30 October 2008

Don't mind me, I'm just a little rain cloud

Well good stuff has happened in the last few days, and nice activities have been done, and busyness has occured, and lovely happy children have been being angelic and sweet and thoughtful and kind. But I haven't felt like blogging about it.

I've been trying very very hard not to be the raincloud in every "normal" conversation. I've accidentally given some cruelly honest replies when I've meant to be gentle and deal with a person in love and understanding rather than impatient cold logic. If any of you are on here reading and know what I'm talking about, I'm sorry, I'm trying!

And then I find that other people are having a gloomy week too, and I think, if I can't be gloomy on my own blog, where can I?

I'm still sick. Every single day - EVERY DAY! I'm slightly dehydrated and drinking too much too fast makes it worse because it makes me more sick. I'm also full of cold. My lovely children are doing so well, with their little snotty noses and their extra shivery need for heating and blankets and cuddles. But I, for some reason, am suffering from what I would normally refer to as Man 'Flu.

All of you lot, you're the best thing that has happened to me all week, and it's hard to be negative around so many kind thoughtful people. But I want a hug now, and to please please Lord stop being sick. :(

28 October 2008

New-to-me and beautiful

A whole parcel of new clothes for the girls, bought in local charity shops. A winter coat that will fit Jenna next year, and a lovely plain smock top (pink, right at the back). A stripy purple and white dress, and a bright red kimono-style dress for Morgan. Hats for both girls AND me. And a turquoise sleepsuit for the baby, because it was so nice to see something so bright and cheerful.

See, they really love the hats. 50p for both of them!

And, arrived today, a box of goodies from another LETs trade. Organic and alternative Morgan things (how can a child who lives in trousers own hardly any?!) - especially love the hairy wooly jumper and the lovely cream and flowered leggings. The brown hem and dark pink socks to the far right of the shot are Morgan, crashed out napping on the sofa. :)

I think the girls will be nicely wrapped up, colourful and warm this winter!

27 October 2008

Oh my poor head...

I have told my children to "SHUT UP!" at least twice in the last hour. I don't know what this blog post is *for* except to say that this is not a parenting tactic I advise, and maybe to demonstrate once more for the doubters that I am not a naturally gentle person.

How many times in five minutes can one person hear the same line of one song?? How many times in four hours? How many times does the toddler have to shriek a banshee-like protest at the pre-schooler picking her up AGAIN after being told to keep her hands to herself at least twice that number of times?

How is one human being supposed to keep their sanity with this, for days at a time? I haven't felt this frustrated for weeks - maybe I don't have the energy to notice stuff that bugs me when I'm throwing up every few minutes (or maybe locking myself in the bathroom is the answer to the noise issue).

If it weren't tipping it down I could turn them out into the garden, but even I'm not that mean. Actually, I AM that mean but I don't want to be cleaning mud out of my carpet for the next few weeks.

Breathing exercises are not cutting it. I need earplugs.

A very earth-mothery weekend

On Saturday we had a quiet day; A peaceful walk, stopping in the woods to make mudpies (and realising that we had to get into grandmas car with dirty hands!). Then Jenna rolled some more candles for Christmas presents.

The girls cut up apples for a snack, Jenna making circle slices across the middle to show lots of stars, before letting me cut around the star to give her finished apple rings to eat. We intended to make cake, but all five apples got eaten in the end with some help from Daddy.

We did some re-organising on the season table, and I tried my hand at making a felted bowl by winding wool around a balloon. It worked, but wasn't exactly bowl shaped by the time it was done!

After Church on Sunday we came home and cleaned the house. I wasn't feeling sick for once, so I cleared those areas of the house that never get dealt with. The piles of paperwork and "useful stuff" by the PC, the craft things that have been piling up on the dining table since I stopped cooking. The window sill (again).

Interspersed with stories, cuddles, and milk.

We had tea at the table, like we used to, with lots of candles lit (and tea lights in the jars the children painted last week). For the forty-hundredth time, we ARE going to keep the house like this. And we ARE going to keep the table clear so we eat at it EVERY evening. Of course, I'm back to being ill again today...

Autumn Table

Here we are then, full-to-bursting Season Table for autumn.

It won't be long before it starts to empty, after burning the seeds and leaves in our bonfire, and eating up those pumpkins and butternut squash! And then I have to start changing things over to winter, which I'm looking forward to more this year having more ideas of crafts and things. Last year it was really bare.

24 October 2008

Blessings beyond measure, thoughts from afar

I have friends to whom distance is no object, who reach out to touch us and recognise who we are and what we need.

My warmest thanks and appreciation.

For Becky, who made some perfect little textured knits to add to the treasure basket for the new baby. And a little organic dolly who has been so thoroughly loved and kissed and carried around by the two bigger people he is already dirty (can't *quite* see in the picture though lol).

For Denise, who thought of absolutely everything.

A beautiful felted bowl, just what I wanted for holding almost an entire tree of conkers on the season table (isn't that gorgeous autumnal knitting?). One of my favorite story books as a child, grasped with eager Jenna-hands the moment it came out of the box. Pencils to make little girls smile. Tea to bliss out one very contented mummy (whose favorite blend it is - how on EARTH did you know?!). Lovely tiny baby things for a heavy little bump who is growing every day. And a bunch of rosemary for remembrance, for other dear little ones.

And it's not these lovely things themselves that mean so much no matter how appreciated. It's that these people and a whole host of other mummies made a hard-work week into a little oasis of celebration.

Steps forwards and back

Jenna has had half of the small toys out this morning, playing farms on top of the dressing up box. See a river in the foreground, and all of the people and animals sharing houses in the background. :)

I'm having a tough time sleeping now, Morgan has been kicking me in the back all night and I can't wait for her to have her bed back! She's so wriggly. I love co-sleeping with her, LOVE it, but it's now getting exhausting. On the other hand, she's been sleeping nappyless because I'm right there and in lighter sleep to take her when she suddenly sits bolt upright and says "yoiyet!" I'm not sure how she'll feel about wearing a nappy at night again, but maybe by the end of the week she'll start to take herself?

She's very early to be nappy free overnight, but what's a trusting attached mama to do when she says "NO eep NO eep" every evening and cries if I try to put it on? Put a towel down and hope she knows what she's asking, is what.

The past few months we're almost totally nappy free again. I'm not sure whether it's been a return to late EC or the start of early potty learning. I suppose that's the wonder of it, that there is no line between this and that. She has always been aware of her body and she has usually asked to be changed right away if wet or dirty - even from five months when she stopped full-time EC. And just like Jenna did (who wasn't ECed at all) she started taking herself to the potty from not long after her first birthday, if she was nappyless.

But there's no hurry. I don't understand why potty training has to be this one-way street, short and simple. Nothing else in parenting is! Sometimes there are pauses. Sometimes we seem to go back a step. It's all a learning, a communication, a gradual easing into interdependance that is SOUGHT not independance that is pushed by only one party in the relationship. On a bad day, I care that she asks for the toilet and doesn't go - or fetches a nappy to pee on. On a good day, I'm just amazed by her - for who she is, where she is, no other expectations or requirements.

Fortunately we very rarely have an altogether miss, and she loves to helpfully fetch a nappy to clean up after herself (and even gets out the tea tree spray lol). But even then, it's only on a bad day that I see this as a failure. Why can't you just "get it"? In one go? Without all this stopping and starting?

Because that's just not how humans learn new skills. Only development charts imply otherwise. ;)

Also fortunately the gaining of language skills is now going a bit faster. Of all of the frustrations my toddler and I endure, this is the one that makes us closest to falling out. I've never been here before (and obviously neither has she!). And I really don't know what she wants half of the time. I wish I did. If mindreading was an option I'd prefer that to wishing away the baby words.

This too shall pass, this too shall pass.

All too fast, all too fast.

22 October 2008

The dangers of internet shopping for an unschooler

I love Waldorf toys. I really really want a large round mandala-type puzzle, and some more Ostheimer-type figures. This has a *little* to do with what I can forsee my children wanting to add to their play in the next four years, and quite a bit to do with them just being Beautiful Things and me liking having Beautiful Things around us.

I don't know if this makes me by nature un-green, or materialistic, or foolish. Um, or a combination. But I have just spent a happy hour between HERE (Mamakopp's etsy site) and HERE (spectrum wooden toys) looking at things that I will not buy because I don't currently have money for food. But I might just manage to spend my birthday money on them.

Think I'm crazy? Probably spot on there, friends. But I think they're a worthwhile investment. ;) And when those little hands pick up those things I fell in love with, how could a mother not smile?

"Good Girl" aka a rant on reflexive praise

Yup and this is my first rant in ages, so I'm not going to be apologetic about it (much). Having visitors here right now is really tough. A couple of days fine, but a week is wearing long with folks who really need more time and attention than I can currently give.

But one thing beyond all others is driving me crazy. My children keep being *petted*! It's easier to explain to someone that I don't want them to yell at or punish my kids, but I don't think my ban on the word "good" is sinking in. So this morning, I practically threw my copy of Unconditional Parenting at her, and tried to explain. Praise is not just a filler, not just a way of saying, "wow, you exist!" Although right now we seem to be drowning in it with just that intention.

Firstly, my children do not need patting on the head. They need respectfully thanking, they need to be noticed, they need to see and feel that they are loved for who they are. They do not need "reinforcing"! What exactly is added, if a child does something because it pleased them to do it, and we gush and enthuse? They know it was worthwhile, because they have some discernment, and because they usually did it in the first place knowing that it pleased them or was helpful for someone else.

Secondly, patting them on the head is counter-productive. If we WERE doing it hoping that it would make them want to please us more, or do the same again, it DOESN'T WORK. Or not like that, anyway. Their motivation goes down the more rewards we give.

And lastly, "good" is this HUGE, loaded, guilt-inducing, emotional word. Good is a term of moral judgement. Even applied to a moral situation I would argue that calling someone "good" is unhelpful. And the sneakiest little pedantic part of me wants to quote, "No-one is Good except God alone." [Mark 10:18]

Is finding her sister's shoe MORALLY good? It would seem an absurd question in another context. If it isn't morally good, what do we mean calling them "good"? Convenient? Easy to live with? Is that the kind of children we want to raise, with the long term moral implications of an inability to make moral judgement for themselves when they are grown?

Praise your kids, praise them for free, for who they are. Thank them for things that help you. Tell them you noticed. But why "good girl" them half to death?

20 October 2008

And something gorgeous that I really want to win...


Aside from wanting to share to chance to win something so beautiful - and increase my own chances ;) - this blog is fabulous and the things she has made are amazing! Wow, I want to be able to do that...

Blessed by this, so passing it on. :)

Thanks, Primavera, for finding and sharing this wonderful film.


19 October 2008

More stuff to do when feeling ill

Let the children loose with playsilks. Apparently they are washing clothes.

Let the children loose with felt pens. Yes, they ended up naked but VERY prettily coloured in again. And no I didn't take embarrasing photos. But here is an elf, courtesy of Jenna.

Find a penknife and (keeping it well out of reach of all fingers) whittle and paint some little gnomes from slices of willow (thanks to Em from Green Parent LETs for the branches). :)


...that it is all worth it!

There's a baby in there. *grins*

18 October 2008

Another list of pregnancy complaints

Well I'm still throwing up. Yup. Still. And I nearly fainted a few times today too, just to make things interesting. On one occasion I got up (slowwly) to see why there was such a clattering in the kitchen, to see Jenna standing in the sink waving and laughing at Morgan in the garden. I got as far as, "Um, Jenna..." before the world went whirly and dark.

So I'm sitting on the cold kitchen floor, thinking, wow - it got really dirty down here. Is is one week since I swept up in here or two? And Jenna nonchalantly squeezes past me and says, "Hi mum. Why are you on the floor? Morgan is trying to get into the swing, I'm going to get my hobbly horse and go and help her. And do some galloping."

I say, "OK honey. I'm just dizzy again. Don't worry about me."
"I wasn't." She says, squeezing past again, this time clutching the hobby horse.

We also somehow ended up with visitors. I'm not complaining (yet) because they did my dishes. But yes, it's that family again and we will be babysitting tomorrow night and by the way can they stay an extra four days? All of this, anyway, means that since Morgan and Jenna didn't get along with sharing Jenna's bed last night, Morgan is back to co-sleeping for a week.

This turned out to be a really REALLY good thing, because I woke up twice in the middle of the night with terrifying nightmares about Morgan (I won't go into my pregnant dreams because they would disturb you, honestly). Waking up and feeling her little snuffly breaths next to me was more comforting than I could possible tell. I nearly woke her up hugging and kissing her in sweet relief that she was close and safe and happy and warm.

Right, off to eat tea. And stop Morgan from pretending to throw up in the potty. *rolls eyes*

15 October 2008

A Memorial

All you others out there, I know you know what I mean. (holding hands in silence)

October Garden

Three little rosebuds
Will never yet flower
Little beads of raw green grief
A memorial made by other hands

I know of more, many more
Too many
Perhaps you flowered somewhere else?

Little flame-shaped buds
Inverted tears, candle-hot
A thousand, million flickering lights
Out of sight, lost

Just That Easy

So, thoughts from a real sleep/discipline mess up last night.

We'd been for a walk, had a very busy afternoon in the fresh air, and Jenna was VERY tired. After she was asked not to do something, in quick succession by me and then Martin, she started to get hysterical. We weren't in the mood for the screeching (who ever is?) and both tried to get her to be quiet by less than polite means. She got more hysterical. Martin got really angry (and this is so rare that it's not surprising she was horrified by feeling him upset with her), and told her if she couldn't calm down and listen she was going to bed. Yes, we know, make bed a punishment = big trouble.

He took her up, and I could hear him, still very frustrated and tired, telling her to stop, trying to persuade her to get into bed, putting her back in bed, threatening to come downstairs and leave her, etc. Being pretty mad at her myself, I stayed out of the way. After a few minutes out of it, it clicked what was happening.

A tired, irrational, small person had upset the people she most wanted to please. She saw herself as being banished upstairs. She got frightened that maybe we were so cross we had stopped loving her. The more hysterical she got and the more she begged and pleaded for her world to be turned right way up again, the more cold we got towards her. The more frustrated and unhappy Martin got, the more hysterical she got. The more hysterical she got, the more he couldn't find a way back to connecting with her.

I text Martin from downstairs, and said, "Don't try to argue with her, just hold her. She's scared, there's no point trying to fix the behaviour, just fix the relationship." A few minutes later they were calm, smiling and talking together, reading bedtime stories. And I thought to myself... Not "just" on an emotional, long-term basis, which method was most effective?

Once again, I think we've learnt the lesson that at the times when we most want to step away and use love to punish, instead it might be wise to step closer. The loving act that we don't feel can change everything, an act of the will that puts how things *should* be above how I *feel* right now. Sometimes parenting is just that easy, and just that hard.

14 October 2008

A few days in pictures

A woodland picture by Jenna. She was really upset by having accidentally made one of the flowers and one of the toadstools upside down!

Some beeswax modelling, a tortoise that became Morgan's favorite thing for nearly two days, and a snail by Jenna with conker shell.

Under the sea scene (Jenna telling stories again). I made her a tiny little wax baby and she immediately gave it a shell bed and a tiny scrap of felt for a blanket, and started singing about it sailing along under the sea. I didn't dare try to record the story, as when she notices me engaged in such teacherish activity she either stops altogether or starts making characters die etc in the hopes of getting a really good reaction from me. ;)

Rolled beeswax candles, totally made by Jenna who would not let me help. *sniff* I made the little gnome person though, and the cat ran off with it about ten minutes later. She likes the season table a LOT, and is often sitting in the middle of it chewing on something precious. I might have to move the entire thing, but nowhere is inacessible to a cat... For some reason the cat also eats elastic. And as an extention of that, hair bands.

Some peg knitting; a flower crown. Peaceful work for when I'm lying on the sofa feeling miserable.

A lovely woodland walk, with collecting bags. Jenna collects seeds and pretty leaves. Morgan grabs hands full of what I can only describe as compost. :) I made a leaf crown for Jenna (from one of the new books - Earthwise) and when it broke she hung it in a tree "so everyone can enjoy it when they come here".

Little windows made with tissue paper and collected leaves.

Lavender from the garden drying in my living room.

One of two parcels from wonderful friends. The cookies, though delicious, were less photogenic. Huge grateful hugs to Gina and Joxy for bringing some extra smiles to my week.

10 October 2008

Something that I can't get out of my head

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
Utters itself. So a woman will lift
Her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
At the minim sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
Enters our hearts, that small familiar pain.
Then a man will stand stock still, hearing his youth
In the distant latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now, Grade 1 piano scales
Console the lodger looking out across
A Midlands town, then dusk and someone calls
A child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside: Inside the radio's prayer
Rockall, Malin, Dogger, Finisterre

[Carol Anne Duffy]

8 October 2008

Lookie what I have!

Yes, I have my parcel from Myriad. :D

Beeswax sheets for candle making (the house smells gorgeous - finally, a smell that doesn't make me feel ill), beeswax plasticine (about twice the size packet I thought it would be), a blue gnome house for the winter season table, and two ostheimer pieces.

This time last year I would have said that the Ostheimer things were about the only items in Myriad that I wouldn't want. I just didn't see the appeal. But as Jenna has gotten older and our toy priorities have got more and more simple and natural, they started to make more sense. Our farm animals are an odd bunch. We have some very garish totally flat wooden chickens. Some fairly simple and fairly bright, toddler type, wooden farm animals. A felt horse and some felt pigs that I made myself. And two lightly coloured rustic-ly carved Ostheimer horses.

When I decided we were going to get the horses, I was still unconvinced. But Jenna really really wanted horses and I was unwilling to resort to plastic (especially pink plastic). But as soon as I saw the horses, I confess I fell in love with them. And started plotting to afford maybe one or two of the forest animals too, and maybe a couple of fairy tale figures (one of Jenna's favorite games is re-enacting elaborate and sometimes totally invented fairy tales which she tells with deft skill and a real feel for the language of myth and legend). So today, we added to our toy baskets a sweet little fox and a frog prince. :)

It seems strange (even to me) that as a family with so little spare money we should find spending around £12 on just two small wooden figures to be a good use of our resources. Then again we have spent around £50 on Christmas presents for both girls including filling stockings and buying new clothes. Because we make and get second hand the majority, and don't go for quantity except as far as pairs of socks are concerned. And £12 could be one little Dora the Explorer beanie, or a Night Garden umberella, right?

Yeah, I'm not trying to make sense. ;) I'm rapturously delighted with the little fox, and want to get back to sniffing my candle kit.

7 October 2008

Just to let you know

DH cleaned the fridge out this morning and I opened it for the first time all week without being sick. He is a star, and has text me twice today just to tell me I'm beautiful and he loves me. Even when I'm sick and moany and don't do anything around the house. He didn't add that last bit.

My books arrived from Amazon and I spent a happy hour or so looking for ideas and enjoying immersing myself in something wholy positive. If you don't have them already, Families Festivals and Food and Earthwise are ESSENTIAL! :)

Royal Flipping Mail is holding my Myriad parcel because they don't have the sense to leave it with my neighbour who is ALWAYS in and FREQUENTLY takes in parcels for me from other places (including, once, the biggest sack of chicken feed I've ever seen). *sigh*

I spent an hour on the park with the children too and was presented with about ten more conkers from Jenna and an "own" (aka stone) from Morgan.

Some of the playsilks came with us to visit a family we know who own pretty much every bit of plastic known to mankind. It was ten minutes of Sarah Hell until the kids got bored of pressing buttons and guess what they played with for the next hour and a half? :D (smug grin)

Joxy is sending me cookies. What more can I say? And other amazing people are sharing their fantastic handicrafts with me courtesy of the GP Lets scheme. I'm totally spoilt.

On the problem blogging right now

I'm not accusing you of being fairweather friends or anything, but nobody wants to hear about vomit. Seriously, the urge to talk about how miserable I am and how bloody frustrating it is, has to be weighed all the time against that time when friends have to say, "Stop, I can't stand it any more! No more sick!" Oh it will happen, and already has with some of those who have never been there.

But ignoring all the "I hate being pregnant"s and only showing you my lovely children and the things they're up to, it just feels fake. Yup, I need another pity party. You are by no means obliged to respond. ;)

On the other hand, the children are rather photogenic.

And please pretend you can't see how dirty my house is. *sigh* That's another thing about being ill... :(

4 October 2008

The Season Table (again) and other crafty things

Yet another incarnation of the season table.

After the solstice, with the sun packed away until spring and all sorts of goodies from our swap. There have been a lot of harvest-y things going on around here lately, and lots of craft with leaves and seeds and similar. I'm feeling very much like if I keep having lazy days with the children and not finding activities, for all I believe in free play, we will drive each other up the wall.

Jenna's Seed Mobile. Made yesterday from lots of her collected items.

And, inspired by Claire and her lovely family, a sweet little bracelet made for Morgan by Jenna - who wants it to be a Christmas present so insisted on hiding it away every time her sister came near when crafting! It's from a loo roll middle, suitably trimmed down, and wound around with some lovely green wool. :)

3 October 2008

I'm one happy mummy

OK so I'm still sick, and Jenna is still a bit sensitive (though she told me this morning that she only wants to go to school if Morgan can go with her and be in her class lol) but I'm happy. For a reason that really marks me out as a terrible consumerist (though wait and see what I bought before you judge too harshly). ;)

I just ordered Earthwise, Festivals Family and Food, Instead of Education, and The Children's Year. And then I went on Myriad and got a beeswax candle kit, some modelling wax, and the Ostheimer Frog Prince.

As I say, I'm one happy mummy. :) I can't wait to start a whole long list of new autumn activities that we're planning, and I'm really excited to read some inspiring new books full of things to do with my precious, wonderful, unique children. First thing on Jenna's list of things she wants to do, driftwood and seed mobiles. But not before driving the cocoon babies around the living room in a "car" aka the bottom half of a broken egg box. :D

2 October 2008

Jenna was crying last night

Oh my, this is just so hard to deal with. :( She has somehow been convinced by various things people have said to her lately that the reason I won't put her in school is that she's too stupid. She told me that all of her friends are clever enough to go, and asked me why I don't think she's ready.

The problem is, I don't think any of them are ready. I think the school system expects rote learning and unconnected skill-learning long before such things have anything to do with the real lives, actual needs, and genuine wishes of almost any child. OK those things are going to be actively destructive to a minority in my opinion, but helpful to none! These kids are three, four, five. I don't want to get carried away with what's wrong with school because there's no way I think it's all wrong or that less-than-perfect isn't necessary for some families. I just, at a basic level, see school as at best neutral for these tinies, and at worst discouraging and harmful to their own ways of exploring things.

That's not easy philosophy to break down for a small sobbing child.

And I can't say all that anyway, even if for no other reason than that she has to rub along with schooled children from time to time (and therefore would realise that they don't all actively hate it or wouldn't say so because they want to fit in and please parents - and would also probably offend those same parents by quoting me at my most frustrated).

She may go to school at some point, she may remain unschooled, she may choose to engage with some form of part time or group schooling, or be involved in private schools that we know where she would have more control over hours and subjects. She's FOUR! Where's the rush? My priorities for her are just totally nothing to do with number recognition and phonetics and other hoop-jumping exercises for children who aren't actually even showing reading readiness half of the time.

Asides from which, she's reading a lot of words already and recognising common letter groupings, she knows lots of numbers and guesses at bigger ones (eleventy-four was a recent guess for 104). She uses those wonderful logical guesses in her speech, and regularly uses words like "blurred" and "visible" and "inappropriate" (which I can't spell reliably). She can assemble a symetrical mandala pattern and play board games and tile games meant for age 7+. Asking her to sit and recite "ah ah ah ant" with matching sign is just downright bloody patronising.

I didn't say any of that.

So I just validated that she is feeling discouraged and like I don't trust her, and that she is sad not to be like everyone else (another big thing that came up, and I have no idea how to deal with).

Then I told her that I believe she is smart enough to learn anything she will ever need to learn, when she really wants to learn it for her own reasons, and that nobody has a right to tell her what she ought to know and when. And nobody who will think less of her for not learning what and when other people do. I told her that she alone is Jenna, and she will never ever be a failure to me. And then I just held her while she sobbed.

Reasons to smile while I've been ill

Lots of pictures of the last three weeks...

A new family member - Izzy.

A tree house built by two beautiful girls.

Jenna's farm animals - notice the piglets suckling!

Autumn season table, just before the solstice.

One Big Sleeping Jenna.

Morgan's room, newly painted by me in one hour while the girls were out.

Season Table swap items from a lovely Green Parent, what a wonderful reason to smile!

Morgan nursing... after she and Jenna spent an afternoon colouring each other in!

Beautiful girlies.