Friday, July 31, 2009


The fabulous Nova tagged me for a MeMe ... which is great fun because don't we all love to write about ourselves!!!

What is your current obsession?

my baby boy ... he's nearly 5 months old and he's just so squidgy and smiley and delicious

What is your weirdest obsession?

storage solutions ... I can spend hours measuring up and shopping around for just the right container! Yet, I never seem to get it perfect ...

What are you wearing today?

long patchwork skirt, red top, orange cardy, pink froggy slippers (is it just me or does that question sound a bit creepy???)

If you could change 1 thing about yourself, what would you change?

my 'black craft thumb' when it comes to anything involving handwork. I had to make a walnut boat at a Steiner mums meeting the other week ... I was mortified!

What would you eat for your last meal?

Spicy bean nachos with tonnes of cheese, quacamole and sour cream, with a couple of majitos, followed by lemon tart and really good vanilla icecream, and several cups of decent coffee.

What’s the last thing you bought?

a birthday present for a 3 year old friend of Munchkin's - oh and some really great cane baskets for the top of the pantry (see question 2)

What are you listening/watching right now?

listening to hubby watching some violent movie, and my baby feeding at the breast

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

The luxury lake spa in Rotorua ... thermal spas, in rocks, right on the lakes edge. With a mojito. And some lemon tart.

Which language do you want to learn?


What do you love most about where you currently live?

I love that the weather is pretty much get out-side-able (given appropriate waterproof clothing) 365 days of the year, 24 bours a day. I went for a walk just about every single day of my pregnancy ... and never missed one because of the weather.

What is your favorite colour?

Waldorf kindergarten pink.

How many draft posts are sitting on your blogs dashboard?

4! One on storytimes, one on circle time for rainy days, one on protecting babys senses, one on baking bread with children.

What were you doing ten years ago?

Falling in love with the man who is now my husband

Describe your personal style?

I like to think earth mother, but my brother calls it mother hubbard

If you had $300 now, what would you spend it on?

Clothes ... clearly if my brother is right I need to!

What are you going to do after this?

Go to bed - alone as I think Hubby's still watching that movie.

What are your favourite films?

Princess Bride ... its been a long time since I've seen a movie actually. The last one I saw was about some MIT students who counted cards in Blackjack and took on the casinos - can't remember the name of it but it was really good.

What inspires you?

Ideas. I know its cliched, but its why I love blogging .. I just love new ideas and concepts.

What makes you follow a blog?

See above.

What is your favourite FO and why?

What's an FO???

Your proudest moment?

Quitting my job rather than putting Munchkin into care.

Your biggest weakness?

Staying up late blogging!

I'm not going to tag anyone, but let me know if you do it or have done it so I can pop over and visit!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Why don't parents dress their children properly? I know I sound old-fashioned, but honestly, I nearly bit my lip off trying not to have words with a mother the other day, when I saw two little girls dressed in sleeveless tops at a playground in the middle of winter.

It was sunny, sure, but it was FREEZING. Munchkin was in a hat, winter coat and woolen layers top and bottom. I was in my winter coat and cursing having left my hat at home. And here were these little ones running around in barely anything.

Waldorf teachers will all tell you the same thing ... keep your children warm! Young children might not feel the cold, so its our job as mothers to dress them properly. Warm means layers of natural fibres ... think cotton and wool underwear, slippers inside and shoes, hats and jackets outside. (cotton hats inside too for babies ... they are usually practically bald afterall). Children who are warm play better, grow better and behave better.

Warmth is probably one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
Not only the warmth as love but the physical warmth of their body.
Children are developing their bodies especially during the first 7 years of their lives.
An infant and a young child will always feel warm unless they are on the verge of hypothermia because they have an accelerated metabolic rate. If we don't
provide them with the layers of cotton and wool to insulate their bodies, then they must use
some of their potential "growth" energy to heat their bodies. This same
energy would be better utilized in further developing their brain, heart, liver, lungs etc.
In addition, being cold decreases our immunity. We are all more susceptible to
the germs and viruses that are always around us when we are wet
and cold. When our body has to expend extra energy to keep warm
then less energy is available to "fight" off infections.
Susan R. Johnson MD, The Importance of Warmth

Being in the middle of winter here, everywhere I go in Steiner circles this message about keeping children warm is being hammered home. In particular, the teachers stress the importance of keeping feet and heads warm ... this means woolen socks and woolen hats. Also long singlets or bodysuits so tummies and backs are kept covered ... gosh I sound like my grandma!

I know how hard it is to get, and keep, warm clothes on young children. I'm the first to admit I haven't always been perfect at this myself. But, as mothers we manage to keep our children from running on the road, climbing on wobbling bookshelves, eating lollies all day ... in other words we manage to enforce the limits we really believe in.

In our house, getting Munchkin to wear slippers is a constant battle. But, with wooden floors wearing them is non-negotiable. We are making some progress, but honestly I think she is the kind of child who would prefer to go barefoot all winter. What I have had some success with is this - when the slippers come off, mum won't do anything until they are back on ... its kind of like playing that game statues where everyone freezes!

A good friend of mine manages to keep her girls in sunhats outside all summer ...a task many have said is impossible (including me at one time!). Her approach is simply this ... if the hat comes off the child goes inside until the hat comes back on. I heard someone else comment how 'hardline' she is ... but its about keeping your child safe and healthy ... these things are really worth insisting on!

Donna Simmons relates her experience getting her boys to wear hats here ... I found this post quite motivational!

I'd love to hear other mums stories about winning the warmth battle ... let me know how you do it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Matariki Story

Matariki is the Maori New Year, which has had something of a renaissance in New Zealand over the last few years. Matariki is the Maori name for the Pleiades - the cluster of stars visible around mid-winter here. Matariki celebrations go on for about a month here - from mid June to mid July.

The yearly reappearance of Matariki signifies a time to prepare, to share ideas, to
remember the past and celebrate the future. Matariki can be a time of change,
and growth. During Matariki we acknowledge what we have and what we have to
give. Matariki celebrates the diversity of life. It's a celebration of culture, language,
spirit and people, of our past, present and looking to the future.
From Christchurch City Libraries Matariki Resource Pack

Sybolically I think its a wonderful festival to observe, especially in the southern hemisphere where winter drags on devoid of the celebrations of Christmas and the Christian New Year. My grand plan for this year was to tell a Matariki story to Munchkin for story time, but alas, I never quite got there (life with a second baby is really lowering my standards!) However, I wanted to share it with you, and I wanted to make sure I know where to find it next year!

The story is "The Seven Star Fishes":

'One day a mother fish said to her little fishes

'Now listen carefully, dear children
Be sure you keep close in to the rocks.
Do not venture out ito the open sea,
Today Tataraimaka goes fishing"

Tataraimaka was a gian who fished with an enormous black net. His black net made magic and has been woven from flax.

On this day however the sea was smooth, the sun was at its brightest. Rainbow colours danced about the little fishes as they played their games. They were having so much fun they forgot their mothers words.

Without warning disaster struck. The big black net of Tataraimaka hit the water and all seven fishes were caught. They cried, making the sea salty with their tears.

Tane the God of light heard their cries and felt sorry for them. He took away Tataraimaka's net and hauled it up into the high heavens.

There the seven little fishes were turned into stars. You can see them right now in the evening above the horizon. Six of the star have names - they are Toheti, Toheta, Tupuanuku, Tupuarangi, Ururangi and Waipuna-a-rangi.

But one star remains nameless. It has been left for all the children of the world. Just before going to bed, you may put your name on this star, and in this way you will be among friends as you sleep.

My plan is to create this as a puppet story - with a blue muslin and eight cardboard or felt fishes (a big one for the mummy and seven littler ones) and then have a black sheet (I think I have an old black valance I could cut up) for the net/sky, with stars on one side. Easy ... really!

Also, I saw this book at the local library - must remember to get it for ideas for next year. At our Steiner school they incorporate some Matariki celebrations as part of the lantern walk for St Johns Tides (yep, if you are from the Northern Hemisphere its mighty confusing!).

So did anyone reading do anything for Matariki this year ? If so please leave a comment - I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More than suburban neurosis

There seems to be something of an epidemic of postnatal anxiety or depression. I have counted eleven of my mummy friends have been on medication of some kind for these conditions. Eleven that I know of ... of course there are probably even more.

So what is going on? It seems that the acceptable solution to life with young children, to the hormonal madness, the physical exhaustion, the emotional toll ... is firstly to medicate the pain away and then, so very often, to put the children in daycare so the mothers can have a break. And, somehow, this is acceptable???? This is coping ???? Rather than look at real solutions we just pop a pill, write a cheque and get on with life.

In the circle of women that I know, it seems that the second child is when women are more likely to suffer, and that was certainly the case for me. Having a second child was huge ... I have never experienced such deep exhaustion. And yet, there is just never a break, as soon as Gidget was born I was 'needed' back at home, I had to carry on. Husbands and grandmothers have to work, the house doesn't run itself, someone has to look after the toddler.

When did it become a badge of honour for a new mother to 'bounce back' immediately after birth? Why do we say to each other 'gosh you are doing well' when we see mothers of newborn babies out in public?

In the Waldorf approach, the first six weeks of a babys life are seen as a particularly sacred time. In these first forty days, the child's connection to the spirit world is still wide open. Ideally the mother and baby would be left largely alone for this time, and the newborn wouldn't be exposed to any bright lights, extremes of temperature or loud noises. Steiner isn't the only person to suggest this, its the norm in many tribal cultures and has been that way historically. This first six weeks isn't just critically important for the baby either, its vital for the mothers healing and for her ability to cope with the challenging times ahead.

So I wonder ... if the first six weeks were honoured and protected as a time for mother and baby to be nurtured and protected, would mothers be less likely to suffer these mental and emotional problems?

Mothering young children is very very very hard work. Mothering a newborn baby is all-consuming, and mothers and young babies need and deserve more support. By support, I mean more practical support, not more encouragment to visit the GP for a prescription.

What support looks like will depend on you .. but it might be longer stays at decent birthcare places. It might look like paid paternity leave for six weeks for fathers, to allow them to be at home. Having someone come to clean the house, ideally a couple of times a week. Grandparents and aunties taking over the laundry. Friends setting up a meal roster. Even doing online grocery shopping makes a massive difference

But most of all, the support we need is encouragement, and in fact expectation that new mothers and their babies will spend the first 40 days resting at home. The real badge of honour should be 'I wore pyjamas for six weeks'.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rhythm 101

Rhythm is a term you will hear a lot in Waldorf, and for me it was a hard one to get my head around ... perhaps because I saw it as related to routine, structure, and timetables. As I have worked with the concept, I have come to see it more in terms of harmony, nature and flow.

"the wonder of these rhythms is that they are 'precise' without being 'exact' like a mechanical clock. our breathing and heart rates change, our digestion and sleep rhythms can adapt. Like music, there can be speeding up and slowing down, different parts can move more quickly or more slowly, but the whole is harmoniously integrated'.
John Davy, "Living in Real Time" Lifeways - Working with Family Question

Oh for life with children to be a 'harmoniously integrated' whole. With two childen I have found that life often feels tacycardic rather than rhythmical ... ... the baby won't stop screaming, five nappies need changing in an hour, the toddler has covered herslef in water and has now emptied the rice container over the floor .... and its still only 7.15am!

I find it helpful to think of rhythms in nature. Night follows day, summer follows spring, sometimes it rains and sometimes it shines. Establishing this strong rhythmical feeling at home is so important, and yet so challenging.

If I have achieved any success in establishing rhythm, it is from slowing down, doing less. I think the mantra for parents with young children should be 'less is more'. Steiner kindergartens are often described as having a 'timeless' quality ... somehow there is never chaos there perhaps because there is never a rush. There is always plenty of time to do what needs to be done.

For us, the cornerstone of a strong rhythm is a strong routine. Not rushing through the day ... just doing the same things in the same way, day in and day out. Wake up time with a cuddle in the dim light ... our daughter is a hyped-up chatterbox first thing, but a long cuddle seems to ground her so that she is ready for the day. Mealtimes are timely, calm, and eaten at the table not 'on the run'. Tidying up happens automatically, I try to sing or hum as I go. Outings yes ... but home in time for lunch. In the evenings its bath, dinner, story, teeth and bed ... same way every night.

This routine is filled with rituals ... songs that are sung, candles that are lit, stories that are told, cups that are used ... little things that matter so much to young children. We strive for a balance of 'in breaths' and 'out breaths' ... quieter, calmer times to balance the massive energy, action and noise of a toddler.

When we are out of tune with our rhythm, we all suffer. Mum gets stressed, Dad gets grumpy, Munchkin throws tantrums and Gidget gets colicky ... and downwards we go.

There are some wonderful resources around about rhythm ... two of the best I have found online are this article and particularly the comments by Rahima Baldwin Dancy, and this article at The Parenting Passageway, which is one of my all time favourites.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Steiner mama is a singing mama

Singing can change the world; for when we sing, we change ourselves. We, the citizens of the world, are in great need of joy and peace, calmness and exuberance. When we sing we can create all of these moods and thereby shift and balance our breathing and blood circulation. Through singing we can create a sense of health and well being, which leads to a calming of the brain waves, a vitalizing of our organs, and the enlivining of our endocrine system. In addition to these health giving benefits for oneself and the whole community, it is just plain fun! Mary Thienes-Schunemann, Lavender's Blue Dilly Dilly

Singing is a really important part of the Steiner/Waldorf approach to little ones. In a Steiner environment, rather than 'directing' children, they are led by the rhythm of the day. Just was one doesn't resist that summer follows spring, children who are strongly imbedded in a rhythm won't resist that handwashing follows coming home, or that bed comes after teeth-cleaning . So often songs indicate what is happening, which is much softer and less 'directive' than a spoken instruction. Carrie explains this really well here.

So tell me, what songs do you sing during the day as part of your rhythm? We seem to have quite a collection here. I have to confess that I am a LOUSY singer ... I was actually asked to leave a school choir - so poor is my singing voice. For me, practice might not make perfect but I hope for passable. Munchkin and Gidget both love me singing however out of tune I might be.

I have to say that I think I'm very lucky to have attended a wonderful Steiner playgroup for the last eighteen months, which is where most of our home rhythm comes from. By the time she was two, Munchkin was asking for these songs. I'm not sure I would have convinced Hubby or my in laws to sing a blessing ... but Munchkin holds out her hands and says 'blessings!' with such conviction and concern that no-one would dare say no. I really admire Waldorf home-schoolers who have to work this stuff out on their own ... it must take a huge strength to do that!

Our morning song is a bit of a well known Waldorf classic

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 flowers everyone
Good morning dear bees, and the birds in the trees

Good morning to you, and good morning to me.

Story time we begin by singing

Mother of the fairy tale
Take me to your shining vale
To mountains high, and valleys deep
Where fairies fly and goblins creep
Now let us hear your fairy tale

At meal times we have

Blessings on the blossoms,
Blessings on the fruit,
Blessings on the leaves and stems andblessings on the ro--oo--ot.
Spoken: Blessings on this meal, Manaki Ene Kai and Peace on Earth”

At dinner time we up the ante with a candle before blessings, our candle lighting song is

Fire fairy come to us, fire fairy come to us, and the fire fairy comes, bringing golden light from the sun.

And I know we are not the only ones to make liberal use of the tune to 'Here we go round the Mulberry Bush' - this is the way we wash our hands/clean our teeth/put on our clothes ... etc etc.

Maybe I should look up that old choir teacher!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why I love Steiner .. and why I love blogging

Really, I'm back this time. We had our baby boy in March, and now that he is four months old the fog is lifting.

While I have been away from blogland, I have been getting deeper and deeper into Steiner/Waldorf. Our brief foray into Playcentre lasted a whole six weeks, and sent me scurrying back to the pink bubble of our local Steiner playgroup.

There is a saying in meditation teachings that 'every day life is the practice', meaning that we can be great meditators when we are on retreat, but its the humdrum, repetitive life that really challenges us. Staying in the moment, keeping that same sense of calm that one has in meditation ... well that is our true work isn't it?

No more is this the case than in parenting young children. It is sacred work, often referred to as the most important job we will ever do, but its hard, often boring, and challenges us more than we can possibly imagine.

For me, the Steiner/Waldorf approach has changed the experience of being at home with young children in every way. It can lift everyday life into something magical, something special.
Today, we see 'stay at home' mums who are really 'stay at playgroup or stay at cafe' mums, and massive pressure to put children into daycare younger and younger to ensure they are stimulated and socialised. Yet, young children desperately need a strong and healthy homelife. Being carted around here there and everywhere is not great for little kiddies, and everywhere we see the results of this.

The Steiner/Waldorf approach challenges many of the sacred cows of modern parenting. Less is more ... less stimulation, less activity, less talking, less toys, less media, less pressure. Lots of time to just be, be at home with mum, to be a child.

Now I'm desperate to get back to some writing and ranting about all this stuff ... and thank you everyone who emailed me asking how and where I was while I was away ... I missed you all.