Browsing Category



What are Sites of Mutual Fulfilment? Something parents need more of, that’s what.

17 November, 2016

I was reading something a friend had written the other day, about the hard, sad, mundane toil of motherhood, and it reminded me of my first year parenting with Ramona. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, the process of becoming a mother, my mother birth. It was intense for me reading my friend’s post- thinking about how much I felt that darkness and hardship, and how light I feel (mostly) around motherhood now. I’ve spent some time considering the differences in my life, why I enjoy mothering so much more.

Partly our life is a lot more how we want it to be (wilder, a bit feral, pretty cruisey, nothing to rush out the house for at 7am – well, apart from tiny ducklings wandering around the yurt). And we do even more sharing out of the domestic, parenting things between the two of us than ever before. I recognise this puts me in a wildly privileged position. I acknowledge that this concept (SMF) comes from that place and therefore won’t be relevant or applicable to some. I’d love to hear more thoughts on that, have a conversation around it and represent that in an updated version of this post eventually.

The kids are both older now, so we have genuine fun together. Like, playing games, I don’t have to pretend to lose. I just lose all the time. Uno, Memory. Turns out I suck at these games. I probably didn’t even ever have to pretend to suck. And when you try really hard to win something, it is kinda fun. So there’s that.

But here’s another thing. Something that I reckon is available to quite a lot of parents out there.  Something that if we invest a bit of time and creative thinking on, could impact the experience of parenting in a really good way.

Why sites of mutual fulfilment are so important for parents

Site of Mutual Fulfilment (SMF)

An SMF is a place where both child and parent have a great time.

It’s pretty simple, but I think they should be one of the daily aims of every parent.

If each day began with the question “Where is today’s SMF?” we’d get to the end of the day without feeling utterly ragged. 

SMF’s are different for every family. They are hidden EVERYWHERE. You can find them in the city, in the countryside. There are some in your own home even. Some are yet to be created by you and your friends. Some places are nearly SMF’s but aren’t quite YET, and it’d be great to try and make them more SMF-y.

For example – mums and tots group; good for baby, yep. Sometimes good for mamas. I went to lots of these when Ramona was tiny but only one was an SMF. The difference was that there was nice tea (not stewed) proper cake (not shit biscuits) and friends that I laughed my socks off with. I still went to the others but my brain registered them as a “mum job” because of the manky tea, boring old digestives and lack of laughter. In those ones I just hung around a bit awkwardly trying to make sure Ramona didn’t get a name for herself as a toy stealer.

(Forgive me if something like this already exists. If it does, I haven’t seen it.)

An SMF is a place where both the child’s and the parent’s urges and needs are met. They are places where all parties leave with a full cup. They are the vital mental health break in a day for mum or dad. Having enough SMF’s planned throughout each week can make the difference in whether we enjoy parenting, or not. 

Here are our own Sites of Mutual Fulfilment

  • The Library – the girls read or watch netflix while I read novels/ write blogs
  • The forest with kid friends – the kids play imagination games while I read a novel
  • Certain friends houses (but not all) – the kids play while we talk/vent our heads off. Some friend’s houses are not SMFs because the children find it trickier to negotiate things. We still go there to hang out and have fun, but I just plan for it, go on a day when I already have another SMF happening elsewhere.
  • Soft play – what can I say, the kids go rogue while I sit and read a novel. So, SO worth eleven bucks and the three dollar socks because I ALWAYS FORGET SOCKS. (I enjoyed this from The Spinoff on Soft Play.)
  • Our sofa – the kids watch a movie and I write a novel and we all have the best time of our lives.
  • Our home – the kids have a bath and I sing Ace of Base on my ukulele
  • The park – the kids climb the dangerously high frames and I read a novel/ read blogs and stare at everyone’s clean houses on Instagram*. This one is not quite as ideal because you tend to get a lot of judgey faces if you are reading/ staring at a phone and your kids are climbing things.
  • Unschooling camp – the kids just head off and do their own thing while the parents duck in and out of playing, have singalongs, do yoga, chat, play cards. Here is a little glimpse at our last unschooling camp, if you missed it

    Not all SMFs involve me and the kids doing separate activities – just some of them. And that is okay, in fact it is very healthy. Kids and parents SHOULD be doing different activities at times in the day. Play is the number one thing a kid should be doing with their time. It eclipses everything. And we play with them, of course, because we love them and we understand that play is their language and we want to be connected with them. But it isn’t always ideal to play with them all the time. We have other urges to honour. Urges to create and reflect and write and sing and talk and connect with adults. So for one segment of each day we need to find a way for our urges and their urges to happen alongside each other – it’s an SMF.

*A note on Instagram/ Facebook. Feel free to use your SMF to cruise social media. But be VERY AWARE of it’s impact on you. You have this hour or two to do something that could really make you feel good, deep down, to feel actually content, even creative,  for a little bit. If social media has that impact on you, PLEASE DO stalk your old school friends for an hour. You should do it. I’m not being sarcastic. I’ve had a brilliant time doing that, I get almost high on the adrenalin of *nearly* clicking like on an ancient photo of theirs! But if (like me most of the time) social media leaves you feeling even emptier than when you first flicked open the app, do not do it to yourself! Get Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe out of the library and read your way into another amazing little world that will fill up your heart. Not judging anyone at all, just putting it out there that we have to chose our SMF activity carefully for it’s effect on us.

And then there are some SMFs of ours where the fulfilment comes through the same activity. Here are some of those:

  • The botanical gardens – we all just love wandering around, climbing trees. The kids might run ahead and I get some time to think about things I care about.
  • The hot pools – floating around together, lush. Main reason we moved to NZ.
  • A campfire – chatting, roasting things on sticks.
  • Going to the beach. Swimming, making sand sculptures, swinging on rope swings, staring at people behind my sunglasses.
  • The skate park. They scoot, I skate.
  • Our home – finding an album we all really enjoy on Spotify and playing and dancing together.

(I guess when you strip it right back, SMF’s are essentially places where your kids can’t break the china ornaments. Ha.)

I am going to go all out here and say that many parents plan Sites of Mutual Fulfilment in to their days without really thinking of it, and perhaps they are the ones who find parenthood to be easier than expected. The ones who take it in their stride. (You know the ones.)

They are the folks who have just naturally erred towards this daily SMF rhythm. Perhaps they are people who are in touch with their own needs/ don’t have baggage around self-care (I think lots of us understand our own needs but struggle to prioritise them because of self worth issues? Or something.)

Why bother making it a Thing, giving it an acronym? Because if enough people start thinking like this, it legitimises it, you can organise on the phone, be like “How can we make this an SMF?” Or if you need to change a day around, switch it up, you can cancel something, say “Sorry, but we need to get an SMF in this afternoon.” You know an acronym works like that. It’s mamahood putting business socks on.

If you are reading this and think “Shivers my timbers, I have NONE of this in my life” would you consider how to squeeze some in? How to create some? Know that parenting isn’t meant to be one long exhausting, horrendous day after another, that you are WORTH an hour or two each day where you honour your own urges and needs.

Do you have enough Sites of Mutual Fulfilment? Would love to hear what yours are.

Can you make any current things you do SMFs? Can you decide to do less organised activities at playcentre, so the parents get more time to chill and talk together? Can you find a good gated park and have a weekly park meet up where the kids run wild and the parents start a choir/ learn how to tap dance/ perform spoken word to each other (or whatever)? 

PS – New Youtube up – my absolute favourite, favourite, favourite non toy gifts for kids – including the present we gave Ramona for her sixth birthday this week

Why sites of mutual fufilment are so important for parents


State Approved Unschooling

8 November, 2016

We live in exciting, progressive times. We have access to stacks of emerging research that allows us to make far better decisions about how to live, parent, work in ways that nurture well-being and happiness. There are whole movements of people diverging from the status-quo because we are armed with evidence, we have a confidence, a determination to choose something different. Something that suits us better. We are opting out of traditional careers, a broken housing model, a military-industrial schooling system.

My family and I have made a bunch of decisions along these lines lately. We’re excited when we find others who have too, but we’d never judge others who choose not to.

And then someone comes along, points the finger, lumps a bunch of stuff indiscriminately in with a bunch of other stuff and mocks everyone that questions any of The System. Ugh. yeah, I’m talking about that article in The Guardian. Don’t read it, just get the gist:
“it is clear that some parents are subjecting their children to ideological nonsense that they term “non-schooling” or “delight-based learning”, in which there is no curriculum, structured learning or testing; instead, children are encouraged to “learn through living”. This is an outrageous state of affairs. We rightly argue that children worldwide have the right to attend school, so why not here? Home-schooling should be banned in all but the most exceptional of circumstances.”

How, HOW, did this poorly researched, dogmatic article get past the editorial team at the Guardian? Non-schooling?!

I thought it would be interesting for people who clearly have no understanding whatsoever, and also people who are simply intrigued by how children learn, to take a look at the application I have just had approved (last week!) by the Ministry of Education to unschool Ramona. In the UK families don’t have to fill one of these in, in other countries homeschooling is actually banned.

There are quite a few families here in NZ who choose not to fill one in. I quite enjoyed writing it all up, but make no mistake, every unschooling parent I have ever met (and I realise I haven’t met them all!) has done all of this thinking before they have pulled their kid out of school.

I am grateful that there are influentials out there who can read this and understand that learning through living isn’t something to sneer at, but is a wholly fulfilling, joyful, creativity-promoting, intelligence-developing way to spend a childhood.

The form is made up of of prompts, people are largely able to fill them in as they want. The large text indicates a section that has been asked for.

Official Unschooling Exemption from School Application Approved October 2016

Our family is made up of myself, Lucy, and my husband Tim. Our eldest daughter, Ramona, is 5 and she has a little sister, Juno, who is 3.

We live on a farm surrounded by Department of Conservation land having moved here two years ago from London, where I am from.

Tim is a teacher by trade with degrees in geography, management and a post graduate diploma in teaching. Currently he is working on establishing our small, off the grid farm and doing some youth work and life skills teaching in the local town.

I have an undergraduate degree and an Msc in Social Policy and have spent most of my working life working on climate change awareness and policy change campaigns. These days I work as a freelance writer, contributing to websites and magazines, and have authored two non fiction books.

Ramona is an enthusiastic and gregarious child. Ramona loves people and makes friends easily with people of all ages. Ramona loves to converse; she has picked up the art of story telling and asks insightful questions. She is also determined and we have watched her become adept at something new in a matter of hours. When people ask her if she goes to school she says “I am my own teacher!”

Ramona does not have any special education needs.

Our Home Education Approach

We have spent the last few years researching how children learn best and observing our two children learn all sorts of important things and we have come to feel confident that we will be able to provide an ideal environment for our children to learn at home.

We think that almost every moment is an opportunity for children to learn, and that, with a deliberate, supportive setting, children will learn everything they need to learn and far, far more. Terms for this include “unschooling” or “natural learning.” We also like the term “self directed learning.”

There are four pillars to our approach:

Child centred
Projects and learning goals are set by the child and learning will move at the child’s pace. Adults can absolutely contribute project ideas and, in fact, it is the adult’s role to “open the doors” on a child’s interest; to help them access the full scope of their subject matter, But no topic is forced upon the child and there is no pressure to attain goals at a pace set by the adult.

The best sort of learning is holistic rather than compartmentalised. Every subject there is to study comes with a context and as holistic learners we will look at the big picture and the surrounding topics in order to deepen our understanding.

Delight Driven
We are at our most able to learn when we are comfortable and happy, and we absorb things at a deep level if they are rooted in curiosity! We therefore prioritise play and storytelling, we follow up those sparks of interest our children have and we create a lot of space for fun. (Children are naturally good at this – Ramona entirely on her own account counts everything, adds it up, subtracts and multiplies; giggling with glee!)

Supportive Setting
The supportive setting provided by the adult includes being willing to answer the bottomless amount of questions our children ask, able to recognise that every moment is a perfect learning moment, recognising all the resources available and being wiling to access them on behalf of the child and, finally, being curious about life themselves! Tim and I see ourselves as learners too, throwing ourselves into new areas of interest, and feel like this enthusiastic modelling helps provide a good environment for learning.

State Approved Unschooling Application

Learning Areas

Ramona is an avid communicator; articulate, fascinated by new words and quick to incorporate them in to her vocabulary. We read a huge variety of books, made possible by twice weekly visits to our local library. Ramona often chooses books designed to encourage phonetically based reading skills, and we always have one chapter book on the go. Tim and I are enjoying introducing her to some of our own favourites from childhood- Ramona is becoming a Roald Dahl fan.

We will continue to ensure Ramona has access to great reading material. And we will certainly employ ways of making learning to read fun when she is ready for that. We did download the Reading Eggs app but Ramona is sensitive to external pressure and it was quite an unpleasant experience for her! We want to respond appropriately when she is ready to move on to the next stage of learning.

Ramona has shown some interest in writing – primarily perfecting the “R” in her name, and being able to type in the password on our laptop! We recently bought a typewriter from the second hand store and she has enjoyed finding the letters that she cares about. She recently listed all of the families initials followed by the numbers that represent their ages – this tells me she has the foundational understanding that letters and number are a code for giving and receiving meaningful information.

She is recognising letters and noticing patterns in words but is far less interested in this right now than the actual creation of sentences and stories, songs and poetry.

We are involved in Playcentre which has encouraged us in our use of Te Reo. We have also enjoyed getting to know some families through the regular unschooling family camps who speak primarily Te Reo in their homes. We also listen regularly to Te Reo waiata on Anika Moa’s albums which has helped us all learn some of the basics such as colours and numbers, and have a Te Reo Memory Game which is helping us learn animal names. We are in conversation with a Paeroa Kapa Haka group and feel excited about getting involved with that and perhaps having the opportunity for more immersive Te Reo learning.

Short term goals: to put together a book of the poetry she has written, to establish more Te Reo in our lives. To continue to support the blooming of passion of reading and stories.

The Arts
Ramona loves music and has made playlists and cd’s with her favourite songs on them. We are always looking for new music and playing tracks from a variety of genres. We have made music together using the programme Garage Band on our computer, and she often writes poems which might turn into songs, accompanied by the ukulele. We have a variety of instruments that are easily accessible.
We have a huge range of arts and crafts available and we often work together on huge murals on ply or specific projects such as designing and sewing clothes for her dolls.

Ramona was fortunate to try out a kids pottery class when we were travelling through San Francisco last year. She absolutely loved it so we have kept a supply of air drying clay on hand. She really enjoyed using the wheel and the kiln for completing her piece so we have begun talking to some professional potters who are just completing their large studio about the possibility of a homeschooling pottery class there. They used to run a kids pottery workshop in Auckland so we feel really excited about that possibility.

Ramona also attends a Musical Theatre class in Tauranga fortnightly. They play improvisation games and work towards and end of term performance. We feel confident that if Ramona shows even more interest in this area that this theatre will provide a lot of opportunities for development.

Short term goals: to begin attending a kids pottery workshop and build more skills in that area. To continue to take up opportunities as interests emerge.

Ramona takes a huge amount of interest in how the world works. We spend huge proportions of every day in scientific discussion! Weather, our natural environment, bodies, baking – all of these things prompt questions about what makes things work.

Part of unschooling is about being willing to answer questions to the best of your knowledge, and then directing children to other resources when necessary. We have a great library of encyclopaedias based around particular topics and Ramona knows she can go and get the relevant book so we can investigate together. Ramona recently hurt her shoulder and she went to the shelf for the book about bodies and looked up the mechanics of the shoulder. She discovered it hurt because, while the shoulder joint is a ball and socket join, it has a lip of bone that prevents the arm twisting too far up!

She has also learnt a huge amount from watching documentaries- we are all working our way through David Attenborough’s volumes of work. Ramona often references them – pulling out facts from the Life of Plants or Life in Cold Blood.

Ramona is really into mixing up potions so we often look for experiments that achieve different results such as mixing vinegar and baking soda. We have also made soaps and shampoo using ingredients we have and choosing herbs from the garden.

There are so many great resources out there for young scientists – including programmes on the internet and our local homeschooling network who run science workshops each week- as Ramona grows we will continue to help her build on her knowledge. Ramona has had a huge amount of fun with the Star Gazing App on our iphone- spotting all the planets and stars and constellations.

Short term goals: to craft up a solar system in their play room, to explore more reactive ingredients for potions. To be ready to take up new scientific interests as they unfold.

It has been fascinating the watch Ramona’s interest in maths unfold. It shouldn’t be surprising as maths is such a basic part of everyday life. Over the last few months she has begun adding and subtracting – often around food, making sure that every body gets the right about of biscuits. She is getting to understand multiplication and division; we will hear her say under her breath “Six biscuits and three people… the biscuits will need to be split into three piles… that is two each!” She does this throughout the day, checking in with us when she has landed upon an answer that doesn’t make sense to her.

We bake a lot which lends itself to maths, at the moment she is simply counting out cups and half cups and quarter cups, but this will soon develop into grams and kilos and will require her to delve into bigger numbers. Already we have begun halving recipes and doubling them and this is such a natural way of getting the foundations of maths.

Short term goals: that she will continue to associate delight and fun with numbers and maths. That we will continue to take up opportunities to expand learning in this area.

She’s got a box, she’s about to slide down the gnarliest hill ever. She’s five and she’s fierce.

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

Eco-literacy and Physical Education
We believe that a hugely important area of development for children is discovering their place within the natural world. To this end we prioritise learning about and looking after the animals on our farm, Ramona often helps out with farm chores such as feeding the chickens and ducks and collecting their eggs. We also have cows and goats that require moving and feeding.

We recently established a nature play day where we take our young children into an outdoor environment for a full day of playing freely in the bush, to pick up bush craft skills and begin to recognise the native plants around us and discover their uses. We hold this once a fortnight.

We spend a lot of time outside looking after the garden and exploring our local environment, from this blossoms ecological learning and fosters a love of, and respect for nature.

Most of Ramona’s physical education is in a child’s natural movement, playing in a natural setting. Ramona is also very keen on her fortnightly gym class and rollerblading which we do whenever we can but especially each week at the Waihi Sports Centre. Over the last 18 months Ramona has taught herself to ride a bike and to swim incredibly competently so we create as many opportunities for this as we can.

Ramona has had a love of horses for two years now which we have helped her explore through choosing library books and getting out the “Keeping Up with the Kaimanawas” television series from the library. A year ago we took the plunge and enrolled her in horse riding classes. She does this fortnightly and is thriving learning about horse care and grooming and natural horsemanship, she has ridden bareback and begun going over small jumps. It is encouraging to see how Ramona has flourished under the tuition of someone skilled in an area we aren’t and we are excited about Ramona doing more of this kind of thing in the future.
Short term goals: that she will continue to grow in confidence in her roller blading and biking and horse riding, to continue to increase in her swimming skills, build a new array of bush skills and knowledge and really shore up her awareness of how powerful and strong her body is. That she will continue to grow in motor skills and enjoyment of sport and her environment.

Keeping Records

We currently document Ramona’s learning journey through photos and journal writing. We plan on digitalising this soon.

It is really important to us that Ramona feels good and hopeful about all she is learning and all she is able to do. We want her to feel confident about the opportunities available and that she will be able to fulfil her own goals and ambitions with our support. At least once month we will check in with Ramona about how she feels about her learning and progress and make changes as required.

Long term vision

Our hope for Ramona is that she will be intrinsically motivated to achieve anything she wants, that she will have a strong understanding of all the opportunities available to her and that she will maintain her love of learning for her whole life. Our hope is that Ramona will be able to identify what it is she wants to do and know she has the support and inner strength to achieve it, be that formal education, a passion or a profession.


In our region/ within driving distance:

Bay of Plenty Home Educators Network- workshops, weekly classes, science competitions, weekly socials, maths clubs. We already attend several of the activities and are excited about all the opportunities in the future.

Playcentre and the variety of children and grown ups and resources there.

Local Library – books and dvds

Local op shops for supplies and learning about money

Local artists, studios, musicians and potters

Local environment – our farm, river and the DoC land on our doorstep

The coastline for fishing, kayaking, surfing and swimming

Auckland Art Gallery (we visit for each school holiday kid focused exhibition)

Auckland Museum

Local museums and temporary art and craft exhibitions

At home:

Wifi – for learning on the internet, youtube tuition and learning apps

Netflix – for learning through animation and documentaries

Spotify – for discovering new music and expanding musical knowledge

A well stocked craft cupboard

A type writer for recognising letters and making words

Good pens, note books and a desk

An easily accessible book shelf of great books

Many tools and skilled adults to facilitate learning

A vegetable garden – the girls grow their own seedlings and nurture them, and pick the veggies for eating.

Farm animals to care for and learn about

A large selection of toys for imagination play

A large selection of card games and board games for playing with family and friends

A lap top and an ipad for technological literacy, typing and learning

Her own digital camera for art projects

Kitchen ingredients and recipe books (several times a week she chooses a meal or cake and executes that task with assistance from me)

Loving this age of competence. “Can I make pancakes?” Makes pancakes for the whole family 🙌🙌🙌 🙌

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

Special Project

When we moved here one year ago we began learning about the history of the place. One of the DoC walks that begins at our back gate takes you to the Karangahake Gorge, past all the old mining relics. As we went along we read about the mining history and Ramona enjoyed exploring the mining tunnels and the huge pipes and mechanics that they used to mine the gold. This was a great way to learn about the historical role of mining in New Zealand. We also recognised the impact on the natural environment – comparing the mined place full of new forest to a spot further up the valley full of ancient Kauri trees. Over dinner with a new neighbour we learnt a lot about the history of gold mining in the gorge and Ramona has a lot of questions for him.

We took another walk, this time up to the Victoria Battery and spend a whole morning playing amongst the enormous relics. We visited the old kilns and the Karangahake museum where we learnt more about the history, but also the process for extracting gold.

Ramona’s interest in the history evolved into an interest in the gold itself, so she began looking for gold in our river.

When we did the earth works for our home we uncovered a lot of quartz rock. Together with her dad and a friend they hand dug out a huge rock and moved it onto our deck. For the last month Ramona has headed out there once a week with a chisel and a pair of goggles to flake off bits of the most glittery rock, which we now have on a treasure shelf. As her and her friend worked on the rock they discovered that striking it produced a spark, which then led us on to a discussion about flint and early, primitive ways of making fire.

Two weeks ago we visited Auckland museum where we were delighted to discover samples of rock from the Karangahake Gorge just like the ones we dug out! They were in the kids section so there was lots of accessible information for Ramona to learn about the geology around rocks like hers. We decided we would take our rocks up there and have a chat with one of the museum staff members about Ramona’s particular rocks.

This special project began eleven months ago and is still going. This last weekend we attended the spring Unschooling family camp and we participated in many of the workshops- one of which was macramé. We learnt how to tie knots in string to create baskets for jewellery and Ramona and I are considering turning some of her quartz rocks into jewellery.

To me it is a great expression of unschooling – led by the child’s interest, with adults opening the doors of opportunity to delve further in. It is long term and it is totally holistic – there were no isolated pockets of information that don’t fit with an overall picture of the world and how it is all interrelated.

“As regularly as”

I thought it might be helpful to provide an overview of what each fortnight looks like. Many of the formal activities we do are on a fortnightly basis so we try and manage the rest of the week so that there are certain rhythms we follow, while providing a flexible and varied schedule. Each fortnight we spend 20 hours in formal, paid for classes or activities we have registered for and committed to. Every fortnight we spend around 30-36 hours in activities that are particularly “learning based” – that fit with the learning areas I have described above. On top of that, I estimate that there is another 20 hours spent socially- in conversation with each other, other adults, peers, from which I believe an enormous amount of learning occurs. And then, after that there is only free play! Which, for a five year old, is crucial for intellectual and creative development and possibly even the best form of learning for Ramona right now. In short, I am confident that the environment we are providing for Ramona is as good as that which she would receive at school.unschooling exemption nz


As a reward here is a brand new video of our most recent unschooling camp, a place where all the unschooling fandamalies get together for the most fun everrrrrrr. ***contains a swear***


A midwife for your motherbirth

31 October, 2016

When did you become a mama? Was it when you first conceived? Gave birth? Gazed in to your babies eyes as you fed them with love? Maybe you always felt like a mama. You were born with a mama soul. And the baby in your arms just confirmed it to all the others.

It took me a while. I felt everything for 2 weeks. The bleeding nipples, the emptiness and fear where I KNEW love should be. But I didn’t feel like a mama.

It was snowing when we bought Ramona home from hospital. It helped me feel safe, like having the curtains down, like we were hiding behind the sofa, figuring out how to be parents.A midwife for motherbirth

I told my husband my legs were too weak and my vagina hurt too much to walk. I told him I was scared of slipping on ice.  We put if off but I knew I had to leave the house one day.

After 7 days I zipped Ramona into a tiny monkey onesie, a hand me down from her big cousins. I procrastinated, taking a thousand million zillion photos of this tiny, perfect human.

Then I put her in the sling and we decided to aim for the park where we would take tea and cake, our new family of three. We got to the first corner, turned right, walked twenty yards, turned left. There were about 3 more corners, 4 more minutes to the park, but I stopped and cried.

God knows what Tim thought. 10 days ago I was a strong, fearless woman. Then I was giving birth for three days. Then hiding behind the sofa for 7. And now I’m standing in grey sludge heaving tears in front of the neighbours.

I didn’t know how much I had torn, I couldn’t touch myself. I was scared to go to the toilet, how could I walk around in public? I said it was my weak, changed, hurting body, but I think there was more going on.

Tim said “We did so well! We got so far!” and pointed to the street sign that was different from our own street sign. A whole street a way from home! We’ll try again tomorrow.

The next day my body was stronger, and the next day stronger still. More, my nipples hurt less. More, I felt maybe Ramona was enjoying life outside the womb. She only really cried from 9:30pm – 11:30pm each night. In a 24 hour a day, that was a good sign, right? I had to have her in the sling, and had to be standing, or bouncing on the yoga ball, but she tended towards happy in the day.

I was still feeling these three minute flashes of doom, and I still felt like I was playacting mamahood, but I also understood that one day it would be okay.

Another week later I zipped Ramona into the monkey suit and Tim wore her in the sling and we made it all the way to the park and the cafe and we had tea and cake!

When we got there two elderly ladies admired her full cheeks and told me off for taking her hat off in the cafe.

Another man from India told me that mama and baby should never leave the house until 40 days have passed.

We smiled at them all, while squeezing each other’s knees under the table, and then I cried when I got home.

Every day that passed I stopped feeling like I was acting out the role of Mother. By the third week my heart almost rocked itself out of my chest when I looked at Ramona, with love this time, instead of fear and awe.

Slowly, slowly, my mother soul was being born.

By the time Ramona was three months old I had found the forum on The Green Parent. These faceless mamas were who I turned to when Ramona stopped the newborn sleeping, when her breastfeeding entered Twenty Million Snacks A Day Mode, when I had all the questions about how to be a mum. They guided me and helped me find my own quiet confidence. Through this group I found real life friends who mothered in the way I was drawn to.

By this point I’d figured out babywearing and breastfeeding and even breastfeeding while babywearing. And when one day after I’d been feeding Ramona and the postie rang the bell to deliver a parcel, and I put my boob away, and ran down the stairs, and signed for the parcel, and closed the door and then realised that I’d been feeding with both boobs out and that my left boob was still hanging there in all its glory, I was feeling so mothery I just laughed and marvelled at how the postie didn’t bat an eyelid.

A midwife for motherbirth

When I saw this quote the other week this group of internet strangers sprang to mind. They were only there for such a short time in my life – I needed them for three or four months. By the time Ramona was one I was flying and had largely moved on. They were the midwives for my mama soul.

We can be so harsh about the internet, and some people can’t get their heads around the way technology can foster life-giving connection. I am SO THANKFUL for the global tribe of encouragers I have found on there.

I had real life motherbirth midwives too. My sister who helped me understand that everything I googled in a panic was a normal part of babyhood/ motherhood, who didn’t judge me for spending the first week that Tim went back to work eating biscuits and watching series 1-3 of Glee and even cancelling plans to do it. Friends who came with me to the baby sling library and helped me tangle myself and Ramona right up in metres and metres of rainbow wraps. Friends who modelled a freedom with their children that I’d never even considered – not having an opinion on everything your child picked up? Not correcting their mispronounced words? Not telling them to shush when they were frustrated with something? A whole new world was being revealed! I was trying on different pairs of mother boots and found a pair that fit me perfectly.A midwife for motherbirth

We all need a midwife for our birth as mothers. The best midwives in childbirth are attentive to needs and basically make sure no one is dying. Don’t we need that for our mother birth? Someone to hold our hand, fetch more absorbent pads, make sure we are keeping our head above water? Someone who suggests we try something new or listen deeper to ourselves? Who doesn’t judge us for the swearing and the sticky, visceral nature of the birthing process?

I would wish that for every new mama. That they have enough people to love them and support them as they become their children’s mother. That you have sisters and friends and Aunties and neighbours who understand you, and with whom you can learn to be a mother without apologising. And may you have a tribe of friends, be they online or offline, who will hold your hand as you figure out the kind of mother you want to be.


As ever, I’d love to hear of your experiences of motherbirth and your midwives and doulas!



Five reasons to stop forcing good manners on our kids

13 October, 2016

So I was reading an academic journal last night and it featured a really robust, longitudinal research paper that revealed that children with good manners, who say “please” and “thank you” and things, will turn out to be, like, a million times more successful than anyone else, loads more happier, and just, y’know generally a far, far more superior adult?

Said no-one, ever.

Here’s the thing. Our adult obsession with “please” and “thank you” is baseless! It is rude, a waste of parental energy and one of the many daily microagressions against children.

Here’s five reasons we can stop fussing about good manners…

Don't worry about the manners! 5 reasons to give up forced please and thank yous

1- It’s totally rude. A good principle for interacting with our children is “would I say this/ do this to an adult?”

Would we ever say “What’s the magic word???!!!!” to our friend? Heck no! Or some people might, but they would also be known as the most annoying friend EVER IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANKIND.  Interrupting people over an issue of semantics is impolite, which is funny, when you are doing it to try and teach politeness.

Teresa Graham Brett says;

“In our dominant mainstream culture, we rarely question being rude to children. This is ironic, since we insist on polite behavior from children and in fact are often rude to them with the goal of teaching them to be polite. We’ll tell a child in front of other people that she must say “please” or “thank you.” Imagine for a moment correcting your partner or an adult friend if she or he neglected to say “please” in a store. Few of us would do so, yet we’ll interrupt and correct a child who doesn’t “properly” make a request of an adult.”

2- It’s okay to care about good manners. We all have our things, and I like to think we are all working on them. But you gotta understand that no one learns well by being told stuff. Children learn by watching you. They will understand that there are words that seem to have a little “magic” about them by listening to you on the phone to the plumber, booking her in to fix your blocked toilet “Please, as soon as possible thanks, because it’s all really sort of messy around here now, thank you SO much!”

If we treat our kids graciously, they will be gracious too. (And is constantly forcing them to say please and thank you good manners? Nope. Have I already made that point?)

If you do really want to talk with your kids about good manners, think about the big picture, about what you really want. Is it to just have them say these little tiny words? Or is it about them generally speaking kindly and noticing the impact their words can have on people?

Perhaps you might frame it like “some adults really care about the words “please” and “thank you” – when we go to Aunty Sally’s house, you might want to try and remember to say that as much as possible, because it’s really important to her.” We sometimes do this and I think Ramona appreciates us being frank with her, and she notices the effect of the “magic words”…

(And I also appreciate that we need to hang out with our kids a lot of the time so if it feels like the communication sounds genuinely rude, we can say “It makes me feel ____ when you use that tone of voice, are you willing to _____?” (A sentence roughly based on non violent communication.)

3- Kids are learning to communicate every day, they want to connect with you, share stories with you – do we REALLY want them analysing all their words to see if they will get your approval? Give them a break. Also – give yourselves a break. Shit, there’s enough to worry about as a parent, you really don’t need to add “micromanaging my child’s conversation” to the list!!  Relax. Wipe another thing off your “To Do” list.

Will this mean you are raising an unpleasant child? Are YOU unpleasant, in general? Are you unpleasant to your children? No? Okay, then it is HIGHLY unlikely you are raising an obnoxious brat. They might be going through a tricky stage, they might be just getting their heads around how their conversation can make other people feel good or bad. Model kindness, ask if they want some tips, but don’t worry about it.

4- I believe it is a form of adultism to impose our grown-up way of communicating on our children. Banging on and on about “please” and “thank you” and our version of “good manners” completely ignores and undermines the many beautiful and wonderful ways that kids show their gratitude. A child’s please and thank you sometimes just aren’t verbal – they come in many forms; obscure gifts, a beaming smile, an interpretive dance JUST FOR YOU!  Notice these forms of thanks, accept them, welcome them, celebrate them; don’t be hung up on the fact that it didn’t come in the package you wanted it in.

5- Hankering after a grudgingly given please or thank you is beneath you, my friend. You are way better than reluctant apologies and coerced pleases!! Communication is such a wonderful, beautiful thing. Connecting heart to heart through sounds that come out of our mouth – that is magic. Let’s invite our children to be part of a communication process that is gracious and compassionate and has connection at its very center. Give, hope for and strive for spontaneous gratitude –  in many cases it is there, you just need to open your eyes to see it.

If you genuinely don’t trust that children will learn to be respectful simply by being respected, and you feel you *must* keep reminding them about please and thank you and other socially constructed good manners, remember that children are wholly human and that you can do this in a gracious way.  In Parenting for Social Change Teresa Graham Brett suggests that we should treat our children as that is as we would a VIP from another country – guiding them in our strange ways with dignity and respect.

There is a brand new video on my channel all about good manners where I discuss this further and make some bold, bold claims… hehe.

As ever, always love to hear your opinions, as long as they are the same as mine! Ha, I jest, I jest.

Featured, Parenting

The beautiful side of your spirited child

6 October, 2016

Hey sleepyhead. Weary in your bones AND your mind?

I wonder if you are mama to a spirited child?

Some kids are wild ones. Exhausting, challenging, beautiful wild ones.

You will know you have one, if you have one.

You have been through the wringer and have spent whole days thinking you must be a terrible, terrible parent to be raising such a bombastic human.

They are completely themselves in all their wild beauty, but this wild beauty jars against societal norms and expectations.

They WON’T be quiet in the library, in fact, they might even take their volume to a new level because their whole mind and body is just urging them to do it.

They WON’T sit in the toddler seat in the trolley at the supermarket; they want to tear up and down the aisles.

They WON’T sit up at the dinner table, they can’t sit still and they don’t like that food and they want to be clear about how you should only ever cook pasta and broccoli, they especially want to be REALLY clear about that to sensitive old Grandpa, who slaved all afternoon on a Shepard’s Pie.

the beautiful side of your spirited child

I have a very spirited child, my firstborn, Ramona. First this made me feel like a terrible parent. I felt like she was uncooperative and it must be a result of my lack. I felt every public tantrum as a verdict on my poor skills.

It is not only my perception, either.

I have been judged as a parent as a result of Ramona’s refusal to do something she was asked to do. What a joy it would be to say “I felt judged, but now I realise that everyone understands that some children just happen to be hardcore rebels and every knows parent are all just trying to do their best!!”  The truth is that society does judge parents when their children don’t conform to expectations and we must stop that. PLEASE. Can we stop that? A spirited child is not an indication of poor parenting.

the beautiful side of your really wild child

The second stage was a huge journey of trying to discover what was going on – it sent me digging deep for patience and finding new ways to kind of upgrade my attachment parenting to toddler level. It made me write lots of things about defiant children and their urges and creating lots of space for autonomy even in toddlers. It was a process that broke me to bits, in a way, but also made me get really creative and set me firmly on a respectful parenting path.

This was awesome, because then when my far cruisier second child came along I found parenting an absolute breeze! I would ask her politely, human to equal human,  to keep her voice down in the library and she would say “okay, mama!” and I would be completely gobsmacked, and (because of the first stage) feel like one seriously awesome parent.

My heart contracts a bit at the idea of having children the other way round –  a spirited one second or third, so you think you have this parenting jazz all sorted and then WHAM BLAM.

There could at least be a tell tale sign in the womb, don’t you think? So we can prepare. Heartburn = spirited child on the way. Thank you, body!

All the things I learnt about whilst being with Ramona – the saying yes, the tips for connecting over small daily moments, all helped, really helped. They helped her keep a slightly more even keel, and helped me create space for her bigness. But she is still VERY likely to completely combust in a very public moment, when all eyes are on us. It is just her way.

You see, the final stage of having a spirited child is accepting them, just as they are. You might be able to change them, but you would crush their spirit in the process. And probably yours too.

And of course, our children are not ours to change. No one owns a child. It would be far outside our role to think we should change them.

You can only accept them and keep your eyes peeled for all the beauty in their wildness. They fight hard, but they love hard too, don’t they? the beautiful side of your spirited child

They might not ever, ever wear socks with seams, and they might ragingly insist on taking all their clothes off when they go to the toilet, they might not ever say “okay, mama” the first time you ask, and they might pour out their whole angst on the floor if you can’t immediately find Stick Man when they want to read it.

But when you see them in the scooter race with all that fierceness written on their face, doesn’t your heart squash your lungs against your chest?

When they laugh feverishly from their scalp to their toe nails, doesn’t it feel like a shower of shooting stars?

When they ball their fists and stand mighty as a lion to the kid that called their little sister a “baby” don’t you absolutely know that one day they will turn this sense of justice into world change?

When they whisper “I love you mama” into your neck as you cradle their body, weak from the crying and the screaming of “I hate you I hate it I hate everything”, don’t you know they mean that love badly, and don’t you know they need you to love them and accept them exactly as they are?

You know.


Oh, guardian of a spirited one. I know just what you are experiencing. I know the depths and heights. Don’t let anyone, anyone’s judgement or headshake or tutting, detract you from your path of loving your wild one one in the way they need to be loved.

Let your wild one be exactly who they are.


PS Brand new video on this very subject over on my Youtube Channel:

PPS  I generally try not to label kids, or even talk an enormous amount about their temperaments or characteristics. Who am I to try and describe or prescribe or put a structure upon my child’s personality when they still have so much blossoming to do?

But in not naming a child’s spiritedness in adult to adult discussion, we are in danger of perpetuating the myth that a child’s behaviour is a result of good or poor parenting.


50 Hippie Baby Names

27 September, 2016

There is absolutely no critical thinking or social analysis here in this post. It is just hippie baby names I love. That’s it. Sometimes I am just a completely one dimensional person and that is okay. ALRIGHT?

(I suspect for Debate-weary folk this may be a bit of a relief… but just for the record: my dear American readers VOTE HILARY.)

How I came up with my hippie baby names

Well, I definitely didn’t say “hmmm, I’m a bit of a hippie so what shall by hippie babies be called?” Honestly, I didn’t. HONESTLY. I just found myself drawn to certain names.
In fact, my children’s names, Ramona and Juno, are quite classic, they are just not mainstream these days.  Ramona was popular at the end of the 1800’s and the beginning of the 1900s and when older people hear her name they often break into song, one popular back in the day. The name Ramona sprung out at me from an artist’s exhibition poster when I was outside Kings Cross Station one day when I was 5 months pregnant and I just knew that was my baby’s name. I looked it up and found it meant “nurturing hands” which struck me as being perfect.

Juno is an ancient name, the name of a Roman Goddess who was the protector of women and community and I loved the sentiment and the sound of it. There was also a not-so famous suffragette called Juno in the US. Everyone asks if our Juno was named for the movie Juno, she isn’t, although it is an awesome redemptive story of love, freedom, respect, friendship, so she may well have been in a deeply subconcious way.

I was looking for names that were:

  • Strong and fairly non-prescriptive in terms of gender
  • Not very common
  • Held meaning for me

Whilst Ramona’s name came like divine inspiration, Juno’s name was an intense quest! But in that quest I came up with what I think are flipping AWESOME names!

To save me from emailing this list of names to any more of my pregnant friends (sorry friends) I thought I would  put them out there.Hippie baby Names

What makes a name get on my list of hippie baby names? 

No real reason apart from that I like it and I am a hippy, I guess.  They are underused. Creative. Not on the list of 1000 top baby names etc. Often based on nature or social change rebels.

To me, the word “hippy” means: loving the earth and loving humankind even if acting on that love questions the status quo. To some people the word “hippy” means “tree hugger” and do you know what? I love that term too! The term tree hugger originates from the 1700’s when a community of peasant women in Northeast India refused to let the king cut down an ancient forest to build a palace. They embraced the trees with their bodies and stood strong while the foresters cut down the trees. Many of them died in this peaceful protest but it began a movement that culminated in forestry reform.

Am I a proud hippy and tree hugger? Heck, yep!

Here’s a video of the names in the back of my notebook when I was pregnant with Juno. I also discuss people trolling me online for calling my children Ramona and Juno AND a little interview with my kids about what they would call their babies… Thanks for that, Ramona, you comic:

A lot of them could be either boys or girls names I think but for ease I will start with those that are more commonly used for boys and then girls:

Hippie Baby Names for Boys


Hippie Baby Names for Girls

Arietty (the Borrowers! Remember that?)
Beatrice (this doesn’t sound too hippy but the truth is I wanted to call her Beet)
Eartha (incredible 20th century performer and activist but I also love the reference to the earth)

<h2My favourite hippie baby names that friend’s have used:

Aniren (commonly Aneurin in Wales)

Hippie Baby Names based on the Suffragettes (I was absolutely certain both  my girls would be named after suffragettes but only Juno was)

Flora (flo! omg!)

Ahhh, they are all so brilliant. It makes me want to have fifty babies.

Okay, let’s go: your favourite hippie baby names?? Weirdly keen to hear them….