Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Starshine on a string

art journal 2011

So, the last week and a half have not been easy in the land of Tam. It started off with me running a low level depression which evolved into a more darker depression and then transformed into a more lighter space (this afternoon), luckily. I've also had a really bad cold and have generally not been well physically (back ache and rheumatism flare up - no pregnancy sickness or anything like that btw, I didn't get sick with Dylan and looks like I won't with this one either, but I digress).

Dylan has been really sick though recovering now and he has been really difficult for me behaviourally. (yeah, if it's not the sleeping thing another difficulty will pop up, I've been told this is the story of parenthood .. sigh).

Basically, lately, everything with him is drama. Putting on clothes, changing his nappy, going in the pushchair, not being allowed holding a sharp knife, wiping his snotty nose, cleaning his face etc etc, it's all things he doesn't want to do and protests loudly and violently each time we attempt one such activity. (Mostly he cries or throws a tantrum of some sorts).

This is incredibly draining for me. I find it so so unpleasant to have this 'battle of wills'. And I feel so 'hard done' by because we, as parents, give Dylan so much freedom and choice compared to other parents and so it feels unfair that he won't cooperate with things as simple as 'putting on your trousers'. It zaps me of all energy, just one of those battles drains me for the week and they can happen several times in a day.

With all this comes; 1. self doubt ("what is we are doing so 'wrong' that makes him so defiant and non-cooperative?") 2. guilt ("i really don't want to be with him if he's like this, it zaps me from all my energy, i'm such a terrible mother, how can i not want to be with my own child?") 3. self judgement ("you are just too lazy and wary to discipline him properly") 4. confusion/ inner dialogue ("i don't want to shout at him/ get angry with him, i also know shouting isn't effective anyway - so what is effective? is gentle parenting just not getting us anywhere? i am incapable of being a 'nazi parent' - is either option then not desirable? am I just left between a rock and a hard place?") 5. exhaustion 6. sadness 7. depression.

art journal 2011

Now, before you start connecting to the difficult stuff, I am currently in a much better place as Andy, Dylan and I have spent an afternoon in the park together and Andy and I were able to really talk and think of strategies to deal with the situation (plus I had a chocolate icecream which always helps! ;)). So, the description of the difficulty above is all about the last week or so and has now changed. I think that the fact that I'm feeling lighter has also made me able to write because I was so down last week I could barely muster up the most basics of tasks.

Anyhoo: in summary: I've been having a tough time dealing with Dylbee's frustrations and needs for freedom and choice and as a consequence have been feeling really low because of it.

I know this is a common phase in toddlerhood (testing the boundaries and really wanting to gain independence), so I know we're not alone, but we do have a more unconventional approach to child rearing so it's not easy to find the gentler approach to sorting out these problems. I know distractions is a method and reinforcing positive behaviour etc, so we're on that, but still, the whole thing is not easy by any means.

I was saying to Andy earlier that I always thought it was a bit of a cliche when people said that 'parenting was the hardest job they had ever had' and now I know that to be a truth truer than true. It *is* the hardest job I've ever done, harder than market research, harder than working in a laundry factory (which I did once for 6 weeks when I was 16) and much harder than being a full time artist and online teacher. It is a relentless, sometimes painful, deeply frustrating, unforgiving job. It can zap you of all you have inside of you and more.

It is a spiritual slap in the face sometimes as it requires a 'giving in' and a 'letting go' of all that you deem is important to you. It requires a disappearing of self, a humility and an attitude to 'serve'. It is the ultimate zen practise. (And I suck at the whole thing, lol -> I'm sooooo resisting, resisting, resisting).

OF COURSE, there are the amazing bits too. It's like this parenthood thing lives on both sides of the spectrum, you have amazingly hard and amazingly joyous moments.

Like, when your toddler hides under a towel making funny noises or gives you a huge sloppy snotty kiss without you expecting it. Or when he snuggles up to you on the couch when he watches waybuloo. Or the way his face lights up when he goes down the slide or when he swings high on the swings. The way he shouts DAAAA DAAAA really loudly to get his daddy's attention. Or the way he suddenly likes daddy's couscous food. Or the way his hair sits like little Mohawks on his head and how he suddenly knows how to put a puzzle together. The way he lights up when he sees you because he hasn't seen you for 7 hours. There are a million amazing moments and a million difficult moments.

dylan on a swing :)

This is it. Sitting in the fire. This is all about presence, being with what is.

Friday night, I was in tears, just crying and crying. Same this morning, feeling absolutely miserable. And oh the irony of feeling that I'm going through my darkest (so far) time with Dylan the week after I found out I am pregnant again and thinking to myself: "effing hell what are we doing having a second one?!"

And then I look at the weekly pregnancy info and read that this baby is now the size of a blueberry and that is so cute in my head, I explode a little inside and there it is; the first real bonding. I have a strong feeling the baby is a blueberry girl, very cool if it's a blueberry boy too, but my senses say a girl. And I think about this blueberry girl and all my doubts dissipate, even though she too will probably not want to wear her trousers when she is 19 months old and she'll drive me to despair not wanting to sit in her pushchair or smearing yogurt and snot all over my trousers. And I'll realise again that it's about acceptance and giving in and going with what is and presence, awakeness and presence. That is the river, that is the flow.

But, this is also about self-nurturing and self love and knowing when to take that break before you break. And I'm well aware of that and I'm taking steps. I'm art journalling more and I made a few dollies and I'm taking it much easier with my work load.

The problem with me as well is that when I do catch a virus it impacts on my RA, so I both have to fight off a virus (feeling all snotty and coughing and sore throat etc) while also then flaring up with the RA - massive joint pains) AND I'm pregnant too which is exhausting. So, physically it's even harder to deal with an irate toddler who insists on stabbing himself with the sharpest knife he can find ...

Anyhoo, so I need rest, TLC, love, kindness, empathy, connection, belonging, self love and all them other nice things we tend to forget to give ourselves.

I think I may book myself in for a spa day soon (haven't ever done that before!), I desperately want a pedicure too now that spring is a'coming. :)

So, there you have it, that was my week and a half and the turmoils of my soul, aren't you glad you stopped by? ;)

And here some more of my new art.

art journal 2011

art journal 2011

Oh and look how cool my 'paint over collage' prints look!

paint over collage prints!

paint over collage prints!

And here a sneak peak at my booootiful dollie who I looove. The wig took me many hours and I ended up covered in mohair, including the insides of my nose. :) More on her soon. x


Thanks for listening pretty reader, I appreciate 'being heard' by you.


Oh ps. Andy is my starshine. He's so amazing in the middle of all of the dark stuff. He's my rock, my all. <3


  1. Oh Tam, have a hug on me. I remember that battle of wills phase so well. It sounds like you are already doing the right things - distraction etc... Whoever said life was easy eh. I totally feel for you with the depression and tiredness. I've been fighting depression this year then a virus which has knocked me for 6 for 3 weeks which I just can'#t seem to fight off. In a few weeks' time we'll look back on this when we're bouncing with energy and joy and laugh right? Just remember how much creativity and motivation you have given all of us who take your courses and follow your blog. You are a special lady. Little Dylan is just putting you through your paces but unfortunately at a time when you're least able to cope with it. Sending you warm get well messages and feelings of support.

  2. Aw tam dont worry I know that dylbie will behave better as gets older, i was exactly the same way. I had told my mom that i would NOT use the potty but I eventually grew out of that stubborn stage.so dont worry sweet heart(:
    And I hope that u'll reach a patch of peace and be able to rest up there for a while(:
    big big bear hugs!!

  3. Parenting is a couragous act and these little beings come to us...through us...yet shape us. You are doing what you are supposed to and you are doing it the right way. Dylan and little blueberry baby picked you with a knowing that you and Andy are perfect for their life expereince. It can be draining, yes...I remember all so well and my little Maya, 7 now, still feels like the biggest part of my path in the shaping of my existence. You really are a wonderful Mama!

  4. The little ones all go through this process. It's part of growing up and being independent eventually. It is frustrating for the parent, but it does get better. Both my sons went through it, and are now grown up into very nice young men.

    Take care of yourself (chocolate ice cream is very good for that ;-) Love the new art work.


  5. And I must add that a little blueberry girl sounds awesome!!:D

  6. Tam to use a quote I heard, grandchildren are the blessings we receive for not killing our children. LOL You seem to have a good handle on everything and realize these things are only temporary. Your Art is beautiful and you have so much to be thankful for. Don't forget.

    Hugs XX

  7. Hugs, hugs, hugs from me. I am new to your blog having just discovered it last week and it is SOOOOOOO inspirational, I think you are awesome. I just love your journal pages and on and I am going to sign up for 21 Secrets just to learn how to do your paint over collages.

  8. awe, Tam sounds like you are in the thick of things at the moment not easy juggle everything when you are feeling poorly. Hope the RA settles soon. Just remind yourself your are right where you should be...even if it doesn't feel like it!

    Take care.xx

    btw a blueberry girl sounds fab! ;) & your prints look gorjuss!

  9. You are so not alone. I've been where you were last week....I unwillingly visit several times a year as I learn and grow with my 2 1/2 yr old.

    Take it day by day and know that you are SO NOT alone in this. Hugs and love from all of us. And schedule that pedicure and day spa STAT!

  10. I am a grandmother now but I am seeing all these same things with my daughter's 20 month old son right now. They are testing their boundaries and it is a battle of wills for sure. He is a precious little boy and he looks just like a little mini you! Can't wait for your teaching lessons on the paint over collage on the 21 secrets workshop!

  11. Depression colors everything when you are in the midst of it. Once you can recognize that, it's a little bit easier not to beat yourself up for the way you are feeling. Tam, you are a gal with a whole lot on your plate. I think you're doing an amazing job with it all. I don't think *I* could do it. It sounds like you know how to be gentle with yourself. That's important. Remember, the darkness always turns back into light. Hugs!

  12. Tam, Do you realize what an amazingly stong person you are to be raising a toddler, being pregnant and dealing with RA? Just your hormones can trigger a flare. Then Dylbee's terrible 2's and a flu/cold. It's a lot! You are doing great. And, creating and teaching - what a full life. It is hard but you are strong enough! The depression will pass and I do understand how it feels when you are in it and feeling physically puny too. It can get heavy and dark. And thru all of this look at the beauty you create from your soul! I send you a huge hug and know that I care. You will survive, you will thrive! Hugs, Jessica W.

  13. Pretty soon; you'll have them both by your side and you'll be making ART *Together! How cool is that!

  14. Hey Tam, I feel for you. Both me and my partner have RA so I completely understand about the flare ups and how it is made worse when you have a virus.

    My partner has 3 children too, two of which are 3 and 4 and a half and it really can be a battle of wills. When the RA is taking hold and they are pulling your hands, or you are stuggling to get clothes on them, it really does zap your energy. But like you say, they then do something so cute and adorable that you turn to mush.

    Book yourself a spa day soon and it will get better.

    Big Hugs xx

  15. Hi Tam

    I will not comment on your pressures with Dylan a I have no experience with small children, although I have my own thoughts but I dont think you would appreciate them! So I will shut up! I will however say that your recent work is fabulous and I think you are brilliant xxxxx

  16. Dear Tamara,

    By chance I stumbled upon your blog today. Pregnant again? Congratulations! Joris and I still have no kids, but we both teach 360 kids per week in total ;-) What I've noticed is this: I also don't want to be a nazi-teacher, but I do remember some things from 'The Nanny'-tv-programm about being very clear on rules and bounderies that even very young kids understand. A clear presented non negotiable choice between 2 simple options of behaviour and consequences (consistently applied as a mantra, because they really forget and need to be reminded untill it 'sets' into their system) does give a lot of space and energy back in the long run. When investing in new behaviour it takes time and effort, but it also gives you a personal goal and when doing it in babysteps, you can more easily keep track of the little daily successes that do happen! But I agree, it is tiring and when your body is not cooperating that can really drain you. SPRING is here, trees and flowers are starting to blossom... the season to boost your D3-levels is just around the corner and when once boosted again, that will help with all the moody stuff!

    Lots of love!

  17. I'm amazed how you can put everything down like this.. and be truly honest to your feelings.. I still pretend..and hide.. I'm going through adjustments of my little one to close 3 years gap... and it's not what I have imagined.. I thought when my little one comes back, it would be the most wonderful thing in the world.. and I'm covered in dissatisfaction, fatigue, discontent, guilt and just really tired... but the day goes on... this too shall pass.

  18. Hi Tam,
    I've been there. Twice. Now I'm there again, for the upteenth time: the "little" on is 8 and he's so much smarter than I am that he knows better for everything (which TV programs he's allowed to watch, which computer games to play and even buy ... And the big one is a girl in the middle of her teen tantrums and you better brace yourself, 1st, girls are more difficult, and 2nd, because it gets worse before getting better.
    That said, you need a couple of simple tricks to cope and to make him think that he's the one deciding. For example, when it's time to put his trousers on, give him a choice of 2 equally sensible pairs. When it's time to eat, give him a choice of 2 or 3 spoons of the food he's supposed to eat (but not a choice of 2 or 3 different foods, you'll get even more exhausted). As Natalia says, this battle of the will is exclusively meant to test his boundaries. This is not nazi parenting, bouts of nazi parenting are sometimes necessary later with the teens, when you get really really really tired of explaining and justifiing each and every choice you make. When they really know that it's supposed to be like that and still try to have it their way, then you are, rarely, allowed to say "because I said so" even if it makes you feel guilty and it makes you sound soooo much like your mom that it hurts to look at yourself in the mirror. For now, you need to trick him and to be very firm when it comes to the situations where he could hurt himself. Like when I was a kid I had to have my appendice removed and there was this little boy, not yet 2 yo, that managed to pull a pot full of boiling soup on himself, he got a terrible scolding on his entire belly. Or when my daughter was little and always running around without looking where, she once ran full head on in a clear glass (reinforced) door at my hairdersser's, even when I yelled stop. She was almost catapulted on her back, she didn't hurt herself, but she was really scared and from then on, when I yelled stop, because she was approaching the street without looking, she stopped there in her track. Saved her life more than once. What I'm trying to say is, that you have to find all the mechanisms that work, and if occasionally this means yelling, it will work - if it happens really rarely and only when it's really important.
    Also, since you're pregnant every situation will affect you more, because of the hormones. You have to keep all this stuff present in your mind, it will help fend it off rationally.
    Does it help if we all tell you it's perfectly normal? I hope it does, a bit, that's why I'm writing such a long comment while fearing that I'm intruding and that you only wanted a sympathetic ear.
    Bye, Kitty

  19. Oh, another thing, sorry. When I wrote "for the upteenth time" I should've added: it's not running in circles, never fear, it's an expanding spirale.

  20. Oh Tam... so sorry for you... Resist! You are awesome! Remember you are awesome!!! and by the way your art looks great! Big hugs. Kat.

  21. What Kitty said, really.
    I am also trying to be a very gentle parent and giving options for the child to decide when it's not necessary to limit his choices.
    And it only worked till in his 2's, then it got so bad. After months of struggle and mom-depression, a friend (a dad of two) told me that I was
    a) overwhelming my son by giving him real options
    b) not giving him the hard boundaries he was looking for to butt his head against
    I felt really silly for limiting my options to only two if there were more and for being very firm on some little thing, just so my son could throw a tantrum. It feels very shitty. But after about a year of this, I start to see that it's doing him good. Through the little (silly) choices he has learned to make real choices without feeling overwhelmed. And I noticed that he actively looks for some tantrum-throwing reason when he is tired. It is much easier on both of us, if I am firm on some little thing, he has his tantrum and the air is cleared. I think they are actually looking for Halt (as we say in German, dunno how to say that in English) and direction from mom. And if you refuse to give them that just because you want to give them freedom and options, they suffer and show it by tantrums.

  22. Im in the boat with you paddling but with a 12 year old daughter
    I think all us mommas undderstand for sure
    Get the book buddism for mothers, it is awesone!
    Your work is wonderful, i love it

  23. Dear Tam, first of all congratulations to you and Andy on your pregancy!! Second of all, yes you are right, all parents go through these phases with their children, again and again and again!! It's like sometimes I just have to get my two boys to bed because I feel I've reached my limits, and then as soon as they are asleep I can't wait for the next day, for me to come home and be with them again. It's because all the effort you make , however difficult things may seem, no, are, is never a waste of time. We are so lucky to have children. We shouldn't take things for granted ( and this is for me too) because we are so lucky and privileged, to have to worry about what trousers, which toy, what colour, instead of, when will I next have food to give him or clean clothes to wear, or a warm place to sleep. It may be cliche but oh so true. I keep thinking of all the mothers in Japan who have these problems now, from one moment to the next. We just need to hold on, do our best, and not forget ourselves. I am so inspired by your art Tam! And by you too! Sophie from Cyprus

  24. That was a very heartfelt post, it made me smile and think :-) I don't have children and find it incredibly difficult to get my head around the idea of ding it and that scares me!

    P.S Spa days are amazing...you really really should do it!!

  25. Tam, Your honesty amazes me, I wish I could have been that honest but I was too afraid to admit anything because to me it felt like I was a big fat failure!! So glad you are sharing...that in itself helps us get over the depression hump! So I just wanted to say that I have been there and still go there at times ....my two children are 5 and 6, each stage comes with it's own "behavioral phase"! I'd say pour yourself a glass of wine but since your preggers (congrats!) make that spa day reservation! Quick before you change your mind! LOL. (and really the spa has longer lasting results!!) My advice, 1.sleep-get lots of it 2. try not to get to stressed out or frustrated when you can't do everything you "really" want to do because the terrible two's get in the way or laundry, making dinner, etc. etc. 3. hire someone you can trust to come and do a quick once over cleaning job on your house every other week so it frees up some time for you and 4. Even though I love going to the part with my kids, once a week daddy will do this by himself as a special daddy time activity and that is a guarenteed 2 hours of "me" time which all momma's need....especially momma artists! ;0)
    Fine print: I failed at all the above several times...except no. 4 daddy could always be counted on!

  26. I have been experiencing much of the same toddler frustration at work this week, on top of worrying about a biopsy and it's outcome and a fibro flare-up. It isn't much fun dealing with a crazy boy toddler(who is surprisingly strong) when you're feeling just as crazy/exhausted/depressed. I'm hope knowing you're going through the same thing AND journaling will get me out of my own funk and back to my art journal. Love you bunches. xoxo~

  27. Hi Tam,
    I really feel for you - being pregnant with a toddler is really tough. But it does get easier... Just rest rest rest, your body is working flat out! Love and hugs to you, Bokashi.

  28. Well, I understend all that, but I must say 2 things:
    1. child is only a child, he must explore world (and how far can go with your patience...), one smart woman told me: child needs unconditional love, but there is a difference between maternal love (mother teach and prepare child for life in the human community)
    and monkey love (everything is permitted)...and
    2. only happy parent=good parent - so, child must learn that parents have the rights and needs, too...
    I know, it is easy to talk...but it is truth...
    You are amazing person - artist, teacher...you are so free-spoken woman...but you must become a little bit "selfish" - if you be a little more adjusted itself, you will be healthier, happier person and then (becouse you will be happy) - even better wife and mother ...

  29. Congratulations on your pregnancy. I'm a grandma now and remember the days of frustration, there was always so much to do, and I was always tired.
    You're a wonderful artist and I'm sure a wonderful Mom, so go easy on yourself. Keep training his heart towards love, patience, and kindness; he'll eventually get it and stop the testing.

  30. Oh Tam how wonderful that you are pregnant again - many many congratulations :)

  31. Wonderful news and as always wonderful artwork. Love your style xxx


Thank you for connecting with me. I appreciate you! <3


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