Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm back ... sort of

Thank you everyone who sent messages wondering why I had dropped off the face of the earth lately! Well, the rather exciting discovery that we are expecting baby number 2 in March 09 was followed by all the not so nice parts of prenancy.

Pregnancy doesn't suit me - rather than a pregnant glow I develop a pregnant palour, spending most of my time being violently ill and the rest so tired I can barely move! Actually, it hasn't been quite as bad this time as it was with Munchkin, but I have found that I'm just not myself these days ... and definately not Domestically Blissed.

I just can't bring myself to keep this blog going at the moment, my deep passion for social causes and the world at large had been replaced by a shameful raging apathy. It takes energy to have principles and passion.

But I do love to write, and I love the blogging community, so I will start a new blog at Playingallday.blogspot.com. I want to record some of the fun play stuff we do around here, and how wonderful life is with a 2 year old.

See you there

Gypsy xx

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Messy Play Recipes

Here are my favourite messy play recipes, from my Playcentre days.

Finger painting

"Finger painting is a touching, feeling, colour experience. What children need to get finger-paint basics is finger-paint which feels good and looks good. The secret to getting it feeling good is in the making and the stirring. The secret to getting it looking good is tempera powder. Tempera gives it the strong opaque colour which is ideal for expermenting with colour mixing, tints and shades. The tempera colours you need are a cool red, a cool blue, lemon yellow and white" Pennie Brownlee, Magic Places.

1 cups corn flour
1/2 cup cold water
2 Tbsp lux soap flakes
2 Tbsp tempera powder
Boiling water

Into a large bowl put corn flour and water, whisk it until all the corn flour is combined.

While stirring the corn flour and cold water mixture, add the boiling water (try 1/4 cup at first) very quickly and stop when the mixture 'grabs' (this is quite cool!)

Stir thoroughly until the mixture is smooth, thick and translucent.

Gradually stir in up soap flake and mix until the mixture goes white. If it is still too thick add a little water, stirring constantly until the finger-paint is smooth and creamy. Add in the tempera powder and stir.

It will keep for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge.

In a plastic mixing bowl place equal quantities of lux flakes and boiling water. Stir well, and then when its a little cooler, get the kids to help you beat it with a handmixer.

Add just enough water to 1 cup of cornflour to form a thick paste.

If you want to use natural colours from plants, check this out!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Easter Hare - A German Legend

At Easter this year I had heard there was an Easter folk story about the Easter Hare - but I struggled to find it. Finally I was given this one ... I'm not sure where it comes from but its lovely for pre-schoolers for whom, I think, the real Easter story is far too much to comprehend.

A long time ago, there was a village where the people were very poor. One Easter the mothers had no money to buy their children the sweets they usually gave them on Easter Sunday.

The mothers knew the children would be very disappointed.
'What shall we do' they asked each other.
'Well, we have plenty of eggs' said one.
' But the children are tired of eggs' said another.

Then one of the mothers had an idea, and by dinner-time all the mothers in the village knew about it, but not a single child. Early in the morning, the mothers went into the woods with little baskets. You could not see what was in the baskets, as they were covered with coloured cloths. When the mothers returned home, the cloths were tied about their head like scarves and the baskets were filled with flowers.

'My mother went to pick flowers for Easter this morning' said one child, as they all walked together. 'So did mine' said another. 'And mine too' said all the others and laughed for they were happy and it was Easter Sunday.

When they came out of church, the children were told to go and play in the woods before dinner. Off they ran, laughing and talking.

The girls and boys picked flowers and climbed trees when someone shouted 'Look what I've found'.
'A RED egg'.
'I've found a BLUE one'.
''Here's a nestful, they are all different colours'.
They ran about searching for eggs and filling their pockets and hats.
'What kind of eggs are they?' they asked each other.
'They're too big for wild birds' eggs.'
'They're the same size as hens' eggs'.
'But hens don't lay eggs in bright colour'.

Just then a hare ran out from behind a bush.
'They're hares' eggs,' cried the children. 'The hare laid the eggs! Hurray for the Easter Hare.'

Friday, August 1, 2008

Five little leaves

Five little leaves so bright and gay, (hold up five fingers)
Were dancing about on a tree one day
The wind came blowing through the town (everyone blow loudly)
And one little leaf came fluttering down

Four little leaves so bright and gay.... (repeat poem)

One little leaf so bright and gay
Was dancing around on the tree one day,
The wind came blowing through the town
And the last little leaf came fluttering down
I'm not sure where this song comes from, I've seen it in quite a few books and blogs around the place! If anyone knows who should be credited please let me know!!!

Morning has come
Night is away
Rise with the sun … and welcome the day.
Good morning dear earth,
Good morning dear sun
Good morning dear stones, and the flowers everyone
Good morning dear bees, and the birds in the trees
Good morning to you, and good morning to me.

Dingle Dangle Scarecrow

The actions to this one are pretty obvious - but in case you've never done it - crouch down for each verse, then jump up and be a flippy floppy shaking scarecrow.

When all the cows were sleeping
And the sun had gone to bed
Up jumped the scarecrow
And this is what he said!

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow
With a flippy floppy hat
I can shake my hands like this
And shake my feet like that

When all the hens were roosting
And the moon behind the cloud
Up jumped the scarecrow
And shouted very loud

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow
With a flippy floppy hat
I can shake my hands like this
And shake my feet like that

When the dogs were in the kennels
And the doves were in the loft
Up jumped the scarecrow
And whispered very soft

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow
With a flippy floppy hat
I can shake my hands like this
And shake my feet like that

Galoop went the little green frog last night

This song never fails to entertain kids of all ages. There are lots of different versions, this one is what we sing at our playgroup.

For actions, either sit the child on your lap and lift them up high at each galoop, or for older heffalumps get them to 'galoop' themselves like little green frogs. Gloop Gloop Gloop can be done with the hands in a fast opening motion (like in open shut them), and lah de dah can be hands from side to side (think wipers on the bus).

Give it a try!

Galoop went the little green frog last night
Galoop went the little green frog
Galoop went the little green frog last night
And his eyes went gloop gloop gloop

And we all know frogs go la-de-dah-de-dah la-de-dah-de-dah,
And we all know frogs go la-de-dah-de-dah
And their eyes go gloop gloop gloop

One Finger One Thumb Keep Moving

This is a great song for 'shaking your sillies out' ... we sing it once slow and then once fast!
(The actions should be pretty obvious)

One finger, one thumb keep moving
One finger, one thumb keep moving
One finger, one thumb keep moving
We'll all be merry and bright

One finger, one thumb, one arm keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm keep moving
We'll all be merry and bright

One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg keep moving
We'll all be merry and bright

One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head keep moving
We'll all be merry and bright

One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head, stand up, sit down keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head, stand up, sit down keep moving
One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head, stand up, sit down keep moving
We'll all be merry and bright

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Procrastination Game

We've been an infectious lot around here for the last week and a half. With a nasty 'flu (I hate to use the term flu lightly, but this is doctor diagnosed 'flu!!!) and conjunctivitus - things have been somewhat chaotic.

The upside of all this illness is that its made me realise how vitally important 'systems' are to running a house - and how quickly things turn to custard when the systems fly out the window. So because we were sick I didn't do a menu plan, I just shoppped on the fly. Result - we ate all sorts of unusual meals because I didn't have the right ingredients, I had to do an emergency trip to the shops for more yoghurt, and I through out a whole shopping back of unused fruit and veggies yesterday. The waste ... the shame ...

So today's email from Flylady seemed particularly apt

"One of the worst places of procrastination has to do with preparingmeals--not taking food from the freezer, not making a shopping list,not having a prepared pantry. All these "nots", make for mealtimemayhem--a place we don't want to go.Let's face it: we all have our own dinner table fantasies. A lovelydinner served on a lovely table while fresh scrubbed, happy-facedchildren compliment their mother on the wonderful, home-cooked mealand dad is home on time to take part. How much of this is reality?Probably not much. Kids have soccer, mom has a job and everyone isgoing in a million different directions. Even though there are certain parts of that fantasy we can't make happen, there are certain parts we can make happen"

When I first started blogging I was pretty religious about Menu Planning Monday - and it worked really well for me. I fell off the MPM bandwagon though because honestly, who wants to know what I'm having for dinner every night? And, the perfectionist in me says that if I'm going to do Menu Planning Monday I should be as organized as Planning Queen who posts recipes files and shopping lists each week! ButI firmly believe that public accountability gets results - so here is what we are having for dinner for the rest of this week ...

Organic beef and garlic sausages, home made potato and kumara wedges, carrot and parsnip ribbons, broccoli.

Steak sandwiches with salad greens, tomatoes, caramelised onions ... and more home made wedges. I have lot of great agria potatoes to use up!

Spaghetti bolognaise, with leftover salad from Thursday. And something yummy for dessert ... maybe a lemon cake as I have lots of lemons to use up too.

Parents to the rescue with some 'meals on wheels'. My Dad's wife is something of a gourmet legend so its going to be great.

Leftover pie

And for those of you asking what leftover pie is .....

Leftover pie
3 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed and par-boiled
4 eggs, beaten
3 sausages, or other left over meat, diced
cubes of fetta, or other left over cheese, diced
red or yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, or other suitable veggies
Pan fry the potatoes. Add them to the beaten eggs along with the ‘leftovers’ and return to the fry pan. Cook on each side until well cooked. Great hot or cold, serve with lots of relish and some salad.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Worth musing over

I love these excerpts from ‘The Playcentre Way’ which is an old (1980?) book by Alisa Densem, and thought I'd share them.

‘Children can be exposed to an enormous number of concepts simply with a word, a question, or a sensitive comment. Such as:

Can you tell me about …?
What do you think about ….?
Tell me more.
How do you explain that?
What do you think?
Wonder what would happen if?
How can we do?
Could we build this with this?
Lets see if – Lets’ find out.
How does is feel?
Shall we try?


Make necessary limits. Children accept limits from people who genuinely care for them. It takes time to build up trust. Every adult is responsible for not permitting a child to act in undesirable ways such as hurting others, or taking things from others, or being destructive. It is unwise to disregard unacceptable behaviour, such as hitting another child, in the hope that the situation will right itself. WE help the aggressor in the long run by stopping his behaviour on the stop where it occurs in a matter-of-fact way. We can say "no" so that he child knows we mean it, without resorting to physical punishments ourselves. We may take away the stick he has used to hit with, or the toy he has misused. He may protest, he may resist, he may be angry with us. He has the right to feel any way he wishes, but he doesn’t not have the right to act in any way he wishes. We are helping him to learn the difference between the inner world of feelings, where behaviour must be limited and controlled.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

H is for ...

Hypocrite! I must confess dear readers that I have bought something that is neither made from natural fibres, and is definately made in China.

I bought Munchkin a Kathmandu polar fleece hoodie. They are pretty much the Kiwi kids uniform you see - lightweight, very warm, easy to wash and quick to dry. I was frustrated at the wear and tear on her beautiful woollen jumpers, and how bundled up she need to be to stay warm outside. It was cold, Kathmandu is close to my house, they were having their big 'sale' (no one buys Kathmandu at full price!) and well, I succumbed to consumer tempation.

I am not sure whether Kathmandu have any kind of ethical manufacturing policy. I can't find any evidence of it - even for their 'organic' line of clothing. I've emailed them - I'll let you know if I get a response.

My social conscience started clanging so loud, that I went next door to Trade Aid and bought Munchkin a beautiful soft ball made by a women's Fair Trade co-operative in Guatemala. Kind of like having a diet coke with your Big Mac, but it made my feel better.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Waldorfy Playcentre Dream

My visit to Playcentre really has had my thinking about what my ideal ECE experience would be for Munchkin.

I love the fact that parents stay with the children at Playcentre most of the time, and the level of involvement and influence parents have there.

I love the free play aspect of Playcentre – having all the areas of play available, all the time. So if Munchkin wants to do nothing but play with clay, all session for a whole term – she can.

I love the community aspect of Playcentre – working closely with other local mums running what is effectively a complete early childhood centre – and developing that community for Munchkin.

But … I love the beauty and rhythm of Steiner. I love the simple handcrafted toys. I love the singing. I love the focus on healthy organic food and care for the environment. And most of all I love the other mums. As a group they are gentle, patient, kind, thoughtful and committed. The Steiner ‘culture’ is where I want Munchkin to be during these early years.

So if I had my way, I would set up a Steiner/Waldorf Playcentre. I’m sure the Steiner purists out there might have a few issues with this, and some of my ideas might have Gwen Somerset turning in her grave - but just indulge me.

We’d find a lovely big section somewhere, preferably surrounded by forest and some hills. We’d build a beautiful big log cabin, with a communal kitchen and a pot belly stove. We’d have a little garden area for the older children to grow some veggies, (and so we can have a compost of course),

Inside, we would set up areas of play, and arrange the space so that the quieter activities have slightly enclosed spaces for children to play in. There would be a books corner, with the Gerda Muller books, some simple fairy tales, and New Zealand classics like Hairy Maclary, The Kuia and the Spider and Who Sank the Boat.

There would be a table set up for beeswax modeling, another set up with beeswax crayons. There would be a painting station set up, as well as a finger painting table so the kids could get plain old messy. And there would be home made playdough at another table, with a few wooden rolling pins, dough stamps and cutters.

Of course, there would be a family play area with beautiful Waldorf dolls, a wooden stove and sink, some cradles and pushchairs. We’d have lots of blocks and a selection of puzzles. (As an aside, why are puzzles not a Steiner thing?)

The communal kitchen would have some low benches and quality children’s baking equipment, so that the children could help with baking the bread for the morning tea. Perhaps in afternoon sessions we would make pikelets or scones instead. Either way, we’d do some baking every day.

Outside, there would be an extensive wooden playground, some trees for climbing, grass for running and a trickling water feature set into a slope for water play. Oh, and a huge sandpit of course, filled with spades and spoons and buckets and sit on diggers.

While free play would be the order of the day, we would have a little more ‘rhythm’ than a Playcentre session.

The sessions would start with a communal ‘circle time’. Not compulsory - some children prefer to stay back - I have seen this often at playgroup. But after a few sessions even the shyest child starts to come to circle time. We would sing a welcome song and some finger play songs like ‘where is thumbkin’ and ‘open shut them’.

I also really believe in the value of a shared morning tea. My understanding of the Playcentre philosophy is that children’s play shouldn’t be interrupted, and children should be free to come and get their food when they wish. But I see how much children love the rituals of eating together – putting out the placemats and the glasses, sitting down to hold hands and sing a blessing, and the excitement when the buns are unveiled. Of course, if a child is hungry at another time during the session they should of course get a snack. And if a child does not want to join the morning tea then that should be respected. But a shared morning tea is an important ritual.

At the end of the session we would have a short ‘story time’ with a parent acting out a very brief puppet play with felted dolls and some play silks to create the scene. At our playgroup, when all the children are worn out from a mornings playing this seems a lovely way to wind down before getting in cars or pushchairs to go back home.

As with Playcentre (and with my experience of Steiner) parent education would be extremely important. We would have a well stocked adult library with a range of books – You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Creative Play for your Baby, A range of La Leche League Publications, Magic Places and other Playcentre books.

So, who’s with me? What would you add, or change to this? Even if it will only ever exist in my imagination, my Waldorfy Playcentre is a lovely place to visit!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Teaching babies to read - who's really the dummy?

Last week on a leading current affairs show a supposed 'expert' promoting the Your Baby Can Read programme. The premise seems to be that babies as young as three months will benefit from a structured daily schedule of DVD watching and flashcard practice

These sorts of things make me both sad and angry. Sad that parents want to co-erce their children into early reading, want to spend time doing this sort of 'tutoring' rather than playing together. Angry that parents are being taken advantage of in this way, and that children are growing up in this kind of pressure cooker environment.

We have known for a long time that yes, babies can be taught to recognise written words early on - by sight not by actually reading. But we have also known for a long time that this doesn't have any long term benefit, and may actually be harmful.

There are many neuropsychologists, developmental specialists, occupational therapists and teachers who are concerned that our current trend in this country of pushing “academics” in preschool and kindergarten will result in even greater increases in the number of children, particularly boys, diagnosed with attentional problems and visual processing types of learning disabilities. Susan Johnson MD, Lilipoh, Fall 2007: Issue #49, Vol. 12

Parents in favour of the programme say that they want to expand their children's world, and open up the wonderful world of books to them early. Certainly books are a wonderful part of a children's life, and being read to every day by a parent is critically important. But children being able to read books to themselves is a joy of a later stage of childhood - why rush this? Why not just let toddlers be toddlers, building towers and knocking them down, playing in mud and water, putting dolls to bed and pretending to put nappies on them.

Steiner children, despite not being taught reading until seven have been widely assessed at catching up to their peers by the time they are nine. Starting early has no long term advantage.

To put it simply, teaching little babies and toddlers to read is a nonsense. Yes, they will memorise the flashcards but so what? The part of their brain that reads fluently simply hasn't been developed yet. Its so much better to wait.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Steiner mum visits Playcentre

After reading the fabulous Magic Places and finding Susan Harper’s Schema Matrix so useful I decided that I really should check out Playcentre for myself.

For those of you not from these fair shores, Playcentre is unique to New Zealand. A Playcentre is a fully licensed early childhood education (ECE) facility, that is run entirely by parents. The parents undergo training and manage every aspect of the centre – they are the teachers, the cleaners, the managers, the strategic planners. They take the idea that ‘parents are first teachers’ very seriously indeed. Playcentre people are quick to tell you that its not a coffee group – this isn’t parents sitting around chatting while children play – the parents are very hands on. I’ve heard from Playcentre mums I know are that they hardly get to take a breath all session – even when the children are busy eating a parent will tell them a story!

The Playcentre books I have read are really inspiring. Children learning through free play is at the very heart of the philosophy. Playcentre books talk about the importance of making up stories for children, and using puppets to act out stories. In “The Playcentre Way” Alisa Densem suggests that someone should be reading stories out loud all the time. In "Magic Places" Pennie Brownlee talks about having an atmosphere of calm and order, with lots of natural wood, and stresses the superiority of natural materials for childrens play. Early academics are out, freeing childrens creative spirit is in.

The traditional Playcentre set up has 16 areas of play (sand, water, clay, playdough, painting, physical, puzzles, family play, fantasy, blocks, carpentry, junk construction, books and storytelling, collage, exploratory play and music). All areas are set up all the time (ideally) and children have free access to all the activities. Parents are trained to observe, facilitate and where appropriate extend children’s play in these areas.

So, feeling inspired I took my Steiner hat off for the morning (as much as one every can) and went along for a session.

The Playcentre that we visited is an amazing facility with a large standalone building on a fairly decent sized section, next to a Council owned park. Munchkin had a great time exploring this fantastic space. The playground was extensive - a large permanent wooden structure of slides, climbing frames and tunnels, with additional wooden boxes and planks added on to create a real adventure playground. Foam gym mats had been put around so the kids could leap on to them.

There was a wooden house full of wonderful dress up costumes, a winding path for riding trikes, a massive sandpit with all the usual sandpit toys and a couple of large wooden sit on diggers. Finger painting was a bit hit, and there were several colours of playdough to use.

We didn’t get to the collage section but it looked pretty popular. Munchkin and I enjoyed the reading corner, and I saw a group of boys making a fantastic train track out of wooden blocks. I didn’t see anyone using the exploratory (science) play area, but there was a fish tank which fascinated Munchkin for ages.

It is pretty overwhelming though – lots of kids, lots of toys, lots of signs up everywhere creating a very cluttered environment. There was constant noise from a cd player of kids music, although none of the kids were dancing or listening to it. I think this shattered my nerves more than Munchkin’s to be fair.

At times, supervision seemed a bit lacking – it started to hail at one point and a mother realized her 12 month old who had been playing outside with no apparent supervision was missing – in the hail! Another point in the day saw a young boy climb to the top of the balcony railing teetering over the concrete path. What surprised me with these two examples is that in both cases the parents seemed to be inside enjoying their cuppa … which of course is not the Playcentre way at all!

Morning tea was a bit of an eye opener for me – a far cry from the organic fruit and wholemeal buns of our Steiner group. Morning tea was a bit of a shock with almost every other child having a little packet of chippies and a little packet of biscuits (mainly 100s and 1000s or choc chippies). Munchkin was definitely the only child with a no packaging, home made morning tea.

As anyone that is still reading this will probably gather – I’m pretty torn about it. I haven’t made a decision about whether Playcentre might be right for us. For now, we are getting so much out of our Steiner playgroup that we will continue there for now. We are of course, lucky to have the option – I know not everyone does. But it has got me thinking a lot about what a ‘Steiner inspired Playcentre’ could look like … another post perhaps!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Passionate Play

Blog surfing as I do, I came across this post which had a link to this document about schemas in early childhood. A schema seems to a ‘theme’ that is particularly apparent in a childs play at a particular point in time. So, for example one of the schema is ‘transporting’ – which you will see if your child has a ‘Picking things up, moving them, and putting them down or dumping them. Perhaps using pram, bag, basket, truck or wheelbarrow. Usually has full hands’.

According to the article (which first appeared in the New Zealand Playcentre Association Journal) “Schemas are extremely useful because children's passions are what drives them to become most deeply engaged and deep engagement is what we need to identify in order to support and scaffold children's learning most effectively” It might just be me, but I think this is fascinating. Of course, it is just common sense when you look at the document – think about the things your child is really passionate about and then apply those across different areas of play.

However, being just a little bit too academic for my own good I love having a model to work with. Already today it has really changed the way I play with Munchkin. Her main ‘schema’ (it’s a dreadful word isn’t it – please someone think of a more intuitive label for it) is transporting which I mentioned above, but she’s also into ‘Enclosure and Enveloping’ - Surrounds things. Likes getting inside a defined area e.g. a block building, tyre or barrel. Gets into boxes. Covers completely, wraps up. Hides. Gets into boxes and closes lids”

So today, when I wanted to find something for her to play with at the cafĂ© (wasn’t I lucky having Sunday brunch out!) I consciously thought about these two schema, and gave her some spoons, a sugar sachet and a plastic cup to hide them in. She had a ball … because I was providing opportunities for her to explore what she is passionate about. I have more consciously encouraged her ‘shopping game’ – and hours today were spent putting things in her little hand-bag and taking them around the house (transportation schema). Later this evening I set up a small table for her with some full cans of (unopened) drink, a cardboard box and a wide mouthed jam jar.

This matrix made me realise how often I try to show Munchkin things to play with that just aren’t what she is interested in – things like making sand castles or building towers (connecting) when she actually wants to fill buckets of sand, move sand from one end to the other, and then push buckets of sand around in a wheel barrow.

Schema’s aren’t a concept I’ve come across before – I am not sure if they are Playcentre specific or are used more widely in early childhood education, let alone in the Steiner/Waldorf context but I’d love to know.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Back to Basics

Its been rather a long time between posts hasn't it. I have no good excuses, but I think I am indulging rather in being a full time SAHM. Isn't it funny that the more time we have, the less we manage to do. Or is that just me?

So, the house is a tip (really, I'm not just saying that) and I really need to put some effort into establishing better routines.

When I was working part time, we had a cleaning lady every week. Luxury! So I could manage the day to day washing, cooking, straightening and surface cleaning pretty easily. I just cleaned as I went, and knew that every Tuesday I would come home to a sparkling clean house.

But now - I'm trying to keep the house clean and sparkly, with an 18 month old running around beside me. Its kind of funny really - well I'm trying to look at it that way. Yesterday it took all afternoon to do the vaccuuming. She screamed everytime I turned it on - usually it doesn't bother her at all. So at 5.00 when Hubby came home he carried her around and they both watched me vaccuum. She found this quite exciting and everytime I turned the thing off I heard 'more more more'.

Today it was the bathroom's turn. I armed her with her very own dishcloth, and got her wiping the outside of the bath. Of course, she just wanted to climb in, and play with the spray bottle. But with lots of singing and cheering we managed to get the bathroom into a reasonably clean state. I'm just not sure how much vinegar and baking soda solution she might have ingested - I'm sure its not recommended for toddlers!

Some tasks though I'm just not sure I can do with her in tow. Cleaning the toilet is just impossible as she has a flushing obsession. The dishwasher desperately needs a clean (how do they get so grubby in all those nooks and crannies?) but she would love to climb right in to the machine.

Of course, I haven't just been doing housework around here. If it was, the house wouldn't look quite so 'lived in'.

As well as my mission to perfect home made fruit-bread (more on that when I have succeeded) I have been reading a wonderful little book called 'Magic Places' by Penny Brownlee. It is published by the New Zealand Playcentre Association (Playcentre is a wonderful New Zealand invention - a parent run early childhood education centre - check it out). Sadly, you can't get this little book on amazon, but most NZ libraries seem to have it!

This little book is all about creativity with children - how to encourage their artistic skills and how to set up good quality artistic activities for them.

"Creativity is also part of the treasure each child comes with ... We need to be vigilant in making sure that the seedbed of the child's creativity is tended, watered and not trampled on'.

She talks abut how 'experience soaks in through the senses' and gives an example of a young child looking at a pine cone 'he feels and weights it. He feels and tastes it with his mouth. He listens and smells. He looks at it this way and that way, every which way, and maybe he wonders and imagines. (the child) needs us to make sure he has all sorts of real and rich experiences'.

I also really like her 'rules for adults'

1. The child is the creator. We never draw, make or model for the child.
2. Stay in the scribbling stage when working alongside children.
3. The child chooes from their experience. We never tell a child what to draw make or mdoel.
4. The child does it their way.
5. The child's creative potential is protected. We avoid presenting activities which rob children of their creativity (colouring in, templates, tracing, stencils).

"The creating must belong to the child. It is in the creating that the value lies for the child. It is their process; they are reflecting on their experience, making their unique expression into the world"

Its not a Steiner book - there is no 'wet painting' or beeswax modelling, and clay is used with young children - but its a wonderful and extremely practical guide to helping your children develop their creative potential, and its given me some great ideas to get started with.

Roll out the beeswax I say!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why I Buy Organics

I really am something of an organics geek … and its getting worse. Since helping the lovely Lianne at OrganicBaby test her new website, I'm more convinced than ever of the importance of eating organic food.

While I am very lucky to have some friends who share my passion, I know that some people do raise their eyebrows when they go into my pantry. Especially given our Budget of Doom, people are surprised that I buy organic.

Yet, the quality of what we eat is so important. I think we all know this but our spending habits don’t always reflect it. In the US, the average family spends something like 5% of their income on food – which is the lowest in the developed world. I imagine in NZ we aren’t a whole lot better. It’s the whole ‘cheap, cheap, cheapest’ mentality again. Buy cheap food so that you have money to buy more cheap clothes, more cheap toys and more cheap junk to fill your home.

While being frugal and thrifty are important, I think its better to focus on avoiding waste, making food from scratch, and reducing your intake of meat and processed food - and then spend money on quality ingredients. When it comes to the quality of what you eat, don’t be a cheapskate. Don’t buy processed chicken nuggets and come complaining to me that organic chicken is too expensive. Buy organic chicken and make your own nuggets. They will taste so much better I promise!

So, my top reasons for buying organics are:

- They just taste better. Honestly. Even my completely cynical Hubby (who is much maligned on this blog but is a truly wonderful person) admits that organic stuff tastes out of this world. Especially apples. And Sultanas. And tomatoes. And pears. And potatoes And organic butter is amazing …. Need I go on?

- I can read the ingredients list out loud on organic food. Michael Pollan suggests that if we buy processed foods we choose ones with no more than five ingredients and with ingredients we can pronounce. Conventional processed foods are packed with ingredients like maltodextrin, , potassium nitrate, Sodium benzoate, Butylated hydroxyanisole. You don’t find that junk in organics. I was horrified to find a packet of Chicken Nuggets marketed as 100% chicken breast in a parenting magazine. How could this be I asked myself? I checked and they are definitely not 100% chicken breast – they are 60% chicken breast and 40% weird sounding additives. Its just that the chicken that is in there is breast meat, rather than the left over bits no one wants to us. Don’t be fooled by marketing, always always read your labels.

- No E numbers, no pesticides. A recent New Zealand study showed conventional raisins and sultanas had residues of 23 pesticides on them. Yuck. The number of additives and pesticides that have been linked to everything from ADHD to Cancer is terrifying. Additives and pesticides get approved one day and banned the next. Its scary. Especially if you are feeding littlies who are much more vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals. For more information on this stuff, check out SafeFood.org.nz

- Organics can help save the planet. Apparently if the US switched entirely to Organic farming, they would be more than able to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. Pesticides run off into the water supply, contaminate the soil and create hazardous waste. Single crop farms and intensive farming practices are hugely harmful to the soil, water and the air. Organic growers grow heirloom varieties prized for their natural resilience and their taste, rather than their uniform appearance or longevity for shipping.

- If you have to eat meat, you can eat organic meat with a much cleaner conscious. Without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and chemically altered feeds, eating organic meat is a very different prospect altogether. Organic farmers are also philosophically committed to more humane methods for managing their animals. I choose to only buy organic chicken, pork on the odd occasion I buy it, and sausages (you don’t want to imagine what is in supermarket sausages!).

- I like to support smaller businesses that are committed to ethical, sustainable business practices. Now, I know that, particularly in the States, Big organic is probably almost as dodgy as Big Oil or Big Tobacco, but here in NZ our organics (with the odd exception) come small businesses, with a big commitment to ethics and quality. Places like Ceres, Commonsense Organics, Eco-Organics, RainbowValley, Koang Gardens … these are businesses that I am happy to spend money at. And they have great organics at our local Farmers Markets too.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Just call me a Steiner mum

Goodwitch posted this gorgeous poem recently which had me laughing so loudly I nearly woke the Munchkin.

Waldorf Moms
Waldorf moms wear cotton socks

Woolen sweaters, Birkenstocks.
Waldorf moms have long full skirts,
Big silk scarves and layered shirts.
Waldorf moms have fluffy hair,
They’re kind and firm and make you share.
Waldorf moms drive Volvo cars
And talk of fairies, gnomes, and stars.
Waldorf moms love Waldorf meetings
Where they greet with Waldorf greetings.
Waldorf moms make Waldorf dolls
From purest wool and cotton balls.
Waldorf moms drink lots of tea
Which has been grown organically.
Waldorf moms serve fruits and meats.
Veggies, grains, and not much sweets.
Their favorite word is “nourishing.”
They love to hike and knit and sing.
They leave the gluten out of bread
And make you spend twelve hours in bed.
And if you fall and scrape your knee
They give you rescue remedy!

I think all of us that spend any time at Steiner schools can relate to this, and it made me realise just how Steiner-ish I am becoming.

I was in fact drinking organic tea while reading this poem. I am about to start knitting my first dishcloth. I carry rescue remedy in my handbag. I have my eye on a pair of gorgeous red Birkenstocks. I recently found myself discussing the importance of keeping toddlers in bodysuits and vests to strengthen their etheric . And when Hubby was concerned my newly planted veggies might get eaten by the slugs I replied "its OK, the gnomes will protect them".

With some of my other friends (not those of you that read this of course) I can feel like the odd one out, with my organic snacks, woolly clothing, wooden toys, and not knowing the words to the Wiggles songs.

So I really value having a couple of mornings a week where I can hang out with kindred spirits. Where everyone knows that you give a child Belladonna for fever, where they can tell you the best place to buy spelt flour and what to do with kale. Where the first aid box has arnica and rescue remedy but no Savlon. Where people say things like 'heart feelings' and 'the fairies must have come' and no one blinks an eye. Where every second car in the parking lot has a Greens or GE free bumper sticker. (And no, they are not all Volvos!)

I might laugh out loud at that poem, but really, I love being a Steiner mum.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Acc-ent-uuuuate the positive, eeee-limmm-inate the negative

And don’t mess with mister in-between!

Not sure how to show musical tunes in a blog heading … but hopefully I’ve got you all singing now. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately about all the ways in which our carbon footprint is too high. I’ve found Sarah’s blogs “Happy Foody” and “Walk Slowly, Live Wildly” which I love, and I am so inspired by everything she does, but it also makes me painfully aware of how far I have to go.

Ironically perhaps, today is World Environment Day. New Zealand are the ‘hosts’ this year, so the media is full of doom and gloom about how we aren’t worthy of this honour, given our nation’s high carbon emissions from all our farm animals.

After all the media hype, and my own personal bit of doom and gloom about the fact that I drive too much, we don’t compost, and we still eat too much meat I started thinking of all the things I do do.

Its been such a positive experience writing this list … I do so much more than I thought. And so much more than I did a year ago! I bet most of you do these things - please leave me comments about what you do, don’t do and would like to do.

- We have a ‘no junk mail’ sign on our letterbox
- We recycle everything possible
- We have a front loader washing machine with great power and water efficiency
- We buy mostly organic veggies
- We buy only organic chicken and sausages
- I either make my own cleaning products or buy eco-store
- We use cloth nappies 95% of the time
- We use cloth wipes 99% of the time
- I use mama cloth pads (and they are great!)
- We buy second hand where we can
- We buy NZ made, Australia made or organic where we can’t buy second hand
- I buy a lot of bulk bin foods and avoid anything overly packaged
- I only use organic moisturiser, shampoo, conditioner and soap.
- We don’t buy much ‘stuff’ full stop
- We boycott made in China stuff
- I always walk to the local shops (it’s an easy walk though)
- We drink organic, fair trade coffee
- We use eco-tankas instead of plastic water bottles
- I take cloth bags to the supermarket
- I make extensive use of the public library
- I grow a few veggies – quite a few now in fact
- I don’t own a drier, and when I did I never used it
- We have an induction cook top
- I breastfed exclusively apart from a few weeks of top-ups in the early days.
- We use very little meat in our meals –I use beans, lentils and veggies to bulk up meaty things.
- We have a heatpump and are about to trial a hot water heat pump that will supposedly cut our hot water bill by 2/3rds
- We are very regular visitors to our farmers market when it runs.
- I bake our bread and do the vast, vast majority of our cooking from scratch.
- I use retro Tupperware containers and those funny elasticated food covers instead of plastic wrap.
- I haven’t been on a plane in nearly four years.
- I haven’t bought gift wrapping in over a year. I use canteen bandanas and squares of muslin for kids gifts which are great, or tea towels.
- I vote Green

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cloth Nappies 101

A good friend of mine recently decided to make the switch to cloth nappies. She wanted to save the planet, save money, and loved how cute ‘modern cloth nappies’ are.

However, she found the process something just short of completely overwhelming. Surfing cloth nappy sites on the internet was bamboozling, visiting the cloth nappy information centre left her more confused that ever. It was information overload.

Cloth nappies (or cloth diapers for you in the US) are actually very very simple. There are a lot of choices though, and you'll go mad if you try to look into every nappy on the market. I know - I tried!

So, here are my very basic pointers for a very simple switch to cloth.

- Firstly, for babies past six months, pocket nappies are hands down the most popular. Don't even worry about other styles. Really.

- For little babies, fitted nappies with a PUL cover are definitely the most popular option for containing that explosive baby poo.

- There is no substitute for actually trying a nappy on your baby. Babies are different shapes and sizes, so there is no such thing as a perfect nappy for all babies. Hire kits are a great option, or see if your friends will let you borrow a few to try.

- Beware of cheap nappies that are sold at mainstream baby shops. Most of the time when I hear someone say that cloth didn't work for them, its because they tried a particularly cheap and nasty pocket nappy you can buy at the Baby Factory.

- Don't soak your nappies. Just take out the inserts, pop everything in a dry nappy bucket with a bit of baking soda in the bottom, and leave till washing day.

- Nappy rash creams are the enemy. They build up on the nappy and will stop them from working. If you need a nappy cream, use a disposable liner or try a product like 'Curash' which is a powder and doesn't create a residue.

- Don't beat yourself up if you don't go 100% cloth all at once. Even 1 disposable a day will be 365 nappies that don't go to landfill. That's a lot of nappies.

- Be prepared to become a little obsessed. Once you see how easy cloth nappies are, and how much less rubbish you put out each week you'll be hooked. Cloth wipes, cloth sanitary pads, even cloth toilet paper ... who knows where you'll end up!

For more information on cloth nappies, Organic Baby has a great section for New Zealand cloth nappies, and will very soon have information on US suppliers as well. The Nappy Network in New Zealand has great information, and operates a number of hire kits, which are well worth investigating. Good luck!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Winter Soul Food

Getting some really amazing fruit and veggies delivered has been a real inspiration in the kitchen. Even though I will never get to cook the vegetarian feasts I dream of while married to my Hubby (although this post gives me hope!) I base our meals around vegetables, and then ‘add meat’ as a side dish.

I allow at most 200g of meat per meal for the 3 of us – so 1 kilo of meat does five meals here. I use lentils, beans and lots of veggies to bulk up what we have, so that no one goes hungry.

I thought you might like the recipes for a couple of favourites that I have cooked this weekend in my slow cooker. I wish I could take decent photos of my meals - I have tried but trust me, I'd put you off ever cooking them. You'll just have to imagine what they look like!

Hairy Chest Pea Soup

OK – that’s not the most appealing title I could think of. But my mama used to make pea soup in winter all the time, and always used to say ‘this will put hairs on your chest my girl’. I think she meant it would warm me up and give me strength.

My version doesn’t have the bacon bones she used but its just as good I promise. This makes a huge batch – easily ten servings. I always make a soup on a Friday night to serve whoever is helping with renovations on Saturday (our working bee day) and any other hangers on. I just freeze any leftovers.

2 onions, finely chopped
4-6 fat cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp mustard powder
1 cube organic vegetable bouillon (I use Rapunzel)
3 large carrots, sliced
2 medium potatoes, sliced
2-3 celery stalks, finely diced
500grams split dried green peas
1 ½ litres of boiling water

Pop it all in the crock pot overnight on low. Puree it if you are that way inclined (I’m not but I like lumpy soup). Season with salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg, and serve with crusty bread.

One Curry – Two Ways

Hubby insists on meat, but really I’m just not enjoying it at the moment, so this curry works great for us. Again, I throw it all in the crockpot – and we get about 5 servings (I freeze it) from this so its seriously economical.

500gms lamb, diced
1 cup kidney beans, soaked overnight
3 tins chopped tomatoes
1 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 large kumara (or sweet potato), sliced
1 Tbsp each of tumeric, ground coriander seeds, ground cumin (if you can grind them from whole seeds so much the better)
1-2 tsp chilli powder, more if you like it hot (fresh chillis would be better of course)
1 – 2 tsp ground ginger
500 ml veggie stock

Its great with rice, yoghurt and naan bread. I can pick out the lamb for hubby’s plate, and Munchkin and I love the beans.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why not Made In China

On an internet parenting forum recently there has been a debate about buying Made in China and of course, I had to wade in! I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here.

Since I did Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing Challenge in April, I have avoided buying Made in China (and other similar countries in terms of manufacturing) unless I really can't find an alternative - which is fortunately rare.

Following the challenge, I decided to always try to buy second hand as my first choice , made in NZ as second choice and then fair trade/organic/made in a first world country if I can't do the other two. Children's shoes have been my latest stumbling block - even at the flash stores in town I could only find made in China - every pair!

My reasons for avoiding Made in China are hardly unusual - environmentally poor manufacturing processes, human rights abuses in Tibet and in their own country, appalling labour conditions, concerns about slavery, poor quality control and regulations. I don't believe the 'cheap cheaper cheapest' economy is sustainable for anyone, not for the Chinese people, not for the planet, and not for us.

The argument that I hear a lot is 'isn't it better for them to at least have jobs– if we didn’t buy their cheap goods they wouldn’t eat’I honestly think that its a bit like when people used to say that slavery was OK because otherwise these people would be on the streets, starving etc, so wasn't it better for slaves to be fed and sheltered! I think the economic model the Chinese have created, - which is 'cheap, cheaper, cheapest' is fundamentally unsustainable, for the planet and for their people.

If items were certified fair trade from China, then I would buy them despite China's human rights record - because fair trade programmes are directly helping the people. Even quality goods made in China, unless the factories have fair trade or similar certification, are made by little better than slave labour. So I won't buy them. I won't take advantage of workers that have no real choice, I won't create demand for dirt cheap labour, and I won't support these economic models.

It is really tough to do this - its not like we have money to burn. I do the second hand thing a lot - and of course, some of what I buy second hand was originally made in China. I feel that by creating a market for second hand things is more ethical than creating a market for slave labour. But it is really hard to find things that aren’t made in China – and if you can find alternatives, they are extremely pricey when we are used to buying 10 pairs of socks for $10.So its not something we can do easily.

But I have hope – even my mother in law who is particularly unconcerned by such matters won’t buy food products from China because of the poor regulations there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recipe: Healthy Toddler Muesli Bars

OK - to be honest I'm not sure anything with this much butter is really truly healthy, but compare the ingredients list with commercial kiddy muesli bars and this one definately wins out.

I tried a bunch of different recipes and then cobbled this one together. You can chop and change within the dried ingredients - let me know if you try it what you think!

125gms butter
½ cup honey
2 cups rolled oats (or a mix of similar grains)
1 cup rice bubbles (lightens it up for little tummies)
¼ cup LSA powder
¼ cup dried chopped fruit

In a large saucepan melt the butter and honey. Then take off the heat, add the dry ingredients. Press well (use your fingers) into a 20 x 30 slice tin that has been lined with baking paper. I line it so that the baking paper comes up over the sides so that I can get it out of the tin without it breaking up.

Then bake at about 160 degrees celcius for 40 minutes or so. Leave to cool completely before cutting it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Since effectively 'quitting' my part time work, I have felt like my old self again. I have missed this - feeling calm, feeling healthy, feeling inspired.

I have been able to sense the rhythm in our day more. I no longer need to worry about what time it is. Or, whether Munchkin has slept early enough soso that she'll be in a good mood for her Dadda while I work. I'm not always stressed about whether I'll be able to meet the 'deadlines' that seems to perforate my day into little sections.

Our playgroup leader, a wonderful woman who was herself a Steiner child, says that you have to 'feel rhythm'. She won't have the group do things at set times - instead she senses when the children as a group are ready. So we breath out - run around, and then we breath in - come together for a set activity. Sometimes that means we eat morning tea at 10.45, sometimes as late as 11.30.

This used to frustrate me. I didn't have 'time' for all this rhythm stuff, I wanted a schedule. I was itching to check the time, hurry things along. I don't even know what I was hurrying for most of the time.

Off schedule, life seems so much more peaceful.

Our rhythm involves an order that we do things in - meals, morning outings, free play, a bath in the late afternoon, dinner, bedtime. Our days have always followed this order - since she was tiny. What has changed is the clock watching. I'm trying to watch 'us' - our family, and what seems to be the right thing. If she's playing happily, bathtime can wait. If she seems out of sorts, an early bath might be just the right thing.

The concept of rhythm is a critical one in Steiner Waldorf circles, but its so hard to understand. It definately isn't about a schedule - it isn't about set times, 15 minutes for morning tea, 45 minutes for free play. And it isn't 'make it up as you go along'. It is about routine, but there is more to it.

There is, as with all things Steiner, a spiritual element to it. When I first heard this - that there is a spiritual dimension to rhythm - I rolled my eyes. Spiritual shmirtual ... its just routine without the benefit of a watch. But sensing what children need, and responding to those needs, within the framework of a consistent order that ensures the right things get done ... is about being tuned in to these little souls. There is a kind of magic in the air when it works - and without it there is inevitably stress.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Early to bed

Uncommon Grace has written a beautiful post on her belief in a seven o clock bedtime, and how she organises her life to get there.

It got me thinking about our battles with bedtime, and our journey to a consistent and happy bedtime routine.

Right from when Munchkin was born I wanted to have a set bedtime, but for the first few months it wasn't to be. I've written before about what a sensitive and high-needs little person she is. I quickly discovered that while a sense of rhthym was something I strived for on a daily basis, but any actual routine was impossible.

She screamed in the bath, refused any attempts at infant massage. We tried white noise CDs, sleepy essential oils, baby calming homeopathic treatments, but she would have none of it. Sometimes she was so so tired her eyes would look like they were on stalks, and we would have to drive up and down the motorway with our Baby Mozart CD on full bore to get her to sleep - and even that wasn't failsafe. Sometimes we found that bouncing her quite firmly on our laps, facing outwards, while watching television (not very Steiner I know but desperate times) would get her off to sleep - she was so unpredictable.

Until she was turned one, bed time was anywhere from 6.30 till 10.00. Routine was not even in our vocabulary.

We wanted a bed time, but we knew that she wasn't ready for this level of external structure. You try putting a child to bed who is bouncing off the walls, or turning purple with rage at the idea that you might be 'winding down'.

So for us it was baby steps all the way.

Then finally, at around I think 13 months or so, I started taking her to bed each night, shutting the door, and reading stories, singing songs, nursing and cuddling, with the lights dimmed.

There was some resistance to this as she would try to bash the door down and collapse in my arms in tears at this new routine. But her protests were shortlived - she was finally at the age where she was ready for a more rhythmical bedtime.

Now some nights she takes my hand and leads me to her bedroom ... while blowing kisses at her Dad. She knows the drill.

So, our routine is a little different now from the common wisdom around bedtime routine.

For us, it worked to give her a bath before dinner, not after as seems to be the common wisdom. Bathtime is just too exciting, too stimulating for our sensitive little girl.

We have a bath around 4.45, and then dinner as a family most nights, at about 5.30. Then by 6.00 dinner is over and she has quiet play with her Dad, sometimes in her bedroom. At 6.30 its time for teeth brushing and bed time stories in bed with mummy, and lots of milkies. By 7.00 she is usually asleep.

So, if any of you are struggling with this whole bedtime routine, believe me, it does get better. I'd love to hear what your bedtime routines are.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Its been a rambly kind of week around here. I haven't been posting much, and I'm not sure why really. So this is a rambly kind of post to go with my rambly kind of mood.

Good news is that I have quit my job. After much angst about whether to carry on working, and feeling incredibly cut up about it all - my husbands company changed their minds about the whole flexible hours thing and the decision was made. So, in a couple of weeks, I will be a full time at home mum. Of course, I was full time at home before, just some of it was paid work!
While it will be a serious challenge financially, I feel incredibly relieved

I'm still on a health kick. I have been reading 'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert and 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' by Michael Pollan, and I'm feeling increasingly motivated about cooking really healthy food. So this week I've made a delicious brown rice and spinach casserole, delicious pasta sauce, and a (you guessed it) delicious green potato curry. We've never eaten so many vegetables. There is also lovely fruit at this time of year, mandarins, apples, pears - so eating well is a real pleasure.

Its been gorgeous and wintery here lately. Finally its cool enough to insist Munchkin wears a hat and a cardigan every day, so all her beautiful winter woolies (I'll post pictures if I can get any nice ones - I take the worlds' worst photos!) are getting well used. I love getting her all rugged up ... it feels like I'm taking really good care of her somehow.

The other thing I've been doing this week is helping out Lianne at Organic Baby with her website. Its an incredible incredible resource - there is so much information. She is launching a US version in a couple of weeks, so keep your eyes posted.

Also, I've just read the most beautiful post over at Uncommon Grace on her bedtime routine - don't you just want to curl up in one of her beautiful beds and be looked after my such a wonderful mama?

That's all from me - I promise there will be a more cohesive post another time!

Friday, May 16, 2008


After my self pitying post the other day, I decided I needed to take action to get some more energy. About the same time, my wonderful health-obsessed aunty gave me Skinny B*tch to read - a book that, despite is title, is all about the health benefits of a vegan diet.

I've mentioned before about on-again-off again-vegetarianism, and although I never went Vegan, reading this book reminded me of the many many benefits of taking a whole-foods natural approach to your diet.

So, I've been making all sorts of changes around here - and I'm delighted that I am really feeling so much better.

Some of the changes that are really working for me are:

- I'm taking my multivitamins and Omega 3s religiously.
- I've cut out soft drink almost entirely, and dropped my tea and coffee to one cup a day.
- I'm starting my day with hot water and lemon instead of tea.
- My daily walk is longer and faster.
- I'm doing a little bit of yoga in the evening.
- I'm getting a delivery of organic fruit and veggies and eating heaps more of them as a result. (Thank's Munchkin Mama for putting me onto this place!)

This has also inspired a bit more creativity in the kitchen.

Some of the highlights this week have been:

Couscous with parsley and mint from the garden, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, chopped tomato and some feta cheese.

Spicy vegetable soup - onions, garlic, pumpkin, parsnip, carrots, tomatoes with cumin, coriander seed and chilli powder. Next time I'm going to try it with chick peas.

Pizza - I made some pizza dough in the breadmaker and had roasted pumpkin and kumara, caramelized onion, red capsicums and of course, some mozzarella. I used some spicy plum sauce for the base - and put some lamb on Hubby's side.

I'd really love to know what you find gives you more energy. For me, its such a virtuous cycle - once I start making positive changes I have the energy to keep on going.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

So just what is 'Attachment Parenting'

In the early days with Munchkin, when she wouldn't sleep, wouldn't settle and I didn't know what to do - I found Attachment Parenting International on the internet one night and cried - there were other people who felt like me! Their eight principles should be handed out to all new mothers in my terribly humble opinion.

Now, API have a wonderful new site with a blog and forums and all sorts of wonderful information. Head over and check it out. I laughed though because already debate is starting on their forums and in their blog comments about the very sensitive definition of attachment parenting. Its very easy for people in attachment parenting circles to become precious about 'how to do it', and for mothers to end up feel like they aren't 'AP' enough to belong.

To me, being an attachment parent is about an attitude, and a belief - rather than a set of ‘have tos’. Attachment parenting is wanting to develope a very strong bond with your baby, to give your baby as many of the proven benefits of having a strong primary attachment.

The core AP practices according to William Sears who developed the AP approach are ‘birth bonding, babywearing , responding to your baby’s cries, breastfeeding, sharing sleep (which can be sleeping in the same room) and balance'.

AP doesn’t have to mean breastfeeding for-ever, but it does mean weaning gradually with love rather than cold turkey. For a lot of AP mums, this will mean child led weaning at whatever age this happens. But if you want your body back and feel exhausted breastfeeding your two year old, this doesn't mean you are not 'AP enough'.

AP certainly doesn’t mean no boundaries or discipline, but it does mean no smacking or harsh punishments. Think 'loving guidance' not 'anything goes'.

AP doesn’t mean no routine, but it does mean feeding on baby’s cues especially in the early days, and working gently towards a routine that suits everyone.

AP doesn’t always mean no bottles, although it is strongly pro-breastfeeding. But you would give the bottle lovingly, holding your baby gently and close. You can ‘fail’ at breastfeeding and still get an ‘A+’ in Attachment Parenting.

AP definately doesn’t mean no-nappies (or cloth nappies). But no-nappy people find it makes them feel they know their babys better - not something I have done though!

AP doesn’t even have to mean no strollers. Strollers can be really handy. But AP parents also want to spend time with baby close, especially if they are upset, so AP parents are likely to use a sling or baby carrier especially for the first six months or so until they can crawl!

AP does stress the importance of a happy baby and wider family, so BALANCE is the most important Attachment Parenting principle.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Autumn Singalong

Oh we've been having some autumnal fun at Playgroup this week.

The weather was miserable today, so rainy that the garden was a muddy quagmire. I don't actually know what a quagmire is, but I do love the word.

The beeswax crayons came out, and we managed to use the planks of wood from the benches to create indoor climbing frames. Our teacher brought along an amazing old fashioned apple corer that not only cores the apples but peels them and creates a spiral of apple. The kids were fascinated - we peeled a lot of apples! Its amazing how creative a bunch of mums can be.

We have been singing some lovely new autumn songs during circle time that I thought I'd share:

"The leaves are green, the apples are red'
They hang so high above my head
Leave them alone till windy weather
And they'll come tumbling down together

The leaves are green, the nuts are brown
They hang so high they won't fall down
Leave them alone till frosty weather
And then they'll all fall down together"

"I had a little apple on my apple tree
As small and round as an apple can be
And then one day it started to grow .....

I had a little apple on my apple tree
As small and round as an apple can be
And then one day it started to grow .....

It grew so big ... and red .... and ROUND
It just had to fall down to the ground"

"The river called softly to the leaves on the trees
I am waiting to take you on a journey with me.
So the leaves fell down softly on a quiet autumn day
And they floated with the river far fa-ar away"

"Five little leaves so bright and gay, (hold up five fingers)
Were dancing about on a tree one day
The wind came blowing through the town
(everyone blow loudly)
And one little leaf came fluttering down

Four little leaves so bright and gay.... (repeat poem)

One little leaf so bright and gay
Was dancing around on the tree one day,

The wind came blowing through the town
And the last little leaf came fluttering down."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What I love about toddlers

Munchkin has just turned 18 months. Its a cliche, but where did the time go! Particularly the last six months - they have just disappeared.

18 months is a beautiful age. She is on the cusp of becoming a little girl, rather than a baby.

Her walking is becoming less of a 'waddle', and she is starting to run. Her words are becoming clearer and clearer, not just 'no no no' but 'yesss' as well. She knows the names of everyone in our family, and we spend hours looking at the photo albums practicing saying their names. New words appear everyday. Yesterday it was 'garlic', the day before it was 'gumboot'. Her little voice is the most beautiful sound I can imagine, it lights up my world.

She is such an affectionate wee girl, she loves to give cuddles and kisses. When she is frustrated or upset, she will throw her arms around my neck as she sobs her little heart out.

I love the look of attention that she gets when she is focussed on something, like using the brush and pan to try to sweep up the floor, or put objects in a box, or pull apart the plastics drawer. She adores bumping down stairs on her bottom, and will laugh hysterically the whole way down. She loves to splash in water, stomp in puddles, and occassionally to try to drink the water that pools on our deck.

She loves other children, particularly those older than her. If they will let her, she will give them big cuddles, and then follow them around like a devoted puppy dog.

These months have already passed by all too fast. Munchkin, your second birthday will be here all too fast. We love you so much.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Work doesn't work for me

Over at Rocks in My Dryer Shannon is having a 'what doesn't work for me Wednesday'.

It seemed particularly pertitent this week. Life has hit a new level of mania this week. My 'part time from home' job has turned into deadline central with urgent phone calls and emails from early in the morning till late at night. I was even taking calls and texting during playgroup today. Everything has suffered.

Quite simply, work isn't working for me. Work is pulling me in too many different directions. Its scattering my energies between different clients, different reports, different deadlines. I don't dare take a minute to tidy my desk or even write a to-do lists, practices that I used to hold sacred. My proverbial saw is blunt.

I have been re-reading Buddhism for Mothers, which Nikki suggested I should turn to. I need to stop rushing, and start focussing on being mindful. When I'm working I need to work. When I am not working, I need to develop the confidence to turn my cell phone off, close the computer down, and be a mum.

Working from home, splitting child care with Hubby, both of us working less than full time - this is supposed to be the post feminist nirvana. But, more and more I'm realising, it just doesn't work for me.

Now, this is a rather desperate sounding Works For Me Wednesday, so cheer yourselves up and head over to http://rocksinmydryer.typepad.com/shannon/ for some more cheerful links!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Incarnating Child

"This Divine Feminine principle is most fully represented on earth in the mother and child. Thus today does motherhood give the possibility of revealing the Divine in its archetypal feminine form. It should be said that a true and conscious art of motherhood as it is practised by an increasing number of young women, gives an opportunity for the Divine Mother Being to work into human souls on earth, to be manifested amongst us. "

On my bookshelf at the moment is The Incarnating Child by Joan Salter.

Its such a strange book that I almost didn't write about it. The combination of her generation (she would be my Grandmothers age) and her extreme Anthroposophism means that a lot of it it pretty out there. She recommends 'nipple preparation', is against extended breastfeeding, and recommends a level of controlled crying. She suggests that cows milk is "the ideal food to help the child incarnate" - and comes dangerously close to suggesting that mothers should give cows milk over formula even in the first year. Fruits which grow above the earth should be introduced before vegetables that grow on the earth, and then root vegetables which grow under the earth. That is, unless your child has a large head, and is therefore a slow incarnator. They need root vegetables early to balance out their dreaminess. I could go on.

All of this makes me nervous, and is certainly at odds with the way most Steiner people I have met go about their lives. The 'Anthros' I know (and I invite lots of comments please) seem to see the 'indications of Rudolf Steiner' as revealing, but don't treat them as gospel.

Although I would hate for anyone to think this is what all Steiner mums are like, I have thorougly enjoyed reading it. It reads a little like a 1950s home economics text, or for that matter Ms Stricy-Pants Gina Ford - its terribly precise and prescriptive with no room for questions. But, at the same, time, I actually found myself agreeing with an awful lot that she says.

- Exposure to the worlds rush and bustle must be avoided (for newborns). The best music for this ages is a softly played lyre or flute ; and lullabies, sund by mother and grandmothers down the ages, have a timeless value.

- The best colours for baby are rosy pink, mauve, pale blue, a sunny yellow, or creamy white. Brown and green should be avoided, for they are too 'earth' for the young child'

-For a child under a year old to wear a flimsy top only ... is contrary to the laws of Nature ... it is asking for body organ degeneration in later life.

- A common error is to expect a young child to be capable of making a choice ... How much better for the child if Mother, in a cheerful and authoritative voice says 'Bathtime now! come and get dressed"

- Television watching ... induces passivity and cripples initiative

- If someone gives you a 'horror' as a baby gift, have the courage not to use it! The well being of the baby is the prime consideration.

and my very favourite just to leave you with ...

- The deplorable Mr Men series is a sorry and degrading portrayal of everything human. It can only undermine a child's respect for what shoud be the dignity of man.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Writers Block

I adore reading other mothers blogs. I love getting an insight into the every day details of other peoples lives. I love reading people’s inner thoughts, and struggles. I suspect people share more intimately on their blog than they often do in real life.

I sometimes struggle to write when I think of people I 'know' reading my blog. I worry that they might snigger or judge me somehow. Somehow philosophizing isn’t best done in polite company, but rather in the anonymity of our online selves.

But I'm not feeling particularly philosophical today. Life is busier than I would like it to be at the moment. I seem to be struggling to find any sense of balance between being a mother, a wife, a home maker, a friend, and this pesky career thing I have on the side. So when I sit down to write, a million 'to dos' float around my mind, and nothing else comes.

So, in honour of my current writers block I thought I would share some random posts that I have read recently that I have found particularly inspiring ...

Uncommon Grace

"All this has me thinking about the rituals that we keep when our children are not themselves -- suffering, under the weather, emotionally distressed, etc. Most of the time I kind of think that those times are isolated and somehow not part of our "real life."

And yet, there they are, cropping up and reminding me of the messiness of life. And how important these times of convalescence are: to nourish a sick child's body, to nurture a sorrowful child's spirit, to ease a suffering child's mind. What does it take to do that job? Yes, it takes some real physical things: some eucalytus oil in the vaporizer, a homeopathic remedy under the tongue, a cool cloth on the forehead, a gentle massage of aching muscles.

But most of all, it takes time. Time is the best gift I can give my children, when they need me, and even when they think they don't. Time that sometimes I think I don't have. But if I really take the time to be present with my children, everything else seems to fall into place anyway. That time spent is an even greater gift to me. "

Bluebird Baby

As the little one and I were raking the garden yesterday I began to think of my mother. We had beautiful flower beds around our house growing up. We were always outside gardening or inside baking. I was trying to imagine how much of that would have been lost if we had a computer in our living room. How would I have felt if my mother was online instead of getting her hands dirty in the garden? (And this is in no way said to make anyone feel bad about their computer usage! It's just my feelings about how my time is spent.) Those times spent gardening and baking are some of my fondest memories. I want to make sure the little one has that too.

Soule Mama

I'm a firm believer that one must truly know and love something in order to be believe strongly enough to protect, save and heal it. This philosophy guides the way we parent in so many different areas, and certainly our feelings and beliefs about the Earth are at the top of that. I truly want for my children to love and know the world around them, and as a byproduct, I know (and have already seen) that a sense of caring for it will evolve. I don't want to flood them with doom and gloom of the state of the world, but rather, mindfully give them information as they are ready - as they age, and as emotions mature. I think they know a lot about the state of things, but more than that, they really quite simply are in love with - and still getting to know - the Earth around them.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The challenge is over

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008

The Buy Nothing Challenge is officially over.

I'm feeling particularly virtuous I have to say. Apart from the birthday banner splurge I have been extremely restrained.

While I have bought some new clothes for Munchkin, I have found New Zealand made, and usually WAHM made options I even found NZ Made socks at http://www.cosytoes.com/ - and they are the best socks ever. Most of her winter wardrobe I bought second hand.

My biggest oops was a new duvet inner for Munchkin. After a particularly chilly night I decided we needed a new duvet right now - no messing around looking for second hand options when a good night sleep is at stake. I was delighted to find what appered to be a 'made in New Zealand' wool duvet inner. 100% Pure New Zealand Wool. New Zealand's Warmest Wool Duvet. And the name of a New Zealand company, with a New Zealand address.

Yet, when I opened the box, took the duvet out of the very eco-friendly calico bag, and spread it out - I found the tiny little label. Sure enough "Made in China". Disappointing, but not suprising.

This challenge has really made me think, hard, about what I buy.

I don't think I will be able to buy Made in China again without serious consideration. The human rights abuses, the coal generation, the political system, the miles things must travel, the workers rights or lack thereof ... its not something I feel I can support.

Hubby is feeling a bit over all this 'crunchy-ness' though and has begged me to stop trying any new ideas. On the weekend my friend confessed to buying 3 tops from TNT (a very cheap children's clothing company here) for her daughter. On the way home Hubby suggested that it would just be easier if I would do the same, and questioned whether it was really worth the effort - wouldn't there be more productive ways to spend my time. He may be right - but as those of you who read my earlier post know - it would break my tree-hugging heart.

As much as I hate to admit it, its really not that easy being green.

Crunchy Chicken's new challenge for May is a great one - an extreme eco-throwdown. It has got lots of ideas spinning around my head. But for now, I think I'll keep on with the no-made-in-China, second hand where possible, buy local, regime. I can't wait to read how everyone else goes with it though.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You Make My Day

The lovely Dawn at Renaissance Mama sent me a 'You Make My Day' blog award. That's so sweet - thank you very much Dawn!

I want to pass this on to Gabes at SweetPKnits. Gabes is a wonderful knitter whose blog makes me seriously considering taking to the needles. She has patiently answered my knitting questions, and between us we have seriously improved what my Mother in Law is knitting!

Gabes has designed a free pattern for a little ear flap pilot cap. She has done this as a fundraising initiative for Child Cancer - so if you love the pattern, knit it up and send some money to your local Child Cancer foundation.

A good project and a good cause. It Makes My Day!

Whatever the weather, we will still have fun together

Munchkin’s favourite past-time is playing outside. We have a small section, with grass, trees, and some decking and stairs out front and back. She runs and runs, around the grass, up the stairs, along the deck, across the pavers. She picks up leaves, plays with stones, lies down on the grass and laughs hysterically. If its raining she sits down, and pokes out her tongue to drink the water. If its windy she puts her neck forward and runs, as if trying to kiss the breeze.

Personally, I’m more a fan of the great indoors. A duvet, hot water bottle and a good book are more my thing that a sleeping bag, tent, and a thermos. But I see how much pleasure Munchkin gets from being outside, in nature. So I put on my woolly hat and my boots and jump in to the leaves along side her.

Rain or shine, we get outdoors everyday. We go to parks and gardens and playgrounds. We feed ducks. We hug trees. We play in the leaves. We go to the beach and get covered in sand. We get wet, messy, cold, and down right dirty.

Sometimes it seems too miserable to go outside, too windy, too cold. I take inspiration from Rahima Baldwin Dancy who tells the story of a kindergarten in Germany where the children go outside everyday, whatever the weather. She says ‘there is no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing’. That's become our motto around here too.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Welcome to Blogger

Welcome to Domestically Blissed at Blogspot.

I'm hoping Blogger will let me create a prettier, easier to read blog, and it means I can use librarything which I just love (see my list of books in the sidebar, it will change all the time!). Lots of people have also said they want to leave comments but couldn't before, so hopefully Blogger will make this easier too.

You'll find my personal favourite posts popping up here in the archives as I transfer them. Its been really interesting reading my old posts, its just a shame I can't transfer comments.

Please bear with me if thinks look a little odd from time to time while I 'settle in' to my new blog home.

Also, for those of you kind enough to have me in your 'favourites' pages, please change my link when you get a moment. Thank you!

Gypsy xx

Monday, April 21, 2008

Slow down … you move too fast

Over the last three weeks, our playgroup has had a few sessions with a woman from the Steiner federation. It has been an amazing experience, but I have struggled to write about it because it has affected me so personally.

As a mother who rushes around at high speed, speaks very quickly, spends hours on the internet, schedules activities in for every day, works part time, loves the company of others and gets extremely jittery at the thought of spending time alone … a lot of what this woman had to say was very hard to hear.

Of course, I am paraphrasing terribly, and I welcome comments from anyone that thinks I have gotten the wrong end of the Steiner stick!

We all know the way we speak to our children can be deeply harmful, but we often forget that it can be extremely helpful, and healing. Young children absorb everything they experience into their very being. In that sense, the way we speak to them actually forms who they are.

By being fully present when we speak, by choosing our words consciously, by speaking slowly, calmly, peacefully we help our children develop fully. Beautiful words will have a very positive affect, just as ugly words will harm our children.

Filling our homes with artificial voices – the television, the radio, recorded music – confuses the child and is no substitute for the living voice. It is only the living voice that can be the powerfully positive, healing force that we desire. Children need to hear their mother and father speaking to them, singing to them, telling them stories..

Children are very sensitive to sense impressions and even a trip to the supermarket, with its bright lights, colours and noises, will be incredibly overwhelming. It is important to give our children a rich home-life – and that means spending a lot of time at home, just pottering about quietly doing home-making activities. Children won’t get bored doing this – they will love imitating their mother, playing with a few simple toys, running around the garden. It is the mothers that get bored. Many mothers are ‘too much in the mind’ with a running commentary going through our heads, thinking about the next thing we need to do, giving off a busy, nervous energy.

She commented that when mothers live ‘in their heads’ and rush their children around over-filling them with sense impressions, the children too become manic, over-wraught, excitable. Homes are filled with so many toys – these can be pared down to just a very very few quality toys that the child can love.

What she said has had a big impact on me. Initially - I wanted to reject everything she was saying. After all, we don’t watch TV, hardly go to the mall, our activities usually take place outdoors and close to nature. We might be busy, but I really thought that Munchkin likes going out, being busy as much as I do – and I would go crazy spending a day at home. I thought of women of my mothers generation, who suffered from terrible loneliness without the social support networks we have today.

But, as I thought about it, the truth of these teachings really hit me. Of course, adopting these teachings doesn’t mean we stop seeing other people. Or that we stop going out. But spending more time at home, not doing anything in particular has made a big difference. Munchkin thrives on this. And surprisingly, I’m really enjoying it too.