Lavendilly Storytime: Why the Swamp Hen Has a Red Beak

Autumn Leaf Fairy3We spend a lot of time hanging together down by the creek. We play and we explore there, never really with much of a plan. Our story times often unfold while we sit together doing nothing much more than just watching and listening. We call to the river to tell us a story, and then we look around, and listen carefully to find it. The story then appears in a natural and collaborative way between myself, the children and the place we are in.

A few weeks ago, after a morning of delightful unstructured play and wandering down by the creek with my 4 year old daughter, we sung our Story-calling Song to the river, and then it answered in a most delightful way. One of those rushes of wind came hurtling up the river from a distance and when it blew by us, little leaves swirled all around us. There was a story there, but what was it? It sure wanted to be told. My daughter listened for a moment before saying that it wanted to tell us the story of the swamp hen. We didn’t know what the story was yet, and so we watched the swamp hens nearby so that we could find out.

The swamp hens were stepping carefully with their long toes on the lawn near the bank, and digging with their red beaks in the grass. Stepping and digging, stepping and digging. Their purply and deep blue feathers shone in the sun. Unhurried, peaceful, purposeful. Other hens were paddling in the water, and one dived right under and disappeared for a moment before shooting out of the water again like a rocket. We found this most interesting! And so we started talking about what we saw, and why we thought the swamp hens were doing these things.

My daughter had a lot of theories about what these waterbirds were doing. We wondered why they were pecking the grass – she thought they were eating the “moisture” (moys-cha), which, it turns out, she thought was lovely dark dirt. I wondered, if maybe they might be nibbling at some roots or grubs that live in the “moisture”. We wondered how they could swim when they were birds – she thought they must kick with their long toes. We wondered why the swamp hen whooshed out of the water so quickly – she thought the eels might have bitten it on the nose because it had been rude.

AH! That explains why it has a red beak!

And there we found the story. It just came, and we told it while we tried to copy the swamp hen’s movements. Have you stepped like waterbird? Stepping slowly while lifting knees and pointing toes at the same time takes balance! When we got home we looked up swamp hens in our bird book and on the computer and discovered that they DO eat the grasses and soft roots of plants near the river, and they DO sometimes attack eels (known as jurun in Yugambeh Language) – but no one knows why.

Well, we do! Here’s why:

WHY THE SWAMP HEN HAS A RED BEAK

Lavendilly Swamp Hen

Purple Swamp Hen was swimming in the shallow water of the river, looking for some food. It dived down under the water and swam about for a moment, before popping back up for a breath.

It was a beautiful bird with shiny, purply and dark blue feathers, and long, long toes that it could use to pick up food, or to swim for short distances under water. It was a neat bird, a tidy one, and it liked the way its  sleek feathers glimmered in the sunlight. Swamp Hen stepped carefully so that it would never get dirty.

Eel saw Swamp Hen swimming underwater one day. “What are you doing, swimming in my river, bird?”

Swamp Hen replied, “I’m just looking for a little food. There are some delicious delicacies here in this river. Have you tried the snail? What about these little fish? Those are delightful, but you have to be quick to catch them.”

Eel said “Only I am fast enough! This is my river and you cannot fish here! I am Jurun! I am king here.”

Swamp Hen looked Eel up and down, then rudely said, “What are you? You are too slimy to be a fish and too fat to be a snake. You couldn’t possibly be king of the river! Not like I, with my shiny feathers and graceful toes. Perhaps I should be king.”

This boasting from Swamp Hen made Eel so cross, it rushed forward and bit Swamp Hen on the beak. Swamp Hen got such a fright it whooshed straight out of the water like a rocket! Its poor beak was bright red and sore!

And that is why Swamp Hen now much prefers to spend its time stepping carefully and only using its beak to dig in the softer parts of the grasses and plants that grow by the water. Sometimes when its beak is feeling really red and sore, it uses its toes to lift up soft plants and shoots, rather than to bend down and dig. And it never spends long underwater, in case it meets Eel again.

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Just down the river (shoo lie loo)

I’m really enjoying the song “Shoo Lie Loo” by Elizabeth Mitchell. It came to me as a gift just this week in the form of her cd Sunny Day. I recommend it as part of your collection of music for children – joyful songs, great rhythms, real music that appeals to a child’s world. The whole cd feels like adults and children alike had fun making it. “Shoo Lie Loo” has everything my children love: a catchy tune that won’t drive you nuts, simple lyrics that can be adapted, a celebration of childhood. I promise you’ll love it. There’s a clip of it at the end of this post, showing the circle game that goes with it.

Autumn Leaf Fairy3My children and I adapted this song yesterday when we went down to the river – it just burst out when we started taking note of all the bird life we have down there. We live on a quiet part of the Nerang river – just about the point where the water turns brackish and is just a little tidal still. It is more like a creek where we are, with mostly low ankle-deep water running over smooth rocks and soft weeds.

It is an interesting environment with SO MANY interesting birds. It is a very exciting event when we spot the pelican that comes to visit every now and then! It is quite odd, seeing a pelican paddling upon our quiet creek. Once my husband watched an eagle fishing, and I’ve been delighted by the flash of brilliant blue from a kingfisher.

Once we started singing, we just kept thinking of more and more birds we have seen in our area and of course we started to make a list. Our next thought is to take a photo of each of the birds and make a poster or a guide-book of our own with them

Our song goes like this:

This cheeky little one landed in our backyard and lived with us for about a month before flying away again.

This cheeky little one landed in our backyard and lived with us for about a month before flying away again.

Just down the river (shoo lie loo)

To see who lives here (shoo lie loo)

Hey Cockatoo (shoo lie loo)

Fly away over yonder (shoo lie loo)

Our song went on and on with willy wagtail, swamp hen, eagle, magpie, butcher bird, galah, ibis, pelican …. the little ones and I danced in a circle, spinning around with our arms out as we flew away over yonder. So much fun.

Lavendilly Story Time: The Ringing Bell

Little Garden FaerieThis is the story of my Little One’s caesarean birth. I wrote this to tell at her 4th birthday party, although I told a simplified version. My Little One sat on her birthday pillow, inside the silk rainbow circle, and I told this story with only a little bell as a prop in the story. At the end I put a rainbow necklace with a bell on it over her head. She felt so special.

THE RINGING BELL

Written by and Copyright to Jennifer McCormack, July 2014

In a little house by a creek there lived a family of fairies. There was Mumma and Daddy fairy, and Brother and Sister fairy. Mumma was a water fairy, Daddy was a wind fairy, Brother was a fire fairy and Sister was a song fairy. They were happy together, each one unique, each one interested in different things, but all living harmoniously together.

One day Mumma thought she heard the jingling of a little bell. It was only faint, but it jingled on and off all day. “Do you hear that?” she asked Daddy. Daddy couldn’t hear it at first, but after a while, if he listened carefully, he could make out the sweet faint jingling sound.

It wasn’t long before Brother and Sister could hear it too, and the sweet jingling, ringing sound grew louder every day. “I know what it is,” said Mumma Fairy, “a new little fairy is going to join our family!”

The whole family heard the jingling sound for many months. Some days it was strong, and some days it was soft. Sometimes they heard it at night, and at other times it woke them up in the morning. “Sweet Little One,” they would say, “when are you coming?”

Day after day the fairy family would make their home ready for their new Little One, and the ringing grew louder and louder! Everyone was very excited.

But one morning Mama Fairy woke up because the jingling sound wasn’t loud. It was very soft, and it didn’t ring very often. As the morning went on, the sound stopped all together. Mumma could feel her Little One in her heart, and deep inside her womb she knew her baby fairy would be coming today, but she couldn’t hear the clear ringing of her Little One’s bell at all! This worried her.

“Oh dear!” thought Mumma Fairy, “I need some help! It’s time for our baby fairy to come, but it seems to have gone away. Come little fairy, come! Wake up Little One!”

They all tried to use their talents to help their Little One come. Mumma the water fairy rocked and danced like the gentle waves of a river. Daddy the wind fairy spoke words of wisdom and bravery, encouraging Little One (and Mumma) to not be afraid. Brother the fire fairy used his fire talent to make their home warm and welcoming. Sister the song fairy sang to their Little One a song of love and joy, calling for the sound of the bell. But no bell could be heard. All was still and quiet.

They needed some more help. Daddy called a Healer Fairy to come and help them call their Little One in.

The Healer Fairy listened to Mumma’s story, and listened carefully for the bell. She put her hands on Mumma Fairy’s belly and gently called out to the Little One:

“Baby Fairy ring your bell, 

Jingle, tinkle, ring it well!

Your birthing day has begun

Come join your family, Little One”

All was still, even their house was quiet, as everyone listened carefully for the ringing, jingling sound. Still the baby fairy’s bell remained silent. The Healer Fairy told Mumma and Daddy that she would need some more help, and they would need to visit the Great Healing Hall because the magic was powerful there, where lots of healer fairies worked together.

Many fairies were already waiting at the Great Healing Hall. They were singing and chanting together, songs of love and birth and healing and the music entered the Healing Hall on sweet drifting strands. Mumma and Daddy Fairy heard their friends sing and felt strong, brave and loved. The many voices making music together was part of the healing magic. The healer fairies gathered around Mumma and Daddy and called to the Little One to ring her bell … and … after a while:

A faint, sweet jingling. There it was! They could all hear it!

The healing fairies rested their wands on Mumma Fairy’s brow and asked her “Are you ready for your Little One to come?” Mumma held Daddy’s hand. She was ready. They were all ready.  It was time and they could hardly wait.

The healing fairies rested their wands upon Mumma Fairy’s heart and asked her “Are you ready to receive your Little One with love and openness, however your Little One arrives?” Mumma Fairy was ready. Her heart was now bursting with the sound of her Little One’s bell. A soft feeling, almost like sleep swept over her as she relaxed, ready to receive.

The healing fairies rested their wands at Mumma Fairy’s womb and asked her “Are you ready to open the door, to help your Little One come through?” Mumma Fairy was ready. She put her hands on her womb and listened for the ringing, jingling bell. She could hear it and feel it growing stronger. She whispered the Healing Fairy’s special words to the Little One over and over:

“Baby Fairy ring your bell, 

Jingle, tinkle, ring it well!

Your birthing day has begun

Come join your family, Little One”

The fairies outside the Great Healing Hall kept singing and chanting. Daddy Fairy and Mumma Fairy held each other, and held their breath with anticipation. They could hardly wait to meet their Little One. The healing fairies drew a line with fairy magic across Mumma Fairy’s womb with their wands, and a door opened. From this door came a bridge of rainbow light – and a loud clear ringing sound filled the room as a little baby Rainbow fairy came through the door, lifted over the bridge of coloured light, helped by the healing fairies, landing snuggly in Mumma Fairy’s arms. Their Little One was perfectly well, perfect in every way, and slept in Mumma’s arms safe and sound, ringing gently as she breathed.

The healing fairies waved their wands again and as the door in Mumma’s womb was magically closed, the bridge of rainbow light disappeared. All was still, all was quiet, and cloaked in peace. Only the sound of singing from the fairies outside of the Great Healing Hall drifted in through the windows. Everyone smiled.

Brother and Sister Fairy were delighted to meet their sister, Little Rainbow Fairy , and they took turns holding her and talking to her. Brother Fairy warmed her and Sister Fairy sang to her.

“You silly little fairy,” crooned Mumma,” We were worried about you, and here you are, perfect in every way. If this is the way you come into our family, I can see that you will have plenty more adventures, and come out of them just fine every time.”

And do you know, that’s exactly what happened. Four years have passed, and the Little Rainbow Fairy still wakes up every day, ringing and jingling happily, finding adventure every where she looks.

* * *

She was a plannedLittle One's Birthday Ceremony. LH home birth, but it seems our Little One had something else in mind. In the end we went to hospital because our baby was very quiet and still, with a faint heart beat. It just so happened that on this same day many of my friends and community were outside the hospital attending a rally in support of the re-opening of the Gold Coast Hospital Birth Centre. They were singing and chanting together and I could hear them from my room. It gave me great comfort to know they were outside while I was inside with my husband and our two wonderful midwives, who were really looking after me. Caesarean was exactly what we were trying to avoid, but in this case I felt supported in the decision to go ahead.

In the end our Little One was perfectly fine, the little cheeky little thing. A picture of perfect baby health. We have just celebrated her fourth birthday and she has grown into a bright, cheery and chatty little thing – always ready for the adventure each day brings.

I thought that I had already processed her birth, and found myself ok with how it unfolded, despite our worry about her at the time, and my very ordinary recovery after surgery … but writing this story brought me more joy on another level, and I found a new kind of acceptance and peace with my experience. I hope, if you have experienced an unplanned cesarean, that you find some solace and beauty in my story too.

You may be interested to read more about my reflections of this experience:

A Mother Blessed – a poem about my unplanned caesarean birth (this one!)

Cold Birth: Reclaiming my Labour – my immediate reflections about this birth and my thoughts about what it was like to give birth without labour.

xx Jennifer

It’s Ok to be a Princess

I was working as a family day care provider when our first daughter was born. Caring for many different children plus two of my own meant that I had collected a great variety of playthings, so my girls entered our family with a good collection of playthings all ready for them. Of course I had some toys the boys were more attracted to, and some the girls gravitated towards, but there was something for everyone and you could choose what you were interested in, and mix it up if you wanted to. It was cool for boys or girls to take a baby/teddy/dinosaur/alien for a walk/drive/run in the pram/wheelbarrow/truck/baby carrier wearing a tutu/tool belt/helmet/crown at the same time. And they did.

dress-ups

I’m not big on stereotypes for girls or boys. Archetypes are more my thing – general ideas of qualities we can all embrace.

We talk a lot about faery folk and story archetypes in our family story times and during our seasonal celebrations but I’ve never really given them form. My characters tend to be formless because I don’t know about you .. but I’ve never seen a fairy or a fairytale prince … although I have felt their presence. Princes and knights and superheros DO have a different energy to fairies and princesses. Doesn’t mean our children can’t make their own interpretations and representations.

It’s OUR interpretations that do the damage, I think. I don’t mean to pay out on Disney because we do enjoy many of their movies, but they do now have the image of being the big bad wolf when it comes to perpetuating inappropriate gender stereotypes these days … and I must say that I prefer the original versions of traditional fairy tales to the movie versions.

I enjoy an animated movie as much as the rest of us, but I do think that as soon as you animate stories, you begin to lose the quality of dreamy imagination and embodiment that comes when we listen to and play out our favourite characters. Once they are animated that image of the character, plus their voice, behaviour and role then becomes fixed and if the children have enjoyed the movie then they want to be like their favourite characters. And Disney (and many other companies and manufacturers) are happy to perpetuate stereotypes through mass merchandise, which children want because they love to surround themselves with reminders of their heros. It’s something I curse each time I go to buy my children pyjamas.

inside play children's art

My daughter made this gorgeous felt wallhanging when she was four. Guess which movie she had seen just before she chose her colours?

And if we are going to be critical even the traditional fairy tales themselves, before they were ever animated, tend to lean towards rather gender-specific roles that many parents object to. During my uni years my fellow student teachers and I looked for modern versions of traditional tales to tell our students so as not to perpetuate the idea of gender bias. “The Paperbag Princess” by Robert Munsch was a popular one at the time (and I still love it). We’d bend over backwards to be inclusive and encourage children to bust gender stereotypes. 

I’ve said all that so you know where I’m at with stereotypes, media and play, because once I became a parent, despite my best efforts not to go there (and even with all our gender-neutral, non-violent, natural and handmade toys), our little boy loved building, climbing, playing with trucks and shooting guns. And our girls LOVE being princesses and faeries!

linden in stone spiral

I don’t quite remember when the fairy and princess dresses arrived in our house. I have bought only one that I can think of, and yet since we’ve had both our girls there seems to be an endless supply of fluffy, frilly bunches of tulle and cheap satin in our playroom. I’ve culled the collection a few times but I’m pretty sure the princess and fairy dresses self-propagate from torn pieces of tulle at night time.

And I am happy to let them play princesses if they want to because THIS is what I notice when they play being beautiful princesses:

  • my girls walk taller and straighter and with great elegance and dignity (they are NOT dainty, simpering or oozing sexuality)
  • they speak clearly and pronounce their words beautifully (they are assertive!)
  • they play with respectful manners and practice kindness with each other (they are NOT helpless)
  • they set up beautiful spaces around them and play carefully with their toys (they are in control of their environment)

RosellaisaknightLHWhen my girls play princesses and faeries they don’t feel helpless – they FEEL beautiful, powerful and important and very special. I remember that feeling when playing as a child, and letting it fill me up. I don’t have a problem with them playing princesses if it helps them access these feelings! Today my girls began playing princesses and then one decided to be a knight instead. Off went the dress and on went the sword belt and cape, and a new persona emerged: confident, protective, bold, brave, decisive. She can do it all.

I don’t think that they are going to be limited in their career options because they play princesses. I’m pretty sure they are not going to grow up with antiquated ideas about what girls can and cannot (or should and should not) do because they are surrounded in enough positive energy at home and at school to feel good about themselves. They also have enough positive role models in our community to let them know anything is possible.

It’s all in being open to possibility I think. If my children grow up feeling open to possibilities I will be very happy.

Family Christmas Viewing

Each year I search for some of the lovely old shows I used to watch as a child at Christmas time. Christmas and the summer holidays were always a magical time in my childhood memory … heat and humidity, summer storms, playing in the sprinkler, drinking ice cream spiders, swimming, riding bikes, great food, friends … and lolling about on the couch with a lemonade and popcorn watching movies …

I’ve found some of the movies I really enjoyed as a child, and a few more. Do you know why I value these now? It isn’t just because I enjoyed them as a child, but now as a parent I have different values. I like these movies because they are simple and yet still exciting and magical. They are not over-exciting, do not have over-the-top sound or visual effects, or sarcastic double-sided humour (which appeals to children on one level and gives another message to adults that children suspect must be funny – but aren’t really sure why).

Many of these movies use real children’s voices and frame by frame they move slower than the movies that are popular today. You can breathe easily during these movies – it IS possible to enjoy a movie without having an adrenalin rush 🙂

These movies are not trying to be a smash hit, to prove anything or hit any kind of moral chord. They are are a collection of great stories for children that make you feel good. The themes in these movies are also full of wonder and delight in the precious time of childhood where anything is possible and imagination was celebrated.

The bonus is that they are all available on YouTube so they are free. I hope you enjoy them too.

Movies for the Little Ones

Frosty the Snowman – I’m sure you’ve all seen this one! Simple and happy and has catchy music. The 70s really did produce some delightfully daggy stuff. This is one of my favourites.

The Snowman – Oh delight! Raymond Brigg’s book is created anew in more or less a silent film about a boy and the snowman he creates with the first winter snow. The magic that occurs between them still gives me tingles even years after. My favourite part of this movie is the music. I just love it. Father Christmas makes a joyful appearance as a kind and generous man who loves children. And David Bowie is a bonus.

A Year Without Santa Claus – An animation with puppets. This is a show for children, appealing to what interests children. Santa needs a break! The bad guys look like the old troll dolls with their fluffy vertical hair – and they are elementals rather than human. They are humorously cranky bad guys – and I love Mrs Claus’s involvement. Firm and loving all at once just like you imagine Mrs Claus to be – and she solves the problem by going right to the top – to Mother Nature! Mrs Claus and Mother Nature chat about the problem over a cup of tea and she exerts her parental influence over those cheeky and childish elemental children of hers. There is music interspersed with the story line and it is a very enjoyable 50 mins.

Santa’s Surprise – Children from all over the world decide to visit Santa at his workshop and give him some support. It’s old … so there are some cultural stereotypes in here that we wouldn’t see any more … but at least it appears to be equally appalling over ALL races … if you can let this go by acknowledging that we know better now, than when it was made in 1947, then it is a cute little cartoon (8 minutes).

Movies for the Middle Ones (early primary and older)

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – a very simple animation in a very 70s way. Real children’s voices. The death of Aslan is a little emotionally tense but represented tactfully by a thunderbolt at the point of death – no gruesome images of war and injury, but focuses on the journey of the children.

The Yearling – this is cartoon version. Set in the time after the American Civil War, this is the story about a little boy who befriends a young deer. The deer of course grows older faster than the boy does and he has to make a few decisions.A little bit more instantly satisfying than the film version for little people. I think this might have been one of my first experiences of  the Japanese animation style,and it was the joyful simplicity of this cartoon that stayed with me for many years. This one is the start of a series of cartoons. You’ll be able to find the rest on YouTube.

Movies for the older children (10+)

It’s a Wonderful Life – Black and White! An old classic starring James Stewart, and a beautiful story about a business man considering ending his life is shown by an angel-in-training what life would be like if he had never existed. I love a movie that affirms our purpose in this life. We affect so many people in so many different ways and it is a opportunity to count the ways that we do bless those around us.

The Yearling –  This is the 1946 film. It’s a great film about American frontier life. It’s a pretty slow going, and he doesn’t find the deer until the second half when his dad (Gregory Peck) gets sick. It is a bit sad in parts (and has a bit of fist fighting) but still a beautiful story. This is part one, but part two is easy to find on YouTube.

Room for Wiggle: 6 reasons you need rhythm in your family life

I need routine. I need to know what to do and when to do it otherwise my week with three young children and work can become so haphazard that we end up in a frenzy on Sunday night or Monday morning excavating Mount Laundry for clean clothes, negotiating a hazardous path through a minefield of household debris on the floor, no food prep done for the week, bills unpaid, important documents lost … and don’t talk to me about cleaning toilets.

Routine is an important and essential part of my family life, but I like things to flow as well. I do hate being tied to a strict time frame with no room for wiggle. Life is not fun when it is ruled by the clock, and lived according the number of responsibilities one must take care of by a certain time. I want to be able to float through my mornings not worrying about what I achieved by when … but still getting everything done – and without stress. This feels like a clash of values because as a mother there is always stuff that has to be done – and with children around it almost always has to be done NOW! Plus with children there is also the spontaneous factor. You just never know what is going to happen next and sometimes you have to drop everything – what happens to your routine then?

If I just did what I felt like (and sometimes I do) I would do no more than make a cup of tea, allow the children to dress themselves by fishing through the remains of Mount Laundry (that usually suffers a landslide and starts creeping over the basket and down the hallway), suggest the children forage in the fridge for breakfast while I read my book and then rush around for tuck shop money before school begins. I can’t do that every day. I also want to savour and enjoy my days, particularly while my children are so little. This is the time of life to value and remember because as I grow older I am pretty sure I will have oodles of time to savour the moment but by then my children will be older too and their delightful years as youngsters will be a vague memory of the past.

So where is the middle ground? How to balance our need for routine and our desire for freedom?

In Waldorf circles this balance is known as RHYTHM, the process of flowing between what has to be done and what we create and enjoy in the meantime. Rhythm is a heartbeat, it is our breathing room, it is the music and creative flow of our day and it is another expression of ‘work is play’. Here are six reasons why I value rhythm in my family life.

1. Rhythm is the flow of movement from one thing to another, and in terms of creating a rhythm that works for the family it is the order of events that is important. Naturally there will always be a place for routine. I have to get out the door by 8am on school days with children who are fed, dressed, wearing shoes, with lunches, hats and all they need for the day. So there are things that need to be done and schedules that need to be kept in a day, but even this can flow in a predictable manner, and this flow is what gets us out the door (with a mumma who is conscious of the time)

2. Rhythm honours what is important – Rhythm is concerned about your priorities. First things first! Some things have to be done: meals, shopping, housework. Some things need to be done to keep us healthy: exercise, down time. Some things are important because they feed our soul: creative work, hobbies, play time – all those things which call to our soul expression. All of this is important and needs a natural place within the daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal rhythm. I can’t get everything done all in one day. I could try to do a little of everything every single day, but then every day I would be cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening, shopping, writing, crafting, exercising, studying … and when do I spend time with my family? Or have time for myself? No I prefer to find a time for everything within the week … and let the daily rhythm flow around only the most essential points of the day: meals, work/school and bed time. The rest fits into our weekly rhythm – or the monthly one if you flow with seasons too.

3. Rhythm is predictable and safe – knowing what comes next is one of the most important things for children. When I was teaching and running my family day care I always enjoyed watching the children find solace in our rhythm. Sometimes they would tell me all the things we do in a day – in the right order – and then sigh with happiness when I confirmed they had it right. I loved watching 2 year olds instantly take their plate to the bowl of soapy water for washing after lunch, and then go to read a book while the others finished eating, without being asked to. A little song about rest time and they’d go and make their beds. I’m not saying they all slept, but still I never even had to tell them it is rest time (unless it was an off day, and we all get those from time to time!)

I find security in predictability too. It speaks to my personal need to pre-plan the big things, have time to mull over what I am going to do next, to plan my time and sort out my priorities. One thing at a time. For children, knowing that one thing happens before or after another means that you’ll encounter less arguments merely because that is the way it is always done. Any more disagreements can be countered creatively with a story, humour and imagination and if that doesn’t work it is time to look at finding another time for that particular event, reviewing the rhythm altogether or start asking what is really happening here? And this leads us to point 4.

4. Rhythm balances everyone’s needs – Here I am talking about individual energy levels, personal interests, family values and health requirements. A good rhythm makes time for everyone. My eldest and my youngest wake at the crack of dawn and my middle child would sleep until school starts if given the opportunity. The morning rhythm is the same for her as it is for the others but they are likely to be dressed and ready first. So long as she know what happens next she can get organised in time (with a little patience and support from me).

5. Rhythm highlights our health. If predictability in rhythm is important does this mean that children in a rhythm won’t cope with spontaneity or suddenly changed plans? Not at all, unless their needs are such that predictability means the difference between health and high stress, such as very sensitive children, children recovering from illness or children on the autistic spectrum. Otherwise you’ll find that children who are used to a usual way of doing things will welcome the odd surprise with delight and great flexibility.

Rhythm flows in a way that supports all your needs – thus it should support your family’s health. Your rhythm can speed up or slow down from time to time, just so long as it DOES return to a rhythmic, predictable state before stress becomes a factor. If your life commitments become too rigid or too full then the rhythmical nature doesn’t flow and becomes frantic. This is not living in a space of good health. This introduces stress which will impact on children’s growth and development, not to mention their happiness. Arguments, headaches, stomach aches, nervous illnesses and defiance will start popping up in a family that lives a frantic existence zooming from one thing to another without adequate rest.

Likewise, it can work the other way: a daily or weekly rhythm that has no responsibilities, no time frames, no predictability will also not support good health. There needs to be just enough predictability, with room for just enough flexibility to keep a healthy family moving along together in harmony. One may say that living with no schedule is living intuitively. I challenge this. Nobody can live a healthy life without purpose. Rhythm celebrates our unique purpose, stops us drifting and encourages us to stay connected to our more natural rhythms and seasons, stay intuitive to our needs and take the time to do what needs to be done, and still have time to do what we feel.

6. Rhythm has room for wiggle. Had a bad night’s sleep? Baby thrown up all over you just after you got dressed? Been sick for a week? Have an assignment due? Your rhythm should have enough wiggle room to shift things about. As I mentioned earlier rhythm is about flowing with time rather than fighting with time. There is always time for everything that is important right now. And if there isn’t? How important is it really? Could you ask for help or delegate some tasks?

Rhythm gives us time and flow and room to wiggle. It helps us to focus on our health and safety. It brings security and organisation into our lives, especially for our children. And if we can’t fit it in by ourselves it is time to ask for help … and that is ok too.

So how do we put this rhythm together? That is another post. Coming soon …

This article is also posted at Sacred Essence – where the Sacred Moments of Effective Parenting is celebrated.

Stories of Motherhood: Soulful Mama

I love stories of Motherhood. Every mother has a story – and you know every child would love to hear their mama’s story. I love seeing how wide my children’s eyes become when I tell them bits of my “other life” before they joined me here. My journey into motherhood has been interesting too and  one day I’ll share it with my children but now is not the time. I’ll tell you about it sometime though. Here is a letter from a mama that I adore. She is passionate about women living a life that is beauty-full and truth-full and soul-full, and I believe she will never stop working to connect women and their spirits. This mama does a pretty thorough job of introducing herself to you and so I will just let you read on.
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Dear Soulful Mamas,
This is a letter from my heart, to share with You who I am, and why I’ve started this page.  I am Hollie B. and I come from a long story of Women’s Magick and Circling. I hold Space for Women’s Ceremony, Red Tent and other such awesomes in the Canberra region, which is the capital city of Australia. You can look me up via Lunation on Google or Facebook.
I am Mama to 2 children aged 9 & 7. I also have 3 children of my heart, aged 16, 17 & 19, my step-children, the children of my husband Bolj. We live a very happy, carefree life on our bush forest property where we are building a small homestead and spiritual retreat centre. We wake up to the sounds of kookaburras and cockatoos everyday, we watch wombats meandering and kangaroos chewing. My children are Out of School – home educated – and they spend more of their day riding bikes and exploring the forest than they do sitting at a desk. We eat organic food, make as much as we can by hand, drive a HOT car, love to exercise and are known to drop everything in the moment in order to do something more fun.
As a Soulful Mama my life really is Perfect. But it hasn’t always been like this.
My 2 babes have different fathers, neither of whom are my husband, and I’m telling You this because I want You to know, that I have known what it is to feel unsupported and unsure and fearful and to ask yourSelf ‘how the fuck did I get here?’ Their fathers do stupid shit all the time, like drop them home when there’s nobody here, or leave them in front of a TV screen for hours at a time, or feed them food they are sensitive to. When my children return home after a weekend at dads there is invariably a meltdown within 24 hours – from the over stimulation and stress and exhaustion. It has happened like this since both of my children were one year old – that is when I left each father, and when I had to let my child go away at night. You see, dear Soulful Mama, I know all about that.
There are times when I’ve made decisions that didn’t  honour me into the future, for whatever reason, and I’ve had to learn to forgive mySelf, in order to find a Space for love. That’s how I found my True Love, my Divine Twin Flame, my Sacred Beloved and I married him and we live happily in a bush forest with the People we lovely nearby. We are living our dreams and being Soulful parents and we are showing our kids how to dream big, face our fears and Be everything  we came here to Be.
But it wasn’t easy. It was painful and scary and I had to face many parts of my Self and my old stories  in order to make this all happen. I had to get vulnerable and raw and open mySelf. I had to surrender all the unconscious parts of my Self that played out over and over, and step up to Be the Real, authentic me.
I had to learn to accept what is and lean into the things that hurt the most, to allow mySelf to be curious about my feeling, and to eventually surrender it in order to heal. There have been so many times I thought ‘I cannot do this again’ but somehow I do, every time. I want to be All the Mama I can Be, so my children are my inspiration, again and again.
My children have seen me at my best and my worst. I’ve sat on the bed of my two year old, with my newborn in my arms and cried for their forgiveness for us being where we are. They’ve loved me when I’ve hated myself most.
All the while I circled with Women. I held Sacred Spaces and went into other Sacred Spaces. I’ve actively studied and Worked in frameworks of the Goddess, on feminist spirituality, Magick and SpellCraft, in natural healing and conscious, alternative living and all of it has helped me step into my Infinite, Whole, Cosmic Self.
Through my own deep stirrings and in working in the Circle where Women find empowerment within, I’ve identified something important missing from our connections and communications. As Mamas, I believe that it is our responsibility to heal the ‘missing’ within ourSelf and give to our children a world where they can live as Wholehearted individuals. I believe in generational wounding and healing, and I know that what I heal in mySelf heals down my line, through my sons and daughters and their sons and daughters… It also heals up the line, through my mother and her mother. I’ve done so much of this Work and I know it is Real. When we do this our relationships change. We learn to forgive in its ultimate meaning of giving over and surrendering to the essence of vulnerability rather than the story we have carried. It’s hard work but its worth it.
My own research has reminded me that Being the ‘housewife’ – the ‘Woman who belongs to the house’ and therefore the Woman to who the house belongs, was once an incredibly Sacred position. While men were out hunting and protecting the land physically, Women were in the house, literally weaving the Space with Magick and energy to ensure that the family was nurtured, nourished and protected. The housewife was a power-full weaver of magick and healing. It was Women of Power who could do this, not the weak subservient woman we have been led to think of with that term ‘housewife’. She was a Space Holder, a Woman of power-full Magick and knowledge and she was a She-bear Mama raising babes to continue this same Work as they grew into adults. Along the way the Woman of Power has been battled down. She has been judged, abused, wounded and hated out of the system. But now we are bringing her back. We are healing her wounds. We are repositioning her in her rightful place as Woman of Power. As my friend Jane Hardwicke Collings says, WE HAVE BEEN DISBANDED FOR TOO LONG.
I believe it is time for Women to re-empower the Work of Being Mama and Housewife. There is nothing more important, no greater contribution in my eyes than holding the Space for a family while they grow into the unlimited Cosmic Beings they are here to Be. And to do this means learning just how power-full we are as Women.
It is time for Women to reclaim the Magick. It is time for Mamas to trust their instincts and grow the unlimited children they want to raise. It is time to question EVERYTHING because so much of what we’ve been told and what we do is not ours! We’ve picked up stories from the past, from our own parents and teachers and everyone who told us ‘that’s just how it’s done’. It’s time for us to respond ‘that’s not how I do it’ and to reshape the foundations of the way we want to Mother – from our Soul. It is time reshape what it means to be a housewife – a Woman of Power who commands the energy and feeling in her house, who leads with compassion and beauty and who is an example to all those she meets.
That’s why I started this page, the Soulful Mamas. It’s an invitation to Women to Be the Mamas they really want to Be. No more excuses or stories about the past. We are standing for what we believe in right now! We are making it happen right now. And we’re not waiting for anyone else to give us permission.
I want You to know Soulful Mama that You are exactly who and what You are meant to Be. There’s no text book for Soulful Mama-ing. The only way to go about it is to trust the voice inside that says ‘this is the world I want for my children’ and then follow your feeling to make it happen.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Mama of adult kids, whether you’re a single Mama, whether You co-parent, whether your beloved is male or female, whether You are still waiting to get pregnant, whether You have a shitty relationship with your own mother, whether You’ve never held a baby in your arms, whether You have 10 kids…. Your journey to Soulful Mama-ing  is about opening your heart, listening to where the vulnerable is and expressing it in a way that sets You free!
If you’re reading this and you’re thinking ‘I wish I was one of those Mamas’ don’t wish anymore. Give birth to the Mama You want to Be by stepping up, stepping in and expressing the True You inside. That’s all You have to do! You are powerful beyond all measure! Now is the time.
It is the time of the Soulful Mama. Our world is calling us! But we don’t need to venture out to the great abyss to prove a point. We just need to focus our most Sacred commodity : our Attention, on the one thing that we already have the most impact on – our Self. Be the Mama You wish You had. Be the Mama You wish the world had! And then our children won’t have to try so hard. Because for them, parenting from the heart will not be something they have to work at, it will simply be what they do. What a gift Soulful Mama-ing is to everyone it touches!
They, our children, learn from us. You can go out and protest all You want to the big companies about the way they are destroying the world. Or You can make Real choices at home, and teach your children the right way to live and honour the Self and the Earth. You can treat them as You want the world to be treated. Let us raise ethical consumers and wholehearted individuals who know no limits – then they will change the world, just by who they are.
If this is the world You wish to live in, I invite You to join me on the new Facebook page Soulful Mamas. Tell your Mama friends. We are building a community of like minds. There are many possibilities in the pipeline for this Soulful Mama Vision but it all starts with the coming together of many hearts. The Wholeheart. Will You open yours?

Lavendilly Dolls: Zanna

IMG_3551Ask any doll maker and they will tell you that their dolls definitely each form a character and identity of their own. It’s true! Very often a doll will start ‘speaking’ with me as soon as I begin to sew their pieces together. By the time their body is complete I can barely stop their chatter.

You should have seen me with Zanna, choosing fabric for her clothing. She was sitting in a chair nearby, wearing some borrowed dolls clothes and I had fabrics spread all over the floor around me. The choices I was leaning towards (funky patterns, bright colours) were not at all what she ended up with. There she was, leaning back in her chair laughing at the girly fabrics I kept putting out and willing my hand to keep going back to the plain green and the plain purple.

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This was not a doll for whimsical frills and flounces. Her clothes have purpose and immediately defined her character. This is a doll who needed to be dressed practically for action. She’s fun too – she has a real sense of adventure and is prepared to take a risk. She has lace, yes … but very purposefully made into an apron pocket to keep her magic treasures and herbs in. The crochet hem on her pants is old and handmade by women in my family (yes, I have kept some for myself!). It felt right to share it, and it added to the healing qualities I kept feeling from her.

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Zanna feels to me like a healing companion. She wanted to be a connection between earth and daily living. When I made her medicine pouch and gave it to her, everything about her changed. She felt happy, like I understood her.

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Ha! I know what you are thinking. I do connect to every doll I make, but not usually as deeply as I have with Zanna. She is going on a long journey to England soon, I feel sure that this connection to earth magik that has been part of her becoming will be helpful to the little girl she is going to journey overseas with.

Her embroidered tunic has my  blessings stitched over her heart, and her amber necklace is added protection also, and will also be available as a bracelet for when Zanna’s new mother grows older. This is one powerful girl!

Zanna 5

Celebrating Play: Creating Inside Spaces

I like to keep things very simple when it comes to play spaces. When a great deal of thought has been put into creating play spaces for children, then it is surprising how few things you need to fill it. The less furniture and playthings there are, the more children need to become inventive and imaginative – and also when there are only a few things to put away, then the less overwhelming a task this is!! That is definitely a bonus.

So here is a tour of our playroom, which is used by my three children and two playgroups. We have comfy places to sit: one couch, one chair and some cushions. These are not precious: they’ve been scribbled on and dribbled on, scrubbed and cleaned over and again! These spaces are where we share books, fold washing, relax with a cup of tea or have a cuddle.

inside play space 1

I have a few tables that are easy to clean and multi-purpose. I was lucky and was given some second-hand child care tables that can be arranged in different ways. I also have a couple of coffee tables that are short enough for children to work at. Sometimes they are for drawing, sometimes they are for “cooking” at, sometimes they are for stories .. sometimes they are turned upside down are used for building.

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Its the chairs that have been the best toys by far in the playroom. They are so useful!

inside play chairs

A bedside table holds some home corner necessities: a basket of dress up accessories, a basket for keeping folded blankets, a basket for lots of different hats. I love having blankets and cloths in the playroom. The children use those more than the dress-ups, and for so many things! Capes, crowns, table cloths, landscapes for stories, bandages, wraps for babies. We’ve made knot dolls with them too and they do come in handy for cubby building. Learning how to fold cloths is a great shared skill too.

play accessories

a basket of blankets

a place for hatsNext to the bedside table the dollies are tucked into bed. I made these dolls years ago. They are old and raggedy but every now and then we give them a bath and fix them up. Nobody seems to mind they are a little stained these days.

A play stand my husband made for me years ago holds our dress-ups. Some were given to me, some I have made, some I found in op shops. I like to have an assortment of open-ended clothes for all dress-up emergencies! Waistcoats, dresses, jackets and scarves. Not too many to put away.

dress ups

This cd shelf was a good find! I discovered it in an op shop and we painted it at home. It has been a doll house tower, a castle, a shelf for baby toys and is currently being used as a home corner kitchen shelf. See what we have on there? Not much, but it seems to be enough.

kitchen shelf

Here is a felted wall hanging my daughter made when she was four years old. I like having my children’s artwork in their playspace. It celebrates their individuality and imagination.

inside play children's art

A little coffee table is where the cooking happens. All they have to cook with at the moment is some felted noodles and some colourful stones. I switch it around now and then. I had to move the crayons away from home corner because I was forever looking for them .. and finding them in the play wok (which was a great find in a second-hand store!).

The doll house lives next to a comfy chair. The shelf under the doll house has a basket for dolls and animals, a basket for baby toys, a basket for nature items and a basket with just a few small soft toys and hand puppets. Another coffee table has a variety of felted play mats living underneath it.  Children use these playmats to tell stories with the little dolls and the nature items. Currently some boats are going for a sail on the river.

doll house and shelf

play mat with boats

Out on the covered patio (where we don’t have to tidy it up every day!) the car mat lives with the wooden blocks, duplo, train set and the cars. This collection has been culled. If it doesn’t fit in the basket we don’t need it. There is an old wooden rocking horse living here too.

That’s all we have inside and it has always been enough. My furniture is old, mismatched, a little beaten up, most of it has been given to us or found in second-hand stores. The carpets are stained. Many of my toys I made years ago, and they are a little shabby now. I fix them up when I have time, but time isn’t always available and nobody appears to mind the ‘old-and-loved’ look. Nothing is precious in our play room, but the space is still treated with love and respect and it is always filled with so much fun. Having playgroup use the space also means it gets a great clean once a week!

I’ve always looked longingly at websites and catalogues for purpose-built play furniture, play kitchens and the like. I’ve drooled over pictures on the internet of other people’s pretty playroom things … but somehow we’ve never really needed it because with the bare essentials and a lot of imagination, we’ve just continued having fun with what we’ve got.

I invite you to continue reading about inside spaces over at Happy Whimsical Hearts, as Kelly shares how she sets up her waldorf play space too: http://happywhimsicalhearts.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/indoor-play-spaces.html

Left Behind …

Hi friends,

Lavendilly has been left behind the last two weeks … we had an exciting time in the recent cyclone and lost the phone line, then (before the internet was restored) we moved house and have not yet managed to connect the internet again. So in the meantime I have been using my phone or mobile internet and it is a little bit fickle and frustrating …. so I can’t upload photos and I’m behind on my gratitude journal for that reason … but I have LOTS to tell you when the time comes.

So in the meantime let’s enjoy a well-deserved rest 🙂

see you soon!

Jennifer