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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My life: The Musical

I wanted to blog for two days in a row. Just because.  I didn’t want to think too deeply or try to solve the worlds problems so I googled BLOG PROMPTS. Here is what got my attention…

“Cue the Violins

If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?”

Oh this is going to be fun! Firstly, the opening scenes would be an eclectic mix of rap and yodelling, because these are the extremes of my life. You see, my life IS a musical. Just ask my husband and my kids and my besties. I have a song for everything and if there is no song, then I make it happen. I have composed millions, but sadly, for the rest of the world, these have not been recorded. They have been one performance only type compositions. What a sad, sad thing.

Did you know that if you want to argue or tell someone off, if you sing it you can save a marriage? Try it. We are still married, so that is proof it works.

Ok, back to my soundtrack. There would have to be some screamy Transvision Vamp type scenes that offset the frequent drudgeries of motherhood.

The Angels “I wanna get out of this place”. Do you really need me to elaborate? Didn’t think so.

Spin Doctors “What time is it?” has to be there. I think I am driving my family mad whenever they ask me “What time is it?”  It might be 10am or 1pm but I will generally answer singing, “4.30. It’s not late, no, no, no. It’s just early, early, early.”

Rogers and Hammerstein – now the bulk of the soundtrack is found amidst these musical delights.  Poor Judd is dead, poor Judd Fryers deeaaard. It’s a grand night for siiiinging, the moon is flying high. Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be frieeeeeends.

Guns N’ Roses – “Take me back to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Oh won’t you please take me home.” Don’t ask me why, but this song has literally been stuck in my head for about a decade. It just won’t go away, so I sing it. A lot. For no apparent reason.

Europe – The Final Countdown. For no lyrical reasons whatsoever, just “na na na naaaaaaa na na na na naaaaaaaaaa” reasons.

Over the Rainbow – just because I know how to play this on ukulele so it would add a new layer to my image – people might finally realise I am a groovy uke chic and want to hang with me more.

Crazy Frog. Jokes.

Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm- Let’s face it. When you are a parent you don’t always listen. Sometimes you just go into “mmmm” autopilot and end up agreeing to things that make kids happy and parents crazy.

Sound effects – none would be necessary to be honest. There are enough sound effects of bodily types, and household appliances, stomping feet, dropping pots and pans, screaming baby and the rhythmic sounds of shhhing and patting to last for a trilogy.

I could go on for hours with this. I might have to do a series…

Planning my Planner

I love lists. And pens. And washi tape. I also love paper planners as opposed to using the iCal app. So I thought I had found the perfect planner, but it disappointed me. I then turned to Pinterest to search for the free PDF downloads that would surely be the solution to my organising needs. I quickly became disheartened at the thought of trawling for hours through printables that would be fun and colourful, but not necessarily suited to my style of list making.

Then I remembered a graph book I got from Office Works and decided to draft my own planner pages for this week. My plan for my planner is this: I will hand draw each week, using what I liked from the previous week, and tweaking or removing what isn’t so useful.

There is truly something therapeutic about using colourful pens. You should try it if you haven’t in a while.

This week I have included: Finances for the week at a glance, School stuff, Menu Plan, Dream cloud for ideas and inspo, and my take on the ‘To Do’ list – the ‘Ta Da!’ List, which is much more exciting. Because when I get to tick something off, I will be all like, “Ta da! Look at what I did today! How clever am I?!”

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I best stop planning my planner page, and get planning my week. Well, what is left of it.

Ticking boxes

We are in a stage of life where we feel that we are simply ticking boxes.  Lunchboxes? Check. Faces washed? Check. Beds made? Check. Dinner on? Check. Pick kids up from school? Check.

You get the idea.

Having a 7 and 9 year gap between babies certainly has its benefits, but the thing I have found the most challenging is going from having a straightforward life with two boys who were able to get their brekkie, do their own seat belt up, stay up late if we wanted to go out with friends, use their words to tell us if they are upset… these things were the things that made life pretty cruisey with two lads. Now we are caught between two worlds, and the littlest lads needs often supersede those of the big lads.  Enter Mother-Guilt.

The fact is, they older lads know what they are missing. They had years of life as the four of us.  They had years of attentive, creative and downright awesome parenting. Then BAM, it all changed. One example I can offer is that I express for 1-2 hours a day to keep my supply up for Toby, and this is one of the biggest challenges we are faced with.  Isaac verbalized what we have all been thinking yesterday when he said to me as I was doing the morning pumping session, “Mum, life would be so much better if you didn’t have to express.” Ouch. The tension between wanting to continue breastfeeding Toby and wanting to be more available to Isaac and Asher is agonising.  I recall when Asher was 7 months old, I made the decision to stop breastfeeding for the same reasons. Milk has never flowed freely from these breasts, and I have had to work so hard to feed all of my babies.  This tension is something I will live with for now, because I do not feel ready to end this journey with Toby.

I could not count the number of people who have warned me of the impact of a third child over the years, prophesying that if you are going to have three children, you may as well have seven because the third seems to tip the scales exponentially.  I used to scoff at those people; as if!  Now I get it. I really do. How a third tiny person can throw the balance with such force is one of life’s great mysteries. Yet this is our new normal. The new normal is taking some time to get used to, but ticking boxes seems to be our forte right now, so we aim to tick those boxes with as much grace and patience as we can muster (on most days), with a silly song and a chapter of Harry Potter or Charlotte’s Web thrown in on the days when boxes are ticked and time is spared.  We make choices that create more boxes, such as healthy eating and me going back to work for 13 hours a week, but we believe these boxes are important for the bigger picture.

I do not want to despise the everyday acts of family life, so I must remind myself that these are the days I will one day look back on with longing. My own mother reflects on the hardest days of her life as a single parent with three children with such affection that it astounds me.  The hardships and the drudgery have not shaped her recollections, rather the joy of raising tiny humans. There is a wide-eyed wonder to be experienced when we see the world through the eyes of a child, and this is the very thing parents the world over long for, when it is gone. One day, when these lads see through the eyes of an adult, and no longer crawl into our laps or beg for another chapter,  when they take themselves to bed rather than waiting for prayers and made up stories, these are the boxes that I will one day wish I was still ticking.

So we shall tick, tick, tick the monotonous boxes, but we shall use a sparkling gold glitter pen to tick them, because these small acts are the essence of family and what I always longed for when we wondered if the miracle of children would ever be ours.

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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Graduated, expanding and utterly outnumbered!

I am a fair-weather blogger, and it has once again been months since sitting down to pen some thoughts. So much happened in 2013, so much great stuff, but the definitive aspect of the year was most definitely hard work. Lots of it. My uni degree is complete, and I graduated with distinction. Thrilled. My baby belly is getting big, and I am reminded, despite all my denial, that the time is drawing closer. I feel incredibly relaxed about the impending arrival of Minifig (that’s what this kid will be named if we don’t come up with something soon!!!). Relaxed, or maybe blase? I am utterly unprepared, but I figure I still have a few months to get clothes, a room, a car seat and all that jazz.

The baby is a BOY! My journey with lads has been beyond what I could have imagined, so I am stoked to have another boy on the way to delight in.

Here are a few pics of the past few months. More to come soon regarding our renewed resolve to live simply in 2014.

Xmas eve

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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.