Parenting

We need to talk about that time

10 May, 2017

your teacher pulled you up in front of the class and told you you were stupid. That time you were told you were told off for attention seeking in front of everyone at the big family gathering. That time at music camp when you were used as an example of how not to play an instrument. That time your first boss yelled in your face. That time recently on Facebook when a whole bunch of strangers made you feel like the worst mum in the world. And that time you made a mistake, an honest mistake, and were made to feel as if there was something deeply wrong with you.

~

Do any of those stories ring a bell for you? Perhaps you have your own version? Can you recall it?

These are shame stories.

They somehow effect us deep down. They stay with us. They make us believe something about ourselves.

The feelings are real and they are traumatic.

How to heal our shame stories

~

Recently on Facebook Art Therapy Spot shared a photo they’d created, spotted via Happiness is Here‘s feed. I then shared it (see my facebook post here) describing a story that happened to me when I was a kid.

We need to talk about shame

My story was about being made to stand up in a whole school assembly, shouted at for stealing a coin I didn’t steal. Almost immediately people began sharing their own shame stories. Because, holy macaroni friends, 87% is nearly all of us. So many of us are sitting on these shame stories. And so many of us are still, to this day, living a small part of ourselves under the shadow of that shame.

~

Deep breath.

Jeez, I’m feeling a bit emotional. Can you tell?

I’ve been thinking about another shame story recently. Not one from childhood, but from my first proper job. When my boss, someone close to me, screamed in my face for being 15 minutes late to a 7:30 AM meeting. He called me a narcissist. I didn’t even know what it meant. I had to look it up. And to this day his words bring a deep blush to my face. I can feel my skin tightening even as I type. I double guess myself because of the one minute I spent in his office. He shamed me, made me believe something about myself. It was born of his own problems, his own childhood, his own shaming, but yet I carry it around with me.

~

Have you read any Brené Brown? She is doing important, important work around shame. The quote on the photo above comes from a podcast between her and Elizabeth Gilbert. (Also my favourite!) She says;

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

The experience of shame goes deep, friends. Really deep. It can effect our self belief and our confidence forever. And it very much effects our creativity.

Our shame stories are dead ends. They are blockers. Plugs. They are tourniquets. They stop the flow of blood to areas that were previously pulsing with life.

On last night’s Facebook thread people said over and over: I’ve never drawn/ sewn/ spoken a different language since.

Our shame stories block us but you know what else they do? They can also block our empathy. Unless we heal those shame stories we are endanger of shaming others. Shame begets shame and we must, must, must end the cycle.

Shame has too much of a role in childhood. We use it as a way to correct a child’s behaviour, to make them learn a lesson from a mistake, we use it in public, on the internet to make people laugh or think we are hardcore parents, but we use it mindlessly too when we tut and shake our heads when we use our words and actions to make a child hang their head. We make them believe they are deep down disappointing.

I did a little video today about a big decision we had to make and how it made me think about how differently we treat our children’s mistakes to those that other adults make. If Tim makes an error of judgement I try and stand by him, offer him grace because for me our relationship is the most important thing. I feel like this should be the norm with the smaller people in our lives too.

To Do:

On a recent reading of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron I scribbled “I didn’t tell myself it didn’t hurt, but I did tell myself I would heal” in my journal. I can’t find it in the book now, but the message is in there. All of this shame is traumatic. It hurts. And alongside recognising this pain we can hold on to the hope that we will heal.
Healing our shame stories
Brené Brown says: “As a shame researcher, I know that the very best thing to do in the midst of a shame attack is totally counterintuitive: Practice courage and reach out!” She also says “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

So here is what we are going to do. We are going to start the process of healing. Together.

We are going to do an empathy storm on Facebook. Click here to get to the Empathy Storm post on my Facebook page and share an incident that happened to you (something you don’t mind being open about) and then everyone else is going to shower you with love and kindness and empathy. We are going to say things like “This should never have happened to you” “You are NOT stupid” “Your art is NOT bad” “You are infinitely creative” “You are full of love” etc etc. It’s an experiment. An empathy experiment. I believe it could be healing for us AND I believe this kind of showering of empathy can end the passing on of shame stories from one generation to the next.

We are going to bring those shame stories out from the depths and we are going to open ourselves up to receiving the empathy that could heal us. (You might not be on Facebook, or you might not like the idea of this, which is fine. Do it with three friends in your living room instead.)

And then we are going to do sums, for fun. Or pick up a pencil and doodle. Or just paint the whole world with the brightness of our kindness so there’s no dark corners for shame to drop its spores.

Further reading:

All of Brené Brown’s books

Particularly on shaming around art and creativity:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron

PS If you found this post helpful come and visit my Patreon Page to see if you would like to support my work.

Parenting

The story that can change our life

4 May, 2017

The summer that Juno was one we visited an island with my parents. The whole family went for a walk to visit some weird volcanic sculptures (NZ = another day, another site of geological significance) but Juno was sleepy and I was feeling lazy so we pushed back the passenger seat and lay down for a boobysnooze. I’d flung all the doors open to let a breeze pass through and as we were both coming to the surface after our nap we heard some scuffling in the back. We looked behind and there was a large, curious bird standing on the middle seat. It was a weka, one of New Zealand’s rare, flightless birds. We all stared at each other for one still minute and then it hopped out.

The best thing about this story is not that it happened, but that it became Juno’s first story. She still only really spoke using sounds and actions but she began to relay this story to anyone who would listen. What was even better was that she embellished it – she began telling people, with hand gestures and expressive noises, that the weka did a POO before it hopped out!

A must read for mothersTelling stories is one of the things that makes us human. Storytelling is about our brains finding patterns in our experience, and within those patterns, discovering meaning. The weka story was Juno’s first attempt at making sense of the world and attempting to share that understanding with others.

Over the last few months I’ve been thinking about what role telling my own story has on my ability to be a kinder, more loving, more content human. Turns out, it is imperative!

Early in March we had a pretty scary experience getting evacuated out of a festival that flooded along the road from our farm. Forgive me if it feels like I’ve gone on about this alot, but it made a huge impression on me. There were a few moments that night where I believed we’d witnessed serious (fatal) tragedy. A few days later one of the friends we’d been in this experience with tagged me in a post that said

“Everything that makes an impression must have expression”

I really like things that rhyme ‘cos they stick in my head and that one went over and over in my mind and it pushed me to give myself the time I needed to process all the feelings I was having about the festival. Because if we don’t give voice, somehow, to things that have bruised us, we are less able to heal. They just get pushed down, under all the layers of life that continue to be piled on top.

I tend to process using my journal. All the ins and outs of that, and some of the weird things that happen to me when I do it, are in my new video:

Storytelling is important for all people

As you know, I am a big fan of Non Violent Parenting, and a few months ago Ruth Beaglehole, the found of the Centre for Non Violent Parenting in LA, came out to do some workshops in my local community. One of the things she spoke about was the research that shows how narrative work can help us form more secure attachments. A whole therapy has arisen out of it – narrative therapy – a way of dealing with trauma by telling our stories, because until we take hold of our experiences and try and make sense of them, we struggle to find our place with another human. For people to be able to establish and maintain healthy, meaningful relationships with the people around them, we have to be able to know and understand who we are, it is apart of placing ourselves on this map of human connections.

Storytelling is definitely important for parents

I love connecting the dots between gurus. Another peaceful parenting person, a psychologist, Robin Grille, came out one year and did an exercise with us. He asked us to think about a challenging issue we have with our child, and then to imagine ourselves at the same age. What were we doing at that age? What was our experience? We were asked to recall in detail what we would have been going through. After a while we got back together in a group and shared our stories – turns out in several examples, imagining ourselves as kids, enlightened something about the current challenge. One mum, for example, was struggling with her four year old kid watching tv, when she went back to her own story, she realised that when she was four she had two busy working parents, and she was shifted around from babysitter to babysitter who would park her in front of the tv. For her, her child wanting to watch tv bought up feelings of neglect that she’d felt, and she was anxious that when her kid watched tv, even though he was in a loving, secure home, she was neglecting him.

If we take the time to explore what is confronting us, what triggers emotions or explosions, we get the chance to process some deep down stuff and, after a little work telling our stories, we find we are far less explosive or triggered or confronted.


Since being committed to this inner work, this narrative stuff, I have found myself far calmer and far better able to hold space for my children’s emotions.

storytelling makes me a better parent

Storytelling is especially important for women

We’ve been systematically and institutionally silenced for centuries and centuries. We’ve been told our stories are worthless, stupid, told our mouths mustn’t open in sacred places, without permission. We’ve been forced to just listen constantly, to the stories of the men around us. I’m thankful for the generations of women that have changed things, who have painfully elbowed their way to a place where they could tell their stories.  We need to keep telling our stories. Today we need to make room for ourselves and each other. We need to share our experiences as mothers in a world that values people for the money they make, we need to share our experiences as women without children in a world that says the best place for a woman to be is at home raising children. We need to share the stories of all the masks we wear, all the violence we endure, the squeezing out, the judgement, the discomfort of living in a world that puts the golden crown on a sexist man’s head a thousand times a day in every single country.

We need to get together in gangs of women and tell our stories to each other. To weave together a narrative of anger and strength and grief and joy and this narrative will be a net that catches the golden slivers of truth and lets all the flotsam float through.

We need to create places where women lock eyes with other women and say “I see you. I hear you.”

Storytelling is definitely important for children

Some children are able to quickly and openly tell the stories they need to tell about what has impacted them. I have one daughter this way; she almost immediately begins processing “I was here and you were there and then this happened and I was angry and she shouted and I was scared and then…”

Another daughter seems to hold it all inside and needs the stars to align to process in a way that would help her. Sometimes a full week passes before she shares something with me that happened and a light goes off – the last week has been FULL of the fall out from that incident!

Since hearing about “Empathy Books” we have begun a small library of them! They only take a couple of minutes to make and can be incredible for honouring a child’s experience, however small – anything that has impacted them- and they have returned time and again to the ones we made about the festival evacuation and all our seven puppies going to new homes.

An empathy book is just a few pages with a sentence on each about what the child experienced. It is a chance for the child to take hold of the narrative and process their feelings, give empathy to themselves and, in time, give empathy to others.

Here is the original explanation:

Three practical ways to do some simple narrative work:

1- Figure out the way you best like to give expression to things that make an impression. Mine is certainly writing. Yours might be dancing or talking to a friend or writing a song or whatever. Find a few minutes each day where you can express, process, tell your story.

2- If you are facing a particular trigger, how about trying something along the lines of Robin Grille’s method? I’ve come across it in a few places and have used it for several different things. I have a version of it about self-love and body image in my book Freedom Face. Find a quit, comfortable place. Imagine yourself at the place you think a trigger may have begun. Perhaps a shaming incident or a certain time in childhood. Imagine everything you can about it – invoke all your senses, picture yourself there. Now speak to the little you. Tell the little you some important things you wish her to hear. That she is seen. That she is heard. That she is loved. Imagine warmth and love flooding your body. Allow those feelings to stay with you as you bring yourself back into the present. If you feel it might be too much for you, ask a friend to do it with you. If even the thought of it seems overwhelming, I reeeeeally recommend finding someone (a pro) to speak to. It’s a good insight that you have some stuff you are holding onto that needs a bit more serious, supported work.

3- Make an empathy book with your child. It could be about a fight they had at kindy, or moving to another country, or how they hate their car seat. See how making the empathy book feels for you both.

The ears of your heart

I’ve been thinking about the ears of my heart lately. About how they are stuffed up – plugged with those really effective ear plugs they give people in first class on the aeroplane. (I know about them ‘cos I pinched a packet once when we were getting off the plane for a 12 hour stopover and I was so desperate for sleep I stole and washed that first class wax off and had the best sleep of my life on a cold bench in a teeming but silent airport.) Our heart ears are plugged up, unable to listen to each other.  Often when we are listening we have our To Do list going through our head, or we are thinking about what we are going to say in response. I don’t want to do that. I want to listen to people with my whole, open heart.

But I’ve also been thinking about how the ears of my heart should be the first ears to hear my story. When I do this well, when I take time to listen to myself, to be kind and give empathy to myself, I find I am so much more able to live authentically, in tune with my feelings and hopes and dreams.

So, here’s an invitation. To tell your story, hear your story and guide your children in the telling of their own stories.

The story that can change your life, that can make you a better version of yourself, that can bring you deep connection with others, is your own story. Start telling it.

Keep radical, my friends x x

PS Just checking you heard about my Patreon? Just launched and am MEGA stoked by your support. There is stuff on there for patrons only, discussions and videos and a parenting mini-series.

earth loving

Lovers

27 April, 2017

Ramona’s best friend has a middle name the same as one of New Zealand’s native trees, Rimu. A rimu is tall and sprawling with weeping leaves and ladder like branches that are amazing for climbing. The three of us hiked to the top of the hill together to check our cows in the top field. They scaled the rimu next to the fence and as they sat there, swinging their legs, her best friend told her how this tree was his brother.

Ramona accepted it, a fact, and now speaks of all the forest as our family, as if she’d always known we were related, underneath this skin and bark.

Whatever you believe, there is truth in the idea that we are in a relationship with the earth. (It’s up to each of us to decide how far we wanna take it!) I’ve found myself thinking about the fundamentals of healthy human relationships… imagine if we were to apply them to our human-earth thing? I feel like it could be beautiful.4 ways we can help our kids fall in love with nature

1- identity

Since coming back to New Zealand we’ve been on a bit of a journey with Tim and the girl’s Māori whakapapa- how to acknowledge and breathe life into a part of their identity that was shut down generations ago? We hope to begin speaking more Te Reo in our everyday and we also want to live by some of the beliefs that have been lost. Traditional Māori perspectives on the land are that humans and all living things are all connected, interwoven. Land doesn’t belong to people but people belong to the land – but even more than that; people are as much as the land as a mountain is.

It’s important for people to consider where they stand in relationship to the land. All healthy relationships are based on individuals understanding themselves, their identity and how they relate to the person in front of them.

Are people here just to make the most of the land, to profit from it? To look after it? Protect it? I think we are all turning back to more ancient views of the land – we are not just here to be stewards, but we are inherently connected. Our wellbeing is caught up with nature. When the earth is sick, we are sick. When our relationship with the earth is strong, we are healthy.

2- time

We had a new friend come and stay recently and she told me about how she read Gladwell’s book, you know, the one about how all the experts have spent 10,000 hours on their “thing”- the Beatles, the Olympic gold medalists; 10,000 hours is the magic number for greatness. My friend’s brain began whirring. She homeschools her twin girls and she realised she could give them the opportunity to be at one with something by the time they were 16! She racked her brain and settled on the thing she thought mattered most:

nature.

For the last four years her aim has been to provide as much opportunity for her kids to be in the outdoors and she’s documented each hour on her way to 10,000. She’s not militant about it – some days they don’t even step outside. But to make up for that she’ll plan a three week hiking trip across the Sierras, notching up 504 hours in the tally.

Whilst I’m not ever likely to do it, I LOVE that she is saying being outdoors is crucial to childhood, so crucial that she will prioritise it and document it and make nature an ambition.

Anyone in a long term relationship will have a story about a period in their lives when they and their partner passed like ships in the night. We were a bit like this in London for a while. How quickly the tension rose. When we didn’t spend time together, we forgot how much we enjoyed each other. All the communication became practical – and fraught.

It doesn’t have to be 10,000 hours, of course, but the simple fact that we have to spend time in nature to value it, is fundamental.mud kitchen lulastic

3- gratitude

We have some grizzly wild goats in the forest behind our yurt at the moment. They are so close and they are so wild that their yeasty smell wafts into the yurt in the mornings. The next door neighbour’s kids found them first during an early morning forest adventure, they rushed straight over, powered by their hoots, and all the kids donned hats and gloves and found shields and made swords out of antlers and they went off to find them again. One of them yelled ” When we find it, we shall have a feast of thanks! A royal banquet where we will eat in its honour! Meaning, we will eat it!!”

It was so Monty Python as to be unreal.

Research seems to point to the fact that the more gratitude showing in relationships, the better the health and longevity of that relationship. I have begun shooting off little breath prayers at the sight of the night sky or a huge tree or a waddling duck or the sound of the river. As a family we try and remember to light a candle before we eat and think of all the things we are grateful for. Every night we are thankful for the sun and the rain the amazing ability of the soil to nourish the plants we eat.

These little rituals of thanks could be one of the easiest ways to re-form our connection to the earth.
Help your children fall in love with nature

4- playfulness

So we made a thing, for Juno’s birthday (a toyless birthday) which you can see us making in my new video:

And we’ve only had it for 24 hours but it is such an amazing invitation to play. We all keep finding ourselves caught up in flow as we feel the earth under our feet and in our hands.

And don’t you think adults need play as much as kids? To just intentionally enjoy themselves outdoors?

I’ve always hoped that our kids will get into surfing, as amazing things happen when you surf. You just find yourself absolutely revelling in the ocean. Delight so quickly turns to awe. And awe is the trigger for respectful actions.

I feel like the more playful we can be in nature the more our collective actions might change. Creating opportunities for ourselves and our children to laugh and delight in the outdoors makes it so, so, so much more likely that they will care for it and grow to live in a way that nourishes the earth rather than exploits it.
 

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There’s a big rhetoric at the moment that laments the role of nature in childhood. Outcries about how they can identify a dalek but not a blackbird, and how we can get them to KNOW THIS STUFF. But, like all the stuff that we see as problematic in childhood- it’s really about us. Because if we can restore our relationship with nature, our children will find it a breeze.

PS My second ebook, 30 Days of Rewilding, aims to help parents become the thing they want their children to be – earth lovers.I’d love you to read it and I’d love to hear how you help your family find a connection with the earth. x x x

PPS Did you hear about my Patreon? Just launched it last week and am soooooo excited by all your support! There is already heaps on there for patrons only, discussions and videos and a parenting mini-series.

writing

I am awesome

18 April, 2017

I’ve got some big news and some honesty coming up, but first I want to share some numbers.

Next month will mark seven years of Lulastic. It’s funny to read my first ever post and see that I write in exactly the same way! I was quite experimental in those first posts – they were often just one sentence long and included a picture made on the Paint App:

This from the Ominous Silence of Babies and Toddlers

the ominous silence of babies and toddlers

and this from The Day Ramona Discovers Ears Age 9 Months

The day ramona discovered ears

Four hundred and sixty six posts later and I’ve dropped the phone-created artwork and made the writing bits quite a lot longer!! I’ve also become more focused on sharing information, raising awareness about things I think are important, rather than the little tidbits of life as a mother.

It was around four years ago Tim and I quit our London jobs and went travelling. We were confident that I could be the main breadwinner through my blog. I’d begun a little bit of advertising to pay for the costs of hosting and spam prevention and it was an exciting time for blogging- there was money being dished out everywhere! I began to get my first bits of paid writing elsewhere and we were excited about the freedom going freelance could give us.

Over these recent years the community around Lulastic has grown ten fold. Each month around 75,000 people visit and a social media community of 40,000 has grown up around it.  I’m the fourth highest ranking blog (with public records) in New Zealand and the eighth highest in the British parenting charts. WHAT THE HECK? I don’t share that to toot my horn, I promise, I’m embarrassed by even saying it. The truth is,  it completely astonishes me that this many people want to hang out here and read about this alternative living and progressive parenting. I’d always imagined Lulastic to be niche, so niche. (Hello, it’s called Lulastic and the Hippyshake, what sort of nonsense blog name is that?!)

Weirdly, though, despite the wonderful shock of having this many readers and a beautiful, wise, growing community, making money online is harder than when we first made the decision to go freelance. Contracts yo-yo and advertising is gross. I have a couple of solid gigs with the awesome folk of Green Parent and Channel Mum and my ebooks are an awesome source of income but they rely on me spending a full third of my time on admin (I’m so bad at it) and self-promotion (soul destroying!)

One of the hardest parts about creating stuff for the internet is needing things to “take off”, the waiting to see if the thing you’ve spent three days making will reach people, or if it will just languish. Increasingly I feel that my work is at the mercy of savage algorithms and the ungraciousness of timezones. It’s like financial success in this line of work needs me to be more capitalist, less artist.

And have a much more calloused heart.

~

I long to fully prioritise the two dreams in my heart. (I must use this phrase a lot, hopeless romantic I am; Juno recently said “Mum! Mum! Look at this! It was born in my heart!” as she did a roly poly crossed with a cartwheel.)

The first is to really grow the movement of respectful parenting. I want to create free resources and a website and a book and in-person workshops that help parents be true allies to their children. I am desperate to do this and I want to reach millions with these resources. I also want to concentrate on making beautiful films about treading lightly on the earth, to document our off grid life and tell stories that help people connect deeply with nature.

Weirdly (again!) these are the two things that generate the most energy (both in me and readers) but the least money!! I’ve always simply accepted that I can only really launch myself into these two things once I have “established”; once we have enough money coming in to free me up.

In a beautiful moment of syncronicity, this weekend I decided that nope, the time HAD to be now. I don’t have everything I need to do this (I lack the wisdom, the experience AND the money!) but still; the time is always now!!

And then, that night, I decided to support a creator on a thing called Patreon. I’d seen Patreon all about the place for a few months but on Friday night I made a pledge and put my money in to support a podcast for $5 a month. I immediately made Tim sit on the sofa with me and listen to the free meditations and music I got as my reward for being a patron. I spent the day feeling great about being able to support a creator I love and getting access to some awesome resources.

It wasn’t until 24 hours later that I had the realisation that I need to get myself on Patreon!!!! It was like Timmy Mallet bonked me on the head.  I actually laughed out loud that it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. I now think that on some deep level I was struggling with feelings about not being deserving enough to have patrons, despite the emails I get where mamas tell me my posts have transformed their lives with their children.

I am learning to put more faith in the fact that every so often things come out of my keyboard that change peoples lives. And I want to have the freedom to listen and be available for when those golden things arrive, to get them out in front of the eyes that need them!!

Recently, at a workshop with Non-Violent Parenting founder, Ruth Beaglehole, she asked us to list all the values we want our children to have when they grow up. Top of my list was “To love themselves, believe in themselves.” Then Ruth said “If you want your children to have these qualities than YOU need to have them, you need to work on them for you, first.” I’ve known for yonks that if I want my children to be kind, I must treat them with kindness, but I’d never applied the same thinking to all the other qualities I want them to have.

This morning as I was journalling, lying on my bed with three year old Juno journalling next to me (lots of OOOOOOOs) she asked me to write something down so she could copy it. I said “Sure, what do you want me to write?” I thought she might say “buttkiss” as that is her favourite word at the moment, but without hesitation she said “I am awesome!”

Sparks of happiness exploded in my chest. Juno won’t get away with saying that kind of audacious thing when she’s an adult. Women in particular, we get along by making ourselves small, downplaying the treasures inside. Even the idea of saying out loud, as a grown woman, “I AM AWESOME” makes me blush a bit. Especially ‘cos I’m not awesome; I’m messy and blunt and too focused and too unpindownable and too excitable and too damn angry.

But you know what? I want my daughters to be surrounded by people who go for their dreams, by women, especially, who have the faith in themselves to chase their hopes and to make them happen. Who keep that child-like sense of their own awesomeness.

So here we are. My last number.
Lulastic Patreon

Five Hundred.

My first goal is $500 a month from patrons. This will allow me to immediately take advertising off Lulastic and to begin building my new parenting website.

You can pledge as little as $1 a month and get access to my patron-only posts including behind the scenes videos and work in progress ebooks. For more $$ a month you get access to mini series and extra videos. I’ve just begin a mini series on there, Seven Deeds for a Happier Home, that includes reflections and activities to bring more joy into your life as a parent over the course of one week.

Please come and check out my Patreon page and consider supporting my work. As a little incentive to get in quick, the first 10 patrons (even on the $1 tier) will get social media shout outs for their blog/ videos/ business/ projects.

Thank you SO much for the role you have played in growing Lulastic. Never in my most raucous dreams did I imagine being able to write this kind of post. Just be warned though, if Patreon gives me the creative freedom I long for I might feel an urge to make more pictures on the Paint App…

My latest Youtube video:

Nappyfree, Parenting

Potty training from birth?! Our nappy-free newborn

13 April, 2017

Updated! Here is a video all about why we chose the Nappy-Free Newborn route.

And here is my original post – written two weeks after Juno was born.

Our little Juno has been on the outside for almost two weeks and what a magnificent little poppet she is. She stoically snoozes through Ramona’s loving cuddles and smooches and gives us smiles (WHATEVER! NEWBORNS DO SMILE!) and makes the cutest little sleep growls.

Breastfeeding has been a breeze until the last couple of days – suddenly I am dealing with MASSIVE oversupply meaning Juno veers from being like a deliriously happy drunk to acting like she has dined on razor blades- until that huge burp makes an appearance. It has actually made for a few stressful nursing times, which has knocked me for six a bit. Being more diligent with positioning and just waiting for my milk to regulate should fix it.

Ramona meanwhile, is being a total star about the big change, continuing to be a complete hoot (she has taken to using my languishing breastpads like a mobile phone, chattering away to her friends. I mean, really, how much more comfy for your ear? Mobile phone creators could take some inspiration from this, I tell you) and taking it all in her stride.

One thing we are doing quite differently with Juno compared to Ramona’s early days is Elimination Communication- this is the idea that babies are born ready to communicate about when they need to go to the toilet. We did do this with Ramona (read all about that here) but began when she was around 12 weeks old. Doing it with a newborn is BONKERS!Potty training from birth?! Nappyfree newborn

Nappy-free newborn: the first addictive catch
Juno had only been out of the womb for a few hours, we were all tucked up in bed, but she was a little unsettled and wouldn’t latch on properly. I suggested we might hold her over the potty and Tim duly did so. Out burst a joyous wee, glowing with freedom, and Juno instantly shut her eyes and nodded off. Tim and I just looked at each other in flabbergastedment and cracked the heck up.

We are by no means catching everything, maybe only 60% of poos and wees, but it is an incredibly helpful parenting tool for newborns. So, SO, often – even more pronounced at night- Juno will be grunting and squiriming and complaining, a little hold over the pot soon sees her releasing all that caramelly poop and she will immediately be happier. It really seems as if at least a third of her cries are to do with the sensation of needing to go. The experience is convincing me that newborns come out with the ability to tell us about three needs- tiredness, hunger, and elimination. I think “The Hold” (see pictures!) is really comfortable for them- often Juno will just begin a nap inbetween her poo and wee- and allows them to really empty their system.

Nappy-free Newborn Practicalities
We tend to sit her on a cloth nappy, tucked in the sling, or on my lap, and then we chuck them in the wash if she does her business on there. We still get alot of stealthy wees and poos so are easily going through the same amount of washes (10 nappies a dayish) compared to normal cloth nappying, so we are yet to see any laundry benefits from EC (that comes a bit later.) We have cartons and bowls and potties tucked around the house so that we can whip one under Juno if we sense a Number coming on. It doesn’t feel like more work than normal nappy changing, and I feel it is really helping Juno’s comfort levels.elimination communication with a newborn baby

Ramona is a big help- when Juno is wriggling she’ll ask her “Ooh, do you need to do a Number, Juno?” and while we hold her over the potty Ramona will sing the “Come on poo” song (What, you don’t have a poo song?!) and will even empty it down the toilet for us.

So, there you go – elimination communication with a new born baby! In some ways a typical two weeks in the life of a newborn; milk, sleep, poos and wees, and in other ways, well, just a little bit mindboggling!

PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!
Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips

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elimination communication with a newborn baby

yurt life

Living Off Grid in the summer (in a yurt in New Zealand)

6 April, 2017

I know I write that a lot “living off grid in a yurt in New Zealand” bla bla and I’m so boring about it. But honestly. It cracks me up EVERY TIME. I get a little bubble in my chest. Like, THIS LIFE. This life in a yurt in New Zealand. See, see how I am actually cracking my self up?! Who lives in a yurt?! (Apart from, like, most of the population of Mongolia?)

Imagine saying to my eleven year old self, born and raised in a concrete jungle, the one with a Jamaican Cockney accent because that’s how all kids speak in South London, the one who was getting bullied almost everyday ‘cos the kids on the school bus drove past her when she was fishing a Los Angeles Raiders baseball cap out of the bin outside the fish and chip shop, imagine telling her that when she is thirty four she’ll have two wild kids, a whole herd of highland cows (or horny cows, as Juno calls them), a very handsome partner, who turns out is actually a bit of a cow whisperer, and a yurt to live in?

We’ve had that thing where the clocks change this week, so all of a sudden it is dusk at 5pm. And it’s cold in the morning, and the mist has begun rolling into our fields. This week feels very much like the end of summer. We have still swum in the river but it has been a feat of bravery, rather than the luxurious heat-relief it usually is.

So I thought I’d do a bit of a summery – geddit, ha. You know. Summary. But like, with summer in it?

Aye, aye, aye.

And I am going to be super real. Like SO REAL. Because I really believe that in amongst this show reel of social media, dotted amongst the swimming with dolphins and the children gulping kale smoothies we need people putting their hands up and saying “We’ve had a horrible bout of threadworm.” So here we go. Fifteen things about our off grid summer fendango. Off grid living in the summer in new zealand in a yurt

1- Threadworm is no joke. Turns out though, that if you live on a farm they DO actually give you a bulk batch of worming pills as per my Christmas wish YAY.

2- Baby cows! We have had two baby cows born this last fortnight, and my days, you have never seen a cuter thing. You can spy the one week old cow in the first couple of seconds of my latest youtube. (Also involves our honey harvest, that time we were evacuated at midnight, cyclones and a squillion cute things.)

3- I thought I would do a “one good thing, one real thing” thing – so now it is the real thing; DEATH. So much death on a farm. I was vegetarian for 22 years. And then when we began living this way I realised that the problem with an unsustainable meat industry isn’t the eating of the meat, but the way the animals are treated for their whole life, and the way they are killed, and the amount that is eaten. So in an attempt to eat even MORE ethically and locally, I began eating the very very happy organic meat we grow on our farm. Beef and Ducks. They are delicious and I am so thankful for them. But in an emotional way I still haven’t really come to terms with it. It’s been two years and when we butcher the animals I feel a bit overwrought.  The other day I accidentally looked inside a bucket and there were all the duck heads that we were due to bury and it haunted me in my sleep. There’s also alot of other death around too. The other day our dog caught a rabbit. She usually just eats them but she began playing with this one and it was absolutely terrified and bleeding so I had to get a spade and, and, I, I had to to kill it.

Ohhhh.

JEEPERS WHY AM I TELLING YOU ALL OF THIS. It is the most horrifying part of our life!!!!!!! I know I’m trying to be real but seriously, Lucy, we are only on number THREEEEEE.

Rein it in, geeez.

4- Sorry, okay, so there is death, but there is also LIFE! Our fruit trees are growing and we get the feeling they will be yielding fruit next year. HURRAY! We also got quite a lot of veggies and that meant for a good few meals we were able to eat solely from our farm which was incredible. I found a whole tiny forest of celery the other day which I didn’t think had taken, and a pumpkin growing in a tree in the forest!

5- But the truth is… I’m actually a pretty poor gardener. I really need to grow in diligence to be a better gardener. We put in a huge effort raising beds and mulching and got in hundreds of seedlings at the very start of summer. And then as summer grew hotter and drier and our hose stopped doing the spinning thing they usually do, the veggies began freaking out and got inundated with moth and stink beetles and I began feeling like such a failure that I couldn’t even look at it anymore which is NO WAY TO RESCUE A DYING GARDEN. It is by grace and grace alone (and a bit of rain) that the kale and pumpkins have begun growing again with the change in seasons.

6- MICE. Oh, they like it inside once the weather turns don’t they! They have wisened to our traps so they chew all night in great bonhomie. Rodents are just part of the picture when you live rurally I think. But they get in my head a bit.

7- It’s felt like some of the community visions we’ve had have begun to really solidify this summer. We’ve had some incredibly beautiful Kindling days (these are days when unschooling families come over to play in the forest – I’ve written about these in the past How To Start an Outdoor Playgroup) and some really potent moon circles. It has been so so nice to grow in community with those around us, and feel as though we are creating a farm where people feel welcome.

8- The yurt has been hot. It was our first full summer in the yurt, last year we moved in to it in mid-Jan and don’t recall any days that were too hot. But this year there have been about ten days where it has been absolutely sweltering. If we remember to hang sheets in the windows (ordinary folk use curtains haha) then it does help, but is then quite dark inside.

9- The solar cranks all summer. It is so nice living on energy produced by the sun. I mean, seriously, get your head around that! The sun hits our panels which then shoots electricity into the computer that I am typing on right now. We can run a washing machine, fridge, computers, wifi, sound system, charge our robot vacuum, kitchen gadgets. All BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL! The sun, I mean, sorry; BY THE POWER OF THE SUN.

10- Within a week, this week of changing seasons, we have begun having electricity woes. We just loooooove technology. We love playing music and using our computers. It’s possibly the least off-grid part of our life but it can be so rough (and gross – DUCK HEADS) that having music play is such a balm. But this week we have gone back to having to be really quite careful about our electricity use. Meanwhile, we are working on a hydro-electricity project which could be incredible.

11- Our Airbnb yurt has been booked out solidly all summer. We have had SO much fun seeing families stay and enjoy the farm and the river and the fairy kingdom. It’s been a proper lovely thing. We would definitely suggest to people who are homesteading or living on a farm that they consider putting something on Airbnb, it’s a way of both sharing your beautiful land with others and helping make memories whilst being an extra income stream.

12- We are selling our bus, Berty Boo Bum. Now that we live in such a beautiful place we just don’t need to take our bus on missions as much! Which means we need to let it go to people who will really get the most out of it. Lemme know if you want a bus, right? We have bought a caravan to do up as a replacement, which also kind of belongs in the bad category cos we REALLY don’t need another project. EEEEEEEP! The things we do. Living life on a whim. Out on a limb. And a wing. And a bit of a prayer.

13- We found a new sieve (you know, you drain your peas with them) at a secondhand shop and it doesn’t have flakey paint or rust in it and it is such a delight to use! Same with our new tin opener. How good are tin openers that WORK?! It’s the little things, hey peeps.

14- We had this strange experience at a beautiful little festival, there was a flash flood and we were all evacuated in the middle of the night. But the really strange thing about it is how it kind of effected us all afterwards. We were thrust into this really intense, volatile emotional state. I can’t exactly pin it on the evacuation, but we have had all of these meltdowns out of the blue and I wonder if it comes down to some deep relationship with a sense of safety. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that, yep, we live this almost bucolic life in some regards but we still have these exhaustingly emotional days.

15-  We have had quite a few days this summer where we have been swimming in our river or on some sort of adventure on our doorstep and gone “We are so fortunate to live here, to live this life.” It can be hardwork, relentless (although certainly living with another family helps that sense of relentlessness) but the flip side is waking up to the sun soaking the mountain, spending heaps of time together as a family and feeling a solid connection with nature.

So there you go. 15 things about our off grid summer. Clearly not designed to make anyone want to do it! But hopefully giving you a true picture of all the good things and all the bad things.

PS Want more nature loving stuff? My latest book is designed as 30 short readings you can do each day over your morning cup of tea to help you fall in love with nature. See more here!

PPS See Living In a Yurt In the Winter and Inside Our Yurt House and Living Off Grid for One Year for more writing and things.