Saturday, March 31, 2007


Saturday Cuppa: Apple and cinnamon tea.

Before You
By William Arthur Ward
Before you speak, listen.
Before you write, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you invest, investigate.
Before you criticise, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.
Before you retire, save.
Before you die, give.

Two weeks of my girlies back home from school on holidays. Two weeks to sleep in again! Two weeks of picnics together and long walks in the woods or by the river. Two weeks free of routine. Now that's what I call living!

Two lives
Last week Bethany said the kids in her class were all talking about the chocolate eggs they were getting for Easter. She kept quiet and didn't share the celebration of Easter that is a tradition in our family.

As a child, on Easter Sunday, my mum would wrap up little bundles of dried fruit and nuts for me and my seven siblings. She would put them in coloured cellophane paper, with our name on the outside, and hide it in our garden which was about 4 acres! It was truly a paradise full of a huge variety of fruit and nut trees and great fun to play in for any child. If we found someone else's bundle, we weren't allowed to tell them and had to keep hunting. I don't have the luxury of such a big garden, but I have continued the Easter Hunt with wholefood treats for my girls, which they love! They've never asked for chocolate Easter eggs.

Eliza had no issue about sharing this with her class mates, yet for Bethany it symbolised a massive difference between her and her new friends. Desperate to fit in, to melt into the 'norm', already she is hiding aspects of herself.

It breaks my heart as it is what many people in our society do. I also recognise that it is a choice and it's her journey. Paul suggested to her that she may find herself starting to live two lives ~ the life she has at home, with us, that is alternative to the world view & the life she has at school where, for the most part, she 'fits' in.

How many of us have stepped away from mainstream thinking to be true to our heart and core values? I know I certainly have and the price of that usually does mean the 'road less travelled'. I wonder though, when we choose to stay with the herd, if we ever do feel complete? For me, to live two lives in order to fit in to society and theoretically be 'accepted', would essentially mean killing off my soul. Nah, not ready for Soul Suicide.
Life's to big and gorgeous to hide away.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

SPRING in my step

Today's Cuppa: Blackcurrant tea ~ in celebration of the new leaves adorning our blackcurrant bushes. I find blackcurrants quite bitter little things, but for the past six or so years, my girls have stood for hours on end, for days at a time, foraging every last currant and popping them straight down the hatch. Fab source of Vitamin C! And when they're done there are always other temptations… raspberries, gooseberries, plums and before long our cherries, apple and pear will bear fruit. And there's always the hedgerows thick with blackberries! Roll on summer!

Don't spend your precious time asking
'Why isn't the world a better place?'
It will only be time wasted.

The question to ask is 'How can I make it better?'
To that there is an answer.

~ Leo F. Buscaglia

Sunday morning cuppa this week. Sorry! Got side tracked by a little thing called Spring and oh my, how glorious. Sunshine, bird song, moist garden soil, plump wriggly worms and hours of fresh air have awakened new life in me.

I've been very conscious of needing to do a massive spring clean in the house, not because it's spring, but because with spending so much time with kids, work, and latterly writing a book, that other than the basics, the house needs a good bath ~ a real scrub behind the ears. The joys of country living have their downside. Dust particles from outside, and from the wood fire, all manage to find little currents of air to magically dance and fly each little speck to all corners of the house where they settle claiming Squatters Rights. Long after a mother spider has made her babies and moved on to the afterlife, she leaves her webs to shimmy like long-forgotten ghosts waiting to take on new life. Was I the only adult to cry in the latest Charlotte's Web movie when she died? My brain kept telling me that Charlotte was an animation and her voice was Julia Roberts ~ not real, girl, not real. But did that stop me blubbering away? Nope!

Our cottage was built in 1678 ~ longer than my homeland has been settled with naughty little English convicts. At first glance, it's easy to think she's aged well and gracefully, but knowing her intimately, as I do, I see the lines of a life well lived. I also see the damp! She seriously needs incontinence knickers!!!! After all our years of living with her, we finally found a paint colour that hides the rapid mould growth which shows up in the bathroom a week after painting (in any other colour). There used to be an old chimney or something, at that end of the house, for washing laundry. I think the chimney lets water into the walls. Anyway, the colour of choice is deep purple. Combine that with it being a north facing room ~ no sun ~ and an eco-friendly light bulb ~ no light ~ and you just about need a miner's torch to enter the room! But oh how I love not seeing mould! Honest.

When Paul cork-tiled the bathroom floor we were again reminded that they didn't build straight rooms in the olden days. Nothing is even!

Most of the house has painted wooden floors. I'm determined not to paint them again as the so-called floor paint doesn't stand the test of time and I get antsy with peeled paint. It's hard to take pride in your housekeeping when it feels like the ceiling, walls and floor are coming apart!
The floor boards will come up beautifully after I've sanded them, but I know, KNOW, KNOW!! that it will set off a chain reaction of wanting to beautify the rest of this little old woman. The kitchen ceiling (beneath the bathroom) looks like it's going to cave in with years of damp having come through. That will need plastering. Most of the rooms need to be repainted. Of course, though, with an old madam like The Cottage, it's not as straight forward as a bit of lippie and rouge. No, no, no. We've got to fill the cavities with polyfiller and plaster the walls!

All these things you'd just take in your stride if you owned a house, but when you're renting, for some reason, there's always a sense of 'should I bother?' It really struck me yesterday though, that this IS our home and I should love every square inch of her with the same sort of passion I do for other things in my life. My resistance to do so is that, size wise, we outgrew this 2 bedroom cottage years ago. I find it claustrophobic when we have visitors, especially if they've got kids. When Paul's at work, and the girls are at school, it feels positively palatial. But pile more than my family in, and I start hyperventilating! (ok, slight exaggeration).

My mission for Sexy ol' Spring is to put a spring back in the step of this old dame of a cottage and in myself.

I didn't write on my blog yesterday because Spring had sprung. It was one of those perfect family days which in a strange way is hard to define because it was about feeling, rather than doing. To write what we did would seem boring and yet I'd have days like yesterday any day of the year. We all would. 'Twas just a perfectly ordinary day.

The compost heap was getting full and we needed a new one. Normally I get old wooden pallets and make a square-shaped heap, for free! Same thing from the hardware store costs £60. Insane!

Anyway, with no access to a trailer, and a small boot in this car, it wasn't possible to get pallets, but we did have a lot of wood in the back yard from our firewood supply. A local forester sells us trailers of slab wood at a very good price. Slab wood is the length and edge of a tree trunk which is curved, and often still has bark on ~ deliciously rugged and beautiful. Smells divine! Commercially, these pieces they can't be used for anything and are considered 'waste' wood. Not in my garden! WOW…Lovely rustic looking compost heap! Thanks Paul! I've also used the long lengths to mark off the vegetable beds so I can raise them a bit this year, and to define my garden paths. I'm so thrilled. It's like having little rooms in the garden defined for their individual purposes ~ herb garden, leafy greens, berries, root veg., etc.

What made the day particularly lovely was the sheer excitement of the girls, particularly Eliza. They were both keen to weed and turn over the soil without any adult prompting. Eliza spotted her first bumble bee of the season and was over the moon. I think she's destined to be an animal whisperer, such is her love of all creatures.

The happy energy between us and our connection to nature reminded me again of what is really important in my life.

Earlier in the day Eliza asked me if we could ever go and visit New Zealand (the girls' birthplace). I promised her that we would and then added, 'who knows, maybe we might even be able to buy some land there one day and start a 'community' and even set up an alternative school'.

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I lowered my voice and said, 'but you'll probably be in university by then and there'll be no point'. I can't lie. Most of the dreams I have are so the children can experience them in childhood. I see them getting older so quickly that it won't be long before they can't even be called children.

Bethany's eyes grew wide and in utter disbelief she demanded to know, "WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDREN? Don't you care about them? Your grandchildren? You could build an alternative school for them!"

OUCH! Jeez. "Ok, ok!"

This spring energy is renewing my dreams within me ~ dreams of living on land and being self-sufficient; having like-minded friends and families nearby sharing in and being part of the lifestyle; and always, still, this nagging feeling of bringing the holistic ideas contained within The Mother magazine to a more mainstream audience. I need to find another channel to make it accessible in bite sized pieces.

Two opposing forces live within me ~ the hermit who'd quite happily never see another human again while she potters amongst her herbs and flowers, and the pioneer who wants to bring forth change to a technocratic world that is damaging children from in-utero, before they even step Earthside. Trouble is, both characters want equal play. I'm coming to realise though, it's never going to be one or the other. My dance in life is to let both of them speak…to have my moat, my drawbridge and then to step out when Ms Hermit has had her fill. When Ms Pioneer has worn the top off her soap box, she can come home for a bit and let Ms Hermit take over again my being again...and so it goes on.

All in all, it should keep me out of mischief as I stumble out of my winter hibernation. As for today, which is all I truly have, the sun is beckoning me into my garden. How can I resist?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mothering Sunday

Saturday Cuppa: Back to my ol' faithful nettle tea.

Tomorrow, millions of pounds will be spent on buying flowers raised through the use of deadly, toxic, environment-destroying chemicals, quickly grown in hot houses and transported long distances. To say what? Something we seem incapable of saying for the other 364 days of the year? Doesn't anyone question the insanity of yet another potentially beautiful tribute and celebration being cast under the glare of corporate commercialism and greed? I am always challenged by people who fall into the gift trap when they can't even stand their mum; when they moan about her every day of the year.

For me, Mothering Sunday (or Mother's Day in May as celebrated in Australia) would be far better suited to every mother acknowledging mothers who aren't able to be with their children, for whatever reason. For humanity to evolve, we all have to move up a notch, and keep moving up. We're all connected, so it's vital we support each other as syster-mothers and acknowledge the job of mothering. Some people have it easier ~ healthy kids, low-need kids, supportive life partner, fluent family income and so on. Life appears 'easy'. Other mums have hell. And those who don't have the smoothest ride through life tend to be judged by their performance. And yet, aren't we all just doing our best without a 'manual' for mothering?

Paul and I were looking at a picture of famous wealthy woman the other day debating on whether she had had plastic surgery. I said she hadn't ~ that when you've got that much money you afford to look beautiful. Me too, I said ~ I'd look that glam and gorgeous with a full wallet of Monopoly money. No, honest I would!!

And it's like that with mothering. When we're rich with love, support, understanding and conscious awareness, then yes, we can look like the best mother in the world. Mothering is easy when we don't have any elements working against us.

But what about mums in prison? Or mums who've had their kids taken away by the inept social services ~ an institution as flawed and snail-slow paced as the British legal system. Are they any less worthy of the title of mother? No, they're not.

Spare a thought for them tomorrow as you give your mum flowers, chocolate and wine. Spare a thought. Please?

My heart this weekend goes out to Sally Clark's family. She was the solicitor convicted of murdering two of her children. Thanks to the ridiculous comments by the so called expert Roy Meadows, she was convicted. I had correspondence with Sally's dad while she was in prison and it was appalling how much evidence was there that the jury hadn't been given in trial. Sally's trial by media as some alcoholic middle-class mother was a disgrace to mankind. It really was.

Years later, after much campaigning by her family, her conviction was quashed when evidence was finally allowed to be given to show the boys died of a rare medical condition. Both boys. So what do you say to that Roy Meadows? The release of Sally Clark led to other mothers who'd WRONGLY been jailed for murdering their kids being released. So, you could say some good came out of it. Paaaa! At what price? At what price for some arrogant man's statistical 'evidence'?

Yesterday Sally Clark was found dead in her home. I think she died a long time ago. She died long before she went to prison. Large chunks of her vanished when her baby boys died. Until we walk in the shoes of a mother with a broken heart, we can never really understand what Mother's Day means.


Perfectionist or is that perfectonist?

Had to laugh this week when a comment came in about my blog and that I appeared to be 'calm' about the girls going to school. Blogs can be deceiving! I can see that I'm going to have a lot of issues to resolve within myself on a weekly basis about the inadequacies of mainstream schooling. Promise to not to keep boring you with it all, but just I need to get this off my chest!

Bethany came home with the week's spelling words and I noticed perfectionist was spelt perfectonist. I presumed it was a typo, but felt irritated that 25+ something kids will be learning their spelling words and they didn't even have the 'luxury' of having the correct spelling to guide them. At the risk of sounding arrogant, and it certainly isn't intended like that, there are parents around here who'll have a spelling level of their child and won't know that the word was wrong. So, come spelling day, if all the kids write perfectonist, should they be marked wrong? Hardly! It was the teacher's duty to check it. I've seen a number of errors in the school's literature that has me clenching my jaw so perhaps all this SATS stuff the kids go through, really should be directed toward the staff and not the children.

Anyway, being the dutiful parent, I sent a note along to the teacher pointing out the correct spelling. That evening I asked Bethany if the teacher appeared embarrassed.

"No, she just turned away from me and looked it up in the dictionary," said Bethany matter-of-factly.

Well, I can't say it left me speechless as I ranted on about it for a while. Poor husband, must be hell being married to me sometimes. Especially when I see red!

Anyway, life's not all bad (cheeky grin!), my friend Fabienne from France is coming today. We've not seen each other for four years, so it'll be a real treat to sit back and have a long girly chat. Bitter weather on its way, so a perfect excuse to sit by the fire!

Have a great week, and however you celebrate Mother's Day, just remember, we're all in it together!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's on the label?

Saturday Cuppa: Lime Tea

Eliza came home from school saying she was in the top level reading group in her class. It's no surprise, really, given her and Bethany are such avid readers. Most parents would feel joyous at such news, but it brought home to me this incessant need our culture has for labelling people, abilities, standards, ways of living, etc. Paul and I affirmed to Eliza that had she been in the bottom group we'd love her just as much! Our focus as parents has been to raise children who follow their heart; to discover the truth which exists for them rather than one imposed from external sources.

As a kid, I'd 'rewrite' my school report cards. Ahem. I, er, would change the D (second lowest mark) to an A (top mark). Occasionally I'd excel myself and put A+. Quite clever, really. It saddens me now though to think I HAD to do that to ensure love from my parents. Actually my mum wouldn't have been bothered but my dad clearly had some agenda for his kids. And now, as an adult, it is clear to see that out of eight children the two he most 'loves' are the two with university degrees who were also school prefects (anagram = perfect!!!!) and got Honours in their studies. The rest of us plebs don't register in his affections. Clearly without the appropriate 'label' our lives have no purpose.

A friend phoned me in the week to say she'd received the results of an assessment by the Local Education Authority on how her children were being home educated. In a nutshell, the report concluded their education was exemplary and schools would do well to follow this example. My friend was quite upset by the report. Why? Well, in the same way Eliza (and all school children) was labelled, so too was my friend. One of the reasons parents keep their children out of school is to avoid having them become identified with a tag created by someone else. So, keep them out of school to avoid 'pervasive labelling disorder' and get labelled yourself as a home educating parent! How crafty of the LEA to judge kids by judging the parents...

There's an irony that most people don’t read ingredients labels to see what rubbish they're putting in their body, yet they'll willingly wear and read a label imposed on them; a label that everybody else can read to determine what they're 'made of'.

People who parent naturally or intuitively buy into this as well. How often do we hear the terms 'earth mother', 'attachment parent', lactivist, etc? At one level we're defining who we are and yet at another we create duality by our differences. Is it human nature to sift wheat from the chaff? To sort things into order, into definition?

This week Bethany had a new friend from school come to visit one afternoon. That morning she asked if I could take down a picture we have (had!) in the lounge room. It was a life drawing of me from seven years ago, when I was at my ideal body weight. Not remotely a full frontal, it is just of me lying on my side, with my back to the artist. A simple outline in charcoal, and nothing more. Clearly, though, Bethany felt this might be a bit much for her new friend.

My first reaction was to feel like our whole lives were something that would have to be hidden lest we not offend anyone who walked into our house. Paul reminded me that when I was a teenager I had embarrassment issues with my mum too. Well, that got me even more upset. He was right! My mum was the ultimate liberated woman, yet back in the 80s when I was in High School I didn't find it that groovy to have a mum who went braless and single-handedly managed to have men fall over their own feet when she walked through town. In our smallish rural town of Warwick in Queensland, Australia, my mum with long blonde hair, breasts wobbling about beneath a t-shirt, and lyrical German accent, was rather an exotic sort of creature to those beer-bellied Aussie men! I used to get her to meet me well away from the school. I cringe at that now!

As my children immerse themselves into mainstream culture, our labels, named or otherwise, will come under the girls' glaring scrutiny. Bethany claims she doesn't care who or what we are, she just doesn't want people to laugh at us.

Laugh at us? For what? Eating consciously? Considering the earth in our daily actions? Raising our kids intuitively? They can laugh all they want honey, I'm not bothered.

A good friend phoned me yesterday afternoon. We share the same labels. I love being with her as it feels like wearing an old coat; warm, comfortable and safe. And yet, I have friends for whom there can't be a label in common apart, perhaps, from 'woman'. Somewhere, somehow, our relationship works and the labels are irrelevant as we meet in the sacred space of who we 'truly' are.

Here's a little game for you to play. Write down the three 'labels' which most identify you. Eg, Mother, wife, editor, sister, gardener, pianist, dancer, lover, teacher, healer, midwife, doula, yogi, student of spiritual studies, gymnast, doctor, raw fooder, chef, vegan…

Now take those titles away. If you could no longer wear those labels or be identified in that way, WHO WOULD YOU BE? How would you describe yourself to others? How does it feel NOT to have those identity tags? Do you feel lost or liberated? Labels are simply labels and nothing more. They provide a service and a disservice. The more we invest our identity into such labels, the further we move away from our true nature into the realm of the illusion.

To be label-less is to find freedom and peace. Have a glorious week, Veronika

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Down at the FACTORY FARM!

Saturday Cuppa: Organic Hot Chocolate, Bluebell Bookshop Style.

Monday 26th February 2007

Girls wake an hour or so earlier than normal. Bethany decides to begin her violin practice by standing outside my bedroom door playing Morning Has Broken. She continues with Ode To Joy downstairs in the dining room. Joy is the last emotion coursing through my veins this morning.

Take one mouthful of breakfast and realise that my stomach is no place for food.

Try hard to hold back tears. Eliza hugs me.

A few months ago Bethany decided she wanted to try school. The plan was that she would start in September for her first year of secondary education. However, as time ticked by she felt that it would be better to try primary school first so it wouldn’t be such a shock.

Two weeks ago we visited a local village school to see if there were any spaces…a Church of England school with about 170 kids. Eliza opted to stay in the car as she was, quite frankly ‘never going to school’. She used a similar tone when she was five to say “I’m NEVER going to wean!”

We were there about 10 minutes and then I took the girls off to Bethany’s music lesson. Within the space of about half an hour Eliza decided that she too would *try* school.

So here we are, the first day of the second half of term. And both girls are in their uniforms ~ pleased as punch ~ hair clean, and ready for whatever the day will bring.

Watch their faces as we arrive at school. Eliza’s as white as a ghost. Bethany tells me she’s really nervous. I tell them both to breathe really deeply as it will help ease the butterflies.

Paul and I help get the girls into their classrooms. Eliza’s teacher recognises that this is difficult for me even though I’ve managed to smile and not let any salt water down my face.

Drive away. Horrid feeling!

Drop Paul at work. That’s it then, my family all ‘disposed of’ for the day. My first holiday in parenting in 11 years. Wow. Should be excited. Feels crap.

Take issue 21 of The Mother to some local outlets. First stop, a vegetarian restaurant and watermill 1.5 miles from home. Second stop, Bluebell Bookstore. Derek asks me how I am.


Feel like I’m three years old. Not good. Where’s MY mother when I need her?? Apologise for pathetic performance. He makes me the best hot chocolate in town. At least it’s organic. Warms and comforts the physical body, ache in heart as large as ever.

Head to health store with the rest of magazines. Weird in the extreme not having my shadows deciding which treats to buy. Leave without spending a penny. Unheard of.

11.30am…they’ve been as school 2.5 hours. Feel likes a lifetime. I wonder about parking over the road from school in lunch break to see them playing. Change my mind. Feels too much like playing detective. Need to learn to trust my way through this momentous change.

Drop by to see Paul at work…his boss asks me how I am.
This time I know better than to open my gob.

“You’ll be suffering withdrawal symptoms.” Too bloody right!
He’s bright enough to know I’m about to break down, and leaves me with Paul.

Get home at noon. Three and half hours till I can see their faces again.
No-one to make lunch for. Still not hungry myself. Bought tasty treats for girls’ lunch boxes…a bit of mother-love in their day. Paul commented yesterday on the military-style operation of my lunch box creations. “They won’t eat all that!” “I don’t want them to starve.” I say with a glare that makes it clear I know what I’m doing. The girls end up proving him right. Pa! Frustrated because it’s no more than they’d normally eat in the course of a day.

Mail arrives…a review book called Our Stolen Future. How bloody apt! There’s a picture of a babe in utero on the front cover. Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. More bloomin’ tears.

12.30pm Bethany’s teacher phones. She must know I’m on tenterhooks as the first thing she says is “there’s no problem”.

They’re having a bread tasting afternoon. She tells me where all the breads are from. Mostly made by the Village Bakery 4 miles from here. Everything from there is organic and I know the ingredient list like the back of my hand. And then she adds that there is stuff from the supermarket ~ pitta and naan. Tell her naan bread is full of e numbers. Suppose I should have said that we limit wheat and er, did she have breads from other flours? Shut my mouth instead but kick myself for not having mentioned it in enrolment notes.

Thank her so much for checking in with me. Poor teachers are probably living in fear of me after reading the NOVEL that arrived with girls.
Sigh…this is a huge thing to suddenly have someone else so totally responsible for my children for a big chunk of week.

Short amount of time to get house tidy, meditate, get in an hour’s walk in bitter wind, and then pick girls up. We’ll have dinner and then I’ll take Eliza to her first ever Scout group. Seems silly now, but I’d decided it would be a great way for them to make friends, but that was before the school idea came up.

Keep reading words from Kahlil Gibran’s ‘Children’.

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the Infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.”

Yell over my shoulder to the Archer…" hey there, You, enough of the bending! I’ve got feelings you know! Paa!"

3.35pm Two sets of familiar arms around my waist. Yum. Eliza looks shell shocked. Bethany is screeching with delight. “I HAD A BRILLIANT TIME!”

THEY LOVED SCHOOL! They can’t talk quick enough about what they did, and who their new friends are. All their fears about not knowing enough have vanished. Eliza was well pleased with knowing why certain addictions like smoking or chocolate aren’t good for you. Bethany’s favourite bread was naan bread. E Number City. At least I laughed instead of crying. There’s hope for me yet…

Bethany asks if she can get the bus home instead of coming with me. Obsolete mother already!

4.30 Eliza helps me make us all a vegetable juice.

5pm early dinner then I leave for Scouts, though would rather snuggle by the fire with Paul. The theme at Scouts was fitness. They brought in an aerobics instructor. This was not what Eliza needed after a long day at school. Poor thing! She found the whole atmosphere painfully noisy too (without the aerobics).

8pm Quick lavender bath, and girls are in bed.

Numb out in front of tv..and eat… Eating for emotional hunger. NOT GOOD, but tomorrow’s another day. For better or worse.
Ten years without tv and now using it as a crutch. Standards are slipping quickly girl!

Tuesday February 27th

Girls sleep later than yesterday. Thank you God! Both wake up tired. I’ve heard many stories of families starting each school day fighting because of the stress. Am grateful to be organised. Everything’s ready the night before so all girls have to do is eat and get dressed and do their hair and teeth.

First morning going to school on the bus. My big nine year old looks so little and vulnerable when seated up high in the bus.

Had often wondered if the girls went to school at 4 years of age if we’d have settled into the village more easily; if being at the bus shelter with the others each morning might have created a different dynamic.

I’m touched by the genuine concern shown by the other mums as I move back from the bus with tears in my eyes. “It’s hard, isn’t it?”

9.47am get ready to leave for town for organic fruit and veg stall in open air market. It’s pissing down. Times like this it’s tempting to abandon principles and drive to Tesco for sheltered shopping!

Market stall run by a gorgeous family. Janet home-educated her five children until the oldest one decided, at 11, to try school. Her daughter Lucy now works at the market and said home education was great, but she went to school at the right time.

Promise myself a half hour in café for standing in the rain.
Think of my girls. Are they happy? I’m not. Need to change my thoughts.

Can’t help but wonder if all the effort I’ve put into TM in the past five years, had been channelled into the girls would they still be here today, or would the friendship thing always be the stumbling block unless we lived less rurally? No place for regrets though. Life’s too short for that.

Having to re-examine my identity. I’ve been a full-time mother for 11 years and now what am I? In human terms, that is, for my spiritual essence hasn’t changed. Time is my own to some degree now. I’ve never been the sort to just plump up the cushions; besides, the cushions are covered in cat foot prints, so I don’t really want to elevate their status to give my life purpose.

Wonder how the magazine will change now my kids are in someone else’s care. Found myself writing an article in my head about healthy school lunches. Bloody hell! Is this what it has come to? Lunch boxes!

Cancel cafe idea. Heart not in it.

House is freezing...but with no kids around, it feels pointless using up the firewood or wasting electricity to put a storage heater on for just me. Washing the dishes in hot water will warm me up.

Had planned to use my new found time…acres and acres of it…to write …but that’s the last thing I feel like doing. I need time to integrate how much this is impacting me. Us…

Paul’s work hours change from Monday meaning he’ll not get in till about 9.30, 5 nights a week, and 8 pm on another night…only having Saturdays off.

It was bad enough last year him working these hours, but at least the kids saw him for four more hours a day. Something has to change. I’m determined about that. A new source of income is needed. Family comes first.

I wonder about this new found freedom of mine. At least with Empty Nest Syndrome you can go off and sail the world or have a complete life change that works, but I’m only free between the hours of 8.30 and 3.45pm. I hardly get started and then I’m thinking about dinner and next day’s school lunches. Am also aware that although it feels like I have physical freedom, I’m not feeling free emotionally. Until I can find a way to be at ease in that department it will affect my physical being too.

Conscious though, of the need to find a way of making more use of this time. Wait at bus shelter at 3.45pm. One of the mums sits next to me and affirms how difficult this process is. She’s a school teacher and says how hard she finds it with the kids being disruptive. My girls have complained about this already…how some kids just keep misbehaving and that the teachers are forever having to stop what they’re doing to tell children off.

Girls step off the school bus looking like thunderclouds. Turns out school was great, again, but the kids were absolutely awful on the school bus.

Unpack lunchboxes to find Bethany’s eaten little more than a mouthful and had no water. She ‘forgot’.

Have Major Mother Meltdown moment (or several!!). Really not a pretty sight.

Then Bethany’s on the phone to a new friend and in a nano-second has organised to catch a different school bus tomorrow to go to her house for the afternoon. I realise I’m in some sort of PMT accelerator mode, but surely I’m not over-reacting by at least wanting to meet both the child’s parents first?

After ridiculous and unnecessary histrionics on both our parts, we agree to make it the following week and the girl could come here, then I’d drop her home afterwards AND meet the parents.

Eliza feels it unfair because Bethany’s class is making bread AND going swimming! Why don’t grade four kids get to do that?

7pm Speak with Nikki, a home educating mother of five children and former school teacher, and one of my lifelines in this crazy world. Her kids went to school, and then came out, but she knows the heartbreak I’m going through. She’s one of the few people not to dismiss my feelings. Why can’t people just ‘listen’ rather than try and ‘fix’ things up? Our culture is so dysfunctional. We don’t allow people to be vulnerable for even a moment without an intense need to make them ‘sit somewhere in the middle’ of the emotion range. Can’t have anyone’s feelings rocking the boat in case everyone falls in the water and drowns! That’s what it’s all about really, isn’t it?

This week has felt a bit like when you have a miscarriage, and the loss is so much more than physical, but all anyone can say is “oh well dear, it wasn’t meant to be”. As if that’s supposed to make you feel better? Agghhhh

Febuary 28th 2007

Wake up feeling more at ease. One the third day She rose. Ah yes, the resurrection only comes after the crucifixion!

Bethany shows me her spelling words. Eliza’s nose put out of joint as she wants me to ‘test’ her with spelling.

Have breakfast together, and Paul and I walk girls to the bus shelter and wait to get them on the bus. Paul goes to work.

Get phone call from home edding friend in Australia…We talk for ages! Can’t remember the last time I had a long phone call with anyone that didn’t involve kids demanding food or me to get off the phone or whatever… Time is luxurious.

A lot more conscious of our two cats now that they’re the only living things in the house apart from me and houseplants. The lazy-arsed critters are starting to bug me…all they do is sleep. I can not see how they can justify calories burnt and amount of food consumed.

For seven and half years this house of two bedrooms has felt tiny for four humans, cats of various numbers and a magazine construction zone.
Now, in the silence, the space seems vast. I feel like I’m living in a mansion. Funny how quickly perspectives can change.

I’m eating today without any sick feeling in my tum. Just cleared off a bunch of lychees. All to myself! Hey, there could be an upside to all this stuff.

Weather is bitterly vile. Not remotely tempted to go outside for a walk. Am tempted, however, to curl up in bed with hot water bottle, hot drink and a great book. But don’t. Get to work on issue 22 of The Mother. Funny how easy some jobs seem when your work environment is one of silence rather than juggling a family’s demands. Could make The Mother magazine a weekly publication if the girls stay in school. Mmm, maybe not. Did promise Paul I’d have no excuse not to keep on top of the housework. Have come to the conclusion that I’m not the only one to make mess around here. Once I’ve tidied, nothing moves till the other three humans get home. Turns out I won’t need a housekeeper after all…

Had another long phone conversation this afternoon…no interruptions. Complete focus. Weird.

3pm Find myself singing. Singing? Happy. Dancing around the kitchen with fat lump of cat in my arms. Think he’s happier by the sound of his purr.

Make banana and sunflower cookies for girls’ lunchboxes.
Pick them up at 3.45 from the bus about 50 metres from our cottage. They’re NOT happy about the naughtiness on the bus. Ironic given the bus has a guardian to stop misbehaviour!

Thursday March 1st

My appetite is back. I’m coming to a state of acceptance. Paul does maths tuition with Bethany. SATS exams in 8 weeks or so.
Eliza plays piano, then we walk them to the school bus.

I know my detractors will be clapping their hands with glee that the girls are in school. People tend to think you’re a Smother Mother by wanting the best for your kids in terms of home education. We have little understanding, culturally, of how our children learn. The factory farming approach of most schools is so inadequate for children’s needs. Even those parents who can see that often just go into denial, as they feel they’re too small to question the system and feel home education is too big a leap.

Two girlfriends phone today and I indulge in long chats. Ah, this is the life.
Do manage to write a feature article this afternoon, not done that for a while. If I wrote an article a day that’d well and truly keep me out of mischief.

Have been mentally plotting how to rearrange our life so I can find a FABULOUS human scale school for my daughters, something that will keep them and their parents happy. It’s not here in Cumbria. But where is it?

Take girls to piano and violin lesson after school. Bethany changes her mind about joining Scouts. She feels knackered and is wanting to take her first grade piano and violin exams. Clearly this is all too much with SATS and high school preparation as well.
Girls tell me all about their school day. Both still very frustrated at how much time is spent by the teacher having to tell kids off for misbehaving. Bethany was anxious because an aide was trying to explain something to her but she couldn’t concentrate because of the racket being made by the other kids. Eliza says she spends most of the day with her hand in the air wanting to answer or ask questions, but she doesn’t get asked.

Get home, have dinner and it’s time for bed.

Trouble in paradise. I get letter from head teacher ticking me off about my letter re: my zero tolerance approach to bullying. I’d heard she could be patronising.

One village mum once was at the school complaining about bullying and was told ‘there is no bullying here’. And the mum said, yes there is, the teacher is a bully. Ouch. Same person told her that in order to treat lice she should shave her daughter’s bum length black locks off.

Dentist appointment tomorrow…lucky for him there was no garlic in my dinner!

Friday March 2nd

Only four more weeks till end of term…
Eliza’s upset because Bethany won’t be at school at lunch time due to swimming lesson and Eliza’s friends eat at a different time because they have school lunches.

Find out the school children don’t have anywhere to sit for their morning and afternoon tea breaks and so my girls are skipping that meal! Who can blame them when they’re not allowed on the grass in winter and when the boys dominate the playground field with football? The girls have been raised eating meals quietly at the table. Food consumption and appreciation is a sacred act, and now for 15 eating times a week they’re inundated with loud noise and inappropriate eating places.

Bethany forgot her PE gear yesterday and couldn’t join the class. Forced to sit on cold cement. I’m ropeable when I find out.

Paul used to joke, years ago, that the local school teachers were lucky that our girls didn’t go to school as I’d be up there every day complaining about something.
Thing is, that’s how I feel now. I’ve not been up, but I do have a hell of a lot of puncture marks on my tongue.

What do I do? Suppress all my feelings? Accept the system is bigger than me? Say goodbye to 11 years of relatively conscious parenting?

I have three fillings fixed and dentist does a fab job of sandpapering some rusty bits off my front teeth. I’d figured the only option was the £500 bleach job ~ YUK! Bless him, he didn’t even charge me and reckoned bleaching wouldn’t have sorted the problem. I love it when I meet honest and authentic professionals.

Eliza steps off the bus upset because Connor (the one considered by all the kids to be the worst boy in school) has chased her the whole morning, lunch and afternoon break. I asked if she told a teacher and she said that the person said ‘oh, he annoys everybody’. That’s it then?

Bethany had a similar attitude from her teacher about being chased. “Just ignore him”

The information the school sent me in reply to questions about their bullying policy, is a load of crap, quite frankly. Clearly something which has been cut and pasted from somewhere else, as it isn’t what is happening in the school

Playtime code of conduct
Playtime should be enjoyed by all children without fear of injury or upset caused by other children.

Use of force policy
All members of staff are authorised to use force to control pupils’ behaviour. (Glad they got the apostrophe right there, as it was misused in another official school form ~ doesn't inspire confidence in their teaching ability).

Saturday 3rd March
Attention Deficit Disorder
Enjoy family cuddle in bed which the family outgrew years ago. Squished like sardines, happy moment deteriorates when Eliza starts expressing that we must love Bethany more because she’s getting special attention (Paul spending time to help her with maths). Whole morning turns to crap as this upset goes on and on and on. Cuddles and words don’t console.

Eliza has been coming home with silver stars and ‘good girl’ stickers. We haven’t pursued a praise/punishment system for their childhood. Getting stickers for putting chairs away seems rather odd. Whatever happened to humans contributing to the smooth working of a situation because that is what their heart inspires them to do?

I leave this week older, but don’t feel wiser. Me, more than anyone, wants my children to grow, thrive, explore, feel challenges and enjoy life.

Puncture marks in my tongue aside, I do have faith that my children KNOW that if school, at any point, no longer feels right for them, then they have the option of withdrawing. Most children don’t have that choice.

From a free range childhood, my girls are now in the FACTORY FARM. And what do we know about factory farms?
They’re unethical.
They don’t consider the individual needs of the inhabitants nor meet their biological needs....
and their sole purpose is profit and quantity, not quality.

I can’t help but think of all the letters I’ve had over the years from mums who’ve read my articles on our home education experiences in The Mother…and who took their children out of school as a result. Have I/we let them down? Or have they now found their feet?

As for our family, I’ll scour the country looking for a human scale school which works for all of us. In the meantime, I need to breathe deeply and TRUST.