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I’m jealous of my four year old

7 July, 2015

I realised last month that I was jealous of my four year old daughter.

Not her clothes – she wears My Little Pony pyjamas most days and whilst they are comfty my look is more vintage, y’know?

Not her running skills- she is fast, but I’d crush her in a race for sure. (Not that we do winning as such, our new motto is “If you had fun you WON!”) But I’d definitely come first.

Not her hair – she is growing it long, but is very anti-brush, so it mostly hangs in a big dreadlock. Clump-chic.

This is what I’m jealous of:

I am jealous of the way she is fully able to be 100% herself. I am jealous of the way she expresses her massive emotions with her whole body and voice and every drop of energy. I am jealous of the freedom in which she occupies her place in the world.

It’s a huge word, jealousy.

It doesn’t mark our relationship in a big way. Not like how I was jealous of my best friend when I was 14 for getting to go out with the boy we had both fancied for two years. We used to have competitions about how much we fancied him; “I love him so much I would steal one of his sweaty socks and sleep with it on my pillow” and I’d say “Well I would eat his bogies!” and now she is his GIRLFRIEND? I was consumed with this whole body ache. I’d wake up jealous and go to sleep jealous and inbetween times think about his bogies jealously.

It’s not like that with my daughter.

We are deeply connected, we shower each other in kisses, we laugh until we cry, we play hard.

But every so often, when I am analysing the moment that I exploded into a shout after asking her to stop doing something 7 gazillion times, I discover that the blast came out of this deep place rooted in my childhood.

Here’s a list of the sorts of things that, once or twice a month, will give rise to a deep bubble of anger in my belly:

  • The zip on my dress being undone 8 times a day
  • Bouncing on Grandma’s bed
  • Bouncing on our bed whilst I’m trying to get Juno to nap
  • Insisting on changing her outfit for the 7th time before 9am as we’re about to leave
  • Refusing to move out of her seat after the aeroplane has landed
  • Emptying a whole jar of my homemade sunscreen into the sink
  • Crunching on a load of vitamin Cs when she usually helps herself to one
  • Needing to take all her clothes off to go to the toilet, in a public loo

Now nearly all of these are wholly natural, fully understandable urges – irresistible things kids are almost created to want to do. I love urges, I love creating space for them to happen. Furthermore, a lot of these things are a child’s RIGHT. It is her right to change her clothes, to take them off, to stay sitting when I want her to stay. And you know how I love children’s rights.

So I am pretty generally okay at just sitting back and not getting cross and creating space and getting joy out of their joy when all these things happen. Not a drop of annoyance in sight – just pleasure in connection, or curiosity about the way she has chosen to connect. Like, with my zip.
I'm jealous of my daughter! Healing the mother woundBut sometimes I’m not. Every so often my rational mind that loves urges and rights just leaves me hanging and my stomach fells with the big balloon of fury. And a lot of the time I can breathe and deal with it and then sometimes I just. get. mad.

And I am beginning to realise that this is the four year old Lucy, inside, saying HEY WHAAAAT?!  THATS SO NOT FAIR I NEVER GOT TO MAKE A POTION OUT OF SUNCREAM OR JUMP ON THE BEDS OR BE MY FULL EXUBERANT SELF…

(I was a bit precocious as a kid. Well read. I probably would have said exuberant.)

Teresa Brett, author of Parenting for Social Change, calls these “parenting triggers”. We can also get triggered when we are faced with a child’s experiences that remind us of something that happened to us as a kid. For example, when I see another kid being cruel to Ramona? My little inner 4 years wants to bust out yelling NO! YOU ARE THE POO AROUND HERE THANKS VERY MUCH! A BIG SMELLY POO HEAD! My inner 4 year old is totally unreasonable.

Last year Robin Grille came to New Zealand and he did a fantastic talk about emotional memory. (I write about emotional memory in our children, and as parents, here.) He advised us to look in with one eye, and out with another. Because unless we deal with emotional baggage from our own childhood we won’t be able to support our children with their own emotions.

At the heart of people not being able to cope with a child’s loud noises, their huge will and determination, their sheer physicality,  there is a little wounded child, feeling a bit jealous and wishing their own childhood could have been so free and so fun.

The bloody patriarchy 

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this recently, particularly in the way mothers carry it. Because as women, we have been trying to thrive in an oppressive patriarchal culture, and must, to some extent, carry around baggage handed down through our lineage.

My friend sent me an article recently by Bethany Webster, Healing the Mother Wound, that articulated so perfectly some of my feelings. It discusses the role that living for generations upon generations within a patriarchal society can have on women, their daughters, and their daughter’s daughters, in a never ending game of pass-the-pain.

The hangover of women having to fulfil certain roles and expectations for so many years can leave us feeling like we are not quite good enough, that there is something wrong with us, that we must be a certain way to be loved, or plagued by guilt for wanting more than we have.

It gave me a how and a why for some of the deep emotions I have felt as a mother.

How I can be one minute sitting at the table doing crafts with my two girls, full of peace and joy, and the next minute battling a deep feeling of offense at how they want to push the ink pads directly on the paper, rather than using the stamps? WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO WASTE INK THIS WAY? IT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE COOL DINOSAUR SHAPES JUST BIG WET BLOBBY SQUARES. I have to sit, breathing with myself for a while, telling myself it doesn’t matter about the ink pads, they were only from the charity shop.

Webster says;

“In our society, there is no safe place for a mother to vent her rage. And so often it comes out unconsciously to one’s children. A daughter is a very potent target for a mother’s rage because the daughter has not yet had to give up her personhood for motherhood. The young daughter may remind the mother of her un-lived potential. And if the daughter feels worthy enough to reject some of the patriarchal mandates that the mother has had to swallow, then she can easily trigger that underground rage for the mother.”

Is it possible that when I see my daughters being so liberated and wild, so completely able to be themselves,  a small part of me remembers that phase in my teenage years, when I acted like an idiot, a classic bimbo, because I thought that’s how I, a pretty blond teenage girl needed to be in the world? My sister sat me down one day and said “Lucy you are intelligent. Stop pretending to be an idiot.” I did snap out of it, but I still sometimes recede into that place, perhaps to make people feel comfortable, or to like me, because somewhere along the line I’ve picked up that women need to be somewhat small. And this, eventually, is rage making. I'm jealous of my daughter! healing the mothers wound
My sister and I with our mum

I’m not happy with this rage. It isn’t fair on my daughters, for them to bear the brunt of thousands of years of gender inequality! Doesn’t that just take the mick? We’ve had the suffragette movement, women’s lib, and yet our daughter’s suffer because of a mother’s deep unhealed wounds.

The most important thing we can do as parents is acknowledge and validate our own pain, either from society, or childhood. It is a gift to become aware of how deep, untended to stuff can impact our relationship with our children.

A safe place to vent

The week I read about the Mother’s Wound I got involved in a small, very private women’s circle. A place to be honest, to acknowledge pain and rant and rave if necessary. I think it is a crucial step to dealing with these strange, unwelcome, unconscious feelings I have, a safe place to vent my rage.

Writing this has made me think of other ways to deal with emotional pain from childhood that I’ve found helpful – I thought I’d share these:

  • Finding a place to talk is so key – do you have a group you can form? Or an online place?
  • It sounds a little, er, quirky, but can you write a letter to you as a child? Address the pain you still carry.
  • Talk to yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself you are worthy of love, you are a good parent, you are kind. I recently had a very sad week, 3 things happened to me to make me question my work as a writer and general onliney person. I ended up going for a big rambly walk in the dark and began an inner monologue with someone I felt needed to trust themselves more. I began saying it over and over, like a mantra, and then realised I was talking to myself; “Trust yourself. You are a good person. Trust yourself.” It was really healing.
  • Change your brain. I know, it is like a proper insult. But it is science! Our brain acts like a muscle. With practice we can form new neural pathways. Keep doing something and you will get better. When you feel the bubble of rage, take a step back, count to ten, breath deeply, acknowledge and validate your feelings, and then address your children with love in your heart.  Eventually this will become your default. You can totally do this. You can change your shoutiness.

That best friend I had? When I was 14? She is still my best friend, two decades later. If I can get over the kind of jealousy that saw me madly eating bogies in my dreams, I am SURE I can address this subtle mother kind.

For my daughters’s sake, and my daughter’s daughters sake, I want to heal my mother wound, and show my inner 4 year old some love.

Come over to Facebook and hit like to stay connected.

Bombaround, unschooling, writing

Family travel | Chiang Mai, Thailand (ARGH! ELEPHANTS!)

30 June, 2015

The baby elephant swung its thick grey trunk over to Ramona, moving his snout across her body while she ripped the sheath from a corn cob. Before she could hand the sweet corn over, another trunk, this one about 8 times the size, reached over her shoulder and pinched it. Grandad elephant, with his big gnarly tusks, doesn’t get the snacks after the whipper snapper, thanks very much.

It was magical, getting up close and personal with these jungle beasts. There was a crowd of them right next door to where we were staying, a motel at the foot of the mountains outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We’d wake up to the sound of them trumpeting to each other as their mahouts got ready for the day ahead. We followed them on a little trek, Juno shouting POO! POO! most of the way because, turns out, the jungle is where they do most of their biz. We were even there for the precious moment when the baby elephant did a sneeze and farted at the same time – such a classic. We were all completely delighted!

As we spent more time there, we watched them carry tourists around the jungle, splash in the river on command and pose for a photo.

And we were left pretty saddened by it.

It wasn’t really at all what the website portrayed it to be with it’s “Keeping Elephants Alive” slogan…. Keeping them alive, sure, but shackled and controlled.

It is incredible standing next to one of these magnificent creatures, but you also feel like you’re not really meant to. They are meant to be crashing around a dense jungle, stampeding together, getting furiously protective of their babies, not chained too many metres away to even stroke them with their snout.

We still enjoyed our time in the foothills of the Chiang Mai mountains- we visited a waterfall and ate our weight in tropical fruits. But it was with relief that we got in to the city, where we didn’t feel accused by the neighbouring elephant’s eyeballs.Family travel in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai turned out to be incredible! Totally wasn’t expecting to fall so in love with it. We were surprised (and gladdened to our CORE) to find tasty flat whites amongst the street food stalls. We stuffed our faces with every kind of noodle and curry. We sat in little shacks filled wall to wall with enormous cuddly toys. (Yeah, it was weird, in a way only a city full of hipster designers can be!)

And then we came across Elephant Nature Park – Chiang Mai’s only true elephant sanctuary. We were finally able to visit a herd of elephants with good consciense! (We had good conscience, I can’t tell you about the elephants – cheeky, a few of them were, I suspect.) The Thai woman who began this elephant sanctuary actually has royal protection as she has received so many death threats for being so determined to rescue Thailand’s elephants from illegal logging, and an often undignified and cruel tourism trade. Here is a video I made all about this part of our trip:

There are over 40 elephants spread around 300 acres, and they aim to try and rehabilitate some into the jungle where possible. There is no riding, no shows, humans are the ones that have to step back when an elephant goes where it wants to go – it was perfect and totally soul-lifting. family travel thailand - elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai

We only had 8 days in Thailand so tried to tick off a few Must Dos – i.e a massage. Mine was done by a blind man, a member of the Association for Blind Massage, a Chiang Mai social enterprise. It was completely brutal. Sheesh. I almost cried – except that I didn’t want the big Thai lady getting a massage next to me, who did huge, smelly burps every time her masseuse rubbed her back, to think I was a wuss. But I did feel about an inch taller afterwards. Family Travel Chiang Mai Thailand - elephants and pad thai

Less of a typical “Thailand Must Do”, but a major “Our Family Must Do” was a visit to the local Chiang Mai flea markets. Unexpectedly enormous and filled with old delights, the Prince Royal College secondhand markets were full of proper Asian antiques, and – the stuff I love- a load of manky household crap. BRILLIANT. I bought, get this, a big Pestle and Mortar. Hahahahaha. It weighs 8 kilos. Exactly what we need in our suitcase at the start of a 3 months travelling adventure. I was like; BAG IT MY FRIEND!

We spent our first few days feeling sad about chained up elephants and also being extremely jetlagged and basically all really mad with each other. But by the end of our time there we were just floating on a massive Pad Thai buzz. Happy that we had spent our baht on some good, ethical stuff.Family Travel Chiang Mai Thailand

What is the trick to finding good ethical tourism? I don’t have lots of great answers. This week showed us just how entangled the industry is with untruth and propaganda. Research as much as possible online (we didn’t touch the local tiger place as I’d read about some awfully cruel practices there), talk to lots of people on the ground, make one or two choices to support local social enterprise. But mostly, realise that travelling is less about ticking off all the “Things To Do” and more about being in a place, eating the food and talking with people. That is where the real experience is to be had. I reckon.

Like, if we’d filled up our days with all the suggestions of visiting exotic, caged creatures, how would we have found ourselves perched at the foot of a two storey marble cat with a moustache and a handbag, drinking the yummiest mango smoothies ever?

Bombaround, unschooling, yurt life

Heart-thumpingly, fringe-snippingly exciting

23 June, 2015

We are off! We have 15 minutes to go; Tim is making last minute coffees, the girls are bouncing around in the corner simultaneously wrestling and playing Mummies and Daddies (this involves Ramona giving birth to Juno over and over again) and I am doing a sneaky little blog. These sum up our priorities EXACTLY.

We are facing down a 12 hour flight to Thailand, the start of a three month trip that involves frolicking with elephants in Chiang Mai, touring about the UK with our friends and family and then a whizz through San Fran. HOORAY!

We have packed down our little yurt and said cheerio to all our beautiful friends in the Coromandel, for when we get back to New Zealand in September we are going to be moving onto our new land! ARGH!

*reins in the exclamation marks*

I am generally excited about everything right now, this is obvious in how short my fringe is getting- I’ve come to understand that when I am buzzing out a little I tend to gravitate to the mirror and cut my hair.

Here are somethings I am weeing my pants about:

Happy Hair Workshops in Bristol and London
THESE ARE HAPPENING! SO cool! They are open events, everyone is invited, I will be talking through the world of giving up shampoo and toxins and covering other Hippyshake kind of stuff. I did the last New Zealand one of these a few weeks ago, 75 people came and we had an absolute BLAST. So much fun. Please do come! Find the Bristol event here and the London event here.  

 Camp Bestival
One of the funnest weekend in our family’s life was when we took Juno and Ramona to Camp Bestival just before taking off around Europe in our campervan. There is incredible music, stack loads of creativity, an enormous arts and crafts tent; just this weird little universe of families all letting loose together.  I saw a sign there that year, scrawled by a mum, “Families who festival together stay together” – it makes up in truth what it lacks in rhyme.

Partying in the meadows of a castle, with the tunes of musical legends beating down around you, while the children are being entertained by a Picasso inspired style Puppet Show. Nothing beats it. Let me know if you are going so we can hang out…

Annie here has the full download- everything you need to know and here is the Camp Bestival site itself.cb

Staying in super spesh places
We have booked loads of our accommodation through Air BNB for the first time ever. It has been really cool being able to tailor make our wants/ needs and then hit search and discover loads of unique places to stay. In Thailand we are staying at someone’s apartment in Bangkok, next door to an Elephant sanctuary in Mae Wang amongst other places. (It’s possible- but I’m not entirely sure- that if you sign up using this link that I get points… try it and see, it will be like giving me a virtual high five…)

It sort of feels like for the next three months we are going to join that tribe of digital nomads, families blowing on the breeze, lives made possible by the Internet.

Here is a little conversation I had with Juno this morning:

Last, but not least (cos GOSH that would be offensive!) SEEING OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY!
About 7 million of my friends have had babies while we have been away, so of course, I CAN NOT WAIT to meet these new souls. And my nephews and niece have grown up into giants so I need to do some serious playing of Hide and Seek and Ninja Mermaids and stuff with them. I get the tingles when I think about crunching all these people I love up!

HOORAY! Right, Tim has turned the car around, we are really, really DOING THIS… think I still have time for one more snip of the fringe though…

Parenting, unschooling

How to start an Outdoor Play Group

12 June, 2015

I stuck my head out of our door to call the kids in for tea a few days ago. Ramona and Juno and our neighbours had been playing on the 6 foot high mud pile outside our house so I was expecting a bit of dirty wreckage…. I wasn’t expecting one of the boys to pop out of the sludgey mountain completely and utterly covered, from scalp to toe. The whites of his eyes shone out of this thick, black, magnificent dirt. They were playing mud ninjas, so, y’know… obviously. It was all I could do not to collapse in a hilarious heap. It was exhilarating to see someone so abandoned and wild and free.

And I was a weencey bit glad he was walking the 50 metres home to his own bath…

One of the things I have loved the most in our last 15 months living in New Zealand has been this sense of being nestled right amongst the mud and trees and birds. Whenever we are feeling a bit down we can just open the door and pick some fruit or climb a tree (time outdoors is one of the five best keys to happiness and we have really experienced that) and the girls are developing a whole education in the natural world. Ramona surprises me almost daily with little observations she has made about the animals that surround us, and then there’s Juno who mostly speaks Animal, with 3 or 4 perfect bird calls under her belt… amidst a tiny human vocab.

“‘Is the spring coming?’ he said. ‘What is it like?’ …
‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.’”

—Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Early last year a few of us got together and began an Outdoor Play Group – a group of parents and children that simply play in nature. It is pretty much the one thing in our week that we are committed to, every Tuesday we spend from 10-2 at our friends little slice of wilderness. It is a hugely important part of our lives, where the girls can play uninhibitedly and where I get the chance to be nurtured by time and conversation with other parents. I’ve written before about the many, many reasons to get outdoors and play in the wild. 

Here is a little video I made today about our own outdoor Play Group, Nature Space:

(It looks quite wholesome, I know, and it sort of was, with a lot of chatter about penises and poo muted out!)

I thought I’d put some ideas out there, that might help parents set up their own Outdoor Play Group. Here are 8 steps for setting up an Outdoor Play group – follow these and you could have your own group in a matter of weeks!How to set up an outdoor play group amongst nature

Check that an official Nature Play doesn’t already exist close by

Firstly check there isn’t an official Nature Play Group already in your area – you could be one of the lucky devils able to jump on board with one already rolling. Clare Caro (she is an inspiration) has developed an organisation that is leading a well supported movement of Outdoor Play groups in the UK, under the banner Nature Play. Double check this list to make sure you don’t already have one near you. If you do, find out how to get involved through Clare’s web site.

Find a team
Find two friends who are interested too. I watched a video a few years ago that has stuck with me ever since. It is about how the first guy that jumps up to dance will stay just a loner until a couple of other dancers join him – then a movement begins. (Watch it here. It’ll make you smile!) This goes for beginning pretty much anything and everything. You alone are FANTASTIC but you need two friends to build momentum. Once there are three of you, you are good to go!

  • Ask around your friendship group – you might be surprised who will commit to this with you. It is my experience that almost all parents are looking for ways to be more outdoors with their children.
  • Post on local Facebook groups or community forums- your two buddies might not be known to you yet! “Want to get outdoors with your children more? Let’s begin a regular meet up for parents and children! Looking for two team members, please call.”
  • Ask wider Facebook groups to help you with your search – the Attachment Parenting and like minded groups admins might be able to help, as an example.
  • Go offline- put little notices up in the library and at local Tots groups.

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

—John Muir, Our National Parks

Have an open meeting
Draw on your whole community to give your Outdoor Play Group a good boost right at the start. Get people (parents, La Leche group organisers, wise people, elders, any stakeholders)  in a room to share your vision. Advertise this open meeting widely. This is a great way to pool resources, discover fresh ideas about location, and you could well end up with a list of contacts that might form your first attendees.

Location (public)
Scout for a location. The UK and New Zealand are fortunate to have lots of little woods and reserves dotted around the place, or failing that little pockets of “nature areas” within parks. Ideally you will have a little grove of trees, with a small clearing amongst it, enough space to really roam and feel a little isolated from the busyness of a city, enough peace to be able to spot birds. We are lucky to have a little stream running through our area which makes for a great amount of fun in winter and summer. A tiny pond would also be great – as would, even, a tree-less beach. Is it free from buildings and human-made structures? It’s a winner. Even if it’s a public place, being in touch with the council about your plans could be really valuable.

Location (private)
If you don’t have anywhere public try thinking about private spaces. There are privates gardens, or backyards of neighbours or stretches of land owned by trusts… get together with your team mates and start getting in touch with people.  I am sure you will be surprised how many private land owners would be delighted to step in and help provide a beautiful space for your group.

Get grounded in the principles of Outdoor Play
How hard can it be, right? Walk outside, play in the nature. Sort of. I like to think that there are some foundations for really free and beautiful parent-child time spent outdoors though. These include allowing play to be totally child – led. Giving space for children to work through challenges, and conflict. Clare has given a lot of thought to this and I massively recommend being inspired by these Nature Play Guidelines together. We introduced ukelele playing at our own Outdoor play group as a way for the adults to have fun, and to give the children more space to explore autonomously. We were finding that idle parents can spend too much time focusing on their children and almost interrupting their play.

Sort out the deets
Find a day and a time that suits your core team. We do Tuesday 10 – 2/3pm because we all make lunch and eat together. The official London South East Nature Play group do 10-12 on a Thursday. Figure out the slot that will suit you three, trying not to overlap with another local group that parents might attend,  and then let others arrange their timetable around you.

Promote it
Nothing’s really stopping you now, apart from other families joining you! Start a Facebook group and start inviting people to it, visit local tots groups and make an announcement at the end of each group, put flyers up around local venues. It can take 6 months to a year for a group like this to really build up. If there are three families committed to this you will be able to ride this bumpy first stage, as people come and go and get a feel for it. Soon enough you will be maxed out!

Hooray! Here’s to your own mud bath, river paddling, weed ripping, fire toasting Outdoor Play group!

“These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs.”

―Anton Chekhov, “A Day in the Country”

No Poo

Happy Hair Detox E-course – Discover beautiful, clean, shampoo-free hair

11 June, 2015

For almost every person that tells me “My hair has been AMAZING since giving up shampoo” there is someone that will tell me that they had to give up – they simply couldn’t hack the detox period.

Since launching my ebook about giving up shampoo I have been ruminating on how best I can help people through this most tricky phase – I truly believe that, with the right motivation and support team ANYONE can give up shampoo, and eventually, discover gorgeous locks.

As of TODAY I have turned teacher and cheerleader, with my brand spanking new ecourse, Happy Hair Detox. 

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Let me hold your hand through your hair detox and transition to “No Poo” with this series of online classes (55 minutes worth) and downloadable, interactive worksheets and a moderated peer to peer support forum. From the moment you hit “purchase” you can begin this course, or you can take one unit every 3 days to see you through the most intense part of transition.

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Unit One – Introduction and reasons for giving up shampoo
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Unit Five – The science of No Poo and the structure of your hair
Unit Six – What is behind the label of your shampoo bottle?
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Parenting, unschooling, writing, yurt life

What to do when the people you love don’t love what you do

8 June, 2015

A few months go we met up with an old family friend we hadn’t seen in yonks. We’d kept in touch, were really close and were excited about spending time together as we passed through her town. We only had her one hour lunch break so you can imagine our surprise, and sadness, that she spent almost the entire time letting us know in not-so-subtle ways that she was disappointed with what we had decided to do with our lives.

She questioned our decision to live in an unconventional dwelling, telling us our yurt wouldn’t stack up against health and safety regulations. She berated us for not using our good degrees, wondering why we had settled for such simple employment.

We knew some of our family and friends wondered about the same stuff, they’d let us know, respectfully, that they worried about our relaxed parenting style and lifestyle decisions. But we hadn’t ever been grilled for an hour, so upfront and disparagingly.

We were hurt.

But we got over it.

Because we are one hundred per cent convinced that we have made the right decisions, to give up our jobs, to move across the world, to start living in a yurt, to buy land with another family, to parent in a consensual, rights-respecting way. We have reflected hard and researched hard and then followed our hearts, and we think this is the only way to do life. We are pretty sure footed about this path we’ve settled on.

Most of the time.

Hehehe.

I had an email this week from a reader who is experiencing similar backlash about her and her partners desire to shake off the mortgage and hunker down for a more simple life. And it got me thinking about how common this is. People we care about letting us know that they don’t like our disregard for the status-quo. It got me jotting down a few thoughts.

Haters gonna hate?
When I am feeling defensive about all of this, it is easy to say “Haters gawn hate” in my most badass voice. But the truth, I know, is that these people aren’t haters. This isn’t a post about all the anonymous folk that comment on Daily Mail articles about hippies weaving a house out of the old uniforms of veterans. This post is about the lovers in our life who don’t like the way we live. Our siblings, and besties, and cousins, and parents.

They love us
And here is the thing. They love us. It is probably the main reason they tut or roll their eyes or outright berate us over lunch. It is easy to forget this when we are feeling got at. Sometimes it is hard to believe that love can ever look so reproachful. But it can. And we have to remember that.
They are scared
Why would people that love us want to criticize important decisions, especially ones that we have thought so hard about? They are scared for us. They haven’t ever seen people stray from the 9-5 working day. They worry that we will be left high and dry, age 93 without a bean to our name apart from dementia. If we come from well off families, it might look as if we are throwing off the responsibility that wealth can bring. If we come from hard – up families it might look as through we are chucking all their hard work spent raising us away.

And also sometimes they are worried because they think they have seen this before. I recently read a book that looked at the macro picture of The Sixties and it was pretty revealing about how older generations might see our lifestyle now and worry about where it is going to lead. It is easy to look back on the sixties and think, oof, all those hippies had it SUSSED! But in their shrugging off of social norms they really did shrug off a lot of good stuff, too. For example, it seems as though part of their dive into sexual freedom meant they leapt away from commitment, and even, sometimes, consent. I think the liberal, progressive days of the sixties paved the way for today- where we are able to take radical concepts and run with them- so ‘nuff respect for that- but our parent’s generation see this and think we are going to end up like the burnt out, drugged up, love crumpled hippies of the Sixties. And they are scared for us.

Reassure them
Are you able to pinpoint what people are afraid of, on your behalf? If so, you can reassure them, without having to change your decision making. This isn’t about having to explain yourselves, which can get tiresome in the extreme, but putting it out there, explicitly , that they do not have to be afraid.  Sometimes I think people are worried that we have simply “fallen” into this lifestyle, that our parenting is simply accidental laissez faire, as opposed to being a parenting style we have researched DEEPLY. They think our lack of proper jobs is to do with not asserting ourselves, of accepting something less than our full potential. Often, we don’t have to actually explain our position, we simply just need a few choice sentences that can address those deeper fears.

  • We have researched this extensively and believe this is exactly the right decision for us.
  • This is intentional, not accidental.
  • We have a plan.
  • We believe this is the way we can fulfill our full potential.
  • We are committed to our family’s safety.
  • This is the way we can achieve full mental and physical well being for all of us.
  • We have reflected upon the risks of this and are going into this with eyes wide open.

Let other people explain your thinking
We have a book that we sometimes call upon and give to people. It explains our parenting style from a philosophy which many of our family come from (Christianity.) Close family members can be very open to reading materials given to them, and this can be a much easier way of getting ideas across than through conversation. Having someone else explain something can validate it and articulate it better than our flustered, sometimes defensive, selves! This can lead to some quite open and honest conversation.
We can focus on connection
There are loads and loads of reasons Tim and I have opted to stray from the mainstream when it comes to our parenting, our children’s education, our jobs, our home and, well, you know, whole life. Some of them include “because we have given a lot of thought to the idea of schools and think that, for the most part, they stifle learning, stampede over human rights and crush a child’s spirit” also “we don’t have 9-5 jobs because the idea that you are what you earn or that we must find value in being busy, busy, busy is a load of crap” HOWEVER… we don’t tend to say this out loud to many people, y’know?

If it feels like a conversation is honestly and openly spirited, that people have authentic questions, then we are MORE than happy to have a deeper discussion about our reasons. But if it is just a quick talk, or we sense any hostility, than we try and focus on topics that are inarguable:

  • We want to spend this quality time with our children while they are young
  • We want to spend loads of time outdoors, enjoying nature
  • We want our children to experience as much love as humanly possible
  • We have plenty of time later on, if we want, to be more ambitious
  • Children are natural born learners and we want to provide as much chance for them to follow that up as possible

These are the kind of sentences that we think provide a way to connect. They are likely to get people thinking, ah, yeah, I can get on board with that idea. (For the most part, we just say the first one, over and over again, on a loop,  like a politician on the radio, exercising the media training they’ve been given.)

Your life fits you alone
And then, when all is said and done, you are the one living your life. Only you and your family know the right decisions for you. There very much comes a point when we need to stand tall, with our feet on the foundation of our good decision making! We have researched, reflected, looked inside our hearts and out, and we are living the life that fits us alone!

There is a beautiful quote, a slightly less street way of saying “Haters gonna hate” about how an entire sea of water can’t sink the ship, unless it is allowed in. Lulastic parenting lidestyle blog New Zealand

What is going to help you batten down the hatches? To seal up the portholes and fill in the cracks?

I feel at my least vulnerable, and least defensive, and least likely to let a dribble of water into our ship when I have these things:

  • A tribe. A group of people who think like us! Who make our parenting look normal, our yurt look awesome, and our lack of office jobs look ideal. At various times in our lives this has looked like online forums, regular attachment parenting meet ups, bi-annual unschooling camps, even moving to a place where questioning the status quo is a healthy normal. (Here in the Coromandel, New Zealand, living an eco, sustainable, progressive life is very common and it was a big reason we chose to move here.) Come on over and find a tribe at our Facebook page too..

  • This is our friend’s beautiful yurt. We actually know tons of people that live in buses or tents or handmade homes – life can be very good without enormous mortgages.

  • Lots of information. I am zealous about books and studies. I read and read. I keep up with neuroscience so that I can explain the importance of attachment, I keep up with the baby mortality stats so that I can counter any argument to cosleeping, I read everything I can about how children learn, I get my head around the unsustainability of our current housing situation and seek to understand what are the fundamentals for happiness and well being. I RARELY pull these out of my quiver and fire them – it might be tricky to do so uncombatatively! But for my own sake, this all helps me feel confident in the choices we are making.
  • Ongoing family discussion. Tim and I talk a lot about this stuff. It is important that we are together on this journey of understanding. We go over quick fire parenting decisions we have had to make, we discuss books we are reading about sustainability. We sometimes take a while to catch up to each other but we are in it together. A crew learning the ropes. (Oh lordy, I am completely unable to put my ship metaphor away!)

I want to just take a second to validate you. It’s going to be a slightly emosh second as I am feeling quite full of heart that you are here, reading this, one of us … You aren’t alone… we are all here and we can cheer each other on.

If you are questioning the mainstream and seeking to live a life that takes less of a toll on the earth, you are of a crowd that is going to go down in history, that will be thanked by our grandchildren’s grandchildren! They shall call you a legend.  If you are making presence and peace and love your ambition, and don’t really have two pennies to rub together, you are rich. If you are nurturing your child’ spirit, determined to let them spread their wings, to live as partners in this dance of life, if you choose empathy over control,  you are nourishing a generation that will take this love and build a new world with it. 
I am sure I have only scratched the surface of this topic! I would be absolutely stoked to hear some of your own thoughts on this hefty topic. 

Activism

Keep it in the ground, dude

1 June, 2015

Some of the ways our family live these days seem like ancient ways…. we use herbs and plants to clean our hair and clothes and home, we try to make our food from scratch using veggies we’ve dug out the garden, we use the power of the sun so on a stormy day we tend to wind down, turning everything off and lighting our rooms with candles.

Sometimes its like the Flintstones meets Little House on the Prairie. Our lives are pretty simple, we harness nature’s resources, and we brush our hair alot. (Although Juno is definitely more Bamm Bamm than Pebbles.)

And then, in other ways, we are living the days I drew in my exercise book age 7 when the class was told to imagine the year 2000. We drive a hybrid car (it’s a massive honker of a thing that we needed for farm work that runs on electricity 50% of the time) and on a sunny day we can charge our laptops and devices AND run a washing machine using the sun alone! The SUN!

Like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure meets Avatar, a little bit. We are trying to live futuristically – as if the utopian world we want to live in is within grasp. Where technological advances make magic and as if all humankind, past and present, is excellent to each other…

We’ve both campaigned, and acted on climate change issues for yonks – but it was really having children in our life that made us REALLY consider what sort of a world we would be leaving them. It is a bit difficult to have that thought, and then look at your children’s beautiful, wild selves and go right ahead and continue in bad, earth hating behaviours. Keep It In The Ground Blog

Now, the thing is, hybrid cars and solar energy are expensive things to invest in, initially. But we have always believed that if you can afford to make a more ethical consumer decision, you should.

We believe this so firmly that when the Guardian got in touch to ask me to be an ambassador for their Keep It In the Ground campaign I was like HECK TO THE YES.

You see, some of the world’s richest, and most altruistic, peeps are still investing in dirty, old skool energy, entirely unnecessarily.

Earlier this year the Guardian and 350.org launched the Keep It In the Ground campaign to ask the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest its £28bn from fossil fuel assets.

We are way, WAY, beyond the safe parameters for burning fossil fuels – we should have stopped years ago. Yet not only do we continue to burn them, but companies continue to invest in the whole industry. When there are burgeoning new clean energy industries BEGGING for investment.

Climate change looms over us yet we all continue to behave as if it’s just the feeble joke of a laughable loon. We stand at the til buying more crap made from dirty, unrenewable materials, running our hands through our children’s hair, ignoring the niggling sense that our great-great-grandchildren will probably dig this very crap out of a barren ground and sink to their knees, thinking “For this?! They let our earth crumble around them for THIS?!”Keep It In The Ground Blog

We all need to do our bit, every one of us, but there is a far greater onus on those who hold the strings of the world’s biggest purses.

The Gates Foundation and The Wellcome Trust have done some marv stuff for the planet’s children through their health work, now its time to start investing in the planet’s future children. Divesting of dirty fuels and investing in wind, solar and hydro energy makes the vision of a clean, beautiful tomorrow tangible. It will be a massive high five for all the generations yet to be born.

We’ve got to grab fossil fuel investors by the lapels and give ’em a shake. *furious voice* We’ll do our bit to love this earth – but YOU’VE got to step up too. Find their lapels… or sign the Keep It In the Ground petition, for starters!

Bill Gates, divest of dirty fuel and embrace clean energy, it’s the future!

Bombaround, writing, yurt life

How to travel around Europe with your family

18 May, 2015

So, you want to travel around Europe with your family? Perhaps in a campervan? Or camping?

Good luck with that!

Hahaha. Oooh, I jest, I jest.

Two years ago we sold our house in London, and most of our possessions. We packed up our troubles in an old kitbag, and hooned off in a cool little VW campervan called Betty, to bury them beneath the sea. (Ideally the Adriatic sea… off the coast of Croatia.) After an agonising wait for our baby’s first passport and other hiccups, we were finally on the road. The woes of being very unorganised people. How we get through every day, let alone go on epic adventures, is QUITE a mystery.

I can hand on heart say that those months travelling around Europe with my husband, a three year old called Ramona and a baby called Juno held some of the most special, universe-exploding-with-joy moments I have ever encountered in my thirty years.Family Travel Camping Europe

(It also induced several poke-my-eyes-out-with-my-toothbrush moments of stress and agony too, but more about that later. Some troubles just won’t be buried.)

Our adventure sent us through France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Spain…. ending up in a flight to New Zealand to begin a different sort of life as farmers. (Yeah, weird eh. We actually bought a cow yesterday. I don’t so much do the farming as writing about it and eating the food that grows.)

I have been writing this post in my head since the day that trip ended. I wanted to put together something really useful, to help people take this dream of travelling around Europe with their family, and make it a reality. So this is pretty long, and pretty comprehensive. Here are practical tips, links to much more detail, websites we relied on, and our ultimate trip highlights.How to plan a family adventure around europe

So, you want to travel around Europe with your family? This is for you.

Things you will need:

Money.
(yeah, I know. duh.) It says a lot that the cost of our first night camping in our campervan on our Great Journey blew our brains. £25! We tossed and turned all night wondering how one earth we were going to manage £25 everyday for accommodation for 5 months! How little research we did before we left! Laughable really. So, if you are going to camp in campsites, plan in a good wack for accommodation. And have masses of money. For us, we decided to free camp. And that decision led to almost entirely free accommodation for 5 months and lots of adventure.

Time.
We spent our first 3 weeks on a total mish- buzzing from place to place “Having An Adventure, Really, Arent We?!” and almost went insane. Aim to spend lots of time in places, meandering, getting to know little villages and rivers, and it will be a lot more pleasant for all of you! Especially for the children. Family Travel Camping Europe

Loose ethics (1) – wifi at Mcdonalds. We were so surprised that there wasn’t wifi all over Europe. You could get it at £25 a night campsites… but there was none free anywhere else. Apart from Mcdonalds. I had successfully avoided Maccas for two decades before we went to Europe. But when we discovered their free and fast wifi, we were sucked in. With a side order of fries. Once we got to Spain we managed to get our heads around buying a SIM card and having a special short term deal. We genuinely couldn’t work this out in the other places!

Loose ethics (2) – compromising on food ethics/ health. When we are settled we try and eat mostly organic. We found this really hard to do whilst we were travelling. In France they had good, obvious “bio” options, but we struggled to maintain our commitment to that, and also general awesome nutrition, over the five months. It could be done though, with much more effort put in to the food side of things. But we didn’t prioritise it. I do regret this a little, as I think Juno’s dental health was impacted by me mostly eating bread and foraged figs whilst breastfeeding. But I raise it in order to say that there are some things, whilst constantly on the move, that are tricky to work out. And there does need to be a little compromise, I think.

Fearlessness – or exceptional organizational skills. Our courage increased as we went. We became better and better at turning up at place expecting to find somewhere good to sleep. We tried hard to always arrive at a place in the daytime so we could suss everything out well once we were there. Alternatively, you could plan ahead. We are not good planners at the best of times, and when it required so much time in Old Macdonald using up there wifi, we basically stopped planning anything.

An open heart. The absolute best thing about travelling is the random things you end up doing. But you do need to have an open heart for this. I guess if you are planning a trip of this kind, then you have it. Say yes when an old granny offers you some cherries, invite another family on the campsite up to the café for chips, ask locals for the good swimming spots and ALWAYS skinny dip at the Playas Nudista. After taking a punt and asking another family out for dinner they became our fast and firm friends and we met up with them several times over our adventure- we celebrated two birthdays with them.

Suspended hygiene. The truth is, if you are doing a lot of swimming, you don’t need to shower. And if you are free camping, showering and doing laundry and all those things can be a bit tricky. RELISH the freedom of being a bit smelly and read up on all the reasons a bit of bacteria is so good for us. Hehe. Honestly though, we were probably swimming two times a day, for most of the trip. If you are not a big swimming family – you might need to suck it up and stay at camp sites more often. (But do also read this post: Do Children Need a Daily Bath- 8 Reasons To Stop Washing So Much.)

Family Travel Camping EuropeA hobby. Because travelling is best done at a snail’s pace it is really nice to have a little hobby to turn to. Sketching or writing poetry or taking photographs – these can help you see a place through a different lens. And they can pass the hours while your children bury each other endlessly in the sand. I learnt the ukulele while we were travelling around Europe and now I play and sing everyday.

A purpose
Before we left I did a bit of a shout out on my blog, asking for people’s suggestions of where to go. We decided to visit a few projects around the place that people had pointed us towards. Such as the Forest Kindegarten in Germany – read about their knives and stuff, if you like, and the Sunseed Eco Village in Spain (read about the hippy that laid a golden poo there.) We also did as much of the Wild Swimming France book as we could. This just adds a bit of a fun dynamic.

Amazing Insurance/ Breakdown Cover. Because if you have this, you CAN be a little bit fearless. And, you know, you might break down. Really seriously. Twice. *Ahem*Family Travel Camping Europe

Baby Wipes
They can clean ANYTHING! I’m not gonna lie to you, at least 3 times I did a day’s worth of dishes with a few baby wipes.

Audiotapes or mixtapes your friends make you for the journey. We tried to make the journeying quite pleasant, so rarely did more than 100 miles in a day. But you still clock up a lot of time on the road and having stories and new music from our friends was really cool.

Be prepared for:

All the emotions (1) – From your children
For the most part, our children were buzzing out on our own good vibes of freedom and happiness. However, our three year old did express a lot of emotion quite often. Sing goodbye as a ritual (we used to name each of the things we loved in each place, as I strummed away on the Uke) Give lots of time for goodbyes (oh- I have an AMAZING Guide to Helping Children Say Goodbye RIGHT HERE!) Find ways to incorporate your children’s wishes and aims – one of the families we travelled with had a family meeting every morning where everyone said what they wanted to do that day, and everyone’s ideas were respected equally. This could be quite a disempowering time for your little ones, unless you support a better alternative for them.

All the emotions (2) – From you
The highs! The lows! There is something about travelling that rips open your heart. At 4:30pm you’ll be sitting by a river with tears in your eyes because you are JUST SO HAPPY look at our angelic children and my dashing husband we are all perfectly content and we love each other so much! And then, inexplicably at 4:50pm, you’ll be like F*CK THIS SH*T WHAT ARE WE DOING LET’S GO HOME YOU B*STARDS

I think that having a lot of empty time makes you more attuned to your feelings. Emotions that you’ve perhaps tucked away neatly in order to carry out an orderly, systematic breakfast/work/mortgage/ dinner sort of life are suddenly given some space to pop out and yell BOO in your face.

Be prepared for it. And get good at mindfulness. Hehe. True though. We downloaded the app Yoga Studio and it SAVED THE DAY! (Tim and I aren’t naturally yoga-y, although we would like to be, we would rather eat chocolate and read Jack Reacher. But when you have lots of extra time it is quite do-able to fit in some mindfulness practice and did really help us.)

Country Guide
Here is a little whiz around the countries we went to, with particular reference to the camping situ….

France – France introduced us to wildcamping.  Staying by lakes and rivers, also almost every town has a free motorhome car park. We met lots of beautiful people doing this, all very respectful of the spots. France was such a breeze, a really wonderful intro to camping around Europe. In fact, we could easily spend three months in France alone.

Switzerland– the odd bit of free camping and absolute gobsmacking beauty. The stunning buildings and clear lakes and mountains. We fell in love with Bern all over again…. but pushed through quite quickly as everything was so dear and we did feel like we were chancing the free camping a lot. One night we accidentally stayed over in a Graveyard. We arrived in the dark thinking we had found a wonderful peaceful spot and in the morning realised it was a cemetery. OH! We zipped out of their pretty fast. Read more about our campervan bustling around France and Switzerland.

Germany– There was the odd bit of freecamping to be had in Germany, but not in the touristy spots – probably rightly so that the Black Forest should be protected by rangers. We did some cool things here in Germany and it is very easy to travel around with only your one pathetic language under your belt. Bit of a warning though, the German elderly are completely and utterly OBSESSED with your babies being cold. I am talking stopped-in-the-street-on-boiling-hot-days-every-single-day OBSESSED. Be prepared for them waking your baby by squeezing their bare feet and sternly saying KALT!KALT!

Italy – we stayed in campsites in Italy (mostly because we were broken down but also because we heard it was slightly unsafe) And we blew our budget somewhat on the incredible pizzas and pasta – this was absolutely the culinary highlight. It was an absolutely lovely place to be for the children – people literally call across the street “CIAO BELLA!” just to be kind and jolly to the children. If you do Venice- stay at the campsite over the water and get the boat in. Far cheaper and lovely way to do it. Read about how to do Italy and Venice hear. Also, another breakdown story. Eep.Family Travel Camping Europe

Croatia– Be warned, there is NO FREE CAMPING there. As a result of landmines in the past, they are very strict about not wandering/driving off the beaten path. Croatia was surprisingly expensive, not the tuppence-a-day place people remember it as, and there was a sort of tourist-weariness amongst the people there, they are still quite clearly recovering from a very tragic conflict. It still made it into our highlights, though. (Read on.)

Spain – if a lover of France is a Francophille is a lover of Spain a Spancophille? Sounds totally wrong, if you ask me. But I am now one! The freecamping around Spain was PERFECT. A real community. Read all about campervanning around Spain with your family, and a surboad and a caterpillar here.

Handy Websites:
There were two sites that we referred to on a weekly basis.
Wildcamping Forum – this was very important to us – so much good advice for travelling around the Uk and Europe in a campervan. Their Spain Forum was so helpful.

Trip Advisor – we had some lovely house-stays in Spain as a result of Trip Advisor. (Courtesy of our breakdown insurance….) If you stay 3+ nights in a place it can be super cheap. We relied on Trip Advisor a lot for restaurants and hotels and ideas for things to do.Family Travel Camping Europe

Highlights:

The national parks in Croatia were incredible, despite being very touristy. Well worth the visit. And the completely astonishing Croatian shoreline, azure ocean and islands. We didn’t really enjoy the vibe there (got to make your own fun, for the most part) or the food available to buy (don’t hate me, I am just being honest) but we loved foraging walnuts and figs all over the country and we fell head over heels with Dubrovnic and Split. In Love. Wouldn’t have missed them for the world. Read about flea markets in Split here.

Seville in December. What a wonderful place! We loved the cafes, the culture, the street art, the late night churros and hot chocolate, the general vibe. In fact- Spain. It is amazing! We LOVED how much they cherish children there, and how involved in all of life. We adooooooored being out on the town at midnight with all the children having fun!

The Black Forest, Germany. We were fortunate enough to make wonderful new friends in Frieberg and perhaps this tinted our time there. But we loved the wildness of the Black Forest, picking millions of tiny wild blueberries on walks to little lakes and buying smoked fish outside the Cathedral and chasing paper boats along the mini waterways.

Wild Swimming and the Children’s Festival in France. Some of the river swimming in the mountainous areas of France is out of this world. Shockingly cold but, injects YEARS of life into the weary bones of parents! We also went to Le Grand Bornand Bonheur des Mômes festival in the Alps –the biggest kids festival in Europe and what an inspiration! So much fun – an acre of wooden train set to build and a whole pasture filled with massive musical instruments made from random recycled rubbish – La Jardin Musicale.

Frequently asked questions:

How did the kids cope? Generally, I reckon if parents are happy, than kids are happy. We were all carried along in a spirit of nomadic freedom.  We prioritised their needs, planned travelling around sleeps and tried to park in places that they would thrive in. They LOVED having both parents around and the unstructured time.

What about stuff? We took waaaay too much stuff. Could have chucked half of it.  Pack your bags and then take half of it away! We also didn’t plan places for everything. The other family we roadtripped for a while with had a perfect place for everything. Do this, would you? It will help with the madness. 
Family Travel Camping Europe
What about baby paraphernalia? We didn’t have too much. We cosleep, so that was easy, and just had slings. And we are nappy free so Juno didn’t even have stacks of that. At night time she used to wear a Tena, hehehehehe… we rescued a massive stash of unused adult incontinence pads for the trip….

Argh, recalling everything is giving me a fluttering in my chest, and ants in my pants, and a desire to fling my clothes off and pretend my local seaside is a Playas Nudista.

What about your budget? When I say we were thrifty, I mean we were like, super cheapskate. We freecamped. We cooked almost EVERY MEAL apart from birthdays and special occasions with friends. (Well, apart from completely not resisting Italian carbs and Mcdonalds chips. Wifries.) A ferry trip, cover price to the Alhambra, and entry to Croatian national parks were probably the only activities that weren’t free. We chose walking and swimming and dossing over actual activities. We don’t feel we missed out at all- in my opinion theme parks look the same the world over. We lived on less than we lived on whilst in London, and made do on a mixture of savings and a tiny bit of income from my writing. Petrol and groceries were our two big costs.

Embrace the fear, race your kids along the shore, scrabble over the cliff to a waterfall, dig out your inner nomad and have a family adventure that will set your heart aflutter for a lifetime.

PS I hope that was helpful! If you have any other questions, please ask them in the comments and I imagine I will edit the extra questions and answers into this mahoosive post.Family Travel Camping Europe

yurt life

Life lately

1 May, 2015

I’ve got a toothache. It’s so painful it feels like Jack Reacher has taken a flying kick at my jaw with typical unexpected force, taking out all his betrayed-by-the-Army malice on my face (I, of course, then kung fu’d his ass and then we became friends, although not lovers despite his tendency to objectify and then fall for strong women. I am after all happily married.) I started the day treating it with arnica and a special tooth-pain mineral remedy and some cloves and then, after lunch, I sacked that off and moved on to the paracetamol, ibuprofen and codine so, basically, I’m totally out of it.

I thought it would be a good time to update you all on our life! *crazy smile*

The last time I did a personal post it was to let you know about how we bought this land in this beautiful spot by a river with our friends. We are still buzzing out on the fact. We get together and dream (taking notes and everything) about our plans there. We have also bought a new, even bigger, yurt, which is so enormous it can have a mezzanine floor! We will live in this yurt for years and years until the kids grow up and then we will build them a tree house each in the forest. And we’ll grow old in the yurt, but probably won’t be able to get up the mezzanine floor – so that could be a special place for our grandkids where they can scribble on the furniture without their arthritic Nana getting up in their grill about it. Go on Grandkids, get your crayons out.

Lulastic and the Hippyshake  - wild childhood - Kiwi parenting and lifestyle blog

Summer here was incredible. We had a visit from my folks – and in their precious few weeks in New Zealand Ramona taught herself how to swim! This gave us an extra boost of confidence in our journey of unschooling as we have been so hands off with Ramona in the water – just loving to see her play and have fun. And then one day she decided she wanted to swim, so she just started swimming. And the next day she was swimming the whole length of the pool. What a mighty and determined child she is, propelled along the water by vision and hope alone. When kids are motivated and ready to learn they can do ANYTHING! So cool.

We spent much of the summer with friends that were over from the UK, our old neighbours. We free camped in our buses and fished and dug great monsters in the sand.

Sadly, summer has taken a hike here in New Zealand, off on a voyage to the other hemisphere to bestow some long, warm evenings on my family and friends over there. (We will be following it in a couple of months- spending June- September over there. YAY!)

So it is a bit cold in our yurt at the moment. We are going to be with all the wool clothes we own on, and 3 feather duvets on top. Normally, if you have a fire, it is manageable but we haven’t installed ours as we are on the move.

Life Lately - Lulastic -  New Zealand Parenting Blog

We took a little holiday to a place called Raglan this week, it was windy and cold but spectacular! We visited some people we met for a few minutes at a festival and (fortunately, really, because imagine the awkwardness if not!) a tiny weeny mustard seed of friendship just bloomed. They live on the wild west coast and we clambered down through the native forest to the sea and chipped oysters off the rocks and slurped them down and got a hit of zinc that enlivened my very bones.

Lulastic - New Zealand Lifestyle Parenting Blog

Juno had a birthday at the weekend – can you BELIEVE SHE IS TWO?! As friends were running the London Marathon I was remembering my own marathon that was Juno’s birth. A marvel of emotions and strength and then a baby born! When you are growing a second baby you truly do wonder how on earth you can love a second baby as much as the first…. and then somehow the love you have expands and deepens and folds inside out and unravels and then when it is knitted back up it isn’t TWICE the size but TEN TIMES the size. It is a little bit like when I put our wool clothes on a hot wash by mistake, but the opposite.

(Psst – I did a new Youtube about bonding with your baby and attachment and things)

Ramona has begun going to a forest Kindergarten on Wednesdays – she is loving it and I am loving her excitement. They spend all day fossicking in the woods and Juno and I spend all day fossicking around the charity shops finding beauties like this….

Retro Typewriter

A third typewriter I don’t need, likely to get its letter jammed by children within 30 seconds and missing an ink ribbon but only £7! BAG IT!

I’ve been busting a gut on a super exciting project that is just in its final stages…. I cannae wait to reveal all! Hopefully next week.

Gosh, I sort of want to ask how YOU have been? Y’know, like, what is exciting for you? What’s going well? What is a bit hard at the moment? I feel like I know and like lots of you, and wish I knew some of you other more silent readers. Funny eh.

Hope you are finding the sparkle of presence in even the most mundane of stuff, and the magic in nature, and contentment in your everyday.

Nappyfree, Parenting

The most gentle, stress-free potty-training ever

23 April, 2015

This week something momentous happened. I packed up our cloth nappies and gave them away. Oh, how I relished that. I was like LATER LOSERS! Actually, I hope never to clap mine eyes on them ever again. I don’t hate our cloth nappies, in fact they have been IDEAL for what we have done with our little ones…. but they seem to be everywhere I look at all times, in the laundry, on the line, in piles. And we barely use them at all! The reason is that we have opted for no nappies, most of the time.

I also experienced that special sigh of relief reserved for parents whose child has become toilet-independent. This realisation has come slowly over the last couple of months.Just last week my husband said “Hey, Juno’s pretty much potty trained now, eh?”  Ah. Yes, yes, she is. In fact, we were along time noticing properly (or wanting to say the words aloud) sine around 21 months she was getting her wees and poos on target the majority of the time.

See, we have been practicing the most gentle, stress-free, quiet way to potty train ever: Nappy Free – ness. Hmm. Nappy Free -dom. Or just… Nappy- Free babies.Nappy free is stress free potty training!

I don’t even really know what you mean by Nappy-Free. It sounds kinda dangerous
If you think “Nappy-free” sounds dangerous try “elimination communication” HA! That sounds like we are raising talkative assassins. The best term for this kind of potty-training is “Born Ready” – I love it as it captures the fundamental belief that no living thing wants to lay a cable on themselves.

We witnessed this first hand when we tried to save a baby bird, fallen from the tree. It was a tiny, weeny speck of a thing, but even so after it had munched on a quarter of a teaspoon’s glob of food it would shuffle over, put its butt over the edge of the nest we had made for it, and squirt out a Number Two. Our children are born communicating with us about all of their needs- their need for touch, food, and their need to release their bladder. They will shuffle and squirm and squark, and if we respond they continue to communicate about it long after you’ve packed up the cloth nappies- until they are grown ups! (If they are anything like me, that is, for I do love a good poo story.)

How is Nappy Free gentle potty training?
People who practice Nappy Free just accept that regular visits to the loo/ holds over the potty are a part of everyday life. There is no song or dance to be made of it. It is something as common as drinking or eating. There are no bribes or reward charts, no punishments for accidents or shaming. This shaming thing is something I see all the time (no judgement, I know it can be frustrating when our children pee their pants and you’ve run out of spares and it was in a neighbour’s house and it was already a rubbish day) – an almost accepted part of teaching our children that weeing in their pants isn’t acceptable. Mu understanding of the culture within Nappy Free families is an unconditional style of parenting – no shame allowed, ever. Nappy Free families just do trips to the loo when it seems needed and don’t make a fuss when the wires of communication are a bit tangled and a poo ends up in a shoe. Families take it at the child’s own pace, listening to them and helping them until they are ready to be entirely toilet-independant.

It could be more respectful
Having said all that… I think it could be even even more respectful. It is common practice with Nappy-Free world to simply feel “in tune” with a baby and whip off their pants and urge them on if we are sure they need to go. I don’t think this is right. I think we need to potty our children with the utmost care and respectful touch and we need to allow a lot more space for consent. I think Nappy Free families could aim to always ask their babies, even newborns, if we can help them go, and if they clearly show they don’t want to we should leave them be- even if that ends up as wet pants. We need to prioritise them receiving the knowledge that they, not us, are the boss’s of their own body.

Is Nappy Free for everyone?
I’m not in the business of telling people what to do. I like to share stories of what we do but I believe each family needs to weigh things up and consider their family’s own delicate dance of needs and then decide! I do think there are principles of nappy free that will make for a much, much less stressful potty training for everyone. Things such as acknowledging when a baby is clearly doing a number – keep up the communication, respectfully. Don’t let them forget what it feels like to relieve themselves.  (It seems to be the case that children can lose the sensation.)  Give children a go when it seems like they want to but need some help. Model toilet use. Be child led. Avoid forcing and coercive tactics.

Take it off
But how does one begin such a thing! You know what they say: a journey of a thousand poos begins with one poo. Begin that journey today! It can begin with Day 1 for a newborn or with toddlers even. Here are a few tips:

  • Give your baby a go on the loo whenever you go. You modelling toilet use is the number one way they’ll pick it up!
  • This also makes a bit of a regular rhythm, and you will soon pick up their rhythm.
  • Create little points in the day that they can become used to going – before meals, after meals, before the car, after the car, before the buggy/wrap one getting out of the buggy/wrap.
  • Create a little sign that you begin doing whenever you talk about the potty.
  • Have potties lying around the house – sometimes the sign is them patting or going to the potty.
  • Thumbs up for “tree wees” – it is my experience that it is very natural for kids to wee outside. It might feel like an accident, but they might have gone outside just to wee!
  • Don’t get too into it. Hehe. Just relax. You’ll have heaps of us and downs, really awesome in-sync days and them days where teething pain interrupts the brain-bladder signalling and, well, you know: wee. Spend loads of time outside where misses don’t count.
  • Put nappies on if it helps you relax in between. We always had nappies on hand for when we were at someone elses house as we dodn’t want to be super stressing about getting wee on someone elses carpet. You’d think this would make for mix messages but it didn’t seem to. Both our girls were fine with or without nappies.

Do check out my friend Jenn’s new online classes, of Born Ready. The Born Ready website was basically my homepage when I first got into this!  She is the absolute GURU of nappy free and offers loads and loads of advice.  She also sells flaparaps– the perfect nappy/pants inbetweener for babies.

Real Nappies and Nappy-Free are mates
It is Real Nappy week this week and I wanted to take a moment to encourage all the cloth-bummed baby mammas and pappas to consider this gentle form of potty training. I know you, you and your gorgeous stash of nappy covers in every crazy pattern, your ever-so-slight addiction to animal print cloth nappies. Real Nappy lovers and Nappy-free lovers are cut from the same cloth – we care for our babies bums and our earth. And we are not afraid of poo.

Go for it, go on. Take it off and liberate your baby’s butt! Nappy Free = Stress Free Potty Training.

PS Read more Nappy Free tales from me here.