Slowing down for Solstice

   Today I am so grateful for family. There is something extremely magical about this deep winter time. All the plants and lots of animals going into their hibernation, while we humans busy about like crazy in this run up to Christmas. This year I have had my fair share of crazy busy, but as the Winter Solstice approached, and the longest night and the shortest day were upon us, I found myself slowing right down.
   I am a great believer in simple living, slow living, slowing down the insane pace of modern life and bringing the really important things into brighter focus, such as family, good nutrition, nature time, crafting and nurturing. All these things in my life I am so grateful for. I love making time for lots of Christmas crafting  and baking with my kids. Their excitement brings me a lot of joy! ( Sometimes I think I may even be a little bit more excited than they are!)
   I found a beautiful book with twelve tales from around the world about the winter Solstice (The return of the light, by Carolyn McVickar Edwards) . I have been reading my family a story a day in the run up to the Solstice, sitting round our little Christmas tree, by candle light and fairy light. It is little, simple things like this that make me so happy and feel so fortunate to be alive and surrounded by dear ones.
   My thoughts and prayers go out to all those alone or suffering in this, the darkest time of year. May this new year coming bring comfort and joy to all those in need, and love permeate the darkness. Blessings.

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Autumn abundance!

   Today, I am so grateful for sunny September weather and Autumn's bounty! As I sit here, I am surrounded by the wonderful abundance of the September harvest time! We are lucky enough to have an elder tree, an apple tree and a hazelnut tree all in and around our garden, not to mention blackberries within a five minute walk! So far we have made and eaten quite a few blackberry and apple pies, which are a firm family favourite! We also made a batch of elderberry syrup, winter's medicine, which kept us all going through winter last year. It is a magical remedy for colds and coughs, through the colder months. (There is a recipe for this on my craft and recipe blog, 'Arisha's Gratitude Lounge. )
   Last year, we had a go at wrapping our apple harvest in newspaper and crates, and we were still eating garden apples, (albeit a little soft!), for many months into the new year! I felt a bit like a character from Brambly Hedge! This year we have done the same and also stewed a load and jarred it up to eat over the winter. Feeling so blessed! I suppose it is a kind of urban homesteading!

   September is my absolute favourite month, especially when that is still summery and warm! The quality of light is almost golden and everything feels magical and exciting! In our home school activities, we are busy with autumnal themed crafts and stories, which are a fantastic way to gently bring the turning wheel of the seasons into focus for the little ones.
   I adore the summer, but there is something wonderful about pulling out the woolly jumpers and hats, and the wee nip in the air, with a drifting smell of wood smoke on the breeze, which make me feel glad to be alive!
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Walking in the rain

Today I am grateful for waterproof clothing and adventurous spirit! It does not have to be a sunny day to go out adventuring with your children, in fact, I think it is a good idea to get out in every weather to experience the different feelings of rain, wind, sun and everything in between on our skin! I feel that in this time of more and more screen based work, leisure and play, we must make time to get outside as much as possible! When we reconnect with nature, we feel calmer, happier and less stressed out. I have noticed over the years of raising my children, that if there is fighting, bickering or impatience with each other, almost always, a trip out into the nature, or even simply a walk into town is the solution for everyone to feel better!
   Being outdoors in nature and seeing green all about, has such a calming effect. It is also a great way to have time to talk and share with each other as a family. It always seems to be easier to talk about a difficult subject whilst walking. We have found as home educators, that we cover such an extensive range of topics while we are out walking, and somehow information really goes in, more than covering the same topics sitting at a desk.
   In short, being outdoors, particularly out in nature is a fantastic way to reconnect with each other and to nature herself, and everyone comes home feeling refreshed and ready for the next part of the day! Now, where did I put my wellies ......
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   Today I am thankful for all the dear ones in my life. I have been reflecting on life and death recently. My Mother in law passed away peacefully at home aged 73, two weeks ago, and her death has raised so much for me to process and think about. I have thought a lot about mortality and dear ones and how shocking it is to lose someone, even if their passing is kind of expected.
   I have come to remember just how important that is to value every second of life, and treasure the moments with family and friends, while we are all still here together. I feel so lucky to be a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a niece, a grand-daughter, a sister-in-law, an auntie, a friend.
   The passing of Edith has strengthened my resolve to make as much time to be with all these precious people as much as I can be, and be the best and truest version of myself that I can be while I have breath and life. I give thanks for the blessings in my life, and one of the biggest blessings of all is family and friends, and the opportunity to create happy memories with them to cherish for as long as I am granted life!
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Becoming a Waldorf doll maker!

   So, looking back on this year, 2016, one of my biggest achievements and also biggest joys has to be that I became a doll maker! I was drawn to make a Waldorf doll for each of my smallest children, and literally fell in love with the process! I began researching lots of books and tutorials and tips about making these beautiful natural toys and started my doll making journey! I soon felt happy enough with the quality of the dolls I was producing to list some for sale in my etsy shop, and to my complete joy, they began to sell!
   I am lucky enough to have lots of supportive friends who have commissioned me to make dolls for their little ones too, so even though I only began making these sweeties this summer 2016, I have already sold quite a few.
   I feel like I have found my dream job and I quite simply cannot stop making Waldorf dolls! I remember clearly when I left school, not really having a clue about 'what I wanted to do when I grew up' and I give so many thanks for the years between then and now, travelling, adventures, falling in love, having babies, starting my little business selling handmade hemp yoga mat bags, then handmade children's clothing, and finally, aged 37 finding out what I really really want to do and doing that! I feel so fortunate, and I probably would never have dreamed back then, aged 16 that my dream job was doll maker!

If you would like to see more of my dolls or purchase one, please visit my shop            
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My home birthing chronicles - Part 4. The birth of Shiin

Here is the final installment of my home birthing chronicles, and the story of the birth of my first born child, my gateway into motherhood, my opener of the ways! I give so many thanks for the awesome adventure that is motherhood and to each of my children for the blessings they have brought to my world!

My pregnancy with my first born child, Shiin, had mostly been my love and I travelling around Italy, Switzerland and France in our little blue camper van, without too much contact with friends and family, and definitely no books on the subject of pregnancy and birth and no internet! I didn't really know what to expect, but I focused on trusting my body and my baby to know what to do when the time came.
    Back in Glastonbury, my labour began early one morning. We were parked at the top of Wearyall hill. My waters began leaking straight away and mild contractions came and went. I was super excited and a bit scared too. My beloved made me as comfortable as possible and reassured me that this was early stages and could take quite a while, so we settled into a rhythm on the hill for a while. I remember being sick and the contractions getting quite a bit stronger. I was starting to really moan through them and we decided to go and find our Doula friend Joy. Rer drove us into town to get some supplies and there was a surreal few moments of labouring like a primal mama behind the curtains of our little van, whilst parked in the middle of the High Street! We then drove to the White spring to collect spring water and finally found our doula. At this point the contractions were almost overwhelming. I started to feel like I couldn't cope, and Joy arriving was like a cool gentle breeze to my fire. She wrapped herself round my back quite maternally, and made soothing sounds, and helped me to remember to breathe deep into my womb with each rush. Rer drove us to my parent's farm in a nearby village, where we had prepared one of the outbuildings as a birthing room with an old wood burner, some carpet and crystals. They helped me down from the van and into 'the nest' as we called our birthing room. Joy went up to fill my parents in on the progress then returned. I felt so relieved to be in our little safe space.
    Rer lit the burner and candles and made the place magical. I roared on my hands and knees. The midwife arrived quickly and she gave me an internal examination which was excruciating and put me off my flow for a bit. I was on my hands and knees and felt shocked at how powerful the contractions were. I don't know what I expected, but I think I thought actually pushing the baby out would be painful but the contractions wouldn't be!  Well I quickly learned that baby moving down the birth canal was a new and indescribable sensation! I would not exactly describe it as pain, but it was all consuming, powerful, strong, intense and required all my attention! Rer was repeating my birthing mantra, 'down, good, open, yes!' with Joy which helped my focus stay right down in my womb and out of the fear zone! I felt safe and held energetically by Rer and Joy as my body opened up to birth my baby.
   I could feel my body pushing on its own now. I was in a timeless altered space completely in my body now.  I was screaming and bellowing, and I think it was obvious to everyone but me that the baby was almost ready to be born. The midwife came and sat by my head and gently instructed me when to breathe and when to push and when to stop pushing. I followed exactly what she said and very soon felt the baby crowning, which at the time felt like I was a balloon just about to pop! It was sharp and stingy and the most powerful and huge sensation I have ever felt! The baby's head came out and the utter relief of having birthed his skull through my maiden's portal was immense! One more push and his body was out too. I felt such a mixture of feelings in that moment. The room went very quiet and Rer passed me my baby through my legs. He was very blue and did not seem to be breathing. I held him close to my breast and laughed and cried and talked to him and implored him to breathe. What seemed like ages ( but was probably just moments) later, he breathed and cried and started turning pink. Our little boy! He was so beautiful! I found it astonishing that he had been the one in my tummy all that time, with his little face and I didn't know what he looked like till that moment! He started feeding pretty quickly and we wrapped him in a towel. I can't really remember birthing the placenta but I think it happened fairly quickly. Rer put it in a big bowl to bury in the garden later. The feeling of joy and utter bliss was complete. The midwife examined me and found no tears or damage. My sweet Rer had rubbed cocoa butter into my perineum most days for at least two months prior to birthing which I am sure helped me to be stretchy!
   ( In my subsequent three births I found that my body knew exactly what to do and when, but I was only 23 back then, and extremely ignorant about the birthing process back then, so it was a bit more scary.)  I cuddled up with Rer and our little baba while the midwife completed forms and Joy went and told my parents they had a new Grandson! I am so grateful to have had a safe, beautiful home birth. Our little boy was 8 pounds 3 ounces and we decided to name him Shiin, which is an old Celtic name, but also means ' from the sacred lake of the double truth come waves' in ancient Egyptian.
Thank yo so much for reading my story. I hope it is helpful and inspirational to someone somewhere! Blessings x
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