Saturday, October 29, 2011

walking in another's shoes

Such a happy day we had, she and I.

Her brother off on his jazz adventure today, his dad in tow.

leaving us to four days of Us, together.

Day One saw

she and I,

planning and designing the template for some wolf toys we'll be making out of felt tomorrow!

Which included looking up wolf images on the internet

which led to us

watching silly kitten videos on Youtube (as you do)

and making a little movie of our own, of our cat trying to crawl through a too small box. (Don't know if we'll end up putting it on Youtube, but it sure was funny)

Day One saw
she and I

eating lunch together in companionable silence because for a while there she went into a deep and thoughtful daydream about a book series she read and loved (The Wednesday Tales, if you'd like to know)

And then out we went walking the dog.

She and I
talking and laughing,
laughing and talking, and

then she made me laugh so hard I bent over

and she said so simply,

"I love hearing you laugh, Mum."

Then out we went in the afternoon

to buy felt for our toys and a new backpack and a fruit smoothie treat.

She and I shared a single smoothie—she passed it over to me time and time again without me asking,

which made my insides slip and my heart tilt.

Somewhere in the day, I think it was while walking across a field, there in that brisk wind, waiting for the old dog to catch up,

she said

so simply:

"I had a dream about them last night." (About our no-longer friends, you see)

I said, "How'd it go?"
and she said,

"It was my birthday and they were there. I was so happy we were friends again. They gave me a card and a toy paper dragon. Then… I woke up."

Ah, my beautiful girl.

And then it was dinner time,
and afterwards we snuggled up together on the couch, just

She and I.

Watching How to Train Your Dragon together, our knees touching and her spoon clinking against the bowl as she took tiny bite after tiny bite of mango sorbet. And the cat was on my lap and my girl kept leaning over to pat him, saying, "Oh!" and "Oh!" because he was so peaceful lying there and she loves him so much.

And then
it was bed-time. We two girls in our Just Us house, pottering about amiably upstairs.

Lights out, and I had my arm wrapped around her. We lay dreamily talking of the toys we would make tomorrow, and

then she said

so simply:

"Now I've got no-one to show my toys to."


My beautiful girl.

we began to talk.

Of the friends she still had, the ones she could still show things to. Of the good she still had. But we talked more of loss.

Because that's what she was feeling biggest, there in the rising dark. Hurt and confusion and sorrow. Out it spilled into that dim-lit room, as the cat licked himself on the spare bed, his leg lifted into the air like a furry dancer.

We talked for over an hour. As she spoke it hit me how old my girl was becoming. How here in this moment she was growing. Her voice was clear and calm; she asked if we could write them a letter. So we did—I went down and got the computer and she dictated. A whole page of feeling. A page saying, "Please, could you explain? Because I don't understand."

Afterwards she said, "Put a smiley face in there, Mum. So it doesn't seem mean."

We didn't send it straight away. We talked more.

We found ourselves talking about what could be the issues, trying to figure it out for ourselves. We talked about what part we might have played.

And as we talked, we walked into a sense of understanding.

We put ourselves completely in the shoes of our once-friends. We imagined ourselves walking where these friends might have walked; we imagined their path and how they might have felt. We imagined what might have made them come here, to this place that no longer had us in it. We imagined why they might have needed room and time away from us.

We saw it as though—for a moment—we were them.

And suddenly my girl said,

"Oh, Mum, I think I know what it is. I understand now! I don't want to send the letter any more. I want to give them space, Mum. We should give them space."

"And love," said I.

"Yes, let's send them love. Space and love. That's what we'll do."

And then she said

so simply,

"It's time to go to sleep."

So I kissed her and left her

with the cat looped like a spiral on the spare bed

with the night-light glowing green

with the fan on

and with her

at peace.


My beautiful, beautiful girl.


(Tomorrow, I'll take photos of us making our wolves. I can't wait to share them here with you. And thank you so much for your comments and kind wishes. Thank you so much for the love.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

dear friends

I want to share a story with you.

Once upon a time there was a woman who was once a girl. From almost the time she began to remember things, she


She felt the strangeness and wonder of new countries, one after another after another.

She felt the newness and isolation of going to 8 different schools, each time needing to make new friends, each time feeling so very different from the people around her.

She felt the confusion and fear that came from a home life that was often unstable.

She felt the slippery path of panic when she thought about life, the meaning of, the inevitability of death.

She was 8 when she began to have anxiety issues. She was 13 when a family friend said, "You are too sensitive. Don't be." She was perhaps 15 when she thought, "I wish you could freeze time. Just stop this, this being. Take time to get your bearings, then wake again." She was a child when life sometimes seemed impossibly big and impossibly hard.

But she kept on.

She lived. And had some extraordinary adventures and made many mistakes.

She grew up and met an incredible man and had two beautiful children. She felt everything for them so big and sometimes so hard, that now and then she was nearly swallowed by feeling. She wobbled, she stumbled, but still she kept on.

In all this, nothing changed in how deeply she


To this day, to this moment here and now, nothing has changed in how deeply she


Which means this woman, the once child, is constantly heart-open and sensitive and sometimes laid bare with feeling.

It means that she has,

—that I have—

thought, "How do I live in a world so filled with things that hurt? Everywhere I look, there is suffering. The hardest to bear is the suffering caused by human choice. In the the treatment of children, of adults in crisis, in the treatment of animals, in the treatment of the land and the sea and the sky."

How does she

how do I

go on?


I suppose it is with

tiny steps.

Tiny step

by tiny step.

And sometimes actually, by bigger steps. Sometimes skipping. Sometimes holding the hands of loved ones. Sometimes leaving footprints in the sand as waves roar beside. Sometimes with the wind at her back, driving her on, sometimes running with her arms out, dreaming of flight.

And sometimes, you make decisions that make the steps feel light, and sweet and fine.

Sometimes you make choices that put you on a path away from suffering. You choose the path that doesn't cause or bring hurt.

Those steps are beautiful.

Those are the steps that make me want to write my Vegie Wednesday posts.

Those are the steps that make us search for vegan cheese, and adapt to putting oat milk on our cereal. Those steps bring us to polenta and bean mix for dinner, and insanely delicious lentil burgers.

And there are other steps too.

When my kids see me donating to charities and organisations like Oxfam, Greenpeace and Medicines Sans Frontiers, they see me making choices that can help ease pain.

When my kids see my husband rescuing the enormous (enormous!) huntsman spider from a bedroom and releasing it into the garden, they see someone mindfully choosing a path away from suffering.

Those steps are

filled with light.

But you know, we aren't perfect.

Sometimes we mess up. Even if we don't mean to. Even if it's the last thing we ever want to do, we hurt others.

Sometimes the choices we make don't prevent suffering; they actually cause it.

Here, right now, is the path where I am walking.

Two days ago a friend, whose family we love, and have treasured being around, told me they no longer want to continue our friendship. It had been coming for a while, with them gradually slipping away. I didn't understand why—I was simply asked for space and gave it. So it's been a confusing and difficult time for me and a strange time for my kids. When the decision came, so very finally on Monday, it was devastating.

The reason? I guess it could be summed up as, "It's not me, it's you. More to the point, it's your children."

As a mother (as any mother knows), hearing criticism of your kids can be incredibly painful. But the issues raised were issues I believed we had resolved. When they came up a long time ago, I had spoken with my kids. They had listened, and agreed to change what they felt they could or should change. And then they (we) thought the issues resolved, let go.

I remember at the time thinking, "Ah, this is a bit tricky." I thought, "I guess this is the sticky stuff that life and interactions with other human beings brings you into. But the love gets you through, right? You ride it out, right? The hard stuff. Because at the core," I thought, "there is love." So perhaps I didn't work hard enough to sort it all out. I didn't realise that what seemed simply sticky to me, and would pass, was actually impassable for them. I made a mistake. I am so sad, so sorry about that.

My kids are not malicious kids; they are as sensitive as me and love as big and deep as I do. They would never have intentionally hurt their friends. But it seems they did hurt them. And I did. We did. And it wasn't mended in time, and now it's too late. Now, my kids are baffled and sad. As for me? Well, I am broken-hearted.



I wrote a post about this on Monday, and then deleted it. It felt too raw then. It feels too raw now.  Thank you to Jessica and to Deb for the comments you left. Did you wonder where your words went? They were incredibly kind and supportive, and I am so grateful to you for them. I can put them back in the comments below, if you want? Just let me know.

And dear friends, I hope it's okay if I write about Vegie Wednesday on another day? I can call it, "Vegie Wednesday on a Friday" or something clever and inspiring like that. I'll be sharing my recipe for lentil burgers and writing about a book I read. I do hope you come by. It would be so lovely to have you here.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

I raise my glass…

to our slower days!

Our taking time out and off days,

our finding balance days;

our days of not doing everything, and doing everything 

at the exact same time!

Because you know what happens, don't you, when you make room? 

Well, 'Everything' springs out…it can't help itself.

All the art and projects and music and ideas and reading that we were trying to find time for, that we were squeezing into our spare spaces… 

there's room for them now.

Time has opened up, laid itself out like a rug,

and we have sprawled over it blissfully, like cats in the sun. 

So there was time last week… 

For one man to celebrate his birthday

and for us to give him banana fritters for breakfast 
and give him our goodies, all wrapped up
and to walk on the beach with him 
and take him out to dinner in his new shirt and tie.

It was a glorious day (for all of us! And it makes me wonder, with all the joy this man brings every single day, whose birthday was it really?)

Happy Birthday, mr beautiful. I love you.

 doesn't he look handsome in his new shirt?

2. There was time…

For a girl to be given an early birthday present from her Nana last Sunday

to go see Mary Poppins! 

In a gorgeous theatre in Sydney,

with two dear friends and a brother and a mum and a dad and a Nana and an aunt!

Plus we had divine Thai food in a restaurant before the show. 
It had this wood carving on the wall, which was carved out of a single piece of wood. Wow. (That's a lot of elephants in the room)

And there was mango sorbet for dessert after the show
and we caught the train there and back 
(which was so. much. fun)

Oh there was such joy bursting out! Three girls and one boy were laughing so hard sometimes they had to call time out on the jokes 
just to breathe.

This was the Best-est Ever Day I was talking about last Monday. It was the kind of day you keep close; you take photos of it, inside your mind, all day. The kind of day you don't ever forget. 

Thank you so much, Nana. I feel so incredibly lucky, having you as my mom and as the Nana to my kids. 

My cup runneth over. 

3. And there was time for…

Joining a food co-op!

How fun it was, to browse inside this tiny store, getting to know how it worked, meeting the people working and shopping there. While my boy did his music lessons, my girl and I scooped gluten free pasta into brown bags, filled jars with pistachios, baker's yeast, and organic popcorn, and we smiled at the babies. 

I have never really been a whole food/bulk food kind of person before (didn't know where to look, how to start, how to move into a food world of organic, whole and simply good). Now it just makes sense to go that direction. 

A new path will do that to you—have you noticed that? You decide one thing, then all these interesting opportunities, contacts, friendships and discoveries open up right in front of you, because this new path and you are a Fit. In this and SO many other ways, this journey is just like our homeschool one. (And how that makes me smile!)

4. There was time
to hunt for vegan cheese… 

and we found it! Scrumptious pizzas on Monday night. Hooray!

(Pizza should get its own star in Hollywood. Don't you think?
Or be awarded the Nobel prize for Awesomeness. Really)

5. And there was time 

to go to the library,

and come home with bags full of beautiful books.


Awesome books that my kids have been poring over for days. 


And I truly believe libraries are some of the most magical places on Earth. You step in and come out different every time. At least, with different exciting possibilities, whole new worlds in your arms. I can't think of anything better. 

6. And there was time 

to write for days and days and days and days and days and days and days!

My girl is over 2,000 words into a chapter book she's writing on the computer. She's typing it all herself! She does it first thing in the morning, often straight after breakfast, at all times through the day, and sometimes at night instead of reading. She is a word girl on fire. 

And it's a great story—we're loving each instalment. Today we talked about illustration, and she and I started doodling the characters. That turned into her sitting at the table, drawing page after page of characters and scenes from her story. She had such a big smile on her face.

My boy is working on a longer piece too. It's set in this ancient, mythical land and is really complicated. It has him translating English into Spanish and Latin, and juggling a whole bunch of different characters. I've been talking to him about editing recently, about how to use dialogue to create scene, and how fun it can be to pare down a section to its finest bits. He's completely interested—loves getting feedback, just like his sister.

I feel so inspired around them both. It's so great talking to them about their stories. I feel like we are three writers, all of us driven, all of us excited, all of us equals.

7. There was time too,

for a visit to a Buddhist temple with a friend

which was delicious

and peaceful 

and just plain fun.

Are you full yet? 'Cause I'm not done!


8. There was time 

for a boy to create a piece of music, a jazz piece, and play it for his dad.
Who then wrote it out on manuscript paper
and then they worked on it together and wrote it out on Sybellius (a music software program) and together they edited it. 

The plan is to arrange it for my son's combo, and perform it at the end of Term. Kind of awesome, I think. We've been singing this song for days!

9. There was time for 

a boy and a girl to go to art class, where they sketched copies of portraits by other artists.

A girl was happy with what she did (and doesn't want me to post it here. She's pretty private that way)

And a boy took his sketch and artist's copy home 
to continue working on it, and working on it, and working on it.

A boy in his Element (at least, in one of his Elements!): 


There was also time for a girl to go to a birthday party
for a whole family to go another birthday party straight after the first birthday party!

I tell you—we are social animals :) 


Of course, there was time for a bike ride. 


Enough said. (I was too busy zipping along in the sunshine with the kids careening in front and behind, all of us exploring, talking, laughing, to take photos!) 

 And finally…? 

(Yes, I'm stopping after this!)


There was time for a boy to rehearse with his Latin Jazz Ensemble, which he just loves.

This coming Friday, the Ensemble are off to perform at a National Jazz Festival. Their band director is none other than mr. beautiful! In one of their songs, my boy will be solo-ing on timbales. Boy, is he excited. 

My girl and I aren't going, because two days of driving and two days of concerts just aren't my daughter's thing. (Not yet, anyway) 

So the boys are off on A Grand Adventure,

and my sweet girl and I will find, you know, a few fun things to do ourselves. :)

(We are actually off to this festival on Sunday. We can't wait. Another train ride up to Sydney. Lots of yummy food! Not that I'm ever driven by my tummy. No no, not at all)


We're all of us so excited. 

For the future, and for now. 

For our fine adventures—

the ones we take on together, and the ones we do alone—

and for 

having time to savour them. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vegie Wednesdays… a Beginning

What I would like, is to have each of you here right now. All of us in a room together, just smiling at each other. Beaming ridiculously, grins bursting out. Because that's how I feel in this moment. Heart full of gratitude, wanting to see your smiles and to share mine with you.

Thank you for your support. Thank you so much.

But seeing as you aren't here, in this room with me this moment (and why did that wish not work? I closed my eyes and everything!), I will send my smiles and overflowing heart out into the air and into the ether. I will send energy and light and love on the four winds.

I hope they find you. And find you well.

So, onto business! :)

This is the beginning of a new idea I have.

Because we are going through a fairly life-changing, soul-changing, mind-changing journey here, it's tempting to write about it all the time. You know how it is? Like when you've read a book or a film you wish everyone could see. Or you've had an adventure and you want to show all the pictures? You want to sit everyone down to your slide show, share with them the smells, the sights, the sounds, the tastes. You want to sit and talk for hours about how you feel and how the adventure has changed you.

But maybe not everyone wants to hear about the journey, or maybe they're tired. Maybe they want to hear a little, then go to bed, or, you know, do their laundry? Maybe people want to hear about the other parts of your life, outside the Voyage that Made Everything Different. Maybe they want to know about your days, the walk you had on the beach, a moment with your kids that made you smile.

It's about balance, I suppose. And though we're leaning far and fully into our New Path, I understand it's good to look around. Notice the other stuff. Write about the other Stuff. It's important.

With that in mind,

I'm thinking that I'll write about our Vegie Adventures on Wednesdays.

I'll write about the things we've learned, the books we've read. I'll write about the hard stuff and the good stuff—stuff that involves delicious recipes, and tales of hunting for vegan cheese. I'll write about how we're feeling and coping with a diet that is so different and new for us (but becoming more normal, every day). I'll post links to things I care about and to information, to resources, articles and books, and to organisations I believe are making a difference. Some of my words might feel heavy. I'm hoping most of my words will bring light, along with new ideas and a simple view into how a family can live this journey. I want it to be a space where Real and True can sit alongside Hope and Respect and Love.

All this?


On a single day labeled "Vegie Wednesdays"?

Yes, I say!

I mean, there's R U Ok day, and there's Daffodil Day and there's Talk Like a Pirate Day. Look at the difference those single days have made.

And they have. In the best possible ways.

I hope I can make some kind of difference too. This issue matters, so much, to me.

(The issue being, in the broadest biggest sense, the respectful, humane treatment of all living creatures on this earth. In the smallest sense, finding ways to eat that don't cause suffering to others).

So I know my day doesn't have quite the ring of those days, or the reach.
(And I know the name isn't so crash hot, but I can't think of a better one right now! Suggestions?)

But, and this is what matters really,
it's a start.

It's something, which (I've heard and so they say),

is always more than nothing.

So I'm launching this Day officially, right now. Cue the champagne bottle on a string! Cue the orchestra (or should it just be a drum roll?). Cue the marching band and the release of the doves! Cue the scissors and the ribbon.

Smash! Bang! Parrump! Flap! Snip!

There. That's done.

And now I'm off to make pancakes with oat milk and fresh laid eggs from our chickens,

who are
this minute,

pa-cark!ing loudly outside as they search for grubs in the grass.

(and if you can't or don't have eggs, here's a recipe (my first Vegie Wednesdays link!) to some vegan pancakes. You could totally use nut, oat or rice milk in place of the soy. I haven't tried this recipe, but I should, don't you think?)

Soon, my girl and her sleepover friend will wake and come sleepily down the stairs. My boy will be tousle-haired and have his black pants on as always. My kids will smile and come, as they always do, for morning cuddles.

The dog will roll on his back some time today,
and wag his tale in the delicious sunlight.

We'll go to buy my son's new Scout shirt and eat a yummy vegan lunch at the Buddhist temple for a treat.

Music will get played.
And stories will be told.

Toys will have silly voices given to them and they'll have adventures. And a whole lot of laughing will happen. I know it.

It's going to be a beautiful day.


Next week: I'm going to write a review of the book I just read. It's called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. It was extraordinary and painful, enlightening and heartfelt. Which is kind of like life at its purest, isn't it?


Monday, October 17, 2011

building happiness

Hey, guess what: I have now have another thing to add to my list of

Top Favourite Physical Sensations.

It'll go there on the shelf with

drying my face with a towel after a shower. (Bliss)

taking off my socks in bed when my feet have finally warmed up (Yay)

getting into bed when the sheets have just been changed. (Utterly Delectable)

wrapping my fingers around a cup of tea. (Mmm)

the moment of sitting down on the couch, with that same cup of tea, just after the kids have snuggled up to sleep. (Tranquility)

taking off my shoes and socks at the beach, and scrunching my toes in the sand
(especially when it's Spring and you've been in socks and shoes on the beach all winter, and finally, finally, it's warm enough to take them off!) (Yum)

the shiver of cold on my toes when I walk into a wave. (Ah. Like the tingle I get when I taste a rare fizzy soft drink and my brain goes Weeeee. Oh, that should be on the list too. There you go, fine moment, get settled in.)

Ah. It's a great list, isn't it?

So what could possibly be fine enough to add to a list as scrumptious as this?

Well, it's this:

putting on your jammies and slippers after a full day of adventure with your family, when your body is tired but so happy, when you're brim-ful of Best Day Ever-itis.

Oh, the feeling of soft fabric, the warmth of your slippers and socks, the sigh as your body settles in. (SO! SNUGGLY!)

I will write about the day we had very soon. It was truly a wonderful day (in fact it was a whole weekend of lovely) but for now, I'll let the list be.

So it can look at itself and feel kind of pleased, kind of proud, kind of special

for being the

Only Thing That Helena Writes About, For Once! (Because You Know How She Can Go On)


I hope you are all having a beautiful day! We sure are.

(How could we not? A whole day at home. Practice, Maths, new islands on Poptropica. Going on a mission to find vegan cheese! Cancelling band to read library books on the couch. Peace. Space. Beauty.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thank you! Plus: Saying Yes to No.

I am incredibly grateful for the beautiful comments I've received on my last two posts (and received as emails and on facebook too). I have loved reading your personal stories. I've felt so connected, supported, heard. That means so much to me. I wish I could come to each of your houses and give you a huge hug.

You know what's been the coolest? That no-one travels the same path, and yet, we are having this conversation; you are telling me of your own choices and supporting mine. That's kind of a lot awesome, I think.

Life here has been so full.

I'm pleased to tell you our bodies have adjusted to our dairy-withdrawal. We are eating so well, making sure to have lots of healthy snacks to avoid the Insatiable Hungries. We are full of energy and feeling great. The food has been awesome!

Here's some of what's been going into our tummies so far:

Pear porridge made with organic oats and oat milk. Yum!
Pumpkin soup with gluten free garlic bread. Delish.
Pasta primavera with red lentils on gluten free pasta (stirred through with a dash of oil and teensy sprinkle of salt, where once I put in butter and parmesan). Oh, divine.
Pad Thai with home-laid eggs and fresh-squeezed lemon. Swoon!
Fresh gluten free bread with kidney-bean and vegie spread, topped with home-made guacamole. My favourite.
Rice cooked in vege stock with slices of tofu (GMO free). My daughter's favourite.
And Nachos, real nachos without cheese, just lots of bean mix, guacamole, and the chips all crunchy from the oven. Mmm, my son's favourite.

Sound good? It is good. It all feels good to eat. I'm feeling healthy and my hungry tummy is always satisfied. No more cheese cravings! Not a single one.

This food journey is getting betterer and betterer. I'm so glad we are on it.

Now for the down side

(which, thankfully, is now looking up. Such a blessing).

I hit an emotional wall last week.

Perhaps it was the physical challenge of the changes in our diet,

perhaps it was the emotional challenge of the sad/difficult learning I've been doing,

perhaps it was the time challenge of having so many things on our schedule (recently made fuller with Lego League),

but suddenly the Busy was too much.

It took me down.

It grabbed and pinned me. It left me unable to sleep, unable to get out of bed, weeping at the drop of a hat (and all other moments too). It left me standing in my kitchen on Wednesday—while the kids read upstairs—crying so hard I couldn't cook dinner. Instead I wept into the tea towels and thought, So this is it.  I am so overwhelmed and anxious, I can't even cook a meal. Please someone come and take me somewhere quiet, with only walls or trees for company. Please make the Busy stop.

I thought of calling my husband home from work. I thought of calling a neighbour. I thought, But how do I explain this? This heaviness, this sorrow, this sudden, complete loss of hope? I can't even speak.

I stood with my phone in my hand. I wept until I didn't. And then, I picked up the kitchen knife and finished cutting the broccoli.

Over dinner, with my kids and I sitting there, I said to my children: We have to give something up. I'm not coping at all. And I began to cry again. Not a wild wailing, but that simple leaking you do when you're just too tired or laden to hold tears in.

My children stopped eating. My girl came and sat on my lap. My boy stood and patted my shoulder. He said, All right, Mum. We'll stop something.

I said, I think we have to stop Lego League.
Okay, said my son. We'll drop it.
(My girl had already dropped it last week, saying she just wanted space and quiet and time at home. She is so perceptive about her needs. Kind of inspiring).

Could it be that simple? That I could talk to my son and daughter and they'd take one arm each and ease me out of my Stuck and my Hopeless and my Lost?

Could it be so simple as them saying, "What will make you feel better, Mum?
And me saying, "Space, and bike riding."
And them saying, "That's what we'll do then."

For that to be

the beginning of better?

Yes, it could be.

I spoke to the Lego League coach and his wife (who have become such good friends), and they completely understood. His wife is a beautiful person; she listened to me as I talked and cried. She said supportive, understanding, endlessly kind things. (Thank you, so much, dear friend, for that and all your other kindnesses. I am so grateful).

I then wrote an email to my homeschool writers workshop group and said I'd be running it every second week, instead of every week. Because, I said simply, I need to be less busy.

And then I decided that some days we would always keep free. They would be precious at-home days. Not to touch. Just for us (and bike riding).

And I decided that, as much as possible, we wouldn't commit to doing anything before 12. So that every single morning could be spent at home.

Which sounds like a lot of Nos, doesn't it?

But this didn't feel No-like. It didn't feel negative. It felt lighter, better. Like a load lifting.

And then came a surprise Yes, inside all the Nos.

My son enjoyed Lego League and didn't want to drop it. But he has wanted to do Scouts now for almost a year. He couldn't because we were too busy. Turned out, the things he most loved about Lego League were the things the Scouts do (like physical challenges, adventures, doing something as a team, being part of something, and doing something independently from his (sometimes weepy) family).

So he joined Scouts last night.

Another thing on the schedule?! Yes, but here's the difference. It's something I don't need to carry.

My son wasn't overwhelmed by the busy—I was.

My husband can take him to his Scout meetings and pick him up. I don't need to be responsible or help the way I was with Lego League.

So I get space to breathe,
and a need and want is filled for my boy. This is (and will always be) known as a Win-Win, Smile-Smile! It's Happy squared.

Now imagine me looking around inside this new space, looking left, right and up, my neck craned.
"So…" imagine me saying. "No looks like this, huh?"

It looks kind of a lot like Yes.

Like the simple Yes of

Claiming Space.

The space
that gave us time yesterday morning

to practice music, and for my girl and I to do fun maths on the computer, and for me to sit with my son as he completed a chapter in his maths book, and for my son to do some work on his Space Journal (which he has decided he wants to finish) and for my girl to write a story.

And time after lunch

to ride our bikes along the track by the beach, with homeschooling friends, to the park where homeschool group was meeting. It was so sunny and so fine, with the wind in our hair, the path whizzing underneath our wheels. (And have I ever mentioned that exercise, for me, stops depression in its tracks? It's better than any other treatment I've ever experienced. It's my life-line.)

And time for a popcorn top-up, to get a girl through piano lessons,

and to keep the kids going at art class. Where the kids created portraits out of different materials—foam, fabric and string. They learned about print-making, and in the coming weeks will use their portraits to make prints. Ah, they loved it.

And last night, as my boy began his Scouting adventure,

my girl and I sat at the dining table making clay animals.

We sat and made a dragon and a fox. It was so much fun. We talked; we laughed. We had peace and space and time—all the things we wanted.

My son came home from Scouts just full to the brim with happiness and contentment. They'd built scout chariots, and spent the night running around outside. He'd hung out with old friends and met new people too. He was so pleased, so excited about the coming term events (Camping! Something wild called a Wide Game! More knot tying! Swimming! Catamaran Night Sailing! Wow.)

And it all felt so good.

I felt hopeful.

And the good I'd been feeling on our new Vegan path

joined with the good of Claiming Space

and Better


Monday, October 10, 2011

new world

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but

I love to learn new stuff.

I'm sure you couldn't guess from, oh, the title of this blog, or the things I talk about. Like our homeschool discoveries, our freedom experiment, our journey into life learning, and choosing a life of As-Much-Yes-As-We-Can-Stand. In fact I'm sure my announcement comes as a complete surprise!

now you know. :)

So it has come as quite a shock to find that our New Adventure Into Veganism

hasn't been 100% fun.

Since starting homeschooling, I've come to find—to my delight—that learning on our own terms, almost always brings joy. So I'd come to think learning would always do that. Bring joy. Lift us up, fill us, bring us light.

So I wasn't expecting this new journey to feel so hard. Or for my body to take so much time to adjust, in every way.

It's had to adjust to learning challenging, difficult things,
to not eating things it had come to love,
and to be occupied for days with things Serious and Life Changing.

I've never been great at the Sad/Serious Stuff. I take it so much to heart; I take it on board. I sometimes let it collapse me. This time has been no different.

And yesterday, as strong as my resolve has been,

I felt close to caving.

We went out for the afternoon to buy some goodies from the appliance store, and

we got SO hungry! We forgot to bring snacks, so we drove home, tummies rumbling, and we still had to get some vegan-y stuff at the shops. Which involved going down the dairy aisle to see what sort of tofu and soy yoghurt we could find (that had no GMOs, was not overly processed, etc), and


We saw the cheese.

The cheese! Glowing there, the cambembert, feta, cheddar, ricotta.

Calling their sweet siren calls. They looked just gorgeous there, on the shelves.

And Oh!
The Instant Pining! 
The Terrible Longing! 
Hungry now more than ever! 

In a way it was kind of funny, our drive home from the supermarket (having resisted, just). All my son and I could talk about was cheese.

We simply could not stop talking about cheese.

What cheese we'd eat. How much cheese we'd eat. How we'd never stop eating the cheese if only, if only, we ate cheese. It was pitiful!

(My daughter and husband were strong. Somehow (perhaps they'd had tofu stuck in their ears?) they hadn't heard the Song of the Feta, the dulcet tones of the Edam, the Call of the Brie…they made it through the dairy aisle hungry but unscathed—they were the lucky ones!)

So what did we do when we got home?

After we crawled in, sand in our mouths, there on our hands and knees, just about to crack, hungry to our very depths…?

Well, we ate, of course.

We ate fresh-made, still warm, gluten free bread I'd baked before going out,

with delicious dairy-free spread and organic apricot jam.

I made a fruit platter of pear and apple and orange and strawberries and we discovered that a strawberry eaten together with a pink-lady apple is seriously divine.

We gobbled up pistachios

and then I made air-popped popcorn in our new, just bought, handy-dandy air-popping-popcorn maker!

It was all so scrumptious. Utterly filling.

Slowly we uncurled. Slowly we unclenched, and slowly we returned to our Selves.

And we looked about in this new world

and we called it


And today

my son and I hardly thought about cheese at all!


(having read this over, I can hear people out there saying, "Dude. Why didn't you just eat the dang cheese?" Well, we've decided we don't want to. It's complicated. We don't want to eat anything that's connected in any way to the suffering and/or eating of animals. And even in the most humane circumstances, dairy food is connected. So that's us, what we've chosen for ourselves, and that means we aren't eating the (lovely) cheese.

I found a recipe yesterday though, where you can make your own. How exciting! You just need agar agar powder, and nutritional yeast, and the feather of a gryphon and the eyelash of a fairy… It'll be a piece of cake to make. Now, where's my chef's hat?)

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Oh, it's been so quiet here, hasn't it?

We have been making some really big changes in our lives, and I've had a lot of thoughts in my head (let's imagine the hamsters on the wheel going super super fast! Extra hamsters coming in to carry the load. Extra wheels. A whole fairground of scampering, whizzing thoughts. It's crazy in here right now)

but I haven't known how to write about them.

Because our changes are making people say, "Why?" and sometimes, "Really?" or, "That's hard to hear." I think perhaps I'm making others feel uncomfortable.

So I've gotten blocked when it comes to writing here. I've worried that maybe writing about our changes might make people feel sad or irked or lectured to. It might seem I'm saying, "This way of living is the only way." Or, "What you're doing is wrong."

But then I think, I need to talk about it. And let other people make of it what they will. All I can do is write who I am and my own truth.

Isn't that the point of all this, after all?

Anyway, here's the thing:

we've decided to go almost-all-the-way vegan.

Other than the eggs our sweet chickens provide for us during the day while they roam our garden, we won't be eating any other animal products. When we're home or when we're out.

We've already been vegetarian for a year and a half, but now we're cutting out the other stuff. Which means we are now

meat free
eggs (other than from our chooks) free
dairy free
and because of our tummies,
wheat free too.

It's the combination of all these limits and things-we-can't-eat that have made some people say:
"But how will you survive?" and
"Oh! No icecream! No lasagne! No ricotta pancakes!"

And everyone has asked,

So, after saying, "Actually, we've been eating well!" and
"Actually, we can eat all those things, just without the dairy":),

I have said Why.
And it's tough going.

Because our Why comes from some recent hard learning,
not just by me, but by my husband too,
and then shared (very carefully) with our children.

Really hard learning about factory farming
(also called "industrial farm animal production").

About the impact intensive farming has,
not just on animals, but on our health too,
and on the environment.

It's big stuff, and if you throw in watching video footage of animals in factory farms, it's devastating.

After you've learned about it, it's hard to think about anything else. And it's big enough stuff that independent research groups, the UN, non-vegetariansjournalists and non-activists, are getting in on it, saying:
"Hey! This isn't working! Not just for animals, but for humans too—for the whole planet, in fact. This is not sustainable, this is not ethical, and this is not healthy."

I've never, ever, pushed our vegetarianism before. Even though our choice was based on ethics, it was deeply personal. I didn't talk about it. Almost no-one questioned it.

But now, just like when we started homeschooling, we're being asked, "Why?"

I get that. People want to know. They are curious.

And I suppose just like when we started homeschooling, I could say, "It's a personal choice. We think it's best for us," or somesuch. After all, when we started homeschooling I mostly said, "My daughter was unhappy at school. We pulled her out. She got happy. My son asked to join us. Now we are all very happy."

I never said, "We're homeschooling because the education system doesn't work for everyone. Because teachers are underfunded and overworked, because schools work to a formula that can't cater to the individual, because there's barely any room for creative learning and independent thinking, because it's a broken model that can limit and damage children's sense of worth, desire to learn, and future life."

Yeah, I kept that all to myself. :) I simply mostly said, "This way fits us better."

So I could be saying that about this choice too.

Why aren't I? Why, when I open my mouth to reply to the questions,
do these measured words come out, words people find hard and don't necessarily want to hear?

Because once you take your perfectly content vegetarian self to a lecture
that makes the argument against eating animals bigger than you ever imagined,

and you then look up factory farming (and "industrial farm animal production") ,

and spend days and days researching it (the cons and the pros),

and you find overwhelming evidence to say This Isn't Working,


you see the scale of suffering animals go through
to mass produce and feed people something they don't need to eat so much of (or at all),

you just can't say, "Oh, it doesn't fit us."

You (or at least I) say, This is Why.

This week I've discovered that learning can hurt your heart.
Some learning carries Hard on its back.

And if you talk about what you've learned, you have to be careful. You want to avoid becoming so bent on your own mission, so fixed on the answer that fits you, that you can't see the myriad options in between All and Nothing. I don't want to ever do that. And I never want to make people feel bad for the choices they make.

But there are things I believe, and hold dear.

For one, I believe you should live your life like you mean it. Don't hold back just because something is hard.

Two. I believe you should live your truth. Seek it, follow your heart and your gut.

Three. I believe you shouldn't beat people about the head with your life or your truth, but (especially if people ask), you should be free to speak it.

Four. You should remember to speak that truth with kindness, with compassion, with as much knowledge as you can gather, and most importantly, with the understanding that everyone has a different path, a different way of seeing, their own learning to do and choices to make.

Five. I believe in treating all living things with respect and with compassion.

Oh, I believe that last one so big. Bigger and brighter than ever before.

So. This is my truth. Our journey. Shared here—with love and hope!—in this space.

I know once we get used to this new path, the nerves will settle.

That we'll feel joy and steadiness, 

the calm that comes from knowing we are doing something that truly fits.


We're eating really well, you might like to know! Really yummy stews and soups and thai food and pasta. Oat milk is delicious in pear porridge! Not only that, I realised we were eating cheese with almost every lunch and dinner—now we're not. I'm sure that's better for us. My husband, this very minute, is working on a cheese-less pizza. We've tried batch one, and now he's working on idea #2. He's gorgeous, pottering about in the kitchen :)


Here are some more links, if you feel like checking them out…

Animals Australia

Interview with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals)

Report by Pew Charitable Trusts "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America"