Wednesday, February 24

book club reminder

This is just a reminder post.

Our Book Club book was The Mistress of Spices (and/or Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat) and I'll be posting about it on the first few days of March. So if you've read any of them (ever), do pop by to share your thoughts - a sentence or two is FINE.
And if you're writing your own full post on it, send me the link so I can include it in my post.

You can join our informal Book Club reading any time you like.

The Dancing Tiger

The Dancing Tiger
By Malachy Doyle
Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Francher
Picture Book
Suggested age: 2-4 yrs

This is an elegant and magical story of a little girl who spies a tiger dancing in the woods under moonlight. The night-time illustrations are dreamy and dark.

The girl surprises the gentle tiger one night but as long as she keeps his secret, they'll dance together. That's just what they do, gracefully dancing through the seasons, which I particularly liked. At the end, she is now a great-grandmother and introduces her great-grandchild to the magic of the tiger's dancing.

“If you will keep my secret,
And never tell a soul,
Then you may come and dance with me
On nights the moon is whole”

The rhyme goes a long way to engage my (20 month old) girl's attention, and she does love tigers and moons.
So once a month, from then till now,
I've tiptoed to the wood.
We've swirled and swayed among the trees,
As tiger said we could.
However, although she reads books for older children, this one is a little on the more sophisticated fantasy side, and the dark illustrations don't offer as much contrast and detail as little one's prefer.  She enjoys it well enough, but doesn't request it. So I agree with the general recommendation that it's suited to 2+ year-olds.

It's a sweet story that supports imagination and bonds of friendship and kinship. It's actually quite powerful in a very understated way. I'm surprised that there aren't more reviews on or Our copy indicates it was the 2005 Silver Award winner for the Nestle book prize.


Saturday, February 20

re-discovering creativity (ii)

So I chatted about creative need and beliefs about creativity, now I want to chat briefly about value.

I have two powerful needs in my life, two basic aspects to my Self if you will.


I desire so much to help others, to make a difference. Audaciously, to change the world.

For the longest time I had a dream to go to Africa and do anything to help the victims of famine. After giving up that dream, it has returned, and mutated. We hope one day, when the Wildflower is old enough, to do voluntary work in Guatemala, Belize, and other countries in need.

Doing such things will fill my heart. I don't want to part from this world without having done something so significant for others.

Along with that desire, is a need, to be creative.

I couldn't be more obvious in the struggle with this dichotomy, than my studies show. A degree in Psychology, and one in Fine Arts. *cue roll eyes*

My heart has flipped back and forth. One side saying, do something worthwhile, be of service. The other saying, chill out and create.

I have discovered that many people find themselves in a similar tug-o-war, albeit different aspects. One half pulling towards what seems the better, moral, right, path, the other pulling towards something that feels self-indulgent. And we are a society of guilt regarding self-indulgence, aren't we? Even those of us who plunge head first into hedonism do so 'in moderation'.

I look at other people and think that as long as they are decent people and following their passion, urge, need, joy.... then that's groovy. Why do I have such high standards for myself?

I told myself that I had to be as eco as possible, as frugal, as media-conscious, as mindful as possible. I had to be crunchy, and crafty, and upcycle everything. Then I look at someone who has devoted their life to, for example, being green, and I see someone who is doing amazing things.... yet they're not doing everything. They're not doing anything towards helping orphaned children, or those suffering from malnutrition in poor countries, nor are they doing a thing about baby seals being clubbed to death for fur, or saving the whales, or writing to companies to protest the sexualisation of our children.... and on and on into infinity...

What I'm getting at, is that we need to find a niche, because the world is too full, too complex, too brimming with both amazingness and suffering. We can't touch it all.

And then we need to find peace with what the world needs from us and with what we need from within ourselves.

I was pondering all this when I happened to read a story involving people living in slums in India... and it got me to thinking about places I have seen around the world. The worst for me has always been the Rio slums. And amongst the poverty, sickness, and pain, I also saw laughter, play, and beauty. Even the very poor attempted to bring beauty into their lives. They don't dismiss a pretty bracelet, a joyful drumbeat, or body make-up as frivolous.

There I am feeling guilt over arty projects because of their frivolousness in comparison to the world's troubles, and those with very little embrace' frivolousness'.

Right now, I have chosen to be at home with the Wildflower. I am learning to accept and find peace with the way I help others right now. And also I am learning to embrace the validity of creativity to me.

Whatever is a soul-need, is, by definition, necessary. It's as complex and as simple as that.

Right now, I'm creating and I'm slowly letting go of perfection and guilt.... it's a process..... and I've found that the visual journal is the perfect medium for this. I cannot get ENOUGH!



I'll be posting my work on my other blog though... where things are fun and shadowy and arty. So if you want to journey along with me, and especially if you want to explore your own arty creativity and share it, do join me there.

Thursday, February 18

re-discovering creativity (i)

I want to talk with you guys about two aspects to my creativity.

The meaning of creativity and creative soul-need.
Beliefs around what is of value/has meaning in life.

Today I'll chat about the first.

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved two things.... books and stationary/art supplies (pens, pencils, paints). I have never been able to have enough of either. One of my favourite things in early school was to create my own books. I still own two from about when I was 10.

A very early memory, right back to my first year in school, was colouring in a worksheet. When I claimed to have finished, the girl next to me told the teacher that I hadn't coloured in the thumb. There was this lone thumb for some reason. Anyway, the teacher looked, smiled (a smile that only now I can decipher), and said that I had simply done it realistically.

You see, my thumb was neatly outlined in medium brown, and then shaded softly in a mixture of brown and pink. It was a very adult colouring-in method.

My mother taught me how to colour. She also taught me how to behave. As well as telling me that I could be and do anything but that the preferable choice would be becoming a doctor. Yup, I learnt all about perfectionism very early on.

And learning that, and believing it, stifled and stomped on my creativity.

I have owned all types of art supplies that have either remained untouched or barely used. Something drives me to have them, but between my soul and my hand lies a malfunction. And it has nothing to do with ability.

I believe everyone has a creative side and it is expressed differently - writing, art, cooking, ideas, problem solving. Yet some people have a creative soul. These people need to create, or unhappiness tinges everything in their lives.

Unfortunately, this soul-need can become stifled, muted, side-tracked, thwarted, and down right abused. In believing the lie of perfectionism, my mind interpreted creativity as Art.
Creativity for its own sake is wasteful, pointless, something for children, fun for a frivolous workshop but not more, and on and on. A creative soul is an artist's soul. I'm no artist. I can't even draw. So I told myself subconsciously.

Might as well put my energies into the academics. Reading, studying, teaching, learning, all relatively safe. Put a pencil or brush in my hand and a soft vulnerable centre feels wide open to attack.

Motherhood triggered my creative soul, and I have been spinning around in circles trying to find outlets. Coming across crafting has been a paradox. On the one hand it provided that creative outlet, on the other, I was trying to be crafty. I even bought felt for Pete's sake.

T-shirt I've owned since I was 16ish, used for art projects across several years. 
I just 'happened' to find it a few days ago.

But you know what? I'm not crafty. I enjoy craftiness, to a point. Crochet is sticking around for a looong time. And I certainly enjoy seeing other people's crafty works. But this is about my creative needs. Ultimately, I'm arty, or is that artsy?*

But that realisation was frightening! I'm not an Artist! I shouted at myself.

The understanding finally came.

A creative soul has absolutely nothing to do with being an artist

Nothing, zilch, nada.

A creative soul is.... a creative soul. A need to create. That's it!

After that it's up to the individual how it manifests.

But of course, despite the amazing fabulousness of that realisation, I needed to work through the perfectionism. The next foothold seemed to step into an abyss. Just create?? Seemed infinite, without bearing, without solidity. Create what? What was worth creating? What am I good at? What could I do well enough? Could I learn oil painting now? On and on, all centring around ideas of worth and results.

And finally, back I came to the centre, my centre. If creativity was nothing more than that, to create, then it's the process that matters.

No, the process is everything.

Ohhhhh, those people that had this simple yet profound understanding as children and never ever lost it. You lucky people.

* This is NOT a question of any being superior! Just what is authentic for an individual.

Monday, February 15

water & fire

Do you prefer the good or the bad first? Let's go for the bad, I like to end on a positive note.

We have had severe leaks in the new house. Severe and mind-boggling. Husband has been trying to sort it out on and off for months, getting to it partly dictated by the weather. There was an existing barn, which we converted and put a flat roof on, that we built our new house against. It leaks at the join. Or so we thought...

So thinking it's the joint, all the focus has been on that. Long and dull story short, after sealing and working on the flat roof the leak remained. Many hours and gallons of water, from our well, were used to experiment. It seems the problem is the inferior mortar used to point the main house. So it's coming in through the wall! Fortunately, Husband sealed the walls using two different sealants on alternate walls, so it looks like only two ends pose a problem. All our hopes are now pinned on further sealant solving the problem.

It has depressed Husband and has set us back on our moving in date. You see, we have had leak and mold issues in this apartment. The new house was all about the insulation etc etc, to make it mold proof. And we have water just coming right on in soaking the walls. Horrible.

I started to go through our boxes here to prepare to move some to the new place soon, where it's drier. We found mold all over the place. I had to throw away a couple of books, few clothes, and my photography major work from university. Heartbreaking. But it's just stuff, right? sigh

So.... onto the good.

There has been a fire in the making over the last year or two. Those of you who've been here awhile know that I have been slowly, occassionally painfully, often amusingly, re-finding my creative self.

Through navel-gazing, soul exploring, and dialogue with wonderful friends, I have emerged and shifted. I took the last few days (during the exploratory dark moon) to sit with all I've come to realise and see what came of it.
What's come of it is nothing short of transformational. Probably won't look like much to the outside world, but inside, I've broken free.

Essentially, it means I'm going to be more creative, actively so. I have, and will continue to, deal with a lot of Fears connected to my creativity. And I'm going to put that into my work as well. But I'll be posting all about it in detail soon because I want to, and because the process and discoveries might help someone else.

It's time that little girl who was told to colour inside the lines, the woman who struggles with what is of 'value', and the mind dominated by the left, be pulled out from under the rubble.

And you know I've been all about community too, so I'll love for you to take this journey along side me, with your own paints and pens. If you can't draw, haven't touched paints since early school, or get a rash at the thought of 'doing art', then you're in good company. If you're brave and ready...

Thursday, February 11

young mama - old mama

I have a friend who is within a couple of years of me (39), and she has 2 children over 17, while I have a 22 month-old. She often remarks to her children that they're lucky to have a young mother.

My mother had me when she was 18. Quite acceptable at the time in Uruguay. I do recall liking that my mother wasn't old, when I was around 10-12 I think. Although I can't recall why I liked it. Perhaps it was no more than she putting it into my head how lucky I was. I have no idea.

Unfortunately, although I come from a family that values age - as the place of wisdom - I grew up away from my extended family and in the midst of this Western society that values youth.

Will my daughter see an old woman as her mother? Will she be embarrassed?

It is quite common these days for toddlers to be followed around by 40+ mothers. And our friends here are all close in age and have toddlers. So certainly here it isn't an issue.

I have no problem with age. None. I'm embracing reaching 40 soon. I value old age. So it's not a personal problem, being an older mother. Not philosophically.

However, physically, I feel the strain. I remember going to university, having a bite to eat and rushing off to one of my jobs, working until 2am, then heading off for a drink and a dance. Then doing it all over again the next day.

Now, changing the 8th diaper, preparing the upteenth snack, playing with toy animals, pressing play on the DVD, and reading the nth book of the day, does me in. Throw in a walk and I need to lie down!

Okay, perhaps not so bad, but close. I know a lot has to do with lack of sleep, but I also know the rest is my aging body. Will my girl, who has an amazing reservoir of energy, notice her mother's deficiencies?

Mother and daughter... at what cost?

I can't imagine having had a child at 20, or 25, or even 30. My world was not child-friendly then. The person that I am today has ripened over decades. And I know that whilst I can't give my child the gift of spriteliness, I do give her the gift of maturity.

Also, there's the effect on ourselves. Having children when young means they're out of our homes and meeting their own independent lives before we've turned 45. Woohoo, so much time and space to go off traveling, or whatever catches our fancy.
Having them when we're older means we've tasted the wildness offered by life that only youth can get away with. I've danced on tabletops and well.... we'll leave those secrets shall we.... But when I'm 50, my girl will be only 12!

And don't get me wrong, I do plan on being a wild woman for many years, but realise my limitations. Tabletop dancing now will likely incur a trip to the hospital. And tabletop dancing at my child's birthday parties is one I think I'll omit. Although if the Sangria comes out I can't promise anything.

ahem... where was I?

Being pregnant at 37 was a strain on my body. Then there's all the scares and tests that mother's under 35 aren't troubled with. Add to that risks attributed to older fathers.

It's pointless debating which is preferrable, as I don't think there is such a thing, despite what some claim. But it is a personal preference. Perhaps we wish we had children earlier and were able to share youthful exuberance with our kids. Or we worry about looking old. Or perhaps we've had them young and now realise that some years tucked under our belts would have helped. Does having kids later keep you feeling younger?

Do you worry about your age as a mother? Does it freak you out thinking you might be mistaken for the grandmother? If you became a mother after 35, did you have medical concerns? What do you love about being an older mother? And, only fancifully, if you had a magic wand, would you have done it differently?

Wednesday, February 10

Silly Sally

Suggested age: 2-3yrs
my 16 month-old loves it

I bought the small board book and it's smaller than most. But it fits very well into the hands of the little ones.

Silly Sally is on her way to (what appears to be a rather medieval) town and she's getting there upside down. On the way she meets various animals, which are always an easy hit with my girl. She includes their own silly activities, such as singing or leapfrogging along, with being upside down. The animals join her to town.

Buying from Amazon, I was sold by the story, the illustrations and the rhyme.

Silly Sally went to town,
walking backwards, upside down.

The Wildflower is always happy to read this one.

On the way she met a dog,
a silly dog,

they played leapfrog.

A second character is introduced, Neddy Buttercup, who tickles each animal, and then Sally, in turn. This can make for fun interaction between you and the child.

The pen and water colour illustrations are colourful and fun.

The Wildflower really enjoys this one and asks for it many times. I also think it's one I could read over and over without going nuts.

Monday, February 8

My First Signs

My First Signs, Annie Kubler
Suggested age: baby-3yrs

This is a large board book with fun illustrations that are easy to understand. It includes over 40 basic words.

I bought this one to help me in ideas for signs. I chose it because unlike books for adults, I thought that baby could enjoy it as well.

I didn't use it much though. Partly that was down to the Wildflower deciding to speak early. Yet some of the signs were just too difficult to perform for a very young child (under a year old). Still, it could trigger your own imagination if you've been stuck.

If you're interested in any sign that your child finds useful, then the signs used will be fine. If however, you are interested in formal sign language specifically, then please note that this one uses BSL, British Sign Language.

I did the right thing in buying a child-orientated book. Not only because I didn't use it much but also because an adult book would have been superfluous (you can find enough baby signing info online) and why not get a 2-for-1, if baby can enjoy the illustrations as well?

At 16 months, she still flicked through it on occassion. Like most babies, she loves pictures of other babies. And there are plenty of other objects like a cat, car, and bathtub.

It's not a necessary book, but if you're really interested in signs it's a nice one.

Saturday, February 6

blog changes, books, & house

So I decided to continue here, and then open up a space for non-parenting stuffs, and these two cyberhomes feel good. So I'm feeling good.

I'm going to import most of the book blog posts over here. Mostly the children's books. As well as bringing Book Club Mamas* over here.

Fact is, all the people I would love to hear feedback on books are over here! So I might as well bring it to you. BTW, I'm finally reading The Mistress of Spices.

So if you had been reading over at the book blog (sniff, sniff, saying goodbye to it), then please excuse duplicate posts.

I've also cleaned up the top menus so that it reflects the best stuff here at Holistic Mama.

If you use Blogger, they've added a Pages feature now. Although I just created posts and linked to them, but it's there for those that wanted, take a look in your dashboard.


I don't know if I have mentioned it, since I've been a bit sporadic or just plain awol..... but we're hoping to move in to the new house within a couple of months.
We started building November 2007 I think... right from scratch so of course it's had its challenges. Especially as the designer (me) was caved in with a baby.

I am beyond excited. Our own home, a place to decorate and arrange (can't decorate here and most of our belongings are in boxes including my beloved books), no mold (this apartment suffers badly), warmth (no insulation here and it's so cold), financially better (no rent, as well as water from a local spring and wood stoves so lower bills), tranquility (in a small village up the mountain), surrounded by woodland (not horrible here but basically in urbanville), land to cultivate and for the Wildflower to run wild, and so much more.


This is an old photo from last Winter, but it's pretty much how it looks from the back. Husband has been busy indoors, floors are down and doors are in upstairs, next big job is tiling the kitchen floor over under-floor heating, and then getting the kitchen fitted.

Of course not long after we're in we'll probably start talking about travelling.... but it's a base, for cosiness and sinking in roots after coming to a new country.

soon, soon, soon.... can you just feel my impatience?

* If you display a Book Club Mama logo on your blog please use the new codes so that it links back here.
Please note that I've extended the Dec-Jan title into this month. To discuss in March.

Wednesday, February 3

carrying on

Hello lovely people, thank you so much for your words and your emails. I won't be leaving HM, it has too much sentiment for me, and as I said in my last post, I don't want to make a rash decision.

Turtle Oak - I understand that irrational violence. I think that any blog that is quite focused on certain topics, has the potential to feel stifling. Then, even the colour scheme or name can feel like a weight. I think only bloggers whose blogs are much more than just a blog, understand this. For me, it has been a lifeline, as a mother, as an expat in a non-English-speaking country who was housebound for many months, as a creative', and as a person desiring regular worthwhile dialogue. And that's why I thanked you all, because that's what you gave me.

I have been playing with other blogs for some time, trying to find an outlet for non-mothering topics. And I keep closing them down.
The conflict was that HM was my main blog, and I kept the other blogs focused on one or two topics. Whereas now, after this corner I've turned, I know I need to make another blog the main one, or at least have it on equal standing.

I've decided to keep Holistic Mama open. I know that I still want to write the Wildflower's developmental records and occassional daily goings on, and recipes, and home stuff, and crochet, and child-media-culture issues that boil my blood, etc, etc. And obviously there will be mama challenges that I'll want your opinions/advice/support on. I mean, toilet learning is just around the corner, yikes.
I will likely import all my children's book reviews here too. See, she tells herself, still so much to share!

And as an update, I wanted to share that the Wildflower is done with the worst of her teething (just those far back ones to come at a later date) and she is SOOOOO much happier. And thus mama is no longer tearing her hair out. Lots of fun and giggles now amongst the minor challenges. And who else cares and appreciates the wonderfulness of that but you guys?

So where was I? oh yes, keeping HM...... but I also want, no need, to write and chat about art, culture, poetry-writing, dark stuff of the psyche, and other weird goings on in my head, that just don't sit well here. By all means come to my new home if that sounds like your thing. Email me.

Holistic Mama sticks around, for the friends I've made, for the amazing community that's found a gathering place here, and for this walking talking heart of mine...

Monday, February 1

blogging mini crisis

Well, over the 4+ years I've been blogging, I've heard so many bloggers give up blogging, for some reason or another. Even just recently some of my favourite bloggers went off to ride with the winds.... I honour change and respect facing what is and isn't working. But it's always sad to say goodbye to them. I miss reading their thoughts in this unique format, even of those friends with which I have kept in contact.
It had'nt occured to me to do anything but continue on my merry blogging way. Until recently....

Blogging for me has been cathartic, a creative outlet, and I know (because of your wonderful comments and emails) that others have gained something from my simple yet honest words.

My mothering journey of these last 21-something months, especially my first year, would never have been the same if I hadn't blogged. I gained so much support, and gained so much by the act of putting my thoughts, pains, sorrows, conflicts, regrets, guilts, and joys, into words.

Recently, I turned a corner in my mothering. A corner so sharp it knocked the wind out of me. And as most of these things do, it was not just a change in my mothering, but also my soul, which carried over to my daughter, and then to my creativity, my attitudes, my thoughts of the future. All good I ought to add.

We are in a powerful Saturn-Pluto square, it demands transformation and the breaking down of structures, but also asks that we don't be rash.

So I'm just here to share with you, as I do, two things.

Firstly, a vague one - I don't know where my blogging is headed. Holistic Mama has been a 'baby' to me, it has brought me much joy and healing. But I am feeling disconnected from it now. Although it feels good writing here even now.
And not just the joys, but the friendships, whether strong or in passing, connections nonetheless.

However, I don't have any further thoughts than this. So no, I'm not saying goodbye.

The second thing is easy to say, and that's thank you.

Although I began blogging just for me, things started to shine when you all dropped in. I have seen regulars come and go, and a few have been in it for the long haul. At 300+ feed readers, I must have lurkers out there too! And I thank you as well :)

I thank everyone who has left a comment at one time or another, because blogging can become quite lonely, and even just someone saying, hi, enjoyed your post is something.

But mostly I thank every friend who put their heart out there to offer moral support and encouragement, to those that shared the fire of disagreement and mind expansion, and even more so, to those that shared their own story here. Not only have you helped me by feeling less alone, or confirmed some feeling or thought, you also helped others.

I know this is coming across a little earnest, hard not to make it so. But really, I mean it, you guys have been the best. And I wanted you to know that.

What happens from now on I don't know. My girl is only 21 months, I have 300 million situations ahead of me that will require pondering and evolving from, or gritting my teeth through, so why I'm feeling so uninspired here at this early stage I don't know. shrug

So anyway, just wanted to share where I'm at, and possibly explain my lack of blogging, and lack of commenting on all your wonderful blogs.

Perhaps it's just a shift and I will return renewed......