Petalplum

Motherhood

What my husband did today so I could finish writing my book

Motherhood, Words & poetry thoughtsEllie Beck3 Comments

Every morning my husband gets up early, before 5am, which is dark during these Winter days. He makes sure the fire is still burning, or he starts it again, so that when we get up later the house is warm and cosy. This is what he does almost every morning, for us - his family. He also likes the quiet time in the house, all on his own. 

He makes me coffee every morning, and wakes the kids up. He mostly makes breakfast for River, and sometimes the big two if they're communicative about what they actually want (sigh - teenagers / pre-teens!). All five of us somehow each morning manage to get everyone ready and out the door, lunches made, bags packed, dramas and lost notes and unbrushed hair, and unwashed faces. Mostly almost on time every day. 

Sam does the school drop off. Every day, while I've been writing my book, he gathers the kids into the car and takes them to town. Monday and Tuesday are preschool days, so he drops River off too. Some days he'll check the post, go for a skateboard at the park, visit the hardware, or the healthfood shop, or the op-shop, or library, or get some more milk for our elevenses coffee. 

Then he heads home (it's a 20 minute drive from our house into town). It's lucky he likes driving, because he does the trip into town often two times every day, for drop-off and pick-up.

When he came home today, me writing the final words on my book, pushing to get it sent before tomorrow's deadline, he cleaned the breakfast and lunch making stuff. He washed up - the epic mess from yesterday's meals (six people in one rainy day create a LOT of washing up). Then he made the coffee, which I drank while still writing. He drank while sitting down for a moment. 

Before he left, to get the kids again, he brought me tea, and spilt extra firewood. I'm here writing a newsletter, and blog posts, and checking my emails to see if my editor has received my words yet (of course not because I live in Australia and she lives in UK, which means she's still asleep, or only just waking up right now... having her morning coffee). 

Sam will take the big kids to drama class, he'll take the small kid to feed him (pre-school is hungry work for a three-year-old), and then do the shopping, visit the library, deal with a tired child, and the time frame of a kids' drama class, before he has to come home again. 

Meanwhile, here I am... writing words, wondering about how to continue generating an income, tending the fire, and pondering my second cup of tea, perhaps a spot of sitting on the couch with some stitch work; my fearless quilt.

I ponder again and again life -  the usefulness we each have, for our family, our community, what we give and what we get. Do we remember to say thank you, to look at someone when they bring us tea, or run up our goods at the supermarket, or re-new our overdue books at the library, or fill our car at the petrol station (yep, we have one of those local petrol stations in our town - amongst about 4 others that don't), or teach our kids be it in school or after school. The way that what we contribute has nothing to do with money, in a family or a community or society, or the world. What we contribute is more than that, bigger than that, outside of any financial countings. 

And yes - there I said it. I sent my words to my editor today. 20,000 words. It will be some time before it becomes a book. This is the first edit, so I'm sure there'll be rewrites and such necessary. But there.... I'm on the way to becoming an author!

8 tips for creative mamas to find your voice in the family noise

MotherhoodEllie BeckComment
Ellie Beck Petalplum Crochet large bowl - parenting & artmaking & coffee.JPG

Doing what I do – being an artist, an indie business owner & a mama to 3 noisy kids – is big, hard, mentally exhausting work. I know I talk about slow a lot, and I do live it in my everyday life. But the reality is you need some tricks to get through being in the noise of mama and finding your way to being the artist. Don’t you think?

I’m still learning, and slowly on a journey of how to make it work best… but I thought I’d share what is currently working for me in the hopes it’ll help you too.

Having one kid or four kids, it’s all the same – ok it’s not the same at all, but what I mean is having kids is having kids, so it’s not a competition or guilt thing of saying oh she only has two kids, and I have five…. everyone has different journeys and one noisy kid might be more intense then three calm kids (wish I had the three calm kids!!). Anyway, what I’m saying is stick to your family, your mothering, don’t beat yourself up because you’re not doing what other mamas are doing – everyone has different skill sets, and different family set ups (including extra help or not from extended family).

So here goes:
8 ways to make the “balance” of mama & artist just that little bit easier (why 8? cause that's just the number I came up with right now):

  • Be where you are – in your current season / situation. If no baby-sitting is coming and the kids are being crazy, there’s no way you’ll get that deadline finished without causing yourself a panic attack. Put aside your work for half an hour and be with the kids. Give them your full attention – that’s all they’re actually asking for. Do something super fun and high energy – running in the garden, having a dance party, watering the plants. Anything that gets your mood elevated, and the kids using up their crazy energy. Being outside does often help. Then you can (*fingers crossed) settle them down with popcorn and a movie, or reading books quietly and do some work.
  • Be gentle on yourself. The reality and truth is that parenting is your number one job right now. For the next 10-15 years. Sorry, but it’s true. Realise that you’re not going to achieve every single thing that’s on your list right now – so look at your list and prioritise the most passionately important or (if this is more an importance right now) the things that are actually bringing in money compared to the dreamy things. Put those things on a next year list, and let them leave your heart for a little while. I promise you’ll thank me for it when you do that. This has been the biggest thing to free up my working creative self.
  • Live in a messy house – ok, not really…. but when you have kid free time, DO NOT TIDY THE HOUSE. Do I have to repeat that?! Kid free time should be spent focussing fully on your arts practice or business work or talking with your partner or quietly sipping tea. Find a spot where you can’t see the mess and ignore it. How ever much you keep tidying, it keeps getting messy anyway; so do your work and then do a quick 15 minute tidy once the kids get back.
  • Eat cereal for dinner, or toasties or pop corn or plain pasta with cheese. Not every night, but when it gets to that point where you simply can’t stop working (hello Muse thanks for finally turning up!) in order to make dinner for the family. Realise that one or two nights of not proper meals won’t kill anyone. Actually the kids will probably love it. If it’s happening too often, then you’ll have to look at ways to create simpler healthy meals that you can prep quickly and easily.
  • Get real with yourself. Call yourself an artist, and then others will. If you walk around telling your friends and family that you’re not really an artist, then why should they value it. Be clear with family members what your creative practice means to you, and how important it is that you have child-free time. Even if you’re not bringing in an income – your art is valuable to your sanity as a person, which carries through to your mama-ing energy.
  • Get the kids creative too. Set up a desk beside yours filled with easy to use paints, craft supplies, glue, etc. Make it help-yourself easy and allow (expect) mess. If you have to keep stopping to open a lid or fill more paint it will stop your flow. So choose activities that require minimal hands on from you. Three paint colours and a giant stack of paper, with a line to peg things on.
  • Work out what your noisy & quiet activities are. For me, there’s some things I can do with kids climbing on me and demanding things of me – emails, packing orders – and other things I know that I need quiet time for. So I do what I can while the kids are around me, which gives me the space and freedom to do the other things as soon as they’re gone.
  • Be prepared and organised. As soon as those kids walk out the door get working. (Yes, I’m telling myself this as much as you – I always want a nice quiet cup of tea before I settle down for arting). If my studio is tidy (sadly rarely) then I can jump into creativity straight away. I hate spending kid-free time simply tidying up yesterday’s mess.

I feel like I need to go into depth on a couple of these, as they’ve truly been eye-opening for me this past year in making big changes to how I work, which has resulted in bringing in more money for our family, feeling more fulfilled into myself and less head-in-the-clouds about everything. It’s given me focus and clarity. 

I feel like we’re all bumbling along trying to make it work somehow, and fighting it. Whereas I don’t want to divide my mama and artist self, I want to make them a beautiful cohesive part of me. It’s not a balance, never will be – that much I know. It’s more like yin & yang : a little of this inside a big part of that, but it flows around and works because you allow it rather than aiming for balance.

I’d love to know how you fit mama-ing and creativity into your life, your soul, your mind & heart. Please give me any tips you have, as well as any scary things you keep coming up against. How old are your kids? Do they go to school or care? Do you consider yourself a full time artist or a hobbyist or something in between? I’m so curious about how everyone makes it work in different ways. 

Ellie Beck Petalplum Crochet large bowl - parenting & artmaking2.JPG

 

 

8 tips for creative mamas to find your voice in the family noise

Motherhood, Creative ProcessEllie Beck2 Comments
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Doing what I do - being an artist, an indie business owner & a mama to 3 noisy kids - is big, hard, mentally exhausting work. I know I talk about slow a lot, and I do live it in my everyday life. But the reality is you need some tricks to get through being in the noise of mama and finding your way to being the artist. Don't you think?

I'm still learning, and slowly on a journey of how to make it work best... but I thought I'd share what is currently working for me in the hopes it'll help you too.

Having one kid or four kids, it's all the same - ok it's not the same at all, but what I mean is having kids is having kids, so it's not a competition or guilt thing of saying oh she only has two kids, and I have five.... everyone has different journeys and one noisy kid might be more intense then three calm kids (wish I had the three calm kids!!). Anyway, what I'm saying is stick to your family, your mothering, don't beat yourself up because you're not doing what other mamas are doing - everyone has different skill sets, and different family set ups (including extra help or not from extended family).

So here goes: 8 ways to make the "balance" of mama & artist just that little bit easier:

  • Be where you are - in your current season / situation. If no baby-sitting is coming and the kids are being crazy, there's no way you'll get that deadline finished without causing yourself a heart attack. Put aside your work for half an hour and be with the kids. Give them your full attention - that's all they're actually asking for. Do something super fun and high energy - running in the garden, having a dance party, watering the plants. Anything that gets your mood elevated, and the kids using up their crazy energy. Being outside does often help. Then you can settle them down with popcorn and a movie, or reading books quietly and do some work.
  • Be gentle on yourself. The reality and truth is that parenting is your number one job right now. For the next 10-15 years. Sorry, but it's true. Realise that you're not going to achieve every single thing that's on your list right now - so look at your list and prioritise the most passionately important or (if this is more an importance right now) the things that are actually bringing in money compared to the dreamy things. Put those things on a next year list, and let them leave your heart. I promise you'll thank me for it when you do that. This has been the biggest thing to free up my working creative self.
  • Live in a messy house - ok, not really.... but when you have kid free time, DO NOT TIDY THE HOUSE. Do I have to repeat that?! Kid free time should be spent focussing fully on your arts practice or business work. Find a spot where you can't see the mess and ignore it. How ever much you keep tidying, it keeps getting messy anyway; so do your work and then do a quick 15 minute tidy once the kids get back.
  • Eat cereal for dinner, or toasties or pop corn or plain pasta with cheese. Not every night, but when it gets to that point where you simply can't stop working (hello Muse thanks for finally turning up!) in order to make dinner for the family. Realise that one or two nights of not proper meals won't kill anyone. Actually the kids will probably love it. If it's happening too often, then you'll have to look at ways to create simpler healthy meals that you can prep quickly and easily.
  • Get real with yourself. Call yourself an artist, and then others will. If you walk around telling your friends and family that you're not really an artist, then why should they value it. Be clear with family members what your art means to you, and how important it is that you have child-free time. Even if you're not bringing in an income - your art is valuable to your sanity as a person which carries through to your mama-ing energy.
  • Get the kids creative too. Set up a desk beside yours filled with easy to use paints, craft supplies, glue, etc. Make it help-yourself easy and allow (expect) mess. If you have to keep stopping to open a lid or fill more paint it will stop your flow. So choose activities that require minimal hands on from you. Three paint colours and a giant stack of paper, with a line to peg things on.
  • Work out what your noisy & quiet activities are. For me, there's some things I can do with kids climbing on me and demanding things of me - emails, packing orders - and other things I know that I need quiet time for. So I do what I can while the kids are around me, which gives me the space and freedom to do the other things as soon as they're gone.
  • Be prepared and organised. As soon as those kids walk out the door get working. (Yes, I'm telling myself this as much as you - I always want a nice quiet cup of tea before I settle down for arting). If my studio is tidy (sadly rarely) then I can jump into creativity straight away. I hate spending kid-free time simply tidying up yesterday's mess.

I feel like I need to go into depth on a couple of these, as they've truly been eye-opening for me this past year in making big changes to how I work, which has resulted in bringing in more money for our family, feeling more fulfilled into myself and less head-in-the-clouds about everything. It's given me focus and clarity. SO... stay tuned for next week where I'll share what these are and how I really made them work for me.

I feel like we're all bumbling along trying to make it work somehow, and fighting it. Whereas I don't want to divide my mama and artist self, I want to make them a beautiful cohesive part of me. It's not a balance, never will be - that much I know. It's more like yin & yang : a little of this inside a big part of that, but it flows around and works because you allow it rather than aiming for balance.

I'd love to know how you fit mama-ing and creativity into your life, your soul, your mind & heart. Please give me any tips you have, as well as any scary things you keep coming up against. How old are your kids? Do they go to school or care? Do you consider yourself a full time artist or a hobbyist or something in between? I'm so curious about how everyone makes it work in different ways.

 

The Kids are Alright :: Living a low-plastic lifestyle & not feeling deprived

Motherhood, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
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For years I've been guiding my family on a low-plastic journey. Taking small steps, but in the fashion of being my mother's daughter, being passionately forceful at times. Often my family - husband including kids - tolerates it slightly more or less so depending on how desperately they wanted the plastic (or throw-away) item they asked for.

But the past few months have brought a change, a shift. And yesterday I asked the kids "do you feel deprived not having certain things in plastic"? Both of them answered without hesitation "No!". Whereas previously they'd said things like couldn't we have normal things like normal people.

(You can probably guess my reply to that!). Why would you want to be normal! We're not normal people, normal is boring... blah blah blah.

So when they answered that, with such emphasis and assurance - that they didn't need the biscuits in the plastic, the cereal with twice the packaging than necessary, the extra treats, the individually wrapped cheeses or special breads in plastic - I smiled.

I probably would have jumped up and down and danced with joy, except I'm sick and that sort of movement would hurt my head. Instead I kept on nibbling my homemade pie; of course you guessed it made using homemade pastry and homemade filling.

How did the kids became swayed - or my husband for that matter? I'd like to say it was all me and my incessant influencing and constantly reminders. But I actually think them watching The War on Waste (on iview catchup) was a massive help. Showing those visuals of plastic towers, even though they'd seen them all before - somehow that sunk in deeper than the rest. I'm sure my years of moaning have worn them down.....

And you know. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how or why, what matters is they're now ok with me saying no. They now agree. And don't feel denied of all the things "normal" kids get. They've stopped asking for certain things. They know I'll say no, and they don't want them any more anyway.

As a mother, I suppose what I always hope is that my kids will learn the lessons I'm teaching. But I keep being reminded the lessons are learned not by force but gentle reminders, by offering an insight and way forward, while still allowing them to make up their own mind. By being educated but not indoctrinated.

The kids have been asking for corn flakes lately, and one day at the supermarket (when we were shopping for the camping trip that never eventuated) they got to get corn flakes from the supermarket. In plastic packaging, and yes one of those brand names I don't love. I told them I wanted to get it bulk from the health food shop, which they agreed to. Alas our health food shop only has corn flakes that aren't organic and say nothing about being gm-free or not. Their organic ones were in a big plastic bag too.

We can buy organic popping corn bulk, but not corn flakes (maybe I'll have to roll my own!). Anyway - I asked the kids and they were happy to compromise and get something else entirely that was organic and bulk. Part of not feeling deprived about giving up plastic means being happy with compromise. Having the kids be happy with this is a big big step forward.

Last year all Ari kept asking anytime he had some pocket money (thankfully not very often), was to spend it on another Dr Who Pop. Uh-Huh! Those ugly things that mean nothing, plastic trash sitting there looking cheap and made-in-China-ish. I hate them. Earlier this year he decided that he wanted a camera.

He saw the real value in saving his money and not spending it a Pop here a Pop here. Now he has a beautiful second-hand camera and a healthy new habit of learning to be a photographer. And he doesn't want to buy all those trinkety little anymore. (Of course the trinkets for cameras somehow are way more expensive!). {Proud mama moment: you can check out his Instagram account here: A Discovered. Also, even prouder moment - his photo has been selected to be part of this year's Olive Cotton Photographic Competition.}

Anyway - what I was saying is that sometimes when we're trying to get people to join us in a new way of thinking, living, being it can feel hard, and tiring. It can take time. And sometimes we wonder if we should give up. Don't give up. People will follow if you're passionate about it, if you guide them and don't push them.

We're about to start Plastic Free July again officially. And I'm consulting with them on what we should do, how we should keep challenging ourselves, how we can educate others around us without guilting them or creating rifts between relationships. Which can somehow happen around family and shopping / cooking / food. Somehow being plastic free seems a religion on it's own, or opposing political opinions, and creates animosity. But it needed be..... a few simple, yet gentle approaches can help. And also ( as I keep learning in regards to extended family) sometimes you have to let others walk their path while you walk yours.

Are you joining in the Challenge this year? I'd love to know if you are - is this your first year, or is this (like us) a chance to delve deeper and look closer at how you live. What have been your biggest challenges in the past, and what about your biggest wins?

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our weaning story

MotherhoodEllie Beck3 Comments
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Sweet baby - on the process of weaning I'm writing this down as it happens, as we go through this, because I've realised I didn't fully write it down the last two times. Not that that really matters, because women have been & will be doing this long before & after. But our stories are all our own at any rate, no matter how universal. Anyway - our current weaning story is long & drawn out, it's the sort of saga that you keep on thinking might end soon and then doesn't. There's been grumpiness (from me) and crying & kicking (from him), but I'm trying to rejoice in what will possibly be the last feed each time it happens.

Ari (who's is now 12) weaned fairly easily when he was about 2 or so. I was pregnant at the time, and we'd been talking about weaning and slowly having less & less feeds during the day. Then one day he bit my me and I simply said that's it. And if you've ever been pregnant and had your nipple bitten by a breastfeeding toddler then you'll know where I was coming from. With Mishi (who just turned 10), I can barely even remember. I know I was in an intense state of tiredness all the time. Over 6 years of being pregnant and breastfeeding sure takes its toll on you doesn't it. So, I can't recall what age she was exactly. Not quite 2 perhaps. But she did it herself, very naturally. She pretty much toilet trained herself and started getting herself dressed when she was 1, so you know - one of those kids who just wanted to be doing all the big girl things.

Ellie Beck Petalplum - new born baby - first skin contact - talking about breastfeeding

Well, things are different with River. He's coming up to 2 1/2 and loves his 'milkbar' more than I can even know. Over the past few months we've gone through 'sleep-through-the-night' to asking for milkbar in his sleep every 20 minutes. My levels of tiredness each night has determined how resolute I've been in saying no to all those requests. It's a bit hard when someone's kicking you, screaming, hitting and pinching and spends all night groping down your top. I've taken to sleeping flat on my stomach so he can't help himself to the milkbar. You know when they get to the age of self-service! I feel like the only way to stop him some days and nights is with an iron bra.

During the day he lets me know he's ready for a nap by quietly coming up and saying milkbar in the sweetest but cheekiest little voice. It's like he knows we're trying to stop the milkbar, but he also knows he can have it for nap time. I must admit he's tricked me a few times needing more than one nap a day. 'Lie down mummy and have milkbar' and drags me off to bed. Why are toddlers so smart!

A few weeks ago when I went to Melbourne for three nights, River had some extreme crying and tantrums. We'd assumed he'd have been weaned when I booked my Melbourne trip; I had never planned such an intense process for either of them. On the third night Sam reported that River went to bed easily and slept all through the night - so four full days without milk. The moment I came home, he climbed on my lap and pulled down my top. And we were back into breastfeeding again.

Weaning isn't about cutting off or stopping something, it's about slowly easing off one thing and easing onto another. So, while I'm drawing back with breastfeeding, Sam and the kids are stepping in with more reading, cuddles, songs and patience.

During the night, with a kicking toddler lying between us, Sam and I take it in turns to sing and pat him back to sleep. To ease his anger and upset feeling with whispered songs in his ear. Some nights he falls back to sleep quicker and easier, other nights it's more of a trashing battle and we end up black & blue.

I sorta thought I kinda knew this parenting gig, but this little one is reminding me all over again and again that I know nothing. That the best guide I have is to listen to my instinct, and listen to him. Our children really do teach and guide us, if we stop and let them show us the way.

newborn baby breastfeeding - talking about weaningSo, while I feel endlessly tired, I'm trying hard to maintain the joy of breastfeeding. To think of it as a special nourishing bond between us. I look into his eyes, he gazes into mine. In those moments before he slips off to sleep I know that we have something with breastfeeding that cannot be replaced with anything else. And I melt away into the peace of it.

BUT - I have to say that there is a mixture of this joy and pure love combined with a desperate need for it all to be over. And I'm at the point of not wanting to feel resentful of it. Resentful of how drained I feel. I am not sure in traditional cultures, or other women, but I feel like the toll of being pregnant and full time breastfeeding for what ends up being 3 or 4 years (or more if you have a close age gap in your children) changes a woman's body and her mind. I feel like we're really meant to live together as a community with other women helping and supporting us - and that modern day world seems to make it harder for women to keep on breastfeeding. Heck - it's even often referred to as "extended breastfeeding" once you're feeding past one year old! That's quite ridiculous, don't you think.

********************** Update: So, it's Wednesday today, and his last full breastfeed was last Friday morning. He's still asking me at different times during day and night, but not demanding. He asks, but knows the answer. Daytime naps have been hard, as he's so used to feeding down to sleep. We're having to wear him out and ending up having late day sleeps (unless he falls asleep in the car). Mostly Sam is holding, cuddling, rocking him to sleep because River is mad at me - he pinches and kicks me, whereas he'd doing that so much with Sam.

So it seems the weaning is happening... not fully weaned yet. When does weaning become weaned? When he stops having it, or when he stops asking for it, or when he can go do sleep more easily without it? I'm not sure, it probably doesn't matter. What matters is we're working as a family team to create a transition that feels comfortable, loving, open, honest (me needing to say no), no guilt and all instinct.

Ellie Beck Petalplum boy in the grass afternoon lightEllie Beck Petalplum Grasses in afternoon lightEllie Beck Petalplum - from baby to boy - the process of weaning

slow & simple Christmas traditions : hand stitched Christmas stockings

Motherhood, Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9333.JPG

Part of my slow & simple seasonal Christmas was to make some new traditions. Or more like - redefine and place more ritual around them. Something like that. With my little one now big enough to understand all the Christmas magic, the big kids have been talking to him about a lot of how it all works. And we're bringing it into our everyday for these weeks leading up to Christmas. I decided to do away with the pillowcases and make some hand stitched stockings for the kids - hopefully next year we'll be able to find them to keep the traditions going!

I must admit I did take a little longer to come around to the Christmas magic this year, but then with a few twinkle lights in our life, and going out together to collect a tree (really it's a fallen branch, with no leaves filled with our special decorations). The kids made treats to gift their friends - which I much prefer than just buying a packet of candy canes, I must admit. It makes me happy seeing them in the kitchen baking for other people, and then packaging it all up and writing notes to everyone.

Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9023.JPG

So, this week I pulled out some felt fabric scraps and some strands of embroidery thread, and sat down to stitch the stockings for my three babies. I thought it would take a whole lot longer, but I kept it simple and these only took a few hours - with many get-up to see what Little One wants to read, eat, play, do, show me….. My girl is on holidays already, so she sat beside me and stitched her own; which made me immensely happy. Because really Christmas isn't about stockings, or things, it's about the creating of those things, the time spent together, talking while you're making, thinking about the joy of reaching your hand inside on Christmas morning. Hanging them up along a beach-found branch. And nibbling on chocolates while you're doing it. That's why I love using felt. These are actually made with some organic cotton quilt batting I had little scraps of. It's soft like lambs wool, but perfectly easy to sew and won't fray. Felt, old blankets, anything like that is great for kids to do their own stitching with, because you don't need to worry about the edges fraying, so you can simply sew the sides together. And is it's a little bit wonky, and some stitches go astray it doesn't matter. One day in 3, or 5 or 10 years you'll look at those stitches with the biggest smile and a pang in your heart.

Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9332.JPG

Make your own HandStitched Christmas Stockings:

You'll need: 

  • Felt or an old blanket

  • A needle not too small, not too big

  • Embroidery thread in assorted colours

  • Ribbon or string or wool to make a hanging loop

  • A scrap of other fabric - we had some bird fabric, you could use flowers, Christmas trees, or even hand embroider whatever shapes you want. Stars, snowflakes...

What to do:

Draw the shape of your 'boot' on scrap paper - make it bigger than you think, because a) the edges take up seam allowance, & b) more space for Santa's gifts!

Trace the pattern piece onto your felt and cut out two pieces. It doesn't matter with felt which side is the outside/right side and which side is the inside/wrong side, but if you're using something with an obvious outside/inside then make sure that you place the two layers together when cutting, with the wrong side facing each other.

With a light pencil draw the child's initial on the front side of the stocking - if you have space their whole name can be lovely too. I'm working with simple and finished before Christmas! Using whatever stitch you like - mine is a simple running stitch - hand stitch the name letter. Fancy lettering is pretty. Have you seen this amazing stitched alphabet? Again, I'm working on a time-frame + toddler-time… so simple letters still look beautiful and work well.

Cut out and stitch on the design. I used running stitch that you can see, but you could also stitch it on with a hidden stitch. Once you've added all the decorations you want to the outside pieces, lay the front and back pieces together and pin. Then blanket stitch around the whole edge. Make sure you stitch in the loop as you're going. Maybe a few extra stitches on that part to make sure it doesn't come out when the kids are enthusiastically pulling at their stockings!

Now - put on some twinkle lights, light some candles and hang those pretty stockings up ready for Santa. We leave home baked biscuits, some milk for Santa (who am I kidding, Santa gets beer in our home!), and of course some carrots for those hard-working reindeers who need as much energy as we can all give them!

raising global children - guardians of our future

Motherhood, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

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Raising conscious, thoughtful, considerate children can be hard. Raising my children to grow into free-thinking, emotionally aware, environmentally active, socially conscious humans sometimes feels impossible. Sending them out into the world with all my ideals shoved down their throat isn't the answer, but letting them only listen to their teachers or peers isn't the answer either. It's finding a balance of sharing my own ideals and ways of living, while also letting them discover their own ways - their own thoughts, expectations of themselves. Letting them discover their heart-felt way of living in the world.

Guiding them gently is my way. Being clear on who I am, but giving them the space to discover who they are, how they fit in. Education, in my mind, is one of the best ways my children see what's going on in their world, and can choose to be involved or how active they want to be to make changes. But education itself takes time to find the right learning tools, the best resources, the accurate information. Luckily they know that not everything on the internet is the right answer, they know to question things, dig deeper, find more answers, ask another expert. We talk about that a fair bit - how just because it's written (in a book or on the internet) doesn't make it real or right or the only solution. How they have to use their brain and their heart to come to their own conclusions.

Being children of this generation my kids love using online resources to learn. Videos and moving pictures, clicking to the next page, being able to quickly search something else….. THOUGH - Let it be known loud and clear - they love love love reading real paper books, and flipping through a giant resource book (bird books, art books, world maps, etc etc). For us it's finding a balance of real paper books combined with online resources. Our home library shelves simply aren't big enough to be filled with all the everythings they want to learn about, information they want to devour. But sometimes, do you think finding online resources can be hard? Scouring through to find accurate information that's not filled with ugly photos, or strange references, or clickable popup adds.

Recently my lovely online friend Danielle, from Hippie In Disguise, (find her beautiful life here on IG as well as on her blog), told me about a new online project she's been had the pleasure of watching a friend create. And when I saw it I got a bit excited too. I can't wait to see all the future resources that my kids can access. It's called Global Guardian Project, and is a monthly zine / resource guide featuring a different country each month. It focusses on environmental, social and humanitarian aspects inspiring children on how they can become change makers in the world. With stories of local families, ideas for making change in our own families, beautifully stunning photography, recipes, projects and so much more - this is a resource to welcome into your inbox every month.

Global Guardian Project

My kids aren't homeschooled, but my idea of educating my children means that their learning doesn't stop once they leave the classrooms. For me to be able to off them some beautiful resources to educate and inspire them means we can extend their learning while empowering their concept of how they fit into the world, and how small changes they make can have a giant ripple effect.

There's a beautifully inspiring mini-zine about the Oceans, showing the quality of the issues, so you can a sample of what you'll be receiving. The first issue is all about Brazil, and is available for pre-order over here - there's so much excellent information and beautiful photos, as well as inspiring downloadable artprints / projects. Future issues will also have cooking and more art/craft projects as well.

The lovely Global Guardian Project founder, Rebecca, has given me a discount code for you to use to receive 10% off each monthly learning packet - use PETALPLUM to receive the discount. If you subscribe you'll receive a beautiful looking world map posted to your home, so the kids can see exactly the region they're learning about. The first issue is Brazil, and I can't wait to find out more about this colourful vibrant country. {For the whole of Thursday 11th August there's a 20% discount by using my code. So go try it out now.}

*I receive a small affiliate % from your purchase using my discount code. I only ever work with businesses whose ethics and ethos fit within mine, and who I think you, my dear reader, will benefit from. I thank you for supporting these small businesses, and for supporting me in this small way as well.

parenting truths - their ideals vs mine

MotherhoodEllie Beck2 Comments

My two big kids are of the age now where my alternative ways can sometimes be embarrassing. Where they moan at the things I don't let them have, the things I make them do, the ways we live vs the ways they think other people live.

They'd happily go to the lolly shop each week and buy all the white sugar, fake coloured things. Really they know that's not the way we live, and they get it (on a level) that's it not good, and why it's not good and all that. BUT they just wanna have the things their friends are having, and they just don't wanna have their mum saying 'can't have this, can't have that'. It can be a battlefield at the supermarket somedays, me saying no, them moaning why no. Even though they know.

Ok - to be fair to them, they really aren't terrible at all. And they do get it! We stand at the cereal aisle and Ari looks longingly at all the things he's tasted at his friends or grandmas house. But then he knows how my stance on it, and he agrees - he looks at the sugar content of each packet and we rationalise and talk about it. And sometimes we settle on a special treat, mostly we go without, or negotiate a middle group. Mostly we get plain bran flakes or rice pops from the health food shop (bulk, no packaging = bonus!).

And then they ask me for a new shirt or something else, for school camp or to go out. A 'made in China', mass-produced article of clothing. They will love it, and wear it until the end……..BUT - it's not the way we aim to live. It's not the way I am to live. And therein lies the difference. They understand, they get it, they know about child-labour, pesticides, ethical fashion, sustainable eating. But they still want the things they want.

As a parent my role is to guide my children, educate them, show them, give them options, raise them with ideals and an understanding of the world. My role is not to indoctrinate them, or force, bully or cajole them. I can give them everything, and plead, hope, wish…….but ultimately I have to let go and allow them to make their own choices. If we force our children to follow our ideals, blindly dragging them along, they won't stay the course. We need to encourage them, enlighten them. Otherwise they'll grow up and leave home and run as fast as they can to the nearest fast food chain, fast fashion, cheap living. By giving my children a solid understanding and a connection to their world I'm guiding them and allowing them to discover how to live themselves.

This means at times I'll be strict and say no to the sugar, no to the fast fashion, no to the bright lights, but then at other times I'll give a little more. I'll question their choices, allow them to have an educated reason (rather than a throw-away "I want it" reason). I'll give them the facts, and try to sway them, but not guilt them - and then let them make up their own minds. Being my mother's daughter I'll probably try to convince them a little more…. often met with eye rolling and "but mum!".

I'm proof that living this way, and guiding your children in a gentle, simple, 'this is just regular life' way works. My mum was saying no to plastic bags at the supermarket when we were young, as a child we knew we were different, but we lived it, and still live it now. Some things are instilled in me, in my way of being…. and I hope this will the way for my children. That they'll find their way back home by having it deeply nurtured in their souls, not forced onto their wellbeing.

I'd love to hear how you work through this - do your kids agree with everything or do you have challenges? Where do you draw the line & where do you sway and bend? Each day, at the moment, feels like we have new issues to work with and my ideals don't always fit neatly nicely into what my children want....

what does guilt feel like?

MotherhoodEllie Beck1 Comment

I don't 'do' guilt, I've never been interested in taking it on, and have spent a fair bit of my adult life trying to do away with it. Trying to breathe through any family guilt pushed upon me (some members of my extended family are quite good at the guilt trip - I'm not interested in carrying that on or being part of it). I think guilt is a horrible waste of time, emotion, energy and all the rest.

So - I must admit that I'm feeling a little surprised at myself that lately I've been feeling little bits of guilt slip in. I'm noticing noises in my head that sound like that voice of guilt. Sound like someone telling myself I'm not quite good enough, things are going wrong, I'm making mistakes.

I'm actually battling with not being overwhelmed by this new feeling. I don't want to give in to it - I want to say goodbye, farewell, get lost! But I think I need to look to why this feeling is slipping in before I can send it on it's way.

Mother guilt is a big big part of our society - from society, other mothers, our family, our mothers / grandmothers / mother-in-law, magazines, and also our own ideals and expectations. I'm pretty sure most of us are carrying around some version of mother guilt. After close to 12 years of parenting, why am I experiencing it now in ways I never have before?!

I've realised that when my big kids were little life was very different than it is now - I was a full time mama. I sewed, baked, had little parties for their dolls & animals, played dress ups, danced, sang, read books, took them to the park………. Some days lately, I feel like each day with River is a challenge just to get through the day by making sure I feed him properly. There's barely any pretty plates of fruit arranged in flower shapes.

Compared to back then (when the other two were little), now I'm a stay-at-home working mama, building our own home, with two big kids (on the brink of teenage life with them), I'm (heavily) active on the P&C at school….. We now live 20+ minutes from town, and shops - so getting a carton of milk takes longer than quick walk down to the corner store that it did when we lived in the city.

I know that River is getting all that he needs - but seriously, there's a whole lot of guilt around the fact that I don't take him to playgroup or story sessions at the library, or barely even push him on a swing at the park! Living in our forest home offers so much more, being a younger sibling gives me so much more interaction and everyday life exposure…. All that. And yet - this dark cloud of guilt when I have to tell him to not touch the computer because I'm working, or when I don't have home baked treats for their morning tea.

Despite the rational part of my brain saying he's good, the kids are good - they don't need ALL of you, ALL of the time. Despite that. Ah oh ugh. Can society and my own ideals about some perfectionism to mothering just bug off already!

I'd love to hear how you deal with mothering guilt, and all the rest that sneaks in. Wife-guilt, house-wife-guilt, not being the perfect granddaughter….

Let's band together and tell each other we're doing an ok job. Our homes don't need to be spotless, our kids yelling and back chatting isn't a sign of bad parenting. Smile at that mama you see in the supermarket, or pass at the school gate and remind her how amazing she is.

thoughts on schooling at home {homeschooling}

Motherhood, Creative Process, Slow & Sustainable Livingellie7 Comments

Last week I announced on my instagram feed that the kids were going back to school. That we had tried homeschooling, and had decided it wasn't right for us. 

Oh, but my heart is torn about this decision. For many reasons. Some I don't know I can share here. Some....

Firstly. I want to share with you why homeschooling didn't "work" for us. You might be thinking we only gave it a short trial, and yes, that's so true. But I think we threw ourselves into it as quickly as I throw us into other things. Of course, I'm the one doing the throwing / pushing / pulling, and they all come along with me. 

I wanted homeschooling to be us. I wanted us to be homeschooling. But in reality, the situation that we are currently living in ~ one tiny house, with no space for study, or creativity, or spreading out of books, reading, drawing, making, doing. No space to be away from each other. No space to choose to be together. No space to be organised and planned. Only space to feel on top of each other constantly. Not really very good to suddenly throw us into 24hours on top of each other. Suddenly it felt like the school hours were 7 hours of baby-sitting we were missing out on, 7 hours (that includes bus travel time, etc) of peace and quiet that we were missing. 

And sometimes I realised it also included 7 hours of doing something separate to each other. I stopped asking the kids what they'd done during the day. Because I'd been there with them the whole time, I neither needed to ask, nor wanted to hear their voices whining at me again. And maybe perhaps they didn't want to go over school work with me again, either.

Sam and I lost time to be alone together. To talk with no-one interrupting, or over-hearing, or wanting to be part of it all. No time to just sit and enjoy being with each other; a quiet coffee in the sun (once the kids have gone off to school) with your partner is surely an important thing in any relationship.

I did barely any - actually maybe none - crochet or screen printing or sewing or anything once the kids started schooling at home. Everything creative I did involved them, and had them at my side. And oh yes, that's what I wanted. It is what I DO want. But I also wanted just snippets of myself. My head my thoughts. Small snippets that I never got. 

I think, really, the biggest thing was that our little

skateboard jewellery making business

got a little bit busier. YAH to that!! And I needed to spend time working on all that was needed for that. And that meant taking time away from schooling and the children. And whenever I wasn't there at their side doing work, preparing work, pushing and enticing work to happen it just didn't. The kids thought they were on holiday if I wasn't teacher at the school desk. 

I guess it's unfair of me to have expected them to be any different. But I think that I expected they would "self learn" a lot more than they did. I think they were maybe too used to school where the teacher walks them through everything. I wanted them to grab their passions and interests and run away with it, and me be there to offer thoughts and advice and encouragement and assistance, and drive them to the library or show them how to make papier mache. Oh. How naive was I!!

Having said that; some school days were excellent. They made me the happiest mama in the world. To sit with my two babies and see them soaking up the learning. To talk with them about things that interested them, and help them discover more. To hear them sharing and learning and teaching each other. For them to be side-by-side learning were some of the happiest moments. 

and therein lies my heart ache. For though I know we can continue much at home, now that they are going back to school, I also know that after-school, weekends and holidays are brief, and that mostly they want to play and explore and 'not do school work'. We will always, as a family, be learners and explorers and teachers in our home (that is something I cannot give up), but I know that with them at school it is in a limited capacity, and that sometimes I am battling against the norm of a public schooling education with my thoughts and ideas to stretch their little minds further and bigger and deeper. Sometimes they feel locked into a system that they don't want to break out of. The ease of cut and paste from a google page, instead of exploring the library or art gallery or museum for the answer. Of saying that their school teacher says their work is good enough, and they're happy with good enough.....

Oh the sadness of a mama who knows her children have more potential than they will receive at school. 

I want it to be known that the school they go to, the local public school, is beautiful and supportive and loving, and has a solid foundation of honest and real values. I just feel that the education system in general lets education and learning down. Every week it seems I hear a teacher, or ex-teacher, talking about the stupid paperwork rather than actual teaching they have to do. And having 20-something other kids in a classroom isn't always the best learning environment. But then, maybe sometimes it is. Children are strong and resilient and perhaps we can give them enough (more than enough!) at home to counter what they will miss.

This for me is an on-going thought / feeling. I hope that with them and me together we can make learning endlessly happen in our family, in a happy contented joyful manner. Perhaps this can be the best of both options - the 7 hours of space that we all needed (them and us), and then the other time of sharing and learning and evolving and growing and expanding.

The one thing I do know about schooling of our children, is that there is rarely a "right" answer, and sometimes that right answer changes weekly. As parents we are always weighing the options of right and best against mediocre. I guess a school who openly cares and supports and knows my children is a wonderful thing indeed and that I should embrace.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, experiences, feelings on this.