31 May 2009

Pentecost Sunday and Nottingham Ecofest

The breakfast table set for Whitsun morning. Jenna made the dove yesterday, and the felt vine was a recent treat from the Fairtrade shop. The chicken salt and pepper pots frequently have conversations with each other...

I often have a hard time not getting wound up by that sort of thing - my inner control-freak screams out that we shouldn't be PLAYING at the table - but I'm getting better at just smiling. It helps to put things in perspective when I imagine myself fondly recounting these stories in twenty years time, when the culprits are grown into wonderful bright, strong, interdependant adults. The days when the chicken salt-and-pepper pots dance on our breakfast table and sing a song about porridge suddenly become precious.

Before breakfast we read a couple of Bible passages and lit the candle in the bowl of water to watch the dove "flying" above the table. Jenna prayed a grace without us suggesting that anyone do so - and included thanks for sending the Holy Spirit to guide and help us! This girl is just too bright, she is clearly taking in absolutely everything. There is rarely a day when that knowledge doesn't terrify me.
Whitsun "Dove Wings" from All Year Round. I got the ribbon on my brave First Trip into town last week. Both girls spent the hour before church running off energy with them and "flying" off the chair!

Ecofest pictures. What a gorgeous sunny afternoon.
I found fairtrade silk fairy dresses for the girls, but don't have a picture of them yet. Oh they are too gorgeous. I have been careful all week so we'd have spending money - but best of all I was amazed to find a Free stall there with lots of clothes laid out for anyone to come take what they needed. :) I have an orange summer dress and a children's shirt from those lovely people! Also great to meet some more Green Parents again, and enjoy seeing the children run around together in the sun.

30 May 2009

Sunny Saturday

Rowan asleep on my back in a mei tai. She has been on my back a LOT in this heat.The art wire has been in use long enough to have collected some items. It hangs right above the sofa where we spend so much of our time reading and nursing!Then this evening, summer fires in my mum's garden.

29 May 2009

The New Normal

Martin has been back at work all week, and things are really different to how I expected. With three there is so much less time for anything - like breathing, drinking a cup of tea while it's still hot, etc. It is more tiring than I expected, but also somehow nicer, more restful and peaceful. We have a nice rhythm for the first time, well, ever - and I have more self-control and more parenting ability than I have in YEARS! Where has this come from? We are actually getting along, and everyone is getting their needs met - though a cup of tea would be nice.For example, so much time is spent just nursing. One, two, both. View from the left...And on the right..!Not that there isn't any conflict at all... This morning practically the first thing Jenna did after breakfast and yoga was to hold Rowan. And decide to bounce her around until she cried; her poor little head unsuported, and obviously not happy with it. I managed to stifle the mama bear and took her back *very* gently, saying that Rowan Needs Gentle Hands, and that supporting her head stops her from getting hurt. "She said STOP!" Only of course Jenna cried, and asked WHY Rowan's head needs supporting and WHY it hurt her to be bounced. I probably said too much in the end - Jenna keeps talking about Rowan dying now... There must be a place between not being taken seriously, and frightening them - but where oh where is it??!

Rowan is fine by the way. This is her, ten minutes later. :)There is time in our day for dancing. And singing endless nursery rhymes, which Rowan goes totally still to listen to with that odd little baby open-mouthed pre-smile on her face the entire time.
There is time in our day for doing chores. Together. Actually getting the housework done. We are caught up on the washing again (scary!) and I've been doing the washing up during the day, with Rowan in a sling on my back.There is one thing I just can't crack though. 2pm is a nightmare. I just can't get the hang of it!

About an hour after lunch we're just all *tired* - but Jenna and Morgan don't like to nap. So far, having a snack about an hour after lunch, playing quiet music and rolling out a big blanket for everyone to lie down on together and just insisting that we all stay lying down for a while seems like the best option. Only the two times we've done that, I've fallen asleep first, and the older ones have caused chaos pouring themselves drinks in the kitchen and getting out all the toys with small parts (which Jenna can now reach standing on a chair) so that my bad mood has just been deferred for an hour, and they have been just as tired and whiney and sqabble-y (if that isn't a word it ought to be)!Of course, I shouldn't complain about the afternoon dip too much. We used to have one in the morning too when Morgan was a newborn. Since Martin has been back at work we've all got up together and washed our faces and cleaned our teeth before yoga and breakfast, which is doing amazing things for our moods the rest of the day. I didn't think I was organised enough (or enough of a morning person) to have this kind of structure. But I hope I have the energy to keep it up, because it sets the pace for the rest of the day - even when we've gone out for the day afterwards, it seems to have calmed us and brought us together. And that gets us through everything else. :) That and all of the precious time, those moments of complete peace, the connections with my beautiful children.It's like a second babymoon. Including a lovely calming baby massage before bed, just before Rowan was having those colicky spells (which have stopped since the regular massage!), while Martin puts the older two to bed.

Everything is Good. :)

That weekend away

It was a truly magical weekend. Everyone was so lovely and easy to be around, so generous with their support and sharing... We got a real sense of what it would be to live in a real community! No wonder we lingered so long, and had a little cry on the way home...Halfway around our Saturday walk, there was this huge deep muddy pool. The children spent a happy half hour throwing in the biggest branches they could find. And both of my two fell in and got muddy from head to toe, of course.I was so delighted that Rowan stayed nappyless for a fair bit of the time, and I only got soaked once - very publicly though lol, right in the central courtyard. It's saying a lot that I felt at home enough to carry Rowan around nappyless at all. I often feel very exposed parenting in public anyway, let alone doing something so crazy as taking my newborn to the toilet. When I miss a signal it's so very noticable too, wheras taking her to the potty is an invisible activity!

I'm really glad I braved it, because trusting her (and myself) really strengthened my ability to read her. We've had more time with no nappy under her at all since we got home, and I'm starting to feel less at sea - I really DO know what I'm doing. It has been so much like starting from scratch this time, not at all like something I've actually done before!The drums stayed in the hall the whole time, and freqeuntly a group would congregate to play together. Most of the children found them an irrestable pull, just for a quick bang and then off they would run again. But Luke and Martin, they must have spent more of the weekend drumming together than almost any other single activity!The fire circle was a very memorable evening - lots and lots of children and no parental yelling or nagging! There were benches around the perimeter so there was no risk from running around too close to it, so I pretty much left my girls to make their own decisions about safety. Morgan reached into the fire to grab a pine cone once, and told me that it was hot, but didn't burn herself. Self-preservation is a strong instinct; all of the children seemed very aware of the fire. :)The children ran together wild, a pack of little free beings breathing clean air and playing those endless open games. They hardly touched actual toys all weekend, prefering sticks and mud and games of exhuberant chasing and joyful shouting. From the youngest to the oldest they had no trouble making entertainment. Especially not with a stream to jump in (half of the kids just stripped off and jumped right in, relieving my worry that mine would be the exception in prefering to be naked most of the time lol).Martin took this - evidence, he says, that he spent the weekend in Hippy Heaven.

How amazing to be somewhere that the children weren't constantly directed and hassled, told how to play and reminded of the rules every twenty seconds! How fantastic to nurse openly and publicly (and frequently) not only without comment, but with company! And how relaxing it was to feel that nobody was watching my parenting and taking notes for good or bad - the feeling of being amongst friends, unjudged, accepted for who we are.

21 May 2009

Season Table and some parcels

Exciting things arrived yesterday, gifts from Gina (you are amazing mama, what a blessing to know you) and from Broken Man and family (thankyou so much, the leggings especially ought to come in handy and I have sewing project ideas for the reviled strappy dress, you'll be pleased to know)! Also, Amazon sent books. Oh how I love books. Yesterday we also did some sorting around the place and one of the areas for a clear-out was the season table. So this is it, late spring early summer. :) Today I have been trying to very slowly gather things together to pack for the Green Parent meet. I'm halfway through Connection Parenting and so far my thoughts are that asides from being very repetitive and deceptively simple, I am actually putting into practice so much more of what I've learnt over the past few years JUST from reading the opening chapters.

So we've had such a peaceful, in-tune day. It's getting easier to accept those big feelings again instead of being irritated with them. And I'm really not feeling like I need to hurry jobs, but can relax and let them help. It's a good feeling. :)

Jenna wonders when the other mummy is coming back - the one who tells her to stop whining and who gets irritated with "nonsense" like talking about how we had breakfast on the moon once, REALLY we did. Hopefully new mummy is staying. I like new mummy.

One of those photograph posts

See how they grow?

(PS, the matching dresses were bought for us, at different times and by different people - but we couldn't resist that strange parental impulse to see them in matching outfits today lol!)

20 May 2009

That List (an update after less than a week lol!)

- We bought two non-plastic drink bottles on day 1. They've been on my wish list for ages, but always sidelined in favour of Important Things like shoes. That ought to help with the water carrying!

- We have been outside, in the garden, the park, learning to ride a grown-up bike without stabilisers on the street (Jenna obviously lol) in all weathers and at all hours of the day. I've got more seedlings coming up and am REALLY EXCITED about the garden again. Plus the children are sleeping reeeally well. ;)

- So far we have worked on clearing the living room - including the back of the sofa and the computer table. I did the toy storage about half an hour after posting my list of goals and it feels so good to not just be sitting moaning about it! Sorting washing got interrupted by a newborn munchkin who didn't want to be in a sling thankyou-very-much, but hey we're working on a bit at a time and not being too ambitious.

- We have been reading, drawing, crafting and playing games together. The TV has hardly been on at all, and the children have stopped whinging about wanting a video on (mostly lol).

- I have been cooking with the girls underfoot, and loving it. We have tried out a couple of new vegan recipes and have reorganised our vegetable deliveries.

- I found jeans that fit me, in Oxfam, for £5. :)

- The art wire is up. It has nothing on it so far because we need more pegs, they're all holding up washing (though not today admittedly, it is very rainy!). No apple tree yet though lol.

19 May 2009

More exciting finds

We went to a second hand sale at the weekend and found yet more fabulous bargains. Most of the clothes were under 30p an item! Total spend, including 8 cloth nappies for my friend who is expecting her first baby, gifts for three families who I will not name as I want to surprise them, and all of the things you see here, £20.I am so pleased that we've been able to find so many bargains recently. Partly for our budget, but mostly because I really hate that we have ended up several times buying supermarket clothes for price and convenience, whilst knowing the environmental and human cost of buying clothing like that. Gradually, over the years, I've become less comfortable with the compromises we have to make to live as ethical a life as possible with hardly any money. It's so wonderful when we don't have to compromise!Especially happy about the cloth nappies. Our friends are on a tight budget too, and have been struggling to choose what kind of nappy to buy, how many etc, well there is a lot of choice... But it's especially difficult when you can't afford to make a mistake. So second hand nappies are especially brilliant. I managed to get a few different kinds, so they can decide what they will use the most (if anything lol).

And on that note: I hope I don't come across as moaning about money... I think it's one of those things that isn't really talked about, and that nobody is 100% comfortable with for one reason or another. For what it's worth: We actually have spare money, at least spare for charity shop books and the occasional takeaway. We have options like organic food - which we afford partly by going without other things and partly by the luxury of having very very low rent payments. Nevertheless, budgetting and being spent up are often features of my life!

18 May 2009

Book Sharing Monday

Prehistoric theme today, for my first ever book sharing (lol and don't expect one every monday; here are two to tide you over)!

Boy by James Mayhew is a real favorite since we had it from the library nearly two years ago. We got our own copy soon afterwards. Boy sleeps in a cave in the family bed with Ma and Pa, but decides he doesn't like to share so he goes out in search of his own warm place. The story has a nice rhythm for toddlers, and even older children seem to appreciate the very simple story. The illustrations are just so beautiful and soothing so this makes a great bedtime book.

Eventually, of course, boy ends up running back home away from all the dangers of the wide world, where Ma and Pa welcome him back into the warm bed. "And there was just enough room."

Our second choice for today is slightly old for any of mine yet, but they'll grow into it. This is another beautiful thoughtful book about the passage of time and the history of the planet - from the point of view of a pebble found by a child. Both of my older girls have been stone collectors since they could toddle, so this seems like such a pleasing way in to talking about time and how many many years the world was here before we ever came to be.

I find this book a very satisfyingly scientific description without pushing a particular view. It doesn't specify the mechanism of evolution, for example, but will no doubt prompt many interesting discussions about the why and how questions! I especially love the mixture of poetic narrative and simple information, making this book neither precisely a fiction or a textbook.
"The pebble in my pocket is round and smooth and brown. I found it on the ground. My pebble has been on the top of mountains and under the sea. It has been buried in ice and buried in rock. It has been covered in drying sand and tropical forest. It has been flung and dropped, frozen, soaked and baked, squeezed and squashed. It has been stood on and sheltered under and used." Beautiful!

Dinosaur by Jenna. :)

17 May 2009

Rowan's birth by Jenna

A picture she drew yesterday. :)

Learning and growing - some family goals

I've been thinking about the way we live at the moment, and how sometimes I need a kick up the backside to do what I know I want to do. I've also been thinking about WHY I have made the choices I have, what things really matter to me right now, and how I want things to change. I have a list. Maybe I'll even use it. ;)

- I need to start carrying water when we go out. We buy too many drinks, and a fair few of them are not even stuff I'd have let the children drink six months ago. It's wasteful too and I want that to stop.

- We will spend more of each day out of doors, get more fresh air, pay more attention to the vegetable patch, and worry less about traipsing mud onto the carpets. Carpets can be replaced. Childhoods less so.

- I want to keep the dining table clear and decorate it more often. I want to pay more attention to the areas of the house where I let piles of junk accumulate, by working through one area a week and then trying to keep it clear. Things I need to sort day-to-day will go in a basket, which will have to be dealt with when it gets full. ;)

- I want to spend more time reading with the children. And I want to start planning an evening activity to do together as a family, perhaps from a list, so that when Martin gets in from work we can do something meaningful all together - probably just after teatime. One of our planned activites will be family drawing time around the table.

- We are going to further cut down on the meat and dairy we eat, I want to not slip back into using so much milk and we have planned next month's meals in advance for more than half to be totally vegan and most of the rest veggie. I want to involve the children in cooking every meal rather than herding them out of the kitchen because I can't be bothered or am in too much of a hurry. It shouldn't matter so much to me to have the inconvenience of their "help" - so what if everything takes twice as long?!

- I need new jeans. I want to make much more effort to find second hand ones and I will buy loose fairtrade trousers online instead if I can't find any charity shop jeans that fit me. I would rather wear jeans less right now than buy another pair of cheap ones that don't last and are made in a way I don't want to support.

- I want to play music CDs every day and not use the television as a babysitter (including DVDs). I need to learn to include them in the things I feel so urgently need to get done rather than spending so much time deciding whether to spend time "with them" OR time "doing jobs".

- I am going to put up an art wire finally. And get another apple tree. Not THINK about doing those things. Not PLAN to do those things. Just DO them. Today if possible. If not, tomorrow. Not "one day". Because I'm sick of waiting for "one day" to just present itself whole and ready formed for my free use. ;)

Anyone want to join me in making something good happen today? What have you been "getting around to"? I'm really excited about this, because I was feeling down during my pregnancy about all the things I was putting off, and now I feel like I've come out of a tunnel and the world is so full of things I can actually do and actually have the energy and desire to do all over again. :)

15 May 2009

I love charity shops!

What we found yesterday in Magic Attic...Fab books full of lovely illustrations and some great games and science projects.More children's books - love these very retro school reading-program books, real character and interest rather than some of the bland modern stuff we've come across!This is an inside view of "Herb the Vegetarian Dragon" which is a really great cookbook for children, with lots of recipes for Jenna to try her hand at. I was so glad to find this!Some clothes (for Jenna and Rowan) and a puzzle that I actually had as a child. And a thin baby blanket with charming nursery rhyme illustrations all over it, for my expectant friend who adores vintage and reclaimed fabrics!