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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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).

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.

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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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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A-Z of Gratitude: R is for Reminiscing

Today I took my children to my old hood. I grew up in poverty in a pretty rough neighborhood. I wasn’t really aware at the time how poor we were, because it was all I knew. But as I raise my own family in very different circumstances, I am reminded of how tough it was for my mum, raising three kids on her own in such a tough suburb. She kept a tight reign on us, and boy, I resented her for that at the time. Now, as a parent myself, I’m enormously grateful that she stood firm. In her wisdom, she set boundaries that kept us safe.

Driving around the streets I walked in my childhood stirred me. I still feel so connected to the place, despite it being 16 years since I left. I took the boys to the street I grew up in. I lived there for the first 19 years of my life. Sadly, I could only show them where the house once stood, before it was burnt to the ground. I then took them to my primary school. After that, we drove by my old church. I had to explain again that there used to be a church there, before the act of arson that destroyed it. Finally, we drove to the site on the hill that I walked up each morning for four years of high school. I will never forget the fog that we had to navigate in winter, barely seeing a few meters ahead. Rain would pelt relentlessly and we would sit in wet clothes in class. But stories are all I can share, once again. My old high school was torched and burnt to the ground. I always imagined that it would be more visually appealing taking my children down memory lane, but these familiar places are now just a picture in my minds eye.

The memories were so rich as I drove the streets of my childhood. I could almost hear the familiar sounds of our neighborhood antics. I felt the thrill of riding my bike down our street. I could still see the hordes of kids hanging out at the local park. I can still recall the layout of each of my schools and the faces of my teachers. I can remember the countless ways in which I set my room up, changing it almost as often as the seasons. Memories remain so alive, so vivid because my I reminisce so frequently. I tell stories often, because I don’t want my childhood to be invisible to my children. The house, the church and the school may be invisible to them, but they can still see my childhood. Through my eyes and my reminiscing they get a glimpse of the mummy they can truly relate to- the one that was just like them. A kid, once upon a time.

I’m grateful that despite having a childhood that was difficult on many levels, my brothers and I still reminisce about the good old days.

Picture Books you love/d to read your children

What are some of your favorite children’s books? Not your child’s favorites, but the books you most love reading to your offspring. There are some books that bore me or leave me blankly staring at the last page in disbelief that the book even got published! I’d really love to hear of some well loved, dog-eared books in your house so I can share them with my family. Please leave a quick comment with your treasured titles.

Here’s a list of some of the picture books I thoroughly enjoy reading to my lads. We own loads of books, and borrow around 30 library books a week, so there are far too many to list, but I’ll give you a small sample. These days Isaac is reading lots of novels, but he still loves being read to and snuggling on the couch. Asher is learning to read, and one of his favorite things is raiding the library book box numerous times a day for story time. I treasure these moments. There will be a day that they’ll be too big to fit on my lap (unless I grow my lap!!), and too “mature” for picture books. Loving it while I can.

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