Archive for the 'journal' Category

camping disasters – an epic – part one

This week Bean had Thursday and Friday off work so we decided to make the most of the four day weekend and go camping.  I should be sleeping in a tent again tonight yet here I am, at home, Saturday night recovering from the trauma of our prematurely aborted camping adventure.We really shouldn’t have even let it go on as long as we did, in hindsight the wisest move would have been to give up the first night.

It was truly awful. I don’t know if we could have had a more terrible time if we’d been trying!

I had been so looking forward to camping. I love camping.

We spent all of Thursday morning preparing our camping gear (most of it borrowed from Bean’s parents, some of it we already owned and the rest of it bought new) and packing the kombi before we set off around 2pm. On recommendation from Bean’s workmate we first went to Cape Riche, arriving at around 3.30pm.

Cape Riche is 18km down a corrugated gravel road, not the greatest of fun to drive down, so I’d hoped it would be great. Obviously hoping was futile because it was horrid. Black dirt everywhere, no shade, certainly no privacy and already completely full of Commodores, Falcons and four wheel drives emblazoned with Australian flags in celebration of Australia Day, a day we don’t recognise as being cause for celebration. Definitely not our scene. So, it was back down the 18km of gravel with a bump, bump, bump…

We stopped in at a general store in Wellstead and asked for advice on where to camp. We were told to try Boat Harbour 7km up the (sealed) highway and then 17km down another gravel road. A horrendously corrugated gravel road.

At Boat Harbour there was more black dirt, softer than at Cape Riche, and the poor kombi got bogged when Bean tried to turn around. Some generous folks towed us out and we discussed whether we’d stay there. Black dirt, deep water all together too close to the camp sites and very little privacy didn’t particular inspire either myself or Bean so we agreed not to camp there either. The people who pulled us out suggested another camp site but I was beginning to feel rather sceptical about taking other people’s word when they told us a camp site was “great”. It would appear that some people have differing opinions of what equates to a “great” camp site. Who’d have thought? People have different tastes! 

Back down that horrible gravel track, narrowly missing a collision with two rogue sheep, and we talked about whether we’d try somewhere else or just go home. Remembering Waychinicup, a camp site some friends had said was their favourite, we looked it up using the GPS on Bean’s phone. Brilliant! It was between home and where we were, with a short detour down yet another gravel road, so we thought we may as well check it out on the off chance it was awesome. When we got to Waychinicup and had a quick look around we realised it was indeed very nice, and also very full.

Disappointed, we drove away arguing about our next move. I was ready to go home and admit defeat, vowing never to attempt camping east of Albany again. I mean, why would I? With beautiful Denmark and Walpole lying west of Albany. Tall trees, nearby beaches, rivers… why would I choose scrubby coastal bush surrounded by brown paddocks and tree farms?!

Anyway, Bean wanted to check out the camp site suggested to us by the generous towing folks at Boat Harbour. They’d suggested Betty’s Beach, which was on the way home from Waychinicup.

Down another gravel road, we reached a point where we could turn left for Norman’s Beach or continue slightly right for Betty’s Beach. Norman’s beach was closer and by this stage it was getting late and we were a bit sick of gravel roads so we chose to turn left. Arriving at the camp site we noted some more black dirt (do we detect a theme here?), although it was in the shade so not hot under foot, and suitably private camping spots on the banks of a very shallow river.Feeling relieved that we’d at least found somewhere to pitch a tent for the night we decided to stay at least one night.

When we opened the tail gate of the kombi (one of the few doors with a brand new seal) we discovered that everything was covered in a thick layer of fine red dust from all the gravel roads. We brushed or shook off as much of the red dust as much as we could and hastily set up camp, racing against the setting sun and the ever increasing whines of tired, hungry children who’d been stuck in car seats for the past 4 hours! We hoped desperately to have food, shelter and bedding sorted before the fractious whinging became full blown meltdowns.

They coped so well really, stuck in the car with uncertainty hanging over their heads… Would we camp out? Would we go home and disappoint everyone? I was at the point of full blown meltdown and I am neither a 4 year old or a 2 year old.

Hope as we might, meltdowns did start before we had the camp properly set up so we settled for the quick dinner option of sausages with tomato sauce. No, vegetables not included. Eeep, the (rather dominant) health freak part of me wasn’t too impressed.

We then heated some river water to wash the sprogs who had managed to get themselves covered in bubble mixture and black dirt in the short time since we’d been there. We finally tucked the sprogs, and ourselves, in bed at about 10pm. What a horribly stressful afternoon!

One brilliant thing I can say about that camp site is that despite being right on the river’s edge we didn’t notice a single mosquito, very unlike our home which is just riddled with mosquitos. What a blessing! Moe reacts quite badly to mosquito bites, worse than the rest of us, so it was lovely to be outdoors of an evening and have no irritating mozzie bites to deal with.

That night Moe slept 8 hours straight. A real blessing, and a first. His longest unbroken sleep before that would have been around 6 hours. I’m still amazed that he slept so soundly on the air mattress next to me as I tossed and turned all night long, making it move a lot. At 6am he woke and the first word to escape his lips was,


We’d been telling him for days that we’d go camping at the beach and so there he was at 6am, desperate to go to the beach.

We got out our box of “just because we’re camping” cardboard flakes breakfast cereal and had a quick breakfast before grabbing the fishing gear and heading to the beach.

We’d been lulled to sleep the night before by the rhythmic crashing of the waves on the shore so we knew there’d be waves, but we were certainly not prepared for just how rough it was. It was totally unsuitable for sprogget swimming.

The river mouth provided no better swimming option either, being too hard for the sprogs to get down to.

The sprogs both cried in disappointment at how far they’d walked up a steep sand dune to get to a beach that was all together too dangerous for them so we decided to go for a day trip to Waychinicup. If we couldn’t camp there we could at least spend a nice morning there before coming back to our own camp site for lunch and a siesta.

We piled into the kombi and headed back up one gravel track and onto another, arriving at Waychinicup at 8.30am. On arrival we learned that a couple who had camped there the night before were leaving so we asked them if they’d mind us pitching our (older, smaller) spare tent at their site to claim it while we went back to our camp site at Norman’s Beach to pack up and relocate. They were very obliging so we got to it.

The swim could wait! We were going to camp there and spend three glorious days by those calm waters. It was time to get moving!

Back down the gravel track and onto the highway, and the kombi backfired somewhere along the highway. The kombi doesn’t normally backfire, and I joked that it was her way of vocalising her distaste for all the gravel roads we’d taken her down over the last 24 hours. I joked too soon…

A short way down the highway she conked out good and proper, and there was no starting her again. She really had been protesting about the gravel roads, or more to the point, the amount of red dust she’d sucked in to her engine…

My poor, faithful, reliable kombi. Oh my dear. I wanted to cry for my sweet car, that I love just a little more than a person probably should love a 41 year old hunk of metal.

After not too long a man pulled over to see if we needed help. We had condluded there’d be no fixing the kombi on the side of the road and he offered us a lift to the general store a few kilometres down the road. I declined, not wanting to take the sprogs in a car with no children’s seats. I suggested Bean go and I stay at the kombi with the sprogs. The man then told me it’d be getting unbearably hot on the side of that highway, with no chance of breeze. He’d just retired after 40 years as a cop and felt confident he could talk his way out of a fine on the off chance a police car was on the highway in the next 5kms. Not caring about a fine, but about the safety of my children I realised that the chances of having a car accident were slimmer than the chances of heat stroke from being stuck in the car for the next couple of hours (at least!) that it would take to get help 50km out of town. We decided to risk it, and strapped the sprogs in with regular seat belts.

When we got to the general store we bought ice creams and used a pay phone to call for help. To join road side assistance was going to cost more money than we had to spare and we couldn’t get through to Bean’s parents so Bean decided to hitch a ride into town to sort out some help. I stayed with the sprogs at the general store, sitting in the shade of some trees outside singing songs and making little people out of sticks, honkey nuts and dried leaves, for just over two hours until Bean came back with one of his parent’s cars.

Bean’s parents had loaned the car for the weekend so we finally moved our camp from Norman’s Beach to Waychinicup. At Waychinicup we ate a banana each then set up the tent and left it at that. The air mattresses were still deflated and the bedding left in the car. We took the sprogs for a swim at about 12.30pm then Bean left us at the water’s edge to drive back into town to get a trailer to tow the kombi home.

To be continued…

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As a teenager I began regularly rearranging my bedroom. I didn’t thoroughly clean it often, I was an untidy little grot, but when I did I usually rearranged it too. Every couple of months I’d give my room a proper Spring clean and shift the furniture around. My bed went in the middle of the room, against different walls, next to a desk, opposite a desk… I moved things around often to try and make the best use of the space, to make it an appealing and inviting space for me to spend my time in. Once I left home I started cleaning things more often and I also continued my rearranging, but having a whole house to play with I was able to do it with more than just a bed and desk.

Now, in the shed, I’ve been rearranging again.

Last week’s rearranging is the third incarnation of the “loungeroom” and “dining room”. Inverted commas there because really, the whole shed is about the size of your average Australian loungeroom and we’ve squeezed a kitchen, bathroom, loungeroom, dining room and effectively two bedrooms into that space!

Anyhow, last Wednesday was a hard day. I woke feeling worried about finances, worried that my car would run out of petrol on the way to or from the park, worried that Bean’s pay hadn’t hit his account yet but the direct debits had been taken out which had put the balance into negative. It felt (irrationally) as if this relatively short period of financial hardship would never end. Even though we know it will, it’s already begun to with Bean’s apprenticeship ending and his new job beginning. This recent blip is just a hangover from the apprenticeship, a bump in the road due to transitioning from one employer with a set pay day to another employer with a different pay day. This too, shall pass…

Wednesday morning I tripped over the pedestal fan on my way from the bedroom to the kitchen and decided that enough was enough. I needed to move things around again, to see if I could arrange things to give us a bit more floor space where we need it most.

The couch and the coffee table swapped spots, and it’s given us a good couple of square metres of floor space for playing where there was just a little walk way before. As soon as we’re able we’ll put the coffee table in storage with the few other bits of furniture we own that don’t live in the shed with us and we’ll put a proper (small!) dining table in it’s place. That’ll give us a few more options, a space to craft, eat and study. It’ll also get the children’s chairs out of here, those damned chairs take up a lot of space for such little bits of furniture!

posted by wildecrafted in journal and have Comments (6)

your body is not wrong…

This singlet is fabulous! I’d love to wear one at the gym I’ve just joined. Being that it’s a gym the join up was pretty centred around how “great” and “gorgeous” I look – probably because I fit into the narrow range of socially acceptable body sizes and I was wearing long pants so my hairy legs weren’t on show! No matter how much I stressed that I didn’t want to exercise to lose weight or tone up I was still reassured that I looked great. Argh! I have a strong body that needs to be cared for, but the exercise is for my mind more than my body anyway.

Click on the image for source.

I think a trip to the art store for screen printing supplies is in order…

posted by wildecrafted in journal,wilde crafts and have Comments (9)

what’s that gymbo?

This morning I joined a gym.

I’ve used gyms sporadically in the past. I had a gym membership when I first stopped doing tae kwon do and playing hockey a few years before I had Sprout, but I was never really motivated to go, I was young and single so I had plenty of opportunity to get moving. The reality of a gym membership then wasn’t as awesome as the idea had been. Really, I think I just wanted a bum like Britney Spears had at the time. That was before I learned about photoshop!

When Sprout was a little toddler I joined a pool with a gym. My sister was a member too, and we’d put Sprout and her slightly older cousin in the creche together until Sprout got used it to. It was great. I loved the chance to get my heart rate up, to do some aerobic exercise, and even more than that I loved being able to do it without Sprout attached to me. I loved the “me time” it offered.

Now that Moe is older, and has had experience at a creche while I did art journaling classes last year, I’m ready to join a gym again.

I had tried walking with the sprogs in the pram, but they don’t like being stuck in there and the weather here is so unpredictable I don’t know whether it’ll be raining all week or not. Walking doesn’t get my heart rate up either, which is what I need. I want aerobic exercise to vent some frustration and anger. Parenting in isolation is tough business and I tend to be quick to anger when I get no respite so I like to have an avenue that provides venting opportunities and “me time”. The gym fits the bill perfectly.

I visited yesterday and made an appointment to sign up today. Then last night I called a friend who has a membership at the same gym to ask her opinion of it. She actually didn’t want her membership anymore, since she can’t find time to get along to it, and so I had hers transferred to my name. Fabulous. It’s an older membership so it’s a cheaper membership than they offer now and it expires this May, so I’ll not be locked in to a 12 month membership. We don’t plan to stay here for 12 months, we’re hoping to move to Denmark mid year, so it’d be foolish to have a gym membership in a town 50km away from home. This way I can go along until we move, then let it go. Great!

I have an (un)fitness appraisal this Thursday morning, and I’ll get stuck into it after that. Oh I’m so looking forward to it!

I’ve never done group fitness classes before, I’ve just used machines and circuits. Anyone want to recommend a particular class? I figure I’ll do one or two classes a week and use the machines other times.

I won’t be too ambitious, but given how close it is to my home, I’m aiming for 3-4 sessions of 30-60 minutes each week. I’ll keep y’all posted.

posted by wildecrafted in journal and have Comments (4)

perth in pictures

A very tolerant old dog.

Gifts given and received, fun memories made with cousins.

Many amazing meals shared.

Funny toddler antics.

 Lots of time spent in water.

Total exhaustion…

We go home tomorrow.

posted by wildecrafted in journal and have Comments (2)

this is perth

Hello from sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny etc. Perth.

It was raining when we left Albany so it was quite a shock to arrive in Perth and pretty much just melt.

It’s funny how quickly one gets used to cooler weather, and forgets all about the horrid, oppressive heat of one’s birthplace.

“One” being me, of course.

We chose to move from Perth to Denmark for several reasons, one of which (right near the top of the list) was the weather. Of course, we aimed for Denmark and missed so we landed in Albany. Just short. We’ll get there soon enough. For now, Albany’s weather is kind enough to us.

Anyway, back to Perth. (Do I have to? Really?)

It’s hot here. Really, really hot. Whinge, whinge. It’s hot.

It’s been lovely seeing my family, and the few friends we’ve managed to see. The sproggets have had such a lovely, lovely time playing with their cousins and my appointment with the nutritional doctor, which I’ll probably write about when I get my head around all the information I’ve been given, was fantastic.



For those reasons I’m very glad we’ve come, and yet I’ll be very glad when we’re home again. Home where peak hour traffic doesn’t exist. Home where air smells fresher. Home where I can comfortably wear my jeans in the same week I can feel hot enough to go for a swim at one of the many gorgeous and deserted beaches nearby.

Oh yes, I am truly made for small town coastal life. Not that Albany is a small town, hey even Albany is too big for me but it’s quite a bit smaller than a city which is how I like my home to be. The city is the place to be for so many, but not for me. It’s nice to visit occasionally, to remember why I left. I’m just not made for such a busy place and I’m certainly not made for such a hot place!

Now that my weather whinge is out of the way, I’ve some reading to do. I’ll post more about what we’ve actually been doing in Perth, other than melting, in the next few days.

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a holiday

Since December 23rd Bean has been off work. He’ll return to work Monday 16th January, with a new employer. Originally he’d booked just next week off. He was supposed to work all days except public holidays between Christmas time and new year and the first week of January but his ex-employer is so quiet he asked Bean to take the extra time off. Lucky really, since Bean had planned to find alternative employment anyway. The job hunting took just one day, he cold called about a job that morning and was offered a job that afternoon.

Since this time off wasn’t planned, and has been organised a day at a time we haven’t really gone anywhere far from home. We’ve had a lovely Summer staycation here on the south coast, although some days the only hint it’s Summer has been the sunflowers in bloom! We’ve spent some time together, just regrouping and celebrating the end of Bean’s apprenticeship and we’ve spent some time with friends just a little way from our home. I had thought having all of us in the little shed a lot more than we normally are would drive me up the wall, but it’s been ok really. I’m pretty sick of it now, and I have a pretty short fuse because of it, but we’re about to have one week’s holiday from the little shed which is just perfect timing really.

Tomorrow we’re heading to sunny Perth. We’re looking forward to catching up with family and spending as much time with them as we can in the time we’re there. It’s particularly exciting to be visiting this time because aside from seeing the family who live in Perth we’ll be seeing my older sister and her family there too, they don’t live in Perth either so it’s great timing that we’ll all be there next week. Bean is looking forward to seeing my brother-in-law, I’m looking forward to seeing my sister, and the sproggets are excited to play with their cousins.

Tonight we’re packing clothes, road trip snacks (savoury muffins, popcorn, local cherries and local macadamias), and other random assorted things we think we need to take and hopefully all having a very early night before we set off at sparrow fart tomorrow.

See you on the Perth side. What a week we have planned!

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new look

Well folks, you may have noticed some slight changes on the blog.

Bean and I have refined it a bit, so it’s just how I want it now.

I’m so lucky Bean is fluent in geek speak and is willing to help me out here.

I’m lucky also that Bean can take a good photo, even though I don’t like having my photo taken. Now you can all see my smiling mug while you read my words.

Aren’t you so lucky?!

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reality check

The post I’m about to write is in part inspired by this post written by Cybele of Serendipity in Chaos which had me nodding along in agreement, but the real catalyst for me writing about it myself, instead of just reading Cybele’s words and nodding was a discussion I had with a friend this morning.

In fact, this post could really just be an open letter to that friend, with the hope that other readers might take some comfort in it too.

We hung out with our friends this morning for another meet up of the Denmark natural learners crew. We’re rocking that by the way, we’ve caught up quite a bit in the last couple of weeks and it’s been nice. I’m sure it’ll be even nicer when my family moves closer than 50km away from the rest of them too!

On the way to the meet up Bean and I talked about how refreshing it was to spend time with people who are very real. People who authentically express how they’re feeling, where they’re at, what’s going on for them. These people are people we don’t feel a need to put on a face for, because they’re just real so we can be too. There’s no feeling like we’re imposters around them, we don’t feel inadequate, we don’t feel that we have to put on a “perfect family” facade. We feel accepted and honored for being us, not for being something else. We can admit that homeschooling is hard at times (a lot of times!). We can admit that we sometimes wonder why the hell we’re doing it. We can admit that we’ve fantasised more than once this week about our lives in a parallel universe, the lives of us without children! We can admit that we’re not traveling so well and we don’t feel weak or inadequate for that. We don’t feel judged, we just feel understood.

So there we were, talking about the realness of that particular family when we pulled up in their driveway this morning.

We greeted each other, the sproggets all settled in to play with each other for a couple of hours, and we adults chatted.

My friend, this Mother I had just been admiring told me she’d read my blog and cried. She thought she was getting it wrong and I was getting it right. Which is just oh so wrong! I’m not doing it “right”. I’m just doing it the best I can. I’m doing it like an ordinary Mother.

One of my main motivations in keeping this blog is that I am such a damned pessimist that I need something to prompt me to be positive. Writing this blog forces me to look for the positives in my life so I can document them here. I want to write about the good things so when I look back on this time that my babies were so little I can be reminded of the wonderful bits. I find it easy to remember the bad bits without writing them down, but the good bits take a little more effort to remember. In a haze of exhaustion, feeling isolated and undersupported, I have a tendency to spiral into depression and while a private journal and my art journal have been places I’m able to write without censorship, this blog is the place where I write while wearing rose coloured glasses (most of the time!). Optimism doesn’t really come easily to me. I tend to be negative, and it’s a pattern I’m trying to change. I seem to be more positive now than I used to be, so this conscious effort to change is working, but it’s not easy and I find that I slip back into a pessimistic mindset like I slip into my comfortable old jeans.

Trying to focus on positives has been particularly hard for me over the last few months as we’ve navigated our way through financial stresses, employer induced stresses, study induced stresses, family induced stresses and the big one of living in a weeny little shed with a camp toilet and no washing machine (with a baby in cloth nappies) for 5 months. I yelled at my sproggets more than I want to remember. I yelled at their Dad too. I even told them all that having a family was the biggest mistake I’d ever made. I’ve done that more than once too! Oh how I needed this blog then, inspiring me to find the joy in my life over a long, wet Winter cooped up in this little space with two understimulated sproggets and a glorified bucket for a toilet. It was a glorified bucket that made a tough situation a little easier, a glorified bucket that I was extremely grateful for the loan of, but it was still not a patch on a real toilet. Nor is the shed a patch on a real house with room, a house with rooms! There’s only so many times I can fall over my children while they play in the too small living space we have before I start to lose my sense of humour and feel very smothered.

I don’t want anyone to read my blog and think for a second that I have it all together. I’m as fractured as the next person, parent or not, I just don’t blog about those bits so much. I yell, I swear, I say hurtful things, I cry, I rage and I have Mama tantrums. I have really hard days, and I have some days that just work. I like to write about the days that work because those posts are a bit of inspiration for me to read over the times when it’s not working, the crappy days. Also, it’s a bit embarrassing to write about the times I’ve sworn at Moe when he poked my chest and requested another freaking breastfeed, or how I told Sprout to just bloody well leave me alone because I didn’t want to listen to her whinging anymore. Those memories are etched in my mind anyway, I don’t want to write about them. The burning shame of being nasty to my babies because I just felt so overwhelmed by the enormity of parenting them. It’s not a nice feeling. It’s one I’m sure every parent knows, and one that’s hard to shake.

When Sprout was a newborn and my midwife was still visiting quite regularly for my antenatal appointments I told her I felt guilty about something I’d done (or not done?). Today I don’t even remember what it was, I’ve done so many more things in the time between then and now that I feel guilty about, but what I do remember is what my midwife said to me. She welcomed me to motherhood and told me I’d have a multitude of things to feel guilty about for the rest of my life! She was right, you know. I constantly question whether I’m doing the right thing, whether I’m giving my children a million and one reasons to be in therapy when they’re adults. Whether I’m giving them enough, or even too much.

All of that makes for kinda heavy blog fodder though, so while there is the odd post about the hard times and the inner turmoil, I try to keep it positive.

The thing I took away from today is that we can admire someone so much and not really let them know. You know? I had just been talking about how great this woman is, how much I enjoy being with her, and she was feeling down on herself. Someone might be bumbling through their life thinking they’ve got it wrong, thinking they’re pretty terrible, and all the while someone else might be simultaneously admiring them. So, I’m going to try to open up a bit more, to tell people what I love about them. I’m going to express my admiration because I think everyone needs a bit of admiration now and then.

I’ll start with the friend who has inspired this blog post because I don’t think I did a good enough job today of telling her how much I admire her.

I hope you’re reading this, friend, and I hope that if you’re crying this time it’s tears of joy and love for yourself because I think you really are quite wonderful!

posted by wildecrafted in journal and have Comments (5)

playing with dolls

When I was a child I had an impressively large collection of Barbie dolls. Many of them were hand-me-downs from my older sister who had lovingly cared for her dolls and was utterly dismayed when I got my claws into them… I thought I could improve on Barbie’s face with a little biro (ok, a lot of biro!). Our younger sister was worse still, she pulled their heads off so often that they became loose and would fall off during play. When that happened she would always say, in character,

“Oh no! My head fell off, just wait while I pick it up.”

She also cut their hair, very short. She cut it when the head was attached to the body, and when the head was separated from the body. She wasn’t fussy, if it had hair, she’d cut it.

Fast forward a couple of years and I began buying Barbies of my own with my pocket money. I lovingly cared for them, just like my older sister had cared for hers. I adored my Barbies, they were my favourite toys to play with. They had managed to keep me captivated all through my childhood. They were a toy that evolved with me, from the basic doll play of a young child to more elaborate character play spanning several “episodes” where I created personalities for my favourite dolls and used them to act out long and involved plots. I played with Barbies a lot, I even played with them when I was in high school. I had two friends, one from primary school and one I’d met at high school, who also played with Barbies still. I’m certain there were more of us, but it wasn’t cool to admit it so we pretended to everyone else we knew that we didn’t play Barbies when we visited each other. No, we “hung out” (playing Barbies!).

As a young teenager my Barbie play moved from character play to character and scene creation. I created a character in my mind, gave her a name and made her clothes out of old socks and fabric from my Mum’s stash. I then built her an environment that expressed her personality. I’d make dioramas out of cardboard boxes, poster paint, fabric and craft glue. I never really played anything out once I’d created a character and an environment. I just posed the doll in there for a little while until I felt inspired to develop a new character.

One sunny day I was in the backyard hand sewing some clothes for a Barbie when a friend of my Mum’s (who I didn’t like then, and who I still find incredibly irritating all these years later) came out and teased me for playing with Barbies. She shamed me, told me I was “too old”, and asked me when I was going to grow up like everyone else in high school.

After that I decided it was time to pass my entire collection on to my younger sister who wasn’t particularly interested. It wasn’t long before we were packing the dolls, their horses, their cars, their accessories (I told you I had an impressively large collection!) into big boxes and giving them to the little girls who lived across the road.

I was really sad to see my Barbies go. I hadn’t wanted to stop playing with them.

Now we’ll fast forward a few more years. I’d finished high school, long since forgotten about the Barbies. I was at uni and I met a fella who sparked my interest in feminism. Here’s a funny fact for you… most women I know remove their body hair for men, but for this particular man I stopped removing my body hair. He told me he’d never been with a woman who shaved her arm pits, and being eager to please that particular man I stopped shaving mine, realised how much easier life became and in the 8 years since I’ve not looked back. I’ll have to remember to thank him next time I see him! Anyhow, I digress…

So, back to the Barbies, my young hairy self began to critique fashion dolls. They’re a cog in the huge machine of patriarchal oppression. They create unrealistic “beauty” ideals for young girls. They perpetuate intolerance. They represent a narrow expression of femaleness. Etcetera…

I decided then that no child of mine would ever play with fashion dolls! It’s so easy to idealise the way we’ll parent when we’re not yet parents, isn’t it?! So, I the hairy, feminist, idealistic parent of as-yet not conceived children would not set my child up to idolise a symbol of opression. When my daughter was born I adhered to it too. I ranted to my family, I gave strict instructions to them all to never, never, never buy my daughter a Barbie doll, and they’ve been obeyed for 4.5yrs (those strict instructions still stand, in case you were wondering). I had my older sister on my team also. We were the anti-Barbie brigade and you should have seen us go!

Let’s fast forward again shall we, because this story is already getting ridiculously long… We’ll fast forward to last week. Boxing Day to be exact. The day I, the hairy anti-Barbie feminist Mama, bought THREE fashion dolls. One for Sprout. One for Moe. One for me!

I know, I know. Those who know me in real life can pick your jaws of the floor now and allow me to explain myself.

Back in October 2010 I wrote this post about toy weapons and my (then) feelings toward them. The first comment, from Kestrel, on that post is one that introduced a whole new perspective to me. Here is the first part of Kestrel’s comment, for those who don’t want to click the link.

There is an essay in Katrina Kennison’s “Mitten Strings For God” which you may find helpful. She has tow sons and one has never shown any interest in things that (to quote from memory) slice, swat, explode, shoot but her other son has always been fascinated by pirates, swords and guns. Because of her own attitudes towards weapons that son began to name himself “bad”.

I began to wonder if it was ok to impose my own value judgements on my children and the things they expressed interest in. I know I hate it when someone poo-poos something I’m interested in. I know I hated it when my Mum’s friend did it to me as a young teenager. What happened to me then, being shamed into giving up something I really enjoyed, could very well be what I would end up doing to my own children. The thought that I could say or do something that would lead my children to believe that they were bad because I didn’t approve of their interest was really upsetting. After lots of discussion with myself, with Bean and with other parents, I resolved to be a bit less black and white about everything my children showed an interest in. Sure, I can discuss issues with my children, I can explain why guns are harmful, why Barbies are harmful etc. but at the end of the day, I’m not interested in creating a forbidden fruit or creating a situation where my children believe there’s something wrong with them because they like something I don’t approve of.

For the record, Sprout is really fascinated with killing monsters at the moment. She’s hugely into guns, though she hasn’t got any toy weapons she still uses sticks to pretend. I’ve been told it’s very normal for 4 year old children to be into weapons and fighting games. I view it as an opportunity to discuss violence with her. She’s reminded regularly to play carefully with her”guns”. She knows (though sometimes needs reminding) that if someone says or otherwise indicates that they don’t want to play that game that she’s expected to respect that and stop the game. She knows she’s not bad for playing at killing monsters. She knows she’s not bad for telling someone she just killed them. We’ve been able to give boundaries, while not stifling the phase she’s in right now.

So, how does that tangent relate to me, anti-Barbie me, buying fashion dolls for my children?!

I’ve taken Sprout into toy stores a few times, and every time since around the time she turned four she’s asked me about the fashion dolls. I’ve dismissed it, told her they’re just toys, told her they’re for doll’s houses, told her all sorts of things without trying to put (too much of) my own value judgement on it. She was never going to get one, right? So what did it matter? Wrong. She kept saying things like,

“Oh I really wish I could have one of them.”

And I would reply,

“Why? What makes you want one?”

She could never give me an answer beyond saying that she just wanted one.

I remembered how much I had loved playing with my Barbies, and felt like a bit of an arsehole for telling her she couldn’t have one. I still couldn’t get past the Barbie thing though. All the bloody make up. Ewww. I started doing some research on Barbie-sized dolls that weren’t Barbie. I was looking for something my daughter could relate to a little more. I found a few, but the ones that stuck out at me were the Liv Dolls. They were inexpensive, unlike the Japanese dolls I’d found that were a bit more realistic. The Liv Dolls don’t tick all my boxes. In fact, they tick few. They still have skinny bodies, disproportionately big heads (reminding me somewhat of starved catwalk models) and flawless skin/make up.

What they did offer, aside from a price tag that make them attainable, was more realistic eyes, an articulated body, flat feet that can wear normal shoes and hair that can be replaced with a new wig so hair cutting wouldn’t be such a big deal.

I decided to buy a doll for each of the sproggets, and one for me, so there’d be enough for us to play with all together. If I’d just got one for Sprout then Moe may have decided to wreck the game since he couldn’t play. I also wanted to play with my daughter, so that’s where my doll comes in to the equation.

While I was reading about dolls I came across a few tutorials for how to remove the stock face paint on dolls and how to repaint faces and seal them so they could be played with without rubbing the paint off. I also found some inspiration for handmade doll’s clothes, which I thought couldn’t possibly be too hard… I was slightly wrong there! Sewing anything in miniature is an exercise in frustration. Aaaaanyway…

I decided that for the cost of these dolls I could wipe one of the faces, and try my hand at customising. At the very worst we’d just have a doll with unpainted features, it’d have to be better than the stock make up look, surely?

So I got the materials I needed (acetone based nail polish remover, acrylic paints, matte varnish, gloss varnish) and had a go.

After wiping stock paint off and before painting
After face repaint.

Turns out I’m not so bad at painting doll’s faces. After I did the first one Sprout asked me to do hers, she wanted freckles on her doll too. I got a wig for Sprout’s doll that is closer to her hair colour so her doll shares her eye and hair colour. She has named her doll “Annie” and Annie comes to a lot of places with us. Annie originally had inserted eyelashes like the others I’ve done, but Sprout wanted yellow eyelashes and on learning that I can’t buy yellow eyelashes she decided she’d rather Annie have no eyelashes than brown ones!

Annie, dressed as a pumpkin!

I’ve made 3 or 4 t-shirts for Annie (and friends), a couple of skirts, a couple of dresses, some overalls and a pair of pants.

I have since wiped the paint off my doll, but left Moe’s for now since Moe broke the leg on his doll and has shown that he’s still too young to be interested in dressing dolls.

My doll

I have also spent this week customising dolls for my niece and nephew. The children of aforementioned older sister, who is also anti-Barbie! With my sister’s permission I’ll be giving my 9 year old niece and 5 year old nephew their first fashion dolls. A cowgirl and a farmer…

So, it’s not a perfect solution. There is still something anti-feminist about them, but it’s been a good compromise for our family, and at the end of the day I have to acknowledge that despite my obsession with fashion dolls as a child and young teenager (and even now, as an adult I suppose), I’m still hairy and damned happy about it!

posted by wildecrafted in education,journal,wilde crafts and have Comments (9)