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Putting a smile on your kids’ face this Christmas

27 November, 2014

I was lying awake in bed last night thinking about what our Christmas present strategy is going to be this year. It is something of a dance, I find, figuring out how to bring your kid a lot of joy, without making Christmas all about ripping wrapping off luxurious pressies, or how to not spend all your money without making them a bit jealous of all the children running around with their brand new awesome toys. Argh. I think we are going to go down the one cool present each route this year. Just getting one thing that we know they will fall head over heals in love with.

Anyhoo… here is a guest post from Santa* to let you know about another awesome strategy…

With the festive season just around the corner, parents up and down the country will be desperately searching for that perfect gift for their kids. While children are very good at dropping a few, rather un-subtle, hints, not all parents are able to afford the requests that are put before them.

Whether your little tike is asking for a pony or a new bicycle, it can be difficult to meet their expectations without breaking the bank. No one wants to spoil the Christmas magic by having Father Christmas fall short of his promises but it can be difficult to make everything work.

Making your money stretch

One way to put a smile on your kid’s face with the perfect Christmas is to start saving well in advance. Putting aside a little money each month can soon add up and you should only aim to buy your child one big present anyway as they may become spoilt otherwise.

Shop the sales

For an even better bargain, why not shop the sales after Christmas and get your kid something they really want for a lower price?

There is no point paying more than you have to and although you may feel bad about not giving your child their big present on the big day this feeling will surely subside once you see their happy, smiling face when you tell them they get to pick out their own present this year. Getting a present after Christmas Day is just another way to extend the celebrations and kids will love getting involved in the process of picking their own present.

Win it!

While saving money and shopping in the sales are great options, we all love getting something for nothing – so why not try and win the perfect Christmas present for your kids? Whether you’re looking for scooters, skateboards or bicycles for kids, companies such as Halfords have it all and they’re currently offering a great competition to let you win one of their top products in time for Christmas.

*Actually from Halfords, lol. See disclosure for more on that!

Parenting

Stuck in a Parenting Rut? 40 Unconventional Tips for Finding Your Mojo

25 November, 2014

We woke up grumpy yesterday. Not just on the wrong side of the bed, but the wrong side of the stratosphere. Ramona was snapping at me, I couldn’t appease her. I was getting impatient, Juno was clinging to my knees like moss on a log.

I plonked on the sofa and looked at the clock. 8.05 A.M. EIGHT OH FIVE AM?!? Give me strength.

“Shiver my timbers, children o mine. We are grumpy. Can you think of anything we can do to shake these blues away?” Without even a moment’s pause Ramona said “Have a bath, put my pyjamas on and bake chocolate biscuits.”

So, that is what we did. (Well, we tried to make biscuits but we got all maverick, slopping in some milk, and then it turned into a cake which meant we then made butter icing and shook sprinkles all over and then we sat down and ate the whole thing ourselves. It was decadent and perfect.)

And that good mood has lasted us a solid 24 hours.

It was however, the first time Ramona has been able to identify and articulate her own fug remedy. And I’m definitely crap at soothing myself out of a mood. It made me want to make a list of all the potential mood lifters for families who encounter that stuck in a rut syndrome. (A list! Yes, a list will solve everything!)

It goes without saying, that the first steps for cranky kids and cross parents is validation. Everyone needs to know it is okay to be angry, grumpy, sad or to have rubbish days. Children need to hear that their big feelings are accepted and that there is room for their bad selves. That is unconditional parenting.

But when bad moods are due to disconnection, or getting in a cycle of bad communication, or simply feeling stuck in a rut as a parent, there are some things that we can do in order to get through it, to reconnect, to laugh our socks off and feel at peace again.

So, with the help of marvellous Lulastic readers on Facebook (come and say hello), here are FORTY ways to re-connect, shake the grumps, and start having fun.

Forty ways to find your parenting mojo again

Madness
We have always relied on a little bit of the ludicrous to break a bad mood.

1 Dance. We will stick on the loudest, bassiest, most fun music we can find (actually, we have a playlist for it- Grumps Begone) and then we just GET DOWN. Reader, Lorella says these mini discos always start with this favourite song.

2 Facepaint. A new face, a new mood. I have a whole bunch of face painted faces in an album on my iPad and we chose one of those and rock our animal selves for a while. It normally ends in Ramona painting my face in her signature style- red all over.

3 Fancy Dress. We all tumble into the dress ups and become flamboyant mermaid ninjas.

4 Pots and Pans. LOUD NOISES. We bang and crash them and and chant and shout a sing and let it all out in a rhythmic way.

5 Roar. A reader explains that they let it all out with a lion roar. I very much like that sense that our bodies can perfectly capture our feelings- if we are feeling fierce we can BE FIERCE.

6 Epic den. In your lounge, as big as you can make it. The perfect spot to sit out chicken pox. See Tinker Studio for diy teepee inspo.

forty ways to reconnect with your children

7 Pulling faces. Bex and Missie Lizzie both rely on face pulling contests. It is silly and fun and will end in giggles, but perhaps more importantly it involves eye contact- one of the fundamentals for reconnecting.

The great outdoors
The outdoors, isn’t it great? It is the one stop shop for the irascible. Readers share about the almost immediate impact of soaking in Vitamin D on moods.

8 Find a spot of grass, your lawn or a patch of park, throw down a thick rug and lie on your backs and watch the clouds. Spot the dragons and alligators and candy floss. (That last one is WELL EASY.)

9 Pack a picnic and eat outside. On your balcony, at the beach. A picnic, for us, involves no caramelised onion tarte- but a can of sweet corn and a can of tuna, and crisps with which to shovel them in.

10 Find a place to run and race and leap about. After running races we can usually be found collapsed in a heap of giggles. Mary says “Sometimes you just the grumps! And kids need to understand that people have mood changes, bad days, sad days etc and that its ok to feel that way. Love support and time and then an epic round of puddle jumping and tree climbing followed by lots of hugs.”

11 Follow My Leader is also a temper shifter- and particularly ideal if a child’s anger comes as a result of feeling powerless.

12 Teddy Bear’s Picnic… All the cuddly toys shoved in an ikea basket, plus a packet of hobnobs. A tree to sit under= winner.

13 Barefoot babies. Whatever the season, shake off those shoes and socks and connect with the earth beneath your feet. Sarah says “We go outside and walk barefoot on the grass – grab some of that great earth energy!”

14 Go to your local beach, woodland or river, whatever the weather. Victoria says “We did it a couple of weekends ago in the rain and sat on a grey pebble beach having hot soup out of a thermos & eating cheese & tomato sandwiches…”

Water
A wise old sage once said “Cranky kids need to get in the water”. Find a way…

15 Bath. You have to turn the taps on, and then help your child in the water and stuff. (Hehe. It is so easy, but it is our absolute first resort.) Crank the connection up by getting in yourself and washing each other’s hair.

16 A colourful bath. Depending on the depth of the bad mood, you may need more help. We stick a few drops of food colouring in to make it extra awesome. (Um, in case you are wondering, and you don’t have food colouring on hand, sliced up beetroot also works a treat…)

17 Bath paints. They are crazily simple but combine the pleasures of being in water with being messy and creating something. Recipe here.

18 Pool. If you aren’t the irritable one than consider a swim at the pool. If you ARE the irritable one STAY AWAY. Those tangled cossies, sweaty legs, pubes stuck to your feet will be way, waaaay too much.

19 Water play. Perhaps you need five minutes to hide in a room and east your secret stash of maltesers. Get out the pots and pans again, several towels, and let your kids have a riot on the lino. Thalia says “Outside water play. ‘Go and get drenched. Sure you can take your soft toys…’

Eat

Speaking of secret stashes… Kids need to know that comfort can be found in eating. Ha, I jest. Sort of. Hey, no disorder is going to come of pulling out the pizzas at times of immovable grizzliness. (Don’t quote me on that.)

Anyway, anyway…. LOOK, PIZZA!!!

20 We have saved the day with DIY pizza. I don’t know what it is about it, but my children absolutely love the awesomeness of designing their own dinner. (Which we have sometimes eaten at 3pm.) Ramona’s speciality is with sprinkles of popcorn.

21 Get an ice cream. This is probably our second resort… It involves a famous chain that prey on the whole word with their scary clown man and addictive sugary substances with extra msg…. One I avoided for TWO DECADES. Then I had kids and realised that their ice creams cost 30p and if you go through the drive thru YOU DONT EVEN HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR. OR, THEREFORE, YOUR PYJAMAS. 60p buys both my children so much happiness- I actually feel like it is US exploiting THEM.

22 Chocolate cake! Or biscuits. (Whatever.) Eating something so rich, on the best china has an opulence that feels like a snatched magic moment. (*Maggggic moooooments….*)

23 A chocolate platter. Bring it all out man. Come on…Help the kids think that they have struck gold. You will love it too, and that is partly what the list is for. Finding things that will lift the mood of everyone. It’s legit, anyway. There is Valium in chocolate… I mean endorphins…. Or oxytocin…. Or something….

Make a plan

If you are lucky you might also have time to execute it….

24 We have planned lantern works for the evening…. We made lanterns and then went for the most basic little stroll carrying our lanterns as soon as dusk settled.

25 We have planned movie nights, with tickets and bags of popcorn.

26 We have planned, and done, treasure hunts. For preschoolers, they actually enjoy the planning as much as the hunt. Ruth says “Sometimes I’ll make up a treasure hunt and leave clues around the house.”

27 We have planned camping trips… Making lists (they fix everything) of what we will do and what we will need to take.

It is about dreaming… Of thinking of another day, a different day.

Get your needs met

If you, as the parent, are not coping, do something immediately that will give you hope.

28 Phone a friend. Share your sadness but move on to happiness. Discuss your real feelings, but take a moment to remember some things you have to be thankful for.

29 Dream of sea wind. Plan a trip for your own mental health. Perhaps you all need to get away for one night in order to feel the sea wind in your hair.

30 Book it an afternoon in. Email your other half and discuss an afternoon in the next week that you are going to book in in order to go solo to the cinema.

31 Swap your kids. Call your friend and organise a child swap for the very next day… You have two kids while the other rests and then swap.

32 Start a jar of awesome. My friend was telling me about her friend (it sounds like an urban legend, but I’m sure it’s true) who has a jar of awesome. Every single day she puts something in there, either a little note of something she is thankful for or a trinket to remind her of something special. And then whenever she feels blue she raids the jar, for something to give her the warm fuzzies.

Stop

33 Cancel. Can you cancel the appointment, quit any agenda? Swap the dentist for a trip to the beach. Sometimes these decisions feel irresponsible… But they can be the key to happiness.

34 Hands Free. Adele says “Recently what’s helped is me forcing myself not to look at the phone or computer for the whole day or at least most of it. I’ve realised that my being distracted makes us ALL grumpy.” THIS. SO MUCH!

35 Quit the now, for a few moments. I love this one from Becca “Looking at baby photos with them. Remembering that innocence and vulnerability – that we are the caretakers of (hard to remember at times of extremis.)

36 Stop hanging out together. Ha. You know, as much as possible. Adrienne says “Making ‘cubbies’ out of overturned chairs, blankets, under beds or tables, wherever. Separate cubbies for each child (and even for mummy) if we’re all getting scratchy. I realised when my children were quite young that they are all introverted and time alone is really important for each of them. I tried to help them identify their feelings when they were overwhelmed by too much people – and I would ask them ‘do you need some time by yourself?’ NOT as a punishment but as an option for them to choose.”

Emergency Supplies

Sometimes, if we are on our way home and the girls and I are cranky pants I will pray that there is a package from my family awaiting us. Well… Better than God, or my family:

37 Secret Parcel. The next time you find something awesome in a charity shop, be it a box of fuzzy felts or a puzzle. Squirrel it away on top of the wardrobe for when you need a trick.

38 Unknown craft materials. A tiny packet of new modelling clay, a new stamp, some stickers. Something small and as yet destroyed turned into art will give you a breather and your children some fun.

39 Unseen fancy dress. Again, it is all about the stealth supply. The next time you see a flouncy dress in a charity shop, tuck it away and pull it out when you are down in the dumps.

40 ideas for reconnecting with your children

40 The parent’s stuff. Oh yes, I have been known to willingly hand down to my 18 month old an entire bits and bobs draw so that I can cook dinner. Some people call these “treasure baskets“… I call it “the things I don’t have a home for draw”- key rings, touristy fridge magnets (things usually sent in a parcel from my family), the camera case, a lighter… (Jokes.) You get the idea. Grown up stuff… They love it.

BONUS FEATURE!!!

The Four Healing Salves

I heard today of this ancient shamanic concept and feel it is a perfect one to remember, particularly for those of us for whom these bad days happen all too often. I hope it isn’t cultural appropriation to share it with you.

There are four activities that, if we can incorporate them into our weekly rhythm will keep us whole. I see that nearly all of them are present in the above list in some way, so they have a beautiful restorative impact too.

Singing. Be it listening to music, or belting out anthems on our way to work, singing releases all sorts of goodness for our soul.

Movement. Busting the moves, jiggling at the lights, yoga or sports.

Story. Being enthralled in the magic of a story, phoning our friends simply to share stories, catching up with people.

Silence. Sitting on the beach with the whisper of the wind, twenty minutes of meditation, stilling our minds as we cuddle our children to sleep.

How are you doing with those? I see these salves as an invitation to self care, to meet the needs of my own soul so that the next day I can get covered in facepaint whilst dancing to the Monkey song and stuffing cake in my gob at a Teddy Bear’s picnic on the beach.

I really believe that we don’t have to get stuck in a rut – that we all have the power to change things. I reckon these ideas could help break the cycle of disconnect, get you all laughing and rocking your awesome parenting mojo again.

Do any of these work a treat for your family? Do you have any other suggestions? As always,I looooove to hear from you…

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When is the right time for children to sleep solo?

25 November, 2014

It has finally happened. We are at the stage where Ramona is ready for her own children’s bed- only about 3 years after we once thought it might happen!

We fell into cosleeping, really. I just couldn’t bear to have her anywhere but by my side. And she slept so well there, could nurse so easily.

After following my instinct on this I began to read up on it – Three In A Bed provided all the research I could possibly hope for. It reassured me that cosleeping was absolutely normal- the primary way families sleep all over the non Western World.

And since then I haven’t thought twice about it. We had another baby, in she slotted. The four of us now cocooned in our massive family bed.

Now Ramona is four and, spurred on by a gift of new Micky Mouse bedsheets by her grandparents, has asked for her own bed.

Since we live in a yurt, and don’t have too much spare space, Tim is thinking of building a bunk that can sort of hang over the top of our bed. Like a double on the bottom and a single on the top. Is this a thing already? If not: DRAGON’S DEN! The perfect solution for families in tiny spaces. Hehe.

Who knows whether Ramona will sleep perfectly into this new arrangement. If she doesn’t, it hardly matters, we will be happy with family cosleeping for much longer. (Apparently in Japan no one sleeps solo until 15. I KNOW. AWESOME. I can remember being a teenager and cosleeping with my best friends at sleep overs! I found great comfort in it. Lonely times, those teenage years.)

Once the bunk gets builts, I shall put some pictures up.

A collaboration with Homebase- see disclosure for more info.

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Visit thrifty, vintage Manchester in December

19 November, 2014

Whenever I think of Manchester I say, in my head, “COME ON THEN I’LL ‘AVE YA” Gallagher brother styles. I always think of the place as being in yer face, buzzed out, hyped up, Britpop fuelled fury. But in real life, whenever I have been there, I have found it to be simply stylish and fun and crammed to the rafters with retro capers.

I used to have to go to Manchester for work meetings all the time and I always used to book a late train back to London, not just to avoid the on peak train expenses- which can be the difference between a £15 fare and. £150 far, absurdly, but in order to make the most of being in such a fun city.
I have cool memories tucked away of meandering around the city centre, enjoying the Christmas lights whilst wishing I had another jumper, spending my pennies in the excellent second hand shops (on an extra jumper), enjoying the alternative vibes and ending with some of the best cheap noodles I’ve ever tasted in their China Town.

If you have a spare weekend over the coming weeks do consider booking a thrifty hotel with Hotel Direct and relishing all the good freebies and cheapies Manchester has to offer.

Here are five reasons to visit Manchester in December:

Afflecks
This could be number one to five for me. It is awesome, retro inspiration and there is no other place in Britain like it! Vintage clothing, antique trinkets and retro games. Loooooove. I bought my first ever pair of vintage sunnies here back in the early 2000’s and haven’t looked back. You will be able to pick up all your Christmas pressies in this one spot, I reckon. (Although vintage sunnies might be a bit unseasonal.)

Christmas Market
Skip the mad, busy Southbank or the faraway markets of Germany for this perfectly compact and lovely Manchester Market. Everything you’d hope for in a Christmas Market, with the added benefit of being close to the station and much cheaper than London! Manchester do Christmas lights with aplomb too- be bedazzled and amazed with the array of bedangling kitsch.

Oxfam Manchester
T
he Oxfam Emporium in Manchester is by about 7000% the best Oxfam in the UK. It rocks. It is slightly more expensive than other Oxfams, but only just, and it is worth it as they have selected the absolute best of retro garb. There is also a record shop and book shop- all three of which make Manchester worth a visit for second hand lovers! (Lovers of second hand that it, ermmmm.) Oxfam staff have lovingly sorted through the jumble and these shops feel much more ordered than the usual charity shop. If you have a list of people you need to buy for, I’m sure they are the (second) IDEAL place to get all your Christmas pressies!

The Great Outdoors
Manchester is a gateway to some of the most lovely parks and reserves in the North. Daisy Nook (hello, cutest name evs) has a river for paddling, birds to spot, meadows to roll in and trees to climb. Take a day exploring this lovely place, and let nature therapeutize (WHAT?! Spell check hasn’t underlined that word?! I totally thought I had made it up?!) you.

Free Music
It would be remiss to begin with the Gallagher brothers and not mention the rich musical heritage of Manchester. We have that city to thank for SO MUCH musical beauty. And, the cool thing,  is that local musicians are often happy to share with the public for free! For example, Festwich, is an annual festival, open to all and it doesn’t cost a penny. There are also tons of free events, particularly festive ones, at the Manchester Cathedral.

*sung to Alanis Morisette* Thank you Manchester!

No Poo, Thrifty

No Poo: 20 Surprising Results of Giving Up Shampoo

18 November, 2014

I was lying in the bath the other night, immersing my hair in the hot water (not as relaxing as it sounds- I’m a mother, you know? I had an 18 month old sitting on my tummy face planting on to my boobs and a four year old up the other end balancing rubber ducks on my knees) when it occurred to me that my hair is taking a really long time to get soaked through.

Like water off a ducks back, it was taking almost half a minute to penetrate my hair shafts. I concluded it is because my hair is so strong and healthy now, each strand so perfectly encased with magnificent sebum, that it was protecting itself against the elements…My hair  has become the elite samurai warrior of hair.

It made me wonder about all the extra, often unexpected results of giving up shampoo. I asked on my Facebook page what people have discovered their hair doing since going No Poo, and I loved hearing all the curious side effects…Giving up shampoo - unexpected benefits

One thing people don’t expect is that No Poo will actually make their hair 10 million times better (I actually did the maths, of course) than when they were using an expensive shampoo:

Soft Hair
“Soft as butter” Megan

“My hairdresser commented on how incredibly soft it was.” Katherine

“I have soft, strong non oily hair.” Helen

Voluminous Hair
“My hair is getting thicker and voluminous without the chemical cocktail of shampoo.” Ayse

“I’m finding my hair is thicker” Katherine

“The thickness and volume is great and I find my hair not only is harder to wet but also takes longer to dry.” Kathy

“I went No Poo at the start of Sept and my hair is so much softer and has heaps more body than it had previously. It was always limp and flyaway before so… WooHoo!” Janine

“Just lately my hairdresser told me she had thinned out the sides a bit (I have short hair). NEVER happened before.” Magdelene

Manageable Hair
“Became easier to manage and stopped depositing itself all over furniture/clothes/bedding. ” Ella

Shiny Hair
“I switched from shampoo to baking soda about a month ago and my hair is healthy and shinier than ever.” Laura

“Hair is long, thick and shiny.” Heather

“I switched from shampoo to baking soda about a month ago and my hair is healthy and shinier than ever!” Laura G

Vibrant Hair
 “I also think my natural color is more vibrant.” Bree

Hair is growing like fury
“My hair is growing like fury! ” Heather

“I think I am actually growing more hair?” Molly

People are discovering their hair actually changes, in texture and shape – often times into exactly the hair they want. Personally, I have always had hair as straight an limp as an arrow. A few months after giving up shampoo it got the most lovely wave. HURRAH!

Straight Hair
“My hair is straight! It’s always been unruly and wavy but now I don’t need to use straighteners ever.” Charlotte

Curly Hair
“No need for product to emphasise curls…love it!” Megan

Tangle Free Hair
“I find my hair is incredibly easy to brush all the time, no matter what i’ve done with it!” Rebecca

I found quite quickly that giving up shampoo had enormous benefits for my skin. Spots I have had my whole life, on my face and shoulders disappeared:

Goodbye Acne
“I stopped using shampoo about 3 months ago and I also decided to stop washing my face with anything too. I’ve suffered from acne most of my life and although it’s been a lot less severe as I’ve got older, and since I’ve had children, my skin is truly the best it’s been for a very long time (people have commented on it – even my Mum, so it must be true!!)” Maddie

Goodbye Eczema
“My husband and son both had eczema but since our whole family of 5 has gone poo free they no longer have eczema!!” Bree

Goodbye Warts
“I had a wart on my finger for at least 4 years. Within two weeks of using baking soda instead of shampoo the wart completely disappeared!” Charly

Goodbye Styling Products
“I love the ‘stiffness’ and volume of my hair with no poo, it’s what I used to have to use 2 or 3 diff products for.. (Wax, mattifying powder, and hairspray..) Now it’s just my natural state.. SO stoked to discover my desire for that texture wasn’t stupid- it was exactly how my hairs meant to be.” Maryanne

Goodbye Cluttered Shelves
“My unexpected side effect has been a new obsession with the labels of beauty products, I’m running everything down and switching to coconut oil and bicarb combos. So the bathroom clutter is disappearing too!” Heather

Goodbye Itchy Scalp
“I was getting an itchy scalp with normal shampoo since going poo free my scalp is itch free and my hair feels lighter and just more healthy” Bree

Goodbye Flaky Scalp
“No more dry patches on my scalp!” Molly

“I have significantly less dandruff and my hair looks less dull.” Caitrin

(Hello, Flaky Scalp)
“Why am I getting dandruff for the first time in my life?” Sarah (A few people also mentioned getting dandruff so I did ought to mention it! It is quite common in transition, as the scalp gets used to not being assaulted by toxins! I cover this in Happy Hair - I suggest using a rosemary herb tea amongst other things.

And then there is the sense that being shampoo-free is one way we can step more lightly on the earth. I am sure the No Poo movement is part of a wider, ecological movement:

Hello Eco Warrior Credentials
“I am thrilled at minimising all the plastic packaging that store bought hair products are contained in.” Ella

Hello Festival Happiness
“I’ve been shampoo free for about 4 years now, and just love that my hair always looks great! Go to a 8 day festival – no worries, hair looks same as ever!”  Jessica

Do you have any other unexpected side effects from giving up shampoo? Would love to hear from you. 

PS If you are thinking about giving up shampoo do check out my super thrifty book – it has everything you might possibly need to know about beginning this journey!

Thrifty

20 Amazing Second Hand Gift Ideas

11 November, 2014

When I was a teenager the BIGGEST insult you could hurl at someone was to say they got their clothes from Oxfam. Seriously, I lived in fear that someone would discover it was my favourite shop. HAHAHA. I used to sneak in so furtively, glancing around to make sure no one saw me enter, coat pulled up around my face. And then I’d say I found my vintage Lee flares at Miss Selfridge.

And now, here I am… the proudest Oxfam lover on the planet. It is genuinely one of the things I miss the most about living in NZ! (Also, like, my family…) Oxfam Online especially is one of the best places to buy vintage these days. The money goes to support incredible projects in the developing world AND you get a bargainous bit of antiquity.

Sheesh, if they had Oxfam Online when I was younger there would have been absolutely no need for me to don that big nose and moustache disguise just to go shopping.

Imagine how much less strain on the earth Christmas would be if we could whole heartedly embrace second hand gifts, eh? WELL…. to help things along I have sacrificially spent the entire morning on the Oxfam shop looking at every beautiful vintage item on there…. and here are my top picks. Beautiful Secondhand Gifts from Oxfam

HOME
1- Mix and Match Crockery – like this beautiful Minton Bone China Plate… So many lovely tea cups and saucers when you hit up the excellent search function.
2- Hand Crocheted Blankets – such an array of colours.. this one is my fave
IMG_1259.JPG
3A perfect small vintage tin… I have a collection of these sitting idly on my shelf. I fondle them.
4- Antique Kitchen Ware – HEllO, these scales….
5- Retro Picnic Ware – odds and ends of yellow melamine? Yes, please! *dies of love* (It has taken me forever to build up our little collection of melamine…)

BOOKS
6- Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches - the perfect book for the crafter in your life
7- The complete book of Kites and Kite flying. They have a huge selection of hobby books for kids too.
8- They have every kind of vintage penguin edition, in good nick too, for a total bargain. Absolute classic pressie…

WEAR
9- They have a tremendous collection of vintage dresses for the more flush of you. This one is a 1950’s, hand embroidered frock. I am a bit in love with it.
10- Not all their retro gear is dear though. I spotted this INSANELY AWESOME retro jacket and it is a snip! Oxfam Vintage Jacket
11- The yellow jacket pictured is a vintage jacket from their Pop Art Pallete section. Search “Pop Art Palette” for some of the most glorious, fairly reasonably priced, colourful wears you’ve ever clapped your eyes on.
12- They also have lots of modestly price retro- style very glam evening wear…. *dreams of having an occasion to wear this*
13- And an absurd array of fun festive jumpers if you are deciding to jump on that marvellous wagon this Christmas.

(Oh rats, now I have basically just begun browsing the whole shop for things I love… Ahem. Let me get back to the gift guide for YOU.)

CHILDREN
14- The children won’t care if a toy is vintage of not- but you get the satisfaction of giving a styley, eco gift!! See this cool, colourful retro pack of Dominoes (you could take it to the next level and turn them into fridge magnets with this guide….)
15- Hi there, fun, vintage jigsaw!
16- Sweet and dreamy (and only one or two that look a bit terrifying) vintage dolls…
17- They have a crazily adorable stash of children’s vintage wear too

HARD TO BUY FOR
18 – Browse their Ephemera category for such joyous finds as a vintage train whistle, vintage binoculars and ancient postcards
19- Vintage gloves are always a winner, you know it.
20- This last one is not vintage but deserves a mention as a brilliant pressie for the person that needs nothing more – particularly for people you need to buy a gift for but don’t know very well. Oxfam Unwrapped takes your money and gives an often life saving gift for someone who needs it very much.

PHEW! What an arduous morning, browsing their website and falling in love over and over.

If you are trying to do Christmas in a more ethical way this year please check out these links:
The London Fair Christmas Fayre – happening on Saturday November 29th on Oxford Street. Millions of eco and fair trade gifts under one roof.
Sacraparental’s awesomely awesome guide to world-changing gifts. So many ideas. (Also, a kind of Christian intro…)
My guide for non-toy alternatives, crowdsourced by readers, these are the most creative ideas for not buying more stuff!

Proudly partnering with Oxfam through Affiliate Links.

Featured, Parenting

Living the dream- two parents, four boys, one bus and the whole of New Zealand for the rest of their lives

6 November, 2014

We are hitchhiking on someone else’s dream at the moment. Friends we met at the very start of this year, when we were just a few weeks on this fair New Zealand soil, at the unschooling retreat in Foxton. (Going to that retreat was one of the best things we could have done, arriving new here. We made so many fast friends and felt like part of an instant tribe. We held the third unschooling retreat just down the road from our yurt last weekend- 120 unschoolers in the mountains…. Awesomeness.)

Anyway, just one of these families happened to be travelling around the country in a bus. Kind of like us at the time, but with double the children and with indefinite travelling plans, where as we were basically on a hunt for a spot to furrow down our wandering roots.

We kept connecting with Us In A Bus (it’s not actually their surname but you wouldn’t know it to hear us refer to them) through the year and on Monday we began a little holiday with them, our buses united on the road once again.

IMG_1258.JPGWe are having a bit of a lush time … Totally buzzing out on their nomadic lifestyle. It is helping us recall our hoon around Europe last year (I’m remembering swimming in lakes beneath beautiful sunsets and Tim is remembering banging his head a lot and not having anywhere to do a poo.)

I love Ange and Hamish’s dream, I am totally loving sneaking in with it for a bit. It is a dream fuelled by Lego, sand castles and espresso.

They had safe jobs, a house in a nice town, four happy boys. And then they bought a bus, and began roaming NZ, playing and learning together. Soon they discovered they loved it and sold their house, establishing the bus and the road as their only home. And now they are all happy.

Ange was explaining this morning the rut she felt stuck in before. Tied to a mortgage, no time for fulfilment.

It was when their youngest child was one, after a bout of health issues, that Ange realised that the isolation she felt was having a serious impact on her sanity. They realised that something had to change, if not everything. At that moment they began planning a path out. It took them a year but now they have the life Ange has always imagined was possible for them.

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Hamish, Ange, Will, Ethan, Micah and Arlo in a gondola (the word gondola totally cracks me up. Maybe because it reminds me of the word gonads.)

Ange describes wanting a community to bring their kids up with, and somehow, through the freedom of life on the road, they are discovering this. Communing with families all over the country.

They have found places to stay through online networks (like home education Facebook groups) and friends of friends of friends. Sometimes staying a night, sometimes two months if everyone is enjoying themselves.
They’ve had hitch hikers having a sleepover in their (tiny) lounge and have rolled out an extra bed for a visit from Nana.

The boys build stuff and play board games and draw and read and climb and dig and explore, Ange and Hamish taking it in turns to either play or work, running their online businesses with their excellent mobile internet and solar power.

Ange is the driver of their eleven metre beast, wrapping it around some of New Zealand’s gnarliest bends, and Hamish is in charge of meals with each boy choosing a favourite dinner to eat once a week.

In some ways their life is like every other large family’s- they eat around 5:30 each night, time is spent helping the boys navigate tussles, there can never be too many stories read to them, or enough biscuits.

But in other ways it is completely and utterly different. They are free to go wherever they want, they are together all day and all night, they learn from whatever it is they happen to be experiencing.

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Last night we parked up on a magnificent beach, putting our buses nose to nose. Right now I am typing this up, looking at the rain thrashing the window and the sun trying to zap the ocean but failing.

The school bus has just driven into the bay, tooting it’s horn frantically, as if trying to round us all up.

But the classroom isn’t for these boys. They are too busy playing for that…

It isn’t everyone’s dream- it is theirs and they have found a way to live it.

And for a little bit, we are living it with them.

Well… drinking their coffee and using their whizzy internet, at least.

Ps You can virtually hitchhike with them via their Us In A Bus blog and their Us In A Bus Instagram and their Facebook.

collaborative

DIY Inspo

4 November, 2014

I can remember visiting Ikea with my folks when I was a kid. I used to fill my pockets with free pencils (it’s no theivery if they are free, right?) and sit on the sofas and admire the framed pictures. I’d imagine the perfect rooms were my home.

I get the same feeling just looking at the Betta Living site. Here are some of my favourite snippets:1

1// I love the basic canvas this white design provides. It allows for these perfect pops of colour – it also means you can update those pops of colour whenever you want for an almost transformational effect.
2// This playroom- eek! There are loads of made to measure wardrobe options on this site which makes storage, particularly for kid’s rooms a breeze. Something I really struggle with.
3// I am just basically in love with these stone tiles. They are AMAZING.

Not that it wouldn’t take a few seconds for us to wreak marmitey havoc across those beautiful rooms! Hehehe. (Have you seen the It’s Like they Know Us Tumblr? It is only just the most awesome thing on the internet right now.)

Got to love any companies that make it easier for folk to do up their own homes in this stylish manner. Thanks Betta Living for the Inspo!

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Featured, Parenting

Until they are done (Breastfeeding a four year old & an 18 month old)

30 October, 2014

Ah, breastfeeding. Just me and my little one… and my big one… and a small pink babushka doll… half a chewed orange… an awkward pair of fairy wings… and a small bunch of wild flowers.

I never expected such a crowd.

Yet here we are!

*smiles brightly*

It’s not often we all squeeze up together like this. Early on in my tandem breastfeeding experience I decided that three of us at once was too tricky for me to handle. (In one sense “tandem” is a good word- it brings to mind the gargantuan effort of tandem parachuting – a wild enough thing without another person tangled around you. But in another sense, it doesn’t quite do, as there are more than two involved. There are three of us trying to get our heads/ lips around this. I think “triptych breastfeeding” better captures the ungainly mechanisms of it all!)

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

18 month old Juno is in the stage of breastfeeding that makes me think that the whole “grass is greener” part of human nature begins early. She takes a few gulps on one side, then pats the other as if to test the waters, then moves over to the other one.
She isn’t quite at the inanimate objects sharing her milk stage (that began with Ramona at two, nursing a micromachine…) but she will often bring some kind of contribution. The marmite toast she is halfway through or a bit of lego she can’t leave behind.
Juno is restless… always on the go, climbing and discovering… when she snuggles in for Mummy Milk it is one of the few moments of stillness in her day. Her eyes flicker vacantly at the sky or our ceiling, I can almost see her processing all that has gone before. I watch her watching her own little show reel. And then the eye lids droop and sleep stills her body.

Ramona will be four in two weeks… and as we approach her birthday I wonder if we are approaching her weaning. Some weeks she doesn’t have a drop of my milk. Most nights she will fall asleep during a story, or just snuggled against my side while I give Juno milk. I guess we have been on the world’s slowest weaning journey over the last year… creeping down at Ramona’s pace, soon to be done.

When I bring the topic up she vehemently declares she isn’t finished with it… “I’m going to have Mummy Milk ‘till I am FIFTEEN!” (Ah.. . the internet’s worst nightmare.) She still sees breastfeeding as her greatest comfort.

People say that mothers breastfeed for a long time for their own sakes… because they can’t let go of their children. You only need to breastfeed through a pregnancy to realise this isn’t the case… I never quite got over the weird physical feeling of breastfeeding Ramona while I was pregnant.

We are touched out, have things to do, no time to sit and watch eye lids flicker, no room on our laps for a babushka…

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

And yet.

I never imagined to still be nursing Ramona at four. But there are one million things I never imagined I’d do as a parent… yet have found myself embracing them when it appears apparent that this road is for us. (Every family has their own paths to take… and it is often the children who grab your hand and reveal it, don’t you reckon?) If you detect any lactating smuggery in this post… please don’t. I understand that for all sorts of reasons this path isn’t for all…. and it has been a rocky one for us at times. (*clumsily inserts all the journey metaphors*

It is pretty special to be meeting Ramona and Juno in a place that mothers in ancient and modern cultures across the world have met for millennia.

(On a rocking chair set in long grass. Hehe.)

Tim took three snaps and at first I didn’t like them one bit. I was so stern in the first! Like a Victorian teacher! But… I’m growing to like the fierceness. My expression is the courage of every parent to walk the way their children beckon.

And the second one…. it seems so immodest, with my spilling breasts. And then, I remembered that that is the accusation pointed at nursing mothers constantly. I’m not going to point it at myself. Breastfeeding can be a bit messy and gaping and vulnerable… but pfft, so is love. That is the world’s sexualisation issues. Not mine or my child’s.

So, there we are. The three of us… and the rest. Just breastfeeding until they aren’t any more.

Featured, Parenting

Urge (allowing our children’s yearnings to bloom)

27 October, 2014

“I’d love it if you didn’t climb up the side of yurt, Ramona. I’m worried that it isn’t strong enough and that the wood might break.”

She looks me in the eye, defiance pulsing out of her, she reaches out and grips onto the wood. Without breaking eye contact she pulls herself up….

It is one of the most frustrating parental moments. It feels as if they are setting out to push your buttons… but what if they aren’t?

What if they simply have an urge that they can’t resist? And they maintain eye contact in order to test if they can retain their connection with you (the number one priority of any young child – critically essential for survival) whilst following up the call of their heart?

Schemas

Schemas are “a fancy word for the urges that children have to do things like climb, throw things and hide in small places. 

They are the building blocks for the brain, repeated behaviour that in turn forge connections in the brain, patterns of unfolding, learning and growth.

Schemas are such an important part in every child’s development that they are covered in training for anyone in the business of care and education of young children – yet not too many parents seem to know about these natural,uncontrollable and totally necessary urges that all children have.”

(read more on Schemas on the fabulous Nature Play site where this quote is from)

or The Call of Their hearts

I have been thinking about schemas a lot recently… the inner urges of a child. Is it too much to describe it as “the call of their heart?” I don’t think so… in fact, I think it is good thing to describe it so… as I believe these inner urges are the thing we as adults experience as that- the beating of our being drawing us towards something. The call to spend time with someone, to change our job, to follow up art.

I’m sure that happiness, for adults, is intimately related to their ability to listen to themselves, to trust themselves, to follow up on those inner yearnings.

And a happy person is a delight to be around. They don’t play out their insecurities on their friends. They don’t second guess motives, or act out of guilt. They respect other people’s decisions and trust them.

So… it could be said…that creating happy people is one of the greatest gifts we could give the world. In fact, I’m going to say it:

Urges look like disrespect sometimes – but allowing the fulfillment of an urge nurtures respect

The amount of times I have heard grownups talk about how important it is to bring children up to respect other people and things could not be added up using my daughter’s colourful vintage abacus. (It’s loads of times.)

It is sort of the unanimous thing, amongst all parenting types. A ground rule. Respecting people and stuff.

Sometimes when children can’t resist this yearning, it looks like disrespect. Let’s stop seeing it that way. Let’s simply say respect has nothing to do with it right here, in childhood.

But let’s say that a children brought up to follow their instincts and to be true to themselves is going to be a PLEASURE in society. Let’s say they might just be one of the most respectful adults out there.

I am pretty sure of that.

If we respect their drive and their desires now, if we protect their right to access what they hope for, they will grow up to respect others and to defend the rights of others.Urge- allowing children to follow thier yearnings

There are small, subtleties involved in allowing children to fulfill their urges, which are sometimes missed.

Like, the conversation that goes “This vase is really important to Hilary. She is worried about it breaking. I hear that you want to hold it. How about we hold it on the rug, so that if it slips, it won’t break?”

and the quiet, murmured one that goes “You are angry. You want to hurt him. I’m not going to let you hurt him. I see you want to hurt him. We will have to find another way for you to feel your anger.” (Because yes, I am an urge-enabler but harming people is never, ever okay.)

And the dance with objects, on this shelf and that shelf, when we can’t find another way… “You really can’t stop flicking these switches huh? But Uncle Les is worried about this radio. I’m going to place it in a cupboard. Now let’s find another switch we can flick…”

Before I had children, I thought I would be someone who wanted to children to understand simply Not To Touch. I’d leave my house exactly as it is… but now I want a YES environment for my children. I want them to have the mindset that the world can be an inviting, and welcome, beautiful place of curiosities and wonder.

I know that a lot of people would think I was a permissive parent. I hate the unconsciousness that comes with that phrase! I have read and read and thought and thought and I feel that letting go of a lot of control is the very best thing for my children.

While I seek to say YES as much as I can, these little conversations that happen are the nuances between being permissive and giving freedom for urges to flourish.

It’s him or me! Whose needs are more important, huh?! Huh?

If we step out of a “control mindset” (read Teresa Brett for more on this!) we encounter a situation where a parent’s needs and a child’s needs aren’t always in conflict. There doesn’t have to be a constant tug of war between what a child desires and our own desires as an adult.

Sometimes though…. There is. My child wants another pancake shaped like a dinosaur. I’ve just cooked ten. I’m tired and slothed out on the sofa. My need involves sitting down for a tick…

I do want to meet my needs as a parent. I am not willing to burn out.

BUT… soon enough my child won’t want me making pancakes… Once my child is a bit older, I have the whole rest of my life to sloth about. When I am 93, sitting for my ninth hour on the same sofa with Countdown on the telly I am going to WISH I spent more time making dinosaur pancakes. I’m so sure of it.

And also…. There is a thing about who is more able to get their needs met. Who is, in this partnership between parent and child? It is me of course. I am the one with access to the resources, the one who can articulate what is going on for me, I can get up and do this, and act on that.

My child however, is bound by her own abilities and my ability to support her getting her needs met.
Urge- letting a child's inner yearnings flourish(autonomously making paint with beetroot and flour)

And also, sometimes, they want to push our buttons…

I began this post by suggesting our children’s inner drive isn’t a push on our buttons. Then I remembered a story told by Larry Cohen, of Playful Parent fame. He had a couple sitting on his couch for a parenting consultation, they were desrcribing how their child was very aggressive, often used to punch them and strike out. He observed this mum and dad, they were just OOZING peace. There words were kind, considered, they were almost sleepy with mindfulness. He looked at them and said “Well, no wonder! She has to be angry for all three of you!”

Sometimes our children DO want a reaction. They dig and dig until they find us. The real us. The one that says OUCH when poked.

It is a strange thing…. Because of course, being a free, content, open, YES parent is a wonderful thing to be… but it is equally important to be an authentic one. When we say YES to an urge, we need to do it joyfully. And if we can’t do it joyfully, we have the opportunity to discover in our selves why not.

And, every parenting moment of angst is a chance to step back for a few seconds, to breathe, to consider the space we are in, what we are going to speak out from… but then sometimes our children need to see us in pain, in frustration, in anger…. Sometimes. Not in a contrived way… in an authentic kind of a way.

They see us then. And they know big feelings are okay, even in adults.

(This is good, because I get those big feelings regularly…)

Let’s bring our children up to be happy, not successful

Argh, that doesn’t sound quite right. I believe that happy = success. Why try and bring children up to be successful in a world that is, frankly, quite unjust? If they fit well within this kind of society than I feel I have possibly done a bit of a rubbish job.

Where as, if they can find contentment and peace- then I will be high fiving my husband about our parenting skills! If they are challenging society’s norms and measure by following their hearts, then I will be feeling like the challenges that came in their childhood of giving freedom to these urges was worth it.

Forget the lessons, the manners, the social norms; they will learn these in time, if they see a need for them.

Make happiness the goal. For your child right now, and for the adult they will become.

Give freedom to their yearnings. Defend their urges.