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Parenting

How to be a Vegetarian Parent

5 February, 2014

Now. You wouldn’t think I’d need a guest post on raising a vegetarian family, what with being a vegetarian since the tender age of 10 when my plate of sausages I’d ordered in the cafe came accompanied by a little plastic pig and I was traumatised into vegetarianism.

However. The second day of Baby Led Weaning with Ramona I came into the kitchen to see her having a little picnic with her older friends, who had dished out the sausage rolls they’d bought with them and Ramona was gleefully cramming them into her mouth! Ramona now opts for meat, meat and more meat whenever possible…. Although she happily tells everyone as she scoffs that “Mummy doesn’t eat animals!”

So. It is with great interest and delight that I have the wonderful Chris of Thinly Spread contributing to my How To Be A _____ Parent series today, all about her vegetarian family.

I’m delighted to be here on one of my very favourite blogs writing about one of my very favourite things! I have been vegetarian since I was 19 back in 1986 (eek!), my husband cast off his meat eating ways when he was 15 and our children have never eaten a morsel of anything dead. They are now 17, 16, 14 and 8 and are adept at resisting peer pressure, advertisers, well-meaning lunchtime supervisors, friends’ parents and teachers. So – how have we done it?

Thinly Spread’s Top Tips for Raising Vegetarian Children

  • Tell them why: We’ve always been open about why we don’t eat meat. Obviously when they were younger we spared them the gruesome details and just told them that we didn’t want anything to have to die to feed us, as they got older we talked more about the meat industry itself. Living behind a butcher’s has definitely helped with this one – seeing a whole dead pig being carried in on a bloodied man’s shoulder is far easier to connect with a life gone than a bit of meat, sanitised and wrapped up in cling film on the supermarket shelf.
  • Make it Easy: It isn’t hard to find veggie treats and sweets so they don’t need to feel they are ‘missing out’. The hardest bit for my youngest in particular is when sweets are handed out at school (on a fellow pupil’s birthday not just teachers chucking sweets at children) but he’s happy now he knows we will trot to the shop and get him a veggie alternative. They even make vegetarian marshmallows now which has made campfires and hot chocolate much easier!

Baking with Kids

  • Don’t be Too Worthy: Vegetarianism doesn’t have to be all hearty wholefoods and brown gloop neither does it have to be over complicated and time-consuming. Fill plates with colour and flavour and lots of variety think about texture, smell, flavour and appearance – vegetarian food looks so good!
  • Grow Your Own: It is so satisfying to pull a parsnip the size of a child out of the ground and then serve it up in a soup or roasted with sage for lunch. Picking sweetcorn cobs and then racing them to the ready boiling water to make the most of their sweet goodness is a memory maker. We have a very small patch but I’ve always made room for a few veg for the pot – it gives them ownership over their food when they’ve grown it from seed and is a fab way of introducing new vegetables to small children! Even a pot of parsley on a windowsill or some cress grown as a caterpillar to add to an egg sandwich delights small children.

cress caterpillar by thinlyspread.co.uk

  • Stick to ‘the Rules’ but…: This is the tricky one. Food rebellion is often a child’s first opportunity to flex his/her muscles and test the independence water. One of my children used to store all his food in his cheeks like a hamster and it took all my strength not to make a big issue out of it, another wouldn’t eat carrots for a year – the first is now in his late teens and wolfs down everything at phenomenal speed and the other eats carrots happily. I have tried to allow them freedom to manoeuvre telling them that it’s fine if they want to try meat at other people’s houses but that it won’t be cooked or eaten in ours – none of them have been tempted, so far!
  • Teach Them To Cook: I think this is important whether you are veggie or not. Giving children ownership over their food, allowing them to choose a recipe to cook and helping them acquire the skills to do so encourages them to explore and to discover new flavours. Mine take great pride in producing a family meal even if it’s just pasta and cheese. Cooking with love is one of life’s simplest pleasures and once they have the tools and techniques to drum up some dinner I can kick back and relax!

cooking with kids

I’ve tried to make vegetarianism just ‘what we do’ with no pressure, no drama, just quiet, calm normal every day life. As they’ve grown I’ve gradually introduced more information but made it clear that they can do with it as they wish. I’ve fed them with love with delicious cruelty free food and they are growing into caring, thoughtful adults before my very eyes. In the Autumn my eldest will spread his wings and fly and is contemplating veganism (mainly because he’s not keen on dairy – he used to projectile vomit after a yoghurt as a baby which was quite something to behold – he cleared a whole double bed with a stream of it once) and, at the moment, I can’t imagine any of them popping out for a burger. If they do, I’ll still love them but will bombard them with veggie lasagne, chilli, burgers, salads, soups and cake until they give in!

You can normally find Chris over at Thinly Spread where she blogs about family life and sometimes at her vegetarian food blog Life Is Delicious. She has written about vegetarian food and family life for various sites and publications and you can see some of her recipes on Great British Chefs.

Parenting

How to be a Spiritual Parent

9 October, 2013

We are trucking along with this celebratory “How to be a _____ Parent series” I am incredibly delighted to have Thalia from the fascinating, kinda lighthearted but also pretty deep blog, Sacraparental, talking about raising her family in a sacred sort of a way. I love how she discusses her spirituality in inclusive and accesible terms and she often prompts me to pause and ponder love, beauty and connection amidst the craziness of family life. ( I have loved each contribution to this series so far. If you missed them, check out the ones from the last few weeks- How to be a Feminist Parent, an Expat Parent and an Eco Parent. We have some flipping BEAUT ones coming up too…)

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Spiritual, eh?

It’s a word that’s often followed by ‘but-not-religious’ so it’s brave of Lucy to invite me, a Baptist minister on maternity leave, to comment. But I have a nose-ring and we co-sleep with our toddler, so that gives me some street cred, right?

Anna Maxted recently wrote a reflection on parenting for the Guardian, worrying about her secular family’s lack of ‘spirituality.’ She wants her boys to have a sense of wonder, a respect for religious tradition and a moral compass to develop empathy and character, but also a scientific worldview. She decided after some thought and research that all are possible, and I agree with her – none of those are mutually exclusive.

My own spirituality is based in the Christian tradition, but I’d like to make this post an invitation to consider a broader kind of spirituality in your family life, illustrated by how we do things in our family. I hope you’ll take it in the inclusive spirit offered, and find a point of connection that meets your family’s experience.

Stretch high

Have you ever been to a singing workshop, or a fitness class, or a yoga session, where you were encouraged to stretch your body to its fullest extent? Go up on tiptoes, extend your arms to the sky and out wide, maybe even poke out your tongue?

Use everything you’ve got. Stretch as far as you can. Don’t confine yourself to the usual or the obvious – in posture or in awareness of the world.

If being or becoming a ‘spiritual’ parent is something that catches your eye, here are some stretches to try to make the fullest use of your inner life, connect yourself in different ways to the wider world and help your kids to stretch high and wide, too.

Listen to your life

There’s more meaning in your daily life than might be immediately obvious. Doing the washing-up is an act of love towards your family, a chance to muse or sing while your hands are busy and a bringing of order out of chaos – it needn’t be merely a mucky necessity. Can you find meaning, purpose and connection to the wider world in your grocery shopping, gardening, accounts and nappy-changing?

One piece of the spirituality puzzle is mining your usual life, mundane and exciting, for all the meaning, connection and potential in it.

This might come through a spiritual or secular practice of mindfulness, through meditation or just through consciously looking at your life more carefully.

One of my favourite writers, Frederick Buechner, calls it ‘listening to your life‘:

I discovered that if you really keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even such a limited and limiting life as the one I was living on Rupert Mountain opened up onto extraordinary vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing your wife goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day’s work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly. . . . If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

Live out loud

You might be a pro at finding God in everyday life, or seeing the spiritual angle of your routines and choices. In my observation, many kids don’t notice this in their parents. Churches I have been part of are full of kids who would be astonished to know why their parents actually follow Jesus, because the subject simply hasn’t come up. If you want to model spiritual stuff to your kids, you’ll have to live it out loud.

We are developing language in our family to do this. When I see the first glimpse of sky in the morning, I instinctively, habitually, think of God’s goodness, which is, in the words of the Bible, ‘new every morning.’ But my son can’t know what’s going on in my head, or make these connections without help, so when we open the blinds in the bedroom in the morning, we say, ‘Good morning, Wellington! Thank you, God, for a new day.’

Similarly, as well as having ‘thank you, God’ routines for mealtimes and bedtime, we say ‘God speed that ambulance’ when we hear emergency sirens. When his dad leaves for work at the hospital, we call it ‘going to help people for Jesus’ to make the connection between work and spirituality obvious.

Writing this is reminding me to update our repertoire as he grows (he’s now 22 months old), to connect his growing empathy with an awareness of God’s love for other people and our repsonsibility to show love and care to friends and strangers.

He has picked up on our ‘bless you!’ when someone sneezes or coughs, so perhaps adding ‘God bless you’ when we talk about someone being sick or sad might be the next step for us. What about in your house?How to be a Spiritual Parent

Be part of a faith community

Together and alone, in company and in silence: most spiritual traditions have elements of solitude and elements of community.

There are huge benefits for all kinds of families in finding a community to belong to that supports your kids’ spiritual development.

A religious community, if it appeals to you, can offer educational support (mentoring, children’s programmes, group activities), practical help (meals for new parents, extra ‘grandparents’ for your kids, support for vulnerable families) and a shared context for exploring the sacred. For older children in particular, it is powerful to find that adults outside your family respect, believe or practise similar things.

Maybe, like Anna Maxted, you’d like your kids to develop a sense of wonder about and in the natural world. Joining an outdoors club or community as a family might help make this a regular thing in your life and surround you with other people to support your children as they explore the world.

It’s really important to our family that our son is surrounded by people other than his parents who will encourage him to thank God at dinner time, practise hospitality and kindness, read stories about Jesus with him and when he’s older, talk with him about their own experience of God. It’s hard to do this stuff alone.

Speaking of which…

Get yourselves some ‘godparents’

Whether ‘God’ is a word you use in your house or not, it can be brilliant to get your child a ‘godparent,’ someone who is explicitly given the role of encouraging them in their spiritual development. This doesn’t have to be a formal church arrangement, you can just ask a friend to be a special person in your child’s life, and define that in whatever way makes most sense to you.

Our son is lucky enough to have four godparents, two in each of our home countries. As well as thinking the world of him, this is the job we asked them to take on, in the words of the Church of England service:

[Minister:] The church receives this child with joy. Today we are trusting God for his growth in faith. Will you pray for him, draw him by your example into the community of faith and walk with him in the way of Christ?
[Godparents:] With the help of God, we will.

What would you want to ask a godparent to do? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Keep some rituals

I’m not much for routine, truth be told, and we have lived most of our son’s life as international nomads. But I am appreciating the daily rituals that are a necessary part of child-raising. It can be oddly freeing to have the anchor of young children in the house.

You may or may not eat or go to sleep at regular times (we don’t, really), but your kids will still eat, sleep and brush their teeth sometime, so you can attach small rituals to enrich those kinds of daily events.

We say ‘grace’ when we eat. At the moment my son just says ‘Thank you, God. Amen.’ But we’re just on the cusp of making it more elaborate as he becomes more articulate. I have plans of writing out a few family-friendly grace options to keep on the dining table. I’ll let you know when/if this eventuates (I’m sure Lucy has a crafty solution to make it gorgeous!).

Read and feast

As I said, my own spirituality is part of my identity as a follower of Jesus Christ. What Christianity offers beyond the kind of spirituality Anna Maxted seeks for her sons is a shared narrative of how the world works: there is a God who is bigger than our universe, who is revealed to us through Jesus Christ’s work in the world, and who connects with us directly now through God’s Holy Spirit.

If you identify with organised religion, either as a matter of personal belief or belonging, or as part of your family history, there are a few key things that can help connect your kids to it as well. Belonging to a faith community helps, of course, and the other biggies are helping your kids to engage with your tradition’s sacred writings and following the festivals and seasons of your faith.

The topic of children’s Bibles is a huge one, both philosophically and practically, and I haven’t yet tackled it online. But I can tell you that I have bought over a dozen copies of The Jesus Storybook Bible for special children of my acquaintance, and the biggest hits in the Jesus genre in our house are a lift-the-flap book called Who Am I? and a retelling of Daniel in the Lions’ Den that (this is the popular bit) has a dog and a cat sprinkled through the illustrations.

For older children, I’d make special mention of Joy Cowley’s The Easter Story and Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Jesse Tree.

As for festivals, well, who doesn’t like to party? We follow the church calendar, more or less, including doing a bunch of things to mark Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost.

So far almost all of these celebrations have been outside of a regular church community while we’ve been travelling – so I can confidently say you can participate in the rhythms of the year whatever your situation.

What do you think, friends-of-Lulastic? Does exploring spirituality in your parenting interest you? What do you do in your family that we could try? What are your best tips and resources to share? I’m very keen to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Thanks for having me, Lucy!

Babywearing

Six Tips for Staying Cool while Babywearing

18 July, 2013

Babywearing tends to attract a lot of stromments (comments from strangers, yeah.) Normally lovely ones like “She looks so snug!” and “What a little cutie!” – which is fair enough because, my,  this Juno bear does rock a sling like no other. All her rolls squidge in together so she looks like a stack of fluffy marshmallows with lips and eyes. However, the babywearing stromments have gone through the roof in this heat! One dastardly dude actually exclaimed “What the actual &*!@?!” at me today which I didn’t find especially polite so I bopped him one with my brolly (see below.)  I find I am explaining why I am babywearing to unfamiliars on a daily basis. Getting straight on to how it aids breastfeeding as well as nurturing vital neurological pathways soon sends ’em packing. Ha!

But, let’s be honest, it does get sticky, eh? Here are some ways to stay cool- I’d love to hear your own!

Buy a Brolly
This is the absolute number one tip of the millennium. Never leave the house without it. You have instant shade wherever you go for both you and babe. I did leave the house without mine yesterday as we dashed off to the seaside to introduce Juno to her two marvelous great-granddads. In order to go for a paddle I borrowed my granddad’s umbrella that hadn’t seen the light of day for years and we wandered around this gloriously bright sunny beach dripping cobwebs and spiders amongst the buckets and spades.Stay Cool when Babywearing Tips

Get naked
Juno hasn’t worn clothes for about two weeks now. In fact, she is so synonymous with naked babies that when a friend’s kid saw another nudey newborn she exclaimed “She’s dressed like Juno!” Of course, their skin is incredibly sensitive so I make sure even her feet are tucked into the wrap.

Choose your own clothes carefully
It’s such a pain we have to wear clothes, eh? Although I’d love to be just wearing my denim shorts and a tee shirt I find that having the belt and zip area alongside the belt of my wrap is all a bit aggravating and sweaty. I am choosing loose skirts and vest tops in cotton as it is the most breathable fabric out there.

Just add water
In a bottle, or one of those frozen ice pack things. Someone suggested this on the Lulastic Facebook page last night and it is so genius! It just goes between you and the baby, keeping your core temperature down.  You can also run your wrists under the cold tap, or put your cool bottle of water on your temples, to have an impact on your whole body.

Go down to the woods today
We have spent a lot of this week just sitting in buckets of water in the garden, venturing outside only once the afternoon cools, but one brilliantly chilled place we go is our little local woodland. Woods are the perfect spot for babies, kids and babywearing mamas as not only are they perfectly shaded but the roots and foliage all seem to absorb the suns energy out of the atmosphere. (See how I said “seems” – I have no idea how this works, I just know woods are like another planet in a heatwave. It’s the atmosphere and energy being absorbed and that, okay?)

Think about owning a summer wrap
There are lots of options out there depending on how much money you have. There are soft structure carries with specifically breathable panels. I have a really simple Calin Bleu gauze wrap which, although not as comfortable as my Didymos is so much cooler. Go for light colours too.

Those are the ways I keep me and my little marshmallow from melting, do you have any extras? Would love to hear them.

PS What a bummer it’d be if you missed a post of mine, eh? Follow through Facebook or Bloglovin or even just enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Parenting

23 steps to nurturing autonomy in our toddlers

25 June, 2013

We went to a pyjama party at the Science Museum last week. It was a VIP party, with just the one guest; Ramona. Obviously the thousands of other children and adults looking around the rockets didn’t get the invite- they were in school uniforms and daytime wear- ha! Suckers!

Was it embarrassing wandering around this crowded place with a toddler in her Number One Favourite and Best outfit of mismatched PJs, barefeet and carrying a cuddly toy? Not really. I have an incredibly high tolerance for public humiliation- I was just happy that they were clean on and that it wasn’t her second favourite outfit which is her birthday suit/ in the altogether/ au natural/ stark raving naked.

pjs

Ramona wears alot of peculiar things- a Spiderman top with a tutu, a princess dress with a Bob the Builder hard hat, wooly tights and a Hawaiian shirt. Our hand-me-downs come from a variety of places and it makes her fit right in with the local hipsters rocking their charity-shop chic. And I just don’t get involved. Since as long as she has wanted to we have been happy to let Ramona choose her clothes- for me it is just one of the steps we can do to nurture her autonomy.

A few weeks back a Guardian article Leave Our Kids Alone did the rounds. It was a snippet from Jay Griffiths’ book “The riddle of the Childscape” in which she describes the wild, uninhibited childhood of more primitive societies in a way that possibly made every parent in the UK want that for their children! Gangs of rambunctious children running together free through jungles pitted against our over cautious, often quite isolated experience where the metal confines of the playground provide our kids with their only taste of freedom.

We had a good discussion on my Facebook page (come and find us!) about it and concluded that nurturing this sense of freedom comes down to generating autonomy in everyday life. Perhaps this is especially important for us urban dwellers for whom letting our kids roam alone in fields is a pretty remote ideal.

I am fairly sure that the more autonomous a child is be the more likely that together the space you occupy will be a cooperative one. The more in control of some aspects of their lives they are, the less defiant in other areas toddlers will be.

Nurturing autonomy in toddlers

Here are the things we do to nurture autonomy for Ramona:

Ramona sets the pace for her own independence. The worst thing for our kid’s autonomy would be to force them in to it! We wait for cues from Ramona that tell us she is ready for something and then figure out how to help her work it out.

She wears the clothes she chooses. Once it became obvious she wanted to get involved in this area we gave her an option of two outfits but now she asks for specific things (mostly her Pirate pyjamas.) And most of the time she just chooses to be completely in the buff. We accept that completely just not outside the house.

We are stripping back the help we give her getting dressed. So far we are up to just putting her head through the hole in the tee shirt- she finds the arms. She can also put shorts, skirts and pants on herself- even if it does mean a few minutes of hopping about with two legs in one hole first!

We keep food in accessible places for her- either snacks on plates on coffee tables so she can help herself, or cereal in a cupboard she can reach, along with a bowl. Early on this did result in a few branflakes on the floor but we got there in the end. (And there would be a tidier way of doing this I am sure!) This not only allows her to be in charge of her hunger but also helps us avoid the massive blood sugar lows that generate tantrums.

We let her be the judge of what she likes to eat and doesn’t, and when she is full or not. We like her to try things that we are fairly sure she likes but we don’t make a big deal about it and we let her refuse to eat things (onions are the only thing i can think of!) We also really trust her decision to stop eating her meal. Sometimes she eats every scrap and has seconds and other times she’ll only eat a mouthful or so. There is a whole blog post I could write on this but I just don’t believe in mealtime battles or coercing food into our kids. I want our meal times to be a pleasure together, and for the rest of our children’s lives. And I’d be mad if another person tried telling me I wasn’t finished yet when I was!

We have organised our home so that Ramona can do or be wherever she wants. We keep laptops and things we don’t want her touching out of the way. This way we limit any interference with her movements. I just don’t agree with keeping precious things within reach in order to teach them “rules”- it is totally natural and instinctive thing for them to explore so we mustn’t set things up in order for them to fulfill a “naughty toddler” role!

Find a wild place! Make it your mission, search high and low, for somewhere you can get to where your toddler can just be herself and explore without any interruptions. It might be a fenced dog free area at a park, or a huge sand pit within the grounds of a child care centre, or a huge garden of a friend (these are our own wild places) – somewhere that you can sit and zone out while she enters “Flow”. Read this excellent piece by Nature Play on becoming an expert at this!

We don’t interrupt. This is quite a hard one as our default as adults is to give an opinion on our children’s activities! “OOh look, you are reading a book!” “Hey, great dancing!” If they are happy and engaged in something, just leave them to it, to be the boss of that activity and the feelings they are having while doing it.

We do this at the play ground too. It requires a determined shrug of the shoulders towards other parents who give off a “Why don’t you help her?!” kind of a vibe. But, unless she asks for it, and even then we sometimes just encourage  with a “Maybe try it this way”, we stay out of her way. If it is something high or tricky that Ramona hasn’t done before I stay within catchable distance but mostly I let her attack the ladders and nets with abandon. I’m fairly confident that unless the bad luck pixies attack (and they can attack in the most tame of circumstances; Ramona broke her leg falling half a metre!) kids are pretty good at working within their capabilities.

We give Ramona a say in what we are going to do during the day. “Park or garden?” “Hanging out with Ivy or Esme?” We are only just on the cusp of doing this but I hope it will become a habit for us, so that eventually the girls understand that they are a key part in our family decision making process.

Before people come over to play we give Ramona a chance to put some toys away that she doesn’t want to be played with. This gives her the sense that she has chosen the toys that we do all play with and avoids a bit of angst. We also allow her to choose when she is ready to share. If kids are tussling over a toy I ask the one who has it to say when it is the other kid’s turn. It sounds like a gamble, but 30 seconds in they will nearly always yell “Annie! Your turn!”

We create opportunities to help around the house and in the kitchen. She cut up the mushrooms the other day (they were a bit wonky but hey!) and stirs the rice. When we go off on our European trip I’m gonna get her doing the dishes *high fives* – our ceramic sink (HELLO? Who’s idea was THAT? Looks beaut but even Tim and I break one piece of crockery a day on it.) doesn’t really give her chance to do real washing up.

The authors of How To Talk So Kids Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (the greatest book by the way, every parent should read it!) have some brilliant suggestions too, some of which might work for older kiddos:

Let them make choices.  Turn everything into a presentation of choice. Rather than “Please take your medicine” make it “Would you like to takes your tablets with water or ginger ale?” Alternatively, if you think a forced choice isn’t much of a choice at all, present the problem and allow them to come up with the solution.

Show respect for a child’s struggle. Don’t help them out of it but verbalise the frustration. “That is quite tricky, it can be hard to do it by yourself.” Add some helpful information too “Sometimes it helps to come down the ladder backwards.”

Don’t ask too many questions. Sometimes being bombarded with questions is a parents way to connect but ends up with the opposite result. The often asked “Did you have fun today?” is loaded too – a child can feel the pressure to experience an activity a certain way.

Don’t rush to answer questions.  Usually when a child asks a question she has already done some thinking about the answer. Sometimes just encouraging the conversation is enough “Hmm, you wonder about that.”  Or asking them what they think, or repeating it back to them. The process of searching for the answer is as valuable as the answer itself.

Encourage them to use resources outside of the home. This allows them to be free from dependence on you and that there is a whole community of resources that can be tapped into. Have them ask the petshop owner their questions about animals.

Don’t take away hope. It can be too easy to say in response to a child’s yearning for, say, a horse “That’s ever gonna happen!” Allow them to dream and fantasize, trying to prepare children for the possibility of disappointment can deprive them of important experiences.

Let her own her own body. Avoid tucking in their shirt, rearranging their hair band, brushing dirt off. It is an invasion of their physical privacy.

Stay out of the minutiae of a child’s life.  “Sit up when you do your homework.” “Get your hair out of your eyes!” “Why are you doing that?” Just let them get on with it!

Don’t talk about a child in front of him, no matter how young he is. When a child hear themselves discussed this way it can make them feel like an object, a possession of their parents.

Let a child answer for herself. “Does she like having a baby sister?” A real mark of respect for the child’s autonomy is is to say to the inquiring adult “Ramona can tell you, she’s the one who knows.”

Show respect for your child’s readiness.  Express confidence in her ultimate readiness. “I’m not concerned. When you’re ready you’ll get into the water.”

Watch out for too many No’s. Some children experience NO as a call to arms and they mobilise their energy for a counter attack.  Alternatives to No include:  Giving information, accepting their feelings, describing the problem and giving yourself time to think.

Phew. What a list! I hope it might help you feel okay about living in a Western, urban society where our tots can’t run free with machetes. Your child can still experience the beauty of self-governance and the liberation of wearing PJ’s in inappropriate settings.

In what ways do you encourage independence in your child?

 

 

 

Craftiness, Thrifty

Recycled Hobby Horse

11 April, 2013

Kids are awesome eh, with their incredible imaginations. Whenever I bend down to pick something up Ramona doesn’t see her mummy bending down to pick something up-  she sees a horse. Struck by my horsey ways, she will immediately clamber onto my back and yell “GIDDY UP, CLIP CLOP!” impatiently.

It basically means I can’t pick things up any more. *gazes around at messy house in ambivalent resignation*

Ramona loves horses. As she grows her favourite animal species gets bigger too. A year ago her favourite animal was the Duck, I suspect in a year it will be the Blue Whale.

I have been thinking for a while of things I can do to help ease the arrival of the new baby. I am not sure we will do the “Baby bought a pressie” thing, but I have been burrowing sticker books and puzzles away as I find them at car boot sales in order to keep her happily occupied in those first few days.

I have been meaning to craft up a hobby horse for ages and felt this would be the perfect time to get on with it, so I can bust it out for Ramona’s enjoyment while I languish on the sofa in a constant milk-machine mode with the littlest one. Maybe if she has a little horse to ride my own back won’t be so tempting. Maybe I could even start tidying again. Pahahaha.
DIY Hobby Horse from recycled bits and bobs

I couldn’t believe how easy it was to do. I completely cheated and did the whole thing with my glue gun, I am sure I will have to come back and sew bits on eventually but it meant I got the initial prototype done within half an hour. Such a delightfully quick craft.

You need:

A leg/ sleeve/ sock
Stuffing (I used a manky old cushion)
Ribbon
Buttons
Lace or wool
A stick 
A bit of felt (I used a jumper that identically went in a hot wash)Recycled Hobby Horse Tutorial

To make this truly thrifty just find things you have around the house.  I didn’t have a sock I was prepared to sacrifice (see this lovely sock version from the magnificent Red Ted Art) so cut the leg from a pair of Ramonas old leggings, where the elastic had gone at the top. Anything could do – a sleeve from an old jumper would be ideal too. I didn’t want to buy another broom so instead used a rough bit of wood and then covered it by winding lace around it. I didn’t have red buttons so used counters from a half-lost game of Tiddlywinks. I didn’t have wool so curled lace on to the head to make the horse’s mane. Recycled Hobby Horse Craft

How to:

Turn legging inside out and sew the ankle end
Stuff with stuffing
Stick the stick inside
Bend a crease in the horses neck
Secure open end onto stick with string or glue
Wind ribbon around the point that the leggins meet the stick- keep going to bottom of the stick if wood is a bit rough
Glue on hair- either lots of wool or a bit of fabric like mine
Cut ears out of felt and pinch the bottom of it together to make them look more realistic
Stitch (*ahem* glue) ears on
Add eyes
Add ribbon to act as rein (this also keeps the head bent)

I love how every horse is going to be different. There are no measurements, just roll with it. Stick the ears and eyes on where you want, use bits and bobs from the house. Whatever you do it is going to look like some kind of awesome animal and your toddler is going to be stoked!

I am so keen to give this hobby horse to Ramona that I am willing this womb-baby to make an appearance – that is odd, eh?! Come on womb-baby!

Green things, Thrifty

A year without shampoo – FAQ’s answered honestly!

17 January, 2013

*UPDATE* Since writing this post I have written an ebook that covers everything you might possibly want to know EVER about giving up shampoo. And it costs less than a bottle of the good stuff!*Amazon Price- $5.56 My Price- $3.56 (2)

My last shampoo wash was exactly one year ago. I massaged the bubbles into my scalp and murmured “Fare thee well, small vial of hygienic, slightly toxic, luxurious liquid that maketh me skint, I know not when I will see you again.” And thus began my journey into No Poo.

I was on an every other day habit- sometimes stretching to 3 days but not without liberal use of God’s gift to humankind, dry shampoo. I was beginning to question the number of unknown substances coming into contact with my skin each day and I was continuing on my mission to pinch any unnecessary pennies.

I had heard of this “self cleansing” hair shenanigans several times over the last few years, and I guess I believed it, but not nearly enough to entrust my own locks into it. Does hair actually wash itself? It seemed like no one would be able to answer the question except myself, actually TRYING it.

And then, this curious part of my personality kicked in. My Ferris Beuller cells; the joy-riding, authority-defying streak that (fortunately) only rears its maverick head when someone tells me I can’t do something! The queerer and more implausible something sounds, the more I want to give it a go.

Giving up shampoo was suitably extreme, and only a dash anti-social!

And now it has been a whole year. A year of having great looking hair- with the odd mix of some greaseball days with chocolate running into my eyebrows at funerals thrown in.

I have given my suggestions for alternatives and have spoken about the highs and lows and getting started.  My one year “no poo” anniversary seems like a good chance to answer some of the questions I am often asked…
nopoo hair

Does No Poo hair smell? No. I even asked my sister who has an altogether more glamorous, less unkempt vibe than me and she said it most certainly doesn’t. However, if you were to really press your nostrils into my scalp you would smell HUMAN. We are a bit scared of that human smell I think.

What do you do instead of using shampoo? Once a week I give my head a good soaking in water, really rubbing my scalp, massaging my natural oils throughout my hair.  Once a fortnight I use a natural wash either from an egg or bicarbonate of soda or soapnuts.  (Follow this link for how to use them.) I use a tiny bit of coconut oil as a detangler (and for everything else on my body too, from moisturiser to deoderant!) And once every six weeks I do my whole head in organic Henna, to both dye my original mousey blonde and as a kind of deep cleanse.  So at least once a week it gets something, be it water, a hippy like natural wash or some Henna.

How long does No Poo hair take to get greasy now? It takes one week to get to the stage it used to get to after 2 days. However, this is still, after one year, increasing. I suspect when I am 50 my tresses will never know grease again.

Do you use conditioner? No. Every 2 weeks I rub a teaspoon of coconut oil (er, yeah, I buy it in bulk!) through the ends, this keeps it nourished. When it is knotty I use a small amount of Apple Cider Vinegar, watered down 1/5, and brush it through in the shower. But some people, particularly those with curly hair use ONLY conditioner, which is interesting…

Does No Poo get knotty? Yes. Honestly, it does. If you were diligent and brushed it every day it would be FINE. But I am lazy and the hood of my duffle coat is causing HAVOC, and I have a constant winter wrestle with an unwelcome dreadlock at the back of my head. I MUST brush more. I could up my Apple Cider Vinegar rinse, but I am content just rubbing a little coconut oil on the ends ever so often to detangle.

How long did it take to get used to No Poo? It took 6 weeks to get to 3 days without grease, 12 weeks to break 4 days no grease. However, I went cold-turkey for the first 2 weeks, and then used alternatives sparingly so I think this was quite a fast process. If you wean your hair gently onto more natural options it will take longer to get used to its natural oils and balance out its production of them.

Does No Poo make your hair grow faster? Actually yes. Genuinely. I think massaging the scalp, which is imperative for getting the oils to do their thing, really helps with growth.

What about styling products? I find my hair is a lot more pliable now, so I don’t use any. Except for when I am rocking a gigantic beehive– but the natural alternatives I use tackle hairspray perfectly well too. I am sure you could find natural styling products that could work with this way of life.

Can you use hair dye when you give up shampoo? I guess using toxic filled hair dye kind of defeats the object! But once a month I use an organic copper henna. I use it as a deep cleanse actually, as well as to get my hair this colour. I love it.

Has your hair changed doing No Poo? Yes, it is MUCH thicker. It used to be limp and thin and flat and now it has much more volume and is buoyant and even sometimes has a wave. *Waves hair around gleefully* “It’s the hair I’ve always wanted!” 

Will you do No Poo forever? Yes! I think so. I don’t see why not. I just see shampoo and conditioner as utterly superfluous now.

Is giving up shampoo cheaper? If you wean from shampoo on to some of the natural alternatives out there such as eggs and soapnuts, and continue to use them daily, or every other day, or even every three days, it is probably NOT cheaper at all! However, I use these sparingly, with water being my main Go To, so for me it is cheap as chips and as thrifty as you can get!

Is No Poo hard work? At the start, as you are finding the routine that works for you, it feels like too much bother. I almost gave up as I was thinking about my hair WAY more than I wanted to. But once you discover what works for you it becomes easy, and gives you a freedom from the tyranny of shampooing! Also, you have to massage your scalp, which can weary your fingers.

Did you have to look smart though, while you weaned off it? I actually began one week before I started my new job! What a nutter! At the beginning I wore lovely vintage scarves to disguise my damp-looking head and upped the smartness of my clothing as a distraction. But now you would honestly not think me a raving non hair-washing hippy in the boardroom.

Can anyone with any kind of hair do No Poo? Sure can.  I think it is easier for some folk.  People with thick curly hair will find this a BREEZE, I suspect. However, my lank, limp, thin hair has also been teachable. Sadly, there is no magic alternative that works for all hair. Every individual will have find the routine and the alternative that makes their happy, which is a pain, eh.

Do you know anyone else who does No Poo? At the start, no. However, over the last few months a few friends have begun and are reporting the same miracles! (After obligatory 1 month of panicked texts to me about hair that WILL NOT LEARN!)

Does No Poo make your skin break out? There is potential, if you have a fringe and you go cold turkey, so have a few weeks of grease, that it could impact your skin in a spotty kind of a way. I DEFINITELY suggest pinning your hair back off your face while you are working it out.

What other toxins have you given up? I try really hard to use vinegar and bicarb around the home, although we have a sneaky Mr Muscle for attacking stubborn stuff when we are in a hurry and someone has done a whopper in the shopper. (Lulastic: creating euphemisms since 2010)  I am still using soap as a body wash as I am working my way through a GIANT bucket I bought wholesale from the organics shop.  However, I am slowly but surely DETOXING my home. Goodbyyyyye, evil chemicals. I really buy into that phrase “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t rub it into your skin, or sniff it, or fling it around your house.” (You know, that really catchy phrase.)

What does your mother think? For a while, when I was in my late teens, I used to have thick black dreadlocks, made up of my own hair and also a bit of a wig I had found and my mum always used to say “You’ll never get married if you don’t wash your hair, Lu.” Fortunately, she was only ever joking and despite being a beauty herself has always impressed on us the importance of our inners rather than outers. What a legend.  However, I think she sometimes does wonder about me….

I still have one question left – you can take it if you want – have a question? Go on, ask anything…

If you REALLY want to give this No Poo thing a good crack, but are a bit nervous, please consider taking my online course where I can hold your hand and give you heaps of support. Students are finding the videos, interactive worksheets and forum incredibly helpful! And there is a 30 day money back guarantee if you don’t get anything out of it! Get started right away.

PS I’d hate for you to miss a post… do pop over and like Lulastic on Facebook.
And did I mention the book? The Ultimate No Poo book?
No Poo Book