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.

Natural Beauty

Freedom Face Resource Page

3 April, 2017

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more info.

It is so exciting to hear the stories of you enjoying my latest book Freedom Face! Thank you for buying this book and spreading the word about it. If you get a chance to leave a review on Amazon I would be SO HAPPY.

Here is the list of ingredients used in the Freedom Face natural beauty recipes. I worked really hard with the recipes to keep the ingredients as simple and accessible as possible. This little cupboard of ingredients can make everything to replace your normal, store-bought beauty products from mascara to toothpaste, deodorant to sunscreen. These all click through to places you can actually purchase these ingredients from. I chose them because they are either exactly what I buy or are most like the things I buy from my local, quirky little health shop! At least you will get a good picture of what I am talking about.

Bentonite Clay

Jojoba Oil

Rosehip Oil

100% pure Argan Oil (beware of added keratin)

Sweet Almond Oil

Vitamin E Oil

Dried Horsetail

Dried Calendula
Henne Paris Henna Powder – all colours

Fair Trade Shea Butter

Coconut Oil

Probiotic Powder Tablets
Ozone Gel

Agar agar

Mica Pigment Mineral Powder
Showerstick Water filter and softener

Zinc Oxide

Now Essential Oils

Beeswax

Boar Bristle Brush – this is my Nana’s Kent brush, but the Moroccan Oil and Christophe Robin brushes here are pure boar bristle too. They are pricey but consider it an investment in natural beauty that will last your lifetime!

Diatomaceous Earth

Aloe Vera Gel

Activated Charcoal Capsules

I advocate using jars and re-using old packaging, but if you are not that kinda person, have a look at these:

Empty Mascara Tube

Empty Deodorant Stick

Empty Lipstick Stick

These are affiliate links too, meaning you get a recommended product and I get a small percentage. Thanks in advance for your support in this way!

Freedom Face Resource Page

March on, beauty rebels!

x

Feminism

Seven Ways to Bleed Well (and why honouring your moontime isn’t just for hippies)

30 March, 2017

I got my period the very day we moved from our home in London to the South Coast. I was 13.  Our new loo’s door had that old slippery paint that you could peel off in satisfying strips. As I sat there feeling proud of the stain in my knickers I tore off a cream strip on the back of the door that over many toilet trips would evolve into a child sized dinosaur shaped absence of paint.  There was a bumper pack of industrial sized sanitary towels floating around, looking for its own spot in our new home, so I helped myself, a bubble in my lungs. It was happening to me! To me!  We hadn’t unpacked all the pots and pans and plates so we went to the beach and had fish and chips from Harry Ramsdens. I can lucidly recall splashing the vinegar over my chips, a smile on my face about my secret, but I can’t remember telling my mum, or my Aunty, or my sister, who were there with me, or what it was like to tell them.

Recently at a gathering for another young women who had had her first bleed we shared our stories of beginning to menstruate. I couldn’t believe how many people’s first bleeding happened on significant day – a big move, first day of high school, a huge accident. It seemed startling to me – why don’t we know more about this?

And I guess it’s because we don’t talk about bleeding. We don’t share info about our cycles. We still live under the shame and female disempowerment that began in the dark ages.

~

There are a few things I want to write about, but actually sit on for AGES because I can’t bear how perfectly they fit into the “stereotypical hippy” model.  This is one of those. But I have sucked it up and written it anyway because whilst on the surface this just might just seem like more hippy shizzle, this is actually something that is crucial for womanhood.

I truly believe that our menstrual cycles are a feminist issue. There is so much shame around our bleeding and such a humoungous lack of knowledge. There has been a systematic dismantling of women’s knowledge of their bodies for many centuries. We’ve progressed in so many areas in recent years but our bleeding has remained in a dark, dusty corner – talk of our moon cycles seems to evoke cries of “wiiiiiitch”…

I think we are all ready to move out of that oppressive stage.

I also want to acknowledge those women who don’t have wombs or who don’t bleed, who don’t experience a menstrual cycle. I want to be sensitive to you. And I want to honour the bodies that bleed. If you can be a part of this conversation, I welcome you totally. I don’t think it’s very easy, in fact, it’s tricky, it’s messy, we are (certainly I am) figuring much of this out through this exact kind of conversation.

honouring your moontime

Here are 7 ways to bleed well:

1 -Chart

I have only just started charting (using Moon Dreams Diary which is kinda meant for younger women but I am finding awesome!) but am already able to associate things I feel with my menstrual cycle. For example, I am sure I get cramping when I ovulate. Much of the medical profession deny this is possible but I know soooooo many women now who experience this.

I can also pre-empt my rage days, try my hardest to get some time to de-rage/ give expression and validation to all the things I’m feeling. I am learning that these hormonal mood swings are not inherently bad, but that within them there is a power that is often dormant or even medicated. (My mood swings were “solved” by a decade on the pill – something I now wouldn’t recommend ever. See video below)

2- Meet your needs

The cool thing is, as you chart you will discover more about what you need. You will find that on days 15-17 (or whatever) you need to have a lot of reflecting time. You’ll know that a couple of days before you bleed you get an intense aching back that is only received with walking, so you mark out time for big walks. For people with really regular cycles, you’ll even be able to book family and friends in to help you out on days where you need time to vent alone. The more you understand your body you will be able to respond to it and make room for your needs.

3- Add ritual to your moon cycle
I’m trying to build more ritual into my cycle, this is about creating a new mindset around mensturation, to make room in our lives for it, to honour the role it plays.

In my early twenties (before I knew about any of this stuff) I used to buy myself cold red grape juice and go somewhere beautiful to drink it and celebrate my body. I used to have so much pain with bleeding that I felt I needed to remind myself why I bleed and to try and see the good in it. Whilst I didn’t have a complete picture back then, it makes me smile to know that on some level I understood that I needed to be kind to myself.

Something I try and do each time is saving my blood, I have a moon cup so it is really easy to do this, and making it into a nutritious tea for my flowers. I love the symbolism and this ritual, seeing your flowers bloom as a result of your menstruation, is such a beautiful one.

I also do specific moon cycle journal sessions – lighting a candle and answering different questions. When I’m ovulating, I feel excited and ambitious so I like to dream and plan. When I’m bleeding I like to turn inward and let stuff out that needs to make an appearance.

There’s lots of things you could do to add ritual to your cycle:

  • Have an ovulation playlist and a bleeding playlist
  • Have specific moon cycle sketching/ doodling/ painting sessions
  • Have clothes that you wear that make you feel good or comfy according to your phase
  • Have particular teas that you drink at different times
  • Have walks or activities that you always do in your different phases

These rituals add comfort and place value on the different phases of our cycles.

4- Consider a moon circle

One year ago my friend and I invited some neighbours and some friends and even a couple of people we didn’t know well but wanted to know well, to form a moon circle.

This is the email I sent out to invite them, just to show how loose we were at the start, ha

“Just a quick one to see if you would be interested in coming along to a women’s moon circle we are hoping to start? The first one will decide what sort of thing it will be, but at this stage probably something along the lines of sharing our stories/joys/hurts around a campfire. Might you be interested?”

I was afraid of cultural appropriation until I realised that almost every culture in the land has a culture of women gathering like this deep in their history. If moon circles are going to draw activities or ritual from the wealth of indigenous culture we must acknowledge and honour those traditions in our circles.

Our circle happens every new moon, as that is when women whose bodies are moon-synced bleed, and over the year we have grown in our understanding of moon circles and have deepened our relationship with each other. We have mothers and women without children and older women and younger women. Hippies and non hippies! I now see this little sisterhood as being such an important thread to my life and wellbeing.

There’s a few things to note:

  • The main role of our moon circle is to connect with each other and have a space to be honest with your feelings, to vent if necessary.  We pass around a sharing stone and the person that is holding it shares what’s on their mind/ heart. Sometimes one thing good, one thing bad. Sometimes it is freestyle. It can be heavy/ light. But no one else responds with words. We just are present to what ever each other wants to share.
  • The secondary role is to provide a chance to be deeply present and experience some form of transecendence. We are totally experimental. We have massaged each others hands. Meditated. Yoga’d. Danced.  Sung. We hold a sound circle when we all make sounds, sometimes harmonious and other times not! I love the sound circle the most as it is a true lesson in just letting stuff out, not being fearful of how it sounds, making yourself quite vulnerable in front of others and simply trusting yourself.
  • The space REALLY needs to be held. We often open with a silent walk to our forest circle to reflect on what we are feeling, holding in our bodies as we gather. We light candles and herbs to mark out this space as sacred. We remind people that the sharing circle is a place for people to share what they want to share and not for getting advice. We want people to feel safe and open. We ask people if they want to be involved in any other activities.
  • We are always trying thing and open to new ideas that different people want to bring. I often feel full up with goodness after and feel like every woman could do with a sisterhood like this!

5- Create transitional rituals as you/ your friends move through different life cycles

One of the things we are planning on doing with our moon circle is honouring the different life stages of menstruation. We would like to spend some time on a ceremony for those entering menopause, or on retrospective menarche (when you first ever bleed) ceremony.  I have been to a few of these gatherings – every one so different from each other. But it is a chance for the woman to mark the transition from one stage to another with her community. There might be candles lit. People might bring a poem. There might be singing or some rituals or art or something made together. There might be the ritualised walking from one area to another, the arrival at a new place, a new phase of life.

Whilst there are ancient precedents, rituals held by different cultures, I believe that marking these transitions has always been done and as a community of sisters you can create them. If you do have an incredible woman already doing this kind of thing, or a local hippy or doula or something, do ask for their support too!

6- Do a bit of menstrual activism.

It’s a thing! I first came across this four years ago when we stayed at an off grid community in the south of Spain (read all about that in the post, The Hippy That Laid a Golden Poo- you can see now how formative that whole experience was for our family’s life!!)  People are out there trying to take the shame away from bleeding, trying to help people tap into their moon cycles, and, really importantly, getting sustainable forms of blood products (I really hate the term “feminine hygiene products!!!!”) to women who can’t afford it. Things like cloth pads and moon cups which last for a really really really long time.

A great example is the Ruby Cup – when you get yours someone who can’t afford one gets a freebie. But also, everytime you talk about menstruation, everytime you break some of those taboos, you are a part of this movement. Read up on some of the great work being done.

7-  Read all the books!
If this has ticked your fancy there are a couple of books to get you started:

Her Blood is Gold: Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation
and
Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle

(My affiliate links for Book Depository – why go Amazon when you can go with someone that pays the right taxes?!)

And here is my latest video – talking about the Pill, our bodies, moon cups and more!!!

Want to be a part of this taboo breaking conversation? When did you get your period? Do you do any of the above? Do you think you might try a new one? Would love top hear from you!

Parenting

There’s no “cool mom” or “mean mom”

24 March, 2017

…there’s just parents who understand how the brain works, and those that don’t, yet.

Last week my husband made two cheese toasties and one of my daughters thought they were both for her- when they went on two different plates, one toastie for each kid, my daughter Lost Her Shit in the biggest way. Bigger than I’ve ever seen. An hour of violent, ear splitting shit losing. I think the trigger was the toastie, but that toastie unleashed four years of having to share every damn thing with the newest member of the family. The emotions were deep and dark and frightening for her.

For whatever reason that day, the surprise spare hour I’d found in between places I had to be or the little lie-in I’d had that morning, I was an ocean.

Immeasurably calm.

Encompassing.

Enough.

Her emotions were just one drop in the big sea of my empathy and solidarity. I held her, stopped her hurting someone, rocked her, repeated back to her the one phrase she couldn’t stop shouting.

It might feel funny to start a blog post like this, like “look, let me tell you about this one time I was amazing!” But you see, at the end of it all, I felt like I’d been through labour. (I’m sure she was just as wrecked.) I felt like I’d climbed a humongous mountain, and I’d smashed it. There was something required of me, and I’d rose to it. Honestly, without sounding like a dick, it was surprising and humbling. And I want to be able to do it more and more and more. Every. Single. Time.

I need to celebrate these moments, because littered around these mountain topping achievements are the times I snap, the times I’m grumpy all day, the times I exhaustedly reach out for a quick threat “if you call your sister baby one more time I will take away your internet!” and it is HARD work trying to change your mindset from the dominant one (parents must be in control! Children must obey! Children mustn’t steal a whole hour of your day with their meltdown!) to a more empathetic, power-sharing one (we are in this together! I am here to guide my children, to show them kindness so that they can thrive!) and we’ve got to give each other a high five when we rock it.

The truth is, it is only when I am able to keep in my head all the insights from neuroscience that I am able to rise to what is needed of me as a parent. This stuff is the gas in my tank, without this information I resort to a totally unjoyful, fearful, disconnected parenting.

(Story told with permission.)

***

This week I read the article “7 Reasons I’m a “mean mom” not a “cool mom” – all I had in my head after reading it was the phrase ‘There ARE no mean moms, or cool moms, or good moms, or bad moms (or mums!) there are simply those that have had the opportunity to learn about our children’s brains and those that haven’t.”

When I say there are parents that understand the brain and those that don’t, I’m not being patronising. I just absolutely believe that you can’t hold the information that neuroscience is bringing us and still proudly be the “mean mom.” And it’s no ones fault, so there is no judgement. I mean, it’s not as if you have a baby and someone hands you a little pamphlet about how to raise your baby according to the latest research and people are actively ignoring it. Nope. The opposite is true – you have a baby and the majority of people; health visitors, family members, mainstream media, actually give you advice that is the very OPPOSITE of what recent studies are telling us. I guess this is because society churns along smoothly if everyone just does what has always been done. So I want to speak kindly, empathetically; I truly believe 99.9% of parents make their choices because they want the very best for their child. But I also want to do what I can to highlight what people are discovering about the brain and how the different ways of raising children can impact them for the rest of their life.

Also, you can have all this information about the brain and still sometimes be the mean mom, ‘cos you are having a bad day and you can’t shake the blues or you’ve run out of time and you have Cocopops stuck to the soles of your feet constantly and it is Winding You Up. ARGH! Those days happen, but you still aim to do best by your child’s brain.

But to actively CHOOSE disconnection over connection with your children – that makes me think not enough parents know this shizzle.

(Sidenote- the article claims a bit of science itself, the “fact” that nagging works. I have spent alot of time looking into this in an attempt to find the source of this claim, I’ve even emailed the researcher, and only ever get ultimately directed to the Daily Mail. Not a single scientific journal has covered this piece of research and you can’t even find the original study, or even a reference to it, apart from in the world’s most crappy pop media. Plus the claim “nagging works” goes against everything neuroscience is telling us about relationships. So can we just chuck this claim out the window?)

So let’s get in to the good stuff.7 things about the brain that you can’t unknow…

I could choose ANY number of gamechanging brain things, but these are the seven that really struck me from an event I organised last week with Ruth Beaglehole, the founder of Nonviolent Parenting.

7 facts about the brain that could transform your parenting

 

1- Our brains can flip us from rational human to grunting ape in a couple of seconds.

The brain is a mega complicated thing. (Ha, that sentence – I can hear the squeak of the chair as my neuroscientist readers squirm!!) But let’s simplify it for a sec. Humans essentially have three brains that make up their brain. Our early brain, the first brain we got, is a bit of an animal – almost purely focused on survival. Then we evolved a bit, and on our way to our higher brain, get a midbrain, a bridge between our survival brain and our rational, analytical, poetic, artistic brain. This higher brain is also where all of our ability to empathise is located.

You know the phrase “fight, flight, or freeze” – that is what happens when all of our thought process sinks back down to our survival brain. When triggered into a big emotion, or when panicked by an emergency situation, we take a dive down to this lower brain and it is common for all rational thought to leave us.

This simplified brain picture is important for a couple of reasons:

When our kids experience big emotions, trying to bring them out of it with logic (Hey, don’t worry about it! I’ll make another cheese toasty!) will commonly not work, and will commonly only make the child feel more isolated, as though you don’t understand the bigness of what she is experiencing. When your child is in their lower brain, when they are little this is often, they need you to be present, to be with them, as their survival (all their brain is thinking about!) rests on you being close.  We can also help them make the transition back to their higher brain – see number two.

But the second reason this 3 brain image is important is for our ability to parent wisely. If we are panicked by something (in a rush or external pressures) or triggered by a big emotion (something that child has said or done has pushed a button and made you see red!) where do our thoughts come from? Yep, the lower brain. We sink there and, lemme tell you, nothing good comes from there when you are parenting! That’s when we blow our top, or say something to shame or threaten, or just act like a big ridiculous chimp.

Our job as a parent is to keep pulling ourselves up from our brain’s urge to take a dive!

2- Regulation is key.

At one point during the Nonviolent Parenting Workshop, Ruth said “And this, THIS, is the work of the parent” – we all shuffled to the edge of our seats, desperate to hear the silver bullet. “The work of the parent is REGULATION.” If we focus on one thing, if we can only focus on one thing, our job is to keep ourselves regulated – in this higher brain. Because if in the face of our children’s emotions, actions and words, we can keep our empathy neurons firing (and they are ONLY in our higher brain) we will be able to provide what they need from us. (What do they need from us?? See number 6!)

Once we have entered a disregulated state, it is hard to come back from.

So actually we need to get real good at listening to our bodies and trusting the signals we are getting, the warning signs that tell us we are about to sink into disregulation.

My warning signs are a fastly beating heart, short breath. This tells me I need to tap into my Regulation ToolBox. I am an auditory regulator. So I play music and say a mantra over and over under my breath.

We are also here to help our kids understand their warning signs. There is sometimes a clue in what people do when they are in a disregulated state.

If you fight and move your body when overwhelmed, you are possibly a movement regulator and doing something physical – punching something or having bath- will help.

If you swear and scream or sigh then you may be an oral regulator and singing or chewing gum might help.

Do you pull at things, your hair or your top? You may be a touch regulator and it might help to have a stress ball or pat your pet.

If you do a death stare or need people to look at you, you may be a visual regulator and it may help to have a favourite painting you can turn to, or a book of photos to look through.

Getting our heads around what is in our own, and our child’s regulation toolbox, and knowing when we need to turn to it, can save some really shameful crap happening.

3- Everything gets wired in.

Oh, gawd, this one. Our brains are amazing. And awful. They never forget. Every word, every action, every experience gets wired in somewhere in the brain. If things happen every now and then, it still goes in there. Obviously, it changes the brain less than when things happen often. When things happens often, say your child never knows when you are gonna erupt at them, their brain will be wiring itself up to protect itself from harm, to do what it needs to do around you, and possibly others, for the rest of life.

We all shed a few tears at this revelation. And even more at the next.

4-  It is never too late.

Even though everything gets wired in, it is never too late.

Because; neuroplasticity.

Whilst everything is in there, the brain continues to rewire until the very day we die. It is ABSOLUTELY possible to change the effect we have on our children and help them wire their brains in a healthy way. It is possible, as an adult, to observe that we are wired up for insecurity or anger or distrust, and to begin the work of rewiring. I’ve mentioned this book a few times, but the book 4 Ways to Click by Amy Banks is the most excellent and readable thing I have read on neuroplasticity and relationships.

The significance of neuroplasticity is that no matter our worst parenting moments, no matter what has gone down for our kids, no matter the shame and punishment that’s been dished out, kindness can always win.7 facts about the brain that could transform your parenting

5- What goes in, comes out.

A little task for you to do in the next 5 seconds – have a think about all the things you want your child to be when they grow up. Here’s mine. My honest list:

kind
empathetic
able to connect with people
to trust herself
to love herself

Guess what?

If I want those things out, I have to put them in!  It is literally how the brain wires itself!

Lists like “Reasons I’m the Mean Mom” completely ignore this fact about the brain. People think they are doing the tough love thing in order to make their child kind.

Oh!

It s the opposite of how it works. You simply CAN’T think that raising your child with severe consequences, with anger, with micro controlling, is going to result in a kind adult.

The only way a brain learns kindness is to experience it.

The only way my child will learn to trust herself is if I trust her.

It is that simple.

6- Empathy cells grow only by our brains receiving empathy

One of the characteristics that has been really delved into in recent neuroscience is empathy. I guess that’s because people realise that if humans could be raised with more empathy our world would be a far better place to live. There has been some incredible work on empathy to show that we have empathy centres in our brains, a little hub that is added to and built up every time we receive empathy. And knocked down a little every time empathy is not given, and shame and punishment given instead.

Read more about empathy and in particular empathy blockers here. 

7- Anger is an important state.

Firstly, anger is never just anger, but unmet needs.

Dan Sigels “H.A.L.T” is helpful – is your child hungry, angry, lonely or tired? It is a good one as it recognises that needs are not just physical, but that some of our BIGGEST reactions can come from emotional needs that aren’t met.

Anger is also a good thing. The impetus to ask ourselves what is really going on, what can we change.

Anger also gives children the chance to learn – to figure our problem solving. If we try and immediately quench all anger, what do they learn?

Anger also gives us the opportunity to let our child know that we love them unconditionally, that we accept them 100%. I love this quote from Gordon Neufeild, author of the incredible, highly recommended book Hold On To Your Kids. 

“Unconditional parental love is the indespensible nutrient for the child’s healthy emotional growth. The first task is to create space in the child’s heart for the certainty that she is precisely the person the parents want and love. She does not have to do anything or be any different to earn that love – in fact, she cannot do anything, since that love cannot be won or lost…The child can be ornery, unpleasant, whiny, uncooperative, and plain rude, and the parent still lets her feel loved. Ways have to be found to convey the unacceptability of certain behaviors without making the child herself feel unaccepted. She has to be able to bring her unrest, her least likable characteristics to the parent and still receive the parent’s absolutely satisfying, security-inducing unconditional love.”

Understanding where anger comes from, what role it can play can hugely impact our response to it.

***

Eep, I feel I could go on but I have actually been writing ALL DAY!!!!!!

Just quickly though, I do want to say that everything that applies to the child applies to us too. Our brains are the same. Human Brains, y’know? They require kindness and empathy. And the best person to deliver that is us!! We must be kind to ourselves. Give ourselves a break. Forgive ourselves if we’ve flipped our lid. Be compassionate about the fact that we haven’t had this insight about the brain so have been proudly parenting meanly. And encouraging to ourselves, remembering, It Is Never Too Late!

This is my latest video – it goes into all this brain stuff PLUS it includes another 4 letter word that can really help us with our desire to parent well.

Finally, I would love to hear from you. If you have had any mountain topping moments, I would love to give you a big juicy high five. And if you found this helpful, and want to help spread these insights, why not share this article somewhere?

Parenting

Rants in the Dark (Parenting; the dark side and the dawn of change!)

16 March, 2017

Here’s something I struggle with the most as an online parent-y person:

How to share the tougher parts of motherhood without either harming my children’s dignity, undermining my family’s privacy, or making people worry for us.

But sharing the tricky stuff is such an important thing to do. It’s why I love being with Channel Mum- a team of vloggers whose very tagline is “the honest face of motherhood”- and why I LOVE the groundswell of realness happening at the moment.

I was recently sent Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes and as I’ve been reading it, watched it smash into the Number One spot in the book charts. And I’m cheering for a bunch of reasons.

Rants in the dark Emily Writes

Rants in the dark Emily Writes

Firstly, it is hilarious and I love to laugh. There is a chapter, It Has Been A Day, where I fully oinked with laughing so hard. Secondly, Emily manages to share stories from her family life without pushing the boundaries of sharing. Do you know what I mean? All that stuff above, the stuff that is so hard to do, she manages. I didn’t wince once on behalf of her kids. Some of the other well known internet people sharing the real side of their life don’t quite pull this off, there’s stuff on the internet that is gonna make their kids cry once they can read, and I think that’s a problem. Emily manages to tell the funny or tough stories without compromising her children’s dignity. Thirdly, it normalises the intense feelings of motherhood – the epic highs and the I-absolutely-suck-at-this lows.

There’s another reason I think Rants in the Dark is an important book, and that’s to do with making the work of the parent a real, valid, legitimate thing. If we want stuff to change in society, if we want better parental leave and flexi working and funding for families – policies that give parents the support they need to be the best, kindest parents they can be, we need to be clear about how central a pillar parenthood is.

Society is a community building and one of the pillars that holds the whole thing up is the way that children are raised. If that pillar is strong and protected, the whole building stays standing. When it is used as a punching bag, it gets chipped and cracked. When the pillar is forgotten about, it begins to crumble. History shows that time and again we fail to remember how the whole of society rests on this post, then someone comes along with a spray can and scrawls KEVIN WOZ HERE on it and a few years later society isn’t being held up by that central pillar but by two new hastily erected walls built out of hate and fear.

If we want a fairer, more empathetic world, we need parents to understand that their work is the Important Work and we need governments to get that raising children with care and empathy is critical for a world without war and terror.

This is why I love books about parenting, why I eat up their pages, both advisory books about child development and also the records of life with young ones like Rants in the Dark – they validate the experience of parents, carve out space, they put yellow tape around the pillar to protect it. Rants in the Dark says “all the things you are feeling are okay, parenting is a big deal, a big messy deal, but its important, let’s support each other.” It is emotional and hilarious and inspiring all at once.

There is one bit in there that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, and it is the pop at Natural Parenting. It is so far off the wall that I’m sure Emily didn’t see it as a pop, just a funny play on the Gwenyth Paltrow brand of wellness, but as I read it I thought of all the mothers I know that are big into natural health, who do spend all their earthly treasures on whole foods and quite mystical remedies, and I wondered if Emily knew she might alienate them. This would be a huge enormous shame as Emily is CLEARLY a natural parent in my interpretation of the term, ha! Someone who trusts their gut, trusts their children, sees children as 100% human and worthy of dignity and respect, validates their child’s needs and priorities attachment and connection.

I had a bit of a chat with Emily about that chapter and she says “I would be devastated if it alienated anyone, it’s only meant to be a laugh at nobody’s expense. It’s completely off the wall for that reason!”

Buy Emily’s book here at a discount with my affiliate link and we are all winners!

***GIVEAWAY***

I’m doing a giveaway of Rants in the Dark (kiwis only, I am so sorry, I will be the first to do a worldwide giveaway when this book goes global!) over on Facebook. Click here to enter!
And, just before you go, here is my latest video!

Feminism

10 Everyday Acts of Feminism

8 March, 2017

It is International Women’s Day 2017!

Like other years, today I am hosting an IWD blog link up. I love reading about the inspiring women in your lives or the ways you strive for gender equality. Please head to the bottom of this post to add your link. Remember to visit the other writers!

Here is my own contribution for IWD 2017 – 10 Everyday Acts of Feminism
10 EVERYDAY ACTS OF FEMINISM10 everyday acts of feminism

The last thing women need is a list of stuff THEY need to do to right the world. More unpaid labour, THANKS LUCY. Some of this might inspire you, and I hope it does. But I didn’t write this list so you felt you have to do more work. I write this in the hope that you might pass this on to the men in your life too. Not because we need rescuing but because gender inequality is a shared burden and we all need to fight to make the world more fair.

1- Get your head around the terms “privilege” and “intersectionality” I say this as someone in the process of getting to grips with these terms! It is a long, hard journey. This is no Woe Is Me moment, don’t get me wrong, but it a tiring journey dismantling some of the framework in my mind. I grew up pretty poor, so still carry that blueprint around – this makes it hard to be told about my privilege. But the truth is – as a white person, I have no idea how hard it is to live in an extremely racist world. Over this last year I have been confronted and triggered and now want to be the kind of feminist who knows I can’t speak for all women. I don’t think I’ll be able to edit out all my privilege – even this post includes stuff that involves privilege (I realise that not all women will be able to cause mischief in a shop, for example) – but recognising white privilege is an important first step. Here is a little intro – 7 things women of colour want white feminists to know.

2- You don’t have to be the voice for the voiceless – just pass the mic. My mission this year is to promote the writing of women who aren’t like me. Do you live or work in an arena where you can pass the mic? Do you organise conferences or events? Do you curate stuff? Make a deliberate effort to get a variety of women’s voices heard.

3- Dive into the art of women. Read books by women. Buy paintings by women. Go to shows by women. There is huge discrimination in these fields – apparent at award ceremonies and stats for exhibitions. When we support female artists and writers we rebalance the scales. Check out these 59 novels by female authors put together by Sacraparental.

4- Support the work of women in industry. Women who are pioneering with their presence in certain industries talk of being discriminated against because of male bias. If you know a female mechanic, take your car to her. Get a female crew to paint your house. A female sparky or take your tech business to a woman. Help women get better footholds in industries that are hard to be a woman in.

5- Look for and celebrate every body shape. I recently saw the documentary EMBRACE. It is a great film, if you can get to a screening, or host a screening, please do it. My one big takeaway was how I need to LOOK for different body shapes and skin colours in order to celebrate the full diversity of womanhood. No one is going to hand me this on a platter, no one is going to normalise diversity apart from us. (Normalising diversity?? It sounds like a misnomer, an impossibility but I beleive in us!) I loved this photo celebration of fat love. Simply letting our eyeballs rest on this stuff can reset our own minds towards diversity in body shape.

6- Curate your children’s books and media. I am generally pretty wide open when it comes to loving what my kids love and going with the flow. But there is a BIG problem in the world of kids books – they are dominated by male characters and when females do feature they are princesses. Love what your children love, celebrate all their joys, of course, but also ask them questions. “Why are the three little pigs AND the big bad wolf all boys??” and take the opportunity to fill their bookshelves, and your local library bookshelves, with strong, powerful female characters. (When Ramona was really little I actually used to cut and paste parts of the fairy tales to make them less sexist!)

7- Don’t laugh at sexist, ableist or racist jokes. It’s awkward when you don’t laugh, but what is a little akwardness when you are trying to change the world? I once went to a comedy show and their was some awful homopohobia in there. I told the comedian afterwards that he crossed a line and it was pretty awks but I thought “phew, at least I will never see him again!” A few weeks later a friend bought him over to meet us, she didn’t know we’d already met in the smoky aftermath of his homophobia. OMG. A great way to up the pain is to always follow up their joke by asking “What do you mean?” – hopefully the discomfort of having to explain their prejudism will open their eyes.

8- Make a noise about the little things. When you go to the shop and you see ridiculous gendered messages on the kids clothing, re-arrange it all and then share your work on Facebook. Make a fuss. It might seem like a chore but I swear this kind of mischief is fun!

9- I’m going to take that mischief to the next level now: Walk around with a marker pen. When you see a painfully stereotyped advert, scribble on it. It feels SO GOOD. I have done this a few times in my life, but don’t often admit to it as I’m sure it is a bit illegal. One time I wrote “The 1950’s called and they want their sexist stereotypes back” on an advert on the train. (See vandalism for my daughter’s sake.) This might seem a bit frivolous but this kind of micro civil disobedience was present in the suffragette movement and the civil rights movement.

10- Talk about emotional labour. Let’s get that phrase “emotional labour” in everyone’s minds. It is the mental burden that often falls to women. The oil on mechanism of life that should be everybody’s job but largely falls to the woman in the household. The dental appointments for the kids, the birthday cards for extended family, the hummous for the dinner party, the Christmas plans, the World Book Day costume sourced. Have a read of this for some good examples and thoughts on emotional labour. Send it to the adults in your household. Even the right-on feminist dads. Could you have a frank discussion about this? I feel like it is a MASSIVELY important thing, because it is an insidious sexism that will only get addressed through hard conversation.

Would absolutely LOVE to hear about your every day little acts of subversion. Please tell me in the comments!

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY BLOG LINK UP
Here is the 2017 International Women’s Day Blog Link Up – Please add your link AND go around and visit the other writers and comment. The best part of this every year is meeting other women who want to change the world. You might need to use something like bit.ly to shorten your links as my tool below has a problem with long URLS!