Garden Party Attire for the Whole Family

Garden Party Attire for the Whole Family

Your whole family has been invited to a garden party. But how do you dress everyone in garden party attire for the whole family?

Well, let me give you some hints. The Accountant is hosting a garden party in my honour for upcoming 40th birthday and I am planning the family wardrobe at the moment.

Garden Party Attire is a dress code that indicates a more relaxed event, but you do need to ascertain what the standard will be somewhat based on the venue. A wedding in some formal gardens would indicate a more dressy event reminiscent of cocktail wear. Or you have know that it is going to be very informal and casual, in which case good casual would be appropriate. Generally though Garden Party Attire should be comfortable and appropriate for the outdoors while being classy and maintaining a little sophistication. Because of the outdoor location garden party attire also lends itself to be practical, hats and sunglasses and comfortable shoes that don’t sink into the grass are often appropriate. The colour palate often utilise lighter colours such as whites, creams and pastels.

Women’s Garden Party Attire

I love, love, love this dress! In fact, it would have been my ‘birthday dress’ if it didn’t sell out in my size when I went to order it. (I delayed because I wanted to look locally first.) If you are in the market for a gorgeous floral dress, you’re in luck, they’ve got in more stock, but be quick, Leina Broughton is very boutique with limited stock. (I’m looking for an excuse to buy some of her clothing now I’ve discovered the label!) I just love the floral print and the 50’s cut. I think a garden party is a wonderful excuse to wear a fascinator or a hat. It’s optional to wear headgear at most garden parties, but in my opinon there’s not nearly enough excuses to wear adornments on your head these days. If your fascinator offers more style than shade, don’t forget to include SPF in your make up routine. The great thing about wearing florals is you normally have plenty of colours to choose accessories. I’ve decided to go peach fascinator and bag with this dress and sapphire jewellery to pick out the beautiful blue and then keep the fabulous shoes neutral. Shoes at a garden party should be flat or have wedges to avoid heels sinking into the grass.

Mrs. Fun and Floral
Leina Broughton “Tilly” dress – $279; Gregory Ladner Fascinator $70, Mini Saffiano Handbag $255 – David Jones; Earrings $39, Sapphire Pendant $79.90, Ring $49 – Prouds; Diana Ferrari Wedges $129.95 – Myer.

Men’s Garden Party Attire

So, I have started to imagine away here and construct an outfit that The Accountant would look totally sexy in if he were to ignore the price tags. (If he saw the price tags his grumpy face would totally wipe away all signs of sexy.) I know my Accountant is very practical when it comes to skin care so he will be cranking out his trusty Sportscraft trilby and sunnies for the occasion, but this Kenji little number is a nice little piece. If I had the spare cash, I would splurge on a new pair of Ray Bans for my man. Chinos are a great option for a garden party. Relaxed and comfortable yet still have a light colour to suit the outdoors.Tan accessories are a great option for the lighter colours. I also love the look of a crisp white trouser with a navy blazer for a garden party menswear. To be truthful, I’m not sure if The Accountant will even bother with a jacket. He gets hot very easily, so the reality is he won’t be wearing it the majority of the time, so it’s not very practical buying a new one for the occasion right now. (Unless he finds a terrific sale. Fingers crossed!) If the event isn’t highly formal, I think this is perfectly acceptable. In fact, some garden parties you could even get away with short sleeved shirts. Men’s accessories that you might like to consider are bow ties, neck ties, vests, braces and of course the dapper pocket handkerchief.

Mr. Classy and Relaxed
Kenji Hat – $14.95 (on sale); Ray Bans $215.96 (on sale); Pierre Cardin jacket – $299 and shirt $55.96 (on sale); Daniel Wellington watch – $209.25; Diesel belt – $59; Hush Puppy slip ons – $150. All can be purchased at Myer.

 

Boys Garden Party Attire
With four boys myself I have plenty of experience dressing little men. Outdoors in the Australian sun a hat is a must. Trilbys are always stylish, which often boys don’t care about. But I would bet this one will stay on little male heads because, well sharks. Totally cool. I also would keep boys in short sleeves. Let’s face it, they will be running around and you don’t want them to overheat in long sleeves. A nice chino pant would look nice, but for summer weather I would probably dress boys in a nice pair of tailored shorts. My party is two days before summer, I think my boys will be howling if they need to wear pants, so I’ll be on the lock out for some nice shorts I think, and even then I will probably have to justify why they shouldn’t be allowed to wear boardies.
Little Master of Fun
Boys trilby ($15), aztec shirt($18) and stretch chinos($20) from Target. Shoes ($30) Mathers.

 

Girls Garden Party Attire
Little girls frolicking around a flower filled garden in a pretty dress is rather idyllic, don’t you think?  This little tule dress is gorgeous, I know my little girl would adore it, although you would have to be careful with tulle if she was playing outside for too long because it tears easily. Cotton dresses would also be a cool and practical choice. A garden party is perfect opportunity for your little darling to not only find a beautiful little floral dress but also to use some cute little accessories that girls often like to tote like sunglasses and handbags. It’s also a lovely opportunity for your girl to wear a wreath of flowers in her hair, although I would still pack a hat and swap it before there was too much sun on her sweet little countenance.
Miss Pretty as a Poppy - Little Girl's Garden Party outfit
Dress – Myer ($50); Floral Woodland Crown – Etsy ($80); Handbag – Seed Heritage ($40); Hat ($15), Sunglasses ($17) and Necklace ($10 on sale) – Pumpkin Patch; Ballet Flats ($12) – Target.

Garden Party Attire for Baby

Of course you could bring a baby to any event dressed in nothing but a bonds gro-suit and bubba would look completely adorable! However, if you are bringing a baby along to a garden party and what an excuse to buy some adorable clothes – happy days! There are plenty of pretty floral dresses that would be ideal for a baby girl. Baby boys can wear shirt and shorts or a cute romper or dungaree. Don’t forget the hat to shade babies fair skin!

Garden Babies
Girls Smock Dress and Rompers $49.99, Boys Cap $10 – Pumpkin Patch; Girls Hat $10, Boys Shirt & Vest $25, Shorts $15 – Target.

When taking the family to a garden party always dress take the venue and the weather into account and then dress accordingly. Be guided by florals and lighter coloured clothing. Once you get there, don’t forget to take a family snapshot at the beginning of the event of everyone looking ship shape and stylish! (Before the kids start running around playing games and getting flushed and rumpled!) Have fun!!!

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Introducing Baby Triplets to Solids

Introducing Solids to Triplets

This post is brought to you by Heinz Infant.

Starting babies on solids can be a big decision. I found when I was starting solids with the triplets, I needed advance planning and be mentally ready to begin. Factors that can influence your decision when to introduce solids include:

  • Appears hungry after milk feeds.
  • Watches closely and appears to want to eat your food.
  • Can open mouth for a spoon.
  • Is old enough to sit up with an unsupported neck.

Every child is different, so there isn’t a necessarily right or wrong time to start solids. Generally solids are started in between 4-6 months old.

Heinz has produced this helpful info-graphic detailing some hints on introducing babies to solids.

IntroducingBabyToSolids_HeinzInfant

My triplets didn’t completely start eating solids until they were 6 months. We had tried to feed them solids at 4 and 5 months and they weren’t interested.  To be truthful, this kind of suited me. I knew it would be more work once solids started, (and it was), so the lazy mum in me was happy let them gum Heinz teething rusks until they were a soggy mess and prolong the inevitable.

triplets eating rusks

Their first meals were Farex rice cereal. All my five babies started on Farex baby rice cereal and loved it. For the first couple of months Farex was always their breakfast. My babies liked the various Farex flavours and I would also mix some pureed fruit, vegies or juice in it to introduce different flavours.

Feeding triplets solids 6 months

 

Feeding baby triplets solids is a lot of work. I liked to give them home made food as much as possible. It would take so much time to steam the food and puree it!  A box of vegetables would be gone within a few days! There’s something very fulfilling blitzing freshly cooked vegetables and fruits to make nutritious food for your baby. It can be exhausting as well. Sometimes you just have to give yourself a break, so for the hard days I always had a supply of Heinz baby food jars in my cupboard. It wasn’t quite as economical as making my own food, but I knew that it was still good value and nutritious for my babies. I also liked that Heinz sources Australian products where possible and manufactures the food in rural Victoria. Mostly I like that Heinz Infant food is natural with all the good stuff. The food is steamed and heat sealed so it doesn’t need the nasty additives and preservatives.

I tended to also use commercial food instead of homemade food when we were out. Personally I felt that the jars or pouches of baby food were easy to carry and store. My babies didn’t mind eating straight from the jar also and so I didn’t need to even heat it up when we were out and once they were finished I didn’t need to cart around dirty dishes. I tried not to take it personally when the triplets used to bounce up and down in excitement when they saw the Heinz jars. They got far more excited compared to when they saw their ‘ordinary’ home made food!

Triplets in highchairs

Tips for multiple birth mothers when introducing solids to your baby.

  • Wait for a time which is convenient for you to begin so you don’t feel pressured to introduce a new routine
  • Take cues whether to feed babies separately or together. (When mine were little we often fed separately because they were too impatient to wait patiently for the next spoonful!)
  • Use only one spoon and bowl when feeding the babies together. (It makes feeding quicker and easier. Let’s face it, they already have one another’s germs!
  • Give the babies rusks or finger foods on their highchair so they can nibble between mouthfuls. (When you are feeding their sibling.)
  • Have a face washer ready to make clean up easy at the end. (Or a warm bath ready after dinner!)
  • Use store bought food if you need a break or need to create extra time to spend some quality time with your family.
  • Be prepared to get messy! (Them and you!) Wipe down splatter after meals. There may have been a few occasions where I had puree vegetables stuck to the walls!

Here is a video of me feeding 10 month old triplets. They all have qukes (mini cucumbers) from Grandad’s farm to keep them occupied in between mouthfuls. Not that it distracted Toby who was obviously very hungry. Obviously if you make more noise, you will also get more food when you are a triplet!

 

You might like to also check out an earlier detailed post I wrote about feeding triplets solids

What do you like to feed your baby when introducing solids?

Linking to Essentially Jess.

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The CrocoDolly

The Crocodolly by Martin McKenna

 

The Crocodolly by Martin Mc Kenna is a fabulous book! The children absolutely love the story, but I just adore the underlying message that girls can smash stereotypes yet still retain some of their inbuilt natural inclination towards ‘girly’ things. I love that girls beginning to receive greater encouragement to push barriers yet still retain a degree of femininty.  It’s been slow going, but thank goodness the days when a woman had to behave as ‘one of the boys’ in order to be successful are slowly disappearing.

Adelaide gender smashing type of girl. She can make all kinds of things because she can hammer, saw cook, sew and weld.

The Crocodolly by Martin McKenna

She discovers a crocodile in an egg while she is baking one day. Being a creative and inventive individual she names the croc Ozzy and comes up with a cunning plan to keep her crocodile unlike her previous unsuccessful experiences with pets.

She disguises Ozzy as a dolly. The remainder of the book is such a funny tale detailing Adelaide’s exploits keeping a crocodile undercover. The illustrations are absolutely brilliant and tell much of the tale. Finally, thanks to a death roll in a supermarket aisle, Ozzy cannot conceal his dolly identity any longer. Adelaide has to come up with another plan for her crocodile.

My favourite page is a shot of all the disgruntled townsfolk lined up at Adelaide’s door to complain. Not only is it a delectable smorgasbord of comedic characters using a delicious array of adjectives voicing their disapproval. I love the cut out squares of the curtains which suddenly explains how Adelaide adjusted and patchworked the dolly dress on an evergrowing body.

The Crocodolly by Martin McKenna

I think I might love this book so much, because I can already see that my little girl is one of those power packed females who doesn’t let a gender stereotype limit her actions.  I love that she is being brought up where fictional girls like Adelaide only normalise an real life attitude that empowers growing females. I would suggest this as a must read for little girls, but don’t stop at reading it to your girls. My boys loved this book, and let’s be real here. Not only do we want to raise strong females that smash stereotypes, we need to be raising young men who have a multi-dimensional view of genders and don’t box males or females into narrowly prescribed gender based roles.

Disclaimer: I was gifted this book from Scholastic, but truly. I do love the book!

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The Triplet's 4th Birthday

The triplets are four! The occasion of the triplet’s 4th birthday and having four year old triplets signal a milestone for me! From when I was pregnant, I said to myself life would probably get easier that when the triplets turned four years old. I think it is starting to get easier, but I probably hadn’t factored in sibling rivalry and the continued challenges of negotiating three strong willed little individuals.

Nevertheless, my four year olds are absolutely adorable – in looks and personalities.

Turning four is a very exciting birthday. You are old enough to know exactly what a birthday is and have an increased attention span to look forward in advance to the big day. Therefore excitement in our household had been feverish leading up to the birthday and the party day.

I did a lot of searching to find their birthday present. I really wanted something that would last ‘beyond birthday week’. My children are very much into construction related toys, so I went hunting for something magnetic in this category.

P1100438

We found “Magformers” at a delightful store called Crayons. (Not sponsored, but it was such a great toy shop, with exceptional service and I’m not the type to keep this type of knowledge to myself.) I bought all the children a box each, so now they have an impressive collection together. They have done some great playing with it. We also got them some kinetic sand. This stuff lived up to the hype! Such a great sensory experience!

They could have spent the whole day happily playing with their new toys, but we had people to see and places to be! The triplets have a regular playgroup on Wednesday mornings. It just happened that another little girl who attends also turned four on the exact same day. Her mother is an expert cake maker and she had generously made a cake divided into four themed quadrants for each child. Lucky kids! They were absolutely delighted!

P1100466

Afterwards the triplets met Grandma for a special birthday lunch at Maccas. (Happy Meals are fine dining when you are four!) They also received big kid two wheelers from Grandma for their birthday. It has been amazing to see them whizzing around on their bikes with no training wheels. Their previous balance bikes really set them up to confidently ride the two wheelers. It probably took 5-15 minutes (depending on the child) for them to learn to ride with pedals! The biggest problem is that there was a picture of training wheels on the box and two of the children took a little while to make the mentally adjust to the fact that this was not to be on their own bikes. As soon as they had the courage to sit on the bike it was smooth sailing pedalling.

More big kid presents in the afternoon from Nanny. For the junior Lego. Such a great product! Easy enough for the children to put together within the limits of their concentration span, yet challenging enough to keep their interest.

My children get to choose their dinner on their birthday night. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go for the triplets. In the end, it was done quite easily. Toby requested sausages. Imogen asked for pizza. Jayden, the kid with the wicked sense of humour, wanted cake and a belly flop in a pizza. So we had salad with sausage, pizza and leftover cake from that morning. Three happy customers – even without any belly flops!

Triplets 4th Birthday Dinner

The party was on the Saturday. It was so lovely having all their little friends around. The children had all requested their cakes. I did an all nighter on Friday night icing them!!! Believe me, I was ready for bed on Saturday night! Toby had a dinosaur cake, Jayden wanted Lightening Mc Queen, happily I was able to use the decoration from earlier in the week, which was great because this was much better then the toy car I was going to put on it! Imogen had wanted a Dora cake. I was trying not panic, but when she changed her mind to a rainbow cake, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Triplet's 4th Birthday cakes

The party food went down well.

Triplets 4th Birthday Party Food

We played classic children’s party games. Stuck in the mud, egg and spoon and pass the parcel. Even though these are age old games the triplets hadn’t played them before, so it was new to them!

Then of course there were presents! I know it’s a lot for parents to get three presents for one party, but we were very grateful for the lovely gifts that the children received, and days have not been boring since the birthday because they have so many new things to play with.

It seemed like the birthday that kept on going! Just when I thought it was all over, something else would arrive in the mail, like a card or these adorable costumes from their aunty.

Triplet dress up

Happy Birthday Toby, Jayden and Imogen! I am so proud of my ‘big kid triplets’!

How did your child go transferring to a two wheeler bike? What toys are popular in your house right now? (I’ll be listening carefully – Christmas is coming and I need some ideas!) Have you heard of magformers before?

 

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Teacup

Teacup
Picture book by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley. “Teacup”

Some picture books have images that are not only captivating, but these images also leave a haunting visual memory. Teacup is a beautiful story examining large concepts and the hidden meaning in the story remains in your mind long after the book is closed, just as the images glue in crevices of the mind, shaping the way you think.

Within the pages of this moving picture book, Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley examine a pertinent social issue of refugees and accepting asylum seekers. This is not a book containing a grand political statement, neither is it an expose on the horrors and atrocities that people are trying to escape when they seek asylum.

What it contains is a whimsical and imaginative story of a solitary small boy who leaves his home in a small boat to find another with a few meagre items and a teacup of earth from where he used to play. The oil painting illustrations show the majesty of a vast ocean and even though they are beautiful, you get the very real feeling of how alone one must feel when navigating the seas to find a new homeland.

Illustrations in "Teacup"

As the boy travels, in his teacup, a seed begins to grow. Increasing the whimsy in the story, before long his boat contains a beautiful tree.

Tree in Teacup

The boy discovers land, and one day a little girl in a boat with a broken teacup also discovers the land.

Asylum seekers

The story ends with a simple image giving you a glimpse into the possibility that the two children had a happy ending.

Teacup Ending

This book is suitable for all ages, but I feel it is an ideal book to read to upper primary children. Too often we relegate picture books as only belonging to early childhood. We must not, we should not! There is so much artistry and joy that can be discovered in picture books. What a great opportunity it is for children (and adults) to discover meaning beyond the written word.

I actually this is a book that would do well to belong in all school libraries. It is not a book that preaches its message, but rather presents you with images and leads you to consider the world we live in and the lives that live within our world. It is an ideal book to promote discussion and encourage thinking.

 

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What to do if you argue in front of the kids

What to do if you argue in front of the kids

Communication is such an important component of marriage. In addition to communicating about life in general, it is vital that you communicate with your partner when you are feeling frustrated or hurt. Unfortunately these conversations can turn into yelling matches heated at times. I have heard people declare that they never argue in front of the children. I think that is really admirable. But it’s not us. There are times when Alex and I  argue in front of the kids over silly things like being late or the messy house. Sometimes the arguments are less trivial than this and sometimes they are more serious.

I feel so rotten when I’m giving my hubby a big tongue lashing and I remember the kids are in the room.  And being the recipient of marital scolding when the children are an audience is humiliating and frustrating.

If you have ever had a child come up to you immediately afterwards and say, “Mummy, you shouldn’t talk to Daddy like that, you need to apologise.” you truly feel put in your place. I’m not even going to say this may have happened to me. It certainly has happened to me, and that five year old Mr. Sensitive was 100% correct. (Silver lining, at least he knows the right way to behave!)

So what can you do if you argue in front of the kids?

  1. Just Stop.
    This is a great piece of advice I read recently about yelling. When you hear yourself doing it. Just stop. Sometimes I start yelling without thinking, but my motto has become when I realise, I just stop. Right then. In the middle of the argument if need be.  I will take some breaths and start talking calmly. If it’s a situation where it’s impossible to stay calm, I’ll ask for a time out and then seek to resolve the issue later. Most of the time, the issue doesn’t seem that large later on anyway. I used to hear myself yelling and think, “Oh well, I’ve started now.” or “I don’t care if the kids are listening, I’ve got to say this.” No, I don’t have to say anything in that tone of voice. I need to exercise self control. If there are large issues that you need to deal with, seek help. It’s better to battle out your issues in front of a trained counsellor rather than in front of your children. It’s better for your family altogether to work productively on your issues.
  2. Ask your spouse for forgiveness.
    Following Master 5’s advice is a good point to start. It’s always good to apologise. Not the “I’m sorry, but you made me so angry because…” type of apology. Apologise and be sincere and genuine. Apologising doesn’t mean you are going to ignore issues that still need to be dealt with, but it’s a commitment that you are going to deal with them the right way. If you have argued in front of the children, you should also apologise in front of the children. Kiss and make up in front of the kids. There’s nothing that gives a child more security than seeing Mummy and Daddy being loving, especially after a marital battle.
  3. Apologise to the children.
    I think it’s important to apologise to the children if they have had to witness you fighting. You have upset what should be their safe haven. They need to know that adults make mistakes and that it’s not OK. There’s no sense being hypocritical and insisting that your kids don’t fight with their siblings, but it’s OK if you want to have a stoush with their Dad, then there’s different rules for adults.
  4. Reassure your children
    Let your children know that you still love each other, even though you were mad at each other. There is so much divorce around, that even if you have a solid marriage, when children witness fighting, divorce is often a conclusion they jump to. Reassurance can give children the feeling of stability that Mummy and Daddy are going to stay together, even if they disagree.  You don’t always need to talk about it immediately after an argument, although, sometimes that is necessary.  Find a calm time and talk to your child about when Mummy and Daddy fight. If your child is worried, you want them to feel safe to voice their concerns to you also so you can put their little hearts at ease again.

It’s our job to make our children feel safe and secure. Fighting in front of the kids does not make kids feel this way. But if it does happen, (because like my husband and I, you are a flawed human and have married a very  flawed human), deal with the situation and keep moving on. It becomes a great opportunity for you to teach your child how to resolve conflicts and maintain a healthy relationship. Creating communication with the children and being willing to apologise and demonstrate humility is also a great life lesson that your kids can observe by watching you.

Do you fight in front of the kids? What strategies have you used in your family to get over fights or to prevent Mum and Dad arguments in front of the children?

 

 

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Books About Dads

Books About DadsScholastic Press has some wonderful books about Dad. These are perfect to be reading with your children during the lead up to Father’s Day. We live in a culture that does not always honour fathers, where fathers are often presented as ‘dumb’, incompetent and childish compared to Mum.  Reading books to your children where Daddys are depicted as awesome, caring and fun is one small way to standup for fatherhood. Alternatively any of these books would make a great Father’s Day gift for your children to read to or with Daddy.

Daddy You’re Awesome (Laine Mitchell and Renee Treml)

This is a story for awesome dads everywhere! It has cute baby animals celebrating their treasured moments with their dads. It has engaging rhyming text, perfect for shared reading. Once this book is finished, it lends itself to a very natural discussion on why the child’s dad is awesome.

Daddy You're Awesome
Reading ‘Daddy You’re Awesome’ with my kids on a Sunday afternoon.

Dear Dad, I Want To Be Just Like You (Ed Allen and Simon Williams)

Reading books to children

Hands down, this was Imogen’s favourite book. It has gorgeous illustrations, and best of all, every second page there is a real letter to open the flap and read, or some of them, you can actually pull out the letter!

Dear Dad I Want To Be Just Like You

I always try to pull out these letters, because three year old fingers can be a bit clumsy, but Immy loves this one so much that we have some crumpled letters because she has snuck the book away to read to herself! At the end there is a blank letter for kids to write their own ‘Dear Dad’ letter. Immy has also scribbled over this, I was trying how to decide how to work this, one letter, five kids, not always a happy combo makes. I think we will still write letters and store them in the back. That way there will always be a part of them in the book for years to come.

I am already planning lessons around Father’s Day with this book when I return to teaching. It will be so useful to illustrate to kids how to write meaningful letters to someone you love. I’m hoping to get the big boys to be inspired and write some letters for Daddy on Saturday.

 

My Dad is a Giraffe (Stephen Michael King)

I’m not going to lie to you. This book is a bit quirky. The first read through, even I was trying to work it out! It starts describing the girl’s Dad standing in the shadow of a man.

My Dad is a Giraffe

Then she continues to describe all the things about her Dad and what he does, but she says that her Dad is a giraffe, so the illustrations are a giraffe.

My Dad is a Giraffe

It ends with her and a shadowy figure of a man walking into the sunset, but the man’s silhouette has the shadow of a giraffe.

My Dad is a Giraffe

For small children it is a bit confusing, but it was a great opportunity to talk about hidden subtexts. In any case the illustrations are fun, and to kids Daddies do really seem as tall as giraffes.

 

Daddies Are Great! (Meredith Costain and Polona Lovsin)

I’m going to read this book at playgroup today to a group of babies – 5 year olds. It’s just delightful. It’s a book about the special relationships between fathers and their children. The warm and lively rhyming text touches on the everyday events of family life – bedtime stories, cuddles and shoulder rides – while gently humorous illustrations show different breeds of dog, adult and puppies in adorable poses.

Daddies Are Great

Research shows the enormous importance that fatherhood in a child’s life is far reaching. Father’s Day is such a wonderful time to place value on fatherhood. We are going to spend father’s day together in a church as a family. We’ve got a fun morning lined up with games for the kids and Dads like piggy back relays and we’re all going to have pizza for lunch together. (Dad’s favourite food around here!)

How will your family celebrate Father’s Day?

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Motherhood – What Am I Doing Wrong?

 

 

Motherhood What Am I Doing Wrong

She sipped her tea and then hesitantly asked, “So how do you get your kids to listen?”

“You keep doing what you are doing.” I replied. “I’m sure I’m not going to give you any advice that you are not already doing.”

I felt rotten for telling her that. I absolutely meant what I said. I have seen this lady every week at storytelling for over three years now. I have watched her parent. I have listed to her tell stories about parenting. I don’t hang out with her in between Monday mornings, but I know enough about her to be confident in the fact that she is doing a wonderful job. Her children are delightful, and when her kids are not so delightful, she handles them with dignity and understanding.

But I still felt rotten for giving her a glib answer. But honestly, glib answers sometimes are not really glib. They are just honest.

The real reason I felt bad was because I recognised exactly where she was at. Why? Because I have been there. I have been at my wits end. In front of my kids, I’m staying strong, I’m hanging in there. I’m being ‘consistent’. Except I can’t shake that feeling of doubt that perhaps I’m doing something wrong. I can’t help but feel guilty that the reason my children are misbehaving is all my fault. I can’t help feeling that somehow I’m failing them. And that things will never get better because I’m doing the wrong thing.

And so, I have been brave and gone up to women that I have admired and asked the same question.

“How did you do this?”
“What would you do in this situation?”
“Can you give me some advice?”

I ask these questions, genuinely humble, ready to learn. Perhaps a little desperate.

Most of the answers are things I already know and the reply makes me feel a bit frustrated because it’s not the answers I want. Not the answers I need to get through these rocky waters.  I want to assure this person I admire that, “Yes, I do that. I’m not neglecting the basics. But tell me more. There must be a great secret. There must be something I’m missing.”

  •   

When that mother questioned me on Monday, her face full of expectation, waiting for the great revelation that was going to unlock the elusive key to parenting, I recognised her desperation. And I wondered. “Why can I emphasise with her frustrations and be so confident that she is going to produce wonderful children and kind and respectable adults, yet I don’t have the same confidence in my own parenting ability?”

All of a sudden it occurred to me that perhaps the older women’s confidence in me was well founded. (And that the younger women’s judgment of me was actually misinformed.)

When older women I admire tell me that I’m doing a good job, regularly I doubt it. In my head I think, “But you don’t know what I do when no one is around. Just how badly I fail.” But I think they might.

I didn’t want to leave the woman doubting that she really would be trying the same strategies that I apply, so I gave her a few practical examples.

“I get my kids to listen by getting down on their eye level to talk to them. I make them repeat instructions. I don’t give them too many instructions at a time. I follow up on what they have been told to check they have done it. I am consistent to apply consequences if they don’t do it and when they get it right, I pile on heaps of praise.”

She was nodding. She knew I was right, she really was doing all those things. Her eyes still displayed guilt. She leaned closer and whispered.

“But I yell. I get so frustrated. I yell at them. Every day I yell at them.”

I understood. So do I. Praise the Lord, I’m getting better. It’s not every day lately. But there has been stages where it has been and I understood her guilt. But I also knew that some bouts of imperfect parenting does not necessarily equal failure. We are flawed humans, which make us flawed parents. We make mistakes. We recognise those mistakes, we make amends, we try to do better and we don’t give up. And we keep doing the things that are right.

  
When you are a parent, you cannot afford to give up on yourself. You can’t afford to give up on your child. Not Ever.

I hope this week that mother believed me. I hope that this week she had a bit more assurance that she is on the right track. I hope she realises that at the end of the day, parenting every child is challenging. I hope she knows that every child is different too. She will work out the best solution for her child, there will be similarities to the way I parent, and there will be differences. There is no formula, because every family is unique, every child is different.

I am thankful that this wonderful Mum made herself vulnerable enough to talk to me.  I admire her willingness to be transparent. I think us women need to do this more often.  To ask for help or advice when we are at our wits end. I think that people we trust need to be honest enough to tell us in loving ways when we can make improvements too. In the long run, they may see the situation in a different way, and their advice could make another mother’s life that little bit easier. And a little bit easier is all you need to make it through the days when you are in the trenches sometimes.  But most of all us mothers need to start to believe it when people we trust tell us we are doing a good job.

Do you feel like you are getting it wrong in motherhood? Do you need to start believing the good that others see in yourself?

 

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Halfway Through A Childhood

Halfway Through a Childhood

Recently my eldest turned 9. He greeted his birthday with the usual youthful enthusiasm of a child who knows he is about to be showered with presents. After receiving his gifts and having his special pancakes with chocolate topping breakfast I took him off to his Saturday soccer match. He was delighted to be playing his favourite position of goalie for the first half. A perfect soccer birthday present.

9th Birthday Soccer Goalie

At the end of the game, while all the team munched on celebratory chocolate, the coach wished Jonty a happy 9th birthday then looked at me and said, “You know what this means Caitlin? He’s halfway to 18.”

This statistic pretty well made me gasp. Given that these first 9 years have effortlessly slid by, I’ve suddenly got a glimpse of how quickly my son’s childhood will be over.

But it’s not over yet. And we are determined to continue to make his childhood a tapestry of rich memories threaded together by strong and meaningful relationships.

By the birthday bonfire later that evening, I reflected on the first half a childhood my boy has experienced and what it’s been like mothering the first half of his childhood.

The moment that little man was born and I held him in my arms, I was enveloped in a vacuum of love. The feeling of him in my arms was like no other. The vacuum of love in those moments after his birth were thick.  There was nothing else in life that mattered in those moments apart from absorbing and transmitting sudden deep emotions. As I held him for the first time and the thickshake of emotions swirled around, I vaguely became aware of the midwife gasping, “Oh dear, he’s poo’d all over Mummy.” I didn’t respond, but I can remember feeling annoyed that she would distract my attention from this bundle that I was completely besotted with.  Poo is inconsequential when your life is being transformed.  Becoming a mother is a transformation. You are still yourself, but never again the same as before.

I realised later why she would make a comment, the poo was rather enormous, and black and sticky and was plastered all down the front of my hospital gown.  I didn’t realise at that moment how the poo was symbolic of what was in store for me in the years that followed. Lots and lots of poo.  But let’s not dwell on the drawbacks of motherhood.

Newborn Firstborn Son
The first moments of my son’s life.
Since those first moments of motherhood, every moment afterwards has been guided by love for my child. Of course the intensity of that initial fierce rush of emotions subsided, but never the amount of love I have for that boy.

And so his childhood began. My days were devoted to giving him a childhood that would set him up for life. The effects of a good or a bad childhood echo throughout the rest of a person’s life. The enormous responsibility of parenting can be a daunting task if you let it be.

So instead I started by focussing on learning one thing at a time and then doing each thing I knew to the best of my ability. Of course, I often failed. But gradually we traversed through the fields of childhood.

Such meadows of discovery!  From the moment he discovered his fingers and toes progressing to an awareness of the world around him – principally at first a bee mobile used to keep him occupied for hours. In fact, I would have to remove it for him to sleep. He couldn’t close his eyes as long as they dangled above him. (Little did I know it was the first glimpse into the later sleep habits of my little insomniac.)

Baby and Mobile
Jonty loved his wooden bee mobile.
Onwards he strolled through the meadows of discovery. Crawling becomes a vehicle to venture further and to make more exciting findings. First stop is normally the Tupperware cupboard, but so many places to go from there. Learning to walk is increased the pace. The ability to walk through the meadow of discovery and pick bouquets of adventure and excitement naturally only increased the thirst for further exploration and before long he was running.

I have many, many fond memories of childhood. Becoming a mother has made me more aware of the time in childhood that a person cannot actually remember of themselves. The baby and toddler years are precious years of passion.  Feelings are immediately expressed and hysterical giggles can morph into hysterical tears in a moment. Everything is a related to feelings and discovery.  And I learned that as a mother, you are most likely the person who most treasures the moments and experiences of what will become their forgotten years. Childhood amnesia is a part of every persons life. Grey misty memories of early ages can be obtained, but those who loved you most keep most of the moments close to their heart, and even if the stories are not all told, it adds a layer of complexity and beauty in that rich tapestry of love that surrounds a person.

Batman in hiding
Batman in hiding. Undercover in a hedge.
0.5 of childhood. The halfway point of riding bikes, climbing trees and jumping on the trampoline for hours.  A time when little regard is given for time. There is no realisation that time is in fact fleeting.  He has swam through the summer days and played hard during winter in the frosty outdoors with little regard to the cold. (“Please son, put a jacket on! I don’t care if you aren’t cold. I’m cold, so that means you have to put one on.”) Disregard for dirt and cleanliness and any food that features sprinkles is classified as gourmet.

Childhood is when the journey of education begins. When Mummy blinks back the tears as her little boy skips into Kindy and then plunges into school life.

Kindy Boy
A ‘big’ Kindy boy. (Wasn’t he little?)
Childhood. A time when life is taken for granted. Because that is the way it should be during this time. Too many childhoods have been ruined by selfish adults and by wickedness thrust upon a child’s innocence. My child trundles through childhood unaware that he is lucky. Unaware that there are dangers that others experience, but not him. Of course there are times when he has a glimpse of his own fortunate life. I can remember my boy staring at a picture of a little African boy. Skin clinging to ribs with nothing in between. Stark bareness all around. As he looked at the picture he peppered me with questions about where and why and then he sat staring at the picture, for at least half an hour. And then he began dreaming. Scheming of ways to help the helpless. In his imagination planes full of food and necessities were flying endlessly. Houses shipped across oceans. Inventions to find water. Machines to create happiness in far off villages. All impractical and childish, but visionaries only need a seed and the seed doesn’t need to be practical. Plant the seed, let it grow and practicalities will come in time. In the end all the dreams were reduced to a small donation from one little boy’s money box.

As he grows, so does his awareness of the outside world increase. The second half of Jonty’s childhood will not be the same as the first half of his childhood.  During the second half of the year we will continue to water that seed of awareness of those around him and those who live differently to him in the world. Early childhood is by nature egotistical.  He is becoming less self centred but compassion for others can also be learned, so it is our goal to continue to foster that in him as he grows into adulthood. It is my ambition that by his teens he will be able to focus energies outwardly rather than filling the status quo of a self centred teen.

We have started to share memories. He is no longer dependent on my memories to remember his own life. And so a major part of our role as parents is assisting the creation of memories. Giving our childhood experiences and learning opportunities that will later become the memories that shape their life. Giving them experiences that they are able to learn from and grow from. Not all memories necessarily need to be pleasant, but the main thing is that from the trials of life they grow to be a better person from it.

So on that 9th birthday, as we reached the halfway mark of childhood, the memory creation continued as children danced around the fire, twirling with glow sticks, making up games and hunting for more wood to throw on the pile. Hollering, whooping, no fear of darkness but pure childhood heaven.

Kids by a bonfire

9 years old, but still plenty of time for firsts.  On that night it was the first time they ate smores and then later settled down, after watching a movie for his first sleepover with a mate.

Movies during a sleepover

His cousins also slept over, but that wasn’t a first. All deposited in the good memory bank while blood ties and friendship bonds that keeps growing richer.  One of the greatest joys of motherhood is that I have become a childhood bliss creator. The currency of my payment is smiles and giggles, whoops of excitement and jumps up and down in ecstasy and anticipation.

Childhood. It’s a long term investment. A healthy happy childhood will keep paying dividends for a lifetime. 

 

What do you think are some of the delights and highlights of childhood?

 

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Travel Tips to Convince You (And Him) to Travel with Your Family.

I am a travel bug from way back. At the age of 15 I boarded my first flight. I travelled to the Philippines with a group of people I didn’t know and did a mission trip and for two weeks I dressed a clown visiting schools, public squares and even rubbish dumps making children laugh as I rode a unicycle, juggled and behaved in a very silly fashion.

Smoky Mountain, Philippines
Nothing like gaining perspective as a teenager when visiting Smoky Mountain in the Philippines. A place where people literally live in a garbage dump.

The week I was due to fly out typhoons hit Philippines. At that point in time the prospect of the trip had become terrifying to me. I was willing to forgo my ticket and the weeks and weeks that I had worked in a cucumber greenhouse in sweltering summer conditions to earn the money to buy it. I was secretly hoping that the aircraft would be grounded and I would remain safe in my home with my family. I couldn’t believe I had been so foolish to venture out into the big wide world on my own – and fly on a jumbo jet with a group of strangers to get there, to say the least.

The flight was not grounded and away I went. I had the time of my life and just like that I had caught the travel bug.

Two years later I donned my clown suit again and went to Fiji. Next I returned to the Philippines. In my gap year I travelled to the US. I started to explore my own country taking domestic flights to Sydney and we booked our honeymoon in Tasmania. There is always something thrilling about being near an airport. It is the commencement of adventures. The launchpad of epic quests or the beginning of a voyage that will produce relaxation.

Clowning in Fiji
Getting ready to clown in Fiji. My 17 year old self.

Alex’s first flight was our honeymoon to Tasmania. We both loved our time away, but Alex was very content to stay in Australia. It worried me. After several years of married life, my feet were itchy. The travel bug flitting through my thoughts and imaginations and thrilling destinations were invading my mind. I finally convinced The Accountant to spend the money and we flew to Europe. We had a good time, but through much of it Alex was nonplussed. Nothing seemed to impress him too much and he often expressed a desire to go home. I was gutted. It seemed like this would be our one and only overseas trip together.

Eating snails in Paris.
Eating snails on our first trip together to Paris.

I was devastated at the prospect of having to break up with my darling travel bug.

But then we arrived home. It seemed that the eggs had been laid for Alex’s travel bug while we were overseas but it only hatched once we got home. Oh the stories he told! And the excitement he would express whenever he saw a location that we had visited. (So much more than we he was actually at the location, but never mind.) And then he started dreaming of new locations to explore – domestic and international. He was hooked and I couldn’t be happier!

Together we wandered through Eastern Europe, squeezed through the Asian crowds, kicked up our heals in the US and lived in London for a year.  We’ve also fallen in love with our own country as we looked in awe at the majestic 12 Apostles and or sipped our way through the Hunter Valley.  We are now confident travellers and have become pros at negotiating public transport in foreign countries on trains, bus and metros. (It’s part of being married to an Accountant. Saving money on a trip makes it more exciting.)

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest.
Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest.

Unfortunately as our family has grown, our wings have been clipped. I am reduced to reflecting on the happy memories and experiences of travel. There’s nothing like doing the washing up and reminiscing about a morning exploring a Montmartre cemetary.

But that travel bug. She’s a saucy little temptress and often I find myself daydreaming of jetting away again.

Alex, always the sensible one in our relationship, refuses to travel with the triplets.

Lily Livered Father.

I think we could handle it. We are experienced travellers after all. Surely the knowledge we have of travelling would serve us in good stead for an overseas jaunt with the family?  And as for his other arguments. I’m sure I could convince the children to stop eating for a day or two a week so that we could save the necessary finances. (Coughs nervously.)

Here is the starting point for my travel tips that I’m sure would put us in good stead for travelling with the triplets.

1. Choose a good airline.

It has been our experience that it is worthwhile choosing an airline carefully. Not very often, but occasionally we have made a bad choice with an airline carrier. There is nothing worse then beginning or ending your trip with a bad aeroplane experience. Your first priority needs to be safety. I was once on a plane where the nuts and bolts of seats rattled precariously during take off. True story. It’s worthwhile doing your research about your airline before leaving the ground. You also want an airline that has a priority for customer service. You especially want a friendly and sympathetic steward just in case you are travelling with a wayward toddler while pregnant and then you delete all the photos of your trip accidentally and start you crying and just can’t stop. You need a lovely steward to pat you on the shoulder and bring you a hot towel to wipe your eyes with. (Hypothetically speaking.)

Plane
Newlyweds. Alex’s first flight to our Tasmanian honeymoon destination.

2. Plan in advance.

Organisation isn’t something I am naturally gifted with. But I am always motivated to be organised when I travel.  I have the itinerary firm, accommodation booked, all documentation printed and organised into chronological order so I can pull it out as needed. And LISTS. In the lead up to leaving home, lists are my best friends, particularly lists for packing and what needs to be done before leaving.  I could only imagine that travelling with children would only increase the intensity of pre-trip organisation for me. Oh, how much thought would go into putting together activities to keep the children occupied on the plane and bits in between. And organising travel diaries for the children! Such educational possibilities!

3. Don’t plan in advance.
As much as I find security in having everything organised on a holiday, we have found a lot of our best travel moments have happened when we didn’t plan. From quaint hidden away restaurants in Italy to discovering hidden back streets in France or strolling in Spanish parks with the locals. Leaving days unplanned is a tip I have learned.  Planning the unplanned days might be necessary, but leaving room to hear local advice and explore their recommendations makes for a great holiday. Having unplanned days would be useful when travelling with children, because if everyone is over tired, it makes for a good rest day, and it may be that the local advice we seek on those days would be where the best playgrounds are situated.

4. Pack light, return heavy.

I love to shop, and prime time shopping is during holidays. (The Accountant is resigned to this fact now.) When considering what to pack, it’s easier to leave things out if you remember the less you take with you the more you can bring home. It’s become a hobby of ours to bring paintings home from overseas locations now. So much of the art on our walls have become a lasting souvenir of an overseas trip. Definitely worthy of ditching an extra set of PJ’s for.

Shopping in Paris
Shopping in Paris baby!

5.  Remember that the worst moments on a trip often become the best travel stories.

I literally have consoled myself of this fact when we have been in the middle of a travel misadventure. And sure enough, oh how those at home laughed when we related misadventures on trains and planes, camera breakages and incidents involving vomit. All horrid at the time, all the best parts of the stories when we got home. So, travelling with three year old triplets and two strong willed brothers? How can we go wrong? We’ll either have a peaceful happy time, or we’ll come home with stories that could get us on Ellen.

The Great Wall of China
Climbing the Great Wall of China. The only time we have travelled overseas – and it was with a child, (not even children!) The experience was wonderful, but also enough to keep The Accoutant grounded for coming onto seven years now!

Are you a travel bug? Do you think we could travel with the triplets? If so, comment below and share your wisdom with The Accountant as to why for our family of seven should travel abroad.

I am entering this post in a super dooper competition with Problogger and Virgin Australia. Wish me luck, because if I win, there will be no excuses, the triplets and I will be on a plane with the family soaring to new adventures! And if The Accountant is right and it all goes badly, well, there will be some hilarious blog posts for you to chuckle over.

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