Monthly Archives: May 2009

Growth Spurts

measure1My daughter has been very clumsy this week.  She’s managed to fall off a chair, walk into a wall and tumble head first down the stairs.  Fortunately I was at the bottom of the steps and managed to catch her before she really did herself an injury.  Oh, and she also tripped over her own feet, landed on her face and split her lip.  The ice  pack has been in and out of the freezer all week!  She seems to have a patch like this every now and then, which I suspect is due to growth spurts.

Isn’t it funny how kids can jump a whole clothing size in a week?  Or how you buy a pair of shoes for them one size up, put them in the cupboard, and by the time you get them out they are already too small?!  The rate at which children grow astounds me.

I guess I am still growing in some ways too.  Although I may not be getting any taller, I am certainly still growing as a mother.  And like my daughter, I think that perhaps I too am prone to growth spurts.  There are times when it seems like everything is smooth sailing with my parenting, and my kids and I are happily cruising along together.  Life isn’t perfect, but at least I have things mostly under control.  Then there are other times when I seem to be navigating through unchartered territory.  The learning curve is steep, and as the Mummy I’m required to be a fast learner in order to keep a step ahead of my kids.  It’s then that I trip over my own feet and land face first myself.  Ouch.

I think I need to be kind to myself.  It’s not like some transformation took place when I gave birth, endowing me with all the skills and knowledge I would need to successfully raise my kids to adulthood.  I think we are meant to grow with our kids, learning little by little what works (and doesn’t), tripping up occasionally and allowing the process to mature us.

One thing I have noticed with my daughter is that an awkward, clumsy patch is often followed by a delightful and contented phase.  She settles back into herself with a renewed confidence.  I hope that is true of me with my mummy growth spurts too.

Make A Milkshake

img_6109A milkshake is one of life’s simple pleasures.  My daughter and I often enjoy a milkshake at a cafe together, making memories as we share – one cup, two straws!  Unfortunately though, I do sometimes find she has a case of the sillies afterwards, so lately we have been making our own shakes at home.

We really use whatever we have in the kitchen at the time to make our shakes.  We start with a base of milk and fruit, and go from there!  Even if we add nothing else, whizzing up fruit and full cream milk in the blender makes frothy, yummy shakes that my toddler loves.

Berries are our favourite.  Partly because they taste great, and partly because my daughter just loves to watch the milk change colour in the blender.  Sometimes we add yoghurt to our berry shakes.  Bananas shakes are great too, especially with a scoop of icecream, a dash of honey and a little nutmeg.

Any tried and true milkshake combinations the kids in your house love?  Share them by leaving a comment below!

Just What the Doctor Ordered

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Sick-boy snuggled up with Daddy

My little man has been out of sorts for almost a week.  He just hasn’t been his usually sociable and smiley self.  He’s been off his food, not napping well in the day, and waking several times through the night.  His low grade fever told me something was going on, but I just put it down to teething.  After all, most kids get a little hot and bothered when they start teething.

Today he was a picture of misery.  An overtired, inconsolable, feverish little boy.  So off we went to see our doctor, just in case I was wrong.

I was wrong. Poor kid no longer had a low grade temp, but a full blown fever thanks to a raging ear infection!  Our GP prescribed the  antibiotics his little body needed to fight the infection.  She couldn’t prescribe anything to fight my mummy-guilt.

Feeling like a lousy mother, I shared my thoughts with the twitterverse.  A friend replied soon after, reminding me of a truth I needed to hear.  She simply said, “You didn’t give him the infection. You are fixing it.”  Somehow that turned me around.  It wasn’t my fault.  I stopped beating myself up about the fact that I didn’t work out what the problem was sooner, and got on with the business of caring for my baby boy.

What would we do without other mums to support, encourage, and guide us?  I hope you have built a network of other mothers around you too (in the online world or the real one).  None of us can do this mothering adventure alone!

Gotta go… little man is awake.  Time for more infant paracetamol…!

10 Tips for Finger Painting!

img_6534Finger painting with young kids is insanely messy, but it is worth the effort.  Here’s how to survive the experience without it becoming a colourful catastrophe:

1.  Dress your child in old clothes or put on a paint shirt (I do both!)

2.  Cover surfaces with a drop sheet or old newspapers.

3.  Use decent quality paint.  You need good depth of colour and good consistency.

4.  Limit the colours you put out.  We just use red/blue/yellow, because the primary colours all end up mixed and create secondary colours anyway.

5.  Use paint containers that are accessible for little fingers.  Try take-away food containers, shallow yoghurt tubs or even egg cartons.

6.  Remember the younger the child, the bigger the piece of paper they need!

7.  Show your child how to use their fingertips rather than their whole hand.  (Don’t be cross at them though when they go right ahead and stick their whole hand in the paint anyway!)

8.  Talk to your child while painting.  Rather than ask “What is it?” try asking “What are you thinking about while you’re painting?”  They might be thinking about an object, but they could also be thinking about an experience or an emotion, or they might just be thinking about how the paint feels on their fingers.

9.  Fill a large bowl with warm soapy water for cleaning hands at the end.

10.  Choose the best painting (or two) to put on display, and tell your child why you chose that picture.  It will encourage them the next time you do finger painting!

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For those of you who like to think a little deeper, what else in life is messy, but worth the effort?  Marriage?  Friendships?  Cooking?  Dream chasing..?  Something to ponder while your little ones create their masterpieces…

A Cup of Rice

566616_75622404I made a great dinner last night.  Lovely grilled ocean trout with wilted greens and a lime soy dressing served on a bed of rice.  Masterchef eat your heart out.  (Even my three year old scraped her plate clean!)  After enjoying our meal, my hubby and I put the kids to bed and cleaned up.  As usual I just tossed out the leftover rice because there wasn’t enough for another meal, and in all honesty I couldn’t be bothered coming up with something creative to do with the amount left.  I thought nothing of it and started opening the mail.  The first letter was from Compassion, and it just about smacked me across the face.

It should have been a feel-good letter.  It was thanking us for a recent donation to assist with the current global food crisis.  But I didn’t feel good.  I felt guilty.  The letter opened with a quote from a mother in Nicaragua who said, “Many blessings have come in moments when we most needed it, like someone showing up with rice…” Yep, rice.  And I had just chucked our leftover rice out because I was lazy.

Right at that moment the world seemed horribly wrong to me.  How is it that one mother considers a cup of rice an answer to prayer, while another tosses it into the rubbish?  How is it that one family earns so little that they can’t feed their children a single simple meal, while another earns so much that they eat five times a day, every day?

Making the donation didn’t impact me, but the stark contrast between the way two mothers view rice did.  I was glad that I felt bad, if you know what I mean.  That unsettled, uncomfortable feeling is what makes us take action.  God trusted us with this world and I don’t know that we’ve done such a good job with it.

I’m certain that the next time I cook rice for my family I’ll be thinking about that mum in Nicaragua.  I’ll talk to my daughter about the child we sponsor through Compassion, and about the way we can change the world one child at a time.  And when we say grace, we’ll pray for the kids with no rice and with empty tummies.  Maybe if we show our kids what’s wrong with the world, they’ll do a better job than we have of making things right.

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Do you sponsor a child?  If not, check out Compassion or World Vision and change the world for one child

Techno-Babes

img_6229I love this photo of my son and I blogging.  Well, I’m blogging and he’s giving me material to write about!  As children of a software developer and a reasonably tech-savvy mama, my kids are bound to be fairly technically literate and exposed to the online world from a young age.  But how young is too young?  Or is there no such thing, given that these kids are growing up as “digital natives”?

My son is 8mths old.  A laptop is certainly not a foreign item to him.  He knows that we touch the keys, but not the screen.  He knows that we use gentle fingers on the keys and do not hit them!  He is allowed to play with an old keyboard, but knows Mummy’s laptop is not for touching.

My daughter has just turned 3.  She regularly emails family and friends, with help from me.  She independently types her name and inserts smileys (shift key and all) and knows how to change the size and colour of the font in her text.  She knows what Google is.  She knows my online name is SquiggleMum (and has asked her father if he is “SquiggleDaddy”).  She knows what a blog is.  She knows how to get out of a program she has inadvertently opened by pressing esc.  She knows how to insert a CD and plug in a USB mouse.  She knows we use computers to find information, to communicate with people, to share photos, to watch video and to listen to music.  I didn’t know most of these things until I was well into my teens!

I want my kids to be able to function effectively in the world they find themselves growing up in – but as their Mum I also want to protect them.  I want to expose them to new technologies without exposing them to danger.  And that means I need to make some decisions, sooner rather than later.

Will I let them have their own email addresses?  Will I let them post to their own blog?  Will I let them claim their own Twitter profile?  E-literate parents are already gently leading their little ones into the blogosphere, or the twitterverse, or whatever you want to call it.  A prominent Aussie blogger’s son, for example, has his own Twitter profile and almost two hundred followers.  He’s two and a half years old.  Too  young?  Maybe, maybe not.  He might have a significant following, but the only person he follows online is his Daddy.  Obviously his dad is watching out for him.

At the moment, I’m happy with my kids sending and receiving emails via my address, having their faces and stories (selectively chosen) on my blog, and not having a presence on Twitter or Facebook.  I guess I’ll have to keep reviewing that though.  Technologies change rapidly and children grow fast!  What have you decided about the amount you will expose your kids to the online world?  I’d love you to share your opinion – but please do it sensitively as we are talking about real people’s kids.

Little Miss Three

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The much requested Strawberry Cake

My daughter always seems ready to embrace the next stage in life long before I am.  She was on the go before I was ready for her to crawl.  She was walking before I had good shoes for her little feet.  She climbed out of the cot before we had bought a single bed for her to move to.  You get the idea.  Today my little munchkin turned three.  She’s ready.  I’m not.

Three is the end of being a toddler.  I just got used to saying I have a baby and a toddler.  What do I have now?  She’s not a kid yet.  She’s still little.  Three is still little!  She still needs help with a knife and fork.  She still needs help climbing out of the bathtub.  She still needs someone to do up her buttons, brush her teeth and tie her pigtails.  She’s still little!!!

I guess if she’s ok with being somewhere between a toddler and a kid, I should be ok with that too.  Really it’s a special time, because she’s just big enough to be independent, and just little enough to still need her Mummy.  And I have a feeling this phase won’t last long.   I only have the rest of this year with her at home before she’ll be off to kindy!

So here’s to Little Miss Three: my big little Mummy’s girl.  There’s a part of me that hopes she never completely grows up.

Flashback Friday – The Icing on the Cake

My daughter turns three tomorrow, so I’m spending today doing the cake and getting things ready.  Thought I might flashback to this article I wrote in 2008 after her second birthday party.

img_4332Before becoming a mother I spent many years as a teacher. I planned excursions and celebrations and full scale musical productions. So I had no qualms about planning a little party for a two year old.

I was quite pleased with my preparations. Low stress venue? Check. Age appropriate games? Check. Healthy but appetising morning tea? Check. Party bags that parents would be as pleased to receive as their children? Check. The only thing I was slightly concerned about was the cake.

When I was growing up my mother had one of those Women’s Weekly cake books that everyone’s mum seemed to have. For a good two weeks leading up to a birthday my sister and I would pore over every picture as we tried to decide which cake would become the celebration’s centrepiece. A marshmallow Dolly Varden cake? Or a maypole cake with colourful ribbons and miniature dancing girls?

With such fond childhood memories I looked forward to preparing a gorgeous butterfly cake for my own daughter’s birthday. That is, until the day before the party, when the realisation actually hit me. I think I had mistakenly come to the conclusion that cake decorating was a skill you automatically received during childbirth! You know, just one of those “mum things” that every mother is inherently capable of.

I was starting to panic just a little when my sister rang to see how the party preparations were going. I told her nonchalantly that I only had the cake left to organise. My sister, who is far more competent in the kitchen than I am, cut straight through my pretence with a simple question. “What kind of icing are you using?” she asked. “You mean there’s more than one kind?!” I asked in return. As she laughed I said that sentence that I should say more often, even if it makes me cringe. “I think I need some help.”

My sister came over with creative ideas and beautiful cookbooks. (I noticed none of her books had bent pages or spilt ingredients on them but she doesn’t have children – yet.) Together we decided on a simple design, a basic icing, and a decorating plan of attack. Then she left me to it.

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Flitter Flutter

That cake was a labour of love for me. And it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. It took pride of place in the middle of the table, but in all honesty it wasn’t the centrepiece of the celebration. My daughter was. She looked like a little fairy princess, and her smile told me that she felt like one too. I realised almost too late that she wasn’t impressed by my organisational skills or culinary efforts. She was just so happy to be with her little friends, to have two candles to blow out, and to have her mummy fluttering around in a pair of wings just like her! Everything else was just, well, icing on the cake…

Salt Pictures

img_6241One of my daughter’s little friends sent her a beautiful picture made with coloured salt.  Inspired by the lovely surprise in the post, we decided to give it a go too.  So easy, cheap and fun.  Here’s what we did:

Firstly, colouring the salt.  I bought a decent sized bag of no-name salt (for the grand sum of about 99c I think).  We poured some salt into a bowl, added a few drops of food colouring and stirred until the salt was evenly coloured.  Then we spread it out on a plate and nuked it for a minute or two in the microwave.  We put the salt aside to cool for a few minutes before transferring it to a craft container, and we repeated the process to make three different coloured batches.

On to creating!  This was an activity we mostly did together.  I drew simple outline shapes (butterflies, flowers, fish, etc) on paper with a dark marker.  We filled in sections of the picture with glue, then sprinkled on spoonfuls of salt.  We used one colour at a time and tipped the excess salt back into its container.img_6412

As my daughter got the hang of it she was able to do more of this craft on her own.  Her favourite part of the activity was seeing where the salt had stuck to the glue as we tipped off the excess.  We really enjoyed this activity together – and there wasn’t that much mess to clean up!

Have you tried this activity before?  Any tips to share…?

Real Aussie Mum – May

rebecca_mayMeet the inspirational Rebecca Mason – a wife, mother of 6 children (aged 6 wks to 10 yrs) and midwife living on the outskirts of Melbourne who has a passion for travelling and has a vision to inspire large families.  She is the founder of the Family Value website which lists Aussie family attractions encourages them to bring back ‘Family Entry at Family Prices’.  Here are her five faves:

1.  Favourite outing with kidsOur favourite family outing is a trip to Melbourne Museum, Melbourne Aquarium & Scienceworks.  All 3 attractions are excellent value, particularly the Museum with children gaining free entry.  Annual family memberships make for excellent family value.  All 3 attractions are also excellent for all ages and a full ‘relaxing’ day could easily be spent.  Apart from these attractions we love to take advantage of the free City of Melbourne seasonal events such as Moomba, the unveiling of the Christmas Advent Calendar &  Myer Christmas Windows, as well as holiday activities.  We love these!  We also recently had an awesome time at the Annual Easter Festival in Bendigo where most of the attractions were free and rides were only $2.

2.  Favourite at-home activity with kids – Making things!  At our house we  love to create!  We have many ‘making books’ in the bookshelf and often have instant access to the internet where we can surf the web for creative projects to satisfy the moment!  From painting, drawing, making machines (with Dad), face painting, creating for future birthday parties (such as piñatas), and baking cakes & muffins we attempt them all!  The odd performance concert is also a favourite with piano, clarinet, saxophone, recorders, dancing, music, acrobatics & comedy sketches all a feature.  The concerts are recommended for ‘passing time’ for the children, however, I would recommend the audience has been ‘prepped’ with a cup of coffee (or 2 or 3!!).

3.  Favourite family meal – Definitely ‘Flat Things’ or known to the rest of the world as Fajita Wraps.  We love ‘Flat Things’ because every member of the family can choose their own filling and it’s kind of healthy at the same time (depending on the fillings).  Not to mention it is the easiest meal to prepare!

4.  Favourite bedtime stories – This changes from day to day, however, we do read bedtime stories every evening.  At the moment, Happy Birth Day and Hi New Baby (Robie H. Harris) are favourites with the younger kids and the older children are enjoying having Superfudge (Judy Blume) read to them every evening.  My kids can relate to these books as they are currently adjusting to a new baby in the house.  Our little one is only 6 weeks old!

5.  Favourite way to wind down! – On the lounge with hubby in front of the TV with ‘secret takeaway’ from our local Greek Restaurant when the kids are in bed.  Of course funds don’t allow for the takeaway every evening so this is usually a fortnightly indulgence.  Surfing the web and lying down with a good book are also a treat!

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You can find out more about Rebecca’s gorgeous family by visiting her blog.  I’m sure she’d love you to stop by and leave a comment.  Do you know of another inspiring mum I could feature next month..?