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Parenting, unschooling

This is a “I’ve had an insect up my nose” kind of a day

16 July, 2014

I sort of feel like our current life can be just summed up in lists of insects. If you think every blog update about our life features more insects than strictly necessary you should try having a daily conversation with me. I pretty much just itemise the insects and the locations I’ve found them. “Cockroach. Sock.” (Well boring.)

It is the Numero Uno, possibly single, thing I dislike about our new, getting down with all the nature kind of living arrangement. We’ve been here four months now but I still get the uncontrollable grossed-out convulsions whenever a bug surprises me. The worst thing is the roaches. They are bush cockroaches, prolific less because of filth and more because our yurt is slap bang in the middle of an orchard. But they look far worse than the normal domestic cockroach. They have shiny black shells and can be as big as a grown up’s thumb. When they sit on the ceiling, the way our little lamp shines, they become monstrous, their silhouette doubling their size.

Ugh.

Places we have had cockroaches in the last week:
On top of my head
Up Tim’s trousers
Up the trouser leg of a guest

Also, other places we have had bugs:
Up my nostril (an ant)
In our bed (a granny bug)
Inside the coffee pot (a stink bug – the skunk of the insect world)

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I sweep and dust everyday.  (Yes, DUST! This from me, who was meant to dust the house as a child as my only household chore, and instead just used to stand in the middle of the room and squirt the spray so that it smelt as if I had dusted. Sorry, mum) We do the dishes and stuff. And don’t have piles of junk. But still, they march on in, as if they own the place.

Non-insect wise we pass the days in flurries of home/ farm activity. Lurching from play to tasks and to play and trying to keep it all as seamless as possible.

It is really winter here now. The nights are cold. As cold as I’ve ever known a night to be. I sleep with three woolen jumpers on, and three down duvets over all of us. Cosleeping is crucial not only for attachment’s sake but to stop us getting hyperthermic. I realise how solo beds are a modern invention- bought in with the luxury of efficient heating. Other bodies are the superior way to stay warm. (The bugs, understandably, realise this too.)

Ramona, at three and a half, is the bee’s knees. She bakes, three times a day. Half of it eaten before it makes it into the oven. Her imagination has exploded in a mushroom bomb of fantasy. Everything is a someone to her – elaborate games of hospitals with a box of screws.

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Juno is almost a match for Ramona, talking as much (most of it in a sort of Finnish. However, yesterday she shouted the milking cow’s name across the paddock, as clear as day. “STELLA!” she yelled. She says “Poo” for potty now which feels like it has heralded a cool new stage in our Nappy Free life) and climbing as much and eating as much and dancing as much. Whenever she hears any kind of beat she sort of vogues- striking these poses with such aplomb, bobbing her head to the beat.

Juno is also obsessed with insects. She vogues into a David Attenborough stance, on her belly, commando crawling closer and closer until her eyeballs can absorb every bit of the stomped-on roach or the still-surviving, slightly pulsating black stripe of ants.

Which is great, really. Because we have many. Far, far too many.

Nappyfree, Parenting

A Poo in a Shoe: Elimination Communication with a One Year Old

9 May, 2014

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty about elimination communication with a one year old!

One morning last week as Juno march-crawled past me (it is technically a crawl but it evokes the resolute marching of an army of fearless soldiers) I spied a bit of tell-tale poo on her little bare bottom.  I scanned the space around me but couldn’t spot a turd anywhere, I looked under her rocking horse (“Going on a poo hunt!”) and, with dread, on the sofa. No poo. Hmm. I had the quick senseless conversation only a pre-coffee mind can have with itself about Ghost Poos and then gave up looking.

About an hour later Tim bent down to put on his shoes and WOAH THERE! He got a bit of a fright because that missing poo? Well, that poo was in Tim’s shoe.  TIM’S SHOE!

Juno is one and we have been doing Elimination Communication (EC) since birth. Some people call it Nappy Free (I do too sometimes as EC is technically correct but creates much more puzzlement) but Juno has worn a nappy a fair bit more than Ramona. We’ve been travelling for so much of her life and when we have been in friend’s houses or in the car seat we have put a nappy on her. Elimination Communication One Year Old

In other ways Juno’s elimination communication story is different too.

By this time with Ramona we were able to say that we catch all poos in the potty and 9/10 wees. This is SO not the case with Juno. We have hardly any idea how many wees we catch – sometimes as little as 2 a day (normally the after sleep ones which are pretty much guaranteed.) And with poos, well Juno really LOVES to poo standing up. I guess it is the ergonomically superior way to do your business. But does make this EC malarkey a bit trickier!

We have also been on a bit of a journey with Juno on the body autonomy of a baby. With Ramona I grew in understanding of how important autonomy is to children – I began giving her every chance to be in control of what happens to her own body. It took a workshop from the magnificent Pennie Brownlee who talks on the Pikler Institute to really realise that this autonomy begins with a newborn. An example used is with nappy changes – the Pikler movement shows that it is possible to ask a newborn permission to change her nappy, and by the time they are toddling, to wait for them to be ready before changing their nappy. The nappy change can be a beautiful example of respect and connection, and should begin at birth!

This really resonated with me as elimination communication with a one year old – or any age from birth! – is really about believing that babies can communicate their needs to eliminate from birth and Pikler insists they can communicate their readiness for a change.

So we are far more hands off with Juno – if we see she needs to go we always offer the potty but we don’t insist up on it-  unlike with Ramona where we would sing and dance to keep her on there! We feel it is Juno’s right to chose where she wants to go, and in time, we know she will chose the toilet or potty. Elimination Communication

Juno has been SO conscious of doing her poos and wees- I think spending enormous amounts of time without a nappy on is key for this. She has responded to key words for months and months and has been climbing on the potty to do her business (every so often) since ten months old.  She also helps wipe up her own wee (by choice, not in an angry “You did it, you clean it!” kind of a way!)- and if Juno does a wee with her nappy on she brushes the floor in front of her as if to say “Look, it isn’t THERE?!”

We are miles more relaxed with EC this time round (hey, with EVERY PARENTY THING second time, eh?)

I think with Ramona we REALLY wanted it to “work” so that people didn’t think we were completely bonkers doing it. Where as with Juno we KNOW it works (they do communicate their needs from birth, and they can be in normal underwear from a very early age) so feel less pressure to prove it and can just enjoy all the benefits of it. Such as ease of pooing for the baby (I think some baby angst is to do with not being able to find the best position for pooing) and way less pooey nappies and much more awareness of bodily functions.

We are really lucky to live largely in an environment that is really supportive of natural parenting things like this and I think this really helps. We can just roll with it and we don’t feel any need to follow up every missed wee with an apology and excuse “So sorry! We do normally catch all her water works!”

It makes me wish a little for a much more supportive society for this kind of thing. Where bare bums weren’t gasped at with disgust and where even the thought of baby wee is terrifying. (Surely, SURELY, giving a baby a chance to wee by a bush is the same as a dog doing a wee wherever it likes in public?)

I do feel that more people are getting on board with the EC thing. Over a couple of years the London group I used to be a part of grew tripled in size and I’ve met a few women already in NZ who do it.

I think as more parents experiment with nappy free time we will become much less afraid of our babies BUTT CRACKS (as Ramona insists on calling bottoms) and much more used to the odd poo in a shoe!

(Hehe, not really, I do see that that isn’t a very compelling or ambitious vision for society.)
PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!

PIN FOR LATER: Elimination communication with a one year old baby

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping

Cosleeping Practicalities

10 February, 2012

Co Co Co Cooooosleeping (To the tune of Sh Sh Sh Shoooooe people. Literally though, how amazing was that programme?) (ARRGH IT’S ON YOUTUBE! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!)

I have posted recently about our experience of cosleeping; some of the pros and cons , wondering about the fear that drives some people away from it. Whenever we mention cosleeping we are often met with a barrage of questions about the practicalities around it. So I wanted to cover some of those a bit.

Where?
We have a maHUsive bed, like a triple x, super who-ate-all-the pies-king, which we rescued one time. It has saved the night. We can all fit in there with loads of space. However the three of us inevitably end up all squished up at one end. Ramona and I just like snuggling up with Tim. Tim isn’t such a fan.

Ramona tends to sleep in the middle apart from when she nurses all night and then I need to switcheroo. So she is closer to the edge, but she’s only ever fallen out a few times. (Haha, kidding.) (Kind of.)

Naps
Until Ramona was about 9 months old she used to take all her sleep on me, either in a sling or snuggled up in bed. This meant that I spent a lot of time in bed. (Incidentally it is why I restarted my blog as I wanted to contribute online rather than just speculate – and I was doing a lot of horizontal speculating.) It was totes delicious, napping with her, going to bed at 8pm.  At 9 months though we got an amazing baby monitor and now I let her sleep in the bed by herself (after nursing to sleep)  and just dash in if she wakes up.

I had read somewhere during pregnancy that the first year of a baby’s life should be seen as “out of the womb gestation” –  it really resonated with me. In hindsight it is very much a long the lines of the lovely Continuum Parenting concept. Also,  I want her to have completely positive sleep associations and hope that having someone close by during sleep can nurture this security.

Nappy Free
At the moment we put a washable nappy on Ramona at night time. She is dry all night (since she was about 6 months old – I don’t know if this is that common or just for nappyfree babes?) but every so often will do an early morning wee, say at 6am, and even though I can sense her needing to go (squirming etc)  I don’t want to potty her then as she’ll be up for the day.  She is getting less happy with the night time nappy though – she pulled it completely off tonight- so I have ordered a washable bed pad so that we can give the night time nappy the heave ho and  if that cheeky wee comes in the morning it is no biggy.

Business Socks
You just have to be creative with rooms, furniture etc.

(Sorry, I know that isn’t a very exhaustive answer but my granddad does know how to use Tinternet and I can not guarantee that he doesn’t read this.)

Bedding
We don’t have anything extra for Ramona she has always just slept on our mattress with our duvet on top, although when she was a tiny pip squeak she slept either prone or in the crook of my arm. She doesn’t sleep on a pillow as she nurses all night (did I mention that?)  so just faces my weary but succulent mammary glands.

Nursing
I wear a scoop neck tee shirt with one of Tim’s tee shirts over the top. Tim’s tee is usually bunched up but my own tee stops my torso getting chills. I wear a scoop neck so Ramona has easy access but one of Tim’s tees from that day with the idea that she can’t smell my milk so easily and be less nursey. It doesn’t really work but I guess I am superstitious about it now. (Do you get a bit like that?)

Cosleeping does encourage more nursing I think, which on one hand is good – with me being at work half the week her nursing at night keeps my supply up and means she is getting everything she needs for this growth spurt. (That is what I am telling myself the 6-10 night suckles are.) But on the other hand is bloody knackering isn’t it! I can handle anything between 1-5 without really noticing. But more than that and I get a little cranky. *climbs the walls*

Time for my Parenting Moto of the Year (sung Harry Hills styles) :

This Too Shall Pass!

Waking each other up
This does happen. Overall it has been found that cosleeping mothers get more sleep – primarily because we don’t have to get out of bed – but three in a bed isn’t the deepest sleep to be had. If one of us has a rough night than we all seem to. Sometimes it seems Ramona wakes at the slightest peep (me turning a page of my book – headlamp on!) or sleeps through the biggest ruckus – lights blazing, full on conversation between Tim and I.

We don’t fall into bed and stay fast asleep for ten hours like we used to. But, do you know what? It just isn’t a big deal. Letting go of my sleep obsession and embracing night time parenting helps me just feel totally at peace with this whole situation. (Just wish my nipples would agree, eek.)

Attachment parenting, Green things, Nappyfree

So how is that weeing by a tree thing working out for you?

1 August, 2011

Famously thanks, it is by far Ramona’s favourite place to take a wizzle.  She likes to think she can do her buisness while still participating, you know? I personally hate having to duck off to the loo if I feel like I’m going to miss out on some fun snippet of conversation. (Unless there is a good book in there. We have David Shrigley in ours. Which makes you think everyone else is missing out by not being in there taking a dump and reading. ) We have been on an epic voyage of communicating about elimination over the last 6 months. We have had a fair share of wee on the floor, even one or two poos. But for the most part it has been totally wicked. We are now at a joyous stage of having a nappy free 9 month old  and fairly risk free too. (Averaging one wee miss a day- all others by tree or in potty.) I love it because:

It is a continuation of me meeting her needs, when I feel she is hungry, I feed her, when I feel she needs to wee, I help her.
I love the communication- her wriggling, eyeballing me, grunting when she needs to go.
The sense of connection when we have really in sync days.
We immediately went down from one laundry wash of nappies a day to one a week.
I never have to clean poo up, ever.
I love seeing her freedom of movement without a nappy, I love her lolling around naked on warm days.
My husband has been able to get hugely involved in this side of parenting.
When I go out I don’t need a big fat nappy bag. Just a spare pair of leggings for a miss.

Here is a picture of the big little lady combining pleasures…

She is clearly thinking “This cucumber is great but a book would make this heavenly.”

Parenting

Christine Ford and creating a culture of consent (TW sexual abuse)

9 October, 2018

It’s 1993, South London. It’s our last summer of primary school before we all head off to different secondaries. There’s parties, classmates turning eleven so we go to each other’s houses and hold each other and sway to Boys ll Men. The mum would keep the table top stocked with fizzy and sausage rolls.

The very last party I went to was at the bottom of my hill. I was so excited because I had on a new bodysuit and white jeans and felt like the business. I can remember walking down, absolutely chuffed with myself, looking forward to some more awkward slow dancing.

An hour into the party a girl in my class came up to me and said “Dan wants to talk upstairs” I was curious as she’d done the same to two other girls so far.

I climbed the stairs, her behind me, encouraging me, keep going, next floor.

At the top, she nodded to a door and I turned the handle. As soon as I was through the door I was rushed by a group of boys, pinned to the bed. There were five of them I think, maybe a couple more or one less. One spread his hands over my mouth while the others pushed their hands into my crotch and punched their sweaty, grabbing hands over my just forming breasts.

I don’t know how long it lasted. I couldn’t say now. 10 seconds or a minute? It felt like forever, and then the girl opened the door, called a warning and it was over.

I ran down the stairs, right out the door. I cried all the back up that hill. I felt so betrayed. Some of those boys were my friends. Others of them had grabbed me before, in the playground, when Kiss Chase regularly dissolved into “try and push your hands into a girl’s knickers” but this day was so much worse, being so violently overpowered. And some of them my friends.

I composed myself so by the time my Mum saw me and said “you’re home early” I could just shrug and go to my room.

I haven’t seen anyone from my primary school since that day. And I haven’t told anyone this story until I shared it with my husband earlier this year in an attempt to uncover any bits of shame I’ve had buried away. Cos that’s the main feeling I was left with, shame. I knew that in some way I had bought it onto myself. Asked for it. So I minimised it until it was so small it was nothing, the tiniest pebble in my shoe. Not too much of a burden to carry around.

When I heard Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony last week something shifted. Until that moment I’d never considered that party when I was eleven as a #metoo – it felt too small in comparison to the violence that has happened to other women. But the terror she described at having her mouth covered that bought my memory to the surface. It’s terrifying, not being able to move, or scream, or breathe.

I can still feel their fingers grabbing at me. Bruising me. And now when I look back at that party I feel sure that it didn’t just happen to me there, that there was a bunch of us taken up to that room.

I couldn’t even point their faces out now, but their names are still in my mind.

We were so little. Kids. But we were raised in a rape culture and in a rape culture little boys pretend to gang rape little girls.

Was it anything less?

When Christine Blasey Ford chose to stop minimising what happened to her, I could too. Although her testimony didn’t stop Kavanaugh’s ascent to the Supreme Court, I know that it will go down in history as a moment when even more millions of women said actually, yeah, Me Too.

The women who weren’t actually raped, who weren’t regularly abused, who didn’t think their experience was important enough to count. Christine Ford has given us permission to say that attempted rape was traumatic. That grope was a violation of my body and my rights. That was not okay.

Something huge has happened to me in these last few days. Being able to say “that should never, ever have happened to me” “that was in no way my fault” – being able to extend empathy to myself. Just even writing my experience up has unblocked something. I feel even more me, just that but more alive, blood flowing to a whole area that I’d shut off.

Her bravery is like a magnet that pulled my braveheart forward. That’s how it works. We’re all magnets pulling each other out, each brave story gently draws another woman forward until we are all able to move out beyond our shame.

We’ll finally shake out these pebbles and realise they are jagged shards that have been causing us to bleed all along.

And we’ll leave them back there, with the shame. And, not bleeding now, we’ll be able to tear down another pillar of rape culture.

~

The last couple of weeks have made me painfully certain that there has to be more to dismantling rape culture than testimony. Because testimony, trying to hold these men to account, does not always work.

It has me thinking anew about how we, communities, parents, families, can create the change the world needs.culture of consent

We can create a culture of consent in our homes

One of the most important ways we can dismantle rape culture is by growing consent culture, becoming adept at it ourselves and normalising it in other situations. (We can be thankful here that our brains have a plasticity that means we can re-wire decades and decades of coercive and manipulative behaviour within a relatively short time period.)

This begins with our smallest babies. Letting them know when you are going to pick them up, giving them a heads up when you are going to pull a jersey over their head or change a nappy.

It means not using your power to coerce a child to do something against their will.

It means making sure your children know that “STOP” always means stop- you honour their STOP, even if they are giggling while you tickle them, and you intervene when you here another child say STOP and your own child continues. culture of consent2

It means asking, when they return from a sleepover or a party, not “did you have fun?” but “did you feel safe?”

But again, the fundamental step to a culture of consent is not forcing our children to do things or have things done to their body against their will.

Read: five ways to honour our child’s body autonomy.
Five phrases that can protect your child from sexual abuse
Raising your medically complex child with a culture of consent
Read Sacraparental’s discussion about not passing on rape culture here.

sexual abuse prevention

We can create a culture of consent in ALL of the places we occupy

A year ago I was struck by a poster a local charity had asked me to make. It asks each person to consider how they are making sure children are protected from sexual abuse in all the different situations they are involved in – camps, churches, parties, sleepovers, workplaces.

It hit me that I hadn’t applied all I knew about a culture of consent to a very important area- our unschooling camps! Each year I help organise three camps for hundreds of people. It was time I raised consent with this wide gathering. I was nervous, because it’s a horrible topic to raise in a place that is so joyful and peaceful. But I knew it had to happen.

We organised a workshop at the next camp and six of us sat down to draw together all of what we knew about sexual abuse prevention and consent culture. It has been an incredible experience. Partly because now we have a robust document which I can share with YOU in case you run camps/ youth groups/ family gatherings. But also because a couple of things have happened to assure us that we were absolutely right in putting our effort into this. Firstly, an adult disclosed that she had been abused by someone at a homeschool camp when a child. This is so, so tragic. But it was also confirmation that even the places we think are the SAFEST because we are with OUR KIND OF PEOPLE can never ever be absolutely safe.  Secondly, at the next camp we held we introduced this document and asked, at registration, every single person to read it. During that camp someone disclosed an incident of abuse that happened elsewhere and our safeguarding team was able to help them take this to the next stage.

Click here to see our own document. Feel free to download and edit – basically make this your own document, embody it, share it, find people who will be part of your safeguarding team.  ALWAYS have two of you interacting with someone who is making a disclosure or raising some concerns.

~

Of course, when it comes to dismantling rape culture, men should just stop raping people. It should be that simple and straightforward.

Why should women have to take on the burden of dismantling a weapon used against them?

It pisses me off, frankly.

So here’s a quick message to the dads and grandads and the men who don’t think women should get raped or kids sexually abused- TAKE THIS ON. Take it on, dudes. Don’t just like the meme you saw on Facebook about Christine Ford’s bravery. Become an active part of creating a culture of consent. Step up. I believe in you. You can do this. Begin honouring the word STOP in your home. Defend your child’s body autonomy from unwanted kisses and cuddles. Bring the document above to your kid’s youth group leaders. Ask the parents who are hosting the sleepover what other people are going to be present that night. Ask your church, your workplace, your sports club to have sexual abuse prevention policies and a safeguarding team. Even if you are unsure of yourself, or feel a bit wobbly because you are no expert just start having the conversations. Say “I’m no expert, but it’s important to me that we all build a culture of consent. How can we do this?” Break the silence on sexual abuse. Refuse to be a part of an insipid, secretive world that has kept women living in shame for thousands of years. Take this on.

~

Thank you for reading. Please share widely. Tag your menfolk in this. Raise this document in your community. Let’s raise a culture of consent.

~

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 culture of consent3