Looking for what you want to see

looking at eggs

My four year old son has an uncanny knack for finding insects. Everywhere he goes, he finds little animals, or evidence of them, including munched leaves or nearly-microscopic eggs, and less salubrious things like poo or molts. Even today as we were running errands around the village, he quickly let go of my hand, nipped into a blackberry bush and within seconds shouted, “I’ve found a caterpillar!” Marveling at his ability to find these little creatures, especially as they are often hiding on the underside of leaves, I said, “How do you manage to find those insects? You’re so good at it!”

He replied, “It’s because I have perfect eyesight.” I laughed, but then he added, “It’s also because you’re not looking for them.”

We walked silently home because he gave me an awful lot to think about. No, I guess I’m not looking for them. Insects, after all, are his life’s passion. Just about everything he does is focused on finding insects. So naturally he will see them.

But more than that, there’s a certain quality of noticing going on here that means that he is making a point of looking for what he wants, of passing each moment mindful of his surroundings and looking out for what matters to him.

In my parenting life, I find that I often see what I’m looking for. When I get bogged down by my children’s arguments, I notice that they seem to be arguing all the time. When I feel that I’m constantly at loggerheads with one of my children, I conclude that we are at odds all the time. When the kitchen is a mess, suddenly I’m noticing all the other places in the house that are also a mess.

Lately I’ve been practicing looking out for what I want to see. I keep my eyes peeled for the times when my children are loving being with each other, like when they were holding hands during a scary moment at the cinema yesterday, or when they wrap their arms around each other as an older one is reading the littles a book, or like today when they built a fort out of cardboard and played together with relish. I am trying to notice the times when my children and I seem to be in a flow, when we are really connecting with each other, when I talk and it feels like they are really hearing me, and when they confide in me and I feel like I can feel their words planting themselves in the soil of my heart.

As a home educator, I am constantly aware of “teachable moments.” Those are the times when we all have a chance to learn and discover and have our questions answered. Being aware of those moments as they arise has slowed us down and enriched our daily lives—life becomes one, uninterrupted teachable moment. I am noticing how every member of my family is learning every day.

Search a plant for caterpillars and you won’t find just one, you’ll see several. Your eyes suddenly attune themselves to the shape and colour, look! There they are! Give something your attention and you’ll notice it more and more. What you notice tends to grow. Unlike my four year old son, I don’t have perfect eyesight. But I know what I’m looking for, and I’m practicing intently and relentlessly focusing my gaze on it.

I’m also getting better at finding caterpillars.

©2014 Lisa Hassan Scott.

Introducing: poetry

urchin

Perhaps not what you’re used to seeing here, today I am sharing poetry. I have been writing poems for twenty years or more. Writing them in my journal is one thing, sharing them widely is another. My friend and fellow writer, Angie, has been encouraging me to continue writing… and to think about sharing. I’ve been thinking. And thinking some more.

Sometimes my poems deal with motherhood, loss, anxiety, disappointment and love. But some of my poems are simply wordplay. A desire to poke a stick at a seemingly-inert pile of words, just to see what they will do. They’re about fun and entertainment. The first poem I have ever shared, here with you, is such a poem. It’s a poem about how children hear and understand things that adults say, sometimes like the garbled and misunderstood lyrics of a pop song. I hope it will make you smile.

Confusion

When I was a child

if someone angrily accused me of being

selfish

I’d wonder how I resembled a

prawn

and what on earth they had against

shellfish.

 

 

©2014 Lisa Hassan Scott.

 

Being elsewhere, writing elsewhere

Vatersay

It’s the end of August and soon it will be time for me to emerge from the semi-cryogenic state that characterises my summers. 18 years ago, as an American young adult on a backpacking trip around Europe, it was hard for me to understand why everything on this continent seemed to come to a grinding halt in August. Shops closed, rail schedules changed, restaurants had little signs in their windows announcing closure for a whole month. A whole month?! Madness!

Having settled here and adopted the ways of my foster country, I have completely embraced that halt that comes with August (who wouldn’t?). I make no phone calls (everybody is away anyway). I do no business (they’re all closed). I don’t go out much, and if I do, it’s to find more trees to enclose me, more green underfoot, more blue above me.

Enclosed in this cocoon, I find that creativity comes alive. Every day I am writing in my journal, enjoying the way words hold hands to form pictures. So while this blog has been dormant for a little while, I do hope to return to it when I have regained feeling in my fingers and toes, stretched my limbs and had a big yawn.

If you’re interested, I’ve contributed a few pieces elsewhere.

Here is a piece about cluster nursing, featured in the most recent issue of Breastfeeding Today.

I’ve contributed twice to the Mud Puddles to Meteors blog, with photos and words about two of my family’s favourite places. Here’s one about Rhossili Beach and the South Gower Coast and another about Huishinish Point.

 

The last sip of coffee

Like most writers, I write an awful lot more than I publish. I have several journals on the go: one for evening gratitudes, one for daily writing and two related to home educating my children. Although this blog has been rather quiet of late, words are still circling in the aether around me and many of them land in one of these four journals (or alternatively on the back of a coffee-stained envelope in the kitchen).

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Freedom to be Myself

Having a snail crawl across my arm does not feature strongly on my bucket list. But my four year old son delights in it. Picking up insects and carrying them around is not what floats my boat. But gosh, my son LIVES for it.

snail arm

Putting makeup on and taking it off again leaves me cold. I never brush my hair because it’s so short it’s hardly there. I don’t wear pink, sparkly clothes and skip around the house singing “Frozen” songs. But my 8 year old daughter relishes every chance to use a potion or cream, a brush or a comb, and has so much music in her heart that she sings in her sleep.

I’m not raising my children to be me. I’m not raising my children to please me.

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Little reminders: compassion, learning and connection

Sometimes it takes little reminders to see things through my children’s eyes. I’ll be going along with my day, working with them on their maths problems, supporting them in their projects, telling them how to spell ‘Wednesday’ properly, making family meals, you know… being the parent. Then something happens that draws me up short and for a moment, I’m looking at the world through my child’s eyes. Today was a good example.

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Mind Body Love – wonderful new book for mothers

I’m really pleased to have been invited to contribute to a wonderful new book for mothers called Mind Body Love, edited by Kathryn Pagano and Merle Carver Allmond.  My piece, “The Day the Wardrobe Fell,” shares space with some delicious recipes, inspirational words and nourishing projects like making bath salts or flavoured waters. It’s a publication that I’m especially proud to be a part of because all of the proceeds from the sale of the book (just 5 USD!) will buy Safe Birth Kits through Rescue Gifts. A really worthy cause.

To find out more and to buy a copy of the e-book, follow this link

Me time

“You need to get more time for yourself! You need some ‘me’ time!” I didn’t miss the irony when, earlier this week, a health care practitioner remonstrated me about the busy nature of my life, then in the next breath advised me to sign up for the extra classes he offers. Didn’t he know that in order to get to this appointment on time I had to start preparations the day before? Dinner had to be easy so that I could feed the family before I left. I worked out when it should be served, counting back the hours on my fingers to determine what time it should go in the oven. My husband agreed to go into work early so he could get home in time to stay with the children. As soon as his bike swept into the drive, I dashed to the car, slammed the door and sped to the appointment.

I was on time! It was a triumph! I breathlessly walked into the office and sat down, my heart racing, sweat dripping down the small of my back. When he gave me his prescription (more me time, plus an extra class to fill that me time) it took enormous effort not to roll my eyes to the ceiling and wonder at this man’s failure to understand the reality of my life.

Daisy St F

Only this morning the four year old upended a bag of lentils onto the sitting room floor, a tide of orange wholefood goodness spreading across the wood. Only this morning my daughter in her frustration screamed at me so loudly that my ears ached and rang in the moments that followed. Only this morning I emptied and filled the dishwasher, prepared all three of our day’s meals, wiped the surfaces and the floor in the kitchen, gave three children three lessons in fractions, subtraction and number formation, listened to the 8 year old read, applauded the 11 year old when she played her latest clarinet piece, hung washing on the line, took it off again when the rain came down, mentored each of my children in their self-led projects, got us all out the door to the library (paid the overdue fines) then piano lessons (only 3 minutes late, thank you very much), and… I breathed. I took a sip of cold tea. I thought about all I had done. I closed my eyes and slowed my breath. Phew.

We all make choices about the way we live. My choices include being a stay at home parent, working part-time outside the home. I home educate my children and from birth have chosen to keep them close to me. These are my choices. There’s not a lot of room in my life for me time of the sort most people suggest or seem to think a mother is due. This means that I am tired most of the time, that I carry out mundane tasks for much of my day, that many of my friendships have fallen by the wayside. I have, for the moment, put aside my career aspirations and many of my personal interests. What I choose to do with my time has changed. I have to be choosy; I have to get the most bang for my buck. I prioritise those things that nourish me the most.

I don’t go on spa weekends.

I don’t have romantic meals at fancy restaurants with my husband (well, I did once, back in 2010).

I don’t have any local relatives who could lovingly spoil my children while I spend time developing my interests or go shopping.

I don’t get large swathes of time. I accept the small morsels that fall from the family table and I learn to savour them. Mussing then smoothing my son’s lemony hair; the feel of the tiny bones within my daughter’s pliable hand; the glint of sun on my eldest’s dewy freckled cheek. I store away these little moments and allow them to nourish my heart. They are gifts that I receive every day.

Of course I want time without the children too: to concentrate on my own projects, to sit quietly in meditation, to have a run on a country road. Without it, life feels off-kilter and resentment builds. But I can’t wait around for an hour or two of free time to miraculously arrive. Because it won’t. Me time is reading a book before bed. It’s staring off into space and counting my breaths for a few minutes once the littlest one has finally fallen asleep beside me in the evening. It’s ten minutes of Yoga postures and ten minutes of meditation every day, in spite of the chaos and noise. It’s a few extra minutes of hot water pouring down my back in the shower once my ablutions are complete. It’s watching through the kitchen window as the birds peck at the feeder as I surreptitiously sneak chocolate into my mouth.

Now and again I get a long run or a few hours to write. I make the most of these occasions, but they’re not the norm. I accept that this is the way my life is right now. A time will come in the not-too-distant future when the amount of time I have to myself will grow. I can see it happening already. Right now, I’m making the most of what I have, stolen pockets of time and plenty of tender moments and I’m savouring it.

And guess what, Mr health care practitioner? I’m not going to that damned class.

©Lisa Hassan Scott 2014.

With special thanks to Amanda Mays for her helpful comments on this piece.

Spinning wheels & not-missing

My friend Colin once accused me of being a completer-finisher. Apparently that’s a personality type that likes to complete and finish a job. Yup, that’s me. I love the scratch of my pen across the last chore on my to-do list. I love ticking that empty box with a flourish. Making lists helps me to manage the home, my volunteer and paid work and my own interests and hobbies. Crossing off the items on those lists leaves me feeling accomplished, and able to sit down and relax at the end of the day.

Having three home educated children means that I don’t often get through my to-do list. There are days when I don’t even get one task completed. It’s all I can do to get up, dress myself and feed the family. Standards have dropped to the point where my four year old chooses to cut holes in a pillowcase and wear it as clothes all day, and I just shrug my shoulders and write an amusing Tweet about it.

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