ÂŠ 2017 Wildling Magazine All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced by any means without prior written consent from the publisher, except for brief portions quoted for the purpose of review, as permitted by copyright law. www.wildlingmagazine.com firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram @wildlingmagazine Facebook facebook.com/wildlingmagazine Front Cover image by Rebecca Lindon Back Cover image by Kim Hildebrand Inside Cover image by Kelly Adams Back Inside Cover image by Rebecca Lindon
CONTENTS VOLUME 9 June 2017
The Thrifty Life
Buildling Self Esteem
The Language Of Birth
Hiking In Nepal
Charity Starts At Home
Should I Tell The Girls
A Space All Their Own
Kim Hildebrand www.kimhildebrand.com Kelly Adams www.kellyadamsphotography.com.au Chloe Willis www.thedaisyfoundation.com Laura Alvarado www.tomatotutors.com Rachel Mantell www.refugeesathome.org Laura Benn www.gooseberrystudios.com Holan Liang www.shrinkgrowskids.com Gemma Challis www.thenorfolkretreat.co.uk Katta Tubio www.kattatubio.com Chloe Asprey www.chloeaspreyblog.com
Image by Kelly Adams
Wildling Magazine is a celebration of free-spirited living... travel, parenting, adventure, world schooling and of course independent fashion. Many of the childrens wear labels we support hail from Australia and particularly around the magical hub of Byron Bay. in June we arrived in this little shire to shoot our lead fashion story and talk to some of the mothers behind these brands. You can read about their inspirations in this issue and their thoughts on motherhood. In Volume 9, we also head to Vietnam, Bali and Formentera with our travel diaries and hear from some amazing interior designers on how to create a mindful children’s room and help foster imagination and play. We also wecome ideas from mothers on living a thrifty life, encouraging positive self esteem and housing refugee families who desperately need a welcoming home. This issue is a mixed bag of thoughts and opinions from parents who have crossed our path over the last few months. That’s how Wildling Magazine comes together and we’re always open to hearing from our readers on ideas and experiences they may want to share. Get in touch! Rebecca Lindon Editor-in-Chief
THE THRIFTY LIFE PERSONAL ESSAY words by Kim Franett and photography by Kim Hildebrand
I’m a hustler. I’ve never met a free pile in the alley, a dried flower bud, a dilapidated thrift store “sale” readerboard, or Estate Sale sign I could pass by, even whilst running late. I’m not a minimalist by any means, though that is a goal I know I need to work toward. Born from a frugal childhood, surrounded by do-ers (both my parents and my parent-in-laws work with their hands and make things happen), and a life-long shoestring budget (teacher by trade married to a baseball coach) it is a personal code, a standard of efficiency, a challenge I’ve imposed on myself (and subsequent hobby) that we don’t spend money on things and experiences, and avoid retail at all costs.
make for dinner. She feeds me and my kids homecooked meals and combs my youngest’s hair. I gift her family like-new Slip N Slides I’ve pulled from dump piles, name brand/vintage shoes and clothes for her kids, and I get our shared lawnmower fixed by bartering with a different friend with the tinkering talent. When her kids get sick I half-kid that maybe her house is too clean and the kids’ immune systems haven’t been built up because I hardly clean and my messy kids aren’t sick. As I’ve aged and humbled I realize that my capacity is limited; I cannot do everything well. To maximize my capacity I must stay true to myself, strive to grow and increase my skills, but most importantly surround myself with a community of people who bring their own gifts, I can complete a room rejuvenation, throw a compliment ours, and with a heavy dose of grace party, plant a garden or build a patio without love us for who we are. spending a cent. We vacation on tens and/or hundreds of dollars versus thousands. We don’t Aside from trading / bartering / borrowing have equity in the bank, rather we tap the equity from neighbors, friends and family we tap we’ve developed in skills, access, and community. into lots of different resources for our sourcing I wish I could sew, cook (or even coupon) well, – home salvage stores, thrift stores, Estate because I know those are great thrift-saving Sales, kids’ Consignment Sales (Just Between measures – and I’ve tried them, have gone down Friends is a favorite), Next Door / community various rabbit holes at the subsequent expense of / neighborhood Facebook pages, neighborhood acquiring emotional and physical burdens that I listserves, Buy Nothing Groups, Craigslist eventually dispose of, and after stints trying to Free Section, Offer Up, Etsy / Ebay and even develop new skills I’ve always come back to ride Instagram shops are unorthodox places to my talent of a hustler. purchase curated previously-loved kids and adult vintage clothes and home goods. I would We are a wild family, a bit unkempt. When we estimate besides groceries, at least 90% of recently moved in next door to my best friend I “things” we acquire are free, borrowed or second warned her, “We are a whole lotta Fergus. Are / third-hand items. Don’t get me wrong, the you sure you’re ready for this?” She is an amazing Amazon delivery people certainly know where homemaker, and is the person who can stretch we live because, let’s be honest, sometimes you her Sunday roasted chicken into meals all week just need that lice comb delivered ASAP. For long. I’m the one in the weeds (perhaps literally the most part a hustler lifestyle is motored by out in the yard dividing plants to move around), generosity, fueled by gratefulness and terribly, who around 6pm each night wonders what to terribly unpredictable.
Family Affair In the first grade my son’s Student of the Week poster declared that thrifting was his favorite hobby. Granted, he was also in the middle of a year-plus long bender wearing a green fuzzy dinosaur tale so his judgment might have been skewed but I remember swelling up with pride when I read his board. My kids don’t know that Back to School shopping is a thing. It is a different thing for us, it means we (re)discover the stash at the top of the closet that mom has acquired, and cut off pants into capris, or capris into shorts…. (side bar: did you know that you can stretch out one pair of pants for 3 to 5 years of wear?!). This past fall I took my middle daughter to a few thrift stores for school shopping and we spent $70 for a full wardrobe of Crew Cuts, Gap, Hanna Andersson, Tea Collection and vintage treats. She rocks the flair, and has developed her own style of mix and match patterns and textures through her sourced items. Our thrift visits are an indulgence for all of us – we have a routine and a route and always communicate a plan ahead of time to the kids (we aren’t buying any toys, or “everyone gets $1 to spend”, etc.) First stop in any thrift with kids is always to the toys – each kid gets to grab one toy to play with while we shop. If it is a longer store visit we might return the toys and grab some books to read and alternate toy and book excursions, as needed. At check-out the kids give their items to the cashier and tell them they are “go-backs”. Of course there are exceptions to “we aren’t buying any toys today”; when thrifting one must always allow for the $1.99 Nerf Assault Rifle or newin-box vintage Light Bright (hypothetically, of course). Now that the kids are older they look up obscure toys they find in the thrift aisle on Amazon to determine how much of a “score” they’ve unearthed.
pieced together a solid collection of vintage Tupperware, every Disney VHS movie you could imagine, curated a pretty swell Pendleton wardrobe and stocked up on kids clothes basics for years to come. (Bargain World is also where I discovered that my first-born needs suspenders as statement pieces and invested in enough pairs to get him through college). Different thrift stores have different flavors (our University District store has a strong vintage section and home goods to cater to those hip college kids and wanna-be-hip 30-something moms). As I was marvelling at a thrift checkout one day over the discovery of a mod lamp (on sale, which meant it had been there for a while) the cashier educated me that in the distribution center there are pickers for each store, corralling certain goods to their stores to cater to clientele. I venture to a colorful part of town when I’m looking for kids shoes because I’ve discovered that many of the shoppers are transient, therefore leaving the kids shoe section virtually untouched. (Doesn’t every four year old girl need a pair of Frye boots?) I have a friend who only thrifts at night after her kids are asleep and husband home, and she finds the most amazing treats because workers are putting out new goods for the next day (she recently texted me a picture of a full set of Gooseberry Pyrex, that showoff). For my job I drive up to an hour away from home visiting schools. Some people prepare for their day by putting on makeup – I prepare by mapping out my route to identify several thrift stores I could potentially swing into during the day, even if for a quick drive by. Embrace different types of Thrift Stops Each unearths different items, all of which compose a cohesive and useful hoard.
Drive By (10 minute stop) – This is a quick Find your Thrift haunts walk through your priority areas, for me right There is a store in our old neighborhood that now my drive by priorities are household dishes, has 50% off every item every Saturday (EVERY furniture and linens. Some of my statement Saturday!). Over the years of weekly visits I pieces at home and in my wardrobe have come
from these stops: vintage plaid wool cape, yellow Arabia of Finland dutch pot, vintage floral club chair, like-new Birkenstocks. If you thrift long enough you get really good at identifying various fabrics, brands, qualities, etc. I can look at a rack of clothes and collars, hems, ascots pop up and catch my eye - 60’s/70’s plaids and polyesters are my go-to work clothes and these loud pieces are very easy to identify in my drive bys. Look-Fors - This is your hour long stop, the “let’s-see-if-I-can-find-my-Amazon-cart-items” trip. I always keep a running list in my mind of things that would be nice to have but I don’t need to run out and get right now (because I won’t). Watering can, full length mirror, nonskid rug type-of-stuff. These are also the stops where I consult the “Wish List” items and measurements that I store on my phone (vintage curved wall mirror for entry, vintage floral or crochet bedspread for youngests’ bed, 7th birthday is coming up in a few months and she wants a new bike etc..)
An Event – these are your “I have 3 hours, what do I want to do today?” or “It’s Mothers Day and all I want is to go on a thrift tour around the county by myself ” or “Dad is away on a trip, let’s spend the day at the thrift store” trips. On these days there is the opportunity to look through each and every item on the rack in a certain category and (squeeeeee) go to the dressing room – these are the days I find my wardrobe essentials, boxed 90s tops, 4P jeans that fit my pear shape and lift up the toosh, 60’s shift dresses, and unearth gems like vintage Star Wars figures on the baggie wall, additions to our mid-century mix-matched silverware set, and buy ahead for the kids… always buying ahead. Buy ahead and out of season The fun and exciting part of hustling is that you can’t predict what you’ll find, and the down side of hustling is that you can’t predict what you’ll find. I don’t dare go searching for a costume the day before our elementary school’s western themed auction, because there is no guarantee
and actually a very small chance the one store I go to has something to fit my vision. I figure you have two choices with theme parties – sexy or quirky. I don’t do sexy, and quirky requires pre-planning. This year I found the perfect vintage oversize cow print sweater with leather fringe detail months before the big night, and the bonus was I didn’t have to watch what I ate leading up to the big day. So, I buy ahead (way ahead if there is a $3.99 boy’s Patagonia snow jacket 5 sizes too big), in shoes and sporting goods especially and won’t spend more than $5 for like-new cleats. For all of our friends who’ve received new in box K’nex sets for birthday presents, surprise! Those were acquired at a consignment sale for 1/5 retail price. Thrift stores have new in-box puzzles, games (recently scored a shrink wrapped Yahtzee for $.99) and craft activities perfect for your gift closet AND some thrift stores have contracts with big box stores and get surplus – check for out of season items like new in-box slip and slides and water guns in the sporting goods section in October, perfect presents for the holidays. A few years back we spent the summer in South Carolina for my husband’s work. It was hot. SOOOO HOT. I thrifted to pass some time (and spend time in AC) and quickly realized wool, fleece, jackets (Pacific Northwest essentials) were aplenty in the south. I might have worn home the $3.99 Sorel boots I thrifted on our last day, after our bags were packed. There is no shame in my game; I’ve worn those boots every year since and I’m sure the TSA guy still shares his party story of the crazy lady from Washington who wore winter boots home on the plane in 100 degree weather. I hope he includes that they looked damned good with my tan legs.
and self-imposed expectations. My in-laws moved to Costa Rica in the 90s. They live in the jungle in an artful concrete structure with no walls – it’s a simple, magical, and fulfilling life and my pores look forward to our Costa Rica trips. We spent several Decembers down there early in our marriage and I found all the stress of Christmas gone when I knew we would not be home for Christmas – December 25th is just another day down there (there are religious celebrations, sure ), what Christmas SHOULD be about. There have been several Christmas holidays where we are in CR and the kids don’t know it is Christmas. Our holiday and birthday celebrations tend to follow suit – we celebrate for sure, but it probably looks different from mainstream social media accounts. The same decorations go up every birthday, we have a “It’s Your Special Day” plate the kids and I made that we pull out for special occasions to celebrate someone and we make the recipient’s favorite food, and there is usually a cake or cupcakes made and decorated with whatever candy is around (thankfully we have a Nov. 16th birthday, only a few weeks after Halloween. The Spring birthdays usually have Easter bunny candy scrounged up from the bottom of the grocery bag that was used at the community Easter Egg hunt, subsequently forgotten in the front closet, or if we’re really desperate red and green M&Ms) – and gifts are made or sourced. Last year for his birthday my husband got a new in-box Bose Bluetooth speaker – thanks to Buy Nothing and a generous friend who knows our lifestyle. Our kids don’t notice or care that their birthday presents of American Girl doll outfits don’t come in the original packaging, or that the Lego box was previously opened and preloved by someone else and mom had to print off Take the pressure off instructions from the internet to tuck into the I figured out early in adult / parenthood that box prior to gifting – they are too busy being I cannot keep up, and subsequently realized I grateful. For his 9th birthday my son’s favorite don’t want to keep up, rather we can create our present was a gallon container of fruit cocktail. own family standards absent of commercialized
Work with the bones you have “Oh, my gosh your house is so interesting”, said a friend the first time she dropped off my daughter from a play date as her eyes darted all over the living and dining room. Mix-matched, colorful, and “old fashioned” as my kids call it (and super cluttered unless company is expected and then I have time to shove everything into closets). Her comment, perhaps, is in the top 5 of all compliments I’ve ever received even if complimenting wasn’t her intent – I was proud. I want to be interesting! How did we get to the place of living in a million dollar tear down (by Seattle standards) rental with mid century paneling, bad paint, original drapes, and sweeping views of Lake Washington filled to the top with quirky layers of vintage and eclectic goods? Simply, nobody else wanted it. When we moved to Seattle 5 years ago I was scared; I didn’t want to live in the big city. While we were homeowners in other parts of Washington (and maintain two as rentals) we realized very quickly that we would need to scrape ALL the pennies together to live in Seattle. Our only criteria in finding a place was we didn’t want to feel like we were in the city and we wanted to be close to the University. In the coaching world, moving is part of the job. We treat moves and relocations as a chapter in our family adventure book. In Seattle, we had one day together to find a rental. Discouraged after a few hours, we drove by a nondescript house on a busy street on the hill overlooking the lake. It had been for rent and vacant for 4 months. “Maybe we just make do in something like this until we figure out where we want to live”, we thought. We couldn’t get into the house, but snuck into the back yard and there it was, a secret garden in the middle of Seattle. ¼ acre very overgrown, very spider webby, blackberry covered, wooded lot tucked away from the street. We looked at each other with “the look” - who cares what the inside of the house looks like, this is where we will live in Seattle, (we could hear birds chirping!!) We peeked into the foggy alluminum windows to
make sure the house had more than one bedroom (score!) then made preparations to move in. The packers and movers (perk of Husband’s job) thought we were nuts – boxes upon boxes of vintage, funky, industrial, primitive goods packed with care undoubtedly thinking, “Why are we wrapping with care this paint-chipped junky Cosco stool?” “Why are we not loading all these up to go to the dump?” At one point they asked, “Are we taking this work bench?” Um, hello, of course! That is our dining room table. Mix / match / reuse / repurpose We wrap presents in newspaper comics and kids’ art work. We have a vision with what we want our space to look like and feel like, but we play around with how we do that and use what we have and allow new pieces to come into our space unplanned and organically – the fun is making things work until we can find that perfect vintage stereo console for the long wall in the living room. We’ve now lived in many decades, lots of 20’s houses, a few 50s, and now a 1940s bungalow; each time we make our furniture and stuff work. Our current landlord walked through the house right after we moved in, “Why the hell do you have an old door as your headboard?!” Clearly, because it fits perfectly, and we don’t have room to use it as its previous life as a desk. We use things we have, acquire and move around and out as our family seasons and needs change, as we move, and as I hustle up new treasures (free piles really throw a kink in my husband’s clean out plans). I’m kind of in a vintage textile phase right now – all of our bedding is a collection of mix-matched vintage sheets and pillowcases, blankets and quilts. Every item in our space has a story, a narrative associated with it – a basket my mother in law weaved that serves as a planter; a tension pole lamp acquired from the neighborhood Buy Nothing group that introduced me to a fascinating professor and his life story and dedication to his ailing wife; our vintage sofas purchased from a hustling mini-van driving single mom off Craigslist who is a one-
woman show sourcing and flipping furniture to provide for her family, the wooden Lucerne crates that my own parents used as furniture when they first got married live on in our space, having been used as toy storage, benches, and end tables at various times. When I start to feel burdened by the volume of stuff, a vignette, shelf or corner isn’t quite right no matter how many times I’ve rearranged, I call in help from my community – creative friends share their gifts and edit our space and my wild ideas, send some items to the vault (I borrowed this idea from a Pyrex group I’m in, the idea that you revisit some items in a while and decide if you are ready to let them go or use), “shop” my stash and, inevitably, fuel the habit some more. Take Freely / Give Freely / Move Freely I’m so embarrassing to my kids. I accept leftovers from gatherings, dumpster dive while running for exercise, and I’ve been known to leave to go get groceries to return back home without groceries and a dresser in my car (those damned FREE signs get me every time, and solid wood?! Done). Once, during a snow storm I took the kids out on a sled and swung by the thrift to discover a mid-century end coffee table. I must have been too excited to think rationally because instead of leaving it to pick it up later, I piled it onto the sled and pulled it home with one kid in the Ergo and the other also on the sled. I’m sure I was wearing my Sorel’s too. My hoarding (errr…. sourcing) has evolved – I used to grab anything I came across that I could use, was unique or could be possibly useful to someone somewhere sometime. After a few years I acquired way too many things as I had lofty goals of selling online (did it) and selling in a flea market (tried it) in an attempt to try to find the perfect new owner for every old item. “But I can’t leave these 80s spandex shorts behind, what if we have Decades Day during Spirit Week in the next few years?!” “What if I find a use for that wire crate in our next house?!” I have some
incredible stories of uniting items and owners… A woman in California bought the exact same vintage Carter’s overalls that she wore as a kid for her toddler son to wear, vintage Nike crib shoes purchased as a baby shower gift for a Nike exec having his first kid, a vintage jacket to a production studio in LA, a vintage Felix the Cat sweater for a little girl named Felix in New Jersey. But the burden of “stuff” everywhere took the joy from me. I now buy things that have an immediate use, identified future use, or sparks immediate joy. I shop for my family and for friends / family who ask me to be on the lookout for certain things (vintage aluminium webbed chairs are all the rage in my current community and a source of currency in my circle). I source for meaningful presents (my son’s first grade teacher who marveled at my kids’ vintage clothes received a vintage wardrobe for her first born son), and I share finds in real-time with an online community of local friends who share my excitement for old things and whose tastes I know. We Paypal each other in the moment when someone has found the missing Pyrex for the set we’re collecting. My hoarding evolution has left me ok with cutting ties to an object I’ve brought into my space if it doesn’t work – I let it go and if it comes back to me at a future point maybe I will have a use for it, but maybe not. I’ve realized I don’t need to carry the burden of saving everything from the dumpster; nobody I know needs more of those vintage Tupperware primary drinking cups even if they are 10 for a $1! I can now walk away from an Estate Sale and thrift store empty handed (a resume-worthy development I’m really proud of ). The thrill is in the hunt for certain items for certain people (a Simon game in working order, in original box for my son’s good friend Simon). I’ve found items over time that I thought were unicorns, a copper breadbox that I tried to use in my kitchen for months but it just didn’t spark joy, a thrifted high-end vintage fur coat that sat in my closet for two years as I brainstormed an occasion and place to wear it – they were passed on freely with no regret, they will bring joy to future owners. 14
A few months ago I grabbed a large mid-century wood framed painting in a “drive by” thrift stop – it was gorgeous, the type of thing you see in an Anthro spread. I tried it in 3 different spaces for a few days each before I realized it just didn’t sing to me, so it was gifted to a new home and that was that. There are days when my husband returns from a trip and rooms have switched, re-arranged, redone or furniture has appeared or disappeared (usually the former). He was recently in Florida or Fresno (I don’t keep track anymore, he was somewhere with an F) and I fell in love, hard at an estate sale. I didn’t have any business being there, I was late for work but all I could see was the bright yellow “Estate Sale” sign and it derailed my morning. He was in an upstairs bedroom, an untouched 1960s bright plaid hide-a-bed couch. He was $30 and heavy. I was single momming it, and knew I couldn’t wait for my husband to help move it when he returned because he wouldn’t – I had to get it into the house before he returned and act like it had been in our space all along. I did what any looney addict would do – I called my husband’s boss to help me move it. Roy spent hours with me that day, mostly stuck in the bannister of the house sweating and cursing and trying to make my dreams come true. The first time my husband saw “the Roy” as the couch has been affectionately named there were 4 kids sleeping on it in our basement, covered with popcorn, Pokemon and sweet dreams. His only comment, “I don’t know where you got that, but I’m not moving that thing.” A few days ago I changed out our huge dining room rug with an even huger newly acquired 1960s Karastan with fringe on all four sides (all 4 sides!) and my husband has yet to say anything. He’s so supportive. Or, maybe he doesn’t have any energy left. There are a few pieces of furniture we have (passed down from family), or special finds that I will keep until I die (poor husband will find me clutching my thrifted starburst clock on my deathbed). But most of the things in our space are opportunities to connect with others – to be generous and
bring joy to someone else. A new acquaintance comments on a piece of pottery in our living room lamenting that it reminds her of the one her grandma had, “Please, take it!” Dividing shasta daisies in our new yard and I can hear the gardeners next door discussing the “plan” (I aspire to live somewhere so long I can develop a landscape plan). I yell over, “Hey, would you like some shastas? I’ve got a bunch I’m dividing”. The immediate response and chuckle over the fence “Ha! You’re on your own with those. Good luck!” and in my mind, my first thought is “Good for them, staying true to themselves” and then next, “Oh, is my taste so bad?” and then last, “Meh, I’m not on my own and I don’t need luck, just persistence,” as I have a continued opportunity to connect with additional people over a gift of shasta weed daisies. This lifestyle has become more about the community, people, memories and connections. It isn’t about the things anymore. Get your Hands Dirty Hustling takes effort and time. It requires saving searches on eBay and shopgoodwill.com and typing in obscure search words into the Craigslist search bar anticipating bad or misspelled subject headings. It means mixing your own cement to create molded paving stones because store stones and even second-hand ones are costly. It might mean spending a few days driving all over the city collecting free bricks and rocks to create a colorful and organic patio, or having unruly hair for a (long) spell because your hairdresser friend who comes to your house to cut your family’s hair hasn’t been available. It means meeting a Craigslist seller at 6am to beat others to the punch and growing plants from collected seeds and propagating plants from cuttings. It means mixing cans of paint together to make remaining paint stretch and adding an accent wall, learning how to handle tile and chop saws, going into salvage yards with a loose idea but not tied to anything concrete to allow mental space for
creative solutions and tinkering, and thinking unconventionally about solving problems (“Hey Dad, when you come up again can you bring us about 20 ferns from your woods? We need to fill in some landscaping at the rental”). Aside from thrift stores we get most of our baby and children items from Just Between Friends, a large consignment sale that happens twice a year (locations nationwide are run as franchises, so quality and organization vary). I volunteer for 24 hours during the sale, which allows me to shop way before the public, AND uncover items to purchase while setting up and working ($1 bag of Calico Critters mixed in with the barrette bin, perfect Christmas present for #3). At JBF each seller prices their own items, so being able to shop before anyone else gives me the opportunity to peruse and take advantage of some very low prices. Before each sale I take inventory of each kids’ needs: pajamas and shoes are always on the list, birthday and / or Christmas presents, holiday clothes, and games / puzzles / books (because remember, always buy ahead). I also sell our outgrown / unneeded items at these sales. Pricing, sorting and organizing isn’t pretty, takes time and our house is in shambles for about a week leading up to the sale with hangers and tags and an unshowered mother everywhere, but when all’s said and done we end up with a net loss in items (we need less things as the kids age up) and a net gain in money. Reach out and keep on I’m concerned for my middle daughter’s future. She has hoarder tendencies by birthright and birth order. The other day we were shopping the mis-tint paint pile at the hardware store and the paint guy offered her “all the foam scraps and stir sticks you want”. Her eyes got huge, wheels turning. Within a minute: “Mom, I can make foam pits and gymnastics bars for my stuffies, or I could use the foam in my bike helmet because you know how it scratches my left ear? Or I could make Dad a present for Fathers Day, or
I could use the foam to make stamp designs, or I could give some to Alli because she needs a makeup brush,…” she continued to rattle off creative ideas, uses, ways to share, connect with and bless others with her new bag of treasures. She had obviously been keeping mental lists, dammit. I guess my kids are cursed with the innate ability to use things unconventionally, to solve problems, and to make things stretch. And in my mind as we rattle down the road in our old car singing to Milli Vanilli on tape, a few mistint gallons and a door I picked up on the side of the road, hoping it’ll fit our rental garage, I’m a bit terrified and a lotta proud, I puff my chest out an inch thinking, “Way to hustle baby girl. Be generous. Be grateful. Be you.” About the author Kim is a mother of 3 currently living in expensive Seattle, WA, requiring even more creative ways to hustle. Her husband coaches baseball and is gone somewhere on a work trip. She is a math teacher by trade but after a recent year of failing at motherhood even by her own low standards, she left her full-time teaching job to be more of a presence at home while her husband flourished in his job (read: gone recruiting). She teaches part-time in a pre-service teacher program training and supervising student teachers around Seattle. She cleans the co-op preschool to earn mad money to thrift with and has a lofty goal to start practicing yoga again (but only if there is a cleaning barter position available). You can find her yelling at her kids in Costa Rica during the summers while she attempts to increase her homemaker skills by working as an understudy to her mother-in-law who makes bread from scratch (and other homemaker sorcery). She currently has a really cool 70s blazer leather jacket with weave details on the lapel she is looking for a perfect new owner for, still has a corner of her living room that needs something but she isn’t sure what yet, and has a super sweet hide-a-bed for you to sleep on should you ever stop in.
VIETNAM TRAVEL ESSAY words and photography by Kelly Adams
My husband and I had done a fair bit of travelling before kids, but never got to Vietnam, so it’s always been on the list of places we wanted to go. For this family holiday we were really wanting to take the kids on a bit of an adventure and to somewhere that was culturally different to what they are used to here in Australia. We had so much fun and absolutely loved Vietnam. When I asked our eldest kiddo (13 year old) what the highlight was for him, he said he loved the hustle and the bustle of Hanoi and really just loved being amongst it by walking and crossing the crazy busy streets. For our youngest boy (8 years old) he said it was the time we had at Mai’s House Homestay in Ben Tre on the Mekong Delta and also on the overnight boat in Halong Bay. I think to him these were two very different adventures he’d never experienced, but also filled his need to be a little wild and for a little R&R. For my husband and I, the whole thing was the highlight. To be able to show and teach your kids about different places, cultures and people is so wonderful. Most of all though, us, our little family being together, being fully present without the distractions of ‘everyday life’, being on a new adventure and discovering things together was the absolute best. I really did think or at least hoped, the boys would have this huge epiphany, an ‘oh wow’ moment, where they realised that the life they live is pretty privileged compared to so many others. But it was really more of a gradual impact. There was however one stand-out moment where I realised how well the kids accepted their new surrounding environment. We were trying to cross the street on our first day in Vietnam and I was a little freaked out. My eldest boy turned to me and said “Mum stop freaking out, just walk and they will go around you, They know what they are doing, they’ve been doing it forever!”
THE LANGUAGE OF BIRTH PERSONAL ESSAY words by Chloe Willis and photography by Jessica Roberts
I shift on the plastic seat in the waiting area, my thighs sticking as I try and find a comfortable position. I’m being kept waiting. I’m here to see the consultant because I want a home birth but they’re not keen. From my first appointment the midwife jotted on the notes with a raised eyebrow ‘hoping for a home birth’, she smiled wryly and said “we don’t need to decide now” as she prodded around in her third attempt to take a blood sample. But I had decided and yet a hospital birth was in some ways a self-fulfilling prophecy that began at that moment with the word ‘hoping’ …the first drop of doubt trickling into my unconscious telling me I couldn’t do it. Friends and family mirrored this belief, looking bemused or telling me I was ‘brave’. I move to another sticky linoleum chair and the consultant relays an anecdote about a woman who insisted on a home birth and bled to death. Wow, I wasn’t expecting this. I took a deep breath and asked about the percentage chance of this? Any indication of the true risk? She said “I don’t like spouting statistics, because what if you are in that small % like that poor woman?” The meeting was biased, maybe because the consultant believed my baby and I would be safer in her setting where she could monitor and manage the birth but I knew where I would feel safer and no-one heard. No-one was listening. What words or images come to mind when you think of pregnancy and birth? Do you think about fear, pain or anxiety? Or do you think of excitement, positivity or transformation? If you’ve been pregnant did people tell you what an amazing and wonderful job you were doing growing a whole new human from scratch or did they comment on how big you were getting and make jokes about having to squeeze out a melon? Culturally how we present and talk about birth can be negative and disempowering. Do you know someone who was told she ‘failed to progress’, was described as a ‘geriatric Mother’ or as having an ‘incompetent cervix’? I really shudder at the power and weight of these medical labels placed on women. Language in any context has immense power but the impact when hormones are flowing and emotions are high can be disastrous. When teaching birthing classes I remind women from day one that birth is generally very safe in the UK and not a medical emergency. Their labour and birth can be a natural and beautiful journey, something their body is made to do, is hard wired to achieve. Week on week they prepare their body and mind, confidence builds as images of birthing on their backs screaming are replaced with calm movements, deep flowing breaths and visions of their own empowering birth. The day arrives and they are feeling ready, in control, the expert in their own birth but sometimes the language and system they face on the day just isn’t set up to support them.
One labouring woman consents to an examination, we’ll call her Beth, the midwife sighs as she examines Beth, reaching up her vagina into her cervix “unfortunately you’re only 2 centimetres dilated”. Next she tries to check on baby, the midwife tuts “hmm baby’s not behaving…it’s hard to find a heartbeat” in those few words fear sets in, Beth thinks “something is wrong with me, with my baby”. Beth’s honest and explains the examination hurt. The midwife doesn’t apologise “if you think that hurt, just you wait for what’s coming, you’ll probably need an epidural”… Beth looks around at the unfamiliar room, the concerned faces looking back at her and feels a sense of panic rising within her. This culture of fear, of using outdated, over medicalised or negative language is still rife and can impact not only on the birth itself but could really traumatise Beth long term. Down the hall there is an identical situation playing out but the midwife is very different. She understands that she has a choice to use positive nurturing and supportive language that acknowledges the strength but also the vulnerability of the families she comes into contact with. She lays a reassuring hand on the woman she’s here to support, let’s call her Annie. She pauses and takes time to explain “Annie, you can ask me to stop at any time, I will try and make it as comfortable as possible. If something I’m saying or doing makes you uncomfortable, please just let me know… lovely, your body is doing exactly what it’s meant to do Annie, your cervix is softening, shortening, thinning out and starting to open. Let’s try another position to have a listen to babies heart beat” she offers a warm and genuine smile and Annie feels safe, cared for, her body arches as another surge builds, she imagines glittering waves rising and she is exhilarated, riding that wave as the woman by her side massages her back in just the right place, her eyes are closed but she feels her strength and experience and feels her baby shift position. It’s intense but she lets go of fear. She is ready. As the surge subsides the midwife says quietly “you’re doing so well, I believe in you, I’m here to support you.” I heard the incredible midwife Sheena Byrom speak at the first Positive Birth Movement conference in 2016 and her message was simple, choose love or fear. We know that a birthing woman needs a heady cocktail of endorphins and oxytocin to power contractions, birth her baby and bond. These are the hormones of love, shy, sensitive hormones that can easily be dampened, even crushed by adrenaline and fear. With love they come in warm gushes, flooding a woman’s body, filling her heart with joy and expectation and the script that fits with this beautiful and transformative moment must come from a place of love. As Ina May Gaskin so clearly puts it “if a woman doesn’t look like a goddess during labour someone isn’t treating her right.” A birthing woman takes herself to a place deep within, a place of great power but a place so deep that what she hears can be profoundly internalised so the language used must acknowledge this. We don’t find it unusual to hear sports people using language to help their PMA. Phrases like “my mind is calm” “my thoughts are under my control” or “my body was made for this” are used by sports coaches to help build confidence. If an older player stepped out on the pitch, healthy, well and ready to play a coach wouldn’t dream of calling them a geriatric and undermining their strength and potential.
Since becoming a birth worker I’ve seen affirmations and positive words and phrases have such a profound effect. I’d recommend everyone take some time to think about what phrases you need to embed in your subconscious. If you were your own life coach, what three phrases will help you feel amazing, loved and achieve your dreams? Write them down and read them every day. Pin them up, draw or paint them if you feel like it or have them tucked somewhere private, but read them. Even if your conscious brain isn’t convinced your unconscious brain will absorb those words and they will make a difference to how you think and feel. If you’re pregnant, think about the words or phrases you don’t want to hear and make it clear in your birth plan. Milli Hill has a great section in The Positive Birth Book on making a visual birth plan, including icons for writing your own words to avoid or use. Specify the positive phrases and words you like and ask for them to be used. Your voice must be heard, the language of birth must be positive, insist on it.
TOMATO TUTORS LIFESTYLE ESSAY words by Laura Alvarado
I had for many years tutored, and witnessed, first hand, the rising pressures that young people were facing. No one obvious, apart from Steiner and Montessori schools, were offering anything holistic and complementary to the mainstream education system. I was seeing students excelling in their public exams, getting all A grades, to then face mental breakdowns at university which would lead them to be in a state of crisis for many years. I could not stand by and add to the system of hothousing and spoon feeding children. I then began to run traditional subject classes, but with a twist – adding in mindfulness meditations, baking with students to teach them topics in maths and really giving time and care to worried and / or confused parents. I saw that families needed something more. So in February 2015, I launched Tomato Tutors and I have not looked back. We have now gained investment and are about to create our own purpose designed holistic learning studio filled with natural light, plants, aromatherapy scents, natural materials and alternative learning stations. Tomato Tutors was created to respond to the modern needs of parents and young people. We support and enhance learning whilst also understanding the needs of the families we work with. As well as academic tuition we host Forest School sessions and art and craft workshops, include Mindfulness meditation in our lessons and have a close team of coaches and specialists who can offer advice and help dependent on the student’s specific needs. Our aims are to move to completely projectbased learning sessions as opposed to subject based lessons. This year we launch our first Holistic Education Centre in North London and one of our biggest goals is to help parents on a lower income and vulnerable children to access our services and receive the help that could change their lives for the better. We work with the whole family, not just the child, offering parents meditation classes, sharing groups and sessions on how to create a harmonious family timetable – usually coaching mums to strip back the amount of after school activities to one or two that the children really enjoy. Creativity and problem solving are among the basic skills that everyone is required to have, whether they have to deal with an everyday problem at home or a work related challenge. But to think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas, we need to use our imagination and see things beyond reality. We believe that imagination is essential in the learning process and it has been proven that cognitive development is greatly improved when creative activities are regular part of one’s lifestyle. Young children often learn about historical events, different cultures or people that they will never meet, and imaginative play is a way to assimilate their discoveries of the world that surrounds them and the experiences they collect. Tomato Tutors encourages imaginary games and storytelling - children are more likely to adapt positive learning habits, develop their communication skills and improve their vocabulary. By using their senses and bodies, they can move around and develop their fine and gross motor skills as well as strengthening neurological pathways in language, numeracy and literacy. 31
We also believe and recognise in the work that we do, that creative learning promotes healing in a group and individual. It connects people to their compassionate nature and we believe helps to tackle issues with bullying, anxiety, depression and low self esteem. It is important that children are exposed to activities that they can use to work through difficult emotions or experiences. Life is full of adversity and we must help our children and students to become resilient. Our workshops are offered to all families and we have found that the workshops have huge benefits for all family members. We work with children who are home-schooled and flexi-schooled, as well as families who are within the traditional schooling system. The changes we see are very noticeable â€“ confidence, a joyous disposition, a greater willingness to partake in written activities and the sheer ability to use their minds and bodies in tandem. As much as we adore maths, what use is the traditional curriculum to the majority of students if they do not know how to use maths to cook, to put up a shelf, to measure and record. This practical side of maths needs to be valued more. We find if a student excels in shape, space, measurement and number handling, they are much better equipped to understand more abstract concepts in algebra and geometry. Instead of control, competition, stress, testing, and screen-based schools we think that warmth, support and collaboration is paramount for a childâ€™s wellbeing during their time spent at school. Traditional schools need to focus more on encouraging and nurturing their students throughout their time at school, this could be implemented through a curriculum which promotes learning through creativity rather than just lessons which are topic based. We like to constantly experiment with new approaches to improve learning and gather honest feedback from our students and their parents. We promote learning through process, rather than an obsession with exam results and regular testing.
CHARITY STARTS AT HOME PERSONAL ESSAY words by Rachel Mantell
Refugees At Home was founded in October 2015 to match destitute refugees and asylum seekers with generous hosts who have spare rooms. One of the founders’ mothers was part of the Kindertransport so she knew how vital it was that people are welcomed to their new country. When she and her husband tried to offer their spare room to a refugee they found it very difficult - so they set up a charity, with his sister, to help. We have grown a lot since then. We have made over 650 placements (‘matches’) so far and are still entirely volunteer run. This may have to change as we are growing so fast (some days we can get a dozen referrals). There are a terrifying number of people finding themselves destitute when they have turned to the UK for help. We run a national database of hosts and guests, and we always try and help, though we have some rules about who we can and can’t support. We can’t house lone children - we don’t have the training or safeguards in place - and we can’t deal with very severe distress or mental illness. We just aren’t trained and we can’t provide those guests with what they need, though it is horrible to turn someone away.
Cross, Refugee Council, who take responsibility for helping them to find long term housing, English lessons, medical care etc, though hosts often get pretty involved too. It is very difficult not to when someone is in your house! We also accept referrals from grassroots activists and selfreferrals from refugees. We make a few more checks on these as our hosts are just ordinary people offering their spare rooms, and we need to offer them some assurance about who is coming to stay. All our hosts are checked out by volunteer home visitors - social workers, community health practitioners etc - to make sure they have considered and discussed the issues around hosting such as food, door keys, house rules, etc Basically to make sure there are as few surprises for everyone as possible, as well as to provide basic safeguarding checks. All that red tape aside, we try very hard to place guests near where they want to be and to offer them a bit of stability but we never have enough hosts.
We don’t exclusively host families by any means. As a charity, we host single men, single women, couples, pregnant women, single mums, and families with both parents, ranging from 19 up Our guests have to be engaged with the asylum to mid 70s. Our hosts are an even more extreme process. Some are asylum seekers waiting for or range, from 19-90-something! appealing asylum decisions, many are refugees who fall foul of the ‘28 day’ rule (once they Most of our guests are single men for a lot of have asylum, refugees lose all support after reasons... 28 days - which is hardly enough time to get 1. There are few safe and legal routes to claim a national insurance number let alone benefits humanitarian protection, so becoming a refugee and housing, so many end up destitute). Our here in the UK involves a difficult, dangerous guests are usually referred to us by the major and extended journey. Young men are more refugee or homelessness charities e.g. Crisis, Red likely to survive it and its many hazards, so 33
the majority of people who make it here are young men. On the whole, women and children stop moving sooner, or are prey to traffickers and other criminals, or families donâ€™t send them, hoping they can apply for family reunification later on. Worth mentioning that it is often a mistaken belief as UK family reunification rules are very restrictive - spouse or minor children only, with no legal aid for the (complicated) legal process. 2. If women, children or families are here claiming asylum, the authorities are more likely to consider them vulnerable and so they will be provided some sort of housing. There are exceptions and those are the families and women we host. As a charity we have hosted more than 28,000 nights, so that is 28,000 nights not spent on a nightbus or a park bench, or accepting a bed from a stranger with all that might entail.
My family have hosted a variety of people, including a Syrian in his 20s who stayed with us for just over a year, and a young Eritrean couple with a newborn who have been with us for a few months. We have had emergency placements of a night or two too, so a real mixture. Hosting families is slightly different as there are multiple relationships... theirs with each other as well as yours with them. We have been lucky and the family we host are lovely people, and we all get on, so it has been very relaxed and easy. They have been with us for a few months now. We wondered at first how much to offer to help with the baby, but remembering how much we loved being in a little cocoon when J was first born we have mostly tried to do that and to only offer help if we are asked. I do sneak cuddles though she is a very cuddly and beautiful little girl.
My little boy, J, was 2 when we welcomed our first guest. He’s a very sociable child so at first he was just delighted to have someone new to play trains with. He really enjoys meeting all our new guests, learning a few words of their language and teaching them his favourite games, and it’s great for him to have so many people who love him. Hosting has helped him to be open and curious about the world. He is certainly not shy and it is lovely to watch him skyping with people’s families back home or telling a bemused and amused guest who doesn’t really speak English the rules of some complicated game. He has also developed a really wide and adventurous palette - he adores Eritrean porridge (sort of solid, with melted butter, chilli and yoghurt - it’s an acquired taste!) and if ever anything new is cooking, he climbs onto a
chair and says ‘me try?’ We were honoured to be invited to an Eritrean christening and celebration - the most amazing, beautiful service, followed by delicious food and great music - another wonderful experience he is unlikely to have had unless we hosted. He is very affectionate and friendly with all our guests, but he does have favourites. He calls the baby living with us now his sister and brings clothes and toys home for her from a local playgroup’s swap box. He’s nearly 4 now and we shield him as far as possible from any of the negative or difficult stuff - he doesn’t really understand what a refugee is and when I bought him a picture book to try and explain he declared it ‘too boring’ (he prefers fire engines, apparently.). I worried that he would be too young to understand people coming and
going from our house and his life, but children understand a remarkable amount and really do have insight into people. He is much more pragmatic about it all than we are. We have a very special little boy (I am sure all parents feel that) who has taken to this like the proverbial duck to water, and I am very proud of him.
- we just want to be the sort of people we hope our son would meet if, god forbid, he ended up a long way from home needing help. But it is wonderful when people stay in touch, and we have made some great friends. The biggest compliment is to be told you are like their English family - that always makes me tear up a bit, and I take that responsibility seriously. There I was called an angel by one guest which made are also people I still worry about, but hopefully me laugh as I am sure angels don’t swear quite we have given them a moment to catch their so much or have such untidy houses! The first breath, if nothing else. few days are always striking - people often arrive exhausted and stressed, often carrying all their And my proudest achievement is that I have belongings in black bin bags. We only have taught a dozen people now how to make a two house rules - don’t let the cat out and don’t proper British cup of tea. traumatise the toddler - other than that guests are free to do what they like. We want them There are hundreds of us now, and we are all very to relax, be comfortable and have a chance to different, there really is no typical host. If you recover from their journey so far, and prepare for think you can’t for some reason - you are out of whatever is coming next. After a few hot showers, the house all day, have small children, are gay, some decent nights’ sleep and some proper food vegan, need the room back when the kids are you can really see over the first few days how back from uni (all real concerns we have heard they relax. Some things you can see physically - in the past), please do talk to us as we probably skin rashes clearing up and the bags under their already have hosts just like you!. There isn’t really eyes fading - whereas some of it is how they are a typical guest either. We are currently looking with us. Most guests start out hiding in their for hosts for two Sudanese men who have jobs room, with the door closed. Then they let the cat in Brixton and currently have long commutes in for a cuddle, then chat to the toddler, before from North London, an Eritrean lady who is eventually they start coming down to chat and sleeping on the street and is seven days younger eat when we are around. I always punch the than me (makes you think about how different air and cheer (silently!) the first time a guest is your life could have been), a mother and young confident and comfortable enough to ask for child who are desperate to be near her church their favourite food to be added to the shopping and community, a pregnant woman who is list or tease me about my cooking. It sounds really struggling with her morning sickness, a such a silly thing but it means a lot as food, and very articulate and charming Syrian man who sharing it with others, is such a huge comfort. is trying to get onto a university course and tells us he just wants to make his mum and dad Sometimes a positive impact is that someone proud…. Any one of them might be the perfect keeps in touch and becomes part of the family, guest for you. Have a look at our website where sometimes it is that they spread their wings we have testimonials and press, FAQs and then and you never hear from them again. It really please sign up or message us for a chat. depends! We are very clear that no guest should be grateful to us, or feel they owe us anything www.refugeesathome.org
A PLACE ALL THEIR OWN INTERIORS words by Laura Benn
Designing a room for your little one is both an exciting and overwhelming task. We want our children’s space to look fantastic, to be inspiring, to encourage imagination, to create a sense of fun and to make them feel safe and happy, all while remaining on budget. To help you create a memorable and mindful room for your kidlets, I interviewed three interior designers for their expert tips and tricks. Emily Henderson Instagram: @em_henderson 1. In your opinion, what makes a room design “mindful” for little ones? When it comes to designing a room for your little ones, you really are designing both for them and for yourself as you will spend quite a bit of time in there with them. But you really want to create a haven for them to play, enjoy, and imagine in. 2. What are the three most important design elements when creating a mindful space for a child? Somewhere to play: You always need to have a big open area for them to play in, which typically is the opposite for other rooms. Keeping the center of the room open allows them to play, run around, and enjoy their room. Somewhere to store things: There is no such thing as too much storage when it comes to kids’ rooms. You will have toys, diapers, clothes, and everything in between, so make sure you pick out pieces that are just as functional as they are pretty. Something fun and whimsical: I love using wallpaper in kids rooms, and have used it in both of my kids’ rooms. It is the quickest and easiest way to bring some whimsy and fun into the room and can be the spring board for everything else in the design that you bring in. 3. What advice do you have for incorporating colour into a child’s room that won’t date the design? Keep your main furniture pieces simple and in a neutral color. That means your rocker, your crib, your bookshelf, and your dresser can all be neutral. Then you can bring in pops of color through your bedding, rug, wall art, and all of the toys they have in the room.
4. What advice do you have for parents to help them steer clear of trends that will date a child’s room? Pick out furniture you love, not just what they love. You will definitely want to involve your little one in the design (if they are old enough that is) but pick out the main furniture pieces that you love and then bring them into the design process when it comes to the fun accessories, toys, or art. Most likely they will be drawn to the brighter more fun pieces and having something in the room that they picked out will make them so happy every time they see it. 5. Do you have any ‘what not to dos’ when it comes to designing a mindful space for little ones? Beware of mixing too many patterns into one room. Pattern can add texture, fun, and interest to the room, but stick to two to three patterns at the most so that your room doesn’t start looking like the inside of a circus tent.
Image by Tessa Neustadt.
Image by David Tsay.
Image by Tessa Neustadt.
Colleen Broadhurst Interiors nstagram: @colleenbroadhurstinteriors 1. In your opinion, what makes a room design “mindful” for little ones? A mindful room design for little ones should include areas for different types of play. For example, a small play table with chairs is always useful and can be used for various activities like painting, drawing, tea parties, etc. Adding a fun little nook where they can curl up and read a book is another great feature. This could be as simple as a daybed or a bench, or even something a little more creative like a teepee or tent. I think keeping in mind what the child enjoys is most important too. If you are designing for a newborn, of course you can’t interview them to see what they like. But if they are a little older and can voice their opinions, you can easily find out what their favourite colour is or what toys or activities they like. Children feel special when their little voices are heard, so they will really love a space that they had input in. 2. What is the easiest place for parents to start when it comes to designing their child’s room? Functionality is important when designing a room for children. We can never have enough storage, so purchasing items that are multi-functional can make life a lot easier. For example, you could get a crib with storage below and baskets for toys are always useful. Everything should have it’s own place, or things can get out of hand really easily, especially with a newborn. I also like to incorporate an area with storage for books, as children usually love having lots of books to read.
3. What advice do you have for parents to help them steer clear of trends that will date a child’s room? When I am asked about trends in the context of design, I typically say to clients that they should choose things that they really love. If you really love something, then it will not matter if it is on trend or not. If you are unsure, then incorporate a trend in a way that is not expensive to change. Painting a wall a bright trendy colour is something you can easily and inexpensively change. Wall decals are a quick and inexpensive way to get the look of wallpaper, but without the long term commitment and cost. There are so many new and modern options for these as well. 4. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when it comes to designing a child’s room? Don’t buy everything at the baby store! You may feel like it is easier to pick out everything matching like you see it in the store, but try to avoid matching sets. If you choose a matching crib and dresser, then you don’t need to pick up the matching side table, glider, lamp, etc. A few matching items are okay for continuity, however if everything is from the same line, it will look like you didn’t actually design the room. 5. What’s one go-to trick you have for making a child’s room really magical and lasting? Incorporating decor that you love will make a space magical and long lasting. If you have a piece of art in your home that you really love, why not use it in your baby’s room? You don’t need to purchase art that is directed at children. Photographs of animals, or colourful paintings can be just as pleasing to children. Incorporating an existing furniture piece can add interest to the space. You can always make it more kid friendly by painting it a fun colour or pattern, or adding new handles to it. I love using vintage pieces in kid’s rooms as well, and mixing them with new items. Mix in different elements, perhaps hang a dream catcher from the ceiling, or add some more sculptural items to the wall. Create a gallery wall, using black and white family pictures along with different storybook characters. Add items that are meaningful to you in an organized way, and you will create a room you will love for years to come.
Images by Gooseberry Studios.
Image by Gooseberry Studios.
Kendra Bester Design Instagram: @kendrabesterdesign 1. What are the three most important design elements when creating a mindful space for a child? Colour, texture and shapes. Colour is so important in a kid’s room. You want to create a space that is cohesive with a simple colour palette, because you want your child to be able to relax. Texture is also important, because without texture a room can feel flat and boring. Inviting textures, like a carpet, can also be comfortable and cozy for kids to play on. Using a variety of shapes is another important design element in a child’s space to make it seem whimsical and not so serious. The box shape of a bedroom can be rather institutional but using different shapes around the room can distract from that. And of course, using materials that reflect the child’s personality is also important. 2. What is your biggest money-saving trick (without sacrificing style) when it comes to designing a little one’s room? Using a mix of high and lows. Spend on the items that you know your child is going to grow into. For example, spend money on a proper double/queen bed frame that your child can continue to use as they grow up, but save on items, like artwork, that will eventually change as the child matures, or on an area rug that might end up getting wrecked when they are playing in their room. 3. What advice do you have for parents to help them steer clear of trends that will date a child’s room? The best advice I could give anyone is this quote from one of my favourite American decorators. “Be faithful to your own taste because nothing you really like is ever out of style.” - Billy Baldwin. 4. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when it comes to designing a child’s room? Going with one theme. I see it time and time again when parents go get everything in a Superman theme because their child is going through a superhero phase. Children go through phases quickly, so it is better to only add in one element and have the rest of the room neutral. Please don’t go out and buy the Superman light switch cover, the matching bedspread, matching arm chair and matching rug. 5. Do you have any other advice when it comes to designing a mindful space for little ones? Spend your money on the furniture that will last as they grow up. Don’t buy a small kiddy dresser that they can only use for five years, just go and buy the full size dresser and have them only use the bottom drawers at first. Also, mix and match your furniture, because you don’t need a matching bedroom set. It is okay to have wood bed and painted nightstands. In fact, it is more unique when you mix and match.
Images by Kendra Bester Design.
BYRON BOHO FASHION photography and styling by Rebecca Lindon
Clothing by Chasing Rivers (tights and boots are models own).
Dresses by Daughters Of India.
Eve wears jumpsuit by Storm Child.
Clio wears dress by Qui Qui Clothing and Dandy wears dress by Bandikoot.
Eve wears jumpsuit by Storm Child, Zeus wears tee by Storm Child and harem pants by Children Of The Tribe. Lola wears dungarees and top by Children Of The Tribe.
Eve wears top and trousers from Pilgrim by Feather Drum and dress by Bandikoot. Zeus wears jumper and trousers by Feather Drum.
Tee by Children Of The Tribe.
Dresses by Chasing Unicorns and shaggy vest by Bandikoot.
During June this year, we spent a month in New South Wales, Australia, visiting and talking with some of the mothers behind our favourite bohemian childrenswear brands, and shooting our Byron Boho editorial in the beautiful Byron Bay. Adventure, travel and nature sit at the centre of these brands and also at the heart of the Wildling message. Here’s some background on a handful of those women and why they embarked on their journey into children’s fashion, what inspires them and how motherhood impacts their life and career.
CHILDREN OF THE TRIBE ARTISAN PROFILE words by Emma McClean and photography by Rebecca Lindon
Children of the Tribe is designed for the free-spirited little people who love to roam barefoot, daydream and explore hidden gems. I really believe in kids being kids and allowing and encouraging them to get away from the computer screen, enjoy the outdoors, get messy and use their imagination. It’s very important to me and I design our collections with that in mind. Depending on what collection we’re designing, I always start with a scene in mind, colour palette and how children could play and have fun in that location. Our Summer 17 Lost Desert collection was influenced by my daughter, Willow. She was convinced that snakes and dangerous reptiles could only be found in the desert and she wanted so desperately to visit a desert and hold a blue-tongued lizard. It was incredible to see her little imagination come to life and it became the inspiration for our Lost Desert campaign. Motherhood is such an amazing journey. I find that everyday I’m constantly learning and growing. There is no denying it can be a hard gig but one I would not exchange for anything else in the world. www.childrenofthetribe.com
CHASING RIVERS ARTISAN PROFILE words by Racquel Wrench and photography by Rebecca Lindon
I have a career background in marketing and business. Since I was at school I have always wanted to follow the path of my parents and run my own business. I’ve always loved fashion and design but with little experience in the fashion industry, I wasn’t quite sure how to combine these passions. When I was pregnant with my son River, my bestie and I would dream up ideas of how we would start a baby clothing range. After he was born, I found just how hard it was to find baby boy clothes and knew I needed to fill that gap in the market ,and so Chasing Rivers was born. Chasing Rivers started as a creative outlet. A way to channel my creative energy, to create pieces for my son and to share it with others. I didn’t expect it to take off as it did. As we grow our aims and goals have moved with this, but at the essence of the brand we aim to create pieces for babies, children and mothers which aren’t mass-produced, are completely unique and are ethically made. Our pieces are inspired by our own needs. Comfort and practicality remain at the core of our designs. I create pieces I want to wear everyday, and pieces I want to dress my own child in. Children are adventurous and active and this is reflected in our designs. The biggest thing that River has taught me is to appreciate the little things. The way in which he looks at the world with such awe and wonder. To view it with such curiosity and see the magic in even the smallest thing. I think as we get older and busier, we forget how to slow down and just be present. Also when you become a mother, time becomes a measurable thing and you realise just how precious it is. I still get caught up in the busy day-to-day hustle but I try to make a conscious effort to slow down; a concept that would have been lost on the pre-motherhood me. www.chasingrivers.com.au
DAUGHTERS OF INDIA ARTISAN PROFILE words by Megan Sauerbier and photography by Shelley Lawnikanis
I became a mother 7 years ago when my beautiful boy arrived into our world. I knew when I was pregnant that I wanted to enjoy him and the whole motherhood ride as much as possible, so for me this meant finding work that I could do from home. This is when my online vintage clothing store was born - and, still is a major part of my life. I feel very thankful for the years this shop has been so good to me. So this has been my world for the past 7 years... being a vintage collector and seller, and a stay at home mum to my now three beautiful kiddies and a step daughter. This past year something else was stirring and I was feeling a pull to start something else, a new business idea. Between my love of vintage clothing and my cray love for my daughters who inspire me daily, Daughters Of India became a dream, and with lots of trial and error, frustrating moments (still lots of these), DOI was finally born and we launched in January 2017. My girls Mabel 5 and Bonnie Love 3, have always loved fashion (like most little ladies), and I have always dressed then in vintage clothing with touches of boho. I think this is why I love our dresses so much as it is a beautiful mix of the two. Before I had children I was travelling the globe and working pretty mundane office jobs inbetween. Becoming a mother has really driven me to try and be successful in areas that I love and am passionate about. I want to show my kids that their mumma can make a life out of things i love! I’m a true believer in the saying ‘if you love what you do, then you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ Wow I get so emotional just thinking about what motherhood has taught me, as the answer is everything!!! Bringing children into the world has taught me so, so much. To be selfless, to be giving, caring, loving, nurturing. I love that they look up to me as their world and I want to give them the world. And my goodness becoming a mother, doesn’t it make you really appreciate everything your own parents did for you? www.daughtersofindia.net
BANDIKOOT ARTISAN PROFILE words by Kate Hemensley and photography by Rebecca Lindon
Bandikoot came to be when my first born was one, twelve years ago. An equally bored girlfriend and I started screen printing singlets on the dinner table after our kids had gone to bed. We’d sell them at the markets for some pocket money. Back then it was a lot harder to get cool clothes for your kids, so we thought we’d make our own. Slowly over the years I added clothes to our screen prints. It has become a more developed collection gradually. I’ve been a mother for longer than any other job I’ve had. My life has been an adventure. I have no formal training in fashion. I was a professional snowboard coach, travelling the world and teaching kids how to ride park. It was all sliding rails and dropping into tree-lined gullies in hip deep snow. Byron Bay is home and having my first child made me gravitate home. How lucky I am. Magic happens in Byron Bay. I guess that’s how Bandikoot came to be. I would love for it to remain untamed, sincere in its playful innocence. Ethics and sustainability are really important. Encouraging the trend in slow fashion. And a more conscious consumerism. Right now I’m not looking to grow into a large, high-volume label. It’s a lifestyle thing. I’d like to be able to spend days with my kids. Motherhood is expensive. Hahaha. Do you know how much wine I have to drink!? My kids are my life, and my brand is my creative outlet. When you’re raising kids and running a household it’s easy to drown in the domestic routine. The predictability. There is so much joy in raising children. Having the opportunity to work on your own projects and raise three beautiful kids makes a perfect life balance. Motherhood was probably the turning point for me in terms of seeing my fundamental purpose in life. I became a mother at 24 and then lost my mother at 28. Bittersweet. Kids give you perspective and teach you fast. What you put in you get back. And all that hard work pays off. They reflect all the things you admire and dislike in your self. The greatest challenge is the most beautiful of things. I am so grateful that I can have children. Even if I do occasionally dream about getting on a plane and never coming home. www.bandikoot.com.au
FEATHER DRUM ARTISAN PROFILE words by Kelly-Lee Wright
My background is in law. I graduated from law school in the U.K. with a Masters Degree in Human Rights Law. Thereafter I worked as a solicitor for 12 years specialising in employment law with a focus on discrimination claims. I continued to work in this field when I relocated to Sydney in 2010, but everything changed when I gave birth to my daughter Willow in 2012. Whilst I did go back to work when Willow was 10 months old, the struggle to work as a lawyer parttime became increasingly apparent, particularly as I practised quite a specialised field and had nobody I could job-share with. During this time I’d already filled copious amounts of sketch books with designs I’d love to dress my daughter in. I just couldn’t find what I really wanted in the shops for her, so day by day I set about making clothing myself. It was from there that Feather Drum was born and I’ve never looked back!!! It’s so refreshing to be out of the corporate world and in the creative one. I get so much more personal satisfaction from it. My aims are pretty simple; to create unique clothing that children can enjoy wearing and parents can enjoy buying. I started the label because I wanted to be able to buy something that wasn’t pink, purple or covered in cartoon characters, which seemed to be the only choices I had when I went clothes shopping for my then baby girl. I’m pleased to say that kids fashion has since made huge strides ahead and is now taken more seriously on a global scale, evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of fashion houses now have a kids line, from Dior,to Gucci, to Dolce & Gabana. There’s also an ocean of new kids brands emerging in the marketplace which offer a forward thinking, modern approach to kids style. I want to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully increase the brand’s presence in Europe (primarily Feather Drum can currently be found across Australia, USA and Asia) however my biggest aim is to ensure that I continue to operate the brand in the most sustainable way possible. I’ve made huge headway this last year in achieving that goal, from choosing organic fabrics, adopting planet-friendly dying techniques, transferring to a GOTS certified manufacturer with excellent working conditions for its employees, choosing bio-degradable packaging and selecting better logistical solutions to cut down on my carbon footprint. Willow was my entire inspiration behind Feather Drum. If I hadn’t become a mother, the brand would never have existed. From a practical perspective, the experience of motherhood has been crucial to some of my best designs, such as the t-shirt baby onesie. I always loved the look of t-shirts on babies
but hated how they rode halfway up their backs leaving them exposed whenever you picked them up and carried them. My t-shirt onesie has a clever built-in nappy cover with poppers that remains hidden under the pants so you get the look of a t-shirt, with the practicality of a onesie. I guess being a mother it makes you think of things like, ‘will this be easy to change her nappy in?’, ‘can she run around freely in this?’ or ‘will this keep her warm in Winter?’ I also listen to a lot of mothers. A lot of common feedback was that mothers really struggled to find age appropriate clothing for the tween age bracket, 8 - 12. Since launching this range a few years back it has grown massively in popularity. www.featherdrum.com
BALI TRAVEL ESSAY words and photography by Rebecca Lindon
Eve wears dress by Coco & Ginger.
We arrived in Bali in the middle of a stormy night. Visions of lush green rice fields and children smiling in remote hamlets were quickly shattered as I was forced to navigate through flooded city roads and hectic traffic, so much traffic, that moved in directions that seemed to make no sense at all. When I finally unloaded our bags and two sleeping children into our homestay in Sanur, I had already come to realise that Bali wasn’t quite what I was expecting from my nights spent seeking inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. Having spent two months exploring the island, and with the benefit of hindsight, Sanur is a wonderful place and pace for families. It has a beach with calm waters, a main street with plenty of food options and a smattering of hotels, hostels and villas for any budget. It’s also close to EatSleepSkate; a skate bowl that sparked a new family obsession with skateboarding that has followed us all the way back to England. But we were hunting adventure so after a slow-paced start we headed to Canggu - an area filled with Australian expats, surfers, luxury villas, beach fashion and motorbikes, endless motorbikes that made any 3km journey last half an hour. At first we lapped up the long sunsets where the children marvelled at the skill required to ride waves to the shore, we ate smoothie bowls and haggled over shell bracelets. Here you can enjoy the trappings of a western life in the tropical surroundings of Bali, but of course that wasn’t why we came to the island.
Kaftans by Warriors Of The Divine.
I always drive when travelling and it really is the only way to get the absolute most out of Bali. Accept that the built-up areas are rammed with vehicles and start to join the flow of traffic - it quickly becomes second nature. Soon we were expanding outwards from Canggu and exploring waterfalls, finding elusive deserted beaches and hunting down hidden bat caves, which is how we found Balian. Balian Beach boasts ink black sand and dramatic coastline that is refreshingly free of tourists. There are a few warungs for food and a yoga class here and there, but otherwise you’re getting closer to the real Bali, on an island where very little is now untouched by tourism. Journey further north through the mountains around Munduk and you find an entirely different climate and culture. The rice paddies give way to strawberry fields and hydrangea farms where the rising mist reveals families of monkeys and incredible scenery. Follow signs to Tamblingan Lake (the smallest of three) and take a traditional wooden canoe (no motorised boats allowed) around its silent waters. My two children were enchanted by the bobbing lily pads and gentle voices as the fishermen cast their nets into the water. It was one of the standout experiences of our time in Bali. On the north coast, we stayed in a wooden hut on the beach in Lovina where the water was hotter than a bath and my son played football with local teens at sunset as the call to prayer echoed over the water. At sunrise, a neighbour took us out on his boat to meet the dolphins who frequent the waters and the children were delighted as they swam alongside us and span through the air to our squeals of delight. We ate simply here, enjoying pancakes and eggs for breakfast and Nasi Goreng at dinner whilst we counted the geckos living in our hut (they eat mosquitoes which made them a welcome sight). Bali has been named the island of Gods and Demons and the Balinese believe in the fragile duality of good and evil, seeking a balance between the two. Offerings are made to the gods daily in the form of palm leaves filled with flowers, rice and fruits (though I saw plenty of cigarettes and Oreo biscuits thrown in for good measure). It is said that if you want to enjoy the bounty that Bali has to offer then you must first face your own demons and it’s true that many people on the island are journeying through, or have risen from some kind of spiritual crisis. Many of those people can be found in Ubud (Eat Pray Love land) - here you are spoilt for choice when it comes to yoga classes, spiritual healers and vegan food. For us, the draw was this centre of Balinese art with carvings, weavings, sculpture and a hive of creative energy. By all means, visit the monkey forest (don’t carry anything) but be sure to also shop along Tegallalang Road up to the infamous rice terraces and visit the village of Tampaksiring whose residents are expert bone carvers.
Eve wears jumpsuit by Coco & Ginger, Rebecca wears dress from Balinese market trader.
Our next stop took us to a stay at Villa Sungai; a luxury villa in a rural Balinese village that offered a chance to stop, relax and fully connect with the island. The villa sits on the banks of a river (sungai means river) and is surrounded by jungle and the chatter of its inhabitants. The decor is stylish and uncluttered with opportunities to de-stress around every corner - daybeds, plush sofas, infinity pool and a large outdoor bath helped lull us into deep relaxation from the moment we arrived. The 24-hour staff are the real jewel in the crown, always anticipating our needs with minimum fuss. Alongside incredible food, an even more incredible massage and a traditional gamelan musical performance, our time spent with our host Made was really the icing on the cake. Villa Sungai is heavily involved in the local community and school and Made fosters that connection. He spent time explaining the three layers of the cosmos according to Balinese Hindus and, on returning from a village funeral, walked me through the ceremony and beliefs about death and passing over. We even discussed parenting, patience and the transfer of energy when we donâ€™t let go of negative experiences. Our stay at Villa Sungai was the most peaceful time we spent in Bali and recharged us in our final weeks.
Rebecca wears dress from Warriors Of The Divine.
Before a final few days back in Sanur, we spent some time in Jimbaran at the Movenpick Bali where the children took centre stage. The kids’ club was the most well-equipped we had ever seen, with a cinema, soft play area, climbing wall, children’s pool and endless books, games and dressing-up outfits. Free and paid activities for children were on offer all day long from stretching and cooking to dancing and mask-making. Out by the main pool, parents lounged on day beds surrounding an epic tangle of water slides that my son still talks excitedly about months later. At breakfast, a table of children’s buffet items and thoughtfully presented finger foods made eating simple - the hotel goes to great lengths with their food presentation for kids and with a newly-picky toddler in tow, it took the pain out of mealtimes. If you do stay here then be sure to stroll down to the beach in the evening for beautiful sunsets. The key to getting the most from time in Bali is exploration. Try and bypass the bustle of Kuta and go north, go east and spread int the centre of the island. Here you’ll find remnants of the reason that Bali has started to attract such vast numbers of tourists - tropical scenery, spiritual wellbeing and the broad Balinese smile. www.bali-villasungai.com / www.movenpick.com
BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM LIFESTYLE ESSAY words by Holan Liang
Parents these days are more aware of their children’s self-esteem (which I think is a good thing), while I certainly do not think that my mother ever wondered about my self-esteem, I am preoccupied with my childrens’! I think that because of it, and the more open society that is able to discuss self-esteem issues, that children are more aware and willing to divulge low self-esteem. This does not mean that previous generations did not have low self-esteem, but they were actively encouraged not to talk about it and to adopt a “stiff upper lip” and “get on with it”. This does not mean that they did not suffer, and usually their life outcome will have been impacted by their low self-esteem, although it may never have registered as a statistic.
repeatedly telling children that they are “good” and “loved”. This is necessary but by no means sufficient. It requires parents demonstrating love, interest and affection over time and basically building a close relationship which implicitly tells children that “they are lovable”. It involves, talking, listening, supporting and guiding for the long haul. There is science to support this: a recent study from Professor Thalia Eley’s team at King’s College London indicates that parentchild closeness and parental expressions of affection towards their child are associated with their teenager’s self-esteem even when genetic effects are excluded. I should say, it needn’t be a parent, it could be a grandparent or foster parent, but most children require at least one close relationship such as the parental one to It is often the case when we speak to adult mental have sturdy self-esteem. health patients that they will talk about having had symptoms in childhood that nothing was When you see a good parent in action (and in done about. I think that the open attitude to self- my job, I have seen many excellent parents from esteem that we have now is far more preferable, all walks of life and backgrounds) you just know but I don’t think we need be overly exercised that that that child is extremely lucky and is set up youth of today are in crisis compared to previous for life. I think it involves an “emotional part”: generations. What parents and children do need love, emotional availability, understanding, is to be better educated about monitoring self- empathy, sympathy, support, guidance, affection esteem and ways to improve self-esteem or get and an active “teaching part”: teaching children help when needed. This may be professional to be independent, cope with adversity, problem help, but more often than not, most families can solve, accept themselves and not be afraid to cope with just a better level of understanding. ask for help. I talk about many of these ideas in more detail in my book. I think that the parent’s role in encouraging positive self-esteem in children is critical. The emotional part shouldn’t differ between It starts from birth, and setting up a good children, but different approaches may need to solid base of self-esteem in childhood allows be taken for the “teaching part”. Even though my children to be resilient to inevitable knocks daughter Molly, always seemed more confident throughout childhood and adolescence. Parental and resilient naturally than my son, I still try and encouragement of self-esteem is more than just ensure equality in the emotional demonstrations
of love because children are acutely atuned to differences shown in this. For the teaching aspect, like any good teacher knows, this should absolutely be adapted as much as possible to the child. I spend a lot of time teaching Molly that success is not inevitable and hard-work is absolutely necessary, while teaching my son to relax and live a little: one mistake is not the end of the world. This is because they have different strengths and weaknesses and are likely to meet different adversities in life due to this!
that believed in them (teacher/ girl friend/ boy friend/ grand parent/ foster parent) that gave them the strength to believe in themselves. Ideally, a parent should be this person and available from birth, but it is absolutely never too late. Bridges can always be built between parents and children, even in adulthood. But I do think that parental time invested early on in building a solid ship is always safer, cheaper and less time consuming in the long run than a series of patch-up jobs later down the line.
It is absolutely never to late to improve self esteem. When I worked in adult psychiatry, I often found that the people that I met who had turned things around from delinquent or suicidal teenage years could pin point one person
INSIDE OUT PARENTING; How to build strong children from a core of self-esteem by Holan Liang is published by Bluebird and available now.
TREKKING FOR FISTULA PERSONAL ESSAY words and photography by Gemma Challis
The decision to go trekking in Nepal was weaved together with a soul sister over tea and cake. From that day on we were guided to our destination more quickly than I could have imagined. Just a few months later we were boarding planes to Muscat and then Kathmandu to eventually trek to heights of 8,200 feet. As a home educating mama to 3 boys, working part-time as a Holistic Therapist whilst sharing the equal balance of family and work life with my beautiful husband, fulfilling my dream to visit the Himalayas seemed a long way off... Perhaps my husband and I would have the money and the time when the children had grown up and left home. But here I was on a plane to Nepal after my late Grandmother gifted me the exact amount of money for the trip. This was a journey of the feminine and I was destined to fulfil my dream much sooner than I had ever envisaged. I have the privilege to work with and support women throughout pregnancy and birth, during a time of upmost importance that women are treated with sensitivity, care and respect, so it felt appropriate to raise money for the Nepalese women and obstetric fistula - a mother wound that 100 years ago also affected Western women. With the advancement in maternal healthcare services, if a woman in the developed world struggles with an obstructed prolonged labour she will have an emergency C-section that can save the life of the mother and her baby. This is when the medical model is at its best, if there is an emergency in birth. In the mountainous regions of Nepal, women have no access to maternity healthcare and if complications arise in childbirth are left disabled or seriously injured with incontinence from an obstructed birth. Babies often die in the birth canal and if this isn’t horrific enough, these women are hidden away and forgotten, ostracised from society, resulting in a life of solitude. Every woman, everywhere should be entitled to adequate health care services and proper care. The fact this condition is treatable and preventable is shocking, there are 2 million women worldwide suffering, with a high percentage in Nepal. FISTULA FOUNDATION provides free surgery for these women so they can regain their dignity and reintegrate back into society. The charity’s ethics and dedication to these women touched me deeply and the fundraising begins. With fire and passion in my belly the whole journey was an enlightening, joyful deep earth connection to the beauty of the feminine. Preparing to leave, I borrowed items from wonderful soul sisters, enjoyed deeply healing treatments and was gifted blessings and beautiful words of support that I drew strength from upon on the journey, especially during the challenging times. We leave Kathmandu full of sensory overload, and after a 7-hour coach trip across stunning mountain ranges arrive at Polkhara, the gateway to the Himalayas. We follow an ancient pilgrimage trail with two women we meet on the trek and two male guides whose names mean the ‘Sun’ and the ‘Moon’ who become more like companions than guides. They are light-hearted and fun.
The Moon teaches us yoga as the sun rises and meditation as the sun sets, offering us a healing space to go inwards after physical days of ‘doing’ to connect with our inner landscape. We enjoy many heart to heart moments sharing our feelings and experiences of the day. Porters are incredibly hardy and strong carrying large rucksacks containing 2 people’s luggage and are always at least 2 hours ahead of us. I’m mindful to what I really need, taking the minimal amount of belongings. A shedding of ‘stuff’ is very liberating.
We trek to three remote villages in the Nepalese Himalayas through dense jungle, orchid trees and red rhododendrons, past enormous clumps of bamboo and banana trees, along rickety rocks and ancient pathways and up steep steps and inclines that go on for hours until the landscape dramatically changes and villages and farmlands that have hardly altered in centuries suddenly appear. The mighty Himalaya Mountains surround and hold us with their embrace until the mists descend like a feathery white veil. By the second day at 6,700 ft the altitude really gets to me. It seems endless and exhausting. My head hurts and all I can manage is putting one foot in front of the other. With all my attention focused on breathing deeply, I reflect upon my birthing experiences and how powerful the breath is in these moments of guiding us inward - how I discovered my strengths in these moments, the strength and perseverance to carry on. Everywhere we go, we are greeted by the adults and children with the customary â€˜Namasteâ€™, it is so heart-warming. If everyone in the world were as friendly as the Nepalese we would be without edges. We stay in teahouses in the villages. Sleeping quarters are single beds with the thinnest of mattresses imaginable in shared rooms, never heated. One room in particular was so damp and cold we wrapped up in layers of thermals and hats while curling up into sleeping bags. Trekking is no place for lovers of luxury. The beautiful chime of a Tibetan singing bowl is the wake up call and a warming cup of chai tea. Then yoga revitalises us. I feel amazing and never believed I would say that especially after being woken at 6am and then going to bed at 8pm. As my family know well Iâ€™m not an early riser!
A basic commodity such as a flushing toilet, toilet roll, hot water, and clean drinking water is all but a luxury. Wet wipes become a reliable friend and stashes of toilet roll see us through. The Nepalese women bath in their sarongs by the water pipe, pouring freezing cold cups of water over themselves. I’m not as hardy. Nepalese women are beautiful, colourful and strong. From early morning until late at night they work the land, carrying heavy loads of firewood and animal feed in huge baskets on their backs. They do not stop working - even into the night one of the mamas in the village we stayed with was peeling peas as we ate our dhal bat or garlic soup. The men were in one room and the women in another. The women suffer from gross inequality and have no independence. They are there husband’s property and will work all their lives for their family or for their husband’s family. Travelling with a soul sister and then being blessed to meet two more soul sisters on the trek was an absolute delight - we followed sacred feminine pathways, connected with our feminine power as we laughed and cried together, shared our stories. The wildness of us women together connected in nature, the bond of healthy sisterhood was sealed very quickly. More so because we were living day to day in presence, in the moment with big open hearts. There was a holding of each other. We had each other’s backs. Our camaraderie shone through with a deep sense of fun and belonging between us, we all genuinely cared for one another. The power of the land and the mountains entwined with our own. Trekking mountains has possibilities for transformation and is often described as a metaphor for life. Some of the journey is easy and free flowing and then out of the blue it can become an inward struggle, an uphill challenge. I learned about endurance and reclaiming my wildness as I took just what I needed across the mountains. Feeling vulnerable and beyond words at times of the sudden emotions that welled up inside me bursting to flow out. The snow peaked mountains held me firmly then swallowed me up as I released fears. The daily movement kept me grounded and shifted outdated layers of myself.
On my 41st birthday we watched the sunrise at Fewa Lake and enjoyed our daily yoga and meditation and then breakfast, which was usually chapatti with honey, nuts, boiled eggs and herbal teas. We prepared to climb the highest point on the trek Panchassee, which means five seats of the divine mother, a sacred feminine mountain described by the locals as an age when womanhood implied Shakti; a love and energy and strength of force. I certainly tapped into this power of energy flowing through us and the land, and after endless climbing past sculptural trees we are finally greeted by the familiar site of colourful Tibetan prayer flags swaying in the wind, ancient ruins and a meditation cave where Siddha Baba became enlightened. There are many beautiful moments when the four of us dance and sing together and meditate at the Buddhist monastery. Eagles glide gracefully above and their beauty takes my breath away. Here was one of my power animals so close I could nearly touch one. Later after a dinner of garlic soup and chapatti the guides and locals gifted me the most delicious apple and chocolate strudel they had spent the day creating. I was overwhelmed at their kindness and shared it with everyone so we could all enjoy the sweetness. They sang and we danced, then at 8pm on the dot we were sent to bed. As is tradition for a Nepalese birthday a candle was placed in my room to reflect ones inner Light burning bright and one meditates for a minute for each birth year. Blowing out candles is not a good omen in Nepalese culture. The most gruelling day took 7 hours until we reach the terraced fields of Pundi Bhumdi the last village we would stay the night. The most uncomfortable moments being marched through a leech infested jungle and being told by our guide that tigers live in the jungle and leeches can jump out of the trees above as well as being on the ground below. Jeez! I have never screamed and laughed so much in equal measure whilst trying to flick leeches off my boots and pee en route. Each time a leech was flicked into the air another would advance onto the boot desperately making its way up the trouser leg seeking attachment. Bizarrely and surprisingly I quite enjoyed the complete craziness and randomness of walking amidst something so utterly out of my comfort zone. At each village we visit I was hopeful there might be the opportunity to meet pregnant women but the women are very private and the language barrier makes it impossible to discuss fistula or women’s business. Girls here are born into a culture that suppresses the feminine into oppression. No wonder pregnancy and childbirth is hidden away and taboo. The women living in the remote Himalaya Mountains are hours away from the nearest hospital and stories of abuse put the women off even if they wanted to go. These women are told early on they aren’t as important as men. Yet we are all born from a woman. She is the creator, the life giver. She is powerful. This fear of feminine power is why we live in a patriarchal dominated society. The Nepalese believe the majestic Himalaya Mountains are the divine mother, mother to the local people. So I ponder on why Mothers in society are not cherished and admired with the same respect? Shockingly a woman’s moon-time is seen as a curse that can turn the food bad and bring bad luck to the family. When young girls start to menstruate they are forced to sleep outside where they are vulnerable, unprotected and exposed to snakes and the elements, often very far from where they actually live. This extreme practice is called chhaupadi and instils stigma, fear and shame. How can menstruation be considered a sin when it is such a powerful creative force?
Thankfully there is a movement happening in Nepal. As there is worldwide. The tide is turning. Mindsets are changing. The feminine is awakening bringing the balance back from a patriarchal society driven by fear and control. And hallelujah there will always be brave women who stand up for their rights. Some Nepalese girls are now standing up to their elders and refusing to sleep outside, tackling these cultural taboos. Reclaiming their rightful power as equals, as human beings and creating a shift towards positive change for future generations of women. On the last day of the trek we make our descent and trek through small villages and farmlands and past a couple of schools where the children run out to greet us. We visit the World Peace Pagoda with its enormous golden Buddhas representing Buddhaâ€™s four stages of enlightenment. It is here, soaking up the beautiful energies and with a wide-open heart I pray humanity will all come together in unity to eradicate violence against women. I could be with the Pagoda all day but our group is moving and we make our way down to the lakeside and take a boat ride on Polkhara Lake to an island where a Hindu holy man in the Goddess temple blesses us. Our journey is now complete. The symbolism couldnâ€™t be more ironic. We have come full circle. I feel exhausted and elated. Spending 10 days in Nepal; 17 hours driving from Kathmandu to Polkhara and back again and 6 days trekking, I witnessed poverty and hardship unlike anything I have been exposed to previously. The Nepalese live a much simpler life and in the midst of having so little, the people were happy. It was humbling. But the reality is life is hard for the women here.
As a Western woman I am privileged to live in a part of the world with opportunities to be financially independent, with access to healthcare and basic necessities and to share an equal partnership with my husband. In the U.K there is still inequality for women with many fighting for equal pay, trapped in abusive relationships and 85,000 women being raped in England and Wales every year. Women are mistreated all over the world. Gandhi said ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. As individuals we can all make a difference by being accountable for our actions and behaviours and owning how we participate in and perpetuate patriarchal structures. Raising our children to respect everyone with open hearts creates a healthy balance of the masculine and feminine energies that flow through us and out into the world. This way we can restore the balance of an outdated system coming back to a place of love, equality and respect for others and ourselves that can be felt individually and on a collective scale. Life isn’t always easy and we learn from our mistakes and that’s what’s important - we continue to grow and evolve, standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in all the countries of the world modelling this sense of solidarity to our children and helping each other. Love after all is what makes the world go round. Before I left for Nepal I battled with feelings of guilt for leaving my husband and children for 10 days even though I knew my children would be well cared for. We explore so much as a family, it was a big deal for me to go abroad on an adventure without them, to be away on my birthday, to be doing something just for me that cost money. For a moment I got caught up in the fear of what others might think but I knew I needed to feel into these feelings to grow, understand and own what really belonged to me and what was conditioning from society’s patriarchal system of keeping women suppressed with outdated roles and expectations. I was overwhelmed with support from family, friends and the people I work with. I have immense love and gratitude for my husband and children for their love and encouragement in supporting my sense of adventure for what was a life-changing experience. To have travelled to Nepal in remembrance of my Grandmother’s legacy is a gift I will always cherish. Fundraising for FISTULA FOUNDATION, a charity that I am so passionate about, provided an opportunity to raise awareness to the plight of the Nepalese women. Many kind human beings have come together in support and offered whatever donation they can afford; an amazing £1,750 has been raised so far.. the love and hope continues to ripple out. It was an honour to walk in beauty and joy for these women and to trek in a Sisterhood as we opened our hearts together. In nature being surrounded by breathtaking landscape, the trek shaped us into the tribe we have become. The fundraiser is still open if you feel drawn to donate: www.crowdrise.com/gemma-and-amanda-go-trekking-in-nepal
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FORMENTERA TRAVEL ESSAY photography by Kattia Tubo
DO I TELL THE GIRLS? PERSONAL ESSAY words by Chloe Asprey
I had just turned 50. There had been lovely celebrations with family and friends, but now I wanted to mark it in some way, just for me. How? One day I was idly flicking through a holiday brochure when I saw a special offer for two weeks in Egypt, in February. What really got my attention was it included getting a diving qualification I had always wanted. Perfect. I knew I had made the right decision the moment I arrived in Sharm el Sheik. It was the familiarity of Egypt and I was in my air, plus I had never been to the Sinai. I was curious to visit St.Catherine’s Monastery, at the foot of Mount Sinai, together with the Chapel of the Burning Bush where Moses, apparently, had an epiphany. After the diving, at the end of my trip, I hoped to swim with a dolphin I had heard about. She had been separated from her pod and her story struck a chord with me. the stress of a long-distance relationship was causing endless arguments and “silent treatment” which would always end in me booking an impromptu surprise trip home to try and reconcile, despite this we survived to see out my graduation. 18 months later, we were wed. It was impulsive and frantic… and controlled. One thing that remained consistent throughout was the pattern that followed, one of immense highs followed by immense lows. I would be idolised one day, to disappointing him and feeling at a loss the next. Aziz, my guide, was at the airport. I guessed he was about 25. He had a beautiful speaking voice which was quite mesmeric at times. He was very engaging, asking me what I wanted to do as well as diving. When I mentioned the monastery, he said “Did you know St. Catherine came from Alexandria? I had to study all about her at University. I also learned that the Bedouins around the monastery are Christians and when the Seven Day War in the Sinai happened it was very dangerous for them.” I didn’t know any of this. He came across as genuinely knowledgeable about the history of the Sinai, from ancient times to modern. “Would you like to go tomorrow?” He asked. I was delighted and looked forward to an interesting day. He also reminded me that it was Ramadan and people could be a bit edgy at this time from fasting and following the religious laws. I hadn’t realised I would be there during Ramadan, another first. Driving through the desert was heaven; I just loved the energy of tranquillity despite the troubles that had taken place during the war. I knew there were still peacekeeping forces based there, but on that day it felt beautifully calm. Finally, we reached the Monastery. It was very dark inside and extremely redolent of other Greek Orthodox churches I had seen in Europe. Lots of hanging lamps and it smelt of sweet, ancient, incense that belonged to another time, cloying rather than exotic.
I felt claustrophobic and wanted to leave when a drawing of fairies caught my eye. “How strange” I thought to myself. It felt slightly out of place. I studied the fairies for a while, fascinated. Outside, I just glanced at the chapel of the Burning Bush, wondering what kind of epiphany Moses had really had. I was very glad to listen to Aziz’s stories about his life in Cairo as we drove back to Sharm and the feeling of darkness in the church disappeared. The course started the next day. From then on, each morning, I would walk along the beach to the diving centre with a real sense of freedom and excitement. In the evening I would walk back with a real sense of achievement. My teacher’s surname bizarrely was Love and we went diving at a place called Temple. This made me smile every time I thought about it. I loved every minute of discovering the world deep below the surface of the sea. I loved all the different fish, so unafraid and playful, particularly the clown and angel fish swimming around our bodies like underwater butterflies. Varieties of coral I had never seen before, sea cucumbers in different shapes and sizes... Nearer the surface the colours were vibrant and the deeper we went the colours disappeared. Sound became distorted and my sense of direction changed. Not all the fish were playful and a shoal of barracudas reminded me that we were in shark territory too. Exciting! I could understand why drug addicts liked diving. The deeper you went it became very disorienting in a strangely seductive way with the added spice of danger. Memories of my younger days began surfacing. However, the older me understood the golden rule about not diving alone and having a buddy. The importance of using regular signals to stay in touch and checking each other’s equipment. It was still magical, till the fourth day. When I asked him about Ramadan because of the time, he just shrugged. “Oh I don’t really follow all the laws.” It was a hot balmy night and we talked amiably until quite late. Having company that evening helped and the next day I walked along the beach feeling better and ready to overcome my blocks to hovering. Ms Love had asked the head instructor to help us. Very gently he asked me what it was that bothered me about hovering. After a while, I had a memory of my grandmother hovering around me when I got back from school. I realised I had a problem with the word itself! I used to be very sensitive to her invasion of my space. “Can you think of something to replace that image.” he said softly, almost innocently. “Yes, yes I can.” I remembered the drawing of the fairies. “I can happily imagine being a fairy”. From then on I sailed through the course, the magic was back and I got my qualification with flying colours. Ms Love was pleased and I was thrilled. When I saw Aziz later he was pleased for me too. “How are you going to celebrate?” He asked. I realised I wanted to know if it would be possible to drive out to the beach where the dolphin was. “Of course” he said. “Everything is possible”. He arranged for us to have a driver and go the next day. He said it would take a while to get there so we would be gone the whole day. We set off quite early and Aziz sat in the back with me. To begin with I was looking out the window drinking in the energy of the desert, spotting the odd Bedouin child with their camels.
At some point, I became more aware of Aziz, his physical closeness, but ignored it as I thought it was my imagination. The feeling of closeness changed, started to become intrusive, and, at the same time, I sensed the car was slowing down. I saw the driver look at Aziz in the mirror and then everything slowed down. I had experienced this stillness before, years before. A decision was being made. I knew what that decision was. Somewhere in my head I heard my godmother’s voice saying “Don’t do anything, don’t even ask the Universe for help. Just listen to my voice. Remember you don’t have a bad bone in your body.” My eyes slid away from the mirror. I somehow disappeared into her voice, floated in space. I became aware of the car picking up speed again and Aziz’s closeness receding. I went back to looking out the window and eventually we arrived at the beach where the dolphin was. I have no idea how I managed to get to a rickety shack of a toilet. I was sick, my knees giving way, I held onto the basin. From somewhere I remembered Aziz saying he couldn’t swim. I needed to feel safe, get into the sea with the dolphin without appearing to hurry. When I did, this incredible creature seemed to know how much I needed her. She nuzzled me gently, again and again. She kept giving me comfort, reassurance, circling me and nuzzling again. Her grey body soothing and, in turn, I recognised her loneliness at being separated from her pod. We swam together in mutual understanding like a healing balm. I was so grateful for her companionship but eventually I had to get out of the water. I got back into the car wet, wrapped up in my towel like a cocoon, still wanting the connection with the sea and the dolphin. Strangely enough the journey back to the hotel was much shorter. When we got there, I got out of the car, not bothering to say goodbye. I sat in the lobby for a while with a sense of relief, watching the other guests going about their business. Eventually I felt able to pick up my key and head for my room. As I got closer uneasiness crept in. The door was slightly ajar. I pushed it wide open without actually stepping in. There was Aziz on my bed, stark naked! For a nanosecond I struggled between rage and laughter. He looked strangely vulnerable, like a little boy. With all the assurity of 50 years, I said “For fuck’s sake, get dressed and leave. I am old enough to be your mother.” “Oh no you’re not. My mother is 70” was the petulant answer. He wasn’t 25 after all. Whilst he got ready, I sat in the sun outside still wrapped in my towel, aware that the sea had dried out leaving a layer of protective salt on my skin. I left the next day and, when I got back home, I sent Aziz The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I was grateful, I had truly learned to dive and hover. Do I tell the girls? The girls being my granddaughters and the answer is yes, when the time is right. I will also tell them how I recognised the stillness. Sometimes we hover, sometimes we fight. My granddaughters are twins of three. Feisty little girls with strong personalities which disguise a fragility both influenced by their age and, I suspect, their fundamental characters. I wrote this story now as I may not be around when they are young women but I know their mother will pass this on to them when the time is right if I haven’t been able to.
What would my advice to them be? To start off with, be aware of the environments, cultures, traditions you find yourselves in, be respectful whether you agree with these or not - being defiant and provocative rarely works. We make assumptions whether we are old or young and we can definitely teach our children to be aware. My story is really about how important our intuition is and ultimately that is what saved me then and at other times. Parents need to work on their own intuition and can begin to encourage their children to value their intuition. Then they can see how it guides and supports them, rather than depending on logic alone. The best advice I heard given to children was, rather than “never talk to strangers”, when a “yes feeling” changes to a “no feeling” trust it and get away preferably calmly. I taught this to myself and my children and it works. Being afraid of everyone doesn’t work and a child’s world can become very small taking that fear into adulthood. By the same token, my advice to parents is to get help and support if they have experienced any traumas so it is not passed on to their children
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Published on Jun 29, 2017
Published on Jun 29, 2017
Volume 9 marks two years since the launch of Wildling Magazine and this issue is packed full of parenting essays, travel diaries, interiors,...