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The one word that will turn you into a positive parenting wizz

12 April, 2016

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of positive parenting that makes the parent feel good and the child bad (I’m looking at you, reward charts!) I’m talking about the positive parenting that is wholly based in joy, in mutual respect and the idea that both parent and child can be very, very happy! And there is one simple word that will get you well on the way to being this positive parenting wizz.

And yes! I know that probably sounds implausible- a title intended to make you click through when really it’s something far more complicated, like, the one word is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and what will make you a positive parenting guru is:
S- Sublime natural parenting skills passed down to you from generations of intuitive parenting
U- Unlimited Nanas, Grandads, Aunties, Brothers who will come and give you a break
P- Piles of chocolate
E- Exercising mindfulness for thirty minutes every hour
R- Reading everything ever written by Naomi Aldort, Robin Grille, Alfie Kohn, Sarah Ockwell-Smith
and so on.

But no! That’s not this post! I really mean it! ONE WORD.

It will make you a happier, more positive parent in two ways – practically, life will feel happier for you and your kids. And mentally, you will experience a shift that will help you feel far, far, far more content.

Okay, let’s go.For real - one word that will make you a positive parenting guru!

The word? (Are you as excited as I am?! Yes?!) YES! The word is Yes! Oh jeepers, this is confusing.

Yes

Before I became pregnant I thought a parent’s main job was the No-er. The person to just say no a lot, to help that child be safe/ not get too spoiled/ to know boundaries.

When my first child was born I began to say “yes” intuitively. Oh, you wanted breastmilk now? Just 35 minutes after your last breastfeed? This pamphlet tells me to say No. But I shall say yes! Oh, you only want to sleep close to me? My health visitor said NO WAY, but I say YES WAY!

I didn’t go all the way though. I still held tightly to my role as no-er. It took some reading to help me realise that my role as a parent is that of a Yes-er! Her partner in this dance of life.

My daughter took me on a journey of yeses. Some were easier than others. (Here’s an example of a time I said a big yes to something and it turned out to be exactly what we all needed – also lots of ideas in there for getting your parenting mojo back!)

Sometimes I had to do a lot of research before I said yes. (For example, saying yes to risk taking! Letting a child play on whatever they want on the playground, without calling Be Careful.)

And as my children have grown, and I’ve grown as a mother, my YES has become bigger and more confident and I feel it is one of THE things that leads us to have a happy home. (N.B we have really freaking bad, grumpy days too. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t reached positive parenting nirvana yet, my friends.) I would say we have a large amount of happy time primarily because the word YES abounds in our house.

I believe that this yes-loving parenting takes the benefits of love bombing and injects them into every day life. Love bombing is a practice made famous by psychologist Oliver James involving taking your traumatised/ disconnected/ struggling child off for some one to one time where you do whatever they want.

After love bombing, many report that it has been the first time for months, or years, they have remembered how much they love their child.

James has seen HUGE results from this method. He believes that love bombing restores connection and resets a child’s emotional thermostat. I believe that we can lovebomb every day by saying yes more!

Yes or some form of yes

I believe adults have fallen into a trap of saying no. In fact, some of the websites dedicated to positive parenting are chockablock with advice about how to say No kindly and with compassion, and then giving a star on their chart when they accept our no without a tantrum. No is often our default, often before we have even registered the question. Perhaps we believe that children are always kind of messy or chaotic and their requests are never sensible or fitting. I’m not sure. But I know I hear a lot of Nos.

I beleive that positive parenting needs to be based on saying yes.

Sandra Dodd says

Don’t say no. Always say yes. Or some form of yes. See your role as helping her get what she needs rather than negotiating for what’s most convenient for you.

Yes can come in all sorts of forms:

“Yes, we can do that in 15 minutes when I’m done with this. If you’d like to help, I can be done even sooner.”

“Yes, you can buy that. Let’s think up ways you could save up or earn the money.”

“Yes, we can do that tomorrow morning because right now I’m about to drop from exhaustion.”

Our role as parents isn’t to say no or “put in the boundaries” rather it is to open the gates! Our children are often quite unable to set about getting what they need without our cooperation (on a practical level, for example, our fridges are too heavy to open, our taps too tall, our packets of crisps too tricky) – we are the ones who can support them to get their needs met. It simply isn’t fair to disallow them this opportunity purely because of their size and how long they’ve lived on the planet. (In fact, it’s prejudiced.) Saying yes creates a bit more of a level playing field.

Equal = happy

Saying yes acknowledges the thing that is important to your child. It says that their wishes are important to the family. Saying yes to your children let’s them know that they are valued, equal members of this unit. And, we all know that the happiest groups of people are those with the most equality amongst them. See more on this or read The Spirit Level.

Is it a stretch to apply this research, albeit tentatively, to the family? The Spirit Level concluded that equal societies = happier societies because there is more trust, less anxiety and mental health problems, and less health problems. I absolutely believe the same applies to the family. More equality in the home leaves more room for trust and connection and general well being. I reckon family is a microcosm of society and therefore equality amongst the family is vital and meaningful and a means to happiness. (Although I would LOVE to see some research on the relationship between hierarchy in the home and wellbeing of family members.)

YES is money in the bank (I don’t really mean “money”. Or “bank”)

You see, our children, when they come to us asking for something are putting in a bid. And the answer we give them either builds them up or not.

World-renowned relationship researcher and co-founder of The Gottman Institute, Dr. John Gottman, has conducted 40 years of research with thousands of people. From his research has emerged a practice that is important to the emotional connection between two people – the act of “turning toward” your loved one when a bid is made.

Take for example a simple bid for attention. “Will you play with me?” A positive response would either be “Yes, let’s play” or something like “Oh, I would LOVE to play with you. You are my favorite person in the whole world to play with. At 6:00, I’ll be finished with my work and ready to play. Let’s make it a date!” This helps the child feel acknowledged and important. Each time you turn toward your child in this way, Gottman says you are making a deposit in their Emotional Bank Account.

Read more on that here.

On a very practical level, when you answer your child’s bid this way you will feel enormously more connected to them, and therefore happier. They, likewise, will feel much more connected and steady in their relationship with you.

Less distraught child moments definitely add to your happiness as a parent, don’t you reckon?

Positive parenting is about connecting, filling up cups and putting joy/money in the emotional bank!

Positive parenting dismantles a culture of control

We aren’t meant to live coercively. Forcing or manipulating people to do things. It’s the old military industrial complex making us that way. I believe humans are meant to choose freely, in joy. Letting go of being controlled and a need to control circumstances or people is so, so, SO LIBERATING! We can absolutely choose this freedom in our role as parents.

Saying YES to our children frees us up from the awfulness of feeling like we can or should make other people do things. It releases us from thinking we can make our child a happy/successful/safe adult. All we can do is help them know happiness right here, today, when they ask for something they’ve identified as being important. Positive parenting is saying yes to this moment.

This being present, answering this request, right now is mindfulness in practice. Mindfulness shrugs off that culture of control. Mindfulness says “I can’t control everything. So I am just going to BE. Right here, right now, in this moment.”

The radical in me loves mindfulness because it disrupts the training we’ve received in our culture that leads us to use power and control unconsciously (with ourselves and with others). We perpetuate systems that we internalized from childhood because we remain unaware of how they operate within us and through us. Mindfulness is a game changer because it allows us to create awareness of what we’ve internalized and it shifts us toward greater consciousness of ourselves.

Read more from Teresa Brett here. And more on mindful parenting here – three GREAT tips.

So mentally, cultivating a culture of freedom in your home will make you all more positive. Saying yes will give your heart wings.

(Although, having said that, my first endeavour of truly applying the culture of freedom principle in my own home led, in a very practical way to happier sleep situation for Ramona and I.)

Positive parenting is based on a principle of YES

Saying yes isn’t a rule. In fact, we should be in the business of dismantling rules and nurturing principles. Saying yes more is a principle! The principle is that we are open minded and we value our children’s requests and ideas! And we meet their request and ideas in turn, with principles! So instead of the answer to a request being “No! Because our rule is Dinner Is Eaten At the Table!” the answer might be “Ah, you feel like having a picnic dinner on the rug! Well, we do value family time together, so how about we join you there?” (Read more eloquent stuff on Rules vs principles here.) The less arbitrary rules we have in our household, the more children trust us when we guide them with principles. They know we are not just pulling the wool over their eyes with a pointless NO or rule.

Don’t think of “say yes” as a rule. In fact, use the better phrasing of “Say yes more.” Ask yourself, “Why not? Who’s going to die?” If you’re unsure of yes say, “Let me think about it.” And then do think. (You can also get on line to ask for perspective.) Don’t use it as a delaying tactic, hoping they’ll forget. Be trustworthy.

See these as tools to move toward being your child’s partner. Rather than shutting down a child’s request that may be inconvenient, see them as requests to explore, to try out their ideas. Help them find safe, respectful of others, practical ways to do what has piqued their curiosity.

Who’s going to die? hahaha. Love the low standards! But for real, we do tend to build things up into big things when they need’t be, don’t you think? Read more on the excellent blog, Living Joyfully.

Positive parenting starts with a little yes here and there

The YES philosophy is one held dear to the unschooling community. One of the very wise things about these folk is that they/we always recommended starting a radical new way of parenting gradually. Don’t all of a sudden throw your rules out of the bath or your baby out the window. Your children will not know what is going on and you might go a little bit cuckoo.

Just say yes one time where you might have said no. Perhaps you might want to ease into it with these alternative phrases to No and other commands.

As you make space in your life for this yes, you will find more room there and you will be able to say yes one more time. (You are decluttering the nos! They don’t bring you joy!) Increasingly you will find yourself saying yes, and yes, and yes. And you will be able to cope and your life will have the perfect amount of room for all the yeses. Your lives may well become big, wild and free YES!

Will you give it a little try? Can you see if this one word, and the principle behind it, will make you a happier parent?

A little note on privilege: A comment on this blog often springs to mind, when I write about this positive parenting lark. It was “Yeah, but that’s all well and good when you live in a yurt!” And I just want to acknowledge my privilege, as a white, physically able, middle class woman with access to all the resources. Please read more about my thoughts on privilege and how I believe this kind of parenting – respectful/ gentle/ principle focused/ consensual/ unschooling / positive parenting (whatever you want to call it!!!) is available to everyone. Including lots of links to people doing it hard in many different situations.

Attachment parenting, Babywearing, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping, Featured, Parenting

5 inspiring Breastfeeding Images that normalise nursing

1 April, 2016

I am always delighted when I stumble across breastfeeding images and attachment parenting in historical photos or art. It seems to affirm a strong belief of mine- that society’s discomfort at public breastfeeding and other intuitive forms of parenting is a modern phenomenon.

Allow these breastfeeding images to be a salve on the wound caused by the public shaming of breastfeeding mothers.

Some of history’s best artists and the world’s most sophisticated fine art deal with the beautiful act of nursing – try fitting the word “tramp” in to some of these situations.

Come and take a stroll through some of my absolute favourite natural parenting paintings by some of my favourite artists…Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

La Maternite
Auguste Renoir
1885

I love the everyday scenario of a mother perched on a wall to respond to her baby’s need. I feel like her eyes have the oxytocin glaze, that relaxed kind of high breastfeeding can sometimes produce.

Artist Stella Mertens says “Renoir – eternal continuity- this flesh remains bound to this flesh; monument to hope and love created by your genius.”

This image challenges those who say breastfeeding should be kept behind closed doors, that it is not to be done in public. Renoir’s breastfeeding image says “Anywhere the baby needs to be fed!”

The Three Ages of Life: Detail
Gustav Klimt
1905

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Oh, Klimt. A hero of mine depicting a passion of mine. Look at the connection between mother and child here! The vulnerability and the trust between them. There is a peace here in this deepest of sleeps; the contentedness of cosleeping.

The challenge here is for those who believe mother and child need to be separated at night. This is not “normal” for much of the world! Sleeping entwined, with ready access to breastfeeding is a beautiful thing for both mother and child, and has been for millennia.

Mother and Child
Jose Orozco
1919

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

One of the first things strangers often remark when they see my large baby on back is “Gosh, you must have a strong back!” As if it is a hardship. I love this picture as it perfectly shows that babywearing is no hardship, no maternal sacrifice. There is pleasure here. A woman able to work, to create, while nurturing a child. The child is intrigued – mother is opening doors to the world and the child is in the perfect place to discover it all.

This mother’s breasts here feel like the tools that they are! The instruments of motherhood, rather than anything to be objectified. This breastfeeding image normalises the presence of breasts in everyday life.

Utamao Breastfeeding - Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Young Mother Giving Milk to Her Son
Utamaro
1753 – 1806 (Woodcut undated)

This baby is guzzling like a champion and he has that look on his face that nursing babies often get – a sort of pride at nailing this breastfeeding business. I love the delight on the mother’s face and I love that these are expressions that have crossed the faces of millions of nursing mothers and babies over the course of history.

There is something of an older child’s knowing in this rascal’s face, perhaps an agelessness. It isn’t historically, or globally, normal to constantly ask mothers after 3 months of nursing “when are you weaning him?” When the child is done, that is when! My own photos of breastfeeding my two older children are here.

Utamaro, what a legend.

Stanisław Wyspiański
Motherhood
19055 images that normalise breastfeeding

It’s that artist, you know, Stanisław Wyspiański, whose name just rolls off the tongue. Hehe.

The thing I love about “Motherhood” is the expressions on all the faces. There isn’t really much romanticising of breastfeeding here! (Which I would hate to do.) Breastfeeding for me was surprisingly painful. In fact, despite knowing many breastfeeders, having huge support, having been breastfed and having read billions of books about the importance of breastfeeding there was a day early on where I thought “I CANNOT DO THIS” – it was too painful. I was shocked and even a bit hurt, emotionally. It seems a common part of the breastfeeding journey. A deep need to concentrate, to work at it, to push through until you arrive at the place where it really comes naturally. I feel like of all the breastfeeding images I have chosen, this one sums that up! There is a sort of desperate hope in the mother’s expression, and an intrigue from her friends (or La Leche league support team) that could almost make this painting be captioned “That’s it, good latch there mama!”

I would love to hear about your favourite breastfeeding images.

Featured, Green things, Shampoo Free, Thrifty

Ten Shampoo Alternatives for healthy, shiny and clean hair

29 March, 2016

Updated post: I have now been using 100% natural shampoo alternatives for over four years. My hair is stronger, shinier and healthier than it has ever been! I hope you enjoy this post featuring (still) my favourite No Poo shampoo substitutes. I am pretty surprised that the ingredients I fell in love with at the very beginning of my shampoo free journey have remained my favourites. For the last couple of years I have been working as a columnist for Cosmopolitan, writing up beauty experiments, and I also published a bestselling book all about how to give up shampoo which you can grab here.
Amazon Price- $5.56 My Price- $3.56 (2)

At a mere $5.20 or £3.40 (purchase in your own currency) it is a SNIP – less than a bottle of swanky shampoo. But unlike your shampoo it comes with a full refund if you don’t like it!

At the start of this year I began an experiment with my hair.  The purist in me was tired of putting toxins into my body, the spendthrift in me was weary of pouring so much money away on these toxins and the optimist in me was persuaded by our bodies ability to cope without reliance on products! I was in a wash-every-other-day-routine and was a slave to dry-shampoo. I knew there had to be a better way.

Enter the No Poo way of life!

In a typically extreme move  I totally gave up shampoo and have in the last 10 months put everything from a homemade nettle brew to mustard powder on my hair! It has gone quite wrong at times but ultimately my hair is a million times more healthy, voluminous, and grows much faster. Plus I can go away for weeks at a time and need nothing for my hair but a good bristle brush. This really appeals to my hopes of living more simply and with less impact on this beautiful earth (even though I am rubbish at this in lots of ways.)

Here are TEN options for shampoo alternatives I have played with- and sometimes made a lot of mess with! Most are the BEE’S KNEE’s for me and the rest are the dog’s whatchya’s for others…

One- Water! Oh groan, I know, I’m sorry.  What kind of an shampoo alternative is this?! I hear you cry. The best, truly. It took me 9 months to realise it was all my hair needed – and now it has been one month since anything has been on my hair at all. The key is in the massage and the brush. As you soak your hair, get your fingers stuck in, pushing away at your scalp and any particularly grease-o bits. I do a five minute massage every five days.

I also brush my hair each night with my trusty boar bristle brush. I use Kent Brushes who have an amazing ethical record. They’ve been making boar bristle brushes since 1777 and can HIGHLY recommend either the barrel brush, which I inherited from my Nana and LOVE. 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! (Those are affiliate links, they ship globally for free!) More info here about what the best boar bristle brush for you might be.

My hair is thick and voluminous and does whatever I want it to do. Whooppiiee for H20!! I have to say that some water is kinder to hair than others! Sometimes the chemicals or the limescale in the water of city residents can be a little unkind. Make sure you use lots of lovely natural homemade conditioners every so often, and if after a little while it becomes clear that your water isn’t nice enough consider getting a shower filter or just committing to one of these other shampoo alternatives below.

Two- Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda. This gets your hair SQUEAKY clean. Every ten days or so I put one teaspoon in a cup of water and dissolve it, chuck it on my hair mid shower and wash it straight out. The only reason it isn’t number one is because it isn’t free and I’m a cheapskate. Using bicarbonate of soda regularly and often, and using too much of it will damage your hair more than shampoo. (Please read this ultimate guide to using bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda on your hair! It is a much needed step but you can have too much of a good thing.) My hair gets a bit bicarb weary after too many times in a row, brittle and waxy and needs a bit of Number Three Action:

Three- Egg. I use the whole egg, whisked in a cup. I pour over my head and massage in. I leave for a few minutes and rinse well.  It leaves my hair SO clean and SO soft and shiny. However, the water must be cool! I have had a couple of scrambled disasters venturing into too warm territory…. Here is some info about how an egg works and how to apply egg on hair effectively.

Four- Soapnuts. These are a natural cleaner and work incredibly well. My hair is like silk after- certainly the closest to shampoo I have found. I heat them in water on the stove for 10 minutes, whiz them with my hand blender and use the liquid. I am too lazy to make this my Go To alternative, but use it if my hair has become filthy. Buy them here and use them for cleaning a million and one things! Buy them from my affiliate chums, Ethical Superstore. They come in a 1 kilo pack and are a real bargain – over 300 washes in there!

Five– Rhassoul Clay. This is LOVELY stuff. For skin and hair.  It is one of the better shampoo alternatives out there as it not only cleans but also conditions. I make a paste with two spoonfuls and boiling water. Once cool I smooth it into hair, after a few minutes I brush it through hair and rinse off. It is truly divine but a little on the expensive side for my thrifty self. (But doesn’t come close to the expense of good shampoo.)Shampoo alternatives for healthy hair

Six- Henna. This is one of the more colourful shampoo alternatives, something to suit those who like to play around with their hair. This is my once-every-six-weeks deep treatment! I mix up about ten spoons of it with hot water to make a paste. Once cool I apply it all over and leave it for two hours. (Epic I know, I use a plastic bag and grips to keep it all in place.) It needs a SERIOUS rinse, and a good brush, but my hair after is brighter, cleaner, softer.

Seven- Tea. This relies very much on the massage bit too, and the result is the same as water except you get a nice smell! Some people swear that the different aspects of the tea change your hair – chamomile adding a special softness and lightness to blonde hair, for example. My favourite is to take some lemonbalm leaves and make a tea out of it. A little video here of that happening and an explanation of my motto “If you can’t eat it, don’t wash your hair with it!” ….

Eight- Lemon. Lemon has some seriously potent anti-bacterial properties and can work as a lightener for people wanting to be blonder.  Squeeze a whole lemon into a cup of water and pour over your head mid shower. Rinse well, unless you have hard water in which case you might want to leave on. Not recommended for greasy hair.

Nine- Tea Tree Oil. Full of incredible properties! Add tea tree oil to the bicarb paste, the lemon or the water only wash to turn them into very effective anti dandruff shampoos. Tea tree oil is perfect for people with scalp issues. In fact, one person I am VERY close to but who shalt remain nameless has had a life-long scalp issue fixed by dabbing on a couple of drops of tea tree oil to the problem areas.

Ten- Rye Flour. Rye flour is fast becoming the star of the No Poo movement, the Bieber of all the shampoo alternatives! it has just the right mixture of saponins and exfoliating properties to make it super kind and cleaning on your hair. I wish i could say “Stick it on” but once again it is a little more complicated – mainly, you need to sieve it first! This video will give you the big HOW TO for rye flour.

A note on conditioner- Half of these, everyone apart from the rye flour, the clay and the egg and the lemon need a rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. I use a splash in half a cup of water and throw it over the ends of my hair, leave for a few minutes then rinse out. It’s a WINNER.

The biggest lesson in all of this is to not give up  and be a brave old soul – often different hair just needs different proportions of things.

For the ultimate guide to giving up shampoo check out my bestselling book –  a shed load of advice and recipes for alternatives to shampoo and conditioners and styling products can be found here.
Happy Hair No Poo Book

FREEDOM FACE BEAUTY GUIDE

Featured, Parenting

Must Read Parenting Books (new series! A book club of sorts)

16 March, 2016

I was Lucy Read for 24 years of my life and I bet you will never GUESS what nick name I was given as a kid.

Read-a-Book.

Oh yeah, well clever. In an effort to side step that nickname at a new school I told everyone that my real name was Luncinda Readingu.

(Better, ay? Harrhahahahahahahahahhahaha)

Perhaps as an effort to stick it to my bullies I actually WAS a big reader. A HUGE reader. “I’ll show YOU! By READING A BOOK HA!”

I took a bit of a break from reading when my children came along. But picked it up again a couple of years ago and can put a lot of my parenting down to a handful of books. I love a parenting book conversation, I LOVE hearing what has influenced people’s lives and I LOVE describing the books that have changed mine. (Even if it goes “Oh it is AMAZING, by ummm, Jenny someone… about, er, like, attachment and stuff” – I’m not good at the details.)

Anyway, I could talk your head off..

SO WHY DON’T I?!?! Hehehe. Here are three videos, part of a new Youtube series on parenting books that have influenced my parenting. must read parenting books

The first book I discuss is Holly McNish, Nobody Told Me. It is a solid brick of bravery. I can’t even imagine the guts it would take to publish such personal intimacy and such a take-down on much that is wrong with society. It is reassuring in its honesty and awe-inspiring in its beautiful poetry.

I’ve basically stolen it from my sister now but I will die an awed and reassured criminal.

The second book I discuss is the little known Letting Go As Children Grow. I’m sure it’s not THAT little known, but however well known it is, it is not enough. Seriously, this book is a must read for all new parents, it takes you from newborn days right up to older children, and majorly helped me get a better perspective on children and childhood. It was part of my transition from “I must be in control” to “I must be connected”…

The third book was chosen mainly because I think I wanted to try and articulate the change it is having on my life right now. Pheewwwwweee. Somehow I managed to film this whole video with a bit of a cynical smile on my face, as if there is still a part of me determined to not be roped in to psychobabble. Don’t believe this cynical show! I absolutely think the Power of Now is legit and am witnessing the potency of nowness everyday at the moment. Even if I don’t know how to say his name.

What books have influenced your life? Would love to hear from you.

PS – I HAVE VERY EXCITING NEWS! ARGH! I AM WETTING MY PANTS TO TELL YOU BUT I HAVE TO WAIT! KEEP TUNED!

Featured, yurt life

Yurt living: Winning and losing

4 February, 2016

Yurt living is a mixed bag, you know.

Ways in which we are winning:
We swim in the river everyday, sometimes four or five times

Most days I do the dishes, tidy the yurt, or do laundry (one of the above- if I do more than one I make myself an award “World’s Best Homemaker” and give a speech to all assembled about how both awed and humbled I am)

We spend a lot of time with friends – the family we live on the land with, friends who come and camp, locals we are getting to know and love.

The girls and I spend a lot of time in the forest, climbing hills and looking at moss (that has been an ambition for motherhood of mine for many years and it is every day life for us now, which really does make me a bit breathless)

The girls and I are besties. We have so much fun. Dance parties and hammock picnics and movies in bed and playing all the Toca Boca games on the ipad.

 I fermented and pickled a shitload of beetroot I grew last week. 

 Tim has built a bathroom and almost built a loft to go in the big yurt. (We are waiting for that to be done before we move in there.) 

 I painted our bath and painted the bathroom floor. 

 I planted more beetroot and lettuces and herbs. 

 Tim and I ate up an entire decade of marriage! yeah baby! 

❤️ 10 years married today ❤️ We were so young and determined… Now we grow beetroot barefoot 😬 How love grows 😊

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

Ways in which we are losing:
I’m not really spending much time on the computer which, for a writer/ vlogger/ blogger/ social media person means that I’m not being productive at all. I feel a bit down about it, a bit like I suck.

We still don’t have a bathroom. Or a kitchen.

My family come in 10 days and it is probably going to be still rough as guts. It is a deadline we gave ourselves in September (to be all sorted) and we are totally gonna miss it. (In fact, I was going to call this post “The best laid plans of mice and men” – you know from that poem about things going awry by Robert Burns but then I realised that if I do that I would have to tell the story about how I thought you said “awry” like “OAREE” rather than “A- RYE” until my brother in law corrected me about 3 years ago. Got to 29 saying oaree. Really did. And there’s that story!

When I painted the bathroom floor it took me FOREVER and I got so worked up about it that I did it three times and the second time was the result of totally flipping out with the paint and literally throwing my brushes to the ground. (It looked cool…. but I still didn’t keep it, too bold for our au naturale life. Think there might be a whole post about floors coming up soon….)


When I fermented and pickled all the beetroot I got so frenzied by it all that I turned real angry at everyone. 

 Our little yurt is filling up with piles and piles and piles of things… the piles go down when the puppy drags something out from the bottom and eats it. We’ve lost books and Russian dolls and barbies and cables and slippers to her insatiable jaws. This IS our yurt, with the piles pushed aside>>>

New little crochet blanket free from the dump shop, like totally made for this moment forty years ago 😆🙌✌️#nicejumble #yurtlife

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


You cant even move in our bus, it has so successfully been turned into storage while we wait to get in the big yurt.

My courgettes keep turning into marrows. And now I have 9 marrows that I can’t even GIVE away.

Some days it feels like we’ve achieved nothing more than buying some second hand taps from the internet.

I’ve got about 70 billion baby leeks that needed to be planted yonks ago but I can’t seem to make it happen. There is such a crowd of them and they are so needy.

We feel like we are slogging away, Tim building in every spare minute, but the end result just keeps receding into the horizon. Endless DiYing.

And then there’s things that defy all lists about how well you are doing in life….how in the middle of the night last night I had to go to the toilet, the outdoor composting loo in the forest of gorse and I was bummed about it, like, WHAT IS THIS LIFE WE LIVE THAT I HAVE TO DO THIS and then when I went I met a little hedgehog there! And me and this cute little hedgehog hung for a while. I love a hedgehog.  

 And also, I do know that life isn’t about winning or losing. Even imagining a scoresheet is ridiculous and stupid, particularly if parenting is your main thing – it often looks like absolutely nothing has been “achieved” and the reality is the whole day has been a weave of tiny kindnesses and picking up of lego. 

I’m aware of things like Instagram (pretty much the one internet thing I am keeping up with a bit) making people look like winners- my life might look like it is all harvesting coriander seeds and waterfalls because I’m not going to take a photo of me covered in beetroot juice with a raging face, hey? And I get comments like “Your amazing life!” and we have chosen this life, because we have come to value freedom and wilderness so much. But it isn’t free of frustration or melancholy or the occasional metaphysical EEK-WHAT-ARE-WE-DOING moment or simple root-vegetable-rage.

So yeah, I’m a winner and a loser and a lover and a mother.

How you doing?

Featured, Parenting

Parenting: Who’s afraid of the big bad… princess?

19 January, 2016

I looked across the paddock last week to see both my children standing on top of the chicken house, jumping up and down in their own revelry. I had to smile, as it looked so incongruous. They were dressed in their fanciest princess outfits – one Cinderella, one Elsa. They had smudges of poultry poo across their silky torsos, tulle caught on stray wires. They are brave climbers and dedicated builders, they are fierce in battle and verociously loud. They race the dog through puddles, slide down mud hills, ride their bikes through cow pat… and they do it all in tiny royal ball gowns.

I never, ever thought I would be parenting a princess or two. But I’ve come a long way since my ban on Barbie and my pride that we didn’t have a single dress in our daughter’s wardrobe. I now relish the royal games we play and beam with joy when I see my youngest child struggling into another princess dress to go on top of the first, and with an extra tutu tucked underneath. But I do understand that belly squirming anxiety that our children are being shaped by values that are ugly and toxic – disguised by glittering tiaras.

I’ve come to believe we have less to fear about princess culture and more to fear about rejecting something so important to our children. 

So here are some thoughts- I’m not advocating a blith acceptance a la Lego theme song Everything Is Awesome (“Allergies- they’re awesome! Pathetic female role models – they’re awesome!) but rather an analysis* that is child and relationship focused.

*if an analysis can be written on a bench outside the library using the free, slow, wifi

Why we don't need to fear princess culture

Good princess vs bad princess
Not all princesses are created equal. I admit that there are plenty of stories out there of the passive princess, the one who is forced to marry against her will and do other things that are a shocking portrayal of consent and body autonomy. Early on in my parenting I actually used to get out scissors and glue and edit tales like the Princess and the Frog, and replace “princess” with “prince” and “got married” with “became besties forever”… these days I am more likely to instigate a conversation with my children about why the father thought it was okay to make his daughter sleep with a frog.

But there are also a stack of amazing princesses! We have watched Brave about 187 times, and Frozen about 393 times, they are brilliant films with awesome female heros in them. (There is also some good feminist critique of both of those films, but how it is experienced by young girls, for me, is the most compelling. Read a cool story of that here.)

Princess doesn’t have to be a bad word.

Talk about it
Fairytales and Disney movies provide heaps of material for discussing gender roles through history and how things have changed/ are changing/ still need to change. Conversations stick in a child’s mind. They will love sharing their opinion and hearing some insight from you. That is, if you are coming from a place of connection, rather than disapproval. They will pick up on you trying manipulate their likes and likely to be saddened if they feel you deep down hate something they are getting a lot of joy out of. Which leads me on to what, for me, is the most important thing…

Let’s love what our children love
I have spoken about this before, in regard to ipads. I am big on learning to love what our children love. It isn’t hard to do, because joy is contagious, and once we learn to love something alongside our children we open SO MANY doors to connection. I read in the recently published parenting book All Joy and No Fun about how little “flow” parents experience at home with children. (Flow is that lovely state of being so completely into something that time disappears.) It made me spend some time monitoring my own experience of flow at home. One of the times I really experience it is playing Barbies with my girls – untangling their hair, sewing princess dresses for them- this was a huge shock for me, considering how much I used to HATE Barbies as a mother. I swore I would never own one, any that came into my home (usually by way of my sister who is a right stirrer) I’d find a way to get rid of it. Slowly, as I have become better at seeing my children and being with them, I’ve come to discover that there is very little we need to be afraid of, and that disconnection, rather than barbies or princesses is really the thing to fear. Imagine if I hadn’t come round to this idea – I’d be depriving my kids a lot of joy, and even myself, the experience of flow in the home.

Trust the learning
Sometimes it is hard to gather what out children are learning when they obsess like this. But be assured that they will be learning HEAPS – it is a child’s only setting! (And also, question the word “obsess” – it is pretty negative even though we tend to admire focus in adults!) The potential for your child to be learning about power and responsibility, clothing and fabric, history and culture, royalism and democracy is enormous!!

There’s a thoughtful analysis of what is going on for children going through a Princess phase here in Psychology Today. “In clinging to pink and princess culture, perhaps a girl is celebrating and acknowledging a variety of things: her gendered body, her generative capacities, her ability to captivate and mesmerize (as all children can) as well as her place in the surrounding culture.” I have read that young girls go through a massive yearning for dresses between 3 and 5 because that is when they are trying to figure out what it means to be female. They soon learn it isn’t much to do with wearing skirts, and the phase is sucesfully navigated. I believe we can support them through this by seeking out amazing skirts for them while discussing sex and gender and transgender and identity…!

A leading female role
Have you seen any of the Princess Barbie movies? You’ll know that Princess Barbie occupies a pretty important role in her society. I used to run ahead in the video shop and put all the Barbie movies on the top shelf so I could say to Ramona “Choose any film you like!” and know we wouldn’t be coming home with a Barbie. It came to a head one day when I was kneeling in the aisle of Blockbuster, my four year old clutching a Barbie dvd that I hadn’t spotted to hide, saying patiently “I know Barbie is an idiot, but I love her!” I was so scared of Barbie! But I didn’t really know her! I realised I was giving the impression that it was okay to call things we are scared of/ don’t understand idiotic. So we got that movie, and as I watched it I was impressed by Barbie’s strong, kind character and was relieved to find a bunch of movies where females had leading roles.

Almost every single kids film we had otherwise got out was filled with male-only characters, with females being very rare, and if featured at all, tending to be love interests. Of course, we also talk a lot about the characters in Barbie who were obsessed with clothing and make up who tended to nearly always be stupid and ditzy. (Noone here is saying Barbie movies are directed by feminists!) Please see Sacraparental’s excellent posts on the Maisy Test for more on non-misogynist kids films.

I recently enjoyed the argument that Princess Culture has been going on for two decades, and what we have now is a situation where women are more likely to pursue higher education, and graduate, then men and perhaps this is because they’ve grown up in a world where little girl’s likes have been catered too, where they have, as children, played leading roles.

How about reframing princess culture as being pro-women in leadership, celebrating a space that females occupy successfully?

Loving women
I can’t help but wonder if our problem with princess culture is ever so slightly sexist, with roots in a patriarchal society. Bear with me. Do people have a similar problem with their male children wanting to be knights all day? Violent, sword wielding, massacring knights? I don’t hear about it much, if it is a thing. Why are we so bothered by the princess thing? Is it because we live in a society where a woman is undermined constantly, where whole sections of society are cut off to her, that this one role she can inhabit because of her gender, one that is exclusive to men, is slammed for not being good enough?

The problem isn’t so much with princesses, pink, gowns…
For me these days it is more that things (colours, roles, clothing) are exclusive, based on gender. A dress is an amazing thing. To feel it swishing around your legs, flowing out when you dance. And who doesn’t want to wear a crown and point a sceptre and boss everything around? But let’s not allow it to be just the realm of girls. Dresses are for everyone! (Read Freedom Kids on this) Pink is for all! Trucks aren’t operated by a penis! Speak up to marketers who claim otherwise! Rant and rave against those who want to make certain colours and toys exclusive to any gender! Power to the people!

A love of clothing isn’t necessarily dooming your child to a life of oppressive objectification or materialism
I LOVE CLOTHES. Love, love, love clothes. I have loved them all my life. I wonder if this was worrying for my mum when I was a kid. I can remember being 7 and having a crush on a boy and going home to put on my neon tutu (it was 1989) and then swishing around in it in front of him and being completely delighted when he noticed it and said “nice skirt”… that should be worrying, don’t you reckon? I went through a phase when I was 21 of being so disgusted with my love of clothes that a friend and I went on a clothing fast together and for 3 months allowed ourselves only 5 items of clothing. A jumper, two pairs of trousers, and two tee shirts. I wanted to tackle what I saw as a deep set materialism in my life. It was quite a fun experiment, but if anything taught me that my love of clothes, of wild colours and different fabrics and playing with styles wasn’t inherently bad. In fact, it bought me a lot of joy. History tells us that homosapiens have always done this- it is one of the distinguishing things- that we carve beauty into objects and embroider clothing and dye furnishings. We don’t have to fear that our children’s talk of beautiful clothing and desire to change into different skirts 60 billion times a day is going to mean they will be an insecure adult who can’t leave the house without a full face of Maybelline. I hope I am a good example here – like, I LOVE CLOTHES (did I mention that?) I have a pair of sequined shorts that I sometimes where around the farm just to cheer me up, but at the same time, I care so little about other people’s opinions that the others day this conversation between my husband and I occurred:
Tim: Er, are you going into town like that?
Me: Like what?
Tim: With your henna on your hair?
Me: Yeah, cos it needs to be on for four hours and I put it on and now I want to go into town.
Tim: Okay
Me: What’s the problem?
Tim: It looks like you have poo all over your head?
Me: *drives into town*

So, y’know. Humans are complicated. I bet you a million bucks that if you are consciously building your child up and letting her know that insides count more than outsides she isn’t going to grow up with an oppressive mantle of beauty upon her.

Nurture your child’s faith in herself
The thing that will most likely make your child sway with the winds of a consumerist, objectifying society, rather than the stirrings of her heart is if she learns not to trust herself. If she feels undermined in the things she loves, if she feels your approval is conditional on what YOU like, if she gets the impression that her opinion is dubious.

So be conscious about what is in your home, talk about things, buy books with kick-ass princesses in to sit alongside the Cinderella she found at the library, ask big questions of corporations that attempt to make any one thing exclusive to girls or boys, address your own insecurities about your body shape, analyse the latest Disney flick with your parent friends, but do, do, do allow her freedom of mind and heart. Instill in her a great faith in herself.

Revel in princess culture
Have you ever dressed up as a princess? No? Get thee to a second hand shop immediately and buy up a ball gown! Nothing beats hanging about in the house looking ridiculously opulent! Buy all the tutus. Sew capes. Watch Brave and Frozen and download the soundtrack. Weave crowns of daisies. Enter into the imaginative world of your children. Whittle swords with them. (We are nearly always warrior princesses.) Keep talking about all the models of “princesses” out there.

This too shall pass
It will pass. You might even be sad to see this phase leave, because you’ve now begun having SO MUCH FUN with your kids! But trust in the fact that very few adult women actually want to be rescued by a man, and even fewer want to actually be a princess.

Trust in yourself, your model as a strong, creative mother or equality loving father. Trust in your children, that this phase is important to them. This princess thing won’t last forever with your child, so find joy and connection in it while it does.Feminist parents don't need to fear princess culture