More sunshine, less whine

Sunshine and the great outdoors are the allies of the exhausted parent.

Armed with a double shot almond milk latte, in a huge mug, the lads and I began carrying supplies out to the deck for a morning of mess and imagination. Because when you are outside, mess can wait, and it does not agitate.

 

Whilst my lads age range might mean that compatibility in play is sometimes elusive, there are some things that just win every time, like sensory play.  We have used rainbow rice, cloud dough,  play dough and water play again and again over many years (new batches of course!!).  These are simple, low or no cost activities that I enjoy as much as my kids do.  It is really important to know what you enjoy in terms of play as a parent. Yes, we play things that we don’t particularly enjoy, because the kids want us to join in. But when we find things we enjoy as much as they do, the play is different. And we can all feel the difference.

 

So this morning, we played with cloud dough, play dough and rice with plastic animals and duplo. And afterwards, those animals really needed a bath.

We brought the dolls house and peg dolls I made outside, and Asher showing Tobias how to create an avalanche of animals down the staircase.  

Then we made some necklaces with our animals. “More,  more, more” resulted in Tobias wearing a zoo.

 

 

Not one complaint. No bickering. No fussing. It really isn’t rocket science; kids (big and small) need to be outside.

 

And does the fact that there are things strewn across the deck concern me? Not one iota. But if this same mess was inside, I would be finding it very hard to leave the activities out for much longer.  The lads will go in and out all day, and these things will be utilised in endless ways, as their imagination leads.

Oh, and I got to have my coffee while it was hot.  And we filled the neighbourhood with bubbles. Everyone’s a winner.


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Storytelling: The ancient art

Stories are powerful, captivating and enable us to transcend our immediate cares, albeit briefly.  I am a story junkie. I always a stack of books on the go at the one time. I am eager to hear the stories of those I meet amidst the pages, trusting them to help me further understand myself, others and the world around me.  Books are one of my great loves,  and I genuinely grieve when I close a book for the last time, feeling torn between wanting to know the end, but wanting it to go on forever.  However, some of the best stories of all are the ones that are a part of us, a part of our own history.

 

Reminiscing is one of the most beautiful forms of storytelling in my opinion.  Retelling the stories of our childhood, our school years, our courtship, our mistakes and embarrassments keep the memory, the sounds,  the smells, the emotions of these stories alive. Retelling these stories to our children is  a great gift, and one that those who have gone before us knew all too well.  Storytelling is an ancient wisdom, yet sadly, we often rely too heavily upon authors to fill the storytelling craving within us.

 

Imagination is the author of stories of every kind.  Imagination is not something we should leave behind as a distant memory of our childhood. Imagination can be our constant companion through life, enabling us to live creatively, laugh hysterically and escape reality for snippets of time. Imagination is also one of the most, if not THE most useful tool for parenting.  You would only have to eavesdrop at bedtime to hear the delight and the call for “just one more story Mummy!” to know that a story that comes experience or imagination is pure delight for a child.  I know my children will have fond memories of the characters and places I have told them of before bed.  We like to create stories where one person chooses a character, another a setting, and another an object. Simplicity at its finest, enthralling my sons.

 

Then there are the real life stories that need to be told. During a visit from my dad, I had the urge to ask a few questions about one of my grandfathers.  My Pop was an Englishman loved by all he knew.  Smiling eyes and bulging muscles, he often reminded me of Popeye.  I remember vividly walking with him, and wherever we went he was warmly greeted by people, old and young alike.  The kids used to call out to say hi to “Mr Bill!” He was a friend to all.

Pop died when I was 7 years old, so I have limited memories, but the ones I have are rich and tangible. However, without the reminiscing and the stories being retold, these memories are in danger of fading, or being lost forever.

When my dad started to tell stories of Pop, his face lit up, the room filled with laughter and we all felt it – we all felt that we touched the mischief and the ebullience that was my Pop.  There was one story in particular that I wish I could tell my own kids, but they will have to wait a few years – we don’t want them testing this one out…

Pop worked at the railway, and was getting sick and tired of his sandwiches being stolen. Going hungry day after day he decided it was time to take action and get the last laugh.  He made some special sandwiches for the lunch box bandit, and spread a layer of dog poo between his bread.  Wrapping them as usual, placing them in the usual spot, he waited for the usual suspect to take their first bite.  Old Pop never did have to worry about his lunch being stolen after that.

 

Motivated by my own childlike responses to hearing such stories, I  share some more of my childhood memories with my sons often. Their eyes fill with wonder, excitement and shock with these real life “this is what we used to get up to” stories as much (if not more) than they would with the most enthralling picture book by the most popular children’s author.

 

I want my children to catch a glimpse of me as a child – because they relate to that.  Adult stuff isn’t that interesting to them. They don’t really want to hear about the book I am reading, or that the interest rate just went up again, or that plums are on special this week.  They want to hear adventure, mischief, strife and hilarity – so let’s start telling them the stories that live in our memories, before we forget them.

 

It’s amazing how much we can remember when we start to tell the story. Keep this ancient art alive. Tell stories, everyday.

The List: School holiday edition

School holidays when I was a child consisted of a whole lot of reading and playing with the neighbourhood kids.  Life is so different now.  Firstly, most of our immediate neighbours were children 200 years ago, so they aren’t exactly suitable playmates for my children.  Secondly, electronic devices when I was a child consisted of vacuum cleaners and toasters, so they weren’t exactly appealing as objects of amusement.

Juggling the use of devices is an ongoing issue, and we are currently trialing a screen time token system.  Our lads don’t have their own personal device, but we do have a Wii and an iPad as well as 2 laptops which we allow them to access with our permission.  The tokens are working really well so far, as the lads are highly motivated to accumulate screen time minutes; therefore chores are done more willingly, and bedtime is no longer such a drawn out process for Middle Son.

 

However, screen time is only a minimal part of the lads day, so there is a need for other activities to fill our days.  Now with a 14 week old baby in our family (a belated post coming up about this big news!), occupying the bigger boys is a much more pressing issue!  So what does one do when they have a 7 and 8 year old who need to be entertained, but one does not have the same amount of time as in previous school holidays?  Why, you construct a list, of course! I do love lists, and grab any opportunity to pen one. So the arrival of school holidays was a fitting occasion to create a list of potential activities for the lads, so that they had a resource to go back to when the childhood profanity is spoken – “BORED!!!”

After I presented them the list, I requested that they initial any activities that sparked their interest. Here’s what happened…

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The list has since mutated, with the addition of science experiments involving water pistols, cloud dough and aluminium foil art.  I will post updates as these are ticked off the list.

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Yard Sale Psychology

You can learn a lot about humanity by holding a yard sale. Firstly, about your own life. The accumulation of stuff that we once deemed so necessary in our lives, now up for grabs to passers by. My “no buy it diet”changed me forever. So the amount of stuff we culled this time was, in fact, minimal, but there’s still that quiet reminder that too much stuff doesn’t add to the essence of our lives.

First observation – blokes came looking for stuff for themselves! Tools and fishing gear. So many a man walked away empty handed.

Second observation – some people wear tshirts they probably found at a different garage sale, for example; “Trust me, I’m an alcoholic”.

Third observation – women usually buy with others in mind. Therefore my sons started singing “all the single ladies” in the hope that it would have a Pied Piper effect on the neighbourhood ladies. Women came mostly buying for friends with babies or children.

Fourth observation – women AND men change their minds. One lass purchased something only to return 10 minutes later for a refund. Do I look like a department store?! But I do look like a pushover, it seems. So I handed her fiver back. It hurt too, as that was 25% of our takings at that point.

One fellow thought long and hard about a Lego and Wii purchase. As we were eating dinner there came a knock on the door, 6 hours after we packed the gear away. He had $10 so we did an after hours deal on the doorstep. Odd, but the kids scored an extra $5 each.

Fifth observation – kids learn niceties quickly when greeting copious amounts of strangers asking them “How are you?”By the end of the day, they were (unprompted!) asking, “And you?”

Sixth observation – making a batch of gluten free scones and a pot of fruit tea for morning tea is good on any day.

We didn’t make much cold hard cash, but our home feels lighter, and our ongoing quest for less is strengthened!

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Playground therapy – thanks for listening

Cruising around the blogosphere and I stumbled across a daily prompt posts. The prompt was to write an ode to a playground. Didn’t that create an onslaught of trippy memories for me?

How do you write an ode to a place where a horse once bit you? Or where you would sit and watch in horror (maybe it was awe at the time?!) as the older girls from two doors around come to the park, not to swing on the tyre with me, but to fossick for the filthy cigarette butts all over the ground. They then sat there and smoked them, generally getting maybe one drag out of each if they were lucky. Was it worth it Mary-Anne and Kerry-Anne? (They were sisters and I did not make those names up.)

Then there was the time when I was invited to the school grounds to play after school by my good friend. Well, I should clarify. She was everyone’s “good friend”, because we were all too scared of her for her to be anything less.

Once I got there, she was with another “good friend” of mine. Apparently her idea of a play date was to set the two of us onto each other like dogs. A ‘fight to the death’ kind of play date; gladiator style. When I said I wasn’t interested in having a rumble, I was given a choice: I was to fight the less frightening of the two, or I would be attacked by my ”good friend”. This was some “play” at the park.  The memory of that day is etched in my mind (and nose) forever. Only now, it is actually funny.

As an adult, I have broken my nose at a playground on a long slide whilst on a work excursion with some teenagers. Blood again, lots of it, everywhere. I went to the fish market nearby, where there are hundreds of kilograms of ice and asked for some to ease my suffering. They said no. Nice, hey? I did not feel bad for one second that I left a trail of blood through their eatery.

Thankfully, playgrounds are much nicer places for me these days with my lads.  I must admit though, there are still dangers  lurking at these seemingly harmless venues; parents who would rather watch their device than their children, graffiti that can provoke the most interesting discussions with little people, and toilets that belong in nightmares.

I wonder what the word ‘playground’ conjures up in your mind?

Reliving my bookworm childhood through my bookworm children

The feeling that comes over me when I catch a glimpse of a book from my childhood is almost embarrassing. I mean, I almost squeal. It’s everything in me to refrain from running around asking the people around me if they remember the book, in case they too might share the ecstasy of my find. I’ve been able to restrain these impulses to date, but one day, I will likely stumble across something that will reveal to my fellow op shoppers that I get a tad too excited over small things.
Here are some of the books I have scored from the thrift shop in recent times – I wonder if you enjoyed these too?

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The thing is, the lads don’t always share my excitement when I come home with these treasures. Some of them, they adore (like ‘Choose your own adventure’), but I am still waiting for them to catch the excitement of Encyclopedia Brown (it will happen, believe me. Watch this space).

Stories from our childhood are special. They remind us of times of imagination that ran wild, secret reading sessions when we were so quiet that perhaps we could almost be invisible. Visits to the library were a tradition for me in childhood, and I am so thrilled when I see my lads in libraries and op shops scouring book shelves for their next adventure. And sometimes my lads are almost invisible too, cloaked by the cover of a great book and an adventure on every page.

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A person’s a person, no matter how small

Today is one year since we discovered our baby didn’t make it to 8 weeks. I will never forget that day nor the days that followed as we waited for the inevitable: for my body to let go of the child it loved. It’s amazing how a tiny person becomes a part of who you are. Forever. Never to be forgotten.

Today I am 13 weeks pregnant. This pregnancy has been so different because of our previous loss. I read into things too much. I don’t look or feel pregnant (apart from being exhausted!). But I’m pregnant. And it’s surreal.

I’m finishing off my last two papers of my degree and have honestly not had a lot of headspace to think about much else. So in a few weeks I’m sure it will all hit me. I’m really pregnant.

Eden Farmstay Getaway

A farmstay is something we’ve often talked about doing with the lads. When a great winter deal came up for Eden Farmstay we jumped on it. It has far exceeded my expectations, and I’m sad to be leaving in the morning.

Pigs, chickens, roosters, bunnies, alpacas, goats and cows fill the beautiful pastures. Eggs on toast like I’ve never tasted. Frost in the morning, sunshine through the day. Animals living as animals should live. what a way to spend 3 wintery days!

Asher’s hope for this trip was to hug a goat. Not only did he get to do so, on many occasions, he also found a kindred spirit in Ian the kid.

Isaac, who is not an animal lover, has amazed us with his enthusiasm. On the first day, he was ever so cautious and adamant he would not hand feed animals. By day two he was feeding cows apples and allowing goats to nuzzle food from his palms. A goat even jumped up on his chest and he dealt with it beautifully. Now he wants a bunny.

Wearing gumboots everyday felt so good!

There’s something really special about this place. Matt and Jo (our hosts) go far above what you would expect. The feeding routine starts with a gentle tap on the cottage door, prompting us to all jump up to grab our gumboots and head out for the rounds with Matthew. He could have done the feeding much faster alone, but instead spent close to an hour leading us and giving us time to feed the animals and extra time to play with the goats. One thing I’ve realised doing the rounds is alpacas are among my least favourite animals, with spit that makes sewerage smell like daisies. Seriously.

We will be back, and I encourage my local friends to support this great family in their venture, and come for the best local mini break available!

http://www.edenfarmstay.com/

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