Tuesday, December 14, 2010

children deserve beauty

Christmas is less than two weeks away and I realize every year that tis' the season for plastic junk. We North Americans are addicted to plastic in our throwaway world and immerse our children in it. It is everywhere, but no where more prevalent than in toys. We have somehow come to believe as a culture that children are not worth giving good quality, beautiful things to. We buy them the cheapest of everything thinking "they are just kids, they are going to wreck it anyway." I have a different belief.

Children, like the rest of us not only appreciate beautiful things, they crave them. They can see the beauty in the smallest of things, a leaf falling from a tree, a bird on a branch, the way the light shines through watermelon on a sunny day. Their little souls seek out the beauty and mystery of life all around them. Beauty also tells them that the world is a good, safe place, a message they need so much when they are little. So why wouldn't we bring beauty in a conscious way into our homes to continue to nurture that impulse in them?

I was at Superstore last night and was overwhelmed by the plastic, crappy toys spilling over the isles. I know that most of that stuff will have a play life of about a week. Then the kids will get bored of it, pieces will be lost and mum fed up with stepping on little plastic pieces will throw it away. It's not beautiful, it doesn't feel good in the hand and it is not meant to last.

We talk so much about living green and reducing our consumption, but when it comes to children, we somehow think that not longer applies. So here is my thought. When we create beautiful spaces for our children and give them things that not only look good, but also feel good in the hands, they learn to appreciate and care for what they have. There is a soul connection to what they see and hold and the idea that we could just throw it away is no longer a possibility.

Now, I know that the natural toy business has exploded in the past few years and most of the things that are for sale can be really expensive. Somehow the idea of quality not quantity has gotten lost even in this well intentioned world. But it is up to us as parents to choose carefully what we give our children. Do we fill the tree with whatever it takes to make it look full? Or do we give a little less, but in actuality more because it is something truly lovely that doesn't need a bunch of other stuff around it?

Beauty doesn't need to cost much. A candle on the supper table, branches from outside on a nature table or homemade toys, all bring the qualities into the home that children love so much. My 6 year old son and I made this window star together last night. The pack of paper that we barely made a dent in only cost $5.95. We spent time together, created something really beautiful and when we were done, he said, "Let's save this for next year." This is the whole point. Create something to last, make it beautiful and subtly you teach them to cherish the world around them. Beauty speaks to their souls as it does to ours.

So this Christmas consider what you are buying for your children. Ask yourself, "Is this beautiful? Would I want to look at it or hold it? Is it destined for the landfill or will it stand the test of time?" All children deserve all the beauty that this world holds. Less really is more for them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

we all need a little love

I am not super mom. I have tried, believe me. Laundry, dishes, house, kids, work, meals, groceries, doctor's appointments, husband, garden, banking, nature time, book time, playtime....really, no me time. I am good at doing one or two things really well. 20 things, hmmm, not so much. But I try as best as I can each day because I love this little family of mine. I cook them beautiful suppers each night because I love the time we spend together at the end of the day eating a meal together. I make sure they have clean laundry in their drawers because I want them to know someone cares enough to make sure they don't have to wear their underwear inside out because there is nothing left that is clean. Everything I do here is out of love.

But sometimes I need some love too. My family is wonderful at saying thank you, for bringing me the occasional bunch of flowers, maybe if I'm lucky a small masterpiece of crayon imagery from my littles. For all of this, I am always grateful. But sometimes, I want someone to take care of me a little, the way I take care of others. Sometimes, I wish I had a wife.

This weekend my dreams came true. Friday our car was in the shop, I was spending the day getting ready for a party I was hosting the next day and taking care of the kids since there was a pro-d day. To say I was overwhelmed would be a grand understatement. And then it happened, the dryer smelled like fire. Immediately I rushed to turn it off and throw the breakers. With two loads of sopping wet laundry staring me in the face, I wanted to crawl into a hole.

And then the laundry fairy came. She took my laundry on Saturday, dried it, folded it, put it back in the basket and brought it to me with a magazine she knew I would love tucked in between the towels. This is a different kind of love then poetry and chocolates. This is the love that only another mother can understand, the kind of love that we all need a dose of once in a while. The kind of love that feels like someone cares about those little corners of your heart that only a domestically exhausted women could truly appreciate. Thank you friend.

We all need a little love sometimes, especially in the laundry pile.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ruby Mamas

The Ruby Slipper Studio is finished and open! Classes start tonight and I couldn't be more excited. This was such a process and it took a village to complete. Nancy who painted the room, Andy who donated tools and his time to help Stefan put in the floor, Doug who did the drywall, Waterglass Studios who refurbished my original 1920's light fixture, Dave who did the finishing, Stefan who built my easels and Laurel who has been behind me the whole way.

So, now that I have my very own space, I am inspired to offer something I have been wanting to do for a long, long time. I am going to offer an art class for pregnant mamas....Ruby Mamas.

We spend so much time filling up our heads with information when we are venturing into the unknown world of birth and mothering, filling up our baskets hoping we will be prepared for the unknown. What we don't do is prepare our hearts and internal wisdom that we all possess. Information isn't what will help a woman when she is trying to cope with contractions nor is it what will support her when she is trying to figure out why her baby won't stop crying. It is her intuition every single time. That is what will be her survival skill in this journey ahead.

So on Monday October 18th, I am offering a one night workshop for those beautiful pregnant mamas in my community. You need bring nothing but yourself, an open heart and some comfy clothes. I will provide the space, art supplies and a wonderfully supportive environment where you can connect with your own creative resources, your baby and other mamas in the Cowichan Valley. You don't need to be an artist, this class is not about an outcome, it is all about the Process, just like labour. Dorothy had the answers within her the whole time as she journeyed to Oz, just as you do. Come and discover how wise you are and create art from the heart. The fee is only $25.00 and the experience will be priceless. You are most welcome here.

For more information or to register please contact Catherine at: 250-597-2770 or catherine@beautifulbirth.ca

Thursday, August 19, 2010

learing to be still

I wrote about this a few months back. I thought that I had been doing it. Not so much. Still in some ways, constantly moving in others. The result? A continuous state of overwhelm, burn out and some days coloured blue. Why? Because in my ever moving mind, there is something that always needs to be done. And because there is something that always needs doing, I am always reminded that I can't keep up. Painting, laundry, birthday projects, cleaning, cooking, shopping, advertising, gardening, exercise.... oh the list goes on and on.

It wasn't until I spoke to my divinely wise friend who said "maybe you don't need to do those things right now, maybe you just need to be still" Hmmm, I thought, maybe I do. But how? And what would come out of it? More things that I am just getting behind on because I decided not to do them right now? No, not at all.

Our conversation continued on the vein of listening. I mean really listening. To ourselves, our bodies, our own wisdom, to our partners, friends and children. All of those facets are trying to send us a message, but how can we hear it if we can't be still enough to listen?

Then it came to me. We are all searching for an answer of some sort. Some questions are deep and meaningful, others more practical. We are all waiting to receive yet how can we if we can't first listen? And how can we listen if we can't first be still? Hmmm, very Zen of me I know. Sound as obvious as the sky is blue? Sure it does. Can you do it? Ahh, the deeper question, it's not as easy as it looks. I wanted to write this post as soon as I had this epiphany, but I forced myself not to, just to practice being still and allowing the idea to fully develop.

So the laundry, it's coming. The birthday project is on hold, the groceries got done today, but no one starved, the cleaning? I'm working on it. I feel more grounded, more able to listen and maybe one step closer to peace.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

come on over...

There are exciting things underway for this mama. The Ruby Slipper Project is going to have a permanent home this fall. A new studio is underway and I couldn't be more excited. I have also started a new blog and invite you to come on over. Want to come to a class? There is a space for you. Do you think you are not an artist? Yes you are, you are creating every single day. The creative impulse is in all of us. This is a safe, fun, open place free of judgement and expectation. I'll even make you a cup of tea.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

a new way

I have been teaching Birthing From Within classes for 5 years now. They are fun, informative, unique and honour all aspects of birth and parenting preparation. While I love this work and find it so rewarding there is one aspect about it that I love the most. That is the birth art. When most people hear the word "art" they can get a bit freaked out. So many of us hold stories about our ability or inabiltiy to create and can't understand why facing that fear has anything to do with birth preparation. The reality is that birth preparation is all about facing fears, discovering your own strength and experiencing moving through it. That being said, I often don't do as much art in my classes as I would like, somehow defaulting back to the information aspect that I don't really believe is as important as an exercise in self-discovery. I am always trying to strike a balance and let my own fears go.

I have a very dear friend and colleague however who has developed a whole new way of approaching birth preparation. She calls it the pregnancy circle and I think it is genius. She brings her background in counselling, mothering, Buddhist mediation and childbirth education and marries it into an on going class that I believe truly has the ability to change how we look at birth preparation and women as a whole.

Her classes begin when you are 3 months pregnant and continue up until birth. Each week women engage in soulful, meaningful discussion, meditation and art. Stages of labour and when to go to the hospital are left to someone else to teach. What she is doing here is truly preparing women in their own bodies and hearts for the journey they are about to embark on. If you live in California in the Ventura, Ojai, Santa Barbara or surrounding areas, I would HIGHLY recommend that you check out her class. You will experience something you won't get anywhere else and have the privilege of working with one of the most gifted women I know.

You can find out more about The Pregnancy Circle here.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Well, my littlest one is now 3. It was a lovely day, tea party, party dresses, a fairy and of course cupcakes. She also potty trained last week in one day. That's my girl. She takes her time with EVERYTHING, but when she's ready, it's like she's been doing it forever. It's official, I am out of the baby stage. Moving on....although I'm not sure I'm ready. Happy Birthday little one!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

everyday adventures

Well, the summer is here and I couldn't be happier. I realized that it has been a long time since I last posted and I suspect that my blogging may slack over the summer. These two are my full time job right now, there is no school and no daycare for either, so it's all me.

So what will we do? Camping in Tofino, soccer camp for a week and lots of everyday adventures. We went to the beach yesterday and looked for moon jellies, we've been spending time in the woods and today we went to the local consignment store and found an old Fisher Price record player (it is almost 40 years old) and my kids think it is the bomb. Tomorrow we're going to another beach to look for sand dollars and the day after that, well, we'll see. It feels good to let go of the routine of school, even if that means taking them both to the way too small grocery store so that my daughter can knock over a box of pop and have it spray all over the floor and her mother just after she started opening chocolates. I really think it is a conspiracy that grocery stores put all of these things in the reach of little ones just to drive the mothers crazy.

What will you do this summer?

Friday, May 28, 2010

the most asked question....

Whether I teach prenatal classes or I have been walking about the world with a new baby, the question I always get asked is either "Is she sleeping through the night?" or "when will she sleep through the night?"

I'm sure I've said this before, but because it is so important, I'll say it again. Babies don't know, neither do they care that it is 2010. For all they know it could be 340 BC. Their needs are basic and they have not changed. They want to be close to their mother or father, they want to be breastfed, they want to be comforted and they are not developmentally equipped to sleep through the night. Because of all of these factors, it is not only normal for them to wake frequently, it is essential to their health and survival.

What has changed is not the needs or behaviors of babies, it is our needs as adults. Most of us no longer live in a tribal culture where we have aunties, sisters, mothers and friends to help us when we have a child. Heck, most of us don't even live in the same city as our families. Not only are we responsible for caring for the child, the home, the cooking, the cleaning, the banking, the car repairs... the list goes on, many of us are also returning to work. It is no wonder that sleep deprivation and naps during the day are not conducive to this lifestyle.

I had a very brave mum call me a couple of weeks ago who was at her wits end. Her baby slept well for the first 3 months and then it all changed. Now her baby was waking every hour and a half and making her crazy. My daughter did the same thing and I used to say that it was like being in Gitmo. That's what they do to torture their prisoners, let them fall asleep and then wake them up. I used to physically hurt from the sleep deprivation. So this mum feeling like she was going to loose it, was also torn about what to do an not a little desperate. She didn't want to let her baby cry it out, which I applauded, but full Continuum Concept wasn't working for her either.

This is one of the biggest lessons in the parenting journey. First, learning to be gentle with yourself and ask for help. Second, find something that works for you and that feels right for your baby. There are so many books out there on how to be a good parent, because there is no one right way. Some will tell you how to be BabyWise (actually not so wise, babies have died) or that The Baby Whisperer will solve all your problems or that you can have The Happiest Baby on the Block. These author's don't understand infant neuroscience. They just want you to buy their book. You had to listen to your instinct in labour to birth your baby, the same goes for being a parent. It can be helpful to know that you are not alone, it can also be helpful to know that just as it has changed, your baby's sleep pattern will change again, and then again.

There is no right answer, no quick fix, there are some good books , but at the end of the day you can remind yourself, this is just a moment in time and it will pass. My daughter sleeps through the night now ( except for the last few nights when she has been crawling into our bed at 4 in the morning), in her own bed, in her own room. I never thought I would see the day, but I did and so will you. Now, go take a nap with your baby.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You got time to lean...

I came home Sunday night from a really amazing weekend of teaching. This group was open, brave, full of laughter and even taught me a thing or two. It was one of those really special groups that you wish you could have every time.

Then on Monday morning I woke up sick, really sick. I haven't been that sick since I was pregnant with my daughter 3 years ago. I spent the day either clinging to the couch or the toilet, not good times. As I crawled upstairs to bed at dinner time I started thinking about all I have been trying to keep together over the past few weeks. It's not uncommon for me to get sick, just as it is all over, as though my body has given me permission to fall apart.

It's a reminder that I really need to let myself slow down on a regular basis so that I don't fall apart all at once. I was speaking with a very wise woman yesterday who suggested that I start taking some time during the day to sit outside and drink a cup of tea. Sounds simple doesn't it? I came up with lots of excuses why I couldn't. Then she reminded me why I needed to do it. I realized that for many years now I have been living into that old saying "You got time to lean? You got time to clean" It's not that I don't ever have a minute to myself, it's that I don't use that minute for myself.

So today instead of cleaning the kitchen, I took my beat up body back to bed to read a book while my daughter watched a show (horror of horrors!). Well, actually she loved it and so did I. So if you have a minute today, I recommend that you don't use that time to clean, use it for yourself. If you don't you might end up like me. Your body so tired of running that it gets sick so badly that you have no other choice to stop.

You are worth the gift of a cup of tea. Go put the kettle on....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

quantity vs. quality

My summer wardrobe is seriously lacking. This is not a time of year that I tend to invest in and halfway through the season I always regret it. T-shirts with spit up stains, shorts with paint stains, dresses that don't fit anymore (even though I keep hoping they will), it's a bit of a motley crew, that wardrobe of mine. This is the first year in 4 years that I have not been pregnant or nursing and I feel that it is time to put myself back together again.

So my mom, God bless her, sent me a bit of money to go and buy myself some nice things for the summer. And then here came the conundrum....do I take that money and go and buy myself 6 or 7 things at a discount store or do I take that money and purchase a 2 or 3 really nice, good quality pieces? It is the eternal question of quality vs. quantity. So yesterday I perused the stores, looking for sales and places I could spend my money. There were some cute things that would be fine for the season, but one close look and I knew that's all they would make it through. By September they would either be donation material or headed into the landfill. There is nothing that bugs me more right now than things that are designed to last for a short period of time so that we will go and buy more, it just isn't right.

So today I went to my most favourite store in the world (I really do mean that) It is called Lil' Sweet Nancy's and they have two locations in Victoria BC. What makes this place so special you ask? Well beyond their wonderful, relaxed atmosphere that my daughter is also welcome to be in and their superior, honest service, the clothes are just lovely. I have been buying one of these brands for the past 10 years and not only do the clothes last and last, they are always designed with the next season in mind. So today I bought a few really lovely things, some will be just for summer and others I will definitely wear into the fall. The best thing is that by next year at this time, I know they will look just as good as they do today and won't be heading for the landfill at all.

If you live on Vancouver Island it is worth your time and your money to go and visit. And if you don't live on Vancouver Island, but close by, I would highly recommend a day trip over here. Lil' Sweet Nancy's and Sweet Nancy's is one of those rare places that really cares about their customers and offers amazing service whether you are buying one nice dress or a whole wardrobe. This is also a place where you don't have to be a size 2 to fit into the clothes, which for this curvy mama is a godsend. Not to mention, the store owner is also a mum, so she totally understands what I need when I'm buying clothes.

We talk a lot about self-care as mothers and for me, how I get dressed in the morning is part of that. So for this girl, quality will always trump quantity. And now I can be part of the summer without a map of spit up stains on my shirts.


I normally don't do reviews on products or stores and was not paid to write this. I just really love this place and wanted to share. You can find them here. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

mother's day

Ah, Mother's day. I love it. We went to Victoria for the day on Saturday and visited some of my favorite places. Murchie's for lunch, tea and treats, a tradition since I was a kid. Then to Munroe's for an amazing book that I am already devouring. And after that? Husband takes the kids for an hour so I can go and shop on my own, bliss. It was also a day where a courageous woman walked all the way down the island to bring awareness to our threatened Wild Salmon stocks. We took the kids to the very peaceful protest and while they didn't understand why we were there, it felt right to be there as a family.

On Sunday, actual mother's day, a long walk by the river with the family, more time on my own while husband took care of everything, some much needed bras (I'll write more about that later) and a carpet picnic.

Life after kids can really change things and we can either fight it or adapt. It's not always easy for my husband and I to get out on a date together, alone. So on Mother's Day he made a super yummy dinner, that was not for the kids (they ate earlier and went to bed) and we had a date on a blanket upstairs in our room. We had music, candles, wine and most importantly, peace. There was no one to complain that the dinner was "too yucky, to big, didn't like it, too smelly...." Where my perfect eaters went to, I have no idea. Anyways, it was bliss.

It was a really lovely weekend and a really lovely day. I hope you had a wonderful day too!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Since I don't have anything riveting to write about (before and after pics of the kitchen are coming soon), I thought I'd share some recent photos of our life. Hanging out at home, a trip to Fisgard Lighthouse, May fest, and crab hunting at Transfer beach.

I received a touching phone call today from a mum who is so sleep deprived with her newborn, she's not sure what to do next. That post is on it's way soon....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

writers block

Well, it's hit me. Writers block. I have lots of things I would like to write about but fail to have the mental capacity to put anything into an interesting post worth reading. It's been a flurry of kitchen reno's, school decisions (yes, we finally made one) and a tantruming two year old. Every time I sit down to write something meaningful, my thought is interrupted by something, be it laundry, children, pot of water boiling over on stove, what have you. So, I'm taking a bit of a blogging break until this fog I am in lifts and I have something more meaningful to offer.

The kitchen looks amazing by the way. A lick of paint and some new light fixtures can bring forth a miracle.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

walk a mile in my shoes

I was the best parent in the world, before I had children. I knew why children turned out the way they did, how to get a child to sleep through the night, how long a child should breastfeed and I certainly was an expert on discipline. Then I had children.

I woke up this morning to the familiar screaming of my two children, one bugging the other. I dove deeper under the covers hoping I could disappear into some other world where children woke up singing and played quietly until I was ready to descend the stairs for my morning coffee. No such luck. I managed to doze for a half-hour between the crying and giggles (the girl can be a bit dramatic) all until my son came upstairs with a handful of his sisters hair and a pair of scissors. Need I say more?

I dream that there are mothers out there that take every challenge with stride, never loosing their cool, never dreaming of a Martini at noon. I wish I were that mother. I am that mother some of the time. This past week, not so much. Spring break and kitchen reno's have created a bit of a perfect storm where I am equally pulled between wanting to be present with my children and also finishing the painting that can't seem to wait until bedtime. It is hard for me to ignore my kids so that I can finish a job and it is equally hard to ignore the job so that I can be with the kids. I eventually gave up during the day and saved the work until night, but I am so tired.

What really gets me in times like these is people who don't have children who are so quick to judge with their all knowing responses for repair. They are experts in child rearing and know just how to fix the problem. Everything is in absolutes and so simple. Just take them for a walk. I already did that. Spend time with them. I am spending time with them. Then the blank look of realisation that all of their tricks are not fail proof.

The truth is, there really is no magic answer, no magic craft project, no magic story time. Having kids is hard. Having two kids is a million times harder. It can be rewarding, joyful, filled with moments of overflowing love for those two little ones you feel so blessed to have brought into the world. I often feel like this when I see them sleeping. I feel like this lots of times through the day too. But mothering can also be lonely, isolating, frustrating, maddening and bring you to tears. "Are you crying mummy?" "Liam, Why is mummy crying?" I couldn't speak through the tears, I just walked to the garage to get their bikes and helmets, wiped the tears away, took a breath and took them for a long river walk.

So the next time you think you have the answers or feel that you are an expert on someone else's children (even if you have ones of your own), Stop. Walk a mile in her shoes before you speak, you might find you get blisters just like she does.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I've been a bit uninspired to post lately. Maybe its because I have gone through a huge process in deciding which school my son will go to, maybe it's because I've been trying to be a more present mum and just don't go on the computer as much or maybe it's because I have so much to say, I just don't know where to begin.

Whatever the case I feel like I need some time to be still. I need to be still with my family, with my work and especially with myself. So I have chosen to sign up for a 3 month study group and allow myself to take some time to focus inward and get clear on which step to take next. It feels good to stop and pause, to see all that is around me and know that just because it is there, I don't have to dive into it right away. It's kind of like being on this beach. The waves are crashing against the shore, the coastline feels rugged and wild and yet, when I took this photo, I sat down on the sand and just took it all in. The ocean is funny that way, there is something inherently calming and humbling about it. And while you may want to dive in, sitting down and just being with it is also perfectly acceptable.

Monday, March 29, 2010

the best toy

I have purchased many beautiful wooden toys over the years. But really, nothing beats the cardboard box.

Friday, March 19, 2010


A couple of weeks ago when I was in Comox, I had the privilege of seeing all these mums and dads again with their new babies (we missed you Kelsey and Steve, you too Sean). This group took my class last October and it is always amazing to me to see women and men born as mothers and fathers. Birth truly is a transformation.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Today is my birthday and I turned 35. For whatever reason, this birthday feels significant. I feel like I am at a turning point in my life, in many respects. Instead of feeling terrified, I feel excited, clear and renewed. My dreams for my life are very clear, I see myself differently than I did in my 20's, even when I turned 30. I think the most poignant part of 35 is that it is the end of the self-loathing era. All those years feeling that I wasn't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, a good enough mother, wife, friend....oh it goes on...is now over. Sure I'll still have days when I feel down, days when I hate my jeans as though they have betrayed me by holding me a bit too close as I then blame the dryer. We all have moments like that. But moments and a lifestyle are two very different things.

The other day my mother called me to say that she would give me $5.00 for every pound I lost. I was speechless. In the past I would have felt a pit in my stomach, tears welling up in my eyes and witnessing my mind race about how I wasn't pretty enough. Ah, but this time it was different. This time I didn't take that on. This time I responded with "are you on crack?" And I meant it. Now, I love my mum, and I know that her heart is in the right place, she wants me to be healthy, but honestly, this has been going on since I was 9. For a long time I bought into that story, and now it is over for me. I could be upset about what she said, but actually, I am grateful. It feels like it was a "how much do you really love yourself?" kind of test and I passed. 35 feels like a metamorphosis. Funny how my birthday is less than a week from the first day of Spring.

So to celebrate this day, I spent it with my children. We had the best day ever. All I asked from my son for my birthday was "a day of kindness and co-operation" And they both gave it to me. Best present EVER. I took them down to Victoria and I bought a cute little vintage medicine cabinet for my bathroom, we ate at my favorite restaurant and then went to a couple of my favorite shops including this one. We were going to go to the museum, but my son asked if we could go to the park instead. The sun was out and I couldn't think of a more wonderful thing to do. So we went to the park, played in the playground, walked through the meadows, went for an ice cream and off to the beach. As we meandered home, we stopped at Goldstream and looked at the water, it sparkled in the sunlight and the moss hanging from the maples looked like magic. We came home, made a yummy dinner (including the amazing cake my husband baked from scratch for me) and now, kids are sleeping and I am so thankful for this day. This really was a Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I am a dreamer. When I was young it was endearing, as I grew older, some thought it became trite, almost inconvenient. I have dreams for myself, for my children, for my family. I dream about my career and what I really want to create, I dream about a beautiful home (which I am blessed to have) I dream about traveling and being blissfully anonymous. I dream about the kind of mother I want to be and escape from the mother I actually see myself as. I dream about having children that are fully embraced, allowed to have an unadulterated childhood, one where as adults they look back and know they are so wonderful because of it. Part of my dream has been that Waldorf education would be part of that.

Now that I am on the verge of leaving Waldorf, mainly for financial reasons, I am having to check in with my dreams and realize that they are also stories. This story that I have been living, the one that says Waldorf will keep my children safe, happy and held has really challenged what I think about myself as a mother and us as parents. While we haven't made a final decision yet, we are leaning towards French immersion for the fall. This process has really forced me to look deep within myself and see that I am actually a great mother. I love my kids more than life itself and will do whatever it takes to nurture, support, encourage and embrace them. While Waldorf education is a fantastic option for many, embarking on a new form of education doesn't change who I am as a mother, it doesn't change our family. We will still have a nature table, we will still eat good food, the Christmas Angels will still come on Christmas Eve and we will still keep media out of our home (as much as we can). We are still loving, caring, creative parents, Waldorf or not.

I had a dream the other night. Liam was 7 and going to his first day of grade one. As I stood at the entrance to the school, he and all his friends turned into Beluga whales. They all dove into the sea, free and transformed. As I stood on the shore feeling sad that he had left, I noticed a humpback whale going after them. It was clear that the children (whales) were in danger. As I stood helpless on the shore, my son and his friends managed to outsmart the whale and get away safely. They came back to the shore and turned back into children. My son, back into my arms.

Transformation and letting go is difficult for most people and this experience has been nothing less than challenging for me. I realize that part of the struggle for me is that up until now, I have largely been able to control his environment, what he is exposed to and how he has been embraced in these all important first 6 years. And while I don't know what lies ahead, I do know that my son is an amazing person. He is outgoing, curious, energetic, creative, deeply imaginative all wrapped into one sensitive little soul. The part that is hard is not really about what education he receives, it is about trusting that he will be OK. It is about trusting that the world is actually a good place for all of us. It is also about trusting that if a new school doesn't work out, that we are resourceful parents who will find another option for him. This is the letting go. This is about standing on the shore, holding the space for him as he embarks on a new journey, always supporting him, always there with open arms. They grow up so fast.

And so begins the journey.....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

what you didn't learn in prenatal classes

My son is now 6 and he will be going to grade 1 in September. Sounds simple, except that I don't know which grade 1 he will go to. We have been in the Waldorf system for 5 years now and mainly without question. It is a loving, nurturing educational system that embraces the child as a whole and meets their developmental needs without pushing them to do things they are not ready for.

Why on earth would I not want to continue in such a school? It is expensive. While it is one of the least expensive private schools around, it is still a private school and unfortunately, we are not millionaires.

So this week I began my search for a new school. There are so many choices, public, French Immersion, Catholic, Alternative, Waldorf, Montessori, home schooling, it is dizzying. Public is where I began since we are already in the private system and it it's time is coming to a close. There is a good public school close to home, so I went to meet the principal and he was nice. The school was nice. The library, nice. Inspiring? Not so much. When I asked about their outside time I was told that the BC government requires 30 min of physical activity a day. That could be in the gym, outside or are you ready?? An exercise DVD geared towards kids. I am still tripping over the words "exercise DVD" Why not just go outside? Do I now need to buy my son leg warmers as part of his school supplies? How did teachers become so disconnected from their students? When did Jane Fonda become an appropriate part of elementary education?

In a couple of weeks we are going to explore the French Immersion school. I hear great things about it, it's in a beautiful old building, great music and art program. But will it still nurture my son's belief in fairies? Will he be rushed into an academic machine that I am so afraid to throw him into? Or will he thrive, loving to learn, making new friends and enjoying the family vacation to Belgium that we could now take since we would no longer be paying for tuition.

Pregnancy, birth, babies, we all get through it somehow. Each phase has it's own challenges and for many of them there are groups, classes, resources to support you through them. Choosing the right school for your children in balance with the health of the family, now that's something I didn't learn in prenatal classes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

paint your heart out

Do you remember being a child so in love with the experience of painting and art that what it looked like didn't matter, you just loved the colours and the feeling of paint brush to paper? Do you remember having so much fun that as soon as you were finished one piece of paper you were ready for the next?

Most all of us start at this place. The point of pure creative abandonment. And then someone comes along, a parent, a teacher a grandmother maybe even another child who says, "what's that supposed to be?" And as you said, "well, it's a land with fairies and gnomes and a big tree where they all live together" the response is "That doesn't look like a fairy" And then it's over.

This is the moment where almost all of us got the message that we can't paint, we're not artists and we're not good enough. This is the moment for many where we begin to compare ourselves to others, judging our abilities and gifts in relation to those around us.

The other day I gave my children paint and paper with the only instruction, "do whatever you like and have fun" My son at first was frustrated because he couldn't "paint good" and I said, "just pick a colour you like and start putting it on the paper" Before he knew it, he was so immersed in his work that he asked for 3 more sheets of paper. My daughter who is 2, has not yet begun to compare herself to others and just painted her heart out.

I started a class called The Ruby Slipper Project in September. It is amazing to me what a success it has become and how freeing it is for women to come and paint, explore and give into their creative impulse without judgment or restrictions.

Would you like to come and paint your heart out? I'm holding a one day retreat March 21st from 9-4pm, just for you. Think you can't paint? Yes you can. Come, hold a paint brush and see where the paint takes you. You will amaze yourself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

we were not meant to mother this way

Have you read this book? It was recommended to me a couple of years ago and it changed my life. It is a feminist take on an old biblical story of a woman named Dinah and her life's journey traveling the desert with her family and in the end finding her own salvation through midwifery. It is a powerful story for sure.

However, this is not the part that changed my life. What opened my eyes was how she and her 4 mothers lived in a tribe. Now, I'm not a polygamist, nor is that the lifestyle for me. However, although these four women shared a husband, they also shared the role of mothering. They cooked together, ate together, raised children together, breastfed each others children and bled together, once a month in the Red Tent while the men fended for themselves for 3 days.

I could say so much about this book but what really stuck out to me was that we as a human species were not meant to mother alone. This modern idea of us all sequestered into our own little homes, cooking, cleaning, child rearing, partner caring....is not how we were meant to mother. That is why it can be so isolating, overwhelming, lonely, frustrating need I go on?

Women all over the world live in community, women in my own community live in community. Taking care of the children is not just one woman's job, but the whole villages job (insert cliche here). The bottom line is that we need each other, we need support, we need encouragement we need someone to come over and fold our laundry or take our kids to the park. The trouble is, now that we are so accustomed to this individualistic way of living, it can feel impossible to ask for help. Sure you might have done it when your baby was a month old, but now that your child is 2 years old, surely you should be able to take care of things on your own. No you shouldn't. We aren't superwomen with the abilities to facilitate a craft project, make a pot roast, clean the bathroom and fold the laundry in one fell swoop. We are still human and we need the support of others.

I greatly encourage you to read this book. And then I greatly encourage you to call a friend and ask for help, with whatever you need. And if you don't need help right now, offer to fold someone else's laundry. You will make their day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

love thyself

Valentine's day is coming up this weekend. I always love this time of year, it is a welcome splash of colour and excitement in an otherwise gray and dull time of year.

This is also a time of year for many that is filled with an uncomfortable expectation to spend exhorbarant amounts of money on flowers, chocolate and fancy dinners. Some people resent this holiday as yet another commercial machine fueled by Hallmark to both make you spend and feel inadequate.

At the beginning of the year a friend of mine sent me an email sharing the view points of 8 year olds on love. The one that stuck out the most to me was a response that said " If you want to really know what love is, start with the person you hate the most." That is powerful stuff.

It would be easy for me to think of a few people that truly challenge my ability to love. However, as I really thought about it, I realized that the person I need to learn to love the most is me. Ok, that is just about as cliche as a Hallmark card saying I love you. But it's true. I wouldn't really say I hate myself, but if I was dating myself, I would have dumped me a long time ago. I know I'm not the only woman, and certainly not the only mother who treats herself like this.

I realized that if I could truly love myself, unconditionally, gently, with all the encouragement and positivity that I give my children, my husband, my friends then I could really change something. So while I'm all for loving your enemies, if we could learn to love ourselves, really love ourselves, we could change the world. Because when that love is there, the ego, self-loathing, self-destructive talk walks right out the door like a bad relationship.

So I wish you a very happy Valentine's day this year. Not in the candy and flowers kind of way, but in the "You are a beautiful gift to the world and I hope you see that" kind of way. Treat yourself to something this year, you are the most important Valentine in your life.



Monday, February 1, 2010

what $5.00 will buy you these days....

Well, maybe you can get a coffee, but it would have to be black. Maybe you can rent a movie, but not at a major movie store, or maybe you could buy a loaf of bread, but not organic because in my town that is at least $6.00 a loaf.

What $5.00 bought me tonight was the first moment of real self-care I have had in a long time. After a visit to the doctor because I think I'm dying of heart disease (which I'm not, but it runs in the family), my doctor says that she thinks my issues are stress related. She asked if I had a supportive husband and I said yes (although the cleaning fairy did come today, thank you Lucy) and did I ever get any time alone? Well, yes I do, but I don't spend it very wisely. Lately my alone time is either dedicated to working on the computer or watching shows on the computer and eating comfort food, not so healthy.

So tonight after dinner, my husband said "get your things, you should go for a swim." So I ignored my aversion to bathing suits and went. The swim felt great, but the steam room, that's where the magic was. It was so hot and steamy that I couldn't keep my eyes open. I also had to take deep, slow breaths to stay in there as long as I did. The result? 10 minutes of pure relaxation where not only was I alone (heaven) but I was able to actually turn off my mind for once and enjoy the moment.

I feel amazing and despite my feelings about my bathing suit, I can't wait to go back again. Turns out $5.00 can buy you a whole lot of magic if you know where to spend it.

What do you need to do to take care of yourself? You are worth every penny.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

did the microwave make us impatient? Part 2

Today was my son's 6th birthday. Well, his actual birthday isn't for a few days, but today was his party. Instead of having a brood of 6 year old boys tearing up my house, we decided on the bowling party. It was great, the boys loved it, all I had to do was bring cake and we could leave all the mess behind.

Now while this overstimulating place with the loud rock music, clash of bowling balls and kids screaming, not to mention the crazy decor was all good for the 6 year old, I was amazed to see a 5 day old baby there. Yes, 5 days old.

Did you know in many countries around the world including China women are not encouraged to leave the house for 30-40 days? When I first heard this 6 years ago, I thought it was archaic. I mean, what male centered society thought this one up? As if women weren't oppressed enough, now they can't even leave the house? My tune has now changed greatly.

This idea of not leaving the home for 40 days is wise. Newborn babies have just come from a perfectly balanced environment providing them with warmth, darkness, safety and closeness. Once they enter the big bright world, their senses are not yet equipped to deal with all of the stimulus around them. In situations like the bowling alley (and yes this baby was doing it), they shut down. They tend to "sleep" and be quiet until it is all over and they spend the next 4 hours screaming. The slightly older baby may just scream in that moment. It is an assault on their senses, not to mention the mother's.

This all brings me to the thought, why in our society is our productivity and capability measured by how quickly we can leave the postpartum space rather than remain in it? Is this yet another example of how impatient we have become as a society that we have not only forgotten the importance, but actually hold disdain for staying in the sacred space of our home? A place that is quiet and warm for both mother and baby? A place where they can rest, heal, be fed nourishing food, bond and breastfeed? Not only is the world too much for the newly emerged baby, it is also too much for the newly emerged mother. Both have come through a profound transition and both need to enter the world gently.

There is wisdom in slowing down and being taken care of and by rushing the postpartum process we are doing harm to all those involved. In cultures around the world such as Guatemala, Thailand, China, Korea and South East Asia just to name a few, where women are kept warm at home with their babies they are given daily massages, warm foods prepared for the mother, housecleaning and warm baths. The whole intention is to surround the new mother with love and care so that she can recover from the birth slowly and nourish her baby peacefully. This process honours the woman's transformation into a mother as something that is sacred and to be respected.

We need to change this idea of showing the world how competent we are by how quickly we return to every day life to how we allowed ourselves to be cared for and nourished quietly at home. These delicate postpartum days are precious and they never come back. Not only does the newborn baby deserve a quiet entry into this world, so does the mother. We can support mothers in this time by bringing them food, offering to do their laundry and giving them a well deserved massage. If you are about to step over the threshold into motherhood, I encourage you to ask for these things, you and your baby deserve it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

did the microwave make us impatient? Part 1

I was standing at my microwave yesterday waiting for my maple syrup to warm for our Sunday pancakes. After needing to put the pitcher back in because it wasn't warm enough, I actually found myself becoming impatient when it still had 10 seconds to go. I started thinking about my life before a microwave (which wasn't that long ago) and I would have no problem waiting for something to warm in a pot on the stove, but in the microwave I somehow expect instant results. When did 30 seconds become a long time to wait?

So as I sat down to eat my breakfast I started thinking about how we as a culture have become so impatient. Everything around us has been expediated, our food, travel, Internet, laundry, dishes, you name it, no one wants to wait for anything. Then the thought came, if we live in a microwave society, it is no wonder that we want our children to catch up to our drive-thru lives and get frustrated when they can't keep up?

I get asked all the time in my classes about how to train a baby to sleep through the night and become independent. I get it. We are a busy society and many of us need to work in order to eat. Although in Canada we have 1 year of Maternity leave, I know many mamas that have had to go back to work sooner just so they could keep a roof over their heads. There are so many books out there promising parents to be Babywise or how to have the Happiest baby on the block or that someone who claims to be the Baby Whisperer will solve all your problems.

The problem here is that babies don't know, and don't care that it is 2010. For all they know it could be 1180BC. Their needs have not changed one bit. They want to be breastfed, they want to be carried, they want to be responded to when they cry, they want to be with their mother when they sleep and they want to be attached, they are incapable of independence. They can't do anything for themselves. If they don't have these things, they go into distress and the essential bond that mother and baby have is put at risk. All of these "experts" have forgotten that children are not dogs you can train and are promising parents things they can't give. Because at the end of the day, babies don't want a 30 second mother, they want a love and bond that takes months and years of patience to solidify.

What we need in this backward culture of ours is not another book on how to have an independent baby who sleeps through the night in the $5000, 00 designer nursery. We need a culture that supports the mother/infant bond by making it possible for us to be able to slow down with our children and really be with them, even if that means a nap together at 11:00 in the morning. This is a huge topic and one that is dear to my heart....there is more to come.

Monday, January 11, 2010

this was not my best purchase

Ok, I'm not sure if maybe my children are railway challenged or if I have been sucked into the idea that this toy is what childhood is all about, but in my house it is a nightmare. I started buying a set for my son when he was 2. I was so excited for him to open the present only to find out that you need an engineering degree to put the tracks together in some kind of interesting configuration or at least to make them connect so that the trains don't drop off into a frustrating land called the floor.

Once you have that figured out, you then need to have reached a developmental milestone which gives you the dexterity to keep the train actually on the track. After many more hopeful gifts of this wooden railway and the blind faith that it would just take a bit of practice, not to mention the frustration and throwing of the wooden tracks, the trains found a home in a basket under the stairs.

Now my daughter, 2 1/2 is excited about them. She points at the basket (which in my mind is still thinking about what it has done) and says, "choo, choo? Me play choo choo?" So here I am today, in a time warp from 4 years ago helping the little one to put the tracks together only for her to end up in a puddle of tears because the trains don't stay on the tracks. She actually put herself face down, head in arms sobbing. A few minutes later she finally conceded and just brought 3 trains to the table and pushed them around. Watching her made me think how much I wished that I had just bought this train and not jumped on the bandwagon. Trouble is, I'm not going to go out and spend more money on any kind of train now since I have a perfectly good basket full of them right here.

Maybe one day they will grow into them....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

you never know where the road may take you....

Happy New Year everyone! I have a really good feeling about this year. 2010 just feels like a good number not to mention I turn35 this year and Beautiful Birth turns 5 (watch for upcoming events).

So to begin our New Year, we decided to go on an adventure and explore a new place in this beautiful valley of ours. Youbou. The name does not do this community justice. It is on the shores of Lake Cowichan and is absolutely beautiful. We found ourselves a little park by the lake and let the kids run off some post Christmas energy. Unfortunately, the rain clouds opened up and despite the muddy buddies, we were getting very wet and cold.

Just as I was about to haul the troops back to the car, a woman came up to me and we started chatting. She had two young children herself, but left them at home due to the weather. She told me about giving birth in our community as an immigrant (she was from India) and then invited us to her home for tea. Now, I don't normally go to strangers homes for tea, but it was such a sweet offer and we were all cold and wet so we couldn't say no.

This invitation reminded me of when I was 5 and my dad and I were on China Beach on a day very similar to this one. It was rainy and cold and very gray. I remember wanting to go home when a young woman came up to us and invited us back to her tent city (she was a hippie squatting with many others on the land). We went with her and I remember the smell of Chai tea and the blue light cast by the tarp. We sat there that day drinking our yogi tea with these people who to a 5 year old seemed like magic.

This past New Year's day proved to be no less interesting. While we went back to a home, not a squatters camp, our new friend made us Chai tea on this very cold west coast day. As we talked for the next couple of hours we would learn that she was a Tibetan refugee, born in a refugee camp on the boarder of India. Her mother was still there, unable to leave. When I asked her if she had ever been to Tibet (pictured above), she said no since she was on the Chinese government's wanted list. Turns out she spent many years working for His Holiness, the Dali Lama. Her work included being a nurse for Tibetan orphans whose parents had been killed by the Chinese government. She has spent her life traveling the world and somehow ended up in Youbou.

What an amazing start to the year. Discovering a beautiful little town on the edge of a lake surrounded by the mountains where a remarkably courageous woman lives with her two children and her husband. An incredible woman with an infectious smile, who invited us into her home on a rainy New Year's day to sip Chai tea and tell her story about being born a refugee and practicing the message of love in places where it would be impossible for most. It's always so interesting when you head out somewhere new, you just never know where it will take you.

I wish you a year full of love and many roads filled with adventures and maybe even a cup of Chai tea or two.