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


Saturday, 7 September 2013

La vie est belle...

Last time we  went on a trip we kept a diary but aren't bothering this time, so I'll do the odd blog instead.

So here we are in Huttopia - a lovely leafy woodlandy eco-friendly campsite near Versailles in Paris. Indie has been in his element zipping around on his scooter. Him and Alf have made pals with some English kids, so they're off playing with them. Today we hung out here after a busy day yesterday... Pete took the young'uns to the Chateaux of Versailles, and I went with Finn and Herb into Paris on the Metro. It was loads of fun! We went to The Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa (She really does seem to look at you wherever you stand!) and The Last Supper ( Peope tell you it's huge, but it's really really huuuuuuuuge) , and ambled around a while in the museum - wow, so glad we went!



after admiring the glass pyramids, we took a walk along The Seine, and hopped on a water bus that dropped us right next to the Champ de Mars, and its stunning monument - The Eiffel Tower - which we didn't go up - the queues were very very verrrrry long, and we were tired already. So instead we walked around the park and admired it from the ground!


Tomorrow, we're taking the boys to Park Asterix after teasing them by driving past it on the way into Paris and shrugging our shoulders when they said OH pleeeeease can we stop??? 

hehe...


since they are big fans of Asterix and packed all their Asterix books for this trip, along with their fave Tintin's too!


Can't wait to go visit 'Armorica' and 'Obelix's Standing Stones' later in the trip ;-)

A bientot for now xxx


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Summery snapshots!

Hallo!

I was going to do a 'Wahoo we're going to France in our 'Bago' type post as that's exactly what we are doing tommorow - for three weeks...ish! - but looking through some summer pics, I realize I've barely blogged about our summer, so thought I'd do that first!

Here's some snapshots from Pete's phone.... must find mine and upload some more....if only I could find where I left my phone!


dressed up smart for a friend's wedding....

beautiful boys :-)


with pals at a dr.who exhibition. the others really need to lighten up!


the one on the left looks like he's desperate for a wee!!!

don't blink!!!

indie admiring the sunflowers he grew from seed

indie is 8

a rubbish photo of his amazing cake!!!


the beautifulest baby girl that I caught earlier this year

mel and co from the foolhardy circus - what a lovely bunch o peeps they all are

my lovely friend knitted me this to say thanks for being at her birth...go with the flow.... :-)

homegrown always tastes best :-)

and we have been blooming in other ways too!!!!

************
I had meant to post more pics.... there's all sorts from over the summer but they're on all different computers round the house (and I'm too lazy to move my pregnant ass n go to it) .... so you'll have to wait for another time for more!

Will keep in touch as we travel in France anyhoo - for now, au revoir mes amis!

Big love

xX MF Xx








Saturday, 17 August 2013

Is computer time really so bad for our kids - or are they simply in a state of flow?

I actually wrote this piece a little while ago but remembered it again after reading a blogpost by the very lovely Ross Mountney. So Ross, maybe this will help you see a flip side to computer time... x

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Last year I made a discovery which has changed my perception and understanding of creativity. Whilst trying to think up my doula name 'Go With The Flow Doula', I stumbled upon a philosophy based on the concept of ‘ Flow’, as defined by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

Wikipedia

‘Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does….’

‘…According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described… as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one's emotions.


Little flashing lights and buzzers were going off in my head - yes! That's it! That's how I feel during birth. And after reading this, I started thinking in wider and wider terms about the whole concept of being in flow, and what it meant to be doing a flow state activity. I looked up Mihaly’s work further, and found he had a talk on TED called  ‘Flow: The Secret to Happiness’ . Seriously, watch it. This guy is talking so much sense.




I can relate to this being the secret that makes all of us happy – doing activities during which our whole being vibrates with purpose and joy. I could see now what united every creative individual and every person who loves their work - moments when they feel truly in flow, creatively dynamic in an internal invisible way. 

I thought of all the times as a writer I have become so engrossed that I didn’t eat or drink or go to the loo for hours at a time. How I felt I had just one purpose in that moment – to write, to keep the words flowing, to express myself with a kind of urgency, purpose, and zeal that made me forget the world around me, not even noticing my numb bum or aching back till I’m done!  There have been times like this when I have felt so engaged in the activity of writing as to forget myself. In such moments, I am no longer me, Paula Cleary, but simply fingers dancing on a keyboard, moving almost as if by a power of their own, independently of me. It’s like I need to get out of my own way to let the creativity truly flow, that I am simply a vessel for something bigger.

And I think this is how all creative people feel when they are ‘in the zone’, or ‘in the groove’ – they cease to exist for anything other than that moment, that piece of work, everything else disappears into the background, as if falling away behind us.

As Mihaly describes in his TED talk, this is the state that is common between all people ‘in flow’ – whether they are dancers, painters, poets, composers or sportspeople. It is the state that describes how Michaelangelo become so engrossed in his work whilst painting the ceiling of the Cistine chapel that he did not sleep or eat properly - painting for several days at a time, non-stop.

And I had a kind of aha! moment one day while I was watching the boys playing minecraft on their computer, and was getting annoyed with it. Something started to happen as I sat and watched. 

Sifting past my angry feelings, I realised: Maybe these kids are not being' zombies', they are simply in an absolute, pure, state of flow.


The reason I felt annoyed with them was because they didn't want to break out of their state of flow to eat the dinner I had lovingly made. Or talk to me and validate their need for my presence, company, knowledge or supposed wisdom.

How many times have I been exactly like this when I am writing? It's not personal at all - this is how people are in flow. Nothing else matters, only the task in hand! You don't want to be interrupted, you can barely hear or see anything else. The world falls away to the sides and behind you.

The reason I felt annoyed with them was because I felt redundant. I was not needed. To educate, or keep them company, or direct them towards something 'purposeful'. They were doing it without me. My own ego was more of an issue than their computer playing. My hurt pride at the barely recognized, lovingly cooked-from-scratch, dinner effort. 

But I know first-hand, that during my own flow state, food seems irrelevant, minor. My chatter and interruptions are as much of a nuisance and barrier to the kids staying in flow as when people are trying to talk to me when I'm writing. How many times have I tried to break their flow fearing they were just being 'zombies'? I suddenly realized what I had been doing. They were having the time of their lives, completely in flow, on fire, in the zone. Chatting their own language amongst themselves for hours at a time, unaware of anything else -blissfully happy!

As adults, we perhaps spend less time in the flow state - but for kids it's easy peasy. They can literally spend hours engrossed in Lego, role-playing, making mud-pies, daydreaming, or playing dollies. Kids are experts at flow - perhaps that's why they are so much happier than many adults. They know how to shake off the reality of the world and go into a make believe place, or at least a creative fantasy space. Isn't that what all artist and designers do?

As parents, we judge according to some imagined ideal of worthy activities and less worthy. We decree that screentime is time poorly spent, unimaginatively spent. Children however, don’t make such distinctions. They simply know what activities light their fire, and which don’t. Maybe it's not their imagination that is lacking at all during screentime....but ours!!!

Perhaps we need to look at this in a new way. Instead of lamenting that our kids are lost to us for those hours they get sucked into this really powerful flow/ creative place, maybe we ought to actually back off and let them be? What if we ask them why they love their games so much, what it makes them feel like, try to engage with the passion they feel about them.

What if, we made a point not to interrupt our children when they seem really ‘in the zone’ or ‘on fire’ or energized by their games?

What if, instead of tutting, and making them leave their games at a (to them) really crucial stage of gameplay, we let them eat or drink in front of the computer – even though we’d like to chat to them?

What if we didn’t take it personally when they play for hours at a time, ignoring us when we interrupt them with what feels to them to be ‘mindless chatter’, and actually recognise and respect that they are in a powerful state of flow?

What if we put our own ego and need for company aside and let them play when they are ‘in the zone’ – and use that time to do our own ‘flow’ activities.

And what if, we have more productive conversations instead about ‘flow’ with our children, about what it looks and feels like, and equally, about what it feels like when apathy and boredom have set in? 

What if we talked productively about learning when to walk away from an activity when we are no longer ‘in flow’ with it – about how destructive it feels when we’re no longer enjoying an activity because we’ve stayed too long with it? 

Isn’t that perhaps kinder than simply trying to control and portion our children’s computer time for them? Surely they’ll need to learn self-limits at some point in their lives – if we do this for them till adulthood, exactly when will they feel empowered enough to learn for themselves?

Maybe, by supporting our kids flow state activities, and fostering our own, instead of feeling rejection, judgement or resentment about it, we can feel happy for them, and enjoy those times when we're really connected and together - the family meals when everyone talks together, the spontaneous moments when we bond and grow and express our love and gratitude to have each other in our lives, and the times we can be in a state of flow together at the same time? I have realised lately how much more harmonious and loving everyone is to one another, how much more connected and fulfilled everyone feels when they are allowed whatever flow activities float their boat without judgement or bitterness.

Perhaps, if we parents can really see it for what it is - a positive flow state time of happiness, fun, and creativity - we can actually be closer as a family than if we fought and controlled and rationed and went 'against the flow'....

What do you think dear reader?

I love to hear your thoughts!

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P.S. After happily being allowed to play Minecraft for the last two hours, Finn has just walked up to me, given me a kiss, and said "Wanna hang? I'd love to do something together with you mum, how about a game of chess?" I kid you not!!! :-)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

All change!

My dear friends, you must think we Clearys are pretty hard to keep up with. We dream dreams, plan plans, talk ourselves in and out of all kinds of schemes. We say we're going to do some crazy plan or another then we go and do something else altogether.

And so it might surprise some of you to know that *drumroll please* I am having baby number five, even though I had recently half-given-up on Monsieur. Cleary thinking that this was a good idea!!! I kept saying "oooh I just have this feeling there's another little soul out there, whose just supposed to be with us!!!" And monsieur was a little less keen on the idea of nappies and being-up-in-the-nightime and all that goes along with baby living. He was already planning our retirement adventures! There's no way I'd ever bully him into it, and I never wanted to feel that he'd been forced to have a child he didnt want. The baby would know it, feel it, and grow up with a sense of not being quite wanted. No way that was an option. So I started to resign myself to the fact we might not have any more. I grieved. Inwardly. I mourned for my aching womb. I reasoned with myself it was ok not to have any more.

So it shocked the hell outta me when he turned around to me one evening very earnestly, out of the blue and said "You know what? Let's do it. We'll regret it if we don't. I'm ready again. Let's have one last glorious baby and enjoy the hell outta it!"

"Are you serious???" 'Don't shit with me I said. This is not a shitting-with-me matter. If we have a babay, you have to really want it too, else I'm not doing it".

"I really, really do" he said with big wide eyes. I knew he meant it.

So here we are, preggo!!! Baby number five is cookin' on gas!!!

The kids are so so sweet about it. They keep patting my belly and asking if they can be helpful. Indie actually cried with happiness when we broke the news to them. They are counting down the months already and taking bets on what it will be.

And on that big shocker, here's a bit more news. We've put our house on the market and are dreaming, hoping and wishing that we can buy a 5 acre place we have fallen in love with, that's a fantastic opportunity. We've said to each other 'We're mad if we buy that place. But we're even madder if we don't."

It's not that we don't like it here - we have some really amazing friends around us and our home is pretty special, but.... we have always said that we'd like the boys to have better access to home ed activities and other fun places and so that they can start to learn to be more independent as they grow older and may want to go to college etc etc. The place we're looking at is just a mile and a half from a train station that would give the kids really easy access to Norwich in their teens. We are a little limited here in that sense. So it will be a new start (ish), new home ed groups to go to, new friends to make and a new lifestyle to boot. If we pull it off, it will be really sad to leave our friends but they'll be able to come and visit and even camp since there's be tons of space!!! And if it doesn't come together? Well we'll just carry on as we were here! What will be will be. But we have to try. To not try in case we fail would be a real waste.

So lots going on.....

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Hush! Hush!

I can't remember where I saw it, but a few months ago, I saw a little button on someone's blog that said 'I'm taking the 365 days no shouting pledge' and it got me thinking about our family.

We have raised our boys with slightly opposing philosophies, Mr. Cleary and me. I have always hated competition, and competitive sports, whereas Hubba Hubba has always thought competition is healthy and makes us strive to be better, pushing us beyond what we would otherwise achieve.

So there have been tensions between the lads, as they all vie to be the best at this or that. Somewhere on our journey, films with terms like 'loser' have crept in. And so the boys wanna be top dog and this or that. And they fight a bit between them as they battle to win one over on each other. I fucking hate it!

And as there has been a fair amount of highly stressful crap going on intermittently this year, everyone's voices have gotten louder and louder (Perhaps partly where my love of silence has crept in recently!) The boys get pissy with each other as they get jealous about stuff.

And then a GLORIOUS thing happened. We went to circus camp. The boys learnt some amazing skills, in a NON-COMPETITIVE environment. Cosmo, the ringleader and clown extraordinaire, made a statement, for which I could have kissed him (but was way too shy!):

"I don't believe in competition. I believe everyone is talented and got something special about them. No-one is better than anyone else. Everyone is brilliant in their own way"

Woohoo! Yes. Too bloody right. Competition creates tensions, rivalry, jealousies and suffering for everyone but the winner - and sometimes everyone including the winner!

So anyway, what has this got to do with shouting? (I'm getting to that part)

Well, I turned around to Pete a while back and said I think, as a family, we are all a bit shouty. (Daddy Pete in particular - hes had more stress than any of us, so I get it.... but....) When we don't feel heard, we just crank it up. Times that by six and everyone starts talking louder and louder until we are shouting, and as a means of dealing with stress SHOUTING sucks! Ad it doesn't take the stress away it just makes it even worse. And it is tiresome communicating in such a rubbishy way. Just a habit and actually unnecessary.

So we made a pact. From now on, and for 365 days (I'm hoping to make it permanent but a year is a good start), lets not shout at each other. At all. Let's all break the habit of doing it.

And now if anyone gets a bit loud, we all gently say to them "you're shouting". And that reminder makes the person walk away, and try to deal with it differently.

You know what's. it's workings, it's really working! It's been two months since we took that pledge, and now if anyone shouts, it's rare and we all notice it as something unusual.

I am enjoying the quieter, less shouty Cleary way of living. Alf is still habitually dissolving into a shouty puddle when he gets REALLY frustrated but he'll grow out of it.

I just know he will - because we all have!

Perhaps this is another reason I am enjoying the quiet, the still, the peaceful, the wordless.

Anyway, that's enough words from me.

Shhhhh....... as you were......

;-)




Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Microcosmic!

Following on from my last post, I thought it would be fun to explore wordless pleasures and treasures in this usually 'wordy' space!

And this, my friends, is definitely a wordless treasure - a beautiful film about the microcosmos of the natural world .... I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

MICROCOSMOS - An incredible, up-close look at the insect and floral world

  




Friday, 7 June 2013

Words at my feet, song in my heart

Hey - checking in because I have missed y'all a little and wanted to write and say all is well, in spite of scant postings!

Why so quiet, you ask?

I haven't been able to express myself in words just lately, nor have I wanted to.

And now I understand why!

I hit a big flashing light realization just recently whilst having a conversation about spirituality.

The lady I was chatting with was a Reiki master, and she was talking about how we throw words up in front of us to try and project who we are and what we mean to say, and how our true essence is behind the veil of words. It rang so true and helped explain something I've been feeling for a while but wasn't able to find the words for!.

As a writer, I have become a mistress of words, weaving them this way and that, using them to help me to distill feelings, thoughts and experiences. Making the illogical logical, the irrational, rational. Making neat and tidy things which are wild and spill out over the lines.

I've been trying to make sense of the mysteries of life with words. But I realise how inadequate this is!

We simply cannot express everything with words, nor understand everything using words or explain them using words. Some things cannot be explained.

Some things are meant to be a mystery.They are meant to be illogical. They are meant to be elusive.

For they are bigger than us.

Words are from the head.

And just lately, my heart has really taken over doing all the thinking around here. I am feeling and processing from a different place.

Words are guff! 

They are black and white, not multicoloured. They don't even touch the ultra violet colours on the spectrum!

So please excuse the silence, but don't take it as anything bad - I am simply feeling life with my heart right now and swimming around in the enjoyment of not writing, not trying to distill things, not trying to pin down shadows, not trying to catch butterflies.

Simply breathing, feeling, enjoying, tasting, loving, smelling, and living life to the full.

Are you feeling life with your heart, or has your head taken over?

Give your head a holiday and just feel.

" The quieter you become the more able you are to hear " 
- Rumi

Can you hear it? Can you feel life?

Isn't it just fucking beautiful?




Saturday, 25 May 2013

Laidback....or what happens when you're not trying!

Hey - how are you all?

Nice to see you here.

I just wanted to write a little post about the magic that can happen when you're not even trying.

Unschooling is pretty much a philosophy of actively rejecting school techniques as a means of learning, with the trust that learning is all about making connections organically, joining the dots in a random way. It's about treating workbooks and worksheets as something people should choose, not be forced to do.

Unschooling is about seeing past the usual labels of what is educational and seeing everything as inherently and potentially educational. Every experience. Every book. Every place. Every friendship. Every TV show. Every game. It's not about cherry picking things and splitting them out into  'educational' and 'non educational'. (Although this is a trap I still fall into. I'm trying not to! Nobody's perfect) Learning isn't portioned out neatly - it's seemless. It's a journey of discovery. It's not anyone else's to own or judge or comment. It just IS.

Unschoolers look beyond the usual labels, certificates, curricula but see the learning that spills all over the place in their own real lives, and trust that their kids will learn by simply being alive too. Being alive and having friendships, conversations, making and experimenting, trial and error-ing, going to interesting places, workshops, courses, festivals, fairs, museums. Watching TV and learning about animals and fashion and history and sea rescues and tribespeople and volcanoes and science discoveries and skateboard tricks and how cartoon sponges can live in pineapples under the sea! Piecing together what mass culture means. 

If it looks easy and sounds lazy learning like this. It is and it isn't. For someone very much 'educated' in the traditional way, this kind of learning still sometimes freaks me out. Particularly on those days when the Playstation seems more fun than maths or those other supposedly noble and worthy subjects - the ones we all hold up as THE BIGGIES.

And just when I start to wonder about this or that. The kids will astound me like Indie and Alfie this week.

Indie, the kid who I have inflicted the least amount of schoolyness on, the one who has been unscathed by earlier freak-outs of a school kind that involved workbooks and worksheets for his older two, has skipped along with his learning entirely organically really. Now 7, he has barely had to do any of the kind of mindnumbingly boring letterland type b*llocks that temporarily seemed like a good idea just a few years ago with the others. (Sorry Finn and Herb by the way)

I really haven't tried hard to 'teach him the basics' which seems an obsession with school. And yet he is reading. And using beautiful words. 

And this week, Pete picked up a maths book we had lying around, and tried Indie with it. He tried a page chock full of old-fashioned sums. Adding up hundreds. I didn't know Indie could really add in tens to be honest - he is still at the stage of counting to 89 and pausing as I say "90'! Anyway, I digress. 
Turns out, Indie sailed through an entire page of sums! As in 347+293 kind of sums. Written the old fashioned way. And he was so excited about it! I LOVE maths, he said! I'm a mathematician! And that night he took another worksheet to bed, because he wanted to do sums before he went to sleep. And he announced "This has been the best day of my life!' Which is pretty cool considering we have just been to Legoland and he has had a LOT of cool days! Seeing his unbridled joy at doing maths has made me laugh and smile and I feel really happy we didn't push anything with him. See what happens when you're not really trying?

And Alf. He is one smart little cookie. No preschool stuff with him AT ALL. No coaxing, no cajoling. No letterland-y type preschool educational crap whatsoever. No attempts to teach him the alphabet or anything that would be considered schooly. And yet he knows every letter. He can read the odd word. And the letters that are firing him up right now? The letters on the PERIODIC_FREAKING_TABLE no less. He has a beautiful old fashioned periodic chart on his bedroom all, a massive canvas that he likes us to talk about. This one is helium, it's the gas we put in balloons. This one is the symbol for gold. etc etc. Yep. Alf is a little scientist of the highest order! He goes round talking about elements, about solids and liquids and gases. Uses statements like 'This is really effective!' This is the kid who is making puddles and experiments all over the house and garden, mixing things to notice the change, his eyes lighting up when he says 'This is really sciency!' or 'If I squeeze this maybe I can get the nitrogen out!' 'Let's make a fire with the elements' (Um yeah Alf, but not inside the house darling).

So anway. Just needed to share in case any of you unschoolers are having wobbles. have faith! It's not a tidy and coloured in neatly between the lines kind of education, but it's a juicy way of learning that's for sure!










Monday, 20 May 2013

Festival fun!

This weekend we hung out with
Abi and Joe,
Dawn and Melissa 
and a Winnebago
And sixteen kids! One big family!
Having a blast at The Faraway Tree

A yurt in the woods
Was the base for our fun
All sorts of wee jobs and work to be done
Beer to be poured and car-parks to tend
Bouncy castles to watch and children to fend

Faces were painted, bubbles blown, wishes made,
At four in the morn we drank mint lemonade
With just a little bit of Gin
Which is also the name of a friend Herbie made!

The music was fab and the kids had a blast
Long may The Faraway Tree in Ringsfield last!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

So sang John Lennon. I like quoting him. And he's right.

We have had to let go of some of our  travel plans for a while, only a couple of weeks after we booked our Eurotunnel tickets for a much awaited trip to explore the mystic geological coastlines and standing stones of Brittany - Asterix country! Initially I was gutted and angry and felt like the world was against us.

Yet the financial reality is that we are still (yawn, yes totally boring) fighting for the rightful and hard-earned share of Pete's business and still going through all kinds of bullshit to get to it. The fight seems a bit unreal sometimes, it feels so unnecessary and unreasonable and hard to believe we are even having it. Just to get our own money which is rightfully ours! It's hard work keeping positive, and whilst we wait it out, I am feeling really challenged not to lose heart. I dip up and down. Feeling good for a while, then feeling angry and stuck and resentful. I think the person involved perhaps is hoping to grind us down completely, till we sign over our lives to him and perhaps give him some of our blood too.

But no matter how caught up our family gets in those moments of gloom when we feel our life is being dictated by this greedy person, the reality is, I actually believe in my truest heart of hearts that the universe is in perfect order. The laws of Karma are real. I am reminding myself that everything happens for a purpose. Nothing is ever by accident. Everything and everyone we encounter teaches us something so I am grateful for this one because it has taught us many things.

Moving with the flow of life and accepting it as it is and not what we want it to be, has been more of a challenge than usual just lately. But that's what going with the flow is. It's about keeping up. It's about rolling with it. It's about surrendering to the will of the gods above, living in the moment and moving on.

So this is where I am. Focusing on the journey and not the outcome.  Every single day of our lives is a gift. What will be will be!

Peace and love dear readers Xx

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Learning in loops and wiggles and circular labyrinths

Something I have realized lately is how completely non-linear our learning on this planet earth can be.

The school method of learning is to portion and ration everything into a 'logical' and prescribed and linear way, feeding information in a fairly predicable, spoon-fed fashion.

A child is fed a carefully-controlled diet of facts, which, is considered to be a meaty and well-rounded sort of approach to understanding the world - one curriculum topic at a time. It is all very neat and tidy. Accounted for. Enforced. Boxes are ticked as knowledge is supposedly widened. Whether you take it truly on board and fully understand it or not.

And yet....

There is another kind of knowledge that happens completely independently from all that academic stuff. Children in school obviously learn this too, some of it in school hours, some of it outside them.

The stuff I'm talking about is the other kinds of knowledge. The kind of knowledge that comes when you are on a journey of discovery. Of course we are all on this journey, but some of us have to deal with this whilst having very little time to daydream, process or own that process.

True learning, happens in invisible and unseen ways. They are internal Eureka moments. Moments of the heart. Moments when you suddenly see something very clearly. They can happen as subtle shifts or singular defining moments that change you forever. Big life events that go beyond curriculum.

There are no certificates for that. No pat on the back or congratulations needed. No ways of measuring. No need to measure. Moments of pure knowing, pure unadulterated understanding.

It happens at home. It happens in school. It happens in institutions. It happens everywhere. It happens in spite of school. In spite of institutions. It happens at unlikely times. In unlikely places. Via unlikely media. It's unpredictable when the truth of something strikes like a thunderbolt. It could be a flash of friendship, a recognition, a link made. The moment when true loves makes our stomach do a flip. A birth or a loss. An illness. A miracle. A marriage or a divorce. A heart broken or healed. The heart going into overdrive. Neurons flashing like crazy as the learner suddenly just understands something. How can you schedule that?

A typical school room is a fairly uninspired and unlikely place for such genuine moments to occur. But it can happen like that I suppose.

Perhaps our true understanding happens less in a linear way and more in loops and whirls and labyrinths? As we enter a labyrinth, we seek a path away to the centre, following twists and turns and what seem to be diversions and double-backings and round and rounds. Travelling in a seemingly illogical, non-linear way, sometimes very close to the final destination and sometimes very far from it, we eventually arrive at the centre! Then we retrace our steps to find our way out. Maybe this is more true to life and the real journeys we make. The inner voyages of understanding and discovery for which there is no curriculum, no need for extrinsic reward, no easy way of explaining or demonstrating.

Perhaps the real tools and teachers that help us on our labyrinth journeys are the friendships and guides and symbols and dreams and totems can perhaps guide the way rather instead of the conventional teachers and academic markers and milestones we think of as the light that guides us along.... it's something to think about isn't it?



Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Happy Birthday Mr. Shakespeare!!!


Ohhhhhh.......... 
Haaaappy Birthday to you, 
Happy Birthday to you, 
We love you Mr. Shakespeare, 
Happy Birthday to you.....

We love you so much we came to visit The Globe on Sunday to celebrate you!























And here's a wee bit of Shakespearean fun for you all. Enjoy!

xxx




Friday, 19 April 2013

With my own two hands


Whilst trying to find the words to describe the mind-blowing thing that happened to me this week, this song came in on the breeze.... with my own two hands.....a song about the power we hold in our own two hands to change the world a tiny bit and make it better. This week, I was surprised and delighted to  catch a baby girl, with enormous love and a trembling heart, without fear, as she came into the world, with her mama and papa both magnificent and strong and beautifully doing their thing. Little girl was in a hurry and happy to come before the midwife arrived, and so it happened that I lovingly helped to create a sacred and trusting space for something beautiful to happen.... I am still a little in shock, but more than that I am a lot in love - with mama, papa and their little magic yurt-baby!!! Life is beautiful xxxxxxxx


  

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Read about us in EOS magazine

Hey there lovelies!

The latest issue of the wonderful Education Outside School magazine is out, with loads of fab articles, ideas etc, including Part Two of our road trip adventures.

If you like it - share it on facebook - send it to a friend - spread the word - EOS is a really great resource and it's currently 100% free! :-)






This link will take you to the list of books and resources that we took along on our bus which we all learnt from!

amazon links

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Heart and soul expanding days :-)

Thanks for your nudges and comments and sweet letters recently to keep me on track with focusing on this space - I have been spending a lot of time soaking up some great birthing ideas, wisdom and philosophy just lately and pouring a lot of love and focus into my new blog and website....



I am loving the friendships I am striking up with other doulas and feel like I am getting high off their energy, their stories, their passion and enthusiasm for deepening their understanding of birth. Ditto those of my dear friends who also like to talk birthy stuff with me. It is seriously such a mind-expanding and phenomenal learning journey I feel I am on, and I am loving every second! It is so, so SO fantastic to talk to people who really get me! I am so grateful for this, it is untrue. You all know who you are, and I thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

Whilst on call, I am limited geographically in where I can go and what I can do but it has brought me some real blessings and I feel really grateful for them. It is essentially a time in which I have found myself pampering and nurturing myself on a whole new level. I am thinking about my health and diet and putting a lot of time into that. I am focusing on healing hurts, enjoying my sexy and delicious husband, playing fun things the kids and doing what our family needs to do, not what the world and his dog would like from us! I am enjoying creative time, and have been baking and making and learning new things like Origami. Abstaining from any alcohol at all has brought my vision a bit clearer (Not that I am a big-time drinker anyway, but ya know....)

These last few weeks I have had some quality time with friends and some heart to heart chats that have helped me enormously - again, you know who you are, thank you :-) gaining new perspectives and learning some spiritual lessons has made me stronger, brighter, more alive, more able to integrate and cope with the complexities of life. 

In short, I am really grateful for my life exactly as it is right now, and the new directions my world is going in! I'm in love with all the beautiful people who make my days bright, who put the colours in my rainbow, who give me counsel, who nourish me, and make me belly laugh. You know who you are, and I love you all!

Life is good!