How to Love…

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I’ve had an idea! A cute one.  Want to see?

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We had a family meeting, and I asked everyone to list the things that make them feel loved. My family are very tolerant of my goal-setting, list-making, live-on-purpose crazy ol’ ideas, so they got right down to it.

There were a few surprises in there, and I’m excited that we can display this little list and start consciously checking that we are all doing the things that make others in the family feel loved.

This is not the ACTUAL list, obviously, because I didn’t want a mutiny when I posted everyone’s private stuff on the internet.  But examples of the things I wrote include; being greeted at the door, having cups of tea made for me, being listened to, hearing “thanks” for things done for others, offers to carry things, and .. there’s a thing the Chicklette does when I’m really undone and beyond consolation. She melts dark chocolate and brings it to me in a bowl with a spoon and a mini spatula. I wrote this on the list of things that make me feel loved, and I’m thinking about going over it with one of those fluro highlighters..

I created the doc in Pages, but I’ve put it here as a Word doc as I’m guessing it will be more accessible. If you download it, you should be able to insert names instead of “Child one”, and fill in the proper list of what your people come up with. If you have boys, go up to  “edit” when your file is open, scroll to the bottom of the options, click “emoji and symbols” and choose something that excites them more than a pink flower 🙂 🐲🐳🍭🍕⚾️🎸🎯🎨🚜⚓️

Let me know if you try this with your crew 🙂

how-to-love

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Shiver Me Timbers!

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The Chicklettes’s growing up.

Bloggy friends, folk warned me: they did!  They said to treasure the time while my children are little, because it is over so soon.  At the time, buried under mountains of washing, changing nappies, pureeing vegetables, and teaching ABC’s, it was hard not to look forward to when I’d see a little more independence.

Those same dear folk were just as likely to mutter dark sayings about, “If you think this stage is hard, wait until you have teenagers – then you’ll know what hard is!”  Which, I might add, is about as constructive and encouraging as those who share horror birth stories with you in the last week of your pregnancy.  (And what’s more, I so far maintain that it is not true.  Little children are hard work.  Big children are hard work.  Parenting is hard work!  But each stage has its joys. 🙂 )

What has been on my mind lately is how to make the most of the sunset of childhood for my eldest girl. Opportunities for memories I want her to have of childhood that are yet unfulfilled, need to happen in a twinkling.  🙂   I am a goal setting, list writing sort of character, and early on, aimed to create a firm sense of family, and to provide some of the experiences that I loved as a child. We’ve camped, explored creeks, been to the beach, holidayed on farms, walked the rain forests, held baby animals, planted edibles, been canoeing, read glorious books together, and had spontaneous adventures.  It’s been a lot of fun, and we are blessed to have  had family and friends who are  keen to share these experiences with the girls.

As I witness the beautiful thing that is dawning womanhood in my first born, I still long to cram in any last experience that childhood thrills to.  So… we went to the rock pools last weekend,  and this week we bought a couple of up-in-an-instant little tents.  We have a serious, heavy duty  monster one, but it makes me shudder to think of the effort to deal with it, particularly as it always seems to rain on the day we pack up and it has to be pulled out and dried at home – no mean feat.  And just as we have the new facilities for more spontaneous happenings, we find ourselves invited out this weekend for a bonfire and camp out.  Just the thing! 🙂

There is of course the obligatory stuff that needs to be accomplished before I launch her out in the world – education, domestic management, character: and all those things are important.  But it’s the delight in simple, natural things; the things that we no longer make time for when the cares and distractions of adulthood press in, those are what I want to do while I wring the last vestiges of opportunity from this period.

Here’s my list to accomplish in the next 12 months.  There are other activities I would like to do, but these I think are most likely to happen, and some have plans already in the making:

Two short camping trips

Boating

Vegetable garden.   Vegetable garden?  Yes, the Chicklette loves to grow things, and so far we have been reluctant to plough up the lawn (we have established trees all around the perimeter of the yard and only the very middle gets any sun) leaving her to garden only in pots.  But what’s a bit of lawn, yes?

Fossicking

Fishing

Medieval fair and museum

Heritage festival

Period ball

At least one trip to visit our dear friends at Marigold Cottage

When I asked the Chicklette what she thought should be added to this list, her response was instantaneous: “Bake a pecan pie!”   (Insert bemused mother face here.)  She has not long had braces removed, but who would have thought that a two year deprivation of sweet, sticky things would still be so fresh in her mind?  Stay tuned for reports of our next adventures, and .. ah.. pecan pie.

Children’s Present Ideas – Free or Frugal

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Today I received a lovely email from a lady who plans to use my Kool-Aid play dough recipe to make gifts for her children. Christmas can be a tough time of year financially if you are providing for a family.  Whether it’s frugal gifts ideas, or things to keep the children occupied with over the holiday period, I hope you find something useful here.
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Here’s an Australian play dough recipe (for those of us who don’t normally have access to Kool-Aid 🙂 )  You can make this before hand, or give the ingredients and recipe and let the children help.  It can be made in several different colours and stored in ziplock bags or wide mouth plastic jars or containers.  Add a plastic knife, some cookie cutters, toothpicks, scoops from the washing powder or infant formula, or anything else that will add value to the play experience.  If you have an empty box from refillable baby wipes, it makes a good home for the play dough accessories as the lid is easy for children to manage.
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You can also make your own packet mixes for baking – Make up the dry part of a cake, biscuits, or scones; type out the recipe; attach a photo of the finished product on the front of the ziplock bag;  and the child who gets to unwrap that present also gets to BAKE it.
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Collect a heap of fabric scraps (ask family members who sew for their off cuts of fabrics and trims, or cut up old clothes that are no longer needed and harvest the material and the buttons) and give each child a little packet with a needle, some thread, and a few spare buttons, and let them sew whatever they like – or borrow a child’s craft book from the library and copy a pattern, or download a craft pattern or simple doll’s dress pattern.
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Gather the ingredients for a  science experiment – there’s heaps of little experiments like this crystal snowflake that are fun, but the ingredients are quite inexpensive.

crystal snowflake from Anne Helmenstine

For the little ones, a  plastic egg carton or an ice-cube tray, with bottles of food colouring and an eye dropper will give a pre-schooler hours of fun. (just add water.. 🙂 )
For the more adventurous, purchase some off cuts and seconds from the timber yard and try…
bird nesting box (if you research which birds live in your area, there are often plans to suit specific bird varieties)
a timber boat (or make a whole fleet!)
from Kids Konstruction Korner
Or collect odds from around the house,  and try this one from Martha Stewart:
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There are many paper projects for both boys and girls available  as free downloads from the internet.  You have to watch that the printing costs don’t get out of hand if you find a big project, though.
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A paper boat from the Toy Maker :
Pinwheels are great fun:
The Toymaker has heaps of cute, cute, cute paper toys to download, not the least of which is this pinwheel using a clever paperclip and buttons design.
Super cute design from Marilyn Scott-Waters
Another I couldn’t go past was this adorable bug box.  How tempting to print and make this to gift a packet of seeds for an aspiring gardener.
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Flower seeds, or vegetable seeds, or herb seeds in such a dear little box would have to move you to run out and garden.  If you don’t have pots spare, the bottom half of a milk carton or 2 litre drink container with holes punched in the bottom would do the trick.
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For the arty, Google your child’s favourite animal with “+ colouring page” and print out some pictures for them to colour, or browse the many free colouring page sites. There are some incredibly detailed pictures available, including famous art works made into colour pages.  Several sites also have paper dolls for download.
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Put all the ingredients for these paper bag puppets from Martha Stewart’s craft pages into a bag, and print out pics of what they will look like with the instructions:
Older children may like to make a castle;
For girls, save little boxes from matches, jewellery, medicine, etc, as well as all sorts of plastic packaging, and off cuts of pretty paper and fabric, put them in a large plastic storer,  and let the children use them make their own dolls house from a large cardboard box, or a small book-case.
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Download some audiobooks from Librivox (it’s free) on to CD’s  for car listening or bed time.  Google the cover art of the book and print out for your CD cover.
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Books..
Check ebay, the book Depository, your local thrift store for cheap books.  Keep an eye on your local library for sales of excess stock.  Some books are still like new, but even some of the beat up ones can be treasures if you choose your author carefully.
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This paper whistle would make cool stocking stuffer fun (you can use a coloured paper instead of plain to make it more festive).
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You can make your own word search with your child’s favourite bands, animals, friends names, family members (this is also good fun to do for each member of the family to personalise home-made crackers)
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Home made fudge/caramel wrapped in cellophane are delicious stocking fillers (pop in just before the event if you have ants!)  as is homemade popcorn with icing sugar or caramel popcorn in little zip lock bags.
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If you have older boys you may consider a sleep-under-the-stars camp out.  Wrap up a tin of baked beans, or spam, or some other grossly yukky traditional camp food, and let it be known that it goes with a trip to somewhere out of town to sleep out and cook rough.  (Of course, December in Australia that would be a breeze, but if you’re on the other side of the world, I guess that could be a bit brisk!) Hand reels could work the same way for a fishing trip if you have a lake or river near by.
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Happy holidays, folks!

Gifts for Girls!

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strawberries

I like to give my children gifts that will provoke imagination, fuel creativity, and inspire a sense of wonder and adventure.  I also resist items that have a short novelty life and that will quickly turn into clutter.

Here are some of the things that have been  appreciated by the little girls of the  Bluestocking household…

Pretty pot, potting mix, packet of seeds or seedlings,  or (joy of joys!) a strawberry plant or two.  Put with a little watering can and child size gardening tools and gloves when they were little, this was a favourite.  Any growing gift still pleases them as they have grown older.

Selection of remnant material, sewing box, little travel sewing kit, and notions.  Along a similar line, embroidery threads and the little pieces that go with it have also been well received by our girls at any age.sewing kitsewing box

All things beautiful in stationary. I haven’t gotten over it yet, myself. There is just nothing like a lot of new, beautiful stationary! Pretty envelopes and papers , plus some  stamps for sending letters, and stickers to attach to the envelope, or perhaps an initial stamp (gift shops sell them) or initial seal and wax.  Oh, the bliss.

pencil casepretty paperArt supplies.  If you have girls yourself, you probably don’t need that reminder. Anything to do craft with is good: ribbons, decals, beads, fine wire, thread, glitter, coloured paper, scissors that cut in patterns, stamps and stamp pad.  With scrapbooking such a popular hobby, beautiful craft supplies are very affordable.

Traditional paints, pencils, sketch pad and pastels are lovely, but if you buy those kind of items, get the best you can afford.  Very cheap pencils and paints won’t deliver rich colours, and just aren’t fun or satisfying to use.

Books! Reference, fiction, colouring, puzzle, all sorts!

Bags.  For toting books, dolls, and other secret girl stuff, you can’t have too many.

girl's bag

Bug catchers.  If you have several dedicated bug receptacles, it saves all of the kitchen items being used for insect storage!

Binoculars

Pocket knife. Did you know Swiss army knives now come in pink? (Though my girls all chose “Oldtimers”)

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Boxes.  Large and small for storing treasures. These are as irresistible as the stationary, and come in many beautiful designs.

A pretty apron to wear for cooking and for craft!

apron

Photos and special frames to display pictures of family or friends.

Subscriptions.  We are fans of  Australian Geographic and the girls subscribe to a magazine for homeschooling girls called “Sisters”.

Some enduring girls toys include;

Dolls house and furniture with dolls.  These are fun to create from an old bookcase if you have a handy person in the family.  You can then decorate the house to your own taste, choosing little pictures for the wall,  patterned contact adhesive for wall paper, etc.

doll's house

Horses.  Just the plastic kind!

Puzzles. Some children love them, and some don’t. For those who do, they come in many more varieties than the traditional jigsaw puzzle.

Giving an experience as a gift can be a lovely way of making a memory.  Some possibilities include a trip to the;

Butterfly house

Zoo

City aquarium

Historical villages

or a custom made outing of interest to your daughter.  A girl who loves wildlife may appreciate you organizing a visit with the local wildlife rescue carers in your area.  They are mostly volunteers and are often willing to share their time to talk about the animals they are caring for.

Have fun hunting out just the right thing for your little girl, and remember that one of the most enduring gifts you can give her is ….you!

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Children and Car Trips!

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Here’s a few things we’ve learned about surviving car trips with young children;

Each child has a small back pack that is only for holiday car trips, the contents of which are a mystery until the time of departure!  One of the over the back of the seat organizers would work the same way, providing each child has his own.  In the back pack are food and drink, toys, and a few other essentials.

FOOD AND DRINKS

Take a water bottle for each child.  If water is spilled in the car, well, you’re just a little wet – and then you dry.  But if it’s milk, juice, or soft drink the rest of the trip will be most uncomfortable.

Keep sugary snacks to a minimum.  A bunch of children in a confined space for a long period do not need to be bouncing off the walls from the sugar hit.

Some alternatives;

Dried fruit and nuts (snack size, zip lock bags for each child works well)

Rice crackers, or other savoury biscuits (again, individual bags – there will be enough cause for trauma without you handing back a box of barbeque shapes and announcing they’re to share.)

Popcorn, commercial or homemade

Muesli bars

Pretzels

Carrot sticks and cheese cubes can be kept cool with a small lunch bag and a matching mini freezer block which you can make use of again for day trips.

TOYS

Australian Geographic is a great place to find small, interesting things to include in the car bag.

Books, appropriate for age.   If you have a very young child try and find a cloth book.  Not only are they hardy, easy to manipulate, and take up very little room, they are also comfy if your little someone falls asleep on one.

Where’s Wally and I Spy books are good for those not yet into novels.

Wooden puzzles

Rubik’s cubes

Jigsaws

Book of logic puzzles or Joke book

Origami kits

Magnetic construction toys

Threading activities

French knitting kits

Small dolls such as Kelly dolls, Polly Pocket, etc that tend to come with little pieces to match – bring a toiletries bag or other small container to keeps the little bits together if you are presenting the item previously unopened.

The “party favours” section of the grocery store will sometimes have small toys such as the sort where you have to move the tiles around in a square to make a picture, or you have to get a small ball bearing into a hole, party blowers (they will drive you crazy, but it’s better than a screaming toddler), miniature slinkies, whistles, etc.

There are many online (free) colouring  pages to print before you go.  Google a subject your child likes (horses, flowers, cars, etc) then add + free colouring pages, and print away!  Staple one corner of your bundle, add to a clipboard, include a new set of pencils, an eraser, sharpener with catchment, and some plain drawing paper underneath.

Add in some maths grid paper if your children are old enough to learn dots and dashes!

There are also many car games that can be played;

Spot a list of landmarks, road signs, a certain number of red cars, etc.

Make up a silly saying from the letters of the car license plate in front.

I spy with my goggly, worn out eye (if you’re the mummy and the trip is drawing to a close..)

One of our favourites is to think of a letter, and each person in turn must say a unique word starting with that letter, players drop out as they run out of words.

Reading aloud is good while your voice lasts.

Your local library will have story CD’s to loan.

Librivox has a selection of free audio books to download.

A FEW PRACTICAL ITEMS

A baby blanket for each child.  This helps with complaints about too cold aircon, you can hang it in the window of the child who’s been in the sun for the last hour, it can double as a cubby, you can spread it on your lap so you don’t loose your play things or your popcorn, it’s handy if someone is unexpectedly and violently sick, or has a nosebleed..

Wet wipes.  Here in Australia, the “sticky fingers” in the green packet from the baby aisle (sorry, can’t remember who makes them) have a mild solution, don’t dry out if you leave them in the car for ages, and they smell pretty 🙂

A bag for rubbish.  Whether it’s one communal bag, or each person has a small plastic bag in their backpack, a rubbish bag is good.

Tissues.  Great for runny noses, making blankets and clothes for the dolls house dollies,  AND for those public amenities along the way that have no paper available!

If you are allergy prone, or germ phobic, and take your pillows with you on holidays, children can lean against them when they inevitably fall asleep.

My children all like to take their sleep toys in the car with them.  We have “Nuggle Doggy, Bear Bear, Dogger and Lovey Bunny.

Finally, if your driving time will be long, remember to plan stops at parks where little ones can have a run around. If your child is still in a child harness, it is more restrictive of movement than an adult seatbelt and a good run around, or even a chance to stretch out on the grass may be enough to sweeten the mood for the final leg of the journey.

And speaking of sweetening…

As much as I don’t advocate sugar treats for kids on car trips, a little extra sweet something, a something that takes a long time to consume such as tiny lollies (bo-peeps from Darrell Lea) or a lolly pop stashed in the glove box for desperate emergencies, just may keep everyone sane for the last bit of the trip.

Happy holidays!

Kool-Aid, Smencils, & the Joys of Foreign Blogging Friends

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smencils-kool-aid-for-play-dough

I love it when the mailman surprises me. Yesterday I received a parcel from far off Minnesota, from our shoebox swap friends at Dandelionend.  What joy!

Under the guise of awarding a prize for choosing a cute name for a new cow, Dandelionmom sent us out smencils – a 100% recycled newspaper pencil, with delicious smells permeating from them.  It was a challenge not to chew the end of the cinnamon flavoured one, smelling as it did just like the Big Red chewing gum we used to buy at school.  There was also a sugar-cookie flavour, watermelon, and gingerbread. Delicious!

Arising from a conversation about my favourite playdough recipe, Dandelionmom shared her favourite Kool-Aid playdough recipe.  Because she is such dear, generous, thoughtful friend,  she included several packets so we could try out some kool smelling, brightly coloured, foreign play dough!

We had fun!!

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
3 Tbs oil
1 small pkg unsweetened drink mix
1 cup boiling water
Instructions:
Mix dry ingredients;

adding-kool-aid

add water and oil;

add-boiling-water

stir; then knead with hands.

smoosh-smoosh

Play!

blue-tongue-lizard-play-doughemua-geography-lessonorange-emu

thank-you-dandelionend

Pearls; Monsters or Mentors?

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It’s happened again.  Every few years someone buys the book, “To Train Up A Child”, by Michael and Debi Pearl and is outraged, OUTRAGED! that anyone would print such malicious, child violence propaganda.

In this most recent case, it has been causing some dramas for a small, family run business here in Australia, resulting in a trashy, dramatic segment on the evening current affairs program.  (Why do people watch that stuff?)  After sharing the plight of this family on a forum, of course a hot debate followed on the horrendous nature of the book’s content, V’s the commonsense parenting techniques others have found in it.

As it happens, I have read the book.  I think it has some very practical ideas for child training, and I personally would rather read a book about raising children written by someone who has done that to my definition of success, as opposed to reading one written by someone  the world has deemed an “expert”.  Do you know how often scientists and medical “experts” have been wrong? (ever seen the pictures of the of the first icepick lobotomies? The ones they gave to women for…uh…headaches?  Yes folks, you can believe science has all the answers if you want to…)

But more than the question of the validity of the Pearl’s advice on parenting, this issue raises for me questions about the right to free speech, personal opinions, and the need to apply discernment in reading, and to take responsibility for your own actions.

Here’s an interesting quote from one of the book’s detractors;

“Child protection activists are outraged that parents are being urged to inflict pain on children and say the message undermines Australia’s obligations under the international convention on children’s rights.This is promoting violence towards children, and to me this is going too far,” said Joe Tucci, chief executive of lobby group the Australian Childhood Foundation.

One word for you Mr Tucci – ABORTION.

O.k, concise is not my specialty,  I am fairly riled at present, and one word won’t actually slake my desire to rant.  What, WHAT are they thinking?  When legislation has just passed which allows people to KILL a baby who is about to be born, and when the world is celebrating the 70th anniversary of “human rights” (one of those rights being the right to kill babies)  how could any thinking person object to merely smacking a child? Seriously?  It’s ludicrous!

Here’s another little gem from the Doctor;

“It’s counter-productive to the parenting task, which is to educate your children about rules and about values,” Dr Tucci said. “It’s just not effective and it’s also morally wrong. The fact that these texts use a religious argument to support their propositions distorts the immorality of using extreme force against a child in order to teach them a lesson.”

Morally wrong eh?  Morally wrong using what yardstick?  Where are the moral absolutes, if you are not using the Bible?  If it’s your opinion that it’s morally wrong to spank, well, by all means refrain from the practice.  But if your opinion is the highest authority you can call on, or if the collective opinions of other people who have observed children, parenting, outcomes, and then formed decisions based on those observations, is the highest authority you can cite,  don’t be thinking for a moment that those opinions and observations are of any more value than the next person’s, who also claims to have observed children, parenting,  and outcomes.

Dr Tucci urged parents to not to buy the book.

Notice how the doctor exercises his freedom of speech?  He has every right to voice his opinion on the book, and whether or not people should buy it.  The Pearl’s also have the right to exercise their freedom of speech by sharing the things they have learned about parenting along their life journey.

Let’s stop and think for a minute:

Do you have to buy this book? No.

Do you have to agree with it if you have bought it? No.

Does anyone put a gun to your head and force you to implement ideas you don’t agree with?  No.

My hearty recommendation, should you be in strong opposition to corporal punishment, is for you to raise your children as you think best, and afford others the same courtesy.

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