Sunday, 30 September 2012

Born Free - Baby Bear is born!

I've been dying to write this post for the last few days about the wonderful birth that I was lucky enough to attend in the wee hours of Thursday morning, my first as a doula, and hopefully the first of many!
There is so much I want to write about this beautiful event - where do I begin?
It started with a phonecall.
A drive in the moonlight - the 3am moon shining in a particular way such as I have never seen before....I smiled and thought it a good omen!
I arrived with mama in the birth pool, already far in, swaying and groaning, doing her thing.
Daddy Bear was fetching hot water, a midwife with angel wings pottered and calmly did her thing.
Things got more and more intense.
Children peeped and hid and peeped again.
Another angel arrived.
Time did an inside-out, back-to-front, upside-down-and-back-again flip!
Mama Bear worked it. Bigtime.
We all showered her in love, encouragement, and praise.
And then in one push..... the baby was born!
Daddy Bear, and three big cubs, gathered around Mama Bear and the littlest cub, brand new, quiet, alert, snuffly!
Wowsers! Easy as that.
The everday miracle of birth was witnessed and felt by all, this primal, messy, animal, and simoultaneously extremely gentle birth!
Welcome to the world, baby BEAR, and well done Mama!


Sunday, 23 September 2012

To thine own self be true!

Today I'm thinking about the fact that every single one of us is entirely unique and yet part of a whole.
We belong to different clubs and societies, political movements, religious organisations. We accumulate badges and certificates that further define us and our journey, and our achievements. But strip everyone down to our naked state and we are all the same really.

We want to be loved. We want to feel safe. We want to belong.

It's if course much easier to do this when we don't try to stand out from the crowd. When we keep ourselves small and unnoticed. When we never step out of line. Never speak out of line. Never act out of line. 

When we are obedient and do as we're told.

When we don't fight, or speak up or say 'Yes - count me in!' Or 'No- I can't condone this'

Standing up for what we believe in can put us at odds with others, which is an uncomfortable place to be. It requires balls. 

Sometimes I feel uncomfortable that we choose home instead of school for our kids. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable that we choose not to vaccinate our kids. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable about my birthing choices and philosophy. Sometimes I feel scared that we're risking our long term financial security by following the path we are about to follow. Sometimes I feel it would be easier to just be like everyone else - to not rock any boats. To never have uncomfortable moments with friends or family, which highlight your differences, and put you both in an awkward position with each other.

But here's the thing - you are never alone. No matter how crazy your convictions may seem to others, there are always others who feel the same. There are a whole bunch of other brave souls who also risk daily moments of humiliation for standing out and being different. For choosing the 'whacky' alternative.

Saying 'Yes' or 'No' can be trememendously empowering or disempowering.

Maybe the way to look at life is to pay really close attention to what you are saying YES to.

Maybe next time you are saying 'No' to something that you feel is expected of you by by friends, family, or society at large, instead of feeling like you are rejecting something, how about just saying a great big


to yourself?

Saying YES is really powerful.

And when you look around, you realise other people are saying YES too!

YES - I want my kids to learn at home because that feels great!

YES - I choose natural medicines because they make us feel good!

YES - I choose to work towards co-creating a more positive, more empowering birth culture!

YES - I choose to value family time more than possessions!

Are you saying YES to your life?Are you owning your choices?

Or are you still saying NO, still feeling like the odd one out?

Saying YES is one of the most empowering things you can do - and I'm going to say it a lot more in everything I do.

To thine own self be true - oh yeah baby!!!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Impossible things made possible!

Herbie was trying to look for answers today for the competitions in his National Geographic Kids magazine. By the way they've for some great prizes in there this issue, including a family holiday to Thailand.


One of the answers was the name of a certain famous escape artist from a bygone age, famously called Mr Handcuffs!

Which led to us watching this

and this.....

and the quote at the end of that last movie is so brilliant that this whole post was devised just so I could write it! 

"My mind is the key that sets me free"   
- Harry Houdini

Isn't that just a really powerful thought for the day?

This reminds me to today of the illusion of impossibility. 

There are some things that seem to defy logic, that seem unlikely, or impossible or improbable. And yet they can be done. Everyday miracles. Bumble-bees flying. Babies being born. Hard boiled eggs being sucked into a glass bottle. Aeroplanes flying. Water freezing only as its poured.

Here's another thought....

Alice: This is Impossible
The Mad Hatter: Only if you believe it is
six impossible things

How many impossible things will you attempt today, dear reader? 
How impossible are they really?


Friday, 14 September 2012

What a difference a day makes...

As if to prove me utterly wrong, the day after my last post Alf was super delightful all day, and rarely had any paddys at all, making me wonder if I imagined the whole thing. Sneaky!

Well the boy keeps me on my toes that's for sure!!!

I've been feeling a bit bad about making out he's just some awful monster.

It's pretty bloody obvious to me after the event, that it was really ME having a meltdown. D'uh!

In truth, he is probably the family barometer for some other underlying emotions so it was kinda mean of me to lay it all on him. Actually when I look deeper for all the other little emotions that are going on that we think we keep neatly tucked away from the kids, turns out maybe they actually can feel it anyway. They just know. We've been having a few hiccoughs and scary moments regarding worky/money things, which we think are all under control. In truth, because the work situation has dragged on and on, with periodical spanners in the works, I've gotten used to living a little bit on the edge - waiting for it all to go tits up. So perhaps the little man is feeling some of that angst mixed in with his own highly dramatic preferences for juice strength, this plate and not that one, and a tickly bit in his sock that means he can't possible wear it and must instead, have a meltdown.


It's good to be back in the land of positive, the land of happy.

Speaking of positive and happy, I received a really touching congratulations card this week from a lovely old friend Em, saying

"A huge well done to you on your 15,000 hits! Your blog is truly inspiring, uplifting, and I really look forward to it dropping in my inbox - thank you! Keep up the good work"

Em, your words truly touched my heart, thank you so so much! It means such a lot to me to get messages like that, to know that someone I adore is getting such a buzz from my blog.

Sometimes it takes some big balls to hit the 'post' button, especially on posts like the last one. I want to go back to them and edit them into something softer, something less angst-ridden, something more palatable and acceptable. And yet, raw emotion is sometimes just that. Raw. OTT. In real life we're not always controlled and together and perfectly composed, Sometimes things just feel arggghh!

So anyway, thank you for reading, enjoying and commenting here, for sharing your thoughts, feelings and advice, for sending me cards, congratulations, commiserations, and for showing your support and love.

And not minding that I swear like a sailor.

On the topic of swearing, something which is supposedly a cardinal sin for writers till they've really established themselves..... I must share with you one of my favourite poets - Hollie McNish, another lady who can't help but say it out loud without leaving out the F word. I just LOVE her!

Check out her fantastic album about being pregnant: Push/Kick, which you can listen to in it's entirety here:

P.S. You might wet yourself laughing to some of these poems.
P.P.S. She swears quite a bit.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Meltdown mode....

Sigh. This is gonna be one of those posts.

I know I recently posted a pretty sunny home ed post. All's well in that department, true enough.


We are slightly at our wits end where our youngest boy is concerned.

We are peace-loving souls, and we treasure and adore my boy.

We really do.

But I just don't get the toddler rage thing. Even more so now he is actually almost four!

I think to myself c'mon, what have you even got to be in a rage about? How dare you be so.... ragey? When we are spending so much time trying to be nice, committed, and involved parents?

He is soooooo impatient it is untrue.

If something doesn't happen really quickly for him he just boils over straight away -Total meltdown.

If we serve him a drink and he doesn't have the exact right cup he'd had in mind - total meltdown. If the juice isn't the right one, or at the correct strength, or say, temperature - Total meltdown. If we want to go out and he wants to stay in - Total meltdown. If we cook him something he doesn't like - Total meltdown.  He'll spend ten minutes having a total meltdown demonstrating his displeasure and dissapointment with us, for serving up food that is not to his liking..... then have an even longer paddy when we feed it to the dog, an hour later, telling us that actually he really really wanted it. He has a total meltdown if his say, his sock or T-shirt gets a tiny bit wet, or his seatbelt isn't just so, or his hair is annoying him.

Basically, he has a meltdown twenty frickin' times an hour, over every little thing that doesn't quite work out for him like he'd want. And he's been like it now for months.

I've gotten used to living with him like this - demanding, crying, getting stressy about things that seem really petty and even illogical. We try to be respectful towards him, rational, reasonable. We try to be cool headed. We try to explain that we are sorting x,y,or z, to please be a bit more patient with us, that he can have something in a minute, or why he can't have something, or why we are doing something he doesn't want to do.

The other day I lost it though. He refused to come on a family bike-ride, and called us stupid dum-heads.

That really flipped my switch.

I'm starting to really wonder how the hell to help this angry kid, without giving in to every whim and being bullied by him. He's acting like one of those kids off Supernanny or something.

How did this happen? We are nice people. We are kind. We try to be gentle, patient, supportive. We try to give the kids a lot of freedom in how they choose to spend their time. We are a close family generally speaking, sharing a lot of laughter and cuddles. Pete and I get on fantastically, rarely argue, love each other like crazy. Are mostly pretty light-hearted and easy going.

The older guys were never this hard work. We'd spend hours and hours playing on the floor together, doing toddlerish things. Building train-tracks, painting, playing play-dough. They all went to nursery in some form or another and liked it. The break from home seemed to open their world up a bit, giving them a chance to play with different kids and toys and liven things up a bit. Alf refuses point blank to have anything to do with nursery at all. So here we are at home.

He seems to be really grown up in so many ways. He hates anything toddlery. Didn't like being a baby. Was always looking onwards, trying to break into the next stage, fidgety and restless to be bigger.

Being the fourth boy, he has had a different kind of set-up - he has three older brothers who he wants to join in with. He wants to be just like them. He wants to play Lego and Pokemon and big boy stuff. Storytime or playing board-games with mummy is usually refused, since he would prefer doing things with his brothers.

The activities that he will do with me, like baking a cake, or something physical, are often spent bickering. He whinges and whines his way through so many activities with me that sometimes its easier to give up and walk away. Let him go on the computer like he wants to do. Or watch something. Or just jump around.

Some days I feel pissed off that he is so demanding about everything. So fickle. So impatient. So determined to resist any reasonable request I make. To test me and push me on every frickin issue.

Do you have a child that complains and bitches the whole time no matter what you do for them?

Please someone out there tell me they have a toddler that is driving them batshit crazy!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Do we really need workbooks in this day and age?

Sitting on our bookshelves at home, going dusty, are piles of very expensive workbooks. Some of them, completed, the gold stars proof that this or that kid completed the book. They seemed to understand it at the time. What absolutely amazes me is how quickly they forget it afterwards. Finn completed loads of writing workbooks back in the early days of our homeschooling, only for me to realise much later what an utter waste of time they were. What lesson did Finn really learn whilst doing them? To complete them to keep me happy? To learn a trick, and do it over and over again? In that respect, he was an A+ student!

Now I am not about to suggest that workbooks are always a waste of time.

Or that they are always a waste of money.

I'm sure they can sometimes help consolidate knowledge.

But are they, on the whole, all that helpful? Do they add real value to a child's education? Are they absolutely vital to learning?

Or have we just got used to the idea that this is how kids learn?

Maybe we need to re-view the actual value of them.

I get the arguments for:

They help the adult keep track of where a child is at so they can scaffold and tailor the child's learning.

They introduce concepts one at a time.

They are repetitive which supposedly helps solidify that knowledge, making it concrete.

Kids love stickers.

Even better if they get a gold star so they can feel all wowed by just how clever they really are.

Woop woop.

And in my moments of desperation to conform and make things appear schooly, above board, tip-top and 'proper', I've succumbed to the Carol Vorderman-endorsed, branded type of workbook - in fact spent a small fortune on such shiny looking and reassuring books.

Now I'm not saying they have no value at all, or that these books can't ever be useful.

But..... consider this.

Kids are smart. Sometimes they're smart in an out-smarting workbooks kind of way. Sometimes they just find this kind of stuff really f'ing boring, and who can blame them?

Is there something better?

Well multi-media programmes are often more fun, and teach the same kind of information.

Great examples of these are the Cluefinders series

and here's a little video the kids told me to include here, from Cluefinders 3, which is a bit Sgt. Peppers

Next up is the really wonderful Zoombinis

..... which Finn is animatedly describing to me as I write! (20 minutes later he's still raving about it) 
He describes Zoombinis as "more fun and educational than workbooks because they're on a computer and the characters talk to you and it's exciting doing the adventures and it really captures the imagination"

Nessy is anther game the kids love, this one is for teaching dyslexic children how to spell etc... 
Look out for their iphone/ipad app in the itunes stores.

Herbie says "Nessy is a great game of spelling, puzzles and different sort of stuff that is really fun. One of my favourite games on Nessy is the vampire game, where you have to choose the right words to fill in the blanks. It's really adventurous and a a tinsy wincy bit scary!!!"

Alf says "I love Nessy, it's so cute!"

Last and by no means least, for primary aged kids, The 'Land of Me' is just ridiculously cute and awesome, and uses the simple premise of giving you three different choices within different game scenarios, each with fun consequences! Check out this trailer if you have been living under a rock and haven't heard of it yet!

Likey like? You can watch more here: Land Of Me

Alf loves the Land of Me so much that he has walked in and seen me writing about this and I'm now being kicked off the computer so he can play it for real. Psssst by the way, the ipad/iphone app for this game is free!!!

What do you think anyway m'dears?

Are workbooks dead?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

What does a doula carry in her bag of tricks?

I've been very, very excited about the upcoming birth of an already much loved member of my friend's family, and packing my Doula bag for the event!

Let's take a look inside at Motherfunker's nature cabinet should any of these be asked for/required ....

These all have a long shelf life so if they're not required they'll keep for later birthings!

Essential Oils :  Rose, which can help relax and soften ligaments/pelvis for a smooth birth
Geranium, which enhances circulation and is good for labour management in-synch with breathing techniques
Neroli, which can help reduce fear, tension and anxiety

Bach Rescue Remedy:  "To comfort and reassure"as it says on the bottle - has never failed me so far and used in my own birthings to great effect!

Mimulus: The flower essense of the Mimulus flower for courage (This flower manages to grow in places where all others would have given up - good for grounding and giving renewed strength) 

Arnica 30 - From the amazing Arnica flower, these little tasteless white pillules can have a miraculous effect on healing bruising (As I discovered after all my birthings - restored my yoni from swollen to, er, unswollen in a matter of days!)

A Morroccan bowl with two flannels to either cool or soothe as appropriate, and a beautiful, delicious Cocoa Butter Massage Bar from Lush, which you can make wet and it goes all ooozy and creamy and smells and feels like heaven!

Raspberry Leaf tea does taste like shit on its own, I'll admit. But whack in a generous drizzle of blackcurrant/fruit squash to a hot cuppa, or have it with some honey, and this is quite a nice drink! 

According to 

"Sipping raspberry leaf tea during and after the birth is said to help the uterus contract back down to size, reduce after birth bleeding and help initiate the let down of breastmilk. 

So a pretty good friend to mamas!

Pukka are just fab and I love their LOVE teabags, perhaps I'll be sipping on some o' that! Ditto the Purdey's Rejuvinate drink - A doula has to keep her strength up!

If it gets quiet, there's some lovely reading material.....

And a bunch of other practical bits for myself that I won't bore y'all with. Snacks. Camera. Warm socks. Spare t-shirt. Stuff like that.

It may stay in the bag and none of it be required at all - no problem! It's not my birth. Every mama is different!

The REAL toolkit of a Doula is whats inside - it's an attitude, a way of being.

The main things in the real live Motherfunker heart and soul Doula kit-bag will be....

..... humour.... faith.... encouragement....praise.... compassion.... and mostly....



Motherfunker writes for EOS magazine: Autumn 2012 Issue

Do hop on over to EOS and check it out!

(Remember to look out for my real name.... Paula Cleary!)

Another year of unschooling :-)

This week lots of children round the country are starting school for the first time, others are going back for a new year, some are going up to 'big school'. Mine, like thousands of others, are not. There's no school to go back to, since they never left it in the first place.

Our life at home is one continuum, with it's own rhythms, milestones, challenges and achievements.

I think back to how I felt that first September that Finn would have entered school life, had we gone down that road. And how I feel now, five years on. Back then I thought we'd be doing school-at-home, that our homeschooling would be very bookish, and resemble something like the classroom, with a very Montessori flavour. The kids however, had better ideas!

Five years on, homeschooling looks very different to how I imagined, and it's richer and more colourful than I could ever have guessed.

We are part of an really vibrant, fun-loving, supportive community of home educators, who meet regularly, in different settings, be it at each others houses, in parks, at woodlands, at halls, and all kind of random places. We meet up in different combinations of families, from just a few families meeting together to a grand gathering with with lots of mamas and papas and grandparents and friends and kids of all ages. We are a mixed bunch with different religious and non-religious views, different styles of learning, different ideas, philosophies, priorities and our own unique flavour of home edding to suit our own individual families. No two are exactly alike.

The kids form friendships that are not dictated by the fact they are a boy or girl, or by what age they are. They play with who they want to, and tolerate or ignore those they don't. (Although there's not often situations where kids really fall out).

Interesting people from all walks of life are drafted in to play 'teacher' for the day, usually in a group setting, always someone skilled or talented, and above all else, passionate about their craft. It might be a historical re-enactor, an artist, a surgeon, a scientist, a storyteller, or just an enthusiast well known and loved by someone in the group. 

As a family, we are free to explore or meet with friends at places outside of the crowded times - parks, woods, beaches, museums - no need to go in the middle of August with twenty thousand others!

The children can mostly follow their own rhythms, including preferences for when and how they learn, when and how they sleep, when and what they eat and so on. This is not to say everything always goes their way. Sometimes they plain hate having to do something but that's tough!

When the children are 'open' to a subject they soak it in with total ease. It doesn't happen according to anyone else schedule though or at their supposedly 'developmentally appropriate' age. Sometimes they learn faster than they're 'supposed' to, and sometimes they take their sweet time. 

The beauty of homeschooling is that kids can figure out who they are and where they fit into things at a pace which respects them and nurtures them. It doesn't mean never pushing them out of their comfort zone, never challenging them to reach for something better - but it does mean they can be relatively free of being constantly judged on their 'performance' or 'outcomes' - two concepts which I find vile and corporate and which have no place in childhood. The purpose of educating a child is not so they can 'perform' or do tricks for the adults to prove themselves. The purpose of education is for a child to grow in their understanding by questioning everything, by exploring freely, by having a relationship with the world by call and response. it is an inner activity, entirely personal, and not belonging to the teachers or the world at large. The child's interaction with the world and participation in it is actually enough in order for them to learn. It is egotistical of adults to assume they must dictate and spoonfeed education to children - when children are pretty good at learning when they are given a chance to just live and be and do. Just because they don't participate in school doesn't mean they aren't participating in society - just one section within it.

I often find the arguments for the necessity of school quite laughable. 

"Kids need school so they can be employable"

"Kids need school so they can learn to socialise with all kinds of people"

"Kids need school so they can learn everything they'll need to know as an adult"

None of these is strictly true.

Hows about a quick read of these? 

I'm not knocking school here. Truly I'm not.

I'm just saying there is also another way. 

It's a good way.

It's not that crazy.

It's not that hard (Sometimes it is very hard, but overall.... nah!)

It's fun and nice a lot of the time.

And the kids love it!

All it takes is a bit o' love, a bit o' magic, a bit of imagination, some big cojones, some good friends to share it all with, a great network of interesting people livin' life to the full and shining from doing things with passion, and a willingness to be playful on a full-time basis - lots of adults find that one very hard to do!!! 

Life is short and we're not just put on this earth to be employable - we're here to do good stuff, love each other, find what we're passionate about, and enjoy the one life we have. 

Some people do that at school, some people, like us, do it wherever they happen to be each day.

I'm truly grateful that we are home-eding our kids for another 'school year', and excited about what the next 12 months will bring.

Yay - bring it on!