We live in a Mongolian tent now

So in a comic turn of events we now live in a yurt. Yep, one of those massive round tents that Mongolians thrash out their harsh lives in (and middle-class Londoners go glamping in. Hehe.) *

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It is so beautiful. This circular canvas space, a rope you pull to reveal a sphere of blue sky in the ceiling, a bare wooden floor and rustic pot belly stove inside. It just makes me want to meditate. (Actually just being a mum makes me want to meditate.) (By “meditate” I mean “sleep loads” yeah.)

It is such an intense glimpse into self-sufficiency it should probably only be described in a Biblical way.

The yurt resideth in the glory of a citrus grove. (Officially they are Ugly Fruit. They taste amazing but they Sho Is U.G.L.Y – Tim picked one tonight that resembled, pretty much EXACTLY, a willy.)

There is a beast of the field; a cow from whom we gather the milk for our cup of tea. And tiny dinosaurs with wings. (Chickens, some people call them, but I know better.)

There is an abundance of vegetables that we yanketh out of the ground and devour for our Daily Bread.

The sun provideth our only energy and forgeteth the internets. (Pfft.)

We must release our bowels into the open pastures (kinda – outdoor compost loo, of which I am a MASSIVE fan.)

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For more about how this came about you really MUST read my article, Barefoot and Happy, for Loved By Parents, whom I write for each month. It covers what on earth we are doing here and how we know Ramona is 100% Kiwi.

I’ve been involved in a couple of other cool projects lately, despite being a bazillion miles away.

New Mama pack is a brilliant, amazing package for a new mum that comes out of a woman’s own experience of feeling quite alone in those early days. Each week something PERFECT will drop into the New Mama’s inbox, be it a song, a video, and article – each item handcrafted by artists and writers and poets. I wrote one about how Parenthood is the real Change The World stuff. Instead of getting friends and family to buy loads of silly stuff for the Baby Shower, people could club together for this and make a beautiful difference in the life of a new mum. You will also see it advertised on the right hand side here, as I am a contributing affiliate so get a proportion of the money when you buy through this link.

Similarly, I am also advertising the Mindful Parenting Package because, Oh, My, Days, it is a true, proper, beautiful BARGAIN. Over 36 e-resources; ebooks, PDFs and audio books worth £500 are being sold for £30. A year’s subscription to Juno Magazine (great name, eh – I have an article in the Spring Issue) plus loads of books on babywearing, yoga, gender neutral parenting, natural birth, the commercialisation of babyhood – it is pretty much the attachment and gentle parents library and it is a mega deal.

(Sorry if this last bit sounded like a sales pitch, I am just WELL excited by those two resources and think they could generate a lot of peace in this world.)

So, yeah. That is kind of us at the moment. From Berty to Yurt-y. Hehehe.

PS- I shared a photo of the yurt on Facebook yesterday. And lots of people were like “Woo!” “Living the dream” and stuff. And I guess I wanted to just say that yep, we feel super lucky to be having this adventure, and sometimes pictures and my blogging does make it look like it is all just lush. I tend not to mention the things that go wrong because I don’t want it to be like “Woe is me, the stalk of the aubergine I just picked pricked my finger!” But in order to keep it real here is some stuff that wasn’t/ isn’t perfect: I had mastitis for the FOURTH time, Juno was teething REALLY BAD a couple of weeks ago and hasn’t slept for ages, despite having all the time in the world we struggle to be organised and get super frustrated with the mayhem that surrounds us, both the girls have colds, we spent loads of money on a car that was actually a smoker’s car and we are gutted, I am having really bad RSI in my wrist and thumb which scares me as writing is my living, lalalala, etc etc. *keeping it real fist bump*

Posted in Bombaround | 14 Comments

DIY Eco and Thrifty Resuseable Snack Packs/ Cling Film

You know what I hate? Cling Film. I partly hate it because it hates me – cling film started it when it refused to ever stick to itself so all my sandwiches look as if they are wrapped in scraggly, flappy bits of plastic. Oh wait! That *is* what cling film is!

It is the stuff that our great – great – great – great – great- grandchildren will discover on their archeological digs and think, with baffled expressions on their faces, scanning the barren, scorched land around them, “THIS was the reason for the demise of our beautiful earth! My great – great- great- great- great- Nana was a total plonker!” They will write articles in the National Geographic about how we used up the world’s most precious resource on wrapping up old bits of cheese.

Crumbs, didn’t know I was such a hater. Feel much better for that.

You’ll be pleased (because I was sounding like it was giving me high blood pressure, eh?) to know I discovered an alternative to Cling Film. It is an eco, recycled, reuseable version made with bees wax and fabric. Eco Alternative cling film

All you need is some scraps of fabric and bees wax.  I did six different sizes ranging from 30cm x 30cm to 15cm x 15 cm. I wanted some large enough to go over baking dishes to then go in the fridge and I wanted some I could sew into little snack packs.

Cut your fabric (ideally with pinking shears so it doesn’t fray)

Shave on a small amount of bees wax – sprinkle this as evenly as possible over the whole thing. Work sparingly as a little goes a long way.DIY resuable food wrap

Place on to some tin foil in a hot oven for 3 or so minutes, until wax has melted.

Bring it out and look at it in the light. You should be able to see any patches without wax on- sprinkle a bit on those areas and pop back in oven.

TADA! Done! You can use this in replace of cling film and you can wash and dry it and use it again!

I took two of my sheets and folded them in half and sewed a seam down the side. I left one side open so snacks could be popped in. It can then be folded over and secured with a band or a clip. PERFECT.

I am in love with this easy, peasy alternative to cling film and will never again wrangle with that nasty stuff and the great-grandkids won’t be calling ME the plonker.

Posted in Craftiness, Green things, Thrifty | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Help! My toddler isn’t a feminist! (International Women’s Day Blog Link Up)

“Right, now, you be the patient, I will be the nurse and he will be the Doctor.” Yesterday three year old Ramona was carefully and patiently directing the game of Hospitals. She went on to clarify “I have to be the Nurse, ‘cos I’m the girl, and he’s a Doctor, ‘cos he is a boy.”

You know that most tragic of movie scenes, the one in My Girl at the funeral and Macauly Culkin is in the coffin and the little girl comes in and cries all over him saying “Where are his glasses? He can’t see without his glasses!”  Well, that was pretty much me. Wailing over my toddler’s lost sense of gender equality, the death of her ambition, shedding my tears upon her liberation, imprisoned in a casket.

Ha. I jest. But I was well mad.

It is a pretty big thing, eh? For a little child to feel that the most responsible, highest paid role within a medical team isn’t for her because she has the wrong genitalia?

How on earth had this happened and where had this come from?

All those fairytales I have done a cut and paste job on in order to place females in significant roles, all the times I change “He” to “She”, all those stereotyped films we have boycotted, all the princess clothes we have avoided. I regularly consider our lives and my own role modelling, making sure we have strong female leaders about us and having conversations about how all attributes and all colours and all toys are for all children.International Women's Day Link Up

And then she comes out with that, the day before International Women’s Day, for goodness sake.

I guess all it takes is one game of Hospitals and one snippet of conversation from some older kids and BAM, her feminist spirit begins gurgling out of the bottom of her Spider Man trousers.

Because however conscious and determined we are as parents to allow our children to grow into whoever they want to be, regardless of gender, we simply can’t balance out a whole skewed society.

Gender inequality permeates every bit of our culture, every single industry. Even if we try and control the media in our lives, and the conversations in our own home, the presence of limiting gender ideas and biases will somehow soak through.

We can’t do it by ourselves.

So, this International Women’s Day, where the theme is Inspiring Change I want to celebrate a few people and projects that are doing THEIR bit in challenging sexist and oppressive ideas about women.

1- A Mighty Girl. The world’s largest collection of books, films and toys that don’t submit to stereotypes and instead encourage girls to be smart, confident and courageous.

2- Marks and Spencers. Marks and Sparks have committed to gender neutral packaging for all their toys this year, which shouldn’t really be a big deal but when you consider most toy aisles are fairly strict about what is appropriate for what child I think this could set a new standard for a pretty sexist industry.

3- Miss Representation. It is both a movie and a movement that challenges the lack of strong female roles in the media, and subsequently across industries. They are full of scary stats and hard hitting infographics and I like their work! (Thanks to Mel, for highlighting it.)

4- Tootsa Macginty. It is just one of a few stores committed to unisex clothing and yes, clothing is superficial but it is norm-forming! WHHHHYYYYYYY do we dress our tiny children so differently? It is ridiculous! And it just gives children another reference point for choosing to play with some and not others. Hooray for gender-neutral threads and the parents who dress their children in them.

5- Egalia Kindergarten. Egalia is a gender-neutral Kindergarten in Sweden. It is extreme but what a healthy environment for children to grow up in? I am not convinced all preschools should be this way but I am convinced that preschools like this can inspire change in sexist and stereotyped practices in other education and childcare establishments.

6- All the other parents committed to feminism. Are you one? Do you make sure your children are aware that no matter what gender they are they can achieve anything? Thank you. You are awesome. You are changing the world.

Happy International Women’s Day. Here is to a future where our children can grow up to be surgeons or sculptors, mechanics or M.Ps, bakers or bouncers.

Below is the International Women’s Day Blog Link Up. If you have blogged about an inspiring woman or an issue facing women please stick your URL in the box below!



IWD14 blog link up

Posted in Feminism | Tagged , , | 33 Comments

Annual International Women’s Day Link Up

Calling all bloggers!

Who are the women who have inspired YOU to change?

What are the most exciting projects happening that are changing the face of equality?

What issue facing women do you most want to see serious change on?

It is International Women’s Day on Saturday, 8th March, and once again I would love you to blog on the topic INSPIRING CHANGE and come over here and link your blog up.

On the day I will post a blog with my own thoughts and there will be a simple form for you to add yourself to a growing list of blogs. Simply include a link to my own International Women’s Day post so all your readers can come here and read all the linked up blogs.

This will be the third year this has happened and it is an fantastic way of meeting other equality loving bloggers!

Look forward to reading your thoughts.

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Attachment Parenting A Toddler: Beyond Breastfeeding and Babywearing

Last night Tim was out late so I had two little people on my hands at bed time- this is pretty rare for us. I hunkered down with them both, one on each side, breastfeeding to sleep, their guzzling and gulping the only sound in the treacly silence of a countryside evening.

Their eyes began closing as if on command, and they held hands across my belly. “What a perfect picture of attachment parenting!” I thought, ever so slightly wryly.

Truth is, this is rarely what mothering looks like for me. I find tandem breastfeeding uncomfortable and over the last year I’ve encouraged Ramona, who is three, down from a billion breastfeeds a day to just this one breastfeed at bed time.

Even last night, a second after I had that thought, baby Juno decided sleep is for suckers and instead burrowed under the duvet, popped back up with a fork (you know) and climbed atop my tummy, yodelling and waving her weapon about. (It is testament to the power of the boob that Ramona carried on drifting off to sleep regardless.) This peaceful, tandem breastfeeding and tandem babywearing thing just doesn’t seem to fit us with grace and ease!

Ramona rarely rides about in a sling these days – she prefers to run, scoot or sit upon her dad’s shoulders – clinging to his head and stealing his specs. We do cosleep – but her with her daddy in one double and Juno and I in another.20140304-134021.jpg

It’s funny, because when our children are babies attachment parenting seems to mainly be about those three behaviours.

Of course, babywearing, breastfeeding, and cosleeping is how attachment parenting often LOOKS but no official AP sergeant has ever demanded these things in order to make it on the AP team. Because attachment- based on a quite unwooly psychological / mental well being- theory- really mostly comes down to nurturing connection and responding quickly to a child’s needs, with respect.

But when the baby has been weaned, when they want to sleep in their own bed, when they opt for the scooter over the sling, what does attachment parenting look like? As they grow, and these things become a little less a part of their lives, many parents feel a bit lost.

I for one began burying my head into books again, searching for ideas about child development, communication and nurturing connection with this wild and wonderful toddler in my life. 20140304-133829.jpg

There are five main ways that our attachment parenting philosophy has influenced our parenting an older child:

Validate
I reckon this is the Big One, the crucial part of our communication with toddlers. If attachment parenting is about connection, trust and responsiveness then our toddler need to feel understood and they need to feel that their emotions are valid, loved through their big feelings. We need to knock on the head “You’re okay, honey!” and ” Don’t worry!” – replacing them with an acknowledgment of how they are feeling; “You lost your toy? And I can see you are really upset” and “You are frustrated about that!”

Get into the habit of repeating back to them what you hear. Don’t add to their emotion “OOH, YOU ARE SUPER, SWEARINGLY FURIOUS!” (hehehe) but do give them words if they can’t find them- “upset” is a nice word that covers lots of emotions.

Start with your baby. Even when they cry as a tiny one, instead of “Shhhh” as them “Were you worried that I had walked away?” (Or whatever) – of course, while offering your boob because that IS what they want, a lot of the time.

This validation is a communication habit for a lifetime, for children, for friends, and colleagues.

Standing back
Strangely, it feels as if so at a loss are attachment parents when their kids hit the toddler years that they become “helicopter parents” – hovering over their child’s every move, as if worried of severing the attachment.

This isn’t the way, dudes.

Attachment parenting is about responding to a child’s needs and as they grow one of a child’s most demanding needs is that of autonomy. They need to know they are in charge of some stuff, they need to know they have a say on the things that impact their lives. (They also – importantly- have a right to this.)

Has your child, through tantrums, been asking for more space to exercise their will and their choices? What areas will you let go control of? Their clothes? Their food? Their play?

The attachment parents is the one that stands back when their child strikes out for independence, knowing that sometimes meeting the need of an older child can sometimes look like the EXACT OPPOSITE of meeting the needs of a baby.

Touch
And yet. Children still need touch. A parent’s hug can still fill the cup of an older child who has emptied themselves emotionally. A cuddle can change direction of an afternoon of play between kids that has become quite wrestle-based! Sometimes I wonder if a toddler’s physical (by physical I mean a lot of pushing) play is a plea for more touch.

Touch activates important chemicals in our bodies, and sometimes toddlers, and parents, can be so busy that we don’t activate them enough. It may be a cuddle, joining in with the wrestle, or even a massage that can restore a connection lost in mayhem.

The other day Ramona was struggling a bit and we kind of invented a game. She lies on her back and I just do the motions for different things over her body. So I say “spiders creeping up” and tap my fingers all over her from feet to head and “sun shining down” and whoosh my fingers back down from her head to her toes- like the whooshing sun, you know?!? I did different animals and weathers for about five minutes and it was almost like a meditation. There have a been a couple of times since when she has been really sad that she has asked me for the creepy spider game again.

It reminded me how substantial good healthy physical contact is with our busy toddlers and how it can meet needs that are hidden amongst rambunctiousness.

Empathy
The most helpful tool I have found in my parenting kit (what, you didn’t get a nice bumbag filled with gadgets? It comes out just before the placenta) has been an ability to empathise. And I don’t really know where it came from. I struggled for about a year feeling overwhelmed by the strength of a two year old’s feelings, almost annoyed and frustrated – primarily I imagine because I couldn’t FIX it. I felt almost redundant.

I wish I could remember what triggered the change. (It was quite possibly finding out about play urges- a child’s instinct to play/throw/climb/burrow is as strong for them as BREATHING!) But somehow I just began seeing things from our daughter’s perspective- and I got a bit of a glimpse into how annoying and frustrating HER day must get! Being so curious, but not being given the space to follow up discoveries. Being so excited but finding that shouts of glee aren’t welcome. Being so opinionated but not being heard.

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I’m no parenting saint AT ALL and I do feel infuriated sometimes but stepping back from my feelings and attempting to see things through her eyes REALLY helps.

Play
Play is a form of communication for children, so if we want to nurture a strong connection with them we need to play hard too! Play has also rescued many a moment for us that was spiralling into disconnection.

If Ramona is doing something that breaks our one rule (No harming people or people’s stuff) then I will often use play as a way of recovering any shaken connection. So a couple of days ago Ramona was enjoying pulling apart a friend’s house plant. I explained to her why house plants need to not have their leaves ripped, but she continued. I was picking up that Ramona was running on empty a bit so I firmly said “I’m not going to let you pull apart that plant” and then I began to cry big, ridiculous sobs and pretended to be the plant “Noooooo, don’t pull meeeeeeeee!!!” And we had a silly old game of plant chasing kid and kid pulling plant. (A classic.) Later on, when Ramona was full up and connected again, we had a conversation about keeping people’s stuff safe.

Attachment parenting is not about avoiding all tension and healthy boundaries/ guidelines, but IS about creating a good, receptive environment in which to discuss these things in a respectful way. Play is often a bridge between inappropriate behaviour and necessary discussion for us.

One of the best books I have read on the whole of childhood based on attachment theory is “Letting Go As Children Grow” by author of cosleeping bible, Three In A Bed, Deborah Jackson.

“The letting go process does not have to wait until the rebellious teenager explodes with anger and frustration. It does not even have to wait for a two yea old to become ‘terrible’. We can let our children go from the moment they are born by trusting in the process of nature and responding to their needs as they become apparent.”

How does attachment look in your family these days? I’d love to hear from families with different ages.

Posted in Attachment parenting, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

The pockets of others

I was remembering recently some of those days when Ramona was a baby and my husband would go off to work, how I would look despairingly at the long day ahead, how it seemed to yawn on and on. 6:30pm, that exhilarating moment when Tim would open the front door, was so completely in the distance that it wasn’t even a speck on the horizon. It had dropped off a far flung cliff, like a suicidal Woody Woodpecker, a mocking laugh, a wisp of smoke.

And I LOVED being a mum. But, sheesh, those days alone just. Stretched. On,

People with one baby quite often ask “How is it with two kids?” and I begin to say “Oh, AMAZING and SO EASY!!” and then I remember that the four of us have been on the road together, in each others pockets, since Juno was four months old and really I barely have a clue about juggling the needs of two little people at one time!

How fortunate are the girls, to have their dad around so very much? And how fortunate am I, that when I am feeling a bit clung to I can easily take a breather? And that the days are full, chockablock, bursting at the seems with stuff to do, too MUCH to do?

It couldn’t be more different, these days.

(We weren’t really made to do this parenting thing solo, eh? We need gaggles of friends and neighbours and sisters to thrive. One of my friends, Jenny blogged beautifully about this very thing this week.)

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We have slowly etched our way around the coastline of the North Island (of New Zealand, that is, NEW ZEALAND, a whole other STRATOSPHERE! *googles stratosphere* Oh, actually, no, I mean, WHOLE OTHER HEMISPHERE) catching up with friends. And there are new family members, children and babies, oh, so many bonny babies. It has been amazing just bustling about with them, living in each other’s pockets, doing our days all together. Charity shopping together. Pretty much mostly just charity shopping together.

We’ve been hunting through possibilities of dining tables for the bus. We had our hearts set on a formica table but in this land awash with ancient woods they KNOW the value of a nice formica table. Pfft. We have looked high and low, we’ve had every friend on the hunt with us and finally, last week we found one, HURRAH! There was much back slapping and hooting, as if Tim and I had really succeeded at something. Yep, folks, our ambition has shriveled to this.

We’ve been so inspired by the stuff our friends are up to – our friends who have an organic bulk buying co-op thing casually going on, those friends who do a great bit of co-housing, the family with the beautiful home who Know The Way Of The Vintage Tapestry.

I made new friends in Wellington, bloggers I knew from the Internet who were actual Real Life People. Thalia from Sacraparental and Tasha from Maybe Diaries. Two awesome new feminist, attachment parenty, social justice loving friends.

We went to the New Zealand Unschooling Camp and met a crowd of people who stunned us with the simple ways they were fully living their dreams, growing food and having adventures. (A whole other post about unschooling coming soon!) A family who are travelling in a bus and unschooling their FOUR BOYS for OVER A YEAR, one woman who unschools with a little tribe, a kindred-spirit mother unschooling with her awesome lad.

Gosh.

We’ve been busy.

So busy that I sometimes forget this little ache in my heart that just wishes my sister, Jo, and her family were close by. Her taunting me by blogging amazing recipes involving cream cheese and salted caramel doesn’t help. I want to have a cup of tea with her and eat her baking.

We are coming to the end of our nomadic stage… we are thinking of heading back to Thames this weekend, a cool little town at the start of the mightily majestic Coromandel. We might nuzzle down for a bit. Perhaps learn about growing stuff properly, search for a bit of land to call our own. (Bit more serious than a retro table, eh?) We have not at all been swayed towards Thames because they have some of the best charity shops in New Zealand. (We have.) (What, dad?! That is perfectly reasonable criteria to base a new land ownership on!)

Life might start to look slightly more normal. But we are going to cling to our sense of adventure, seek a tribe to live life with, pockets to dwell in.

And we will try as hard as we can to avoid anything that might leave one of us staring at the clock willing the minutes to pass.

This is a featured post – please see my disclosure for more on that.

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No Poo, no toxins, no worries (Shampoo free for two years!)

“What’s that your cooking up now, Lu?” asks Tim. “Just sugar and lemon.” “For the pancakes?” “Nope, my hair.”

My husband nods his head, like, naturally.

It’s been over TWO YEARS since I gave up shampoo- I reckon that now makes my No Poo journey a long term one, yeah?

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It has been two years of mixing up concoctions, hair looking terrible, then amazing, terrible again, and then fine. Two years of people hearing about my No Poo experiment and then grabbing my ears, taking a big whiff of my scalp. (Not really, but a few people HAVE asked to smell it!)

I have had long, long hair and a very short crop. Just now it is a weird in between stage as I grow it long again. And I have tried just about every single thing out there as a natural alternative to shampoo, conditioner and styling products.

Here are a few reflections on the whole thing…

If you stick at it, it DOES work. But sticking at it is really hard. Realistically, you will go through a least a couple of months of unhappy hair. You need quite a lot of motivation to get through that first bit.

It works with long hair and short hair, although the short hair takes a lot less maintenance. I use to have to brush my long locks a lot but now I only use a brush to back comb my quiff…

Long hair takes a lot more STUFF too – coconut oil as a conditioner, more regular washing. I do this massage thing to distribute the oils away from my scalp and it is MUCH easier doing this with short hair.

In the past I have loved bicarbonate of soda, eggs, and soap nuts as my preferred natural shampoo alternatives. Now? Now I just use water.

There are people all over the world doing this- just quietly getting on with it. While we were in Spain, at the eco community, it was completely normal to be No Poo. Here I am, blogging all the ups and downs and there they were, just not washing their hair because of the chemical – free policy on site. No biggie.

If I want to style it I use a mixture of sugar and lemon as a nice crispy hairspray. For a wax I use beeswax and coconut oil, and for a gel I break off a bit of my Aloe Vera plant and use the gel inside. And if I want to use a hair clip I break off one of our Venus Fly Trap leaves and for a toothbrush I use a thistle. (Pahaha, totally just kiddingly about those last two… Although my life does increasingly resemble the Flinstones, just with less bones.)

When I first began this there were lots of baffled responses but the one that stuck with me the most was the person that said “Oh, I know lots of people who have done that. But they all eventually go back to shampoo.” I guess this filled me with the most doubt about my experiment – am I going to go through this whole thing, just to give up?

Two years later I can say, for sure, that there is NO going back to shampoo. Not in a million years. I can see no reason to. My hair cleans itself. I spend ZILCH on shampoo – not even on natural alternatives now I have short hair. I just use water. It is enormously thrifty and enormously green. My hair is strong, healthy and shiny. No Poo 4 EVA!

I need to write more on No Poo!l, eh? haven’t blogged nearly enough about it, considering I am such a devotee. What kind of stuff would you like to read about it?

P

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