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.


Expression Regression

Breastfeeding. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people wish they had more milk, others wish they didn’t squirt at the mention of babies. Some people struggle to feed their babies, others do it with ease. Breastfeeding is one of those topics that can divide or unite. For me personally, breastfeeding has never met my expectations (forget for just one moment that most of the expectations I have about ANYTHING are totally and utterly unrealistic and set me up for disappointment, anxiety, frustration and angst). I have longed to feed each of my lads for that magical 12 months. Isaac made it to 11 months before the biting got so severe I chose to stop or lose a nipple. Asher was breastfeed until 7 months due to a tongue tie and the fact that I had to pump and top up after every feed – and I was pumping with a hand pump and have had tendonitis ever since! Worth it?!  Both of these lads were topped up with formula from a few weeks of age, and were only exclusively breastfed for a number of weeks. That brings us to Toby. Well, with him I have chased that elusive exclusive thing down big time. He’s been “exclusive” since 8 weeks of age, but at great cost.  I took domperidone for months, I downed so many fenugreek tablets I was smelling like a walking stack of pancakes covered in maple syrup, and I still drink lactation herbs multiple times a day (which cost a small fortune – I could be buying top shelf).  I have pumped for 1-2 hours a day since he was 2 months old to sustain this exclusivity. But yesterday I decided that I need a break. I have to stop pumping, for now at least. I have to reclaim some of my time. I am tired and I am desperate to continue feeding him, but I have to wonder what drives this urge. Is it for Toby, or is it for me? Is it the competitive streak in me to “outdo” the 11 months with Isaac? At the core, I think there is a part of me that still hopes that one day it will just click. One day, maybe he will feed with ease and without me having to sing to distract him or jiggle him to keep him latched on. One day maybe he will drink more during the day than he does at night and it will mean I have more sleep. One day maybe as he feeds he will gaze up at me, stroking me gently and it will be just like a picture from a breastfeeding website – pure maternal bliss.  Pffft. Yeah right. You know what? The the only time that happens is in the middle of the night – and yes, I enjoy that part of breastfeeding, but I am exhausted by the night wakings.  The day feeds go something like this – suck, suck, bite, scratch, pull hair, suck, suck, look at the big lads, suck, jerk, wriggle, try to escape, jiggle, sing, distraction tactics, suck, suck, bite, pull hair, slap boob, suck, suck, repeat.

So the expectations end here. It is what it is and if I want to keep going, then I might just have to settle with combined feeding, because I am weary from the battle. But I love the fleeting moments (and there are some – usually in the middle of the night!) where it is easy and lovely. They will be the moments I will look back on with fondness. But for now, the pump is having a holiday. And everyone in my house said, AMEN.

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.

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?

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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Loveliness

It’s a week of loveliness. I’ve decided. It’s a very busy week, but it’s lovely.

Aren’t clean windows lovely? I washed our windows this afternoon. When you appreciate the lovely things in your life, even the tedious things are acts of loveliness. To enjoy our stunning view through clean (well, a few smudges here and there) windows is thoroughly gratifying.

Isn’t biscotti lovely? To bake something extra special to share with my family is lovely. Messy, but deliciously lovely. (Experimental success: gluten free, pistachio and chocolate biscotti, mmmm.)

Sunsets; they happen every single day, but never cease to be lovely.To walk along our beach at sunset… You guessed it- lovely.

To find my post-exam creative project – a vintage telephone table that I can add some colour to – that’s luxuriously lovely!!

So there you have it, I’ve decided. Despite being the big study week, this week is going up be a lovely week, full of lovely things, lovely moments and lovely thoughts. Ah, lovely.

I hope you find and create the loveliness in your week.

xx

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Mindful Mumma

Just for today I ignored the uni books and decided to be mindful only of motherhood. Things have been somewhat hectic in our house this year, and we are all feeling it a bit. So today I just needed to be in mummy mode. I cannot tell you how good it felt to do things around our home to make this week a bit more relaxing for our whole family. Things that are usually just done in auto pilot, were quite therapeutic for me today. Hanging washing out and putting the boys clothes away instead of leaving their “put away pile” for them after school made me smile. Grocery shopping so they have healthy, delicious food felt great. Cleaning the floors that were still showing the signs of Asher’s party, cleaning the toilet that is messy because I live with boys, tidying up the evidence of how much fun our kids have, planting some more herbs in our garden – it all felt great. The pile of uni books beside me tempt me, but today, I resist. Because today, I just had to get back to what it’s all about for me – being a mum is my greatest passion and joy. But there was a reason for this mindfulness.

It was so very deliberate.

Today was to be the due date for the little one we lost last October. I felt I needed to relfect on how blessed we are; to come back to the basics of what it means to care for, nurture, provide for and nourish our children. No doubt when they come home and see a sparkling clean house they won’t notice. But that’s okay.

A bit more about the gardening I did today: The boys gave me an oregano plant as part of my Mother’s Day gift, so today I went and got a Thyme plant to pop beside it in the garden, to remember ALL of our children. I also got an indoor plant. Plants seemed a fitting way to commemorate this day – because even though we never got to hold this one, we are changed. We have grown. We are so much more aware of the joys, because pain changed us. So something that is living and thriving seemed to me, the right way to honour our little one.

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My 1980s stencil quest

I am reminiscing tonight about the things I used to do as a child, brought on by the sheer dismay I feel whenever I go searching for gifts for children- especially my own! Asher turns 6 next week, which is altogether confronting to me. That is another blog. We won’t go there tonight.

I hate just getting run-of-the-mill gifts. Lego is a must of course, but beyond that, I really struggle. I love to foster their imagination and creativity with their gifts. I search online and go to the “different” toy stores in pursuit of the ultimate play thing! But you know what, at the end of the day, it is not about the stuff. I know this, yet I still search.

I found an article online tonight that made me smile. I came across it whilst I was hunting for a retro set of Disney stencils that I used to adore when I was a little girl. Stencilling was great fun, was it not? I don’t mean the straightforward stencils, you find these days, but the progressive ones, where you had to line things up and move the stencil along to complete your picture. I really want to get some great quality, age appropriate stencils for the lads, and struggling to find them. But I digress… back to the article!

http://www.weekendnotes.com.au/old-school-activities-for-kids/

Old school activities for kids:

Hopscotch – we love this. We play under the carport every now and then, and tonight, Asher actually asked me to make hopscotch pudding for dessert. How could I refuse? That is just too cute!!!

Four square – I lived and breathed this game as a kid! We grew up playing the neighbourhood kids most nights after school and on weekends. We were very serious and competitive, but what a ball we had! (No pun intended).

Stencils – I have said enough, but seriously, if you know the Disney stencils from the 1980s I am referring to, please let me know!!! We share a bond!!!!!

Tea parties – These don’t happen too often around here, but MasterChef sessions do. Matt’s mum made the boys a whole range of knitted foods and Ash still enjoys these on his mini wooden kitchen.

There are more listed in the link, and I will share some more of my fave old school activities soon. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about your favourite childhood games/activities or the things you have reinvented with your own children!

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