Stand By Me

March 12, 2011

March 11th 2011 (yesterday) was my first post for a year! My eldest daughter has had anorexia. She is stable now. She passed her final year at high school with flying colours and has begun an arts course at university. She still has not fully recovered but is in recovery. Its been a tough road but together we’re getting through it. I’ve learnt that to survive your child’s mental illness its best to forget your dreams, your guilt, and love the child before you, illness and all. I’ve also seen how much my four daughters care for each other. Family therapy has been a large factor in her recovery.

During 2010 I worked full time on my dissertation, taking leave to look after Kat. I published my first article in a professional journal and met some new and interesting colleagues in Helsinki. This year I have changed my tenure to part time, and already I’ve experienced less pressure and more creativity.

For one year I have not blogged, read a novel or convened our book club. Finally I’ve picked up a novel (Stieg Laarson’s first, and looking for the second. Although I have started on Dorris Lessing’s The Cleft, until I find it), reconvened book club and have conferences in the pipeline: April in New Orleans, July in Adelaide, August in Exeter, September in Lyon, December in Hobart. I’m looking forward to charging up my camera and posting on my travels. It feels good to be back ūüôā

Gingerbread Respite

December 12, 2009

Our kitchen has become a ginger bread factory.

Cooking alleviates the anxiety my daughter Kat experiences with her disease, anorexia. She has been out of hospital for six weeks now and her physical condition is stable. Finding cooking has been one of the reasons for our success. She is perpetually focussed on food but whilst cooking she is productive and active in a family space. Her sisters pull up a seat at the kitchen bench naturally and easily and she feels reconnected with her family.

Independently she has developed expertise in short crust pastry and quiche making, cheese cakes, pavlova and ginger bread men. The ginger bread men have been so popular that she made a batch and lovingly decorated them every day this week. I’ve made them many times, often with the kids when they were little, but I had never thought to decorate them with melted chocolate before. She used white and milk chocolate and added detail with icing tubes. The result was a joy to behold and magnificent to eat.

We served them to my book club girlfriends on Monday night.¬†¬†We convened at my place for our last meeting of the year to watch on DVD one of the books we’d read during the year, Revolutionary Road. The women noticed the variety of expressions on the gingerbread faces and were delighted. But the real joy was the taste of the ginger biscuit with an¬†unexpected hint of chocolate. I hope Kat can experience it soon.

A beautiful, safe beach is accessible from our beach house via a short track through tea trees. The vista of the beach opens up at the end of the track like a magical discovery. My eldest daughter used to be the first one down the beach, with a net in her hand and the desire to catch a toady Рthese are small annoying little fish of the Cow Fish variety, but are easy to catch. Once caught, my kids put them in canal systems, connecting pools and holes purposefully built in the sand, where they stay until released or until the tide comes in. I have a motion picture of her in my memory stalking these fish for hours in the shallows and lunging with the net, always with success. She became so good at it that she would often leave the toadies for the other kids and focus on smaller, faster fish that we assume are whiting. 

These days are over. She now wakes on holidays at eleven, but would sleep longer if I didn’t wake her. (I don’t want her becoming completely nocturnal – she has to go back to school next week). After surfacing, she spends a good part of an hour in the bathroom, emerging only when her hair is perfectly styled and her face is made up. If not for me insisting on her eating breakfast she would be content with a can of Pepsi max (which I never buy!! She snuck a six pack of them into the trolly last shopping expedition).¬†

These changes in my children are often more visible to me on school holidays in our beach house. Its probably because I reflect upon it, and because memories of other times in this familiar place surface to juxtapose themselves against the present. I remember curling up with her on the couch down here when she was eight to read her Harry Potter chapter-by-chapter. Towards the end of book two, I continued to read after I put her to bed. It was one in the morning when I finished it and could finally put it down. When she became an independent reader I read to the younger ones books she had read on her own like Deltora Quest. Now all of my daughters are independent readers. If I didn’t have my youngest daughter, these days of lying down in bed with a child and reading would be completely gone.¬†

My eldest no longer reads. She has myspace, Gaia Online, a mobile phone and a drawing pad. Daughters numbers two and three are the avid readers now. But Harry Potter has long been superseded. Here and now is the Twilight phase!

Twilight is a series of four books. It has captured the imagination of my two middle daughters. Each of them in turn have not been able to put it down. Both are obsessed with this perfect girly fantasy about a vampire (Edward) and his love (Bella). They await the next series (which tells the same story from Edward’s perspective), and the film. The trailers of the film caused a sensation in our house yesterday when Emma found them on the internet and watched them over and over again, before holing herself up again with the fourth book.