Friday, 26 August 2011

Before we were mamas

Sweet dear Mamas.

This is a love letter to you.

All of you.

I know it can be hard. There are so many layers to us. We were not born as mamas, but we have been born into it so to speak, with the mental, physical and psychological stretch marks to prove it. Some of us keep these better hidden than others. Being born into a mother role involves a labour of sorts and a kind of being squeeeeeeezed into our new role, from our old life into this new one. It has it's dangers. But it is a new start, a fresh start, a new beginning. Something beautiful, pure and clean.

And that can be hard to deal with when we carry around hurts and scars that won't heal. Pain from before. It doesn't entirely dissolve or go away. Some hurts run too deep. Some pains run so deep nothing and no-one can touch them easily. They are too hard to talk about. Too awkward. Too painful. The is almost never a right time to discuss them, because those things stray so far from the path of polite conversation, conversation that can be discussed near children, etc...

I know you all have your hurts. Your own disappointments that you carry around under your busy mummy exterior. Painful things that hurt like hell. Things from before we were mamas.

Remember you are not alone dear mama. We all carry these things. We all have scars we hide from each other - ourselves even.

When old hurts (whether they be a month, a year, ten years, or twenty) come back to haunt you, remember how far you've come. Remember what you've achieved. Feel proud of who and where you are now. Don't let the past hold you down, don't let it keep you there. Your time is now. Look into your partner and your children's eyes and drink deeply. Look at yourself in the mirror and really smile. Remember you are beautiful. You're alive! That is a gift. It really is.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

August Gratituesday....

Welcome to my second Gratituesday, the idea of lovely mama knitty over at 

Ooh I am grateful for a good many things today.

I am really mindful today of the potential power of the kindness of strangers. We really enjoyed this vibe today. I'm grateful for those who have faith in people's good nature. I'm grateful for new friendships, new insights, new people in my life. New philosophies and wisdoms. Of multiple wisdoms and truths.

I'm grateful for my little boy and the newly growing love since we clashed spectacularly of late and we are finding a path to each other again, falling in love again. I'm delighted again by his cheeky spirit instead of simply being exhausted and exasperated by it.

I'm grateful for kind folks who donate their time and energy for things they feel passionate about, without financial reward.

I'm grateful for the goodies that are coming forth from my veg garden, waves of gifts, that seem utterly magical and mysterious and full of good energy!

I'm grateful to be able to live the lifestyle I live. I moan about how hard it is, far too much. But I am lucky. I am grateful that I learnt to drive and have been able to go off having so many days all over the place with the kids. I'm grateful for those quiet days too, when nothing much happens. When we can catch our breath and daydream a little. Consolidate and re-group. Re-gather our thoughts. Get our house back in order.

I'm grateful for everyone in our family's life, for their time, thoughts, and loving care. For their kind words. For sharing this life with us and making it worth living for.

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Motherfunker's guide to the best kids music albums - Part 2

Hello, how nice to be back. How are you? 

We've been off galavanting in Wales and Herefordshire, having a disastrous tent experience in the  beautiful Brecon Beacons, but enjoying the stunning views and natural beauty of the area. I went on my own with the children and put our bell tent up wrong (Yes, I know) - bending all the tent pegs in the iron-hard ground in the process. Two windy, rainy nights with puddles in the tent (wet bedding made wetter when Alf shook half a bottle of smoothie all over the inside of the tent) and the logistics of doing everything with a toddler in tow was a real test, but luckily the daytimes were fun and we had loads planned. Climbing activity days at a local centre, a horse-riding lesson for Herb, a trip to a water mill, a trip to the cinema to see Cars 2, and a fantastic day trip to the showcase caves/dino centre high up in the beacons, which was stunning. We spent nights three and four of our hols in a cheap and cheerful B&B room, which the children treated as one big bouncy castle. I returned home feeling frazzled but having really enjoyed some parts of the holiday - watching the newly full moon rise over a hill whilst walking in a horsey meadow with abundant wildlife was the highlight for me :-)

And while we were off doing this my biggest boy Finn was off for a whole 7 nights all by himself with a bunch of total strangers, on an activity holiday called "Young Inventors Week", sleeping in dorms, and doing all sorts of new things. He had an absolute blast, and loved the independence from us. Being home educated, experiences like this are really good for him, since he has to put up with three younger brothers in his hair for a great deal of time, and much as he loves them, they all need some distance and times apart to appreciate each other!

Anyway.....this is meant to be a post about music!

I wanted to share some more gems with you, albums that get played to death in our household.

Here is the first. It's called African Playground, from the fantastic world music label Pututmayo. (Click on their website, it's lovely. They have an online radio show if you look on their main site) It's the most feel-good album I think you could buy for kids, so joyful and exhuberant and upbeat you'll even find yourself playing it when they're not around. We know all the words by heart, and as with all the Putumayo Kids albums there is a little booklet which tells you about each song, something about the artist, the lyrics etc. 

African Playground is in my opinion, the best, but there are loads of really good albums on this label.  

Animal Playground has some stunning tracks on it, my favourites are 'Eagles' by Terri Hendrix, which I cannot sing without getting a lump in my throat at one particular point... and also 'The littlest Birds" by The Be Good Tanyas, which is just gorgeous. "No more monkeys" by Asheba is also great fun and below I have included a vid link to it, just for you. Just click on the little linkbelow :-)

Moving on... the World Playground Multicultural Activity Kit is a really nice little package. The children learn about the different countries by learning about the songs and the lyrics and by ticking off countries in their "passport" that they have visited. I haven't used the book that much because I don't want to detract from their pure enjoyment of the music at this stage, but I think a time will come when they're a little older, when they may well read through the book from their own desire to do so, and will find it a very interesting and educational little bit of fun I'm sure. The CD is great.

Putumayo are great because they donate a potion of their proceeds to different charities. Read up on the albums first though. They have made A LOT of compilations and some can be a bit generic. It depends what you like.

I have included links to Amazon here but only do so because you can see reviews etc... You can often find these albums in lovely wooden/boutique toyshops, where they will be much more expensive. It depends where you want to put your dollar.

Hope you enjoyed my list anyway, see you soon!

Oh, ok just one more link. This is from Animal Playground. I just love it too much not to link it here. It's by the BeGood Tanyas. Enjoy!


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Hip replacement....


Seems I joined a Christian homeschooling blogring thinking it was something else!

I no longer have the button 'hip homeschool mom' on the right-hand scroll bar but that was a load of rubbish anyway TBH. unhip homeschool mum, it will have to be.

Maybe I could invent a button called 'occasionally-greasy-haired-trying-her-best-and-frequently-coming-unstuck-mummy?' Or 'pulling-her-hair-out-accommodating-grumpy-toddler-mummy?'

Well since we're talking about 'hip' things, my hips are crud right now. My back gave up this morning, just as we're about to go on a camping holiday in Wales. Bah! So we're putting it off for 24 hours.

In the meantime, here's a cheeky little something on the hip theme from someone called hip-auntie. It's a cracking little gem I stumbled across on my web travels - a pre-recorded 50's bebop/ rockabilly radio show for kids, and the DJ is a bit random. She speaks with a very quintessentially English plummy accent, but plays the most awesome little playlists, each cleverly woven together with a story. Bizarre but wonderful!


Monday, 8 August 2011

Ooh ah just a little bit, ooh ah, a little bit!

Ok so you may think I'd completely exhausted the whole colouring-in idea after that last post. 'We get it', I hear you say. 'You guys like colouring'. 'A lot.'

Well I just found some more pics which were too good not to share.

Remember the Doodle Book 2 by Taro Gomi? Well here are some pics from that book, that I found on my phone. Did I mention before that I think you should buy it? It's sooo good! The one below was just a tree all by itself, until it got imagined into something new.

You convinced yet?

These books below by Prestel totally deserved a mention last time. They're really fab. They act as muse and prompt by starting you off and leaving the rest up to you. And there's a page at the beginning telling you about the authors.

Here's one from the Dali book. We actually saw this telephone once at an exhibition in Brugge. A totally unplanned random visit as we were only staying one night and had just been discovering Dali with the children. What a treat!  No more about colouring books now, I promise!    :-)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Colouring mad!

In recent years there has been talk in some spheres questioning the educational value of colouring books. They supposedly stunt the imagination, being too prescriptive, allowing for too little freedom of expression and imagination. I say pish and piffle! Being too prescriptive or unimaginative begins and ends in that space between your ears, I say!

There are some amazing colouring books out there. I want to share a few with you, and show how it is possible to use ready made pictures as a springboard to give children a framework within which they can be free to do their own thing. If your children are creative types they'll use the lines as guidelines and have a riot in between. 

This kind of sums up my attitude full stop. The lines are there as a guide, but meticulously colouring everything neatly between the lines has never been my style. I'm more of an invent your own rules kinda gal!

Colouring can be so much more than simply filling in a space with colour. It can be a rather hypnotic, meditative activity, bringing a calmness, a kind of zen state. There is something very beautiful and pleasing about the simplicity of mandala or celtic patterns, or indeed any type of repetitive patterns. They can be both mathematical and if you choose to view them in this light, you could argue that some types of colouring even have a kind of spiritual quality about them - if you look at celtic or islamic patterns, or say, illuminations from stained glass windows, they can be rich with meaning, marrying art and belief. The perfect symetry and mathematical perfection therein is a reflection of those principles at the heart of that particular belief. But these need not necessarily take on any religious meaning at all, and can be enjoyed aesthetically anyway.

I try to buy colouring books that are interesting and inspiring. We have a whole spectrum of different types on many themes, in many styles. I'm not kidding when I say we probably have over 50 in total! Some are instructional and informative, teaching about some particular subject. Some are just for fun, and celebrate the non-sensical, the lighter side of life, the trivial. All are fine with me, since life is an eclectic jumble anyway! 

Here's a selection from some of our fave colouring books and some examples of how the children have, as I said earlier, sometimes used 'the lines as guidelines and had a riot in-between'. 

 A really special book, combining nature and maths and art all in one.





  R2-D2 and C3P0 get a makeover in this printable from the internet

A very flambuoyant Shakespeare coloured in by one of the children from one of  David Ochiltree's historical colouring books. I wrote to him directly and ordered every book in his series a few years back, and he gave me a discount because I bulk ordered for some fellow home educators. He was very friendly.

 A page from the splendid, magnificent Anorak magazine! Chock full of groovy stories, each by different artists in radically different styles. You never quite know what each issue might be like, and the colouring pages are always fun, often quite psychedelic and always highly imaginative.

This is a beautiful book with little footnotes on every page explaining the different creatures and symbols etc... It contains illuminated letters, spirals and knotwork, geometric step and maze patterns, and beast, bird and plant designs. Gorgeous!

One of many many Dover Colouring books we own, we LOVE the breadth of choice and the topics covered. Mini Dover Series is also good.

 Printables from maths websites with images such as this Isometric Dot Paper  can be great. This one above was used by Finn to make a honeycomb pattern for a card for a bee-keeping friend. 

Taro Gomi is really prolific in Japan and has written and illustrated many books. The pictures act as a prompt. He starts them off and leaves a suggestion. The Sunday telegraph quote on the back of the book reads "Battily brilliant heaven for idlers and slackers of all ages". I have a particular soft spot for this type of open-ended suggestive kind of colouring book because there's a myriad of ways each picture could be added to by each child. There is no single right answer or way of drawing in it. We love this book so much I have bought it for several children. I even have a copy in French!  It's as thick as The Yellow Pages and cost us about £10. That might sound like a lot, but it's worth every penny.

As it says on the cover, 30 countries drawn as mazes. A home ed must-have.

Hours and hours of fun! The page below is one of a double page spread from this brilliant book that took a few days on and off.

Hurray for colouring books and printables! Which are your favourites?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

HESFES - Part 2... and a hot sticky day

Hello, how's it going? I thought these piccies deserved to make it onto the blog and was trying to include them last time, but computer said No! Aren't they just lovely? We really did have a grand old time. Badge making, walking on stilts, curating our very own museum which we brought for the week to show to friends and random passing festival-goers. Assembling the parts of a plastic heart. Pole-lathey type stuff. Anyway, here's the best of the rest.

Anyway, what's been going on since our return besides washing everyone/everything which seemed to take a whole day just on it's own. (The kids had Gruffalo feet by the end of the week!) Yesterday we hung out with our dear friend Nicole and went swimming which was lots of fun. Finn has finally learnt how to swim and was doing widths. Yay! Indie went fishing with my dad, and was the first to catch anything - a carp! He was very proud of this and was joining in the fishing banter with the other guys at the lake apparently, and he was dubbed a champion fisherman. He came back home an inch or two taller I swear. Sorry fishies.
(me no like fishing personally and think it a little cruel, but ho hum, it's not about me)

Today Finn went on the first of two all-day horse-riding lessons. He loved it, and got a rosette for coming fourth in one of the activities. Bless Indie - he keeps calling it a courgette. He asked me earlier "Mum, do you think maybe I could have a courgette for being such a good massager?" !!! I have to chuckle when I imagine a courgette pinned to his jacket.

Herbie also had a fab day. He attended a multi-sports activity day at the local leisure centre, and as part of it, did some swimming in the big pool for the first time ever. Go Herbie! He was beaming when we went to pick him up.

Meanwhile Indie, Alfred and I melted in the heat and went to a soft play place, where they bounced their hearts out, followed by a woodland walkabout and nature trail.

Tommorow we're spending a couple of hours at a dear friend's house, then going to Ely on Friday to a fortnightly gathering of home ed families. 

Busy days!

Monday, 1 August 2011


HESFES 2011 !!!

Just a few of our piccies, since there are too many for this tired mama to upload right now :-)

What a fantastic week! Great company, great workshops, a lovely meeting with an old friend, a chance to really truly unwind. 


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