31 March 2011
So we're in Melbourne! We're staying with my Sis, hanging with Mum & Dad, catching up. We've got a few special things to do while we're here. Autumn is one of my fave times in Melbourne. Golden light, air not too crisp yet... So far the food and the company have been wonderful. What we don't love are the traffic, the noise and how big it all is... If I could just package up everyone and everything I love most and bring them back to Hobart, life would be perfect! We travelled here in our little car and overnight on the boat. Longest. Day. Ever. Then it's been cafe visits, Mary Poppins for the elder owlets and some time alone at Heide for Huz, me and tiny owlet! Bliss! Today has been resting at home... tiny owlet is unwell, but I managed to sneak out for french toast with my Sis and Mum. More bliss! Wonder what tomorrow will bring?
28 March 2011
Big owlet is our first child, so much of her life has been an experiment for us. Trial and error. Following her cues, hypothesising and testing ourselves. Each challenge has been met with hesitation, but usually if we just trust her we find our way through. I've learnt something about big owlet, after our little experiment with removing restrictions on screen time. She's extremely dedicated to finishing what she's started. Over the past two weeks she dedicated her time to watching 75 hours of Arthur. It drove us nuts. She spent time drawing pictures of the characters, telling us who were her favourite. She modelled Arthur's head from clay. She was totally engrossed. By wednesday this week we realised we were on the home stretch and we knew there was nothing we could do but ride it out. We tried various things to drag her away, but she kept returning. A bag of balloons led to all sorts of play and experimenting. The balloons made it out to the trampoline where the static electricity made them do all sorts of interesting things. They seemed to have a life of their own...
They became the cast of Arthur.
She told me she had one favourite episode. The one where Arthur and the Brain make a tv show of their own. Ah yes. That makes sense. We reflected lots on our experiment with Arthur 101. She agreed that it wasn't the healthiest way to spend her time. She understood that we wanted to find a little more balance in our days. That little owlet missed her playmate and we missed her general input. Felt like we'd lost her. And so when she finally finished watching yesterday, there was much cause for celebration. We were cooking and cleaning and gardening and the sun was shining. She played outside and proclaimed that everyday should be like this. And she hasn't looked at a screen since.
She snuck alongside me in the kitchen and asked to cook. She wanted to make her own recipe up. She hates following rules, so recipes aren't her thing at all. She often asks to have free reign over all the ingredients to make up her own things... which would be fine by us, but we work with a meal plan and a budget, and given the generosity of her cooking style, we've never been comfortable with free reign. But we've found some room for experimenting with left overs. So yesterday she concocted these jam and apple tarts with puff pastry scraps. Quite delectable and reassurance that somedays the experiment works out.
25 March 2011
24 March 2011
Little owlet loves drawing these days. She experiments lots with different drawing styles. Sometimes eyes are big and round, other times they are small with lashes. Sometimes there are crowns and curls and words. Most of her drawings are of me... I think. She could be just saying that to get extra cuddles. Either way, it works. Each one is like a little love letter.
PS. Thanks so much for the support for yesterday's post. It's so nice to know so many of you get it. Here's to looking after each other. xx
23 March 2011
I enjoy blogging. I do. I like looking back at the record of our days. I like remembering the good bits and sometimes the hard bits. Writing it down helps me work out where we're at and stop and think about what and why we do what we do. I feel like sometimes though it seems a little more glossy than it really is. Some days are really challenging and just because I don't blog them, doesn't mean that they don't happen.
All day I work with the dynamics of children who challenge me mentally combined with a baby who needs me physically. They are all equally needy in their own ways and there is seldom time for anything I might like to do. But I've always been good at making things look easy. Coping and being capable, even when I'm struggling... just a little. Just like so many women I know.
Then there are those times where everything is going beautifully, flowing easily, the children are smiling and look relatively neat and tidy and creativity seems abundant and it's like... a blog post. Those days make you feel like it's all ok and you are heading the right way. They make the choices we make all worthwhile. I'm also aware that I tend not to blog the hard stuff to protect what we have. For the same reason that I find it difficult to ask for help. Sometimes I just don't want to whinge about my stuff when really, it's ok. And so people don't ask. They figure they've seen the blog and they know what we've been up to, we're all good, and that puts me on the back foot somewhat. Other times I do have a whinge and people try to offer a supportive ear by pointing out that I've chosen the harder path. Whether I agree or not is beside the point. They tell me their kids are in school and they have ALL DAY alone and that's awesome. Or that breast feeding or co-sleeping or carrying a 2yo is just asking for back pain...
Thing is, it's not all that helpful. If a friend is having a whinge about the school run, I'm unlikely to say "oh well, you have chosen to take them there and make your day all difficult and stuff". In fact, they are unlikely to hear that from anyone, but rather they'd just encounter empathy. Maybe someone offering to help them out on occasion... I often feel like I have to defend the choices we've made for our family by making it look good. By coping.
I'd like to let y'all know that it's not all cups of tea and biscuits and craft and skipping through the botanical gardens everyday. If you see me looking bemused, or overwhelmed or frazzled and I happen to mention I'm tired, a supportive approach would be a sympathetic nod. Ah yes, one of those days. You have them too, right? If you can, maybe some practical support could be offered. Most of our family is far away, so practical support is not something we have in abundance. Like so many families I know who have long days and many owlets to feed, schooled or not. They could all do with a hand occasionally. In my utopia we all look out for each other and offer a hand so that bad days are bearable. It takes a village and all that... So in the interests of bloggy honesty, I'm going to let you in on it from time to time, if I can. But promise not to question my choices. Respect them and that I'm happy with where I'm at. So happy. Remember that 75% of the time, life is peachy and we are all happily doing our thing, and that some days (or weeks) are just harder than others. Just cos.
Ways you can offer practical support to a friend or relative having a rough day...
Make them a cup of tea.
Do the dishes.
Hold the baby while they stretch their arms.
Take their older children for a walk so they can nap or work or sit in silence.
Entertain their children while they go for a walk. Bring an afternoon/morning tea treat with you and make sure you tidy up after.
Help them spend one on one time with one of their other children by entertaining the other/s.
Help out by taking children to or from afternoon activities. Grab some shopping on your way.
Drop off some colouring books for some quiet time.
Cook them a meal and invite them over, or leave it on the doorstep for them to reheat.
21 March 2011
You know those days that almost get away from you? I had one of those, which is why I'm writing an unschool monday post when it's almost tuesday.... Moving from one activity to the next and following owlet thought processes... I'm pooped. We did so much and I can look back at the day and how it all panned out and on paper it looks like a brilliantly structured plan, covering so many subject areas. But there is no plan. Most of my at home days are like this. In the moment I feel like I can barely keep up, particularly as all three owlets are at stages where they need my attention - one on-one. I seldom have time to catch my breath and it can be hard to stretch myself three ways... but those moments where we are working together, creating and playing make it all so worthwhile. So here's how my day went from baking to archaeology in three moves...
Baking. Little owlet is baking chocolate muffins. Big owlet is making bread. Both insist on minimal help, but they need some guidance from time to time...
Tiny owlet eats measuring cups while we bake...
Big owlet makes several different attempts to put her own stamp of individuality on the bread. After some discussion, she wisely avoids praying mantis bread and settles on a ladybird shape. Seven is the age where we must do everything our own way...
Sometimes burning the bottom of the bread can be a good thing. "Hey Mum, the baking paper looks Ancient! I'm really into ancient things."
Lets write in hieroglyphs and try other methods of making the paper look old. Lets also research ancient Egypt and try and work out what those hieroglyphics say. " I'm going to write the recipe for making bread in hieroglyphs"....
Now lets go and dig for ancient treasures in the mud pit. Then run mud through the house on the way to the shower...
All the while, tiny owlet chats and coos and rolls and her newest trick - crawling backwards - gets a workout. She's particularly enamored with that other baby in the mirror...
And so our day rolled to a close. Huz came home and cooked dinner while the owlets cleaned the day off and I attempted to catch my breath before dinner and story time. Oh yes there were also tears and battles and more television was watched than I'd like, but everyone went to bed happy and tired and nourished. And so I pause for a moment, wondering what tomorrow will bring...
18 March 2011
Big owlet had her bestest friend over again the other day. They love each other dearly, "like long lost twin sisters", big owlet tells me. It truly is a delight to watch them play. It seems to nourish them both. Little owlet has grown up lots since they first met - big owlet was little owlet's age at their first meeting. She joins in with their play these days, but they still need lots of time together, just the two of them. I get it, sometimes I like to spend time with just one friend, or Huz, without others around. So on these playdays, I make sure that I give them lots of space, but also keep the day flowing peacefully. The other day, little owlet and I had gone out for an hour in the morning while the bigger girls played, then came home to a house full of craft and dress-ups... Little owlet wanted to join in right away and the bigger girls obliged, but quickly wanted their space back. The room felt stale. I detected an element of whinge little owlet's voice. Ugh. This required quick thinking. So, following little owlet's love of cooking, I baked a cake with her. Chocolate of course. With chocolate icing. I made sure to make the cake with Rapadura, so the afternoon didn't evolve into a spiralling chaotic sugar explosion... I plonked the cake on the table with a jar full of different kinds of sprinkles and suggested they all decorate together. They did. Peacefully, democratically and creatively. They wandered out to the garden to add edible treasures to their creation... Then set up a faerie tea party under a tree to eat the cake together. Little owlet was welcomed into the game as an equal and peace reigned for the remainder of the afternoon. Perhaps it was the introduction of a creative project at just the right time. Perhaps it was because it was food - the great connector. Maybe they were just hungry. I've found changing the mood with food and creativity works so often when things turn sour. Fruit kebabs always work, as do icypoles and waterplay, or making food faces.... Anyhow, I'm putting it here so I remember for next time and we can always keep the play fresh and nourishing for all.
Playing along with Childhood 101's We Play.
17 March 2011
We're still wondering what we can do and I'm sure every bit helps... Better than sitting here feeling helpless... Huz's new album is available for download here. All proceeds raised in the next 24hrs go to Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Appeal. I think my favourite song is the title track because it's all about our family and the owlets in particular. It makes me smile and wish that all children could live without fear, as ours do... So anyway, go download! It's a minimum of $6 per download, but you can donate more if you like and Huz will transfer that straight over to Save the Children for you. In the meantime, enjoy this cover of a song off the upcoming Fleet Foxes album, with tiny owlet wriggling around as she does most evenings while her daddy plays. xx
16 March 2011
Ugh, still not quite myself... feeling seasick.
The only answer is to build a sturdy boat...
and ride it out...
PS. Thanks so much to the gorgeous person who purchased the luxury silk cape. We donated the money to Save the Children's Earthquake Appeal this morning. xx
14 March 2011
I'm here nursing a sore tummy and big owlet has been unwell this long weekend too and I've been lamenting the loss of a beautiful long weekend. There aren't many more weekends before the weather turns cold and the Tasmanian winter grabs hold. It may be the last bunch of warm sunny days where Huz is home for a while. I'm also a bit peeved that we can't afford a real proper holiday again this year, although we will no doubt be craving one before winter's end... but then I glance at a news article and it's just too shocking for words. This year has already been plagued by so many natural disasters, each seemingly with increasing intensity and destruction. It's almost easy to become complacent about it... maybe think of that 30 Rock episode about Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning and the media beat-up. Or feel helpless, like there's nothing one individual can do... But it's real. The people are real. They have lost communities, families, friends, everything they knew and loved. And here I am tucked up in bed with a snoozing baby and a wheat pack, looking at it all and feeling so grateful...
But I'm painfully aware that feeling grateful isn't enough. We need to do what we can to help. We need to try and make a difference. Last week I was in town with the owlets and we walked past a building ledge where someone had dropped a crushed can. It was at little owlet's eye level. Both girls commented on it and I asked them what they thought. "Well I guess it makes me sad that the street looks messy..." So I suggested we pick it up. The owlets were surprised because we usually tell them not to touch rubbish on the ground (a hangover from toddler days), but I put the can in the bin and we were all pleased that that square metre of street was clean. It wasn't much, but it helped. And the owlets were inspired to pick up more rubbish as we walked and made a tiny difference to their world.
So, I'm going to attempt to make a tiny difference, owlet style. Here's where you come in... Maybe we can be superheroes together? The red silk satin cape in the first picture above is for sale in my owlet shop. I'm donating all proceeds from the sale to the Save the Children Fund who have pledged to provide:
"- psychosocial support to help children overcome the shock and stress.
- set up child-friendly spaces to provide a protective environment where children can spend time with other children and trained teachers, which also would allow parents much-needed time to find food, work, accommodation and other friends and family."
Other ways you can help :
Buy Luisa's beautiful Dragonfly Bunting with all profits raised to be donated.
Download Huz's album before Friday with all proceeds going to the Save the Children Fund.
Donate to the Red Cross, or any of the other charities who are doing brilliant work...
Ways you can help out in your local community:
Pick up some rubbish! Clean-up Australia Day may have passed, but there's always more to clean up, unfortunately.
If you're a breastfeeding mama, like me, you might consider donating any surplus. Human Milk for Human Babies is an organisation assisting families to access breastmilk for their babies if they need it. A simple and valuable gift indeed.
Consider making an extra meal up for a friend or acquaintance who may be having a bad week, or just hold their hand, make a cuppa or lend an ear.
It's been an interesting ride, this unschooling thing, of late. Our owlets teach us so much... One of my favourite things about unschooling is that we ALL learn together and from each other. The big learning curve for me has been standing back and observing. Even when I felt like there wasn't much going on and that my perceived loss of connection with big owlet was creating problems, there was other stuff happening for her. Growing and changing and learning in her own way. As I mentioned, we lifted screen restrictions completely and rode out the first couple of weeks of screen overload and it seems she is able to self regulate after all...
I've learnt that if I'd stopped worrying about what she was doing (or not doing), and stopped to observe her learning process, I'd have a whole lot less to worry about. While we were fighting over how much time big owlet spent in front of the screen, she was also making her own films. She filmed herself doing just about everything, like drifting off to sleep. Curious about what she looked like, the process of capturing herself on the screen. It was like a total emersion unit in all things screen related and had it been something like books I'd have been so much cooler with it. But it wasn't and I wasn't and now I know.
So I'm spending less time facilitating their learning and more time observing it. As new opportunities arise, I make sure they have access to them. I do think about things that they may be interested in and strew their paths with interesting bits and pieces, but really they are finding their way so well on their own. And whether or not it makes sense to me is completely irrelevant.
little owlet: knock, knock.
huz: who's there?
little owlet: chicken
huz: chicken who?
little owlet: because the pirate said so!
huz: that doesn't make sense.
little owlet: it doesn't have to. It's a joke. It's supposed to be silly! (like duh)
So Autumn is here and I always find the start of a season a good time to start things afresh. We usually begin with a seasonal table and instead of setting it up beautifully with a few sparse items and guarding it for a week before the owlets start dumping bits and pieces on it, I decided to take a different approach. I put a piece of fabric down and a few bits and pieces, like a faerie and some toadstools... then I observed. Tiny seasonal bits and pieces started arriving, like little apples and walnut shells. A bunch of leaves just starting to turn. Then big owlet found a box of wax and they began modeling little gnomes and spent the rest of the afternoon playing and storytelling. Sometime during the week, I'll tidy it up a little and the process will begin again.
At the moment, strewing means I'm the social director. It seems to be more about making sure play dates happen and trips to town than bringing home a book from the library. On the latest trip to town, big owlet asked me why women carry handbags and men don't. On every outing since, she's packed a handbag with a play phone, lip gloss, a set of keys... she asked me for some old make-up to play with. My initial reaction is of discomfort - seven year olds don't need make up! But when I stand back and observe, remember that it is her learning process, not mine, I can see that she is thinking about what it means to be a woman. Something we've talked about lots. And I can see that if I stop trying to show her the way, but observe and help her find it on her own, she'll be an amazing woman indeed.
12 March 2011
Good morning all! I'm back to work this long weekend. In amongst owlet adventures and fungi fossicks, I'll be filling a new order for the Wilderness Society shop - more onesies and hairclips. It seems the mushie onesies are flying out the door! Yay for fungi!
I'll also be pottering around with some new fabric combinations and new styles to sell at the Autumn Market I'm aiming to be at in May. So... in order to rebuild my fabric stash so I can re-stock (eep! out of fabric!!), I'm clearing a bunch of things in the owlet shop. Baby organic cotton long sleeved tees were $22 but you can pick one up for only $16 now! Garden skirts are on sale for $32 instead of their regular $35 market price... actually everything is just a little bit cheaper than usual. Go look! Lots there for new baby gifts and trans-seasonal attire for the owlets in your life. :)
8 March 2011
A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
Oh but how I wish that strength didn't need to be tested in the first place... The owlets and I had a lovely floaty pyjamas day today. It was International Women's Day and we made blackberry muffins and had a tea party. For the first time they understood words like feminism, discrimination, equality. For the first time, they understood that men and women are not always afforded the same rights. That women the world over suffer just for the fact that they are women. They learned about women who have achieved great things, fought for their rights. They understood for the first time that there is still so far to go. They were surprised, angry and sad. They couldn't believe it, thought it was silly... Then they said "Happy Mother's Day" and went on to play explorers for the rest of the day.
I'm so glad that they live in an environment where inequality is so unbelievable to them, but gladder now they are aware that it is not the norm. Hopeful that they will continue to talk, think and strive for a world where it is.
7 March 2011
It seems like ages since I applied myself to learning something new. I think I've been content with watching the owlets potter along on their learning journeys. I've learnt about them as they have grown and challenged me in so many ways... but I can't say I've picked up a new skill of my own for a while. Last monday I wrote that it was time I got back to the crafty stuff, both for my own benefit and for the owlets. It keeps things interesting around here when there's new stuff happening. So I'm knitting.
I actually studied knitting at university. But perhaps I didn't listen, or I wasn't interested, or I was too busy dreaming about Huz... I don't remember much of it. I remember struggling with the knitting machine, vaguely enjoying the results and being shocked when the teacher suggested I pick knitting as my major. I politely declined and then ran off to print stuff... then got a job as a sock designer, working with knit for about 10yrs. But I still can't knit. Not anything beyond garter stitch anyhow. Actually I knit garter stitch quite well now, having had lots of practice. So here I am with CIRCULAR needles, learning how to knit something more than a square.
I borrowed a bunch of books from the library, much to the interest of the google-age owlets. I've had a look around blogland and youtube and I think I'm ready to knit. Something. I anticipate much stopping and starting and growling as I try to follow a pattern, then change it to make it my own because much like big owlet, I don't usually like following the instructions to the letter. I've got lots of mentors around me too should I need. All the vital ingredients for any unschooling adventure. It should be interesting. And hopefully practical. I'm planning on knitting something for this tiny one...
Because she's small, so it should be quicker. She's also growing hugely, and quickly, so I need to work fast (I always work better with a deadline). And because she needs clothes. By the third owlet, the clothes just seem grottier and none of them fit. *sigh* So we begin again.
4 March 2011
Well that was a week! I must say Friday night couldn't have come soon enough. Tonight's chinese take away seems like a well earned reward for the effort too... Aside from the usual juggling effort with the two smallest owlets, we've had a rather huge journey with big owlet over the past seven days. The tumultuous weekend last week, which I posted about on monday led to us reassessing just how we approach unschooling, lightening up a little. Leaning towards the radical just a little more. We lifted screen time restrictions in an effort to see just what she wants to do with her time, given the choice. She chose the screen and those black circles are a result of a week spent entirely in front of it. We've talked throughout the week about listening to her body, stopping for breaks. We've made a little extra effort to be interested in what she's watching, while making sure our lives carry on and life is exciting around her. Enough to draw her back to our reality. We've ummed and ahhed about it, wondering when she might stop watching. Maybe this is her new routine? She does like routine and habit and we could easily see her getting used to spending her days in this way... I spent time watching her, wondering, occasionally asking, what is it that she's interested in? How can I help her, work with her passions?
Then this afternoon, she was in her room pottering. It was a rare moment. We finished the painting and most of the clouds earlier in the week and gave her her room back, but she hasn't spent much time there yet, although she does love it. We decided to keep little owlet in a different room too, realising that big owlet needed space. She's going through stuff. She's spoken to us appallingly this week and it has been confronting and difficult to maintain that compassion. She's grunted from behind the screen, shouted, cried. She seemed lost to us. Handing her room back mid week brought an instant peace. Nurturing her and saying yes to as many things as we can has eased the ride. And she is sometimes remembering to be thankful, gentle, loving in return. She crept back into little owlet's room to sleep last night, but her space is there when she needs it. So today tiny owlet and I were walking the hallway and stopped by big owlet's room when she was there and we flopped on the bed for a chat. She was telling me about Mister Maker and how she needs craft supplies so she can copy what they made on the show. I suggested she uses what she has at hand to make her own thing - be Ms Maker. A-ha! Lightbulb moment! The answer was right in front of me all along.
Ten minutes later we had brainstormed big owlet's new tv series, to be aired on youtube sometime soon. We've spoken to awesome grandparents with connections to see if she can get a glimpse into real tv and how it's made... All those times where I've asked her in utter frustration "what are you learning in front of that screen all day?" and she's replied "I'm learning to make my own movies." I don't think she was kidding. Later this afternoon, I was pleased to find her pottering some more. She was playing with little owlet for the first time all week. There was music playing, rather than tv shows blaring in the lounge room. She was reading a book.
So Huz and I are breathing a big sigh of relief tonight. It feels like we're getting to know this new version of big owlet a little more. We're learning to listen more carefully. The grey clouds that hung over last weekend have cleared and we've found a little clarity. And I'm so grateful. Tomorrow we can wake up and get on with normal weekend stuff. Like buying fabric to do some green screen filming... and knitting, and resuming my women's circle...
And figuring out what to do with all these pears dropped of by a lovely neighbour.
Hope its blue skies for you too. Happy Friday to you and yours! x