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if we could give you a welcome

5 September, 2015

We’re grieving for you
and it’s not enough

Our tears spill as we type our name
our post code
tick the box
to say we’re British

We sign all the petitions,
the official ones, our friend’s ones
I’m number 131,678 on the independent’s one
and it only started this morning.

Our tears and our signatures
it’s all we’ve got
you can have it
please take them.
They’re not enough.

There’s a tescos filling crates
tents and air beds and toiletries

We’re all bagging jumpers
its going to get so cold
socks, thick socks
gloves too

Mums are organising car loads
and another bunch of hipsters
have filled their third van.

We give you our solidarity
and our dried packaged goods
Please take them. I know.
They’re not good enough.

We’ve got our streets and our neighbourhoods
and it would be enough.

We’d make you a coffee
and the kids would hide
under the table
and eat frubes

And you’d work close by
and wave at me in the garden

And you’d feel welcome
and safe
here

The ‘you’ would go, and the ‘we’ would leave
and it’d just be us

It would be enough.

We’re in bits
but we’ve nothing to give.

Our words and our names
and our supermarket crates

don’t make up for immigration policy
or border police

all we have for your lost
is not enough.

refugees welcome

Please consider supporting the #savesyriaschildren campaign, you can text SYRIA to 70008 to give £5 to Save the Children. Thanks to Annie for the photo- if you’d like to join in do take your own photo or use one of Annie’s. 

I hope to see you at the march in London on Saturday 12th. It is my birthday and I can’t think of a way I’d rather spend it.  

 

childrens garden

Creating a garden that children will love

3 September, 2015

One of my favourite things over this last has been working in the garden with the children – either planting and harvesting vegetables or choosing and planting beautiful flowers. I am not a natural gardner but I am slowly learning!lulastic_june2014_hero1-1200x520

Here are somegarden ideas to make sure your children will love your space:

Let them choose the plants
Get a seeds catalogue and give them a pen so they can chose the flowers you are going to plant. The excitement they feel when the seeds arrive will take them straight outdoors to the garden to get planting!

Create some absurdities
I love flowers growing out of welly boots and herbs in baths. Anything that is slightly whimsical just sets the imagination off. Let them come up with some of the creative elements to your garden.

Keep it wild
It is easy to get drawn into a perfectly groomed garden space – don’t be! Child love overgrown vines and willow tunnels and long grass to run through. Allow a little bit of your garden to grow wild so they can see nature at its best.

A bug hotel
Pile some wooden crates on top of each other and fill the bits with sawdust or paper or stones. The in-between layers will create a haven for bugs for your child to explore.

Climbing Logs
Children LOVE to climb. Buy some sleepers or find some massive logs and have an area where kids can balance, or where they can roll a log over and find, yes, MORE BUGS.

Would love to hear your ideas for creating a beautiful, child friendly garden!

money

Raising Kids to Appreciate the Value of Things: Five Tips

3 September, 2015

Ramona is going through a huge money loving stage at the moment. Every where we go she carries a sock filled with coppers. It is pretty cool as it means when we go charity shopping she gets to learn about how much her money can buy – usually a smelly white teddy bear, because you can never have enough smelly white teddies!

Pleased to be hosting this post today, all about money and kids:

Whether you were raised to appreciate the value of things or it was a lesson learned until later in life, you certainly want to make sure that your kids have a strong grasp of this idea. Teaching them while they are young can help provide them with a brighter future financially.

1. Let them handle their allowance

Some parents disagree on the idea of an allowance. However when you don’t give your kids an allowance, it can turn into unbridled spending on them. Give them a set amount of money each week, and consider increasing it as they age. When they want to make a purchase, let them know that money needs to come out of their allowance.

2. Involve them in banking

While you probably aren’t going to dispel your greatest financial secrets to your toddler, you can at least teach older children about concepts like the best current account to have, and how they can learn about them online. When the time is right, open them up their own bank account.

3. Teach them about credit cards

Some parents stay away from the topic of credit cards because they don’t want their kids to end up in debt. However, you cannot protect your children from credit cards forever. Instead of obfuscating this field, show them how to act responsibly when it comes to credit cards. Teaching them the right way to handle this piece of plastic is generally a better hiding than preventing them from using one ever.

4. Hold a garage sale

It is often difficult for people to see the value of their own possessions. It is only when others place a value on it does that value become clear. Therefore, you should consider hosting a garage sale where you and your family can make money off of your possessions that you no longer want. Your kids may be surprised at how much people are willing to pay.

5. Bring them to volunteer experiences

Another way that children learn the value of things is by spending time with people who are less fortunate. Youngsters may begin to better appreciate their homes, food, clothing and water when they take the time to volunteer and help people who do not have these necessities.

Raising children to appreciate the value of things might seem like a formidable struggle, especially when you have not yet started infusing these lessons into your home. However, doing so is important for your kids in the present and the future. When you teach kids to appreciate the value of all that is around them, they are likely to act with more respect toward these objects. Even more importantly, they are likely to develop a greater sense of appreciation for humanity.

Parenting

*New book published today* 30 Days of Rewilding – find your place in nature and watch your family bloom!

31 August, 2015

Super Duper POOPER excited about my NEW BOOK that comes out todaaaaaayyyyy!!!!!!!

*starts again, tries to sound like a grown up*

I am delighted to announce the release of my second book. 30 Days of Rewilding was published this morning on Amazon and takes the form of thirty short chapters, easily digested on the fly, to help you find a sense of home in the natural world. I am so sure that these stories of people who have been transformed and restored by connecting with the wild will inspire you to dive into a love affair with nature, and take your family with you.

30 days of rewilding book

From a brick house in Peckham to a yurt in a forest in New Zealand
30 Days of Rewilding is motivated by our own story and the move we made two years ago with our young children from our (awesome, messy) Victorian terrace house in South London to a (beautiful, chaotic) yurt in a forest in New Zealand. It is a massive change, but the most significant part of it, for me, has been getting in touch with my wilderness DNA.

Through conversations with a variety of people from authors to CEOs and visits to projects around the world from a Forest School in Germany’s Black Forest to a playgroup in South London, people are invited to restore their connection with nature.

There are the mothers who find deep well-being as a result of meeting under each new moon, youth at risk who have had their feet set back on track through wilderness trails, and families who have begun a life-long fling with the wild.

Their stories will make you want to re-discover the ancient pact with nature written on your bones.

Why 30 Daily Readings? 
I was inescapably drawn to write this book because it is something we have found happening to us over the last two years; a rewilding. But as I was writing it I began to believe in the concept of the book more and more – daily readings for busy parents. Because there are TONS of books out there telling us about how sad it is that children can name more Dr Who characters than native birds, and we KNOW that sucks. But the only way children fall in love with nature is when adults nurture an environment where this can happen. Deep, happy-making connections are made between adults and children, and people and earth, when we together go out to poke the moss, watch the beetles, count the stars.

The idea of the book is that over the month readers gradually, through the different activities and stories, discover a sense of belonging in nature. 

Early Reviews Say

“Oh my, it’s so amazing! I love it so, so much. A heart palpitating amount. I just read this in one sitting because I couldn’t stop, I was too busy fist pumping and nodding vigorously. I am now itching to plant some spring bulbs, walk through the woods and run into the sea. All of the links made between being outside and having good mental health are sobering and brilliant and SO TRUE- for both children and adults. I am sending it to everyone I know.” Hannah, Seedsandstitches.com

“I loved your book! I feel totally motivated to re-wild us all- to get out in nature and take on some of your ideas. Today we just sat in the grass in our barefeet and I wiggled our toes and talked about what we could do. Wonderful inspired ideas and a lovely way to get kids away from screens!” Becky, BabyBudgeting.com

Kindle People: 30 Days of Rewilding is released through Amazon with the special Bank Holiday price of £1.99.

For Non Kindle People: Also available as a simple PDF which can be read on any Ereader or computer. (For Ereaders I advocate the use of Nook, free to download and comes with a cheeky freebie mag already downloaded.) Download 30 Days of Rewilding as a PDF here.

I would be stoked if you could share this post around and give some reviews on Amazon, help me spreadeth the word. And if you are a twittery type, join me tomorrow night on Twitter at 7pm BST for a chat with the hashtag #30DaysOfRewilding


Thank You
It is you readers that keep me motivated to write, you know? I feel so, SO privileged to have you and your encouragement. *sends a blooming blossom your way*

THAAAANKS!!!  And enjoy your bank holiday if you are getting one!30 Days of Rewilding Zenobia

Bombaround

“Hey!” says the sea, “come and PLAY!”

27 August, 2015

It’s pouring down with rain… Guess where we are… Last week’s blog post is a clue… YES you betcha baby, we are on the south coast of England camping in the rain again!!  If it wasn’t so ridonkulous we’d cry! 

We are here with the whole fandamiliy for my mama’s birthday, it’s been planned for many a month, otherwise we’d have all sacked it off once they started issuing weather warnings y’know? But here we are! Making the most of it! 

As we walked through the town today, I was composing a blog post in my head called “Things to do on a rainy summer holiday in Britain” featuring things like “Go to the pet shop and stare at the gerbils” and then we turned the corner to the sea and everything changed. 

It was like the whole earth went TADDDAAAA! PRESENTING: Vast Magnificent Sea and Thunderous Make-Your-Problems-Seem-Tiny Clouds.

And there were kids swimming! HA! It is not just rainy, my friends, but freezing, three-jumper-freezing, and there, so determinedly on summer hols, were loads and loads of kids swimming. 

The waves leapt in, towards the concrete promenade, rambunctious and teasing. All the grown ups stood under bright brollies, miserable about the weather, but all the children had answered the call and had stripped off and followed the foaming water in, larking about together. 

 Our five started with their be-wellied feet, then shook those off. Then got their leggings soaked so legs were unwrapped, and then dresses wet, so they were untangled from them too. (Strip poker without the booze and cards.) Then that was it, they crashed right on in and jumped and splashed and swam. 

There was a fizzy energy on the shore, a catching happiness, an almost-giggle that spread from person to person like it did in a stern school assembly when somebody did a fart.  

 It was a giddiness, frankly. I think it was bought on by just watching so many children be utterly delighted in the sea. (It could also have been because for a few seconds we could spy where the sun was in the sky… a faint glow over to the west, behind a few less layers of cloud. The rain became just a faint mist for a few magical moments there.)  

 But I think it was the children taking up the invitation from the sea. The waves had drawn them into a complete ability to be In. This. Moment. Only this one, now, right here. And by watching it, we caught a bit of it, that presence, that being here with every bit of ourselves. It was joy combusted all over the beach like a busted open glow stick that has shaken its neon around. 

Nature is powerful like that. 

And I reckon children are still sensitive to this call of the wild. They can hear it and attend to it, without the inner voice grown-ups have, we’ll be warmer and comfier if we just stay sitting down in our cagoules, checking out other people’s holidays on Facebook. 

Yeah, we will. But we won’t be happier. 

Our kids seasided today like Bosses. There were quite inevitable tears when there wasn’t enough dry clothing to get on to their red, clammy bodies, but they’d had this huge happy connection with earth, each other, themselves- it was so worth it and they  would do it all over again tomorrow, no regrets. 

*checks weather forecast* Ah, yep, we will be doing it all over again tomorrow.

So that’s good! *smiles brightly*   

   PS I have just finished my book! All about this ancient, broken connection with nature, and the invitation extended to us to restore it, and to come alive through it. They are short chapters for busy parents who want to help their family begin a life long love affair with the wild. It’s out on Monday, hooray! Keep your eyes peeled: Thirty Days of Rewilding (or #30DaysOfRewilding because something doesn’t exist unless it has a hashtag right?) 

Bombaround

The expectation vs reality of camping

21 August, 2015

We are on a summer camping holiday on the South Coast of England right now. That is to say we are actually in a traffic jam in the pouring rain on our way to slot an endless amount of copper coins into the two penny machines in a smelly arcade on the end of a pier with a million other families at their wit’s end.

We have had a good few days, where we were living a dreamlike life where camping fully met our grand expectations. And then the rain set in, and now it feels like it has been raining solidly for a year, even though it’s only really been three days.

  Here are all the ways a camping holiday is different in reality from expectations.

Expectation: The campsite is only 100 miles from home- we shall set off at 9:30 am, arrive in the late morning, quickly set up camp and spend the rest of the day on the beach skimming stones, reading novels and revelling in our scout-like efficiency.

Reality: A multitude of external factors thwart our ability to get out of the house, and then when we are finally sitting in the car, little Juno finds a jar of tumeric (!) that has been last-minutely thrown in and rubs a fistful in her eye. After sorting that out, a full fifty minutes is then spent “just dashing in” to the house for those necessaties such as:
A deflated My Little Pony balloon

The barbie leg that fell off

The massive donkey on wheels

A spare Minnie Mouse onesie (hello? Don’t the kids know we are going on a seaside camping holiday and it’s going to be super hot the whole time?) (We will end up not regretting these mad-dash warm clothing runs…) 

The wooden flute that whistles like a train (we will regret this with every milimetre of our ear canals)  

We’ll be in traffic for almost the entirity of the M4, will arrive at dusk, panic about the best spot to pitch the tent and end up sticking it on a hill. 

Expectation: Erecting (huhuh you said erecting) the tent will be a family team building exercise- the girls will joyfully hand us the pegs, each one of us excelling at our appointed roles, spurring each other on through the darkening sky.

Reality: The girls go absolutely nuts with glee about the fact that mum and dad have so willingly, despite a day stuck in traffic and a quickly setting sun, put on the ultimate activity for their benefit- PARACHUTE GAMES! We know this one! We run under the flappy material and we try and grab it and hold the ages and run in circles then we sit on it and run over it and try and tear it from each other’s grasps thanks mum and dad oh thank you we LOVE THIS oh why are you crying? The whole thing made bearable only because we keep finding different reasons to say “erecting.”

Expectation: Meals are like “Jamie Oliver visits River Cottage” – we forage for some herbs and throw them in to the fish that we caught that’s baking on the embers of the fire we built.

Reality: The pan of pre-cooked rice mixed with baked beans and a tin of sweet corn topples off the precariously balanced Bunsen burner thingy and is scooped back into the saucepan because the three second rule is not a myth I don’t care what you say. 

Expectation: we fly a kite and sing the song from Mary Poppins and connect as a family in our kite flying joy.

Reality: the parrot kite we bought is neither ornament nor function and by the time we have it in the sky the girls have lost interest but in order to keep it in the sky I have to run with it and yet still, every 20 seconds it’s enormous carnival coloured head outweighs its body and it comes crashing down, narrowly missing small children.

Expectation: I’ll manage a few days without embarrassing myself. (How can this still be an ambition of mine? With everything I know?)

Reality: I walk past the loo in the middle of the field and notice that the foggy Perspex windows actually reveals an awful lot of what is going on and I’ll remember how just that morning I decided that I didn’t want to sit on the loo with my Kermit the frog onesie around my ankles because the floor looked wet in a dubious sort of a way so I took the whole thing off and then got tangled up as I put it back on a few minutes and stumbled around a bit. And I imagine other campers referring to me as Nudey Kermit or something.

Expectation: The sun is going to be so deliciously sunshiney that we’ll have to smother ourselves in this ludicrously expensive non toxic sun cream.

Reality: rain. The sort of rain that makes me think it might never stop. Like when I went overdue and I began to feel like I genuinely might be the first woman in the whole of history to be pregnant forever. This is definitely the start of The Everlasting Rains.

  Expectation: swimming in the sea at every chance, because genuinely the coast around here is as beautiful as any I’ve seen in the world. 

Reality: I swim once and although I LOVE it it takes me three hours to get warm despite putting every spare item we have on down there including a Dora The Explorer towel cloak. In fact, I only get warm back at the tent when I put on my Kermit onesie. 

Expectation: sitting around a fire as the sun sets.

Reality: sitting around a fire in the drizzle, the sun could be setting but who knows as we haven’t seen it for yonks, the smoke changes direction every time I move- who KNEW my face was such a smoke- magnet. There are marshmallows, caught alight and black on the outside, perfectly rubbery on the inside and campfire songs are replaced by the deep, raging howls of the children that missed out on the last marshmallow in the packet. 

Expectation: Balmy nights sitting on our hill top spot, counting shooting stars.

Reality: Falling asleep when the children go to bed because it takes too much energy to get up from the deflated air bed. 

Expectation: Lolling on fields filled with sunshine and wild flowers and fellow campers all drinking tea or locally brewed cider. Like a festival but without the expensive ticket and loud noises.

Reality: Fog. Fog so thick it is like a stew with lumps of canvas poking out of it. Dismembered limbs and heads appear calling for their children. The once-playful sound of kids shooting machine guns made of sticks becomes deeply sinister and the fog carries high cortisol levels from tent to tent until it actually feels like the start of Zombie Apocolypse: Camping in Britain. 

(The benefit of this fog is that I can’t see all those beautiful kites flying perfectly in the sky judging our pathetic parrot with their wistful tails.) 

Expectation: Packing down is a seamless affair because we are camping legends. Tim and I actually have arguments about who is the most legendary camper. However:

Reality: We pack up the tent and all of our gear into the car WITH OUR CAR KEYS STILL IN THE INTERNAL POCKET OF THE TENT. Twice in a row.

Funnily enough, despite all this terrible weather and real-life rubbishness we have totally enjoyed ourselves. We are camping with good friends and that helps. (Blimey, imagine this with bad friends.) I have felt our friendship deepen over the hardship in a way soldiers in a muddy trench might. The whole campsite seems to have a World War like camaraderie. Or perhaps we’re feeling the bond natural to those moments just before a Zombie Apocolypse. 

(I find myself deciding which of the other campers I’d like in my zombie fighting team. The older couple who are stealth camping in the bushes seem to have a survivalist mentality that would be handy. Perhaps other campers would choose me to be in their team because my Kermit suit means I’m probably fun and could lighten the mood in the moments of impending, gruesome zombie death.) 

There is a certain stoic sense of pride in our ability to weather a rainy summer. Unlike my experience of camping in other countries no one here is taken unawares by the stormy gales. Oh no. The campsite is like the Winter catalogue of RainyWeatherOutfit.com but with more driving rain. Puffa jackets, woolly beanies, cagoules, cagoules for legs, welly boots, gaters, cagoule onesies. 
We raise our eyesbrows and laugh as the thunder rumbles around us and step in to help each other’s vehicles out of the swampy fields. 

And I guess that’s partly why we will be camping again next week, and at every opportunity. Because really, it wouldn’t be a proper camping holiday without the desperate misery of days of rain. I think we all love it, deep down. 

In lieu of the epic strawberry-and-pimms-summer joy we hoped for the parents are able to find joy in life’s true simple pleasures:

A dry picnic table 

A boiled egg that peels really easily

Narrowly missing stepping on dog poo

and without being able to wile away the hours splashing in a warm sea children discover the ability to delight in the small things:

Bouncing on the air beds until they spring a leak

Balancing biscuits on head

Swapping raincoats 

 So, high fives to all damp campers and other holidaymakers digging deep and making the most of one of Britains most cherished traditions: Belligerently Eating Ice Cream By The Seaside In the Pouring Rain. 

One day we’ll have a summer where fleecey onesies and cagoules have no place. 

And we’ll discover it’s not all that. 

Thrifty

301 Thrifty Activities for kids – squeeze every drop out of summer

13 August, 2015

Oh, Hello!!! Yep, here we are. Still in England. Waiting and waiting and waiting for a passport that is stuck at the Passport Office like a humongous fatball clogging up a London sewer. It has been there for 2 months and they are devoid of all sense of urgency. *flares nostrils in their general direction* (Or as my mum used to sing “I open my nose at you, you, you.” Anyone else used to sing that? Nah. Didn’t think so. Must be a Welsh thing.)

There are just a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays and, just in case you were running out of ideas, here are over 300 of the buggers. Some are are plucked from my own befuzzled brain, the rest from the fine minds of fellow internet friends.thrifty activities for kids

We have had quite a lot of fun while we’ve been hanging about. Ramona makes it pretty clear when she is enjoying herself by changing lyrics to songs according to what we are doing. The other night it was “If you’re happy and you know it go to the forest!” This age, where they are imaginatively playing with words and ideas, is so flipping brilliant. (It’s sad that they have been termed the Terrible Twos – I’m sure it doesn’t have to be this way.)

Aaaaaanyway. Number Uno:

1 – GO TO THE WOODS! The coolest place to be in the heat. Find a patch of trees and get your badger on. Dig, play, forage.

2- More specifically: Build a Den. These are so much fun and so easy to make proper, good ones. Check out this little video here.

3- Toast Marshmallows over a fire. We took a little BBQ and built our fire in that as it is so dry we wanted to be super cautious. We did it in the evening after a whole day of boring jobs. It recovered the entire day for us. I was inspired recently by reading about microadventures – I think toasting marshmallows in the woods counts as one of these. Toasting marshmallows and 300 other ways to have thrifty fun (Ramona’s marshies got toasted for about 1 second before they went straight in her mouth.)

4- Make a fairy/ dolls house. We did this in the woodland at Camp Bestival, primarily to entertain our sick little Ramona who was languishing in the trolley. But we got really quite into it. There is something magical about making these tiny little huts!

5-14- Here are ten more FREE forest activities from the wonderful Missie Lizzie.

15- DO STUFF WITH ICE! The most fun I’ve ever had with a bunch of kids involved freezing a 50 cm by 30 cm tray of ice and then using it to slide down grassy hills. BEYOND FUN!

16- One of Ramona’s favourite activities this year involved chipping little animals out of a big block of ice I had frozen. I gave her proper tools, knives and screwdrivers and mallets in order to do it. Some might say she is a little young for these implements but she soon learnt – there was BLOOD EVERYWHERE. Just kidding, there was no blood, not even a minor accident; I believe kids are much more capable than we think and they love feeling their power with proper tools. Chipping ice block and 300 other ways to have thrifty fun

17- A coloured ice bath. Use food colouring to create rainbow ice cubes and pop them in a cool bath with your kid. A lot of fun, and the right amount of mess.

18- We made our own slushy by pouring Ribena into our ice cream maker – such a delicious treat that Ramona got really hands on with making.

19- 23 – Here are 12 more ways to play with ice. Will definitely be trying them out.

24- HEAD TO THE CITY. Explore the city through your child’s eyes, hands and feet. Head there with no agenda and simply explore the nooks, crannies, walls and doorways she fancies. Genuinely, it is fun, really. And it helps your kid feel like a million bucks. Do some research before hand to see if you can get any good deals on anything. (Check this out)

25- Find the fountains and splash parks. They are hidden all over. In London the best one, I reckon, is at Somerset House. But they are also tucked up at the V and A, outside the Royal Festival Hall and in London Zoo.

26- One of the things I will miss about not being in a city is the million free things happening at anyone time. Galleries and museums and centres put stuff on throughout the holidays. I tend to use Time Out to see what to go along to. Free fun in the city and 300 other ways to have thrifty fun We found a collective street chalking activity on the South Bank – Ramona chose her body as the canvas though.

27- Keep an eye out for two for one offers and then head one of the many kids attractions out there. This map has them all in one handy spot.Littlewoods Summer activities map

CHEAT ALERT! CHEAT ALERT!

28-93- Provided by the cool cats that are Style My Party. They are simple ideas but really original and I guarantee you’ll find something in there. Especially love the One Colour Only Day and the Hula Mocktail Party.

93- 301- Provided by the lovely Joy and chums in the Summer Carnival. There are craft ideas, and nature play, and recipes for kiddos. Blinking brilliant.

This sign was written by the next door neighbour’s kid and hung up on a tree yesterday; “Pleeease can somebody organise something fun” – I think they might be a family who have run out of ideas, hehehe. Hopefully some of these will cut it! 20130813-113824.jpg

Do you have anything on your bucket list still to do this summer? Would love to hear them!

Delivered in partnership with Littlewoodscheck out my disclosure for more info on that.

PS Don’t miss a thing! Follow through Facebook or Bloglovin or even just enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Bombaround

5 lessons in rewilding from Camp Bestival

11 August, 2015

Last weekend you might have found Ramona and I sitting in a tiny big top, watching a shadow puppet ghost show run by a mum and her two daughters, complete with piano accordion accompaniment and tap dancing. Or you might have found us capering about to a cover of Ice Ice Baby done by a skiffle band. Or making mud gargoles to stick on a collective mud mural. Or you might have spotted Tim, dressed as a giant croc getting started on by a giant tiger…

Because, OBVIOUSLY, we were at Camp Bestival. The only place you can hope to do all these sweet/ absurd things.

This year I attended partly as a blogger, intending to write about it, and partly as an artist.

I was the tantalizing gogo dancer for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Did you spot me?golden wings

I jest, I jest.  That would be my dream. Getting my proper super duper weirdo moves on in front of 30,000 people wearing 4 metre gold wings. HELLO.

In actual fact I took the stage in a bit more of a sit-downy fashion at the Guardian Literary Institute being interviewed by the (hilarious and brilliant) Scummy Mummies about my book Happy Hair (no golden wings but I did wear sequined hot pants.) It was so, so much fun and definitely a massive highlight for me and my book!

Camp Bestival also provided exactly the thing I needed for my next book; a ginormous dollop of motivation! This year Camp Bestival was all about being wild, which, perfectly, is exactly what my next book is about. A thirty day guide to rewilding our families, due out within the next 30 days. (Hehe.) That word rewilding is something I am really delving into. It speaks of restoring a part of us that has been lost, our wild selves.  I think you are going to LOVE it. Eeek, I have the biggest smile on my face just thinking about all these inspiring little stories in it… gah…. I so want to tell you more but I think I should save it for when it comes out… *internal struggle*

Let me crack on with a few of the things Camp Bestival inspired me about, when it comes to rewilding….


Many kids want time in the wild more than anything else
One of the most loved parts of Camp Bestival is the Dingly Dell- a collaboration between nature and artists. There are nature walks and activities, forest crafts to make and conservation knowledge to learn. Mostly there is mud. And where there is mud, children are happy. On Sunday afternoon we spent 4 HOURS playing in mud, along with a hundred other families also playing in mud. We had a mud tea party and made mud sculptures and some children covered their whole bodies in mud and others managed to make mud pies without getting any on their hands at all. It is funny that at a festival where there is every delight a child might possibly fancy, it is this muddy haven that remains the most captivating.

Here is a little video I made in the Dingly Dell – can I tempt you with a, erm, cake? A mud cake?

Native english moths and primates are basically twins
Talking with one or two of the organisations present (WWF and Wild Futures specifically) it became clear just how related the insects in our gardens are to those rare primates that are on the brink. Both are in decline as a result of human activity, and both can be restored if we take our role seriously and if children fall in love with nature. It is absolutely true that saving the world’s wildlife begins in our backyard. (More in the book!)

Nature has the power to suspend our cynicism
One of the most inspiring conversations I had over the weekend was with a chap from a little organisation that runs holiday camps for children, run by teenage volunteers. He was sharing story after story of how too cool-for-school teens came along to camp, who, by the end of it, had their stony facade broken down and were trusting themselves, and others, and nature again. Seeing the magic. Finding the space simply to be. He told me how on Saturday night a few of the teenagers ditched the Kaiser Chiefs and came to the Dingly Dell and simply sat in the dark, under the stars, weaving nettle braids.

We all want to secretly embrace our wild side
There are three things I love about Camp Bestival. Firstly, seeing families rocking out together. I love it. Teenage boys raving with their mums. Daddies and daughters busting their moves to Ella Eyre (who was one of the absolute stars of the weekend, as well as Crazy old Arthur Brown.) I actually get emosh seeing families dancing together. (Bit strange, I realise.) I also love the thought put into the festival creative- incredible installations and artwork everywhere you look. Finally, I love how people throw themselves into letting go – mostly in terms of dressing up. The amount of mums who had quite obviously said YES to their kids painting a rubbish animal mask on their face. Hilar. And onesies, and ears and tales and sparkles. No one really trying to look good, but everyone just embracing this little wild part of themselves, the bit that we normally kind of repress in order to stay sane on the daily commute. Hehehe. So great.

 The wild can transform us
I spent a lot of the weekend interviewing people from different projects and was overwhelmed by the stories people were sharing of how nature has transformed someone’s life. From the 3 year old preschooler who got a huge boost of self confidence from learning bushcraft, to the teacher who found a vocation in helping people see themselves as pivotal to the thriving of wildlife. I had a book partly written about the power of nature, and now I have one bustling with actual real life stories of it. So, so incredible.

So, yep, there goes Camp Bestival being legendary again! (If you want more Camp Bestival goodness do check out 76Sunflowers– who took the above picture of me and the Scummy Mummies- Mammasaurus, Kate Takes 5 and a whole bunch of official Camp B Bloggers.)

The only downside to it really was that I think it has grown up a bit quickly – it is like the adolescent boy who had a growth spurt and now his  trousers bash his ankles, revealing mismatched socks. On the Saturday afternoon the kid’s garden was utterly rammed and it was actually hard to move around. I hope they consider capping numbers or expanding the venue for another year. And, of course, the cost… it is absolutely stuffed with value, and worth every penny…. but still, I can’t help but feel a bit bummed about how prohibitive the ticket prices are, and the potential for things like this to become a middle class love in. So far it hasn’t, there is no rich-kid vibe at all. But perhaps for next year they can release the first 20,000 tickets at half price to bonafide socialists or something? Hehe.

Let me leave you with another video – a day in the life at Camp Bestival – see how many Ninja Dinos you can spot…

Have you been to a great family festival this year? Would love to hear from you, and any thoughts you have about rewilding…

Parenting

5 reasons vulva is not a dirty word

5 August, 2015

“That woman has a vulva. And that one. She’s got one, probably, and her too. There are vulvas EVERYWHERE.” We were at the pool, in the changing room, and Ramona was quite accurately pointing out that there were vulvas all over the place.  Did I want the slippery, pube littered tiled floor to open up and swallow me? Just a little? Oh Yep. I had taught my daughter the word vulva on purpose… but I wasn’t ready for that.

I’ve come a long way since then, I like to think that these days I would barely bat an eye lid at the word vulva announced loudly across a public place. In fact, now when my children talk about vulvas I am pleased as punch. 

I read in the news at the weekend about a new entry into the Swedish dictionary “snippa” – a version of “willy” but for girls, because none of the nicknames or the anatomical words seemed to be good enough. 

I don’t know Swedish, and despite being a massive, MASSIVE fan of the Dime Bar cake they sell at IKEA,  I can’t comment on how worthy the Swedish version of vulva is.But I do hope we don’t create a new British word for female genitals as VULVA is a beaut. There are many reasons ‘vulva’ should be a part of our vocab, but the very last reason is vital, something every parent needs to know. 

I reckon it just needs a campaign team. I’m here and I am stepping up as the Alistair Campbell of Team Vulva. 

Vulva is powerful

Would it have been better if Ramona had pointed out all the “minis” or “nonnys” or “fuffs”? I wonder if it would have felt cuter, and I think that’s partly why I feel those are not good words for female genitals. They reduce these powerful parts of a woman to a strange little collection of fairy syllables. 

Where as “vulva” – it sounds powerful. Like it could be the entrance way to a portal of intense pleasure and the exit for a ten pound human. Or something. 

A mother once told me her child refers to hers as a “Volvo” – which perhaps sums up partly why it feels like a good word- like the car, it is solid, reliable, hard to break. Even by a baby the size of a watermelon. (Okay, it can sometimes feel broken, but nothing that a few stitches, a bag of prunes and a gallon load of birth hormones can’t fix.)

Vulvas themselves are rarely dirty

Sometimes we might be tempted to discourage vulva- exploration because we have a feeling it is genuinely a bit grubby. Well, guess what. The mighty vagina is self-cleansing, and the vulva needs only the most very basic of water washes to keep the whole thing spick and span. (For a funny diagram about not getting the V’s mixed up see here.)  It has the perfect balance of microbes to keep it healthy and clean and in a good environment it will thrive without any effort at all. 

One small child I know for a while there would thrust a finger under any nostril and shout YUMMY! It was, of course, laden with vulva microbes. Fortunately the parents knew enough about this stuff to simply explain, without any shame or horror, that “Yummy Finger” was just for her nose.  Little children often know more truth than adults, for a healthy genitalia is designed to smell good- jam packed with appealing pheremones and things.

There really doesn’t have to be any EW GROSS factor about vulvas. 

Vulva-talk is natural and an important part of development

Talk of vulvas is rife in our family at the moment- exactly as it should be, according to natural, healthy child development. Intrigue, exploration, play and learning about genitals happens between the ages of three and, well, I guess, forever, really, and these can be precious moments for a child picking up a sense of being okay, of shamelessness, about their private parts and their sexuality. 
There was one part of the article about Spinnas that I enjoyed. The creator of it suggested that when parents see their child touching their vulva to “smile encouragingly”- how inspiringly different to world where children are shamed when they show a healthy curiosity about a part of their body. 

The origins of the word are perfect 

Do you know “vulva” most likely comes from the Old Latin “volvere” meaning to roll it or, more literally “wrapper”- our vulva is the wrapping on one jolly bonanza of a gift. Women’s bodies are the vessel of humanity! The genesis of generations! Our wombs BIRTH THE FUTURE! And our vulvas are the golden ribbon around the present and the icing on the cake.

Knowing the words “vulva”and “penis” are critical for child sexual abuse prevention

And here is the most important, the really serious case for why “fanny” and “vajay” don’t cut it. People who work in child sexual abuse prevention understand that knowing the anatomical terms for genitals can actually protect children from abuse. It is three pronged- children knowing anatomical terms for private parts usually indicates that there is healthy communication about genitals meaning children are more likely to discuss any scared feelings/ scary situations they experience with their parents or carers. Using these words also deters predators as it shows an understanding, and finally it helps specialists in the aftermath of child sexual abuse as children can accurately describe what happened. 

In The Atlantic Laura Palumbo, a prevention specialist with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), explains how teaching the words vagina, penis and vulva promotes positive body image, self confidence, and parent-child communication; discourages perpetrators; and, in the event of abuse, helps children and adults navigate the disclosure and forensic interview process. 

 
Are you on Team Vulva?

Parenting

Keeping it real

30 July, 2015

Isn’t the internet a strange old beast? I am, personally, in love with it. We are lovers. I’d like to cover it in Nutella and lick it. We are having an intense tryst at the moment because: UNLIMITED WIFI HERE IN THE UK! YEAH BABY!  After 18 months of being in an internet-less yurt in New Zealand, we are sucking the life out of all the wwws over here.

But how much does it skew everyone’s perception of what is real? I mean. What family life is like, how exhausting parenthood is, how hard it is to just recycle the little boxes that the takeaway you’ve resorted to came in?

Everything is a showreel. Facebook and Instagram – white, white, walls and children not wearing their pyjamas. Even when I livestream on periscope I tilt the camera so you can’t see the morning’s cereal bowls with the crunchy nut cornflakes that haven’t been crunchy for hours. Not very many people are upfront about the shitty bits, eh?

I wonder if this blog lately has been a bit like that “oh we are going on a big trip! Having a lovely time in Thailand with the baby elephants! We are REALLY respecting our children’s rights! Now we are in London and we have shiny hair that is really growing fast thanks to this nice brush!”

A lovely family walk amongst the nature no stress here folks move right along

A lovely family walk amongst the nature no stress here folks move right along

When I post a blog, I usually am feeling all the happies. I tend not to be very public with my woes, ever. (I’m British.) And I don’t like to talk about difficulties my kids are facing with people on the internet. My blog isn’t a facade at all, I don’t mean to give a false impression – I just wouldn’t flip open my laptop if I was feeling really mega bummed about something.

So I’m making a concerted effort to do that right now… because right now we are having some HARD days.

We watched the new Pixar movie, Inside Out, yesterday because we happen to be in Peckham, home to the legendary Peckham Plex where every film is a fiver all day every day. Yeah the carpet is so sticky that it pulled my sandal off and yeah there tends to be a culture of shouting at the screen but a fiver is well cheap.

I was almost on the cusp of tears the whole time. Thinking about how all the change we have brought on to our family in the last 18 months and how that must be so epically intense for our children to deal with.

And they are really dealing with it right now.

(At least I think that is what is going on. I think it’s the change. We’ll never know unless we can get Pixar involved to take a peep in our kid’s head… that’s how it works right?)

It is emotion central round here. The epicenter of rage and the source of all tears. We are every slammed door and every overthrown chair.

And then there’s the children.

(Jokes… I’m too lazy to overthrow a chair.) Me and Tim seem to take it in turns over who gets to run away from the sadness and shut ourselves in the toilet.

All the emotions are triggering things in us and we are trying to figure out what we need and how to get it whilst helping our children meet theirs and not really feeling like we are doing that very well at all.

On days like this, parenting this way doesn’t seem like the path to harmony one bit. There are little shivers of doubt and a sense that families who Put Their Foot Down probably never have bad days.

We are all just on. the. verge. All day. (And all night.)

It takes a village to raise a child, eh? And I guess we have left ours for a few months, and we are sort of popping in to our old one and our kids don’t remember the neighbours and the friendly village dog that used to lick their knees now seems like a strange menace.  And did a poo right by the swings.

All the normal things have gone, the daily rituals and things we could all rely on and yes, there is lots of fun and joy involved, but we are floundering a bit. The framework on which we hang our lives is back on a parcel of land in New Zealand and we are just bumping along from thing to thing. (I like to think we carry this framework around with us, in our family culture but I’ve totally misplaced it. It’s probably somewhere in my hand bag with my sunglasses, a mouldy sock, a half eaten apple, a small furry penguin, a few of those orange things that kinder egg toys come in, two Frubes and a mooncup but gosh darn I can’t find iiiiiiiiittttttt…)

In between little (freezing) picnics catching up with old friends we are rampaging drama queens; moody and explosive.

One of us needs to take a chill pill and it should probably be me… have any? *hopeful*

If I was updating Instagram today there would be a picture of me hiding under the covers with a book while Juno tries to put a toy screwdriver into my ears brrrrrrrrr and Ramona will be yelling for someone to play tag with her for the fifty billionth time and Tim will be asking if we are bringing our children up all wrong.

So… no feedback needed. I just wanted to make it very, very clear that our life isn’t some romantical, respectful, nomadic dream. We are trying, really trying, to embrace joy and freedom but some days… some days are just shit.