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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.

Uncategorized

4 ideas for art prints in your home

28 July, 2015

I am a huge, huge, huge fan of walls that are covered in art prints, poems and homemade art work. Jam them in, cram them up. Bare walls are not for me!

Now, of course, if you are a fine art guru this could get expensive. If, on the other hand, you simply like pretty things and inspiring things and want to gaze on things that are lovely rather than collectable, I have a few ideas.

I frame anything, for starters. Buttons, wrapping paper and tea towels have all been stuck behind glass in my home. I think things in frames is one of the best and cheapest ways to decorate a house.

Next up you can get virtually anything printed.

We have a London bus sign, which was a leaving present when we left London and it sits proudly in our yurt in New Zealand! If I had more space I’d go for something this dramatic from here.
London-on-wall

Consider printing out a fine art print that means something to you. This Gustav Klimt painting is one of my favourites as it evokes our families love of breastfeeding and cosleeping!
the-three-ages-of-woman-1905

I’m also a sucker for words. I write big long sentences on wood and hang it up. I have a version of this in my home too: let her sleep

Finally using Posterlounge – my new faves – you can find super cheap prints for any room. Such a cracker. I love, love, love the ABC ones in the sale. Three quid? Bag it. linero-alphabet-poster

How do you decorate? Would love to hear what art prints you have on your walls!

Uncategorized

How I became the landed gentry without being a capitalist

23 July, 2015

When I married my husband Tim, his folks sat us down and explained that they would like to lend us some money to buy our first home.

I cried. Not with happiness or overwhelm.  I was blown away. But instead of being utterly elated I was gutted! Suddenly I’d be launched into a new class of society – and I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t want to move up from my working class roots!

We have never owned houses in my family. My mum and dad, my aunties and uncles, both sets of grandparents, all the sets of great-grandparents – not a single one has ever been a home owner.

Through my teenage years and early adulthood I actually formed a huge framework in my head for why I didn’t even believe in homeownership. Upon this structure I hung the fact that there was no money in my family and no way I’d ever have a job outside of the charity sector that could ever get me a mortgage. I draped over it historical evidence that suggests the dividing up of land was the initial push towards great inequality and that land ownership has since been a massive source of injustice, separating the haves and have nots. I lugged this great anti-capitalist clothes horse around with me proudly.

And then I sat on the sofa as my father-in-law offered to get us started with our first house.

And I wept.

(Later, not in front of him.)

We tucked this incredibly generous offer into the pocket of a fusty winter coat (hanging on my clothes line, probably) and tried to forget about it.

Years later, a good office job for both of us, living in London, and very much pregnant we tugged it out and dusted it off. Hmmm. This could change our lives.

Within a week we had viewed a house (er, yeah, just the one. It was love at first sight… don’t do that though… I read about how you shouldn’t do that in the bank’s Guide To Buying A House while we were settling) and had -a bit frightenedly- used Experian CreditExpert credit check and discovered things were all good in the hood. And then had made an offer and had it accepted. Within a WEEK.

We ripped up the nasty pink carpet that made us cry on our first night, planted tomatoes in the garden, planned where the birth pool would go. And we were so, so happy. It was our nest for our growing little family.

Now, in 2015, our lives look different again! We managed to sell that home that we’d done up with bits and bobs from the side of the road for enough profit to buy a parcel of land in New Zealand with some friends. And we spent the leftovers on a big yurt.

So now we are not only homeowners but the land owning gentry!

I still carry that busy old framework about with me though. But instead of making me cry about owning land it inspires me to make our land a collective place of hope for the community. We will grow food and share it. We will run retreats and camps for families that need support. We will run forest education stuff and perhaps even forster some children. We will do our hardest to make our home a Zero Waste one. We will create our interior using repurposed materials. 

I’ve slowly come round to the idea that homeowners and landowners can be a real catalyst of change- not just the tools of a consumerist, elitist empire!

I just hope my Nana would agree….

No Poo

How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth

21 July, 2015

As you know, I haven’t washed my hair for YONKS. Three and a half years, to be precise. In those years, particularly during the months that I was researching my Happy Hair book, I learnt an awful lot about hair. And there is a lot that I learnt that applies not *just* for those who have given up shampoo completely, but for everyone who would like healthy hair.

Since giving up shampoo my hair has become a lot more shiny and has seen a lot more natural growth. It is like it is unburdened by all the toxins I was sticking in it and just wildly shimmying around up there. However, there is one thing that has impacted this shiny hair and growth the most, folks. How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth - the one tip you need!

How to get shiny hair
The internet is full of tips for healthy hair – but nearly all of them involve more chemical heavy stuff to stick on your hair. The last thing you need on your hair is MORE chemicals. Your scalp produces this awesome stuff called sebum. We often refer to it as grease, which is a dirty word, so I am on a mission to reclaim SEBUM as the natural, glorious, protective oil that it is! It is there for our own good, to coat our hair shaft and make it smooth shiny and to protect it from the elements.

Sebum will get you shiny hair- but you need to help move it along. And this is where my one hair secret rises above all the other healthy hair tips! *da dad di daaaaaaaaa* (Dramatic drum rolly thing)

It is a boar bristle brush.

Everyone who dreams of shiny, healthy hair should have one of these in their cupboard!

A few nights of brushing properly and your hair just goes BLING DIGGIDY BLING.

A boar bristle brush conditions and nourishes, improves the texture and can cut down the need for any other styling products. 

Natural Hair Growth Tips
I have always longed for fast growing hair. I can remember trying to make my hair touch my bum as a kid, I’d lean back, practically in half and be like LOOK MY HAIR GOES DOWN TO MY BUM! But I also act on my fancies quite regularly too – so even as a teenager I’d be looking in the mirror and think, ooh, this hair needs a chop. And then I’d chop it all off. And then I’d be back to square one.

How to increase hair growth became a bit of an obsession of mine, and I learnt that eating healthier (lots and lots of good oils and oily fish) can really help. As can some of those folk tips for hair growth such a rosemary tea and lavender tea.

But since giving up shampoo and using my boar bristle brush every night my hair has been growing at a rate of knots. It stimulates the scalp and your hair is just like LET’S DO IT!  Which means I can whimsically chop it whenever I want. In fact *wanders off the find the scissors*

Boar Bristle Brush (or a BBB. Yeah you know me.)
There is a wide spectrum for the old natural boar bristle brush. You have a Mason Pearson on one end which can run into hundreds of dollars worth – and lots of people think they are worth every penny. Then there is a Denman, which you can pick up on the high street for a few quid. In between there are many others and I reckon a mid range one is the way to go. I have used my Nana’s old Kent Brush (do ask an elderly relative if they have a spare- these old boar bristle brushes are a real winner) but just began using a new Spornette and am really pleased.How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth- the one thing you need

Cut down your washes
I don’t know many women that didn’t wish they weren’t so completely locked into their once a day or once-every-two-days shampoo cycle. It does feel a bit of a trap, shampooing your hair only for it to create a load of sebum again. Did you know that is your hair freaking out? It is your scalp going CRIKEY JIM SHE’S STRIPPED OFF OUR SEBUM QUICK PRODUCE SOME MORE GO GO GO GO GO!!!!

Using a boar bristle brush in between washes – every night, very thoroughly – can help you stretch out your days. It will train your scalp not to produce so much sebum, you are working with it, helping move the sebum from your scalp down your hair shaft.

In the olden days the average woman washed hair a few times a year and it was the nightly brushing that kept it clean and conditioned inbetween times.

For those whose use no shampoo
Lots of people give No Shampoo a crack – but they just can’t break through to the healthy hair nirvana they dream of. I reckon a good boar bristle brush can make or break someone’s no poo journey. Don’t try and give up shampoo without one. Promise?How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth  - the one tip you need

Brushing for hair growth and shiny hair – and other benefits
Hard city water, silicones and preservatives in shampoo all make your hair dull and stunted. By using a boar bristle brush regularly you can expose your hair way less to this stuff and let your sebum do the work.

A brush like this Spornette is called a porcupine- it has longer bristles that really get down and grizzly. In fact, the first time you use it you sort of unhearth a load of, um, extras. Dandruff, flakes, gunk.

Using it regularly combats dandruff and itchy scalp by keep your brilliant acid mantel (the protective layer that covers your scalp and body) clear and healthy.

I have curly hair- brushing? Really?
Curly haired friends are divided on this one. It must depend on the type of curl or porosity of the hair.
There are loads of curly haired peeps that have never brushed their hair, and then when they start on this journey, they discover they can use a boar bristle brush to great effect – if done in the evening so their hair has time to calm down again.

And then there are curly haired people who don’t even need it – just the odd scritch and preen every now and then.

With all the people I’ve worked with on this, I’d say curly haired people find giving up shampoo sooooo much easier- as long as it is kept untangled with argan/jojoba/coconut oil.

Extra Brushing Tips

  • Brush section by section
  • Hold the hair from the scalp to the ends as long as you can.
  • Brush at night so that the redistributed sebum has time to settle
  • Keep your brushes super clean by swishing in a baking soda mixture while you shower. (Bristles only, not the handles.)

Here is a video with me talking about the powers of the boar bristle brush, demo-ing brushing techniques and cleaning methods.

I realise I sound absurdly like a salesperson.  (You can see there are no affiliate links of anything here!) I am simply passionate about people finding natural ways to care for their hair and body, and I am a bit of an evangelist for cutting down all those carcinogenic chemicals that are jammed in our shampoo and conditioners.

And if there is something that can get you shiny hair and hair growth, that will last your whole life, has no chemicals and works WITH your amazing, magnificent body? I want to shout about it. Yahoo for the boar bristle brush. *waves pom poms*

PS If you want more loads more information about getting super healthy hair by giving up shampoo, the science of shampoo and a ton of tips and recipes for scalp and hair please do check out my book and join this global movement.

PPS And if you are really quite daunted by the idea but want to give it a crack let me properly hold your hand through the process. My E-Course, Happy Hair Detox, has helped 20 students get started on this journey so far and you are very much invited to join them! Click here for more info and a discounted price- use the code LulasticReader. 

collaborative

Made in Britain with love

19 July, 2015

8 years ago me and my friends were sitting on the tube in London when we came up with a killer idea. A fair trade fair on Oxford Street! At Christmas! A Christmas Fayre with ethical stuff on the busiest shopping street in the world! And do you know what, we pulled it off and it is still running today. That is the power of collective dreaming, I reckon!

👌Change happens when we dream collectively 👊 #streetart #bristol

A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on

(I’d change the name though, even though we honestly thought it was genius when we came up with it. Fair Christmas Fayre! Like fair, y’know wow what a winner! Now I just think yikes, what a mouthful.)

We had stall holders come from all over the UK with handmade, certified fair trade and Made in Britain stuff. Only once did a dodgy one sneak in – someone turned up with non stick frying pans made in China. Pfft. Who let them in? *blushes*

It was an inspiring day, apart from when you tuned in to what Oxford St shoppers would say. They’d pick up an item and turn it over and say “OMG I can get this for a tenth of that up the street!” They were completely oblivious about slave labour conditions and all the issues surrounding pound shop tat.

The worst was when they stuck their heads in the market just to ask where Primark was. I wanted to bop them on the head with a beautiful fair trade cushion.
Keep It In The Ground Blog
My Voucher Codes have just released some encouraging research about whether people would prefer to buy “Made in Britain” items or from abroad, discovering that 58% would buy from Britain, and 40% would pay extra to do so. You can read a bit more about the findings here.

I think this represents a real change in our shopping habits. People are becoming aware that buying Made in Britain is more likely to support small business rather than huge corporates, better working conditions and a regulated minimum wage standard.

We are finally getting that the way we spend our money is a vote for, or against, a better world.

*high fives*

PS For more ethical shopping check out my affiliate chummos Ethical Superstore for tons of Made in Britain and fair trade stuff.

Activism, Featured, Parenting

10 habits that infringe on Rights of Children (and how to change them)

14 July, 2015

Do you dream of a fairer world, a cherished earth, a more peaceful community? And do you interact with children? As a parent or teacher or aunty or kind member of the public?

Nuzzle in, you. This post has your very name on it.

A few years ago, during my Masters at LSE, I spent three months studying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child under the tireless child rights advocate, Peter Townsend. The course was heavy but inspiring and I vowed to work on child rights for the rest of my life.

I went on to work for Oxfam as a campaigner, and imagined I would end up working on the rights of children through social policy.

And it would be easy to see me now, sitting in my pyjamas drinking tea, and wonder what happened to that vow.

But in actual fact,when it comes to human rights and social change, I feel as powerful in my role as a parent as I did as a campaigner.

When we studied the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) we covered poverty, child labour, hunger, trafficking, homelessness, but we didn’t ever look at the home and family life.

I’ve come to believe that the UNCRC can inspire us to observe children’s rights as parents and teachers and neighbours, and that this in turn this will lead to societal change that makes all those huge, global issues, much less likely to occur.  And, if we can raise a generation who have had their rights observed, the impact on global social justice will be boundless. 

Unicef say “The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.”

Unicef is slightly optimistic when it uses past tense here  – I think we are in the process of changing our view on children, but things haven’t quite got there yet. This post is going to take 10 everyday, simple habits that impede children’s rights, and consider a way to change them.

I did begin by going through the Convention, article by article, and pulling out the relevant bits – freedom to express views (article 12) and to impart information and ideas (article 13) and the right to dignity (article 23) but it got almost as heavy as my Masters, so I stopped that.

Instead, the guiding principles of the Convention, cover most bases:

All rights apply to all children without exception.

  • It is the State’s obligation to protect children from any form of discrimination and to take positive action to promote their rights.

  • All actions concerning the child shall take full account of his or her best interests. The State shall provide the child with adequate care when parents, or others charged with that responsibility, fail to do so.

  • Every child has the inherent right to life, and the State has an obligation to ensure the child’s survival and development.

  •  The child has the right to express his or her opinion freely and to have that opinion taken into account in any matter or procedure affecting the child.

And actually, these guiding principles can be distilled even further, I reckon. I think most adults have a good sense of what their rights are, and when their rights are being abused or repressed. This means that it might be helpful to think about upholding child rights simply by asking the question “how would I hope to be treated in this situation?” 

Here are ten things lovers of human rights and warriors of social justice do regularly to impede the rights of children.  We can break habits, and form new ones, humans are amazing like that. Let’s do this….Habits that impede rights of child in the home (and how to change them)

1 – Taking things off children. We do it in the name of safety sometimes; snatch scissors from a toddler or a phone from a baby. Sometimes we just do it absentmindedly- we want something they have, so we just take it. This act is discriminatory – excluding children from using something that they would like to.

What to do instead: Even with the very smallest child we can ask for something back, and explain why we would like it. If we are patient, and allow them to fully process the request (for young children this can take longer than you think!) with our hand out, it is highly likely that they will return it. We can explain things to children just as we do other adults.

We can also question our motivation for taking it – is it really unsafe for a toddler to use sharp things? I don’t believe so. At all. Juno has been picking up knives with our supervision since she could first handle any items. She has learnt to use sharp things very carefully as a result. Being committed to child rights means questioning a lot of assumptions we have about our children’s abilities!

2 – Talking about children in front of them. “Ah, yeah Ramona, woke up so early this morning!” – it is such a seemingly harmless conversation to have, sharing stories about our children while they are there. But would we EVER do this to an adult? Can you even imagine it? Being in a room with a friend, discussing the toilet habits / sleeping problems/ hilarious anecdote about another friend sitting next to you? It doesn’t protect dignity and privacy and you can stop it!

What to do instead: Weigh up the reasons for sharing that anecdote. If you need advice or support, consider sharing it in private, away from your children. But you can also ask your child, if they are there, if they mind you sharing a story. Or, you can include your child in it “Oh, Ramona, you woke up early this morning didn’t you – were you super keen to get up?” – involve them in the conversation as we would an adult.  This goes even for the tiniest baby. Defend your newborns dignity and it will be a parental habit formed for their whole life.

3 – Laughing at children.  Children can be hilarious, sometimes in a purposeful way – laugh right along to their jokes. But they are also funny sometimes in an intriguing, surprising way – and I’d you to consider not laughing at children. Sometimes, adults  find it hard not to smirk, to catch each others eyes and laugh at our children as they go about their lives. Just yesterday Ramona said “Don’t laugh at me, mum!” when I had giggled at something in a kind hearted way. It pulled me up short – even our loving chuckles as they fumble a word infringe on their personhood. I love laughter and joyfulness – it has to be up to you to discern whether your laughter fits with the idea of your child as a rights bearer.

What to do instead: Consider things from their point of view . It is tough not being able to reach things you need, learning all the unwritten rules of society, figuring out who you are. The very last thing they need is “kind hearted” adults giggling along. Dwell on this and it should help you hold it together when you want to snort-in-love.

4 – Picking babies up We get rights all mixed up on this one – we think it is our right to pick up our baby. Well, erm, your baby isn’t really, exactly, yours, you see. You don’t own her. She is not a possession. She is a person. With her own body.

Or we think we are helping when we pick up another child when they’ve fallen or  a baby when they are crying. Would you like a stranger to come up to you and pick you up? Nope. It’s the same. It is.

What to do instead: The alternative isn’t not picking babies up. Babies love to be in arms, it is one of the biggest ways babies and adults connect. PICK UP BABIES! But, do what you would like to be done to you: ASK THEM! Yep, even a newborn. If babies are spoken to this way they soon respond. The “I’m going to pick you up now” spoken to a baby soon becomes “Can I give you a cuddle?” to a young child. This practice of consent from birth could change the world. 

5 – Wiping children’s noses Sometimes we do things to kids in the name of health and hygiene. Sweeping in to wipe their nose for example – I used to pride myself on a swipe that came from behind Ramona’s head, cleared all snot that wouldn’t interfere with her play time.  Yep: stepping all over her right to influence decisions that affect her.

What to do instead: Say “I see you have a wet nose, can I wipe it for you, or would you like to wipe it yourself? and then wait.  It was Pennie Brownlee that opened my eyes to the possibility that most children, if given the option to not have a huge slimeball of snot dripping into their mouth would take it! Same goes with dirty nappies- in a respectful relationship, giving the child the option to come and get their nose wiped or their nappy changed, and given time to process it, is likely to result in them coming over for a wipe/ change themselves.

6 – Deciding things without their input “Right! We are off! Let’s go, COME ON!”  The amount of times I have seen parents suddenly decide it is time to leave the park and expect their children with no warning to come right along happily! We plan our days, our holidays, our visits, our lunches, our leaving times, every thing with very little input from our children because we think we know best. And it is a complete flouting of their human right to have a say in things that impact them.

What to do instead: Give them an opportunity to influence plans. This grows with the child; they are VERY good at letting people know when they are ready to have a say! It might start with a two year old choosing what friends to have a playdate with, and then can grow into a four year old helping the family decide where to go on holiday. Contrary to what people may think, having children as fully fledged decision makers is not a burden – it is a great joy, and it leads to a far, far more harmonious family life. 

7 – Photographing (and sharing) them without permission This one that really challenges me, and I have been on quite a journey with it. (In fact, you can see that my Instagram pictures are far less frequent as I try and do this 100% consensually.  When we are snap happy and post these photos publically we are in danger of disregarding children’s right to privacy. And don’t get me started on when we use those photos to publically shame our children… *ragey face*

What to do instead I do have a couple of friends who have sworn never to post anything about their children online ever…. I, erm, am clearly not there! I simply ask their permission to take a photo, and then ask them if I can share it online.Habits that impede rights of child in the home (and how to change them)

8 – Putting children in Time Out Yeah baby I’m calling it! Time Out is a Human Right’s Abuse! Putting a child on a step and not letting them move does not allow our children to experience the right to be a full participant of the community, it erodes their dignity and suppresses their right to have a say in things that are important to them. It just shuts things down according to an adult’s, often quite arbitrary, rules.

What to do instead  In our family, we generally feel that if a hiccup has occurred, it is because the child needs MORE connection, not less. Not to be excluded from our love, but to be encompassed in it.  So we go for something that is highly connecting. Some families however, might have found Time Out to be helpful in cultivating a thinking space.  If you like rules and things, you could consider coming up with rules that EVERYONE agrees with, and then coming up with the matching consequence. A family guide book by consensus – whole schools are run on this principle. (Personally, we go for less rules, more connection.)

9 – Telling them to stop crying It is hard to hear our children crying, either because we are sad for them, or triggered by them, or because we think its not worthy of tears. We “Shush” our babies and say “Don’t be silly, cheer up” to our kids. It’s probably not surprising to hear but: every child has the right to cry, to feel things, and to express their feelings as they wish. (Even if it was because their nutella wrap got torn in two.)

What to do instead: The HuffPost recently published a great article about how accepting feelings is the last frontier in parenting. But it doesn’t have to be a huge one to change. Firstly, if we are being triggered, we need to deal with that.  And then we need to cultivate the practice of validation. “I hear you.” “You are upset”. “You wanted that.”  “It sounds like you are feeling sad.” These words of validation, of letting your child express themselves, becomes second nature when faced with tears.

10 – Telling them what to wear. I would LOVE to have kids that wear cool retro style, ironically sloganned tee shirts with perfect pineaple print shorts. Instead, Ramona and Juno tend to opt for either fourth hand pilled fleecey onesies, bright pink tutus or nothing at all. But, it is more important to me that they know they are in charge of their clothes and their body and things that effect them. Their bodies, their choice, right?

What to do instead: Create more time in the mornings for them to choose their own clothes – with support if needed, particularly at the start. And mostly stop having an opinion on what you think they should wear. It is minutiae that doesn’t impact you in the least (as far as I can see) but very much impacts a child’s perception of himself in the world.

Supporting child rights doesn’t have to mean throwing things we know to be good out the window- but we do need to make the rights of children the framework for which we hang our family life on. 

I think there are quite a lot more – for example, not forcing them to eat certain things, not forcing them to kiss or cuddle. But I feel like this list of ten is a good starting point – possibly the easiest to change. Do you have any that you are working on at the moment?

And also, before I sign off, I want to disclose fully that I am not able to say “I am a true upholder of child rights!” – some days I am great at it, and other times my only aim is to try and stay sane.  But I have absolutely seen my own child rights record improve by being committed to working on these everyday interactions between myself and the children in my life.

I want to live in a world where everyone can experience human rights – and I believe this world is being built not only in UN offices but also within kitchens, playgrounds, schools. Places where children play, where they have their rights observed. Where adults change ingrained habits and children take their place as fully human, with all the rights attached.

A fairer world begins in the home! 

This is part of my slow burning Parenting for Social Justice series. Read all about Non Violent Communication for Parents here and pop your email address down here to make sure you don’t miss another post. 

Featured, Parenting

What makes us explode? Parenting Triggers and the Mother’s Wound

7 July, 2015

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

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

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

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

This is what I’m jealous of:

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

It’s a huge word, jealousy.

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

It’s not like that with my daughter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bloody patriarchy 

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

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

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

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

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

Webster says;

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

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

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

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

A safe place to vent

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

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

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

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

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

Come over to Facebook and hit like to stay connected.

Bombaround, unschooling, writing

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

30 June, 2015

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

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

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

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

And we were left pretty saddened by it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bombaround, unschooling, yurt life

Heart-thumpingly, fringe-snippingly exciting

23 June, 2015

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

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

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

*reins in the exclamation marks*

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

Here are somethings I am weeing my pants about:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured, Parenting, unschooling

How to start an Outdoor Play Group

12 June, 2015

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

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

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

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

—Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—John Muir, Our National Parks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

―Anton Chekhov, “A Day in the Country”