Dear Mum. AKA “Instructions for caring for my toddler”

Dear Mum,

I am grateful to you for your willingness to care for Tobias while I go to work on Friday’s. I know you raised three children of your own, but that was back in the days of 4 hour schedules and the era where the parents called the shots. So much has changed.  I mean, almost 4 decades have passed and things are different now, Mum. Kids are too, you know. So I can help you learn the ropes, by writing you some instructions.

So here is the drill. I will write you a list, and this list should be kept out of reach of said toddler, because he will either eat it, paint it or poo on it. Then you are going to be in a world of trouble, because how will you know how to look after my toddler without the list?  The list will specify times, and methods that you will find will help you operate Tobias. If you skip instructions, he is likely to malfunction. Which in turn, leads to you (or I) doing the same.

So follow the list.

I have yet to finalise the list, but here is a rough draft.

DRAFT ONLY

  1. Tobias needs to drink. He has a sippy cup which needs to be within his reach. It also needs to be placed in his face, on regular intervals as he does not yet know the importance of hydration. So as his carer, you must be one step ahead at all times.
  2. Tobias needs to eat. He usually eats in his high chair, but these have changed a lot since you were doing the parenting thing, so I would suggest that you sit him at his table. Because I don’t want phone calls at work saying he is stuck in the high chair.  Whilst Tobias might not want to eat, it is imperative that he does, because he might not sleep well on an empty stomach (and we all know that not enough sleep is pretty much the worst thing ever). Sing to him, play trains (place the food on the spoon) going into the tunnel ( move food into his mouth). This usually works. You can mix it up a bit too, and you can go all retro on him if you like and do the plane thing that your generation loved so much.
  3. Tobias likes books. I don’t think there are any regulations for this instruction. Feel free to improvise.
  4. Fresh air is important (but not as important as you lot used to think with leaving us outside between meals, only allowed to come in to use the facilities).
  5. Bedtime routine – ok, this is the MOST IMPORTANT BIT. Don’t skip anything, do JUST AS THE LIST SAYS, otherwise the unthinkable may happen – he may miss a nap!!!!!!!
    1. All of the above.
    2. Nappy change – I bought those nappy pants for Friday’s, so you don’t             have to work around tabs and stuff. You know, you might put it on back the front or sideways, so always look at the picture.  The picture is what he will pee on.
    3. Sleeping bag – this is what modern parents refer to as a ‘sleep cue’. Tobias by now should be starting to get the message that it is time for sleep.
    4. Story time – reading on the couch – another sleep cue.
    5. Walk to the bedroom.
    6. Turn on the heater – to setting 1.
    7. Turn on the white noise on my old school pink radio you bought me when I was 12. Put it on FM, volume dial about 1/3 way around and off channel.
    8. Walk to cot.
    9. Rock, pat, sshhhhh shhhhh shhhhh.
    10. Place toddler into bed, feet pointing north, on his tummy.
    11. CRAP!! I FORGOT THE DUMMY – GO BACK TO NUMBER 5 (c) and insert here – both instruction AND dummy. (that was close – you may have needed to start number 5 all over again if we didn’t catch that one).
    12. Creep out of room, avoiding creaky floor boards (IDEA – do you want me to put bright dot stickers there so you know where to tread?).
    13. If he doesn’t settle, blow all of that and pick the kid up and cuddle him. Works a treat, every time.

I hope this helps you Mum, and that you feel confident to care for a Tobias for 3 hours. If you have any questions, re-read the list. If you still have questions, then maybe I need to add more dot points to help you out. Again, THIS IS A DRAFT ONLY.

Regards,

Your Daughter (your third child).

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Creative space creates space

One of the most indulgent things for me is time with a new magazine and a pot of tea. A few moments to sit, peruse and be inspired. I discovered ‘Flow’ magazine this week, and what a find! This magazine oozes inspiration, motivation and creativity. The articles in this particular issue focused around happiness, mindfulness and the wealth of time.

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I am in a stage in my life where I feel there is simply not enough time in the day for me to express and engage in the hurricane of creative ideas whirling through my mind. I go to bed every night feeling as though I missed an opportunity to learn something or try something new. I never imagined that this freedom of creative space I enjoy would cause me angst. But it does.

After reading some of the articles in Flow, I have been inspired to ponder on why I feel this way.  Does my creativity needs to be harnessed in order for me to regain the sense of playfulness that began this journey of simplicity, sustainability and creativity for me a number of years ago? I believe it does. So what does one do to regroup, and restore some balance with creative passions and the ordinary-ness of  everyday life (which is totally able to be EXTRA-ordinary too, when we live creatively!) ? Here is what I plan to do:

1.  Slow the thinking down for a bit

So many of my creative endeavours – those that have begun and those still in concept stages – are a labour of love, an active process of trial and error, planning and lots of mess making (which then needs to be cleaned up – agh!).  I strongly believe passive creativity has its place, and I aim to indulge in more of this to regain a sense of calm and fun in my creative pursuits. Passive creativity is still inherently creative, and still engages those creative parts of our brains, but with zero stress! Colouring in is my passive creative outlet of choice, and Johanna Basford is my artist of choice. What exquisite colouring books she has created, so that you and I can enjoy creativity any time, anywhere. Narrowing the creative decision making to colours as opposed to broader ideas, is a simple, yet effective way, to come back to the pure enjoyment and simplicity of creative endeavours. Just watch a child when they colour, and the calm and focus they have as they create a masterpiece. Now, you have a turn!

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2. Celebrate creativity with others

I have started hosting Crafternoon Tea and colouring parties at my house as a way to get together with friends, and to inspire and enable them to pursue creative pleasures in a way that is manageable for the stage of life we are at (children, school, sports etc).  Through setting aside pockets of time, the creator within gets a chance to be at the forefront.  Other things are set aside, and creativity reigns for an hour or two!  Hosting these get togethers has made me realise how much others crave creative outlets, and are sometimes just waiting for an opportunity to allow themselves to set aside responsibility, and nurture themselves.

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3.  Create for fun

When I have a period of time when I am not under the pump with orders for my Flair Enough business, I love to create things that are just for fun. Stationery is often my creation of choice when I get the urge to make.  I have been posting snail mail using my handmade stationery, as a therapeutic way for me to engage with people in a  simple and whimsical way. There is something magical about a handmade note in the letterbox, written for no particular reason other than to say “hi”. Snail mail is a lost art in many ways, and I want my children to see the value of handwriting, expressing oneself through the written word, and the joy of posting and receiving mail. What is your creative outlet of choice, just for fun?

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4.  Pots of tea

Tea is known to have relaxing properties, but a tea bag just doesn’t cut it, in my opinion. The ritual of pouring a pot of tea, drinking from a tea cup and saucer is good for the soul. When we drink a teabag infused cup of tea, there is often a sense of rush from the outset. But a teapot needs time – time to infuse, time to rest.  We need to do the same every now and then, so brewing a pot of tea serves as a reminder and a prompting to take some time to just BE.

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5.  Kids are creative beings – take a leaf out of their book

My children are incredibly creative, and sometimes their idea of fun is not mine. But usually, when I go along with their ideas, I get caught up in the flow and have a blast! Floor time with children is a wonderful way to foster theirs and our creativity.

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Making room for creativity, creates space in our minds. When we nurture creative thinking, we find our creative problem solving capabilities increase, we think outside of the box. Creative space creates space. But we need to create space for creative space to enjoy the benefits – and we also need to ensure that our creativity is harnessed well, rather than utterly chaotic to maximise the benefits of our creative pursuits.

Flair Enough

I have done it AGAIN. I will never win Blogger of the Year, of this I am certain. I just get too easily distracted.

FLAIRENOUGHSIX_clipped_rev_1As you would know, if you  have read at least a few of my blog entries, I am passionate about simple living, upcycling and being mindful of what really matters in life. An outworking of these together this year has been the creation of said distraction – Flair Enough. After receiving a lot of feedback from friends and hearing for the 100th time that I should consider selling some of my pieces, I decided to take the plunge. If you head on over to my Facebook page, I would love to hear your thoughts.

‘Reimagining Home and Play’ is our catch cry. Rethinking what we think we need, what we think our kids need. Reimagining a piece of discarded furniture, that can be transformed, or some old timber off cuts that hold the potential for a world of storytelling and adventure. Flair Enough is a play on words speaking of what we are passionate about.

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Reclaimed chair, reupholstered and painted.

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Preloved storybook and reclaimed timber transformed into storyblocks ❤

Fair prices & Enoughism – we have enough crap in the world, and we certainly have enough overpriced crap in this world. We offer a superior starting point in gift buying or home decorating than mass produced, plastic or poorly made items. Flair Enough is about using what we have, because we have ENOUGH to go around, and adding flair, so that these pieces can be given a new life and be enjoyed once more.  If it is not upcycled, reclaimed or handmade, you will not see it on our page 🙂 Come on over and say hi xoxoxspots tent

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.

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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I am here, under this pile of books and papers…

I have been somewhat MIA. University studies are proving to be more consuming than I anticpated (!!). With family and work, I have felt that my creative side starving and losing energy. I am truly grieving this and know that I must continue to pursue the creative life, keep feeding it, so that it gains strength and momentum in my life once more, despite academia, work and the everyday things that simply must be done.

So today, even though I have papers that must be done and readings that are piling higher than the sky (well, almost) I decided to enjoy the creativity that was going on around me. Matt and the lads jumped onto www.allfortheboys.com and were captivated by the Spy Week activities. I, however, felt ripped off. Here they were, doing the fun things that I have always loved to set up for them, WITHOUT MY ASSISTANCE!

This is a good thing, right?

Hmmmm…

Anyway, I had a friend ask me what I was doing tonight. I said I couldn’t play because I had to study. Then I got the guilts. I felt like a bad friend. So I contacted her and made her banana bread. She is about to arrive any minute. You see, I get obsessed with things and I forget that life is made up of MANY wonderful things – I just lose sight of them sometimes. It is hard to see (and breathe) under a pile of books, papers and highlighter pens. I get fixated, I go over and over and over sentences trying to get them “just right”. But the words of my ever wise husband ring in my ears…”You do not have the luxury of perfectionism this time. Not with a family and a job and uni.” He is right. I can do my best, but I must remember that boundaries are a good thing, they actually help me to suceed in ALL areas, rather than sacrificing some to succeed in others. Like my creativity.

So, it is here that I am reminded again that getting top grades (which, by the way, I rather like!) is not the goal of my year. The goal is to be balanced, whilst finishing my degree. I can finish it, even without a long line of High Distinctions. Credits, or even a Pass (GASP!) will still get me to the goal.

And here I was thinking that my few years of slowing things down reprogrammed my driven nature. Let’s try this again, shall we?

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Around the world on a grocery budget

I’d love to travel the world with my family. I’d love to experience the richness of other cultures with the lads. I’m not a seasoned traveller by any stretch, but the few trips I’ve made to various Asian countries have left wonderful memories, firmly implanted on my taste buds.
I look forward to taking the lads on their first international journey, hopefully in the next year. But until that time, we are going around the world on a grocery budget, and its proving to be quite the journey!

We have decided to be much more adventurous with our taste buds whilst exploring cuisine from around the globe. This is how it’s going to work:
We will take it in turns choosing a country, then look through recipe books and find a dish we want to create.

Isaac was the first cab off the rank, choosing Jamaica. He’s a big Bolt fan, so I’m pretty sure we know the source of his inspiration: Eat like Usain, run like Usain.
Jerk Chicken served with coconut bean rice was our first experiment. I salivate even thinking about it!!

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My choice for this evening was Morocco. To be honest, I had my doubts that the lads would come at Harira. Boy was I wrong!!!

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One thing I really loved about tonight, apart from the fact that I am beginning to realise I’m a damn good cook, is that we embraced the Moroccan custom of sharing a bowl around the table to wash our hands before eating. This added another dimension to our experience. I will be looking for other such customs to include in our international foodie family evenings as we go on.

I’m going to create a recipe book using our photos and memories of our family experiment and if I’m organised enough, give this as a gift to our family at Christmas.

Asher has chosen France for next week. He’s convinced he wants to eat snails. Bon appetit!

Book store crush and all things vintage.

I love books. I’m compelled to look in second hand bookstores whenever I pass one. I love it when one jumps out and surprises you. The ones you don’t expect are delightful.

We found this gem in Ballarat, Victoria last week.

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Here, I was surrounded by titles from my childhood, enthralled. Books are one of my great loves in life, and now my sons share that love. I know I’m a lucky woman, when my 7 and 5 year old sons will stay in a book store, happily, for a long time. No tantrums or screams of boredom. Just pure enchantment.

Some bookstores cause you to feel like you’ve entered a new world. These are the ones that are hard to come by.

In Cygnet, Tasmania, we found our second “other world” in a week! Vintage toys for children to pass the time were a nice touch, not that my book worm bambinos need such distraction!

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Up the road, a cafe by the name of “The Red Velvet Lounge.” The coffee was great, the food delish, but the icing on the cake, the classy old school tunes that filled the air.
Matt indulged in an “Elvis Jaffle” which was filled with bacon, banana, peanut butter and jam.

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On our way home we stopped to explore a vintage warehouse. My goodness, I could settle in for an entire day uncovering all kinds of treasures! I tried on some 1960s dresses, or should I say frocks?
The boys were not as easily tamed in this environment, so guess where I will go alone later this week? Rummaging through history is my idea of fun!

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Hammock time

Lazy Sunday’s really are one of life’s great and simple pleasures. Today, the sun was shining and our new hammock beckoned me. Of course, I obliged.

I indulged in a coffee and book on the deck, in the sunshine, swinging lazily, eventually, sleepily. I didn’t even have to share with the lads, as they were too busy practicing their newfound chess knowledge.

I sit here on the couch tonight, content as can be after enjoying some of my favourite things, all bundled up in one lazy Sunday. Lucky me!

solitude
reading
coffee
sunshine
family beach walk
pear cider

What is your idea of an indulgent, lazy Sunday?

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