15 year old Clare McAuley

What would your 15 old self think of your life if they could see you now?

The other day I was sorting through some old cards and letters I’ve received over the years. I stumbled across a letter I had written to myself when I 15. In very bossy language I commanded that the letter was only to be opened when I was 22.

Admittedly I was a rather unusual teenager. At first I thought this letter might be great to put on my blog. After re-reading my scribbles, I realised I’d forgotten in the last five years the content of this odd letter. It was whimsical, personal and in some places very strange. I could never put it online. The letter wears its heart on its sleeve, and I still feel my teenage self still deserves some privacy.

Amongst the dramatic statements I did give myself some good advice. I told myself to go for walks, go to the cricket and re-read Charles Dickens. In particular, I should read Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.

In one place I tell my future self to stay friends with certain people. My choice of people was in places a little puzzling. The first three are still some of my closest friends. However later in the list I included someone who I’m sure at the time I really disliked. From memory she a bit of a bully. Dear 15 year old self, what was that all about?

Half way through the letter I write:

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt its don’t be a flattering fool – be honest with yourself. Always smile and think, why should little things ruin your day? Love people and don’t judge. Never think you know someone. Don’t classify humans.

Don’t grow out of the Narnia series.

Good advice there Miss 15 year old Clare McAuley.

At the end I demand a return letter. So here’s a little of what I’d say.

Dear 15 year old me,

I like the advice you gave me. Sometimes even you have a sensible streak. Try and listen to it.

Never be afraid. Don’t be afraid if I guy doesn’t like you – they are never worth your tears. Don’t be afraid of bullies – they still exist after school, just appearing in all sorts of disguises. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong or to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to do the things your love, even if they are horribly uncool. You’ll love murder mysteries, reading anything from tge 19th century, cooking cheesecakes, dancing in pubs, playing tetris and singing anything from a musical. The sooner you face up to this the better.

You’ll even love teaching. I know – bit of a shock that one. Life is surprising and when you say yes to the adventure wonderful things can happen. (Yep you’re still full of dramatic statements.)

And I absolutely agree that you should never grow out of the Narnia series.

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Friday Poetry: my favourite poem when I was little

Old-Lady-Who-Swallowed-a-Fly-rhymesYesterday The Good Reading Guide started running a competition on their Facebook page, asking readers what their favourite book was as a child. This simple question took me far too long to answer.

Should I say Seven Little Australians because it’s an Australian classic? Should I say Ballet Shoes because I always loved the descriptions of the clothes? Should I say Ginger Meggs because I read those comics obsessively?

Finally I decided to put down the truth, even though it sounded a little strange. From the moment I read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy in year 4, I completely fell in love. I wanted to be as adventurous as Sir Percy, as beautiful as Lady Marguerite and I even wanted to live in a time when Madame Guillotine could come to chop off your head.

It was a relief to write the truth. However this question got me thinking – what was my favourite poem as a child? From a young age, I was marched off to many, many, many drama eisteddfods. The first poem I ever performed was ‘Poor Old Fish’ about a fish that was killed by over feeding. I think my favourite poem was ‘I know an Old Lady’. My Dad used to read it to us and it’s completely ridiculous. I think I enjoyed how things become progressively worse for this poor old lady.  Also as a child I never liked poems that were very realistic. Who wants real life when you’re dreaming about far way lands and the French revolution?

 

I know and Old Lady

Rose Bonne and Alan Mills

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a bird
How absurd to swallow a bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a cat
Imagine that. She swallowed a cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a dog
What a hog to swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a goat
Opened her throat and down went the goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a cow
I don’t know how she swallowed the cow
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a horse
She’s alive and well of course!

Getting rid of the Mummy Martyr

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Is it just me who sometimes falls into having a victim complex? Sometimes I start thinking I’m a martyr and forget I’m mum.

So I’m at a BBQ and another Mum asks me about how my baby is sleeping. I tell her she is in bed by about 8.30 and usually wakes up twice during the night.

“Mine is in bed by 7,” she replies. “Otherwise he becomes over tired. Actually its great, he’s been sleeping through since 6 weeks.”

My first reaction is to think that this mum is so judgemental. She thinks I’m a bad mum because my baby doesn’t sleep through the night. She thinks she’s so bloody superior!

Well lately I’ve been telling myself to just get over it. I’m not a victim and I should have confidence in myself as a mum. The other mum is probably just proud of her own child. And even if she does think I’m hopeless – who cares?! I know I do my best.

If a mum tells me they adore co-sleeping, it doesn’t mean they think I’m evil for using a cot. If I talk about how I love breastfeeding it doesn’t mean I think mums are bad people if they use formula. It’s great that mums have the freedom to talk about their opinions with each other. I actually love it when a mum is informed and passionate, even if I don’t agree with everything she says.

I don’t want to waste another second worrying about feeling judged. I would hate to pass on insecurities to my daughter. I hope she always does her best, does what she loves and what she know’s is right. Only she can truly judge the integrity of her actions.

So goodbye mummy martyr. I never liked you much anyway.

Supermarket Retail Therapy

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

This is usually good advice. However sometimes I like to splash out in a very small way. I remember reading in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project that sometimes it’s good to have a modest splurge. It can give you a little kick of happiness for a long time.

Usually when I shop I try and be very stingy. I don’t buy fancy brands and I look out for specials.

My reward for all this thriftiness is spending about $1 more on a few special items.

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This week I couldn’t resist buying a few tins of chickpeas and tomatoes in their gorgeous Italian packaging. The tomato tin is so pretty you can use it as a vase afterwards.

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There is plain old honey and then there is Beechworth honey. I have a sentimental attachment to the place because my in-laws, who live in Albury, have often taken me there when we go down to visit. Beechworth has the best bakery you’ll find anywhere and a lolly shop worthy of Willy Wonka himself. It’s also famous for it’s honey. The queen of all honey has to be this Tasmanian Leatherwood. It’s sweet, it’s smoky and it’s perfect on hot, buttered toast.

I’ve always thought that if I lived in Middle Earth, I’d have to be a hobbit. There is no need to live like an elf or rule a great kingdom. But I do like the little luxuries to be absolutely right.

Why I love Baby-led Weaning

Anyone who knows me well knows I probably take food too seriously. I just can’t help it.

Food is one of the great joys of life. It’s not just fuel. Food is bound up with family, talking, laughing, art, passion and traditions.

In Nigella Lawsons recipe book, How to Eat, she talks about her first pregnancy. In a short anecdote she describes chatting to an obstetrician at a party about breastfeeding. She was excited to learn that the taste of breast milk changes, depending on what the mother has eaten. In this way, the baby becomes accustomed to a variety of tastes. Amazing!

When it came time for Eloise to start eating, I hoped I could pass on my love of food. At first I was going to go down the path of making my own purées. However something about spoon feeding mush didn’t seem to work for me. I didn’t feel comfortable with it.

I’d heard mothers talking about forcing, distracting, coercing, persuading, shoving and tricking their baby into eating. This made no sense! Why would you need to “force” someone to do something as enjoyable and natural as eating!

You don’t force anyone to laugh, or sing, or look at a beautiful sunset or to play. Surely a baby simply wants to eat.

Well luckily I remembered a friend of mine, whose baby I’d seen eating a bowl of strawberries. The baby had been feeding herself. This friend put me onto information about weaning that can be found on the Australian Breastfeeding Association website. They call it starting with “family foods.” This type of weaning is also called baby-led weaning.

I have loved, loved, loved going on this baby-led weaning adventure with Eloise.

Why do I love it?

Well here are the best things about it.

Little Preparation

Since Eloise has started eating, I’ve hardly had to make any adjustments to my cooking. I’ve just given her what we’re having. My only change is I’ve started cooking with more vegetables – which has to be a good thing. She started off with cucumber sticks, roasted vegetables, avocado, mango, bread and strawberries. Now she can handle pretty much anything. She can suck up spaghetti covered in mince, scoop up rice, loves daintily picking up peas and kidney beans, chewing on steak and (to my husband’s horror) even loves her broccoli.

Food is a time for learning

For a while Eloise did more playing then eating at meals. But this didn’t matter. I would always give her a breastfeed before a meal so she wasn’t frustrated by hunger. Her skills in handling food have slowly increased and she has explored a variety of textures and colours.

I’m never worried about Eloise choking on her food. By letting the baby explore food at their own pace, they learn how to chew and swallow and how much to put in their mouth.

Food is family time

I loved how baby led weaning encourages parents to let babies eat at the family meal. It shows the baby that food is a social activity. It didn’t take long before Eloise was very excited to be put into the high chair. She knew the fun was about to start!

With this type of weaning, there is no need to give the toddler special food, like nuggets or chips. They are already accustomed to eating what the family eats.

Food is for eating

At first baby led weaning can be quite messy. What’s life without a bit of mess? You just need to take a few precautions to minimize the damage. However I’ve found that the mess has dramatically decreased lately. For a while, with Eloise, it was 50% play and 50% eating. These days she does a lot of eating!

My Mums brothers are both very tall men with huge appetites. They love their food. At one family gathering they were enjoying one of Mums meals, and at the same time watching Eloise eat. She must have been about ten months and was sitting up in her high chair feeding herself. In typical fashion, Eloise was eating with great gusto. My uncles looked shocked and I was worried that they didn’t approve for some reason.

“You know it’s quite appetizing watching her eat,” one of my Uncles said.  “She really enjoys her food.” Eloise continued to enjoy her meatloaf and vegetables and so did my Uncles.

And that’s food for you; food that we love, food that brings family together and food that is eaten because it simply makes us happy.

For more information on Baby Led Weaning you can visit the Australian Breast Feeding Association.

Pinky McKay also has a good article explaining the benefits of baby-led weaning.

If you’re really keen, you should buy the book. Baby-led Weaning, Gill Rapley and Thacey Murkett. The book answers every question or concern you could possibly raise. It’s extremely practical and gives excellent guidelines on how you can actually make baby-led weaning work. 

Friday Poetry: The Call

file0001783491009My husband shared this poem with me which he had read on The Art of Manliness.  I must admit to being a closet fan of that blog and wishing there was something similar for women.

I think everyone has a different call and we all “face the crashin’ lightnin'” in different ways. Having a baby was certainly one way I had to face up to nature. As I was giving birth, I felt I was facing up to life.

The poem describes some occupations as “dyin’ in yer pod.” As a teacher I’ve been so lucky to never has this feeling of boredom. Well, that’s not entirely true. Exam supervision is pretty soul destroying. Every teacher would agree that teaching is an exciting and varied job, with no one day like the next. Every day can be inspirational, challenging, exhausting and hilarious.

Thanks to one of my bossy friends, I’ve actually done white water rafting (I thanked her later for being so pushy). It was very out of character for me, but I absolutely loved it. However facing thirty two kids, in a packed Year 10 classroom, can be every bit as exhilarating as going down the “rippin’ plungin’ rapids”.

The Call
By: Earl H. Emmons

Did you ever have a longin’ to get out and buck the trail,
And to face the crashin’ lightnin’ and the thunder and the gale?
Not for no partic’lar reason but to give the world the laugh,
And to show the roarin’ elyments you still can stand the gaff.

Don’t you ever feel a yearnin’ just to try your luck again
Down the rippin’ plungin’ rapids with a bunch of reg’lar men?
Don’t you ever sorta hanker for a rough and risky trip,
Just to prove you’re still a livin’ and you haven’t lost your grip?

Can’t you hear the woods a-callin’ for to have another try
Sleepin’ out beneath the spruces with a roof of moonlit sky,
With the wind a sorta singin’ through the branches overhead
And your fire a gaily crackin’ and your pipe a-glowin’ red?

Don’t you often get to feelin’ sorta cramped and useless there,
Makin’ figgers and a-shinin’ your pants upon a chair?
Don’t you yearn to get acquainted once again with Life and God?
If you don’t, then Heaven help you, for you’re a dyin’ in yer pod.

Being Brave

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My brother is in Berlin at the moment. He shared this photograph which he saw at the Topography of Terror museum.

The man circled is August Landmesser.

I wonder how he must have felt when he didn’t raise his arm. Despite his act of courage, I doubt he felt very brave in the moment. What would those standing next to him have thought? They might have been envious of his integrity and wished to have his strength. Or they might have thought him a fool.

I’m grateful for seeing this photo.

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