too short.
It is certainly not enough for a lifetime. How can it be enough to celebrate a birth? Or a marriage of two live into one life together?
Just 24 hours to celebrate an entire year of anything?
No, it's not enough.

These were the thoughts that filled my head this new year, and they didn't bring me any joy at all. In fact, on the eve of 2009, every physical and non physical part of me screamed in agony and burned with all of the lack that was filling my mind. I woke up on the 1st of day of this year, and instead of seeing my three incredible children and smiling because they were here - I saw an empty space in the bed next to me and burst into tears because M is not.

Just as I was deciding to bury my face in my pillow and howl, Miss V half woke, rolled over to look at me and asked, "Are you making good choices, mum?"
Then she rolled over and went back to sleep.

Am I making good choices? Now there's a question.
In that moment, I didn't much like the answer.

I was choosing to look at moments of celebration and see heartache for the people who were missing.

I was choosing to think thoughts of absence about the people I love.

I was choosing to feel all of what wasn't there and none of what was.

I was choosing to only see lack.

I was choosing to feel like shit - that's what I was choosing.

Uh oh. Time to make some new choices!

Ok - M died, and ok - that is a fact not a choice.
But it only hurts because I love him.
So I can choose to see and feel the hurt, or I can choose to see and feel our love.
This New Year, I can hurt because he is not here, or, I can love that New Year is so magical because he made it that way.
On our wedding anniversary, I can hurt because he is not here, or, I can love that I married the most amazing man in the universe.
When our girls have a birthday, I can hurt because he is not here, or, I can love that we have three incredible children together.

Ok - Zy died, and ok - that is a fact, not a choice.
But it only hurts because I love him.
I can choose to see and feel the hurt - But I choose to see and feel our love.
I can hurt because he died, or, I can love that I ever knew him at all.
I can hurt because he was here for such a short time, or, I can love the time that he was here.

What choices, hey?
This year, this day, this moment - I know what I am choosing.

There is one more choice that I want to share...

Earlier, I chose to see one block of 24 hours as too little time.
This is still my choice.

One day of the year is not enough time to celebrate a birth, a marriage, an anniversary, a year - and certainly not a lifetime.

I choose to celebrate these things every day.
For all of my lifetime

So, for yesterday - Happy New Year!
And for today - Happy New Day!
And for tomorrow - Happy New Day!
And for the next day - Happy New Day!

And every day after that.