About us

The Barefoot family live an easy, relaxed life together playing, pottering and doing whatever feels right at the time!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The mancub

If child development is supposed to be some gradual, almost unnoticeable build up of changes then the mancub hasn't been following the rules (for a change).
I've always theorised that females have slower, but more constant changes to their bodies and minds, whilst males have sudden bursts of metamorphosis. I'm not talking puberty here though I guess that's the most obvious with girls gradually looking more womanly and boys suddenly waking up one day sounding and looking like they've made a wish on a creepy fortune machine a la the movie 'Big'!  It's throughout life, at the other end of the spectrum men look the same for years then suddenly look, well, old.

Anyway. I digress. The mancub has been blasting out changes daily. He's pretty much dropped daytime sleeps (much to the annoyance of Newt who is missing her hour of peace and iPad time), he's stopped using nappies at all now - even at night and for days out, and the biggy - he's just started actually talking. Not just one or two things that I am able to translate actually saying new words all day long. It's as if he's realised he can so he is. Each time looking at me proudly afterwards with an edge of surprise that matches my own. It's lovely.

It's also quite poignant and a bit emotional for me. As I wait to meet my new little person who is growing inside me it's as if they are waiting a day here and there just enough for him to be that tiny bit more ready than he was the hour before. 
Last night we didn't quite rock the daytime nap drop, he was exhausted and ready to sleep from far to early and woke disorientated and weepy at about half eleven. He didn't even open his eyes as he walked zombie like, arms out front into my room across the hall and climbed into bed and into my arms. He nestled like a baby and put his arm around my waist in the manly reassuring manner he has always done and slept. As I looked down at his sweet blonde curls framing his face, his light freckles tickling his nose and cheeks and his long lashes pressed tightly shut I felt complete and utter love for my baby boy. And yet at the same time a sense of letting go too. 
I think we are both ready now to welcome this new little life. I wonder if tonight will be the night. Will tomorrow morning be the morning that mancub climbs into bed with me to find me not alone? How will he feel? What will his smiley face really read? Oh wow, this motherhood thing is intense sometimes!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Bottoms up

Well first we had the surprise of baby. Then there was the good ole 'it might be twins' week....and for now things have been pretty quiet.
I've been feeling good apart from a potential pelvic girdle pain flare up that settled after a few weeks (over did the hill walking on a home ed trip...entirely my own fault). But then today at my final check before I'm on a home run for our planned Homebirth we have the rather fun news that baby is now breech. 
At 36 weeks I'm not worried, there's time to move and this baby has been every way every day now...it's just a very wriggly little person (and my body is clearly very loose and stretchy haha). After confidently brushing aside any concerns from midwife my brain started to whir a bit after she had left. The first was that I've just not had the same connection with this little one, I've never known what on earth they are doing in there, what's a foot and what's a head, if there was one or two and definitely not if they feel more like a girl than a boy. The second realization was that actually perhaps they have been interchanging between breech and transverse more than I thought. Having had the midwife show me what head felt like I'm now realising that what I've been thinking is bum and feet for some time is actually head and hands. Hmmmm. 
So whilst I had on my list of things to discuss cord ties...it looks like I may end up having to discuss my intention to still plan homebirth for the time being at our next visit instead.
Off to sit and read the Spinning Babies website......

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hand wash cold

I've tried hard to find pleasure in the daily tasks of keeping a home. I've read Karen Maezen Miller 'Hand wash cold' in the hope that this would inspire me somehow. I signed up to the Flylady daily blinks which have tips for keeping on top of your house. I did the Goddess Haven E-course on the Goddess Circle & had a nice corner in a room for a short while that I could focus on and enjoy (it didn't last long sadly).
Still not there though.
I quite enjoy it when it's not essential, when I'm doing it because I have time and I want to. Such as hanging out the washing. I've loved that since I first started doing my own washing. Early in the morning before there is anyone else around I have a quiet, peaceful five minutes where I contemplate nothing but the folds in the sheets and the positioning of the pegs on the line. This little job brings about exactly the mood and tranquil, accepting state Karen describes. From my poorly designed little old terrace the washing blowing in the breeze is one of the few things to glimpse in the garden whilst sat inside. Not satisfied with enjoying hanging it out often I then watch it as it sways and ripples in the sun and constant gentle fen winds. Now I just need to find a way of the hoovering, washing up, cleaning of tables and scrubbing of sinks to bring about the same peaceful, zen like state.
I've kind of accepted that I won't get that vibe going though until the children are older. When the tasks seem a little less on a loop, when the sheer mess made by their existence just pauses for breath occasionally! We're still at the phase where by the time I've wiped a worktop there's a spillage on a floor to mop. I know older children hold their own on the adding to mess front but surely it's not quite the same porridge on a chair cushion, crayon on a mirror and toilet roll shredded around the house? Please tell me that's not forever?

Still. I try not to moan and do my best at looking dutiful and neutral as I go. Hopefully the children will accept it all as part of being part of our household and like me, mutter under their breath as they scrub 'think zen think zen'.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Daddy's day

We don't really 'do' Fathers Day in this house. Not that we don't all think Daddy Bear is amazing, just its not a habit I grew up with. My own dad, The Late Great Brian, did not believe in it and on the one occasion I can remember getting him a card he was actually a little cross at me!

Today is no exception, the relentless family life we lead is not about to ease up for a day...we have a long drive to the other end of the country where we are going to have a day in the woods and at an indoor water park before heading off to Legoland tomorrow....hardly a day in bed!

But still, in honour of the wonder that is The Dude and his amazing, unwaivering first class parent and husband skills heres a few gifts.....Happy Father's Day Daddy Cool from all of us xxx

And this weeks home ed is brought to you by....

We've had a satisfying week so far. I think all families have those weeks that are unnecessarily tough and those that seem to flow that bit more effortlessly. Well like all aspects of family life for home Edd-ing families this is magnified a bit - the Intensity of being together all day and night just turns these good/bad days up a notch or two.

Well this week we've had two social play days, one at a fantastic outdoor old skool adventure playground (think barrels, tyres and pallets) and another at the park with sand, water and ice cream. We've also had a productive week work and home wise. When things are balanced life feels so much better. 
At the little Carboot held at the adventure playground we got a few bargain buys inc a new shiny copy of Richard Scarry's 'What do people do all day'.

Now Newt did already have a copy of this, my childhood copy, but the pages were well worn and the spine missing its paper. In fact I think despite liking the content she was always a little concerned that every time she picked it up another bit seemed to fall off! Well, with her own shiny new hardback copy she's reinacted my childhood experience of reading it and carried it around all week. 
As with his other books this one is so perfect for children as the pictures don't need the words to be explained - perfect for early/non readers - and when we have read it together she has already understood what is going on before I've filled in the gaps. She's learnt new things and impressed me with the things she's already learnt from somewhere else! The pages on coal mines were new to her but the offshoot conversation about other ways of generating electricity, turbines and pylons was all a bit of a surprise to me.

(Slightly more confusing was the chat about why mummy rabbit is having her baby in a hospital when mummy has her babies at home but let's not let that spoil things!)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Countdown has begun

Each of my pregnancies I have enjoyed waking at around 3am for a good hour or so. It would appear that this one is no different. It's hard to be frustrated at the sheer genius of my inner animal though. Preparing me so well for the coming months where this solitary time will become a shared hour of feeding and soothing.
As always at this hour baby is wriggling, turning and kicking. Who knows who started the rhythm of waking now, was it them waking me or me waking them.....I like to think that we wake together. Already deeply in sync. 

As I try to think of a way to use this hour or so of half awakened consciousness my memories drift back to the beautiful birth of my son. It was at this time that things started to become more serious, harder to ignore. I could no longer cat nap through the rhythmic contractions stretching my body and I headed on downstairs to try some new positions to rest in on the sofa whilst listening to some waves and other soothing sounds. 
I wonder if it will be so peaceful and purposeful this time. So gently guided by an inward intuition of what we both needed to do. 
I hope so. It is such an amazing thing to reflect on whenever I doubt my body's strength, or my own power as a woman. 

Whatever happens it won't take anything away from the wonderful night, and the memories of him arriving into my arms, bathed in the early morning sunshine. 

Perhaps this is the best way to use this hour of quiet awareness. This is my mental yoga, my emotional breathing techniques to practice. 

Finally I am welcoming a few yawns and the return of heavy eyelids. In the future world of my dawn time feeds baby must be ready to go back to sleep now and it must be my time to snuggle down and join them. Sweet dreams world x

Friday, 7 June 2013

Barefoot Beats

I love music. I'm not gifted enough to play any instruments (yet) but I do have the equally special mind that really deeply enjoys music. It is essential as air for me.

On the occasions where I nip to the shops alone the only times I choose not to share the moment with my faithful headphones is when there is a rather pleasant song of the brassy blackbird singing through the air. And ever since my sixth Christmas, when I was given what was possibly my favourite and most influential gift - my little red Walkman - I've enjoyed music daily from dusk til dawn and often even in the hours in between. 
It was one of my ideals of starting a blog to share this passion. To provide that jumping off point to discovering a new artist or that introduction to a different sound that may not have been heard before. It sounds a bit inflated of me now I come to share it. 
It's not that I know so much. It's not that my knowledge is so eclectic or impressive. It's just that I have some and I meet so many others that don't. They might be missing out on something they don't even know how much they love yet. 
It's on that 'note' if you will that I will begin to offer my hopefully weekly post on a song or album. This is not going to be any big column of the year nomination bid or anything. Just my excited ramble on why I think something is so cool and why you should try it...even just this once. 
If it takes your fancy watch out here for posts tagged Barefoot Beats and meanwhile...while you await my first expression of musical appreciation get on with downloading Spotify and YouTube on your phone or whatever it is that you use to visit me. Dig out the headphones or at least switch back on the speakers of your laptop (am I the only one who has this turned to off so I can sneak on and off my laptop without any little people wanting a go on Animal Jam?!). 

You might not like all I have to offer and you will probably not agree with all that I have to say about it necessarily but it will be fun to find out wont it?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Crafting with kids - the reality

I've read blog posts, liked images on Instagram and admired art on friends walls..all creations lovingly made together with their children.
I think it's amazing and am quite envious of this. Being talentless in this field myself and not heavily blessed with patience doesn't make for many canvas's hanging on my walls. Still. I have always wanted to provide my children with the opportunities I lacked. Apart from limited exposure at school, sessions I always enjoyed but that were always too short, too rare and too limited, I didn't really get the chance to explore creating.
One of the difficult realities I've had to face up to though is that it's not ever going to be a happy crafting together kinda home here. I don't know if its my own attitude or the three different personalities - I think it's more likely just that its not as easy as all that for anyone. That the end product is shown but that maybe the tears, the argument about the red pen and the sheer mess vs the fun had been omitted from the story.
Well. Just to set the record straight, to add some balance to the blogging crafty family world out there and to reassure those of you who like me...am left wondering if its just my family that can't craft and create peacefully here's a quick example of a recent endeavour the dude enjoyed with the kids one sunny afternoon under the shade of our horse chestnut tree last week.

Needless to say it didn't end well.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

How do you want to be remembered?

A friend linked to this blog post the other day from Hands Free Mama, along with the comment that it was 'thought provoking'. I agree it really was. Along with also being very true, very real and very honest. It was uncomfortable in places and encouraging in others. I liked it.
It reminded me of my own pledge a year ago for my children not to remember the top of my head and the tap of my fingers as a lasting memory of their mother. Of my own inward struggle to manage my temper and demonstrate to my little mirror and firebox how to cope with situations without erupting and how to channel the flow when there is no other choice. Also of the ongoing reality of being a mother to my children, my business and myself. Letting myself also be nurtured and loved, giving myself opportunity to grow.
So yes dear friend it was thought provoking. I've come further than I ever realised but am still finding opportunities each day to learn from my less fine moments. But of all else it made me think about what my children will think.
What do you most want your children to remember you as? Loving? Kind? Gentle? Consistent? Fun? Happy? Brave?
I know my fathers generation of parents had a whole different expectation and not forgetting also a reality darkened by wartime pain and memories. My dad would have probably described his mum as a fighter. She was the fantastic tiny little hard as nails northern nanna. If I'd have grown up with her as my mother I wouldn't have pissed her off let's just say! Yet despite never remembering once any loving words from her lips, or even a moment of physical affection when hurt or scared I know so deeply she loved me fiercely. She would do anything for me, for us. As a child I knew it and it still resonates through me now when I think of her.

                            The lovely Edith Mary (second from left) with my grandad, John (first left)

Perhaps being amazing for our children isn't as hard as all the books and blogs make out. Perhaps we just need to really really love our children. Maybe as wild as it seems that is enough.

Steiner, Star Wars and Unschooling.

We love Star Wars in our house.

The grown ups have always loved it. Since The Dude and I met, we've often spent an afternoon watching either A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back, depending on who got to choose. When I was a child I used to watch it in the early mornings when I woke and had the run of the downstairs to entertain myself til everyone was up. Since then I'd say I've probably watched it at least an average of once every other month of my life. It never bores me. I still praise my favourite ever scene of every movie ever made each time it's on ( the scene with Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin and the Death Star dude whose lack of faith Darth Vader finds disturbing!).
As you can imagine we have a fair bit of Star Wars merch kicking around the house. Newt had often mentioned watching it but accepted she was too young, happy enough to wait. Then the Dudes parents cleared out their loft. Suddenly box loads of figures and replica space craft from a 70's childhood arrived. That was it. Newt was hooked. We agreed in the end to watching it together with her understanding some of the bits we may have to skip through.
When we all sat down for that landmark first viewing the Mancub was asleep. But as soon as that opening music began he woke up, his eyes glued to the screen, and that was it - he was rooted to the spot. Barely blinking, rarely moving. He loved it. The space ships, the robots all of it.
That was three months ago.
I have to admit, even as a hardened fan this is not what I had in mind for my near three year old boy. Though we don't regulate or put pressure on our children's screen time I had not planned on them regularly watching Star Wars at this age, if at all really. Lets just say its not very Steiner.
But the Unschooling souls in us has found a way to help it enrich our life together. For one we all share it. Unlike some dreadful Disney that we can't bear to watch we all enjoy watching this together, even now on its hundredth millionth viewing.
I quite like the role model of Princess Leia over The Disney Princesses. Yes she is rescued but she also leads the rebel alliance and is generally pretty god damn cool (though we don't talk about the Return of the Jedi Leia much...a little less tough and a bit more needy as each film goes on!).
One afternoon last month Newt disappeared upstairs on her own for half an hour and when she came back she had copied out her favourite characters into her art book. All by herself. Using her lovely Stockmar beeswax crayons of course.

(Here's R2-D2 and Darth Maul)

For the Mancub it's the ships. He loves them. His interest in planes and rockets has been boosted beyond what we ever thought possible for an under three. Everything flies. His first words muttered under his breath whilst his eyes are still closed but his mind awake are 3,2,1 boom. This is no cartoon or fake image of space ships. They are to him real space fighters, zooming around asteroids and moons (no wait, 'that's no moon'!).

This is Darth Vader (well a Tapir dressed up as Darth Vader) - Newt's favourite character

We've also found it has served as an amazing way to introduce so many concepts and information about the world. Desert, space, swamps, tundra. Personalities, agendas and attitudes. It's a surprise how much of life's teachings can be brought into your home through a set of classic old movies. The Jedi lessons are as valid to children (and grown ups) as they are to young Luke.

So to end my ramble about making the most of every opportunity and sharing passions here's a classic Yoda quote.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Enjoying our time together

About three months into this pregnancy I had a wobbly week or two.
My youngest, the mancub, was still so much my baby. Was it unfair of me to not start 'preparing' him somehow? Should I be easing him 'off me' if there was such a thing? We sleep snuggled up, he fed from me still and whilst newt goes off and has days out, and even weekends away with family he stays firmly here with me. Not because he wants to necessarily but just because he's the little one & it's easier for him to be with me.
As his daytime naps became more sporadic the daytime feeds slipped off completely. Before long it was only a bit of bedtime and breakfast booby...as much about getting him to sleep and letting me have a bit longer in the morning - not essential but just what was wanted and worked for us both. All of a sudden there was a week where he fell asleep every night without asking for boob. A week later I tried offering him a drink and a snack at 5am (his usual wake up time) and that's where we stayed. Thanks to my irritation at the continuous crumbs in the bed (argh pet hate alert) the snacking in bed faded out too now. We just have a drink, a cuddle and get up. Booby has finished though he occasionally still asks when he wakes. But for now the night long snuggles haven't.
I decided instead of preparing him for having me less I'd make sure that these final few months he has me as much as he can. I'm his.
On the days when Newt is out and about with others I've made a special effort to enjoy each other. Instead of using it as a chance to catch up on work I've used it as time to be together.
We've explored the riverbank. Played cars and read stories (....well the same story..over and over!).

Preparing him through attachment, through love and connection feels so much more right. I've been woken by kisses and strokes instead of demands. He runs to get his sandals when Newt leaves for her grandmas instead of crying at the door, knowing we will go somewhere together soon.

There is plenty of time for him to not need me. I'm just going to savour this time that he does.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Week 29 - As you were

Well it's been an eventful few days. Or rather it hasn't. I've been on a huge journey and feel like so much has changed yet nothing is any different.

Last week at my routine midwife appointment my midwife, who has been my midwife for all of this and both of my other pregnancies, thought she could hear two heartbeats, one each side. She couldn't work out what position baby was in and was concerned about the general size of bump (though not huge it was very high and full).
Thing is. I wasn't sure either. For about a month I've thought the movements seemed to be very continuous, the position of baby hard to fathom and in general...I felt very full. Whereas last time there was never any doubt to my connection with baby this time I've found it harder. I've felt different and since early on have joked and teased my already anxious husband about there being two!

We talked and I agreed that this would be one of those situations that a scan would be acceptable for us. I had already decided that before I went in had there been any doubt about multiples. The earliest scan I could get was four days later on Monday. Before leaving I quickly slipped in the next most important question....had she done many twin home births?!

On the long walk home though the emotional roller coaster set pace. Coupled with no lunch (cue instant upset lol) I was already finding it hard not to think about it. Kind of like sitting in an empty room with only a red button saying 'do not push'. This was the first day. Shock and slight panic. The second day was the classic guilt, embarrassment and fear. Fear of there being only one and feeling stupid. Fear of there being two. Embarrassment of how much weight I've put on. Guilt at how if there was just one how anything else could all be my fault...too much sugar, too little exercise. Why haven't I been more careful. How did I let it get so bad as to give myself gestational diabetes or worse. Thankfully day three was easier. Poor dude blurted it out to a friend at a festival - I had the upper hand now of being able to say...way to go to keep a secret! We just didn't go there all day, quietly reassuring and loving each other was enough that day. And day four my brain decided enough was enough and it would take charge. It stepped in with the one thing that it knows I will always listen to and cannot ignore. Money worries. It decided to spend the day making me panic and freak about our general lack of finance. Thanks brain. Worked though.

By the time we actually went into the maternity unit I was back to thinking that there would be only one and was not really even surprised when the scan showed just one wriggly mobile busy baby.

It's left a strange deluge of baggage washed up on the shore though. Though my mind is obviously relieved...five months ago I was freaking slightly at the prospect of fitting in just one baby after all....yet my heart feels sad a bit still. This baby has not had any of the excitement and attention the other two earnt. The guilt is already present for that. And I feel strangely now like I haven't any excuse for taking it easy a bit like I would have had there been two little pairs of feet squiggling around in there. Which is daft I know. I'm still having a baby. I'm still mum to two younglings, running a home and a business. Somewhere along the way having a third baby and my general day to day exposure to baby land had taken some of the sacred magic out of all of this.
I also discovered that despite my general feeling of impartialness to the idea of having to go to hospital etc that in fact the only reason I'm so ok about it is that I've not had anything to do with the place for five and a half years! I'm not as ok with it as I thought I was. I was a wreck on the inside at the potential loss of power just going into reception. Might need to work on that after all, you never know what's going to happen even with a Homebirth. I don't fancy tackling that one much during or after labour or something.

I am trying not to think about whether the scan itself was unnecessary now either. Thats Pointless now. I think I needed it this time to ease my multiple mindset. Though I know my midwife respects my decision not to scan and has never pushed against my choice not to have any blood tests etc either I also knew she would probably raise it again at some point in the nine months as we already discussed her feelings towards going into Homebirth without knowing placenta location last time round. At least I can say for sure now there is nothing for them to bother me about and I can go back to slipping nicely under the radar as suits me.

I'll go back to being my nearly normal self. To the outside world I'd never been anywhere anyway. All I'll say is, in the words of Vinny Jones 'its been emotional'.

Creating traditions

In the fluffy and rose tinted days of early family life one of the things me and The Dude talked about was making sure our family still had traditions. Had those things that always happen on those dates. Celebrated certain festivals and respected certain family rituals.
Not being religious means that these little things can be one of the parts of family life that fade. For some Christmas is one of the last of these times though instead of a family walk, or attending Morning service at the church it often sounds more like the traditions revolve around food and television viewing (pessimistic me?!).
One of the festivals I most fancied celebrating was the Day of the Dead at the end of October. A chance to share and remember in a joyful way the loved ones lives who are no longer here on Earth with us. We've yet to do this tho though this year might be the year we start.
Easier for us to integrate are the pagan festivals as they are all seasonal, slotting in to life naturally and gently. Each year we've built on them layer by layer.
When the opportunity arises to start a new tradition though we always try it. We already have our annual summer festival, and the Straw Bear in our home town each winter and then of course the solstices. Theres a pumpkin day at our local Riverford Farm we've enjoyed each year it's run now and a few other similar occasions.
Locally a May Day type fayre is trying to establish itself now, it felt almost our duty to go along and enjoy it with the family.

I enjoyed the nostalgia of watching the maypole dancing and in hearing what may have been the same warped sounding cassette tinnily blasting out ye olde folk melodies.


Sure enough we bumped into lots of friends, some from school, that the Dude hasn't seen for years, the grandparents came along and at the end of the day Newt wanted to know we would go again next year. I imagine we will.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Here comes the Sun..

Spring arrived this weekend. Focusing on the seasons as we do has been interesting this year as apart from a change in the seasonal table, the books that sit alongside it and the colours of the play silks there has been little to demonstrate the difference between winter and spring.

When the sun slowly crept out this morning it was as if it too was stiff and slow from the lack of use all of these months. I enjoyed one of my lifes little pleasures and hung out the washing to sway dry on the line as it's gentle quiet heat warmed my back. I was joined by Mrs Blackbird, who was just like me, pottering and caring for her home and children as she busied herself flitting through the moss and earth in our guttering and between our roof slates. We acknowledged each others presence and continued on with our respective jobs.

As I returned to the house I actually felt a huge weight lift. A deep internal emotional sigh of relief at the start of spring and the end of winter. It has been a long one and all in all quite a challenging one too.
I've never minded winter before and in fact, whilst others cursed and moaned the cold and dark I've always quite enjoyed the cleansing regroup it provides. Reflecting what is going on outside we stay close together, eating rich, nurturing food and protecting ourselves from the elements. But not this year. This year it feels like it has been a strain. I've genuinely struggled with feelings of heaviness and exhaustion. From a delibitating lack of motivation and interest. My devotion and patience as a mother has been tested and my passion and energy for all else faded and tired.
At first I thought it was the pregnancy. Having never experienced SAD like so many others do this time of year it was another obvious assumption to reach. It was my fault. My poor diet. My lack of exercise and numerous other things I should be and wasn't doing. Then at around month four of baby's life I realised it was more than that. This left me more frightened that the pregnancy depression I had when I was pregnant with my second child had returned. In fact, to the point of actually calling and attracting the same issues, misunderstandings and disconnections between me and my soul mate. We bumbled through a few weeks, out of sync and disjointed. But then I just knew it wasn't something 'in' me this time. It was from outside. It was happening to me not from me.  I almost wept a few joyful tears of release as I came back into the house.

I made it. It's going to be ok. Spring has arrived.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Creative, artistic or just messy?

My daughter Newt is seriously unique. One of our good friends always says to her 'you have your own style'! And other friends all love her special way with words, clothes and imagination. Being talentless in the artistic department myself I love seeing her be such a creative sole from the outset. It's just her. She's not perfect at art, or crafts or writing etc. but her very being is art. I've had a few people aliken her to Tracey Emnin. Although I'm not quite sure how comfortable with that comparison I am I still totally get what they mean. My mum says she's a Helena (Bonam Carter) with her wild hair, individual style and animated dramatic storytelling! Unrestrained she's sensual in her discovery of the textures and tastes of the world..at five years old exploring surfaces by licking them (yes, I know, this can be a bit gross!), or touching and feeling everything is her way of discovering an objects mass and her relation to it.

But the big thing about living with a young life artist is....the mess. There has never been a boundary for the creation, our walls have been treated as canvas's, her body decorated with ink and paint, her dinner plate emptied and the contents rearranged in a pattern. There's no staying in the lines...what lines?

We've accepted her way. We don't hassle or get on her case. There's the occasional push and pull as we balance needs between her need to just empty an entire drawer to get a pair of socks, and my need to not be putting all her clothes away a few times a day! But aside from that we've tried not to suppress or restrain her urges. Perhaps without the need to rebel and break out of herself will they just fade away? Or will she just grow up satisfied and herself? I'm going to savour my Front row seat in watching and finding out and maintain my private promise I've made to always protect her from those who want to whitewash, or contain her. I get the feeling though she won't need me to do this for long though...

Friday, 15 February 2013

The path of least resistance

If your not familiar with Scott Noelle and his 'Daily Groove' emails then this title probably won't mean a lot to you.

I've been signed up to the Daily Groove for what must be about three years now. They land in my inbox, most days, and sometimes they are deleted without opening,other times I open it and quickly scan read it to refresh myself on a thought. Others times I read the whole thing savouring and enjoying it, forwarding it to others who might benefit from that thought right now.
They started to repeat quite a while ago but I've chosen to still stay subscribed. Mainly because even tho I may have read it before it still seems to know when it needs to land to the point if being eerily accurate.
The path of the least resistance is one that really sticks out for me though and it's always nice to see it arrive again. It was one of the first ones I received. I remember how my husband and I laughed at the idea of how resisting even less would look to our already pretty flexible family set up. It was good to read it though and really helped me have a better dialogue with our friends and family about why things were happening differently in our new family household.
It was shortly after this that my now dear friend introduced me to the concept of Radical Unschooling. At the time we hadn't known each other long and I can remember so clearly how she, almost hesitantly, asked me if I followed the theories of RU. I just shrugged my shoulders, smiled and said I've no idea! I'd never heard of it! It was the day that changed my life and our families too. We'd been bobbling along doing our thing, living with the ideal of whatever felt right and made us all happy, we'd no intention of sending Newt to school, I knew of autonomous education but even that didn't fill the picture quite for us, this new name hasn't arisen before. I looked that night on the Internet and it turns out we kinda were already an RU family! It was a moment similar to when I read Dr Sears Attachment Parenting book, five months after I had already been doing all of it! It was reassuring and reaffirming all at once. Shortly after that day I borrowed Dayna Martins 'Radical Unschooling' book (in my top five ever books!) and since then we've only carried on growing and thriving. There's been times where we have been more or less so but the ethos of deep respect, equality in the family and a driven family purpose of happiness has never changed. I know most families strive for all of these things, but if you haven't already, read the book, and a new path of how you can all truly live these things will shine before you!
Anyway, if that all sounds like old hat or too much change for you start gently, with the sign up for Scott's daily update http://dailygroove.net/path-of-least-resistance
You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

What little girls are made of...

I didn't go to any extremes raising my daughter. Though we told people that she was a girl (unlike one family in Europe recently who withheld this information from family and friends) I was careful not to assume pink, girly was immediately her thing. From birth her room with her things in was bright green and jungle themed. There were monkeys and parrots rather than bunnies and bears. She had pyjamas with planets and rockets on, she always got muddy at every opportunity and used to let herself in and out of the garden via the catflap (good for keeping us all on our toes). Despite having white blonde ringlets I always viewed this more as a Darwinian trait so as to help me spot her as she disappeared into bushes and through holes in the fence more easily, not as angelic, dolly material. For about two years she never allowed us to brush it. That was ok with us, after all it is her hair as I pointed out to anyone who felt the need to comment. I never corrected others but through gentle example tried to encourage questions about books she liked and avoid good girl/pretty hair blah blah type comments aimed at her (not to or with her). She adopted a baby doll that had belonged to my niece, but rather randomly named him Luke. Luke did come places with us and got introduced to everyone who cared enough to glance in her direction at festivals, beaches and campsites. That was it for dolls though really.
Now at five the always 'too much', passionate and extreme loving side of her personality has directed its attention to pinkness. Any merch with Hello Kitty is an object of need and desire. At first I thought this was largely fuelled by some base need to fit in with other girls that she had become friends with. If she liked it herself that would be cool for me but I was worried it was only because of she felt on some level it was what she was supposed to like. But the Radical Unschooler in me cannot judge or control this. I can guide and support but not lead or judge. It wouldn't be fair and wouldn't feel right to me. Instead I have just enjoyed her enjoying. This is the result....
A hideously over the top pink frilly giant cat! It even has purple eyeliner on ha! But hey, who cares? Check out the smile behind that polyester pink cuddly!

On a similar note it turns out pretty much since about five months old the Mancub is obsessed with balls, any kind but especially anything resembling the colours and print of a football. As for trains, rockets or planes.....excited is an understatement. The throwing himself around, launching toys like missiles and general roughness is far more intense too than it was with Newt. She was always precise, testing herself in her efforts, pushing herself that bit further, pleasure thrill seeking and life loving. He just lobs himself off the arm of the sofa and hits the floor. Distinctly different.

Its all quite fascinating for me really. As a behaviourist by education it just further backs up my belief that the sexes really are different. And they should be. They had different purposes genetically. Not better or worse. Not inferior just wildly different switches that flick. Surely as long as we accept individuality as well as accepting natural differences its ok to not get too bogged down in you can't have that as its too pink, you must have a doll and pram even though your a boy etc? Hmmmm. And whilst we are discussing gender differences has anyone else noticed that men more often than women seem to pull out all the tea and coffee canisters etc when making hot drinks rather than taking the cup to the can? Is it just me that has noticed this?!! Am I stereotyping myself now?

Friday, 25 January 2013

Can you teach empathy?

Have been pondering on empathy today. So many things in the last year have happened to me which I have witnessed or listened to others experiencing. And I have listened. And tried to imagine how they must feel. But really is there anyway of ever learning true empathy without first experiencing something first hand?
It's such an admiral trait and something often on the list of things we'd all most like our children to display but is that really even possible! They could surely be compassionate or caring but can they ever have empathy? I remember discussing this with my brother in law once as we took the girls out for a day out together by the lakes. He was describing how proud he was of his daughter, how caring she was and how much empathy she had for others. How he thought she might be a teacher, or doctor or nurse one day. He was genuinely taken aback at my honesty at my feelings that my daughter wasn't any of those things really and sometimes it worried me a bit but mostly, I just accepted she wasn't like that yet, or maybe even ever. Of course, she is upset at seeing others upset, she wants everyone to be happy, she tries to make things better but she also just gets on with things, in a oh well its happened style.
For me, it was only when I actually had stress, anxiety about a situation for a few weeks this summer that I really saw that it meant to be like my husband who feels very anxious with certain new, unknown situations. As this is something that I've just never felt the nerves, the sleepless nights about something, fast heart and fluttering stomach for days at a time, I'd never seen how it must be to actually regularly feel like that. I called my sister, who has a well balanced understanding of natural health, conventional medicine and most of all of me. I described how ill I was, how unusual it was for me, how I was wondering if it could be this or that...she just quietly listened on the end of the line and at the end just said 'its stress'. Of course it was. Why didn't I see that? I'd have noticed it instantly in another person. Suddenly I felt terrible about how dismissive I had been over the years at my husbands reaction to this debilitating disease taking over my body and mind. I'd never been mean about it but I had expected him to try to manage it more. Now I  knew.
This wasn't the first time lately it has happened. Strikingly similar scenerios have evolved for me that have happened to those around me who I had some unknown til that moment deep buried guilt that I could have done more to help with or provided a more comforting ear. It's a scary thought too to think I've now opened the door to as worrying that everything heavy or difficult that happens to others is a test on me somehow. If I don't support or care for them enough will this happen to me in some weird karma twist of fate all to teach me some lesson?
I think a healthier, more helpful way of approaching it will be for me instead to start thinking, what would I feel like in that situation? What would I need if that happened to me? And then considering what I could realistically and reliably offer. I'm a get on with it kinda gal. I'm private and pretty self contained and as such struggle sometimes to appreciate that not everyone is like that, and that in fact its a good job they aren't.
Ponder/ramble over. For now anyway. Back to focusing on learning from and improving life with this reflection, one of my resolutions was to say goodbye to guilt....time to start waving and keep it simple, just remember to love others.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Arrival of the supersonic hearing

The first 'that was weird' moment that actually made me wonder if I was pregnant was when stood at the top of the stairs, two rooms away, I could smell the Mancub needed a poo (apologies if that's too much information). With practicing EC with him until about 6 mths its a pregnancy symptom that doesn't fade and is actually really useful. Though it hadn't gone altogether it certainly wasn't that sharp anymore. I stood on the bottom step and thought 'oh hang on a minute'!!

Well at 3am this morning my super sharp hearing arrived. Blissfully unaware of next doors 8 week old baby until then I woke to the distant sound of crying and that was that. I stayed awake until 4.40am ish. Co-sleeping has meant that though I need mother level hearing in case someone wanders around during the night the bat level sonar has been surplus to requirements and must have gone about a year ago.

Funny how you forget all these primitive changes that happen deep inside. So essential from an evolutionary perspective...the ones whose mothers had it made it to pass it along. Blunt but real. So many things people see as problems, pregnancy issues, or complaints. Are they? I celebrate our wonderful mammalian bodies and all they provided us...though, I have to admit. I would prefer to celebrate over breakfast at 7.30am after a nice long deep sleep. After all, my creaky terrace isn't quite the cave we may have once dwelled in and my fat cat downstairs is hardly the predator I need to protect my young from nor does the clank of the milkman's bottles need to sound like an alarm bell in the early hours.  Why couldn't I have inherited some of the genes from the mothers whose children were better cared for and well fed because their mothers had had a descent nights sleep!? I'd like me some of those..

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Week 10: Outing ourselves.

We started to tell people this week about baby. I think we both realised it was not going to feel any more real until we did. We could quite happily carry on as if everything was the same and not all different which was easy but not helping us to get our head around it!
But the weird thing is...everything is the same. It's the future that's changed not now. And even then it was only a possible future, one that existed in our minds eye only. There's a cool Buddhist quote along the lines of 'if you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the now' or words to that effect! Sounds right to me.