Parenting, writing, yurt life

Here’s to you

24 December, 2014

We are on a bit of a road trip, bussing down to spend Christmas with Tim’s family in the central North Island. We parked up for the night halfway and went for a bush walk. 45 minutes to the waterfall? Easy!

We’d been cooped up for hours, surviving on the Peter Rabbit audiotape and lollipops- a hike in the wild was just what we needed.

We crossed a rickety bridge over a river and into the dark of the native bush, I was ready to be swallowed up by its calm and was set on a shower under the waterfall.

And then…

Ramona wanted to swim every time we rounded a corner and came upon the river, joyous and tedious in equal measure.
Juno wanted to walk, her mighty little legs thumping out steps but slowing our pace to a shuffle.
All the leaves kept getting stuck in between Ramona’s sandle and shoe.
Juno wanted to breastfeed AND walk.
A mist of mozzies followed us.
The shelter of the manuka trees couldn’t cut through the muggy heat.
The halterneck of my swimming cozzy stabbed into me and I imagined my bra, discarded on the seat of the bus, and I longed for it.

We veered, irascible, through the forest, anywhere but present. We stumbled for an hour and a half… And then we got to a sign saying “WATERFALL 25 MIN>>>”

We weren’t even half way. Not halfway!

It was actually comical, so we laughed, and our laughter saved the day.

We gave up on the waterfall and looked about us. We were inches deep in massive fallen fern leaves, each one the brightest gold, as if a hooligan had stalked into the forest with a can of metallic spray paint and covered each one, in a spirit of festivity.

We found a mini waterfall, not THE waterfall, but perfect for tiny clamberers, puddles pouring from one into the other. And a big angled rock, ideal to lean on and search for patches of blue sky through the forest canopy.

We were probably only a mile away from our bus but it was a remote, tropical place of rest for us, a snatched meditation before the crazy of a big family Christmas.

And happiness filled all our bellies.

~

I want to say an enormous big thank you for reading and sharing my blog. It is such a pleasure for me to write and I am grateful that there are people who read my words. Despite not having internet at our yurt (did I mention that? Hehe) this has been a massive year for Lulastic and the Hippyshake and I am quite blown way by it all.

Here’s to you.

I hope that you find a glade by clear waters to rest in, that you walk on steady feet as you find your path – sometimes with wilderness on your left and a cliff on your right. (Here’s to deliberate, intentional living, eh?)

May any hurt and pain you are carrying fade away, like leaving behind the cloud of stinging insects, until you come to the wide open sky of forgiveness.

May you know freedom from whatever oppression or oppressive thoughts you feel, freedom that feels like taking off all your clothes and swimming butt naked in a cool bend of a clear river. (And here’s to some actual skinny dipping too.)

I hope you can find joy and contentment, even though you might not ever, ever arrive at the waterfall. (And here’s to presence, really just being present.)

May you see the gold in the dead foliage and feel happy in your bowels.

And may your bra be ever comfy.

collaborative

A last minute Christmas present idea for animal lovers

24 December, 2014

Just squeezing in this last minute Christmas present idea, thanks to the RSPCA. We love animals, and are surrounded by them on the farm. Ramona often says “I love animals and I love to eat them!” She isn’t intending to sound like an unfunny Uncle to Vegetarian-Niece joke, it’s just she is figuring out all the things around having fallen in love two tiny new calves knowing that she will probably end up eating them and loving them that way. Anyway, anyway, she won’t eat your pets. Here is the RSPCA on why a few pounds can make such an enormous difference:

Your RSPCA donation could be an animal’s best Christmas present this year

Whether you’re trying to teach your children about the responsibilities that come with owning a pet or wish to help animals in need of aid, the RSPCA’s Snowglobe video and Christmas appeal could provide some real paws for thought this winter.

The video begins by showing the perfect Christmas scene … but is swiftly takes a turn for the worse. Soon, helpless animals are tossed about like toys inside a snowglobe controlled by our own hands.

The moving animation is sure to open your eyes to the animal cruelty issues that are still rife today and emphasise the great work that the RSPCA does to prevent this cruelty – but they still need our help. Without donations and support from the public, the RSPCA will struggle to save all the animals that depend on them for love, care and attention this Christmas.

Every little helps

Instead of focusing on material gifts this year, why not donate a small amount to our furry friends instead? As little as £3 could help an abused animal and put them on the road to recovery for the New Year – it’s not a lot of money but it could make a big difference.

Aside from housing neglected pets in secure, warm and caring homes, your donations will also help the RSPCA prosecute those who abuse animals and help them to stop any repeat reports from occurring; breaking this vicious cycle.

Making a difference

You may not think £3 is much but if every animal lover is able to part with this small amount then it will make a massive difference. Donations are even helping the RSPCA work towards changing the law to protect helpless animals by initiating special undercover operations to expose those who think the likes of bird trapping and dog fighting is acceptable.

An education worth investing in

We all associate the month of December with joy, festive cheer and good will and while the RSPCA’s video may be hard to watch when you’re enjoying the festivities with your family, it is important to educate children, friends and family on this subject.

The RSPCA have even launched an interactive website, linked to the national curriculum, which is designed to educate the next generation when caring for our furry little friends and this might be something you want to go through with your kids in the New Year.

Whether you choose to donate to the RSPCA now or set up a regular payment, choosing to do so could be the best present an animal receives this winter.

Say #NotToCruelty with the RSPCA this winter by donating to their Christmas Appeal. Whether you make a one-off payment or set up a regular deduction, your money could make a huge difference. Text RESCUE to 84010 to donate £3 now.

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Parenting

5 Steps to Help Children Say Goodbye During Holiday Visits or Whilst Travelling

22 December, 2014

When my sister and I were younger when it came to say farewell, or good night or even just See You In Five we used to give a full rendition of “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!” from the Sound of Music. Like, the whole song. Including bobbing up and down and running around the back of each other to pop out. I imagine it probably got a tiny bit tiresome.

Obviously, we had found a way, a slightly precocious way, of dealing with Goodbyes.

People often ask us how all the travelling we have done over the 18 months (from London to Europe and then on to NZ) has gone with Ramona. And my reply is that mostly it has been absolutely awesome, but that the constant Goodbyes have been really hard on her. To the extent that now, when it comes to say goodbye even to the boys that we share land with, who she spends all day with and can see at any point in about three seconds, she hates it. It is an ordeal. I think it is because for so long “Good Bye” was a pretty permanent thing.

When we met the Us in a Bus folk (remember that brilliant bus family?) I found that they had really invested in helping their children say goodbye, and it had really paid off for them.

Over Christmas so many of us are travelling to and from from family and friends and long lost Aunties and precious cousins and it can be so tough. I feel like they have some perfect advice here to make it all that much healthier. Over to them:Help your children say goodbye

We The Frasers; Mum, Dad and four boys aged 2-9yrs, have been on the road fulltime in New Zealand for the past year and have been engaging in many meet & greets, and goodbyes. Over this time we have had plenty of opportunity to practice and refine our family culture with goodbyes. We are sharing our found wisdom with the hope that it will assist others in their family connections, cohesiveness and ability to travel the world with happy children whether it be for a short term holiday or a long term lifestyle. We invite you to join in on our adventures on the road at usinabus.nz or Instagram.com/usinabus

It can be tough to say goodbye, incredibly tough. Not just the day to day goodbyes, or the result of death or dying but rather when leaving behind family, friends and special people because we are moving on, travelling, or going on/ending a holiday. It is so tough in fact that some of us find we are really bad at doing it; we string them out, (think: our own teenage phone conversations ‘you hang up , no you hang up , no you hang up….) we rush, (hurry up, we’re leaving!), we avoid (well it’s easier that way right?) and many other, not so healthy, habits. It can be a lost priority when it comes to thinking about how to enable our children to have a healthy relationship with goodbyes to friends and family as we are surrounded by so many other important decisions to be made, the best times to travel, who will feed the cat, how to fit all the gear in the car, and so on.
We may pay a moment’s attention to it thinking we have it covered, but then it’s not until we notice our child displaying signs of distress that it dawns on us the constant transitioning is having an impact. Or alternatively, we may not even embark on our travels because we worry about this situation too much and don’t feel equipped to handle it. Goodbyes are one of life’s inevitabilities and perhaps we adopt one of the above approaches to cope with it for ourselves but, how do we as parents assist our children through this process and help them to develop healthy habits of saying goodbye?

The whole family needs to be able to acknowledge, anticipate and participate in a methodology that will meet everybody’s needs. Incoporating the following five steps into our travel routines will create a family culture of healthy goodbyes, ultimately resulting in happier children, healthier relationships and easier transitions.

Step 1 – Discover, admit and become at ease with (or prepared to work on) our own style of saying goodbye as the Parent.
It is often not too hard to see where our own patterns of behaviour come from when we look at the wider family culture that we have grown up in. We need to think for a moment of how our family ‘did’ goodbyes? The long drawn out emotional clingy types? Or, the gruff, grunt, pat on the shoulder types? Or, perhaps something in between? Whatever it was, how we manage our goodbye rituals with others is the likely way our children will do theirs.

They are our best mirrors.
Helping your children say goodbye
The old “do as I say not as I do” saying doesn’t tend to work too well with this ritual. Children are very, very, good at seeing through our facades and will have no qualms about calling us out on it. We are their models and given that our ultimate outcome is to have happy settled children it is in our best interests to first work on ourselves and our own unmet needs. If we know we have unhealthy ways of saying goodbye it is important to be brave and confront these first. By being able to reflect, seek help and change ourselves and become comfortable about how we do our own goodbye ritual we are then more likely to be able to admit and share our vulnerabilities (in a way that is not over burdensome) with our children. All the other steps then flow from this basis of trust.

Step 2 – Preparing our Children for the Approaching Change.
Some children need days to prepare for change/transitions and goodbyes, others only need 5 minutes. It is about really knowing our children and not being afraid to talk with them, observe them, then experiment with different tactics and if one doesn’t work, admit it, not be too tough on ourselves; trying is the main thing, reflect on it and then try a different one next time.
For children, as is for adults, there is not a one size fits all way to prepare them and meet their needs when it comes to saying goodbye. In our family our 3 eldest sons have 3 very different personalities and ways of dealing with goodbyes.

One is an external processor, ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’ (likes to work things out by talking, lets us know all he is thinking and feeling), is quick to decide but then slow to integrate and engage into a new situation. This child does not need much preparation for the goodbye, but does need a lot of time reflecting, discussing and processing once the goodbyes have happened.
Another is also an external processor, but is very slow to decide and does not like surprises. But, once he has decided, he is quick to engage and integrate into a new situation. He also highly values loyalty. He requires a large amount of time to prepare for the goodbyes that are coming up; plenty of time to discuss, think through and question prior to the goodbye and a lot of security around knowing how the relationship will be continued once the goodbye has happened. Anything less is considered a violation of trust, and a breach of loyalty, to him.

The next child is an internal processor (it is easy to miss what he really thinks or feels as he is easy-going also), but not given the right amount of information or time he will turn into a little pressure cooker that eventually explodes. He requires quality, rather than quantity, time spent with him preparing for the goodbyes. Time where the goodbyes are properly explained, the future plans spelled out using visual props such as maps, and the chance given to reflect on this and then ask any questions. If done right he requires little follow up other than the occasional revisit of memories.

Because of these personality and value differences, how we respond as parents and meet each of their needs with learning to say goodbye, is different for each one. It can be difficult to identify these things, and for us, has come with trial, much error and time. And we still get it wrong often, when we rush, get lazy, or forget. But the consequences of doing so pulls us up quick and thrusts us back into better habits!

Having worked out our own needs in Step 1 as parents, we are then required to be respectful of our children’s needs and differences, in order to be able to respond to them in a meaningful way. Once we have identified these needs in our children we have a much better chance of then going on to create a successful ritual around doing the actual goodbye.

Having the correct language to use for the goodbyes can be part of the ritual. It can be easy for us to assume that our children know what to say but often they don’t and it can be helpful to offer them alternatives and a chance to practise these in a safe situation as preparation.

Step 3 – Establishing follow up
Pausing for a moment and taking a longer term view of how the relationship is going to be maintained in the future prior to the goodbye can be essential. It can be beneficial to be very proactive in this step ensuring it is done prior to the actual goodbye for two main reasons. One, it is easy to forget to do amongst the flurry of goodbyes and future planning. And two, it provides an anchor, assistance and assurance in the goodbye ritual i.e. “we have got your email so we’ll definitely be in touch”.

For some people, especially those with strong values of loyalty, like one of our sons, it is vital to provide practical measures and assurance of follow up. This can be done by;
• Talking about possible times and places we will reunite with one another (they can be hypothetical as even this can be better than nothing for some children).
• Discussing ways to keep in touch, with our child present.
• Writing down details, mark on calendars,
• Wherever possible giving tangible children friendly timeframes i.e. “x number of sleeps until you can Skype each other.”
• Swapping emails, phone numbers, addresses, social media names.

If the relationship is important to our child we will need to work hard to find a way to keep it alive. This may seem difficult amongst all the changes being experienced as a family but it can be hugely beneficial to the level of engagement and enjoyment our child will have in the ongoing travel experiences.

Step 4 – Initiating a Ritual around Participating in the Goodbye.
Being connected with others is our fundamental drive as humans, and as children we have a fundamental need for connection with our parents; to feel in all ways safe and supported. When this ever evolving connection is strong, gently responded to, and actively sought out, we can blossom as our authentic selves.

The ultimate goal with creating ritual around doing the goodbye is to allow our child the chance to shift the focus of a connection from those that they are saying goodbye to, back to their connection with us as their parent. While the child is making and playing with a new friend all day their connection temporarily focuses on that relationship. But when that friendship is ended with goodbyes, if a connection is not sufficiently refocused back to the child-parent relationship it can be left floundering causing disconnection; a pining for that fulfilment. As well as the usual tools for transition such as giving time countdowns, pre-warnings etc. there are further very practical and simple ways to create ritual around shifting the focus of connection when saying goodbye that will allow smooth transition and stronger relationships. These include:

• Taking at least 5 minutes, before we need to say goodbye to those we are with, and spending it directly interacting with our child; including eye contact, gentle voice, & purposeful close contact. It is a chance to get alongside, and start the reconnection process. Perhaps read a story together, or just sit and have a cuddle and/or a chat, discussing with them and their friend their favourite things allowing the conversation to be real.
• From here we can implement any number of tactics that are appropriate to us and our child, perhaps:
– do a round robin of telling a story of the goodbye and what each person is going to do when the other leaves, keeping it light hearted and fun.
– sing a silly made up goodbye song to everything as we wander around the area our child has been playing; each room, each animal, each person.
– allow our child to draw a picture of saying goodbye
– take a photo or short video.
Then by asking our child if they are ready to leave we are giving them a chance to equalise some power over an otherwise tough situation. If they are not then we tell them we are willing to wait with them, asking what it is they need to do to make them ready. Provided we have articulated the plans and our own needs clearly enough i.e. we need to be here by this time and I’m getting worried we will miss the plane”, and we have invested in the reconnection process, we most likely will be pleasantly surprised how the child will generally always be willing to support the need to leave at that point. The key to this tactic being successful is being prepared and allowing sufficient time. Start the process with this step in mind and plan time accordingly.

Once we feel our child has begun to make that transition back to being connected with us, we can give them the language needed to say goodbye as discussed with them in Step 2 so they have it ready for the moment.

• Things such as; goodbye I will miss you, I had a really great time, I’m sad to go and I’ll miss you, see you later, see you next time, bye, thanks for having us, see you on the other side, I can’t wait until we meet again etc. whatever is appropriate to that situation.
Then allow them to give the appropriate farewell gesture to which they feel comfortable:
• Perhaps it is a wave
• A high five
• A hug.

Just be sure to make it is something they are comfortable with and consent to freely. Respect and protect – it is horrible for a child to be forced to give someone a hug when a wave is all they wanted, just as it is for an adult.

Then leave, don’t delay or stand around talking more, or start packing the car, whatever excuse. Instead actually, physically, leave. It is difficult for a child (and ourselves!) to go through the routine of saying goodbye the first time only to have to repeat it all again in an hour’s time because the ‘adults’ didn’t stop talking!

The key is support, support, support. And we can expect emotion. This energy in motion can be normal and healthy. Trusting our intuition is vital on this as we will know if it is disproportionate to the situation and thus need further help from a professional or not. It can look like dramatic tears to total ambivalence depending on the child’s age and temperament. It is all just emotion. We shouldn’t shut it down, instead gently validate it, (‘I can see you’re really sad you have to leave? It can be really hard to leave when you have been having fun”). And why not validate our own emotion while we are at it, no harm in giving ourselves a break while we’re on a roll!

Step 5 – Time and Space to Think and Reminisce
As we begin to regroup and reconnect as a family after we have said our goodbyes and left, we need to be prepared to allow our children time to adjust. It can take time to move back into the rhythm of family life again. Talk about it, acknowledge it, and validate it. Allow our children the chance to process it all.
Practical things we can do to assist this time include:
• Provide hope for the future and reminders of follow up
• Discuss funny moments, favourite times and worst times they had together.
• Make a photo scrapbook and read it together
• Allow them to flick through digital photos/ videos,
• Follow through on promised follow ups, keep them regular and planned where possible
• Acknowledge the person they said goodbye to through activities such as;
– lighting a candle
– mentioning them in a time of gratitude or prayer
– telling a story…’remember the time when”
We may need to do these things 10x a day for the next 100+ days or we may need to do them only once ever. Each child will be different, take their lead, we need to be attuned to this and attempt to be patient with them and ourselves.

Summary
It may feel that the steps described require too much time and effort, particularly when we have so many other things to juggle, particularly if travelling, such as; packing, transport, bookings etc. But, by understanding the 5 steps and applying and practising them as appropriate to our children’s maturity and abilities it is possible to integrate them into becoming a regular practice and natural family culture that will save us time in the long run.
From personal experience and the observation of others, it seems in the West that we don’t take a lot of time to acknowledge the needs of children particularly when it comes to goodbyes and this can be hugely detrimental to the connection we need to maintain with our children, especially in times of strain that can be prevalent when travelling.
Children can experience compounding disconnections and a significant sense of powerlessness when we adults make all the decisions related to where we go, how long we stay and when and who we say goodbye to. It is often in response to this disconnection and powerlessness, which at a critical moment such as needing to board a plane, they decide to burst open their justifiable pent up frustrations and fears. Had we taken the chance to properly prepare them and implement the strategies available to us, prior to this spectacular display of raw emotion, it may have saved us a load of grief not to mention time and frustration.
By being prepared to work on our own practises of saying goodbye we are better positioned to assist our children through theirs, and together create a way forward that meets all our needs and provides an enjoyable & sustainable travelling experience.

writing

Writing in my blood

10 December, 2014

It’s scratched out in biro, a ten year old’s retelling of the naughtiest thing she’s ever done: France July 1992. Found a packet of cigarettes with my cousin Michael. We emptied out a bit of the tobacco in each one and put a fire cracker inside, the wick hanging out just enough to be set alight. We put them all back in the packet and left them back on the bench, and hid in a bush to watch.

~

My mum and dad moved house last month, and as they packed up their old place they kept coming across all these things I had written. Journals, poems on waste paper, secret holiday stories retold in terrible, teacher-despairing handwriting.

So when I Skyped them this week with a revelation I had had, “Mum! Dad! I am a WRITER!” they were all “OBVIOUSLY!”

Until a few days ago I thought I was writing as a function. To share information about something I thought was important – like parenty things. Or to make a living.

In fact, you might be reading this going; I’ve been reading your writing for nearly 4 years. You wrote a bladdy book, you numpty.

But truly, it has only been over the last few days that some clouds have cleared in my head and I am able to say, not “I write” but “I am a writer” and it sounds like the most nuanced of differences but it has been quite life changing. I’ve been walking around in a mystical thin place, where it feels anything could happen. I swear to God the closest thing it feels like is being head over heals in love.

If it was a different vocation, at this point I’d probably have to sell everything and change my life from top to bottom, to sail my ship or enter a nunnery. But nothing really has to change for me… though I think everything will. Because now I can give space and joy and freedom to this thing that is pumping like mineral rich, life giving blood through my veins.

It looks like I’m writing a list of all my favourite verbs while I’m supposed to be cleaning the dish-bomb-stricken kitchen but you can’t judge me: IT’S MY VOCATION.

I’ve heard it said that, if, as an adult, you want to discover what it is you are CALLED to do, think about what you were doing a lot of when you were ten years old. Before the waters got muddied with expectations and talk of earning a living. Were you building? Drawing? Designing robots. Do more of that. That’s probably going to tap you into your deep down self.

And, as my mum and dad reminded me, what I was doing was writing. As soon as I could, I was piling words on top of words. I had diaries with scented pages and little locks on them. After every page I’d write a note for my sister “I KNOW YOU ARE READING THIS PUT IT DOWN AND MOVE AWAY”. I had one whole diary full of swears, the worse swears I’d ever heard of.

When I worked as a campaigner, for six years, the bit I loved the most, the days I came home high, were when I had been bashing on the keyboard, telling a story that I hoped might spark an activist into being.

Even when I’ve been painting and crafting, I’ve mostly been dealing in words.

I’ve been writing my whole life. But just this week feel able to say I am a writer.

Do you ever get the feeling that the earth has just been yanked to a stop on its axis? And that all the things that were meant to have been tipped into your lap? That is this week.

I grabbed a book from the library shelf on Monday because I liked the typeface. It then kept me up until 4am because I had to finish it, and then, I swear to God, I was buzzing out the whole next day because it was so simple and funny and GOOD. (God bless Maria Semple, and also, maybe the extra espresso I had to help me get through the day after an allnighter, yknow?) It made me go, WOW STORIES ARE SO AWESOME, STORIES STORIES STORIES… (Also, Woo COFFEEEEEE!)

And then, in another act of random grabbiness I got out Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and scoffed her book into my hungry,epiphanic week:

“We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important. Otherwise, if they are not, we can drop a bomb and it doesn’t matter. . . Recording the details of our lives is a stance against bombs with their mass ability to kill, against too much speed and efficiency. A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp’s half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It is not a writer’s task to say, “It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a café when you can eat macrobiotic at home.” Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.”

And, then, THEN, I got a parcel from the UK, from Mothers Milk Books – two books, the lovely Musings on Motherhood and the Parenting Anthology, which is the collection of parenthood poetry and prose collected during last years writing prize. They are raw, honest, moving and sort of opened my eyes to possibilities. By now the words “WRITER” are burning like neon on the underside of eyelids.

(Teika is currently collecting entries to the next Writing Prize – so if you are saying all these holy yeses to life and want to be published, this could be a step. It closes on 18th January.)

So yeah. A bit of a self indulgent post, to break an 8 day blog break. I guess perhaps a barrier to owning this writing-as-vocation thing is a fear about the indulgence of it all.

It’s been a introspective, cataclysmic week, in a nothing changes, you probably-won’t-notice kind of a way. Apart from possibly slightly less blogging – I’ve begun spending my writing energy getting back in touch with a biro and notepad. This time not so much scrawling out stories about being naughty but just weird, trippy bollocks in the middle of the night, and in worse handwriting.

What were you doing age ten? Has your vocation been a slow burner? Are you a writer? Or something else? Do you think you might enter the Mothers Milk Writing Prize?

IMG_9100.JPGRamona took this shot of Juno and I- she even chose black and white. I’m a writer, she is an artist…

DIY, Thrifty

Easy DIY Cloud Shelf (Yurt Life)

2 December, 2014

I haven’t done much DIY for a while – but when I began imagining a shelf that looks like a cloud I couldn’t hold back. (Ah, bladdy Pinterest kinda beat me to it. Remember the pre-Pinterest days, when you believed you’d invented everything?)

Anyway this cloud shelf filled my dreams. It would be like a cloud, floating on my wall. AWESOME.

“Hold me back, man…Where’s the jigsaw? WHERE’S THE JIGSAW HOLD ME BACK.”

You know I love a novelty shelf.

Exhibit A – shelf made out of a vintage suitcase.

Exhibit B – shelf made out of a book.

Shelves are expensive, and so are brackets. Even second hand ones. So why not just DIY something out of stuff you have lying around that is also just a little bit more beauty than a plank of wood, too? Why not, eh?

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

It was my first time using a jigsaw, and, my word, those things are flipping cool as. I felt like the world was my oyster, with that in my hand. I just pencilled the shape of a cloud onto a bit of MDF and then flipped the switch and buzzed it out. I started nervously and then I could see the bumps and turns forming under the saw. Ten minutes later I was holding a cloud in my hand.

*God complex*

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

Once I had the cloud shape – drawn so that the open bit fitted perfectly onto an existing box I had (an old wine crate would actually be ideal.) I then glue gunned it on. Because the cloud shape is just a facade it really doesn’t need a sturdier fixing than that. Glue gunning it also meant I avoided having nails on show. A few licks of  white paint made it the perfect canvas for my brightly coloured shelf occupants.

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

I used wire around the box to hang in on the trellis of the yurt. But you could equally just hang in on a nail.

cloud11

Then I filled it with my favourite little bits and pieces.

There is no coming back from this. Jigsawing out a shelf for every whim and fancy. A shelf representing every one of my favourite things. I could make a rainbow shelf! A shelf like a fox! A GOSH DARN FRIED EGG SHELF!

And I know I will never have a plank of wood for a shelf again.

Thrifty

Everything I know about a Thrifty, Ethical, Handmade Christmas

28 November, 2014

There they all are, popstars with that winsome, pouty, tragic look: “Do they know its Christmas time at all?”

They could be singing it about me. Or every other English expat sitting out here on the other side of the world.

(Sorry Bob. And, um, Africa, I guess. Although that song is a teency bit demeaning, though, no? Anyway, gosh. This is just a frivolous festive post, okay? Not a discussion about the White Saviour Industrial Complex…)

Because: no! It totally does not feel like Christmas while I am getting sunburnt weeding the sweetcorn patch or watching my daughter and her mates decorate a stick of bamboo stuck in the sand on the beach in lieu of a pine tree embedded in snow.

(I’m not really complaining though, really, honest…. although I do love to rock a vintage Christmas jumper… but the sun is nice and all, of course…)

The fact of the matter is though, I haven’t been thinking too much about festivities really. I do mean to step it up a notch next week.

I have, over the last few years, however, thought an awful lot about Christmas. I thought I’d share all the favourite things I’ve bashed out, in a timely way, so you can crack on with them as advent begins.

1- This advent calendar was such a pleasure to make, and such a joy to look at. I can’t wait to pull it out again on Sunday and fill it with poems and jokes and prayers and sweets and dreams and thanks. (Another blogger helping me put more thought into Adent is Sacraparental with this 76 advent ideas post.)Alternative Handmade Advent CalenderBeautiful Handmade Advent Calendar with pockets

2- A post I wrote last Christmas, with a lot of help from the whole of Facebook and Twitter, has gone kind of crazy. It is Sixty Great Gift Alternatives to Toys... and it is truly awesome. (Totally allowed to say that as only a few are my own ideas!!) It is packed full of cool as present ideas for kids, that don’t include filling up their bedrooms with more plastic crap. Share it around your family to inspire them! Find it here.

3- These homemade cinnamon Christmas birds are yummy smelling and fun and beautiful and just the very thing to make to get into the spirit of things. Must make them immediately. Homemade cinnamon Christmas birds

4- However, I have sourced some awesomely cool fair trade gifts for children in my time. Here are my favourite ethical toys, if you’d rather. (Also, any Londoners reading- the Fair Christmas Fayre is on tomorrow on Oxford Street. No jokes, this is the ONE HUNDRED PER CENT BEST PLACE to buy every single gift for everyone. More details here.)

5- My Top Tips for a thrifty yet awesome Christmas are here. Hey, look. If there is one thing I know, it is how to enjoy life and not spend any money. I reeeeeeeally believe we need a new kind of Christmas- one that doesn’t drain the earth’s resources or our pockets.everything I know about a thrifty handmade Christmas

6- Possibly my all time funnest craft. Razmataz dinosaurs. And cowboys. They look perfect as placeholders for Crimbo dinner… or even with a little cotton around them to hang on the tree.DIY Christmas Glitter Figures

So much to make and do! Think I’ve just managed to convince myself it IS Christmas by writing this. Hoorah for my fickle, easily persuaded mind!

Would love to hear about any awesome ethical Christmas posts you have read recently, or any way your family celebrates a Christmas that is easy on the earth…

 

Parenting

Stuck in a Parenting Rut? 40 Unconventional Tips for Finding Your Mojo

25 November, 2014

We woke up grumpy yesterday. Not just on the wrong side of the bed, but the wrong side of the stratosphere. Ramona was snapping at me, I couldn’t appease her. I was getting impatient, Juno was clinging to my knees like moss on a log.

I plonked on the sofa and looked at the clock. 8.05 A.M. EIGHT OH FIVE AM?!? Give me strength.

“Shiver my timbers, children o mine. We are grumpy. Can you think of anything we can do to shake these blues away?” Without even a moment’s pause Ramona said “Have a bath, put my pyjamas on and bake chocolate biscuits.”

So, that is what we did. (Well, we tried to make biscuits but we got all maverick, slopping in some milk, and then it turned into a cake which meant we then made butter icing and shook sprinkles all over and then we sat down and ate the whole thing ourselves. It was decadent and perfect.)

And that good mood has lasted us a solid 24 hours.

It was however, the first time Ramona has been able to identify and articulate her own fug remedy. And I’m definitely crap at soothing myself out of a mood. It made me want to make a list of all the potential mood lifters for families who encounter that stuck in a rut syndrome. (A list! Yes, a list will solve everything!)

It goes without saying, that the first steps for cranky kids and cross parents is validation. Everyone needs to know it is okay to be angry, grumpy, sad or to have rubbish days. Children need to hear that their big feelings are accepted and that there is room for their bad selves. That is unconditional parenting.

But when bad moods are due to disconnection, or getting in a cycle of bad communication, or simply feeling stuck in a rut as a parent, there are some things that we can do in order to get through it, to reconnect, to laugh our socks off and feel at peace again.

So, with the help of marvellous Lulastic readers on Facebook (come and say hello), here are FORTY ways to re-connect, shake the grumps, and start having fun.

Forty ways to find your parenting mojo again

Madness
We have always relied on a little bit of the ludicrous to break a bad mood.

1 Dance. We will stick on the loudest, bassiest, most fun music we can find (actually, we have a playlist for it- Grumps Begone) and then we just GET DOWN. Reader, Lorella says these mini discos always start with this favourite song.

2 Facepaint. A new face, a new mood. I have a whole bunch of face painted faces in an album on my iPad and we chose one of those and rock our animal selves for a while. It normally ends in Ramona painting my face in her signature style- red all over.

3 Fancy Dress. We all tumble into the dress ups and become flamboyant mermaid ninjas.

4 Pots and Pans. LOUD NOISES. We bang and crash them and and chant and shout a sing and let it all out in a rhythmic way.

5 Roar. A reader explains that they let it all out with a lion roar. I very much like that sense that our bodies can perfectly capture our feelings- if we are feeling fierce we can BE FIERCE.

6 Epic den. In your lounge, as big as you can make it. The perfect spot to sit out chicken pox. See Tinker Studio for diy teepee inspo.

forty ways to reconnect with your children

7 Pulling faces. Bex and Missie Lizzie both rely on face pulling contests. It is silly and fun and will end in giggles, but perhaps more importantly it involves eye contact- one of the fundamentals for reconnecting.

The great outdoors
The outdoors, isn’t it great? It is the one stop shop for the irascible. Readers share about the almost immediate impact of soaking in Vitamin D on moods.

8 Find a spot of grass, your lawn or a patch of park, throw down a thick rug and lie on your backs and watch the clouds. Spot the dragons and alligators and candy floss. (That last one is WELL EASY.)

9 Pack a picnic and eat outside. On your balcony, at the beach. A picnic, for us, involves no caramelised onion tarte- but a can of sweet corn and a can of tuna, and crisps with which to shovel them in.

10 Find a place to run and race and leap about. After running races we can usually be found collapsed in a heap of giggles. Mary says “Sometimes you just the grumps! And kids need to understand that people have mood changes, bad days, sad days etc and that its ok to feel that way. Love support and time and then an epic round of puddle jumping and tree climbing followed by lots of hugs.”

11 Follow My Leader is also a temper shifter- and particularly ideal if a child’s anger comes as a result of feeling powerless.

12 Teddy Bear’s Picnic… All the cuddly toys shoved in an ikea basket, plus a packet of hobnobs. A tree to sit under= winner.

13 Barefoot babies. Whatever the season, shake off those shoes and socks and connect with the earth beneath your feet. Sarah says “We go outside and walk barefoot on the grass – grab some of that great earth energy!”

14 Go to your local beach, woodland or river, whatever the weather. Victoria says “We did it a couple of weekends ago in the rain and sat on a grey pebble beach having hot soup out of a thermos & eating cheese & tomato sandwiches…”

Water
A wise old sage once said “Cranky kids need to get in the water”. Find a way…

15 Bath. You have to turn the taps on, and then help your child in the water and stuff. (Hehe. It is so easy, but it is our absolute first resort.) Crank the connection up by getting in yourself and washing each other’s hair.

16 A colourful bath. Depending on the depth of the bad mood, you may need more help. We stick a few drops of food colouring in to make it extra awesome. (Um, in case you are wondering, and you don’t have food colouring on hand, sliced up beetroot also works a treat…)

17 Bath paints. They are crazily simple but combine the pleasures of being in water with being messy and creating something. Recipe here.

18 Pool. If you aren’t the irritable one than consider a swim at the pool. If you ARE the irritable one STAY AWAY. Those tangled cossies, sweaty legs, pubes stuck to your feet will be way, waaaay too much.

19 Water play. Perhaps you need five minutes to hide in a room and east your secret stash of maltesers. Get out the pots and pans again, several towels, and let your kids have a riot on the lino. Thalia says “Outside water play. ‘Go and get drenched. Sure you can take your soft toys…’

Eat

Speaking of secret stashes… Kids need to know that comfort can be found in eating. Ha, I jest. Sort of. Hey, no disorder is going to come of pulling out the pizzas at times of immovable grizzliness. (Don’t quote me on that.)

Anyway, anyway…. LOOK, PIZZA!!!

20 We have saved the day with DIY pizza. I don’t know what it is about it, but my children absolutely love the awesomeness of designing their own dinner. (Which we have sometimes eaten at 3pm.) Ramona’s speciality is with sprinkles of popcorn.

21 Get an ice cream. This is probably our second resort… It involves a famous chain that prey on the whole word with their scary clown man and addictive sugary substances with extra msg…. One I avoided for TWO DECADES. Then I had kids and realised that their ice creams cost 30p and if you go through the drive thru YOU DONT EVEN HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR. OR, THEREFORE, YOUR PYJAMAS. 60p buys both my children so much happiness- I actually feel like it is US exploiting THEM.

22 Chocolate cake! Or biscuits. (Whatever.) Eating something so rich, on the best china has an opulence that feels like a snatched magic moment. (*Maggggic moooooments….*)

23 A chocolate platter. Bring it all out man. Come on…Help the kids think that they have struck gold. You will love it too, and that is partly what the list is for. Finding things that will lift the mood of everyone. It’s legit, anyway. There is Valium in chocolate… I mean endorphins…. Or oxytocin…. Or something….

Make a plan

If you are lucky you might also have time to execute it….

24 We have planned lantern works for the evening…. We made lanterns and then went for the most basic little stroll carrying our lanterns as soon as dusk settled.

25 We have planned movie nights, with tickets and bags of popcorn.

26 We have planned, and done, treasure hunts. For preschoolers, they actually enjoy the planning as much as the hunt. Ruth says “Sometimes I’ll make up a treasure hunt and leave clues around the house.”

27 We have planned camping trips… Making lists (they fix everything) of what we will do and what we will need to take.

It is about dreaming… Of thinking of another day, a different day.

Get your needs met

If you, as the parent, are not coping, do something immediately that will give you hope.

28 Phone a friend. Share your sadness but move on to happiness. Discuss your real feelings, but take a moment to remember some things you have to be thankful for.

29 Dream of sea wind. Plan a trip for your own mental health. Perhaps you all need to get away for one night in order to feel the sea wind in your hair.

30 Book it an afternoon in. Email your other half and discuss an afternoon in the next week that you are going to book in in order to go solo to the cinema.

31 Swap your kids. Call your friend and organise a child swap for the very next day… You have two kids while the other rests and then swap.

32 Start a jar of awesome. My friend was telling me about her friend (it sounds like an urban legend, but I’m sure it’s true) who has a jar of awesome. Every single day she puts something in there, either a little note of something she is thankful for or a trinket to remind her of something special. And then whenever she feels blue she raids the jar, for something to give her the warm fuzzies.

Stop

33 Cancel. Can you cancel the appointment, quit any agenda? Swap the dentist for a trip to the beach. Sometimes these decisions feel irresponsible… But they can be the key to happiness.

34 Hands Free. Adele says “Recently what’s helped is me forcing myself not to look at the phone or computer for the whole day or at least most of it. I’ve realised that my being distracted makes us ALL grumpy.” THIS. SO MUCH!

35 Quit the now, for a few moments. I love this one from Becca “Looking at baby photos with them. Remembering that innocence and vulnerability – that we are the caretakers of (hard to remember at times of extremis.)

36 Stop hanging out together. Ha. You know, as much as possible. Adrienne says “Making ‘cubbies’ out of overturned chairs, blankets, under beds or tables, wherever. Separate cubbies for each child (and even for mummy) if we’re all getting scratchy. I realised when my children were quite young that they are all introverted and time alone is really important for each of them. I tried to help them identify their feelings when they were overwhelmed by too much people – and I would ask them ‘do you need some time by yourself?’ NOT as a punishment but as an option for them to choose.”

Emergency Supplies

Sometimes, if we are on our way home and the girls and I are cranky pants I will pray that there is a package from my family awaiting us. Well… Better than God, or my family:

37 Secret Parcel. The next time you find something awesome in a charity shop, be it a box of fuzzy felts or a puzzle. Squirrel it away on top of the wardrobe for when you need a trick.

38 Unknown craft materials. A tiny packet of new modelling clay, a new stamp, some stickers. Something small and as yet destroyed turned into art will give you a breather and your children some fun.

39 Unseen fancy dress. Again, it is all about the stealth supply. The next time you see a flouncy dress in a charity shop, tuck it away and pull it out when you are down in the dumps.

40 ideas for reconnecting with your children

40 The parent’s stuff. Oh yes, I have been known to willingly hand down to my 18 month old an entire bits and bobs draw so that I can cook dinner. Some people call these “treasure baskets“… I call it “the things I don’t have a home for draw”- key rings, touristy fridge magnets (things usually sent in a parcel from my family), the camera case, a lighter… (Jokes.) You get the idea. Grown up stuff… They love it.

BONUS FEATURE!!!

The Four Healing Salves

I heard today of this ancient shamanic concept and feel it is a perfect one to remember, particularly for those of us for whom these bad days happen all too often. I hope it isn’t cultural appropriation to share it with you.

There are four activities that, if we can incorporate them into our weekly rhythm will keep us whole. I see that nearly all of them are present in the above list in some way, so they have a beautiful restorative impact too.

Singing. Be it listening to music, or belting out anthems on our way to work, singing releases all sorts of goodness for our soul.

Movement. Busting the moves, jiggling at the lights, yoga or sports.

Story. Being enthralled in the magic of a story, phoning our friends simply to share stories, catching up with people.

Silence. Sitting on the beach with the whisper of the wind, twenty minutes of meditation, stilling our minds as we cuddle our children to sleep.

How are you doing with those? I see these salves as an invitation to self care, to meet the needs of my own soul so that the next day I can get covered in facepaint whilst dancing to the Monkey song and stuffing cake in my gob at a Teddy Bear’s picnic on the beach.

I really believe that we don’t have to get stuck in a rut – that we all have the power to change things. I reckon these ideas could help break the cycle of disconnect, get you all laughing and rocking your awesome parenting mojo again.

Do any of these work a treat for your family? Do you have any other suggestions? As always,I looooove to hear from you…

No Poo, Thrifty

No Poo: 20 Surprising Results of Giving Up Shampoo

18 November, 2014

I was lying in the bath the other night, immersing my hair in the hot water (not as relaxing as it sounds- I’m a mother, you know? I had an 18 month old sitting on my tummy face planting on to my boobs and a four year old up the other end balancing rubber ducks on my knees) when it occurred to me that my hair is taking a really long time to get soaked through.

Like water off a ducks back, it was taking almost half a minute to penetrate my hair shafts. I concluded it is because my hair is so strong and healthy now, each strand so perfectly encased with magnificent sebum, that it was protecting itself against the elements…My hair  has become the elite samurai warrior of hair.

It made me wonder about all the extra, often unexpected results of giving up shampoo. I asked on my Facebook page what people have discovered their hair doing since going No Poo, and I loved hearing all the curious side effects…Giving up shampoo - unexpected benefits

One thing people don’t expect is that No Poo will actually make their hair 10 million times better (I actually did the maths, of course) than when they were using an expensive shampoo:

Soft Hair
“Soft as butter” Megan

“My hairdresser commented on how incredibly soft it was.” Katherine

“I have soft, strong non oily hair.” Helen

Voluminous Hair
“My hair is getting thicker and voluminous without the chemical cocktail of shampoo.” Ayse

“I’m finding my hair is thicker” Katherine

“The thickness and volume is great and I find my hair not only is harder to wet but also takes longer to dry.” Kathy

“I went No Poo at the start of Sept and my hair is so much softer and has heaps more body than it had previously. It was always limp and flyaway before so… WooHoo!” Janine

“Just lately my hairdresser told me she had thinned out the sides a bit (I have short hair). NEVER happened before.” Magdelene

Manageable Hair
“Became easier to manage and stopped depositing itself all over furniture/clothes/bedding. ” Ella

Shiny Hair
“I switched from shampoo to baking soda about a month ago and my hair is healthy and shinier than ever.” Laura

“Hair is long, thick and shiny.” Heather

“I switched from shampoo to baking soda about a month ago and my hair is healthy and shinier than ever!” Laura G

Vibrant Hair
 “I also think my natural color is more vibrant.” Bree

Hair is growing like fury
“My hair is growing like fury! ” Heather

“I think I am actually growing more hair?” Molly

People are discovering their hair actually changes, in texture and shape – often times into exactly the hair they want. Personally, I have always had hair as straight an limp as an arrow. A few months after giving up shampoo it got the most lovely wave. HURRAH!

Straight Hair
“My hair is straight! It’s always been unruly and wavy but now I don’t need to use straighteners ever.” Charlotte

Curly Hair
“No need for product to emphasise curls…love it!” Megan

Tangle Free Hair
“I find my hair is incredibly easy to brush all the time, no matter what i’ve done with it!” Rebecca

I found quite quickly that giving up shampoo had enormous benefits for my skin. Spots I have had my whole life, on my face and shoulders disappeared:

Goodbye Acne
“I stopped using shampoo about 3 months ago and I also decided to stop washing my face with anything too. I’ve suffered from acne most of my life and although it’s been a lot less severe as I’ve got older, and since I’ve had children, my skin is truly the best it’s been for a very long time (people have commented on it – even my Mum, so it must be true!!)” Maddie

Goodbye Eczema
“My husband and son both had eczema but since our whole family of 5 has gone poo free they no longer have eczema!!” Bree

Goodbye Warts
“I had a wart on my finger for at least 4 years. Within two weeks of using baking soda instead of shampoo the wart completely disappeared!” Charly

Goodbye Styling Products
“I love the ‘stiffness’ and volume of my hair with no poo, it’s what I used to have to use 2 or 3 diff products for.. (Wax, mattifying powder, and hairspray..) Now it’s just my natural state.. SO stoked to discover my desire for that texture wasn’t stupid- it was exactly how my hairs meant to be.” Maryanne

Goodbye Cluttered Shelves
“My unexpected side effect has been a new obsession with the labels of beauty products, I’m running everything down and switching to coconut oil and bicarb combos. So the bathroom clutter is disappearing too!” Heather

Goodbye Itchy Scalp
“I was getting an itchy scalp with normal shampoo since going poo free my scalp is itch free and my hair feels lighter and just more healthy” Bree

Goodbye Flaky Scalp
“No more dry patches on my scalp!” Molly

“I have significantly less dandruff and my hair looks less dull.” Caitrin

(Hello, Flaky Scalp)
“Why am I getting dandruff for the first time in my life?” Sarah (A few people also mentioned getting dandruff so I did ought to mention it! It is quite common in transition, as the scalp gets used to not being assaulted by toxins! I cover this in my No Poo ebook Happy Hair – I suggest using a rosemary herb tea amongst other things.

And then there is the sense that being shampoo-free is one way we can step more lightly on the earth. I am sure the No Poo movement is part of a wider, ecological movement:

Hello Eco Warrior Credentials
“I am thrilled at minimising all the plastic packaging that store bought hair products are contained in.” Ella

Hello Festival Happiness
“I’ve been shampoo free for about 4 years now, and just love that my hair always looks great! Go to a 8 day festival – no worries, hair looks same as ever!”  Jessica

Do you have any other unexpected side effects from giving up shampoo? Would love to hear from you. 

PS If you are thinking about giving up shampoo do check out my super thrifty ebook – it has everything you might possibly need to know about beginning this journey!

Thrifty

20 Amazing Second Hand Gift Ideas

11 November, 2014

When I was a teenager the BIGGEST insult you could hurl at someone was to say they got their clothes from Oxfam. Seriously, I lived in fear that someone would discover it was my favourite shop. HAHAHA. I used to sneak in so furtively, glancing around to make sure no one saw me enter, coat pulled up around my face. And then I’d say I found my vintage Lee flares at Miss Selfridge.

And now, here I am… the proudest Oxfam lover on the planet. It is genuinely one of the things I miss the most about living in NZ! (Also, like, my family…) Oxfam Online especially is one of the best places to buy vintage these days. The money goes to support incredible projects in the developing world AND you get a bargainous bit of antiquity.

Sheesh, if they had Oxfam Online when I was younger there would have been absolutely no need for me to don that big nose and moustache disguise just to go shopping.

Imagine how much less strain on the earth Christmas would be if we could whole heartedly embrace second hand gifts, eh? WELL…. to help things along I have sacrificially spent the entire morning on the Oxfam shop looking at every beautiful vintage item on there…. and here are my top picks. Beautiful Secondhand Gifts from Oxfam

HOME
1- Mix and Match Crockery – like this beautiful Minton Bone China Plate… So many lovely tea cups and saucers when you hit up the excellent search function.
2- Hand Crocheted Blankets – such an array of colours.. this one is my fave
IMG_1259.JPG
3A perfect small vintage tin… I have a collection of these sitting idly on my shelf. I fondle them.
4- Antique Kitchen Ware – HEllO, these scales….
5- Retro Picnic Ware – odds and ends of yellow melamine? Yes, please! *dies of love* (It has taken me forever to build up our little collection of melamine…)

BOOKS
6- Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches - the perfect book for the crafter in your life
7- The complete book of Kites and Kite flying. They have a huge selection of hobby books for kids too.
8- They have every kind of vintage penguin edition, in good nick too, for a total bargain. Absolute classic pressie…

WEAR
9- They have a tremendous collection of vintage dresses for the more flush of you. This one is a 1950’s, hand embroidered frock. I am a bit in love with it.
10- Not all their retro gear is dear though. I spotted this INSANELY AWESOME retro jacket and it is a snip! Oxfam Vintage Jacket
11- The yellow jacket pictured is a vintage jacket from their Pop Art Pallete section. Search “Pop Art Palette” for some of the most glorious, fairly reasonably priced, colourful wears you’ve ever clapped your eyes on.
12- They also have lots of modestly price retro- style very glam evening wear…. *dreams of having an occasion to wear this*
13- And an absurd array of fun festive jumpers if you are deciding to jump on that marvellous wagon this Christmas.

(Oh rats, now I have basically just begun browsing the whole shop for things I love… Ahem. Let me get back to the gift guide for YOU.)

CHILDREN
14- The children won’t care if a toy is vintage of not- but you get the satisfaction of giving a styley, eco gift!! See this cool, colourful retro pack of Dominoes (you could take it to the next level and turn them into fridge magnets with this guide….)
15- Hi there, fun, vintage jigsaw!
16- Sweet and dreamy (and only one or two that look a bit terrifying) vintage dolls…
17- They have a crazily adorable stash of children’s vintage wear too

HARD TO BUY FOR
18 – Browse their Ephemera category for such joyous finds as a vintage train whistle, vintage binoculars and ancient postcards
19- Vintage gloves are always a winner, you know it.
20- This last one is not vintage but deserves a mention as a brilliant pressie for the person that needs nothing more – particularly for people you need to buy a gift for but don’t know very well. Oxfam Unwrapped takes your money and gives an often life saving gift for someone who needs it very much.

PHEW! What an arduous morning, browsing their website and falling in love over and over.

If you are trying to do Christmas in a more ethical way this year please check out these links:
The London Fair Christmas Fayre – happening on Saturday November 29th on Oxford Street. Millions of eco and fair trade gifts under one roof.
Sacraparental’s awesomely awesome guide to world-changing gifts. So many ideas. (Also, a kind of Christian intro…)
My guide for non-toy alternatives, crowdsourced by readers, these are the most creative ideas for not buying more stuff!

Proudly partnering with Oxfam through Affiliate Links.

Featured, Parenting

Living the dream- two parents, four boys, one bus and the whole of New Zealand for the rest of their lives

6 November, 2014

We are hitchhiking on someone else’s dream at the moment. Friends we met at the very start of this year, when we were just a few weeks on this fair New Zealand soil, at the unschooling retreat in Foxton. (Going to that retreat was one of the best things we could have done, arriving new here. We made so many fast friends and felt like part of an instant tribe. We held the third unschooling retreat just down the road from our yurt last weekend- 120 unschoolers in the mountains…. Awesomeness.)

Anyway, just one of these families happened to be travelling around the country in a bus. Kind of like us at the time, but with double the children and with indefinite travelling plans, where as we were basically on a hunt for a spot to furrow down our wandering roots.

We kept connecting with Us In A Bus (it’s not actually their surname but you wouldn’t know it to hear us refer to them) through the year and on Monday we began a little holiday with them, our buses united on the road once again.

IMG_1258.JPGWe are having a bit of a lush time … Totally buzzing out on their nomadic lifestyle. It is helping us recall our hoon around Europe last year (I’m remembering swimming in lakes beneath beautiful sunsets and Tim is remembering banging his head a lot and not having anywhere to do a poo.)

I love Ange and Hamish’s dream, I am totally loving sneaking in with it for a bit. It is a dream fuelled by Lego, sand castles and espresso.

They had safe jobs, a house in a nice town, four happy boys. And then they bought a bus, and began roaming NZ, playing and learning together. Soon they discovered they loved it and sold their house, establishing the bus and the road as their only home. And now they are all happy.

Ange was explaining this morning the rut she felt stuck in before. Tied to a mortgage, no time for fulfilment.

It was when their youngest child was one, after a bout of health issues, that Ange realised that the isolation she felt was having a serious impact on her sanity. They realised that something had to change, if not everything. At that moment they began planning a path out. It took them a year but now they have the life Ange has always imagined was possible for them.

IMG_1256.JPG
Hamish, Ange, Will, Ethan, Micah and Arlo in a gondola (the word gondola totally cracks me up. Maybe because it reminds me of the word gonads.)

Ange describes wanting a community to bring their kids up with, and somehow, through the freedom of life on the road, they are discovering this. Communing with families all over the country.

They have found places to stay through online networks (like home education Facebook groups) and friends of friends of friends. Sometimes staying a night, sometimes two months if everyone is enjoying themselves.
They’ve had hitch hikers having a sleepover in their (tiny) lounge and have rolled out an extra bed for a visit from Nana.

The boys build stuff and play board games and draw and read and climb and dig and explore, Ange and Hamish taking it in turns to either play or work, running their online businesses with their excellent mobile internet and solar power.

Ange is the driver of their eleven metre beast, wrapping it around some of New Zealand’s gnarliest bends, and Hamish is in charge of meals with each boy choosing a favourite dinner to eat once a week.

In some ways their life is like every other large family’s- they eat around 5:30 each night, time is spent helping the boys navigate tussles, there can never be too many stories read to them, or enough biscuits.

But in other ways it is completely and utterly different. They are free to go wherever they want, they are together all day and all night, they learn from whatever it is they happen to be experiencing.

IMG_1257-3.JPG
Last night we parked up on a magnificent beach, putting our buses nose to nose. Right now I am typing this up, looking at the rain thrashing the window and the sun trying to zap the ocean but failing.

The school bus has just driven into the bay, tooting it’s horn frantically, as if trying to round us all up.

But the classroom isn’t for these boys. They are too busy playing for that…

It isn’t everyone’s dream- it is theirs and they have found a way to live it.

And for a little bit, we are living it with them.

Well… drinking their coffee and using their whizzy internet, at least.

Ps You can virtually hitchhike with them via their Us In A Bus blog and their Us In A Bus Instagram and their Facebook.