Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Half asleep in blog pyjamas

Do all blogs have a life span? I wonder this as my zest for writing here ebbs and flows. I wonder if Feet On The Ground has run it's course, and if I am too content to be bothered to write anything much, or with the same urgency.

This year has been a year of things not going as I expected but actually going better than I could ever have hoped. We planned to move, and now I am feeling settled again and the wanderlust wind has blown over, leaving behind a calm that's been really enjoyable. I've found a kind of contentedness and peace I haven't had for a long time. Our home has a kind of more grounded rhythm that has organically emerged out of the unsettledness, the itchy feet, the urge to wander. Like a ghost laid to rest. Part of it is of course, the babe. Grounding us all, the baby is perhaps a much needed anchor to stop all our flitting and flightiness.

Since we came back from France, Pete has been enjoying just being. Being a house husband and dad and not having some big project to have to strive towards. Rediscovering a playfulness he had perhaps lost touch with. Like the pleasure of painting till 2 in the morning. Or making fudge. Or reading comics. Really unwinding. Our friends perhaps think we're mad, 'dropping out' of the rat race for a while. Maybe we are. But maybe it's even madder to stay in it and get ill in the process?
How long will this playful period last? Who knows? We don't have an infinite amount of money in our pot, and in time, some income will need to be generated again for the future. Organically, new projects and jobs will emerge - when we are all ready. But for now, we're spending our kids precious childhood just enjoying seeing them unfold as people, being close to them, being playful with them and enjoying them before they're all grown up and all being independent. I can't imagine any single job more rewarding than that right now.

My birth planner feels as if it needs longer to cook, like a baby that hasn't yet reached its gestational age to be born, and allowing myself the freedom not to rush to publish it as it is now has been quite a relief. I read a quote somewhere from an author that said such and such book took them 7 years to write or something like that, and it was a really big moment for me to know that I should publish the book when it feels ready and not before!

All things have their natural time and rhythm and perhaps this blog has reached the end of its road.

It feels like perhaps this baby is slowing us all down and preparing us all for the chnge of pace, re-focusing us all on what is important in the here and now, giving us permission to just be and to just enjoy the simple things instead of trying to do big stuff. Right now, it's what we all need.

And when we're good n ready we'll kick some writing and computing ass and be ready and up for the intense rush of being so outward facing again. For now, we're turning inwards and bloody loving it.

Gently letting go of Feet On The Ground and channeling all my magic into home life, and loving my peeps. Adios for now and big love to you all.

Xx MF xX

Monday, 7 October 2013

To thy own heart to true!

Now we have been home for a week, and our feet are back on the ground, I've had time to absorb our trip away. Our latest travels have highlighted how much I truly treasure the freedom that we have and to hold onto it very dearly, and to live and love life more unapologetically on our own terms.

In terms of the trip itself, although our last journey to France and Spain was fun, travelling this time round was a much more liberating and easygoing experience. The weather was so much kinder. We did not share our bus with mozzies, ants, or nits. This time rather than doing most of the talking, the whole family spoke French to various degrees, with greater ease and less self-consciousness. We knew the bus more intimately, and she didn't break down on us! This time, we did more of our own cooking because we had our gas cooker. We had a new solar panel which helped charge batteries in between hook-ups. We were outdoors more often and did more active sporty things, and we ate pretty well. It felt like we really got into our groove for the whole trip, and enjoyed every place we stayed in, without exception. Winging it for a month felt less intimidating and daunting than trying to figure out where to be and what to do for 9 weeks. So we've learnt a lot from this trip. Each time we go away, we learn so many different things about ourselves, each other, about life.

One thing that truly struck me whilst I was away is how far we've all come in the last year, in our own different ways, both visibly and invisibly.

For my own part, I realise just how much less I care about conforming to any set of ideals or any group of people's ideas. Whether that's within society at general, or amongst my peer group, or wider circle of friends, or within the doula or birthing community or as a home educator. The need for others approval, or permission or whatever, to be exactly who I am, unapologetically and unashamedly. There is a so much judgement around about how to do everything the 'right' way, even within the supposedly most liberated of camps. And whilst I was away, I took a deep breath and I let it all go. I let go of even trying to live according to anyone else's vision or definitions of how to do things. I felt to my core, the total liberation of being unapologetically true to myself, to my family's needs, and wants and personalities. Without exception.  Without checking first with anyone if that's ok. And truly respecting others to do the same. To really not give a crap about others choices. To not feel offended or annoyed by them, to feel the need to change them, or the world. So many forums and online places and discussions are full of people lamenting about others choices - all that time and precious energy wasted on wanting or needing others to be just like you, think just like you and act just like you! It's actually pretty crazy!!!

I feel a real sense of peace and liberation to really own this truth.

Travel wide my friends, travel wide!

"Be yourself. Everyone else is taken" ~  Oscar Wilde


Monday, 23 September 2013

Hula hula



Today's the day we went on a gondola ride on a subterranean lake, deep down in the earth....
and Alf learnt to hula hoop!!!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Learning on the road

Well it's been an amazing few days and I just wanted to write a little about learning on the road, and some observations I've made about the kids in general.

Our trip has been centred around variety, and exposing the children to as many different scenarios, activities and sights as possible. Being children, they have a strong need for rest and playtime, so we don't drag them round too many sights, and always balance intense city/town trips with chill-out days. No matter where we are or what we're doing though, they're soaking up the whole experience like the big sponges that they are!

The skills and language they are acquiring seems so easy and natural, and completely in context. Confidences slowly gained in different activities. Dots joined up in their understanding. Whether we are doing ordinary and mundane things, or really exciting trips out, they're learning. They're learning by playing, by living, by exploring, by asking questions and discussing many possible answers. By trial and error. By accident. When we're not trying.

I have been quietly despairing for a few months that after spending a lot of money on swimming lessons, that Finn and Herbie seemed to only mess about in the pool, and both boys were doing doggy paddle every time we went to a pool. I had visions of them never learning to swim 'properly'. And suddenly, through no real effort, this last week, they are swimming lengths using the front crawl as if they'd been doing it their whole lives and I simply imagined there was a time when they couldn't do it! My jaw literally dropped as I have watched them swimming about with such strength and confidence, and it's been another one of those moments when I realize that I should have had more faith in them, and trusted that they would do it when they were good and ready and not a minute before - like everything else!

Herbie went off to a Boulangerie on his own yesterday and bought us a couple of baguettes and went off to do the recycling asking the campsite owner where to go, and wandering off quite some way to do it.

Alfie has learnt to ride a scooter on this holiday, and to whistle, and has been doing both with such delight - at every opportunity!

Indie has been showing more independence and testing his skills to the max in tree climbing, scooter-riding, and wandering off on his own.

Finn has been playing Civilisation on his DS, and conquered all of Alexander the Greats lands, which I gather is no small feat,, and has also been playing a Farm simulator game, where you have to manage and run your own farm. He absolutely loves it, and has has taken great pride in building up his farm and improving it over the seasons.

They've learnt some simple horsemanship after each having a pony trek ride throught the forest, and watched the beautiful and sad black and white film from the 1950's called White Mane about a wild white horse, in the Camargue region, whilst we stayed there.

Finn used his birthday money and some from our educational fund to buy a genuine leather repo Centurion helmet for his museum, after a visit to a very impressive Roman amphitheatre in Orange. His knowledge of the Romans has come from so many fun and interesting sources - we try to keep things light! We've learnt a lot of really ordinary everyday things about the Romans from Asterix, and after visiting the amphitheatre, we watched Life of Brian, which went down a storm. All dots joining up - using comedy and humour along the way.



After going to the Louvre in Paris, we bought The Da Vinci Code on DVD and the older boys watched it, which prompted of course, many discussions about, religion, conspiracies, the Knights templar etc etc. And revisiting the mediavel fairytale citadel of Carcassonne (where they filmed some of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves) has highlighted yet more religious history - relating to the Cathars, Knights, the Holy Grail and Franco-Spanish history.

Playing Yahtzee has taught the children to count quicker in units, tens and hundreds - all so easily and non-schooly and no workbooks involved. Ditto working with money, or discussing the relative depth in cms of this swimming pool or that - such ordinary everyday parts of life we take for granted, yet they all make up an understanding of the world.

Regular, ordinary life on the road, whether we're rolling or stationary, teaches all of us so much. Every day is a new adventure. One day we learn about sweet production, the next Flamingoes. It's all just so beautifully, beautifully random. I love this lifestyle on the road, and I know it will be over again soon. We sail home next Monday. Then we'll be adventuring in a new way. Catching up with friends, signing up to new activities, day tripping less often but day tripping none the less. It's hard to imagine pumpkins and soups and brown leaves and October whilst here in the beautiful Lot and Garonne region, in 26 degrees heat, but my thoughts turn to our winding journey northwards, homewards. Our adventures here may seem extraordinary, but back home there will be different adventures to be had. I'm looking forward to them already!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Action-packed!

I can't believe how much we've been doing this holiday so far. After what has felt like a fairly quiet, and fairly at-home (for us) summer, we've been out and about and doing things non-stop it feels! There are stressful times as with any holiday with six people all in one bus, but there tends to be a common factor on those days that are less than fun: bad weather. Bad weather tends to make us all a bit grumpy as we aren't so free, and the dog hates it too!

We took a look at the weather forecast and made a decision after Park Asterix to head south. Who in their right mind would go rainy caravanning when they could head for the sun? It was a no brainer. So here we are in the South of France. We like it here. A lot. We had planned to explore Brittany, but it is so close to England really, and it's not running away anywhere! We figured that we can go for a couple of weeks some other time.

So what have we been up to? As I mentioned before, we went to Park Asterix - It was absolutely brilliant, so much better than I could have imagined, partly because of all the rollercoasters and proper rides, but even moreso because they know and love the books and characters, Herbie in particular.






and after the busyness of a day there, we camped up in a beautiful wild spot in the forest about 45 minutes from there. It was lovely to walk and smell the mushroomy september smell of forest and wake in the night to absolute darkness, the kind you only get when you're totally off grid. Perfect.

We woke up to hard rain and decided to head south. Our next stop was Troyes. Troyes is a beautiful mediaeval timbered town....



and we stayed at a campsite nearby, with red squirrels darting here and there around us. So beautiful to see them. The most amazing thing in Troyes was also the most unexpected - for the first time in my whole life, I saw a hummingbird! In a pretty herb garden. It was the kids who named it - I was like, "wooooh that's awfully big for a moth.... and how come its wings are beating so fast?" It would never occur to me that it could be a hummingbird - they live in tropical places, right? And yet it was. I got to see up close, for a brief moment, tiny downy feathers, and the unmistakable way they sip at nectar with that long sucky thing (must look up proper word for this), I can't tell you how completely and utterly excited I was. I feel so privileged to have seen it! Such a delicate thing, such a tiny and perfect creature. Wow.

After this we made a stop at Lyon - to visit the building where the Lumiere brothers made the first ever film, although when we got there most of the building was closed for renovations - thankfully there was lots of visual stuff in the park all around it and in the street, so it wasn't a totally wasted journey...





We freecamped that night in a hillside village spot, and moved on early next day. Next stop: a lovely chilled out, remote lakeside campsite near Montelimar. - Montelimar is the 'Capital of Nougat' and the signs on the motorway say 'Nougat' with a huge arrow - what's not to love? And what a sweet place it was. Nougat factories lined the road going into Montelimar, and one place our trusty DK France for Families book recommended was the amazing Palais de BonBons - a nougat factory where you could see the production line up close behind a glass screen set within a fantastic multicoloured eye-popping museum and shrine to all things candied, chocolate or sugared.










It struck the right balance between being fun and educational, with an indoor working beehive, artworks made out of sweets, and the World's largest nougat plus Guinness World Record Certificate to prove it.



Whilst we stayed here all the boys went to a really fun outdoor go-karting track as an early birthday treat for Finn, who has wanted to go Go Karting for ages, and even Alf had a go, who drove on a petrol powered one with his helmet on, going about 20mph! He loved it. The other boys went on a bigger track with more powerful cars, lots of fun.



I've so much more to write, about ponies and amphitheatres and forest exploits and photos to attach, but am tired and the laptop's about to run out of juice, so au revoir for now!

Love and baguettes,
xX Le MF Xx