Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Photos for Great Grandad - Wordless Wednesday

Sunday afternoon. Five happy children are scattered throughout the garden. Playing, exploring, enjoying the moment, celebrating the small things in life. Living their childhood. This will be a part of the collage of memories they reflect on as they grow older.

Mummy wanders around with her camera, capturing the little moments, a moment in time becomes still, forever a point of reflection and joy. She is thinking of her grandfather as she snaps. He is sick in bed, the unfortunate victim of a stroke and his days are fading. His great grand children brighten his long days, he loves them dearly. Photos of the children are tacked opposite his bed, it brightens his day.

I snap away. These photos are not quite right. Grandad is old school when it comes to photos. They should be looking straight at the camera. "What a shame," he has said to me "they glanced away at the wrong time." Back in his day photos were not taken for artistic interpretation. He doesn't understand why we capture so many moments. He doesn't think in the way of the digital camera where you can snap in gay abandon. "The old box brownie took a good photo" he tells me. "It's around here somewhere in my boxes."

Later that evening I choose photos for his wall. My five children, joining the other 6 great grandchildren on the wall. They are part of his present and are part of his legacy. In the meantime, their innocent smiles enjoying childhood cheer his tired spirit lacking in energy but never bereft of love.

Linking with

My Little Drummer Boys

Monday, July 28, 2014

Children's Books That Discourage Selfishness

Children are naturally selfish creatures. For the most part. Mine most certainly are. It's always lovely to find stories that allows children to identify selfish behaviour and provide a springboard for parents to  discuss selfish behaviour and encourage kindness and consideration for others.

We have been having these discussions in our house lately and there have been three books that the children have not only enjoyed, but have also allowed us to talk through important life issues with.

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey is a new book released by Scholastic Press in July for $16.99

(Although at the moment it's priced at $15.00 if you can find a school or centre with a scholastic book club to support.) Also, Scholastic has a Pig the Pug Colouring-In Competition if you have a child who likes to colour!

Pig is a pug dog who is greedy and selfish in most every way. He lives in an apartments with a sausage dog named Trevor. Trev seems like a very amiable guy, unlike Pug who flips his wig over the thought of sharing toys, piling the toys up to deny any access.

Unfortunately in his efforts to keeping the toys as MINE, Pig fall out the window, which is unfortunate because, "Well, pigs cannot fly." My favourite line in the book, which unfortunately the children don't 'get'.

I think my 8 year old now understands with a long winded explanation. So, unfortunately Pig was a pug that had to learn his lessons the hard way.

Questions that we have explored with the kids:
How was Pug selfish?
Why it bad to not share your toys?
How can you share your toys nicely with others, even if you don't want to?
Why was Trevor still nice to Pug? 
Do bad things happen to people when they don't share? 
What nice things happen when you share?

Another clever book that examines selfishness is King Pig by Nick Bland.

(Scholastic Press, June 2013, RRP. $24.99, but you can find it in the current Wombat Scholastic book club for $12.50) King Pig is King over a flock of sheep. He literally walks all over them.

Although the long suffering sheep comply to King Pig's demands, King Pig is disgruntled. They don't adore him. King Pig sets about to make the sheep adore him, to no avail.

Finally, after a gentle challenge to try being nice, King Pig feels something he's never felt before, he felt sorry. After this revelation he tries to make amends, which wasn't perfect, but the sheep agreed it was a pretty good start. This was a hilarious read, and in true Nick Bland style, the illustrations were brilliant and captivating.

Questions we analysed with the children:
Why did the sheep complain?
What type of things can we do to make people smile?
Was King Pig a bully? Why?
Do bullies always realise that they are being bullies?
How do you think about other people's feelings rather then just your own?
If we have nice things, and others do not, how should we treat others?
Can you force people to like you?
What makes people like you?

Boa's Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross was released in June and is a Koala Book from Scholastic Australia, with a RRP of $14.99.

Unlike the previous two stories, the central character is not selfish at all. In fact, if I was Boa's Mummy, I would be proud of him indeed. (And if you read the story, I'm sure you'll agree with me that Boa's Mummy has some pretty solid parenting strategies herself.) It's Boa's birthday and he is very excited to get many gifts from his friends. Unfortunately they all turn out to be poorly thought out gifts that don't suit Boa at all. (For instance, how does a snake play a piano when he has no fingers, wear sunglasses when they slip off because he has no ears or nose, kick a football when he has no feet!)

It turned out that it was Boa's worst birthday ever, all his gifts were rubbish. In time he discovered that dung beetle's gift turned out to unexpectedly be the best gift ever. Which is why you should always thank people for gifts that stink, because you never know if it's going to turn out to be a really great gift!

This story arrived the timing was perfect for when this book arrived in our house. It was prior to Jonty's 8th Birthday, and we read it together and discussed the morals that the story presented quite thoroughly. I'm afraid my children have been known to be ungrateful on the odd occasion after receiving presents they didn't appreciate. We have often tried to talk about gratefulness and not being selfish prior to gifts being given before, but I don't think the message has ever been delivered as effectively as it was when accompanied by this story.

We discussed:
Why was Boa disappointed? 
What would you say if you were Boa and you got those gifts?
Why did Boa still say nice things to his friends even though he didn't like their gifts?
Do you think it was good that Boa didn't tell his friends when he was feeling angry and frustrated?
Do you think his friends like Boa? Why?
Do people have to give you presents?
What did Boa's friends do wrong when they brought him a present?
What do you need to think about when you give someone a present?
Have you ever had a present that you didn't like at first but then found out later that it was a really great present?
What are some things you can say to people when they give you a present? 
Do people have to give you a present at all?

Without a doubt, this book is going to be a family classic. I will be putting it aside and re-reading it before birthdays, probably for many years. I highly recommend it if you have a child who struggles with being grateful for unwanted gifts. It's also nice to build up the excitement prior to a birthday. As I wrote in my post. Jonty didn't get many toys this year. When he opened presents, he was very gracious and grateful for what he received. I was so proud!

Today I'm linking up with Eva at the Multi Tasking Mummy.

The Multitasking Mummy

* Scholastic gifted me with these books. All opinions are genuine and my own.

Interview With My Husband

The very awesome Kylie Purtell posted a very funny Interview with her husband. A few bloggers have been joining in and interviewing their hubbys - with varying degrees of success! I instantly knew this is the type of fun thing I wanted to do also.

I knew Alex would play, but it would be a question of timing.  The Accountant is very task oriented and he has had some projects that he has been working on at nights lately and doesn't take to kindly to interruptions and if you try to catch him at the end of the evening he's tired and grumpy. I printed out Kylie's interview so that I would have the questions ready should a good time pop up. I then forgot about it and left it in Alex's office. He delivered it to me without a word and went to keep on walking. "Did you read it?" I questioned.

"Yes," he replied, "What's that about?"
I explained that some bloggers are interviewing husband's and I'd like to do it too. "OK." he replied. It seemed like it was going to be easy!

"Now?" I asked hopefully.

"No." And off he walked.

That was earlier in the week. The rest of the week was busy, crowded with meetings and work. Saturday morning I planned to brooch the subject once again. I watched carefully as Alex read the paper. The timing had to be right. It couldn't be to soon so I pounced as he neared the end, before he was planning his next move.

Caitlin: Hey babe, can you do that blogger interview with me now?
Alex: (Looks up, looks down at his paper. Frowns.) No.
Caitlin: (Looks down, he's only reading the classifieds for goodness sakes. Glares.)
Alex: OK. I guess so. But it's so noisy.

I get up remove the four plastic boxes and four wooden spoonso from the hands of two identical boys that were enthusiastically beating those boxes . I explain they need to be quiet and play with Thomas. I walk out deciding to ignore the stench of poo knowing I only had a limited time frame to ask the questions. I sit down. Trent comes tearing into the room demanding I cook some more porridge. He has just eaten a big bowl of it. I deny his request. He accuses me of being mean and runs out of the room, locking the glass door behind him. It is a move of defiance, but I take it as a blessing that we will not be interrupted. By now Alex is onto the sports page. I clear my throat, he looks up. From behind I can hear a high pitched whimpering from behind the locked glass door. I turn around. The small girl is holding herself and doing the potty dance. I run to the glass door and start banging, yelling at Trent to unlock it. Luckily, the small girl unlocks it. (When did she learn to do that?) We race to the toilet. She sits. She starts crying. She's constipated. I'm stroking her back, reading her stories. Waiting.

Alex appears. "I thought I would ride my motorbike to the shop now so they can fix it. Can you put the kids in the car and follow me so I can get home?" I look up. He knows what I'm thinking. 16 years of marriage has trained him. "We can do your interview afterwards," he kindly adds.

We dress five children. Put them in the car. After I pick up Alex, I get into the passenger side. We decide to drive the kids to get doughnuts for a treat. This will be a good time to question him. I whip out the questions and start recording his answers on my iPhone.

What is the best part about being married to Caitlin?
Alex: (He looks at me and we both start chuckling.  Interviewing your husband does feel a bit strange!) That's a hard question to ask straight up front. Ummmmm. The best thing she's a great Mum, a loving wife (slight pause) and very caring lady and a lot of fun. What else?

What is the worst part about being married to Caitlin?
Alex: She's messy. Extremely messy.
Guilty as charged. That's no secret.

What is Caitlin's most annoying habit?
Alex: Creating more mess. Not putting things away. Not filing things.
All true. Let's move on.

What is Caitlin's most endearing habit?
Alex: (softly) Endearing? (pause) That's a nice habit.
Caitlin: Yes.
Alex: Um. Cooking nice meals for her husband.
Caitlin: That's it?
Alex: That was the most. Most means I only have to say one.

What do you admire most about Caitlin?
Alex: I've already said what I admire. It's the same as the last question.
Caitlin: No, that was the best part of being married to Caitlin.
Alex: But I admire all those similar traits. You're good with the kids, you're a lovely wife that serves your husband.
Caitlin: Serves?
Alex: Well, you serve each other in a marriage don't you? That's what marriage is about.
Caitlin: OK. (You can't argue with that!)

What was the first thing that attracted you to Caitlin?
Alex: Caitlin was a youth group leader standing out front when I first saw her and I thought she was very nice with a strong personality and very confident in herself. And so I thought I would like to get to know her better so I played pool with her because she had a pool table. (This is true, a few days after meeting Alex he turned up on our doorstep uninvited and asked if he could come in and play pool!)
Jonty: (Who obviously has been listening in on this) And I know what happened then. Grandma didn't know who Daddy was when he came to play pool.
Caitlin: That's right Jonty.
Before we were engaged. At my 21st birthday.

What do you enjoy most about being a Dad?
Alex: Hanging out with the kids doing fun things like kicking balls, riding motorbikes, swimming, going to the beach. All the fun activities and seeing them learn and develop as you train them.

What do you least enjoy about being a Dad?
Alex:  Screaming, crying, fighting, being woken up in the middle of the night for a wet bed. (He's a great Dad, he changes most of the wet sheets in the middle of the night. Often I don't even wake up!) Dirty nappies.

What was your favourite thing to do with Caitlin pre-kids?
Alex: Pre-kids? Travelling around the world.
Caitlin: Amen.
Hungary - 2002

What do you miss doing with Caitlin now you have kids and limited time?
Alex: Travelling around the world. (We both laugh.)
Caitlin: Do a different answer.
Alex: Going out for dinner. Doing one off spur of the moment trips to the beach.

In our favourite city in the world, 2004. A few months later we later we moved there to live for a year.

What is your most hated household chore?
Alex: Hanging pictures. (We both laugh.)
Caitlin: Can we do that tonight?
Alex: (Laughs then very abruptly stops.) No.
Caitlin: We really need to.

What is your least hated household chore?
Alex: Packing the dishwasher.
Jonty: And even doing the mopping.
Caitlin: Daddy doesn't mop. We need someone to mop though.

What is your favourite thing to cook?
Alex: Pizza.
Caitlin: We knew that answer, didn't we Jonty?
Jonty: Yeah. Pizza is his favourite.
Alex: Pizza and stir fry.
Caitlin: To cook? Or to eat?
Alex: To cook. I cook a stir fry to eat when you're not around.

What do you think annoys Caitlin most about you?
Alex: When I fluff.
The 8 year old laughs.
Caitlin: True, there was an incident last night… There's something else.
Alex: Grinding my teeth.
Caitlin: Grinding your teeth? You don't do that much.
Alex: Itching the back of my throat when it's itchy.
(YES! I hate that. He kind of does it with his tongue and his whole mouth moves in this annoying, dorky way.)

What do you think Caitlin loves most about you?
Alex: (Smirks) My good looks, my muscly body, (8 year old giggles), and my great personality. My humour.
Caitlin: I actually love your butt more than your muscly body.
Alex: My hairy back.
(Caitlin and Jonty burst out laughing.)
Alex: You're so lucky.
Jonty: And his stinky undies. (The four year old male laughs.)
Alex: My scratchy face when I kiss her.
Jonty: And his cool clothes.
(Alex and Caitlin look at each other and laugh.)
Caitlin: Daddy's cool clothes? Daddy didn't dress cool until Mummy taught him how to. (Alex is laughing. He knows it's true.)
A few years into marriage...

At this point, we go into the store, the children all choose a special doughnut so we can enjoy a family treat. Alex orders a coffee. The coffee takes so long that the children have all eaten their doughnuts by the time he appears. We need to get to soccer, so we go to walk out of the shopping centre. However, the triplets are overcome with the excitement of having Daddy around that they all want to hold his hand. Alex now has one hand due to the coffee. I'm trying to hold the hands of two children, who keep dropping to the ground in protest. (You know that classic toddler move.)  Alex is holding an older boys hand in the same hand as a younger boy. The younger boy doesn't like this and is also dropping to the ground. We are in the middle of a busy walkway and have three toddlers at our feet crying. I take the coffee and pick up one child, Alex picks up two children and then we have only one child crying because he wants to hold Daddy's hand. He becomes satisfied with an extended finger. You know what? I don't think the kids will ever understand how in love I am with their father at that moment and every other little moment like this. We have a moment of weakness and let the children have a ride on the spiderman machine on the way out the door. We pay for it dearly and have to cart out three tantruming toddlers who want another ride. By the time we get to the car, loving feelings are gone and I am ready to throw that blasted coffee because there are not enough hands to wrangle wriggling, screaming bodies because of it. I'm only slightly satisfied when we get to the car and Alex puts it on the bonnet and spills a bit of it. He's forgiven as I watch him try to wrestle a hysterical two year old into a seatbelt as he has stretched his body as stiff as a plank. Eventually we get in the car and realise we are in danger of being late for soccer.

Later I conclude the interview later over lunch.

Why do you think Caitlin is lucky to be married to you?
Alex: Because of my caring personality and my gentle caring loving nature. (Smirks.) My patience. And I help you a lot in the house.
(He said all of this in a sarcastic way, but it's actually all true.)

What do you think the secret to a happy marriage is?
Alex: Yes dear, No dear. (This is an old joke we heard when first married when an elderly gentleman was asked that in church one Sunday when asked how he had stayed married for 50 years.)
Caitlin: Anything else you want to say?
Alex: And gifts.
(I've taught him well.)

So, how do you think your husband would perform for an interview? I kind of think that my guy did a pretty darn good job. And it was a lot of fun. I kind of love doing this type of thing after being married for quite some time. The times we just look at each other and laugh because we know what the other is thinking, the answers he gives that make me laugh because I knew he was going to say that. The answers he gave that made me laugh because I wasn't expecting him to say that. Marriage is comfortable yet adventurous. I'm a lucky gal!

Linking today with Essentially Jess
(Oh, and apologies for the date at the top of this post. This really is a new post for today. I just accidentally pressed publish yesterday, then quickly reverted it to draft to publish this morning. I'm an honest person, so it bothers me that it appears that I'm breaking the rules!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pizza Party for an 8th Birthday

It was my son's birthday last week. Birthdays are so exciting when you are a child. It is one of my great delights in motherhood making birthdays special for the children so that they will be some of the golden memories etched into the memoir of childhood. I find having the particular date gives me focus and ambition - kind of like a due date. I'm the type of person that needs the due date in order to do the work. Give me an open ended assignment and I cannot guarantee it will be achieved.

I had a bit of trouble this year trying to decide what to buy Jonty for his birthday. He has so many toys, and even though he plays with them constantly and is not the type of kid to neglect his toys, he really doesn't need any more. In the end, we decided to give him an experience. We have promised him a trip to Australia Zoo to celebrate his 8th year with his family. We're happy with the concept that it is a present to be enjoyed as a whole family, it encourages a sense of community rather then being focussed on self and fosters a feeling of belonging. We will make it special for him by paying extra for him to have an animal encounter. (Although one of the cheaper animals, although it would have been nice if we had a few hundred dollars spare to let him pat a tiger.) He will also be in charge of deciding the itinerary for the day and all decisions will be deferred to him. Unfortunately he is going to have to wait until September when soccer season is over before we do the trip to the Sunshine Coast for this special day, so we had a few gifts of a DVD, CD's and his first 'real' Bible. The kids gave him an Iron Man toy also.

This year Jonty had a Pizza Party. Strictly it was not a party. The Accountant was very clear about this. However, Jonty disregarded his father's restrictions with the secure knowledge that extended family always celebrate one another's birthdays. He also knew that this meant his five cousins would be showing up. Party. Right there. He also knows that his mother is amiable when it comes to inviting people around, so he politely asked months in advance if his best friend could come around on his birthday. Which I agree to. Fully knowing that because of the nature of the "Not Party" affair I would invite his best friend's whole family and not the child alone. (As a side note, it is most convenient when your children befriend your friend's children. This is the first year I have known Jonty's friend's family, and it makes life so much easier!) Once again knowing that I am a soft touch, he also requested that his kids church leaders come and since they are an absolutely awesome young married couple who have established a great relationship with Jonty and Trent. Let's just say that encouraging solid role models in my children's life is worth cooking an extra pizza for.

So, before we knew it with aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, child friend plus sibling and grown up friends we had clocked up 12 kids and 15 adults invited to his 8th Birthday celebration. (Not Party!) The Accountant is not known for his culinary ability, except for making Pizza. In this family, pizza making is a Daddy domain. Last month after hearing the children declare that "Mummy can't cook pizza", I determined to show them that of course I could cook pizza. Thanks to an expired batch of expired yeast my efforts were sabotaged and Daddy still wears the golden pizza crown.

And so, Daddy was requested to make pizza for the crowd. The Accountant and I were up until late the night before getting everything ready so that when we returned from church we would have as little to do as possible. The Accountant made all the bases and loaded the pizzas, I did the chopping. It was actually a really nice evening chatting away to one another as we did this.
Pizza making in progress

After arriving home from church the next day, The Accountant made some more pizza dough up so that the children could roll their dough and create their own pizzas.

The triplets at work.
This was a great activity for the children and they were really excited and loaded it with veggies they may not have eaten if anyone else had put it on their pizza.
The birthday boy and Daddy

It did also create a bit of a late lunch because the kids pizzas went in the oven first, so it took quite some time before there was enough room to start cooking the pizzas for the adults.
One small girl watching her pizza being cooked.

I think it all worked in the end with everyone being patient. (Although there could have been a few hungry adults who were just being polite.)

The best thing about being a "Not Party" was that I didn't need to worry about party games, the kids just disappeared outside and were happy playing in the yard for hours. (Truthfully, the most stressful thing I find about children's parties are the children who demand entertainment and structure.) In fact I had a bowl full of lollies for the kids, that I didn't put out for them, they were just so busy that it didn't happen.

For those familiar with the Australian classic, the original Woman's Weekly Party Cakes book, Jonty chose the jelly pool out of that. In my children's cake making career, (now spanning 7 years starting at Jonty's first birthday), I have never completely followed a picture of any one cake. This year it was no different. When I was trying to think what figures to put swimming in the pool, I came up with the idea of having Lego characters. I bought a small box with a shark, jet ski and surfer, and ended up coming up with the idea of doing a beach rather then a pool.

Jonty didn't care whether it was a beach or a pool, just so long it had chocolate biscuits on the side and jelly in the middle!
The shadow is a kids hand, this is the only photo I could get without a kids hand in it. They kept on pointing and trying to touch. Very popular cake!
So voila! A beach cake, blue icing on the outside since the ocean doesn't have edges like a pool, crushed up biscuit for the sand and Lego characters drifting around or lounging on sour strap towels. It was a little hard to take a photo of the cake unfortunately. Normally I would take a photo when I finished icing it, but because this cake wasn't finished until I put the jelly in just before serving, I had a crowd of children around the cake while we tried to take some pictures. I must say, jelly with cake is a huge hit with the kids!
See, look at the hands. They just couldn't help themselves! 

So, do you put limits on parties? Have you given your child non-toy presents? I'd love to hear how you make your children's birthdays special. Did you or your siblings ever have the jelly pool when you were a child? (My sister had it.)

I am linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Farewell Miss Rachael

*** I wrote most of this the week after Miss Rachael left. But then it became unfinished. It was Christmas time after all. This is one draft (Yes, I have a 'pile' of unfinished blogs) that I do want to complete. Miss Rachael was a valued part of our family while she worked here and we miss her dearly. I think that deserves a feature on my blog! (Not to mention she made me heart happy!)

Miss Rachael
On Thursday we said "Goodbye" to Miss Rachael. There were tears. Yes there was. Inevitable when you have had somebody who has just molded into your family for the past two years and made such a lasting contribution to it. Mind you, the actual farewell, there was only Miss Rachael and I with red eyes. The kids were wrapped up in their own egocentric kids world. Trent did have red eyes too.

Although his red eyes occurred when he opened his Christmas present from Miss Rachael and had seen a worm on the front cover of the book and declared he didn't like worms. Then he declared he only wanted green books. "Because green is his favourite colour", says he. Then the root of his dissatisfaction was truly revealed when he said that he only wants toys in presents. Specifically he wants a Gup X. We all know he wants a Gup X. It's all he can talk about.  Each day. Every day. All day. Thank goodness Target had them on special last week. Christmas may be ruined if a Gup X was not featured. In the meantime, we will be doing some intensive training over the next five days on present etiquette, gratefulness and polite behaviour. When he is old enough, I may include re-gifting in the training program. Not that he will need to regift, "Superworm" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schiffer. I know he will enjoy that literature immensely, once he has got over his initial disappointment, (also caused by an extremely late night the previous evening), it's exactly the type of book Trent loves. Of course Miss Rachael knows this.

**Now that he has the Gup X in his possession and he is able to concentrate on other delights of life, "Superworm" has become a firm favourite. Of course Miss Rachael chose well!

It's all part of being an excellent In Home Carer. She knows the extensive list of 'likes' and 'don't likes' for each one of my children. She knows when they need to be pulled into line and when they need a cuddle.

We have been very blessed that in Australia, we are eligible to receive "In Home Care". Basically this entitles us to get in an "In Home Carer" (similar, but not the same as a nanny) in our home for 24 hours a week, (more if you work a certain amount of hours per week), to help with the children. We can then claim the CCB and CCR (Childcare Benefits and Childcare Rebate) off her wages. We qualify because we have three (or more, in our case four!) children who are below school age.

There are lot of practical implications of why it has been beneficial having Rachael in our home. I am able to pop out and run errands without children during the day, or take a child or a reduced number of children with me. Which makes life so much easier. There is someone playing with the children at the end of the day while I am making dinner, when they are normally doing the cranky pants routine. Which makes them less cranky and the early evening far more manageable. I've also been able to have her minding the kids while I use the computer to do my job, because sometimes, I'm just too exhausted in the evenings to work effectively. I've even been able to communicate with you via my blog having Miss Rachael around, because sometimes I need the opportunity to unwind, or catch up, and having her here means I can.

Rachael and I are actually quite similar in many ways. Which is incredibly reassuring when it is someone you entrusting your kids care too. Her reactions to my children, are often very similar to my own. Often incidences will arise, and I will leave Rachael deal with them, (which is necessary for her to build her own rapport and boundaries with the children), but when it's all over with, I'm often relieved that most of the time, she has handled it in the same way I would have. Such a comfort.

Even beyond that we share similar interests, we both love reading and children's literature. Whenever I receive boxes of books in the mailbox from Scholastic, Miss Rachael is just excited as I am! We both love snuggling up with a child and immersing them in literature. We both blog, which has been very beneficial to me, because Miss Rachael is far more adept at computer usage than I am, which means she has also become my personal I.T. support and blog designer. (Didn't she do a great job making this page look pretty?) We both are not naturally sporty, which is a shame really, because neither of us naturally thinks to throw a ball with the kids or play cricket. But we recently identified this as our weakness and had been trying harder. We both also have a weakness for chocolate, which I count as proof of her excellent taste! We now are both teachers, which is why Miss Rachael is leaving us. We both like writing with fine point pens!

One area that we are not alike is that I am incredibly untidy person. She is not. I have been watching her very carefully to try and duplicate her methods. Because honestly, when left to my own devices, before I know it, a mess has formed. Then Rachael arrives and oh my goodness, within the hour it is so much more orderly. It's like a breath of fresh air! Admittedly, it is easier to restore order when there is two in the home, because the children can be distracted and dispersed. At the moment, it just feels like I am constantly putting out fires and have no time to do anything else when I am alone. But that's another story. However, even when I go out, I come home and my angelic Rachael has it feeling so very lovely. It's the most delightful feeling.

**The thing I most valued about Miss Rachael was how much she cared for my children, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The thing I actually miss most is her help around the house!

One of the most beautiful aspects of having Miss Rachael was she shared our faith. Miss Rachael was brought up in our family quite similar (but definitely different!) to my own. Her Christian walk resembled mine and her desire for God to be a living breathing part of her life is by far her greatest quality. Which also makes for a great nanny blending into a family with similar beliefs. Sharing about Jesus and teaching my children about him and how that should effect their words and actions was a natural extension of who she is. I loved it that she prayed with and for my kids, sang with them, read to them. She talked to them naturally about God and her theology was the same as ours.

Rachael has been teaching this year in a country school in a nearby country town. We miss her and the kids still talk about her. I know she's a great teacher and is passionate about her students. Thanks Rachael for all you mean to our family!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why I Started A Blog

Just before we had children we lived for a year in London. I would often write letters back home describing our life. It's so disappointing I didn't know about blogging then! I wish I had kept a copy of these reports. I really enjoyed doing this so much.

I was supply teaching for the first few months in London - my goodness that was an experience and a half! In my head as I was experiencing all these crazy scenarios, I started dreaming up writing a fictional novel of a supply teacher living in London. I wanted to base it on the funny things that kept happening around me. I could never think of an original plot to base all these funny stories around, so I never did get started writing. I would be in a school watching things happen, and in my mind I would be constructing these ripper paragraphs and descriptions, but it went no further. I can't remember those words anymore, it still makes me sad that I didn't write them down.

A much younger 'us'. Christmas 2005, I was two months pregnant.

After we returned home and had our first child I found myself in a mother's group. We started that group as new Mums with our firstborns. The eldest child was 5 months, the youngest 3 days. We would meet weekly at one another's homes and chat about everything. Not only would we meet once a week and talk non-stop for several hours, we would also send long emails to one another throughout the week. (The writer in me loved that aspect of the group.) I loved that group as dearly as they were my own extended family. We were so different, we came from different backgrounds, had different beliefs and different opinions on how to raise children. The different personalities within the group was my favourite aspect of the group. If our mother's group was a play in a theatre, even the most hardened critic would have written that all the characters were extremely well developed, complex and interesting.

One of the other mothers was a high school English teacher. She was a far superior writer to me. I used to love reading her emails, they were so clever and funny.  Reminiscent when I was teaching in London, I started taking incidents that were happening during mother's group and writing it in my head as a scene played out during a novel. The English teacher and I were talking once and I broached the subject that our mother's group was an excellent springboard for a novel and asked if she would be interested in writing a fictional novel together. She was interested, and I thought we would make a really good team and that might be more successful then my London novel idea. We met one day and made up a cast of characters. We identified the endearing aspects of everyone's personality, mixed up these characteristics and gave them to fictional characters and mixed in some extra fictional qualities so that we weren't directly talking about any one person from our mother's group. Combine all the funny things that happen while you are parenting, I think it had the potential to be a good story. However once more, a plot was not created.

Due to busyness we never started writing. The stories were written and told in my head and were once again not being recorded. I realised that I was going to start losing these stories again. I decided to start a blog if only to keep some stories for future use. I didn't even know what a blog was really. I had only heard about blogs because one of the Mums had set up a blog for us to write about our babies and post pictures for one another. We hardly used it at all, and I still didn't even really understand what a blog was.  But it was enough that when I decided that I needed to start writing down some of my motherhood stories down, I remembered the blog and thought that this might be a good place to store the stories until I could finally work out a good plot!

I had no idea about the blogging community. When I began I had no idea about how wide and how far spread the blogging world is. But oh my goodness. Once people started reading this little space and commenting, I was hooked. Finally I not only was recording my words, I had an audience. My motivation to write was fueled and increased. I remember Kate from Killing a Fly With a Ukulele was the first blogger to make a comment on a post. I was ecstatic, I felt like a celebrity had come to visit my house! (I know this will make Kate smile!) Once I discovered there was a blogging world, I had asked people if they read blogs and to give me the addresses. A friend had directed me to Kate's, and I had loved her humorous recounts of motherhood and life, and had left several comments. I had no idea that it is common for bloggers to sprinkle comment love throughout the internet!

Being a part of the blogging community is a constant source of delight. It is a different friendship to the conventional friendships. When you read somebody's blog, you only get to know the aspects of themselves that they choose to reveal. (Although sometimes you can read between the lines.) It's a controlled space, and rightly so. But the friendships that develop are real as well. Sometimes people moan about people neglecting 'real life' face to face friendships. I would say that many of the relationships that have formatted digitally are real also. The format of friendship is just altered from the traditional.

I don't know whether I will ever write a fictional novel. For now, blogging is keeping me happy and satisfying my urge to write. I hardly have the time to blog, so to write a novel seems like a impossible task! The thought of trying to construct an original plot still does not feel tangible to me and I think I could make a lot of improvements to the craft of writing before I embark on such a project. But who knows, perhaps one day when life becomes slower some characters might wander into my mind and start telling me their story.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you if you regularly read this space. You are the fuel for my fire. When I was at teacher's college, it was always highlighted that children need an audience as motivation to write in order for them to feel their writing is worthwhile. There are some people who write and keep it private, the process itself is all that is necessary for those, often introspective people. I am not one of those people. I thrive with an audience. Without my precious readers who read and comment, most of these words would not have been recorded. So thank you once again for being on this journey with me.

Chantelle Ellem once wrote a post at Fat Mum Slim about having three people (not necessarily actual people) in mind while you write your blog. I have "three" people in my mind that guide the direction of my blog. The first is a woman/mother who just needs encouragement to get through the daily grind, whether it be a funny story to lift her spirits, a motivational word or a thought to help readjust her mental headspace to make life more achievable and to ward off depressive thoughts. The second is a Multiple Mum, perhaps a pregnant higher order multiple mother, who is desperately trying to find some answers or hear some experiences of how another mother survived parenting multiples. The third 'person' is actually five people. My children. I dream that one day my children will read my blog and be grateful that there is a record of their life, their family, their world as they grew up. I hope that what I have shared about them isn't a source of embarrassment to them, but they rather view it as a record, and that they understand that some of the details of their personal story has helped the first two readers that I have talked about. I hope that their compassion for the first two readers will help cancel out any hesitation they may have about having parts of their life on public record. I have an image in my head that the week after I have left this earth and my children are grieving and wondering what my thoughts were, they will read this space and examine the images, and even have fond memories as  they look at the stories and pictures. I hope as they do, and even if tears blur the words at times, they will feel my love for my children and their father oozing out of every word. That the words will scroll past the screen and twist into their hearts, soothing their loss and reassuring them that there is part of me that they can connect with and that will never leave the world and it will be a solace to them until our Spirits are reunited in Heaven.

What power the written word can have. What comfort it can display. What laughter it may bring forth. What encouragement it can have. I will be forever thankful to God that he has given me this passion. Writing, for me, is a true gift from my Heavenly Father.


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