Wednesday, 25 March 2015


So I have not been here for quite some time. In fact much has happened. We have just celebrated the little ladies fifth birthday, we are about to celebrate little lady number 2's third birthday and I am expecting our third baby in less than 2 months!!!
The little lady is really a lady now. And knows her own mind, especially when it came to organising her fifth birthday party. The theme had to be butterflies and it had to be celebrated in beautiful Fota gardens on a cold Saturday in March. We have wonderfully brave friends that will come outdoors and play with us in early spring.
Fota gardens is so beautiful and special to us. We celebrated our marriage here and the little lady celebrated her Fairy Fourth birthday among the ferns in the Fota. If you're around Cork Fota is a beautiful place to visit for a stroll, especially in Spring time when the Magnolia trees and wild roses are in bloom. When the potential of nature is in bud and getting ready for the full bloom of summer.

I couldn't find butterfly nets anywhere so I decided to make them. So simple to do and all you need is a whole load of masking tape, a wire clothes hanger, some netting (we cut up some net curtains) and a stick (I used bamboo).
Then all you need to do is open out the hanger and bend it into a rough circle shape. I straightened out the hook piece so I could tape that part onto the stick, once the netting was taped on. Cut the netting into a square and tape the edges around the wire hanger.  I used a lot of making tape so any rough edges were covered fully and it was nice and secure.

We had so much fun with these nets, catching crepe paper butterflies, bubbles and even little leaves floating gin the lake. I wish I'd more photos but we were having too much fun!!

I made a banana muffin caterpillar cake, as requested by the little lady, you can find the recipe here.

Well since my last post here over four years ago, my life has completely changed: from the philosophical musings of a first time mum filled with the wonder of new life to the real practicalities of running around to the orders of 2 little ladies that have their very own and very distinct characters. I certainly feel like a parent that is constantly evolving.

I do hope to keep up this blog so do stay tuned for not only my musings on connecting with life as a mother but also crafts and antics that I and the little ladies get up to.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

How Summer Storm Clouds Can Transform to Clouds of Light

The world insists on achievement and progress
and it is full of enmity and strife.
Can you see all this and still help your children
maintain their trust, hope and peace?

Can you accept the world as it is,
yet live according to a different standard?
Can you let your children see
a way of living
that transforms,
and loves?
                           - William Martin, The Parent's Tao Te Ching

I haven't been present in cyberspace at all lately (if one can be present online, my constant battle!). Summertime is full of distractions and the heavy clouds of our Irish summer have been weighing on my shoulders. I haven't been able to see past the everyday strife of life. Flopping exhausted on the couch as soon as the little lady was in bed. Frustrated, I questioned my tired mind about why I need to do things differently to everyone else. Why is Montessori so important to me? Why can't I just accept the norm and follow it?

Then one evening I felt enough energy to power up my laptop once again and I surfed my way over to this blog, an inspiring home schooling mum, where she reviewed The Parent's Tao Te Ching. Need less to say I bought the book (I'm a bit of a bookaholic). So full of inspiring paragraphs, a great resource to have in your bag in order to keep you connected to the moment.

Can you accept the world as it is? Accepting what is. That is the key. Sometimes I'm just tired, sometimes the "little lady" needs to scream and drive me mad, sometimes it needs to rain and be as dark as night all day, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed as a mother. It is to understand and accept that these are only moments that pass, like the wind that blows the clouds across the sky, time moves on and everything changes. I need to be gentle with myself in these moments and to accept the world as it is, that does not mean I've to prescribe to it. It's amazing though how self-doubt can take me over.

I also find these moments echoed in the little lady. Her frustrations of understanding everything but not being able to express herself with words. I get caught up in her frustrations and begin to think she'll never be able to speak. I remember it was the same when she began to crawl and then walk. They're so brave the way they steam ahead accomplishing one thing after the next without taking a break! It's hard to keep up! 

But I am learning to let the little lady's frustrations just be what they are with an awareness that she will explode into the next stage of development. And that she too is learning that as laughter and joy are a part of life so too are anger and frustration. That she can connect with this and accept it and that is what transforms the storm clouds into clouds of light. I need to lead by example that beauty is in the moment. 

They look so small and frail
but they are so great and magnificent.
They are born of the same womb
that birthed the cosmos
and knitted together the galaxies.

If you could see them as they truly are,
you would be astounded.
You would see not little children,
but dancing clouds of light,
energy in motion,
swimming in an ocean of love.

They are so much more
that what you see.
As are you.
William Martin, The Parent's Tao Te Ching  

PS I will post again soon about the talk with Clare Healy Walls that we held last month on Positive Parenting for a New World.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The bottom line is education

This weekend I'd wonderful insightful chats with a friend about the Irish economic crisis (I know, I know how exciting - but don't worry I'm not adding to all the despairing news already out there - we have solutions, well kind of!).

We concluded that people in general (and us included) just don't know how to think for ourselves. In certain areas of our lives we just seam to follow the crowd or do as we're told. It is frightening how we are influenced by the media and so subliminally we are not even aware of it.  The lady serving me in the bank the other day all of a sudden exclaimed "how did we find ourselves in this situation", right in the middle of our polite conversation about the weather and our children.  She went on to say how we all did as we were told, studied hard, went to college, got the good pensionable job, bought the house to get on the property ladder and now look where we are, heavily in debt and stressed out.

When did we lose our autonomy? Why are we so under the influence of the media? Do we put too much faith in the Systems to guide us: the government, the church, the education system and the banking system? Have these establishments lost their way? A book I'm reading puts it nicely, "our arms have gotten so long we don't know what our hands are doing". Things have gotten complicated.

My thoughts could get very busy around all these questions and all I'd end up with is a great buzzing headache! I must remain focused and my focus is the education system. Which I believe is where it all starts and ends. If we can foster our children to be happy, independent, motivated and creative human beings, what a bright future this world would have.

Ireland (well the world too) needs a massive overhaul, change needs to happen and the only real place to start is the education system as our children really are the future. I came across the race to nowhere website. So inspirational, I've my name down to get the dvd when they release it. If there's enough people interested we could have a showing in Cork (so let me know). Although it is based in America, it absolutely applies to Ireland. Actually I believe the Irish education system is even more intensive. When I was 7 we lived in California for a year, so I went to primary school there. I had to jump two grades because they were so "behind" us! So when they talk about "stealing our children's childhood" and "training from a script" it can be completely applied to Irish mainstream education.     

The more I read about Maria Montessori (and I'm no expert), the more I realise she really has serious answers to many of our problems today.  What a visionary. I liked this little video for talking about educating the whole child.

Here's another link to an article in the Times about FInaland's educational success. I really like the idea that the teaching profession is a well paid and sought after job. In Finland only 9.8% of applicants get on to the intensive five year training course to become a teacher. Because these teachers are so well trained in the philosophy of the whole child they are then given freedom to teach rather than having to adhere to strict curricula and tests. 
"Their teachers are much better prepared to teach physics than we are, and then the Finns get out of the way. You don't buy a dog and bark for it," says Dan MacIsaac, a specialist in physics-teacher education at Buffalo State College who visited Finland for two months. "In the U.S., they treat teachers like pizza delivery boys and then do efficiency studies on how well they deliver the pizza."

So from my conversations during the past week I can see I am definitely passionate about the changes that need to occur in our education system. Someone just needs to half mention recession or consumerism and like a woman possessed I'm off on my rant about education (I might have to reign myself in a little!). But I need to start walking this talk as I'm no closer to the montessori school in Cork from when I started this blog.

Any thoughts, ideas, links or further information I'd love to hear from you ...  

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The wonder of words

"Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so he is." - Publilius Syrus

I think one of the many gifts of having a young child is rediscovering the magic in the mundane. Things that we take for granted but they are exploring for the first time: as they stand up on their little legs and take their first steps; or the great contortions of their face as they taste new foods; and the wonderful strings of vowels and consonants that soon will form real words.

If you really think about it language is fascinating, how it came about and evolved. Maria Montessori describes it as an expression of agreement among a group that certain sounds mean certain things. Language embodies the uniquely human capacity to learn - an ancient, elegant and forward thrusting continuum of evolution. And I think the way the child learns language really shows how they absorb everything, we don't teach them, nature is their greatest teacher. 

That is why it is so illuminating to follow the teachings of nature, because nature is a teacher, and it teaches the child the most arid part of language. It is a real school with methods . . . One should applaud [the child] but no one takes any notice of him. Much later when he is at the school we have chosen for him, he is given a medal [learns the alphabet] and we say "what a clever teacher he has" - Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori 
To think from the first trimester of pregnancy, according to Sharifa Oppenheimer, the embryonic brain is responding to the stimulus of the tones of the mother's voice. And when the baby is born, Maria Montessori describes it so eloquently: how language, like a divine music penetrates the baby's soul with everlasting effect. At around 4 months the child perceives that this mysterious music that surrounds him and touches him so deeply, comes from the human mouth. And by 1.5 years they can understand a whole conversation even if they don't have the words to respond. 

Experiencing this first hand with the little lady is so fascinating and also really scary. What sponges little children are, as they learn and grow and create their future and the future of humanity. This evolution feels so vulnerable because it is dependent on me as a parent. What a responsibility! 

Yet I find myself caught in the trap of just wanting a "good" child. A child that behaves and makes my life easier as I'm rushing around to get things done. How short sighted. My mindless "good girls" and "well done" and constant no's" and "stop that" etc. etc. These common phrases are so embedded in my psyche they're automatic and yet so powerful. These phrases are constant reinforcements to our children to look outside of themselves for approval or disapproval. These phrases put conditions on our love for our children. Alphie Kohn in Unconditional Parenting explains that: 
"as a result of praise, children become less able or willing to take pride in their own accomplishments - or to decide what is an accomplishment. ... Even as adults, they continue to rely on other people for validation, feeling thrilled or crestfallen depending on whether a spouse, a supervisor, or someone else in whom they have vested power tells them they've done a good job"  
Another great book is Children: The Challenge written in the seventies, Dreikurs noted we have evolved beyond the autocratic system of a patriarchal society and yet our words have not. He describes the subtle difference between praise and encouragement. I think that encouragement takes more presence of mind and separates the behaviour from the child. But I need to look into this a bit more and really work on being mindful of my words, after all the future of the human race depends on it! I'll keep you posted. 

So yes language is fascinating and when I think about it, it's not just the wonder of how our children acquire words, but also how powerful our words are for them. 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Update on Wire-Free-Friday ... and I'm still wired

So last Friday didn't go so well for me, for my first Wire-Free-Friday. My phone didn't get turned off, I spent the day surfing the net looking for my ideal tranquil, retreat in the country (missing the point I think, tranquility is at my finger tips, just turn off the laptop!). And I spent the evening splayed out in front of the TV. I blame my lack of will power on the bad cold I'm suffering from.

Recently I've become aware of how toxic my environment is. I remember when I'd just given birth to the little lady and my excited husband taking photos with his phone, all I could think about was how I didn't want a mobile phone in the same room as her. Looking back on it now, I think this was a strong maternal instinct. Of course this instinct becomes covered over with everyday life until it's just a little murmur. But I am slowly learning that as a mother it's more important to hone that instinct and let everyday life be the murmur (if that makes any sense?).

I stumbled across this article with tentative research showing mobile phones may double the risk of brain tumors, scary stuff.  Then I picked up this book, Heaven on Earth, and right there in the introduction she talks about how the media negatively impacts learning for the young child in the areas of: movement; the capacity to imitate; social development; language development; and development of the imagination. I don't need to hear any more because instinctually I know it is time for me to turn off technology, walk bare foot in the grass and get my hands dirty in the garden (and I don't mean this in a hippy, dippy prancing around fields way, I mean it in a very grounded and solid, this is the only way).

And that's exactly what I spent this sunny Sunday doing. I planted a few lettuces and strawberries and picked up thousands of weeds (this is my first year really gardening and not just keeping bushes under control - so I'll let you know how my battle with the slugs and weeds go). The little lady waddled bare foot in the dirt, she even got her first nettle sting, no bother to her. And now on my laptop this evening, I feel perfectly balanced and refreshed. Of course this could all be symptomatic of a glorious sunny day. A rainy day would be far more challenging and God knows we get a lot of rainy days here.  Regardless, I say bring on next Friday, I'm ready to be wire-free!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Am I connected or am I just wired?

At the moment, I am absolutely wired! I am always wired up to the Internet, checking emails, facebook, blogs etc. Texting and chatting on my phone. It's so bad I think I've repetitive strain injury in my thumb - not a good sign!

From sun up to sun down and beyond, I'm wired: radio at breakfast time, phonecalls in the car (handsfree of course), texting in line at the checkout, checking emails while breastfeeding, tv in the evening. At night time I delay my sleepy eyes from closing because I don't want to turn off my phone.

No, this is definitely not connecting. I'm not connecting fully with the people I meet through out the day. And most importantly the precious moments with the little lady are slipping by, with me wired to something. (She has recently taken to grabbing my phone off me and putting it to her ear as she wobbles up and down the kitchen having a big babbling conversation with the phone ... Hmm where did she learn this from?)

Now you might say I'm obviously an addict, but it's all just fitted so seamlessly into my life that I never even noticed ... until last Friday, when my phone went dead and the car radio wouldn't work. The strangest thing happened ... there was silence. My thumb was twitching with nowhere to go and my mind was just left there with my thoughts and no escape. But you know what, I had such a peaceful day and it got me thinking to declare Fridays wire-free.

I'm reading Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness, where he suggests that, although every hour and every day, should be a practice of mindfulness, in reality this is difficult, but if we can reserve one day in the week dedicated to mindfulness, eventually this day will penetrate the other days. So Friday is my day. I'll turn off my phone, laptop, tv and radio. Instead I'll read books, write with pen and paper (so old fashioned!) and most of all, spend real time with my daughter. Being realistic I'll have to keep my phone on until noon for work, but I'll only use it for incoming calls. I will not get lost in the wired world but stay rooted in the moment - just for Fridays at least.

As I was saying in my previous post I think the internet can be used to truly connect with society, to give our positive thoughts power and strength to evolve faster than ever before, but we must remain grounded in our everyday lives and watch ourselves carefully to make sure we're truly connecting and not just wired.

I'll keep you updated with how I get on. As I'm writing I'm thinking what a long day Friday is going to be, how will I fill up my time?

Richael x

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Connecting with my blog

Wow a moment to myself, the little lady is sleeping on me (I just took this self-portrait with my phone), the dinner is in the oven and most of the accounts are done for the cafe (well actually they're not really!).

So I've been messing about with this blog for too long. I just have to stop procrastinating and get blogging. Typical me, I start to over think things rather than act on stuff, then the moment passes and my thoughts are no longer relevant.

I've been thinking, am I wasting my time starting this up (because if I start I really want to commit to it). Who will want to listen to what I've to say? Who am I to say anything anyway? And if I say something will it come back to bite me? Is this going to be one big distraction for me that no one is going to read, the little lady will be neglected, my business will collapse, and the dinner will get burnt. Not to mention my husband and his creased shirts (yea right, I don't actually iron them!).

But you know I really need to get my brain working again. Since becoming a mother I've had so many thoughts on life, children, education, the future and society. These thoughts are literally wrecking my head. I know, obviously becoming a parent is life-changing, but I didn't expect certain changes. Firstly, I no longer just want to think, I want to act on these thoughts and change the future for my child. And secondly, motherhood, so far, has found me doing things I never would have imagined myself doing, such as breast feeding my toddler (more about that later). I'm on a journey where my instinct is leading rather than my head, and that's really unusual for me.

Life is changing so much and so fast, we're rapidly evolving and I'm wondering if we are evolving in the right direction. And how do we equip our children for such a dynamic, fast-paced world? I was talking to my friend Clare Healy Walls the other day about the Internet and how transformative it's been. She was saying how she feels the internet could really be used to embrace the montessori concept for independent learning. Which I thought was a wonderful way of looking at it. Any parent I've spoken to with older children has a fear around the Internet. Clare has offered to do a guest blog here, so she might expand on this at a later point.

That conversation got me thinking, because when I think of how I would hope society to evolve I think in spiritual, being present, embracing nature, sort of stuff. I've always thought of the Internet as being the antithesis of that. So now I feel that this online community I hope to tap into, of like-minded people, is the new evolving community. The key is not only to be wired to the world wide web, but also to be deeply rooted in local life. And to let one feed into the other and together a force of evolution toward a happier, sustainable world will occur. Will this blog see a primary montessori school open in my community, or will I just end up wired, only time will tell.

So this is me embracing the internet, which truth be told I find a bit scary. Kind of like shouting out in a crowded room, I'm just not sure if the crowd are wearing earplugs or if I even have a voice!

I know a blog is generally a one sided affair but if you have something to say, add, contradict, vent or whatever, please do connect, and don't be shy, reply!

I am committing to doing an entry at least once a week. I plan to talk about whatever issues I'm facing and how I'm personally dealing (or not) with them. I will also keep updating on the goal of finding the right education for my daughter. You can also follow through email or via facebook.

So this is the beginning of the journey as I evolve as a parent. I'm excited but I really have to sign off as the pasta is seriously over cooked (that's the beginnings of it now!).

Richael x