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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Alice in Wonderland – Down the Rabbit Hole

Did you know that it’s been 150 years since Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland? Originally Lewis Carroll (pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) told a story of a girl who down a rabbit hole to a little girl named Alice who requested he wrote the story down. He did and was encouraged to publish it. Since doing so Through the Looking Glass has been published countless times throughout the world in 174 languages. It has been made into plays and movies and been the inspiration for many works of arts and the theme for all manner of events and parties.

150 years and the story is still enduring. Scholastic has published a modern retelling by Joe Rhatigan and Charles Nurnberg  and we were delighted to be gifted a copy to review. It quickly charmed my 3 year old girl and for at least a month or two it was requested to be read to her at least once a day.

Little Girl enjoying Alice in Wonderland
A favourite bedtime story.

It is magical how the classics capture the hearts and imagination of generations of children.  I can remember watching the Disney version with my friends and it being a source of inspiration for a lot of imaginary games afterwards. It was probably the first classic novel I was given. I have to admit, I found the original text very difficult to read as a 10 year old, but it was the first time I ploughed through complex language in with the ambition of reading a time honoured classic.

This particular version has illustrations by Eric Puybaret have a modern flavour yet very much capture the nonsensical elements of the story and captures the fantasy and imagination that has long been associated with the well known characters and tale.

Alice in Wonderland stuck in house

If you want your child to discover Alice and some of the characters such as the White Rabbit, Dodo, Bill the Lizard and the Blue Caterpillar, this picture book is a delightful introduction.

The White Rabbit

I am wondering if there will be another book featuring Alice’s adventures with the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat, the final page certainly references that there is more to come in the story. If so, I know my little girl will be very keen to delve into the next edition.

Alice in Wonderland illustrations

Do you have memories of Alice in Wonderland? Has her tale been passed onto your own children?

 

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Three Year Old Triplet Tantrums and Mischief

 

Triplets and Daddy
The triplets with Daddy during holidays. They are often looking grumpy, but in this photo they are actually looking a bit shell shocked. They went on their first ‘big kids’ ride at Movieworld and the Wild West ride kind of freaked them out a bit!

Just quietly, can I admit to you that I am really struggling with three year old triplets right now? Look, they are gorgeous kids, and they make me smile constantly throughout the day. But just as often at the moment, they make me rub my aching head and quietly pray for divine intervention. Please Lord, make the crying and fighting stop! Because I really don’t know how to make the three year old triplet tantrums crying and fighting stop. Every.Little.Thing. They will go from giggles to hysterics in three seconds flat. It’s doing my head in.

And then if they aren’t fighting, there is mischief and mayhem.

For instance last weekend  I left the room after making a chocolate cake with the two kids. We were running behind time so I left Jayden and Toby licking the bowl and spatula while I raced down to get their clothes ready. Two minutes later Jayden has spilt sugar over the bench and put the bowl on his head so before we left I added showering a grubby boy to remove chocolate from his hair.

The next day I sent the triplets outdoors after they were fighting over lunch. Generally they play better outdoors. They were playing nicely, so I got a few things done while going out regularly to check on them. Even still, I didn’t hear Triplet 1 come in the back door. But then I heard a cry for help. He had done a poo and had tried to take his clothes and dirty pants off without taking his shoes off.  It wasn’t pretty. Ironically I had officially considered the triplets fully potty trained and had got the carpets professionally cleaned the week previously.

After disposing off the clothes to the laundry and depositing the child in the bath, I set about to find the source of the smell that seemed to be lingering. I couldn’t find it, so just decided to mop the floor where the child had been. Eventually I came to a dirty patch that seemed to be the source of the problem. However once this had been mopped there still seemed to be an odour coming from somewhere that I couldn’t locate. I kept mopping all surrounding areas, but the smell wouldn’t go away. When I went down to fetch his PJ’s, I found poo smeared all over the newly cleaned carpets. (And walls)

Thanks to Google, a concoction of 2 tablespoons of washing up detergent, 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 2 cups of warm water seemed to be effective at removing the smell and stain. (In bold in case you need to refer back to this if you face similar disasters. Because I’m helpful like that.)

It did take a fair bit of time to clean. Which made me late getting dinner ready. As I was rushing around the kitchen, suddenly Triplet 1 appears with a very wet mop. It wasn’t the same mop that I had been using. I went to investigate. He had got another mop from outdoors, and had ‘mopped’ a large area with the dirty water that I had used earlier. While doing so, he also spilled the remaining dirty water from the bucket.

Let me tell you. Upon this discovery I was not calm. I was ranting and yelling.

As I was trying to mop up the pools of water, one of the big boys came out telling on Triplet 2 “For putting toothpaste on his willy.” It was the final straw, I huffed off into the kitchen to let The Accountant know of my disapproval. He disappeared to restore order. I could tell I was frazzled and told myself to settle down. I shut myself in the pantry (I just didn’t want to see another kid right then) and tried breathing deeply to restore inner equilibrium. But because I was in the pantry, I gave up on this plan and reached up and found some chocolate, and closed my eyes while eating it and said a prayer.

Equilibrium restored.

Except while I was eating chocolate and praying in the pantry, Alex’s Chinese step sister walked into the kitchen. She is staying with us during the school holidays. We’ve only met her once before, so we’ve been getting to know her. I stood quietly in the pantry waiting for her to leave, but after peeking out at her, I realised she wasn’t going anywhere. I straightened my shoulders, lifted my chin up and walked out of the pantry, as though it were perfectly normal that I had been in there for ten minutes.

Poor Yiwen was very startled so I just mumbled something about needing a moment and thankfully she smiled and had a chuckle with me. She had been with us for almost a week and had witnessed a lot of triplet tantrums. I don’t think she will understand until she’s a mother though.

To prove I’m not exaggerating, this is the three of them crying in the car park of the local fruit shop. Triplets all crying at once wasn’t pleasant when they were newborns and it still isn’t a nice sound.

I know I’m not the only Mum who hides from their children on the odd occasion. Where’s your hiding spot when you need a moment of peace? Have you ever been ‘caught’?

 

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Farm Kids

Farm Kids are generally very happy kids in my opinion.

Jonty on the farm

There is something about the great outdoors that delights children and being on a farm is mostly all about the great outdoors. I know because I grew up on a farm, and even though I would generally describe myself as a bookworm rather than an outdoorsy type, a large chunk of happy childhood memories for me are outdoors knocking around paddocks with my siblings on the farm.

My kids are blessed to have a great deal of exposure to farm life despite the fact their parents are not farmers. This week we jumped at the chance to go out west for a few nights at a group of properties my parents own. Mum and Dad don’t live there, so we don’t get out all that often. In fact, I was astonished to realise I haven’t been out there since the triplets were 8 months old – read about that trip here.

So on Sunday the kids and I loaded the car up and headed west. We stopped for a quick play in the park at a town along the way and Miss Rachael, who lives there now, popped down quickly with her fiance and showed us her new engagement ring! We headed to the next little town and stopped at the nursing home to say hello to my grandparents. Sadly, they have dementia now. It is still good to “introduce” my children to their great grandfather. Nana has only just moved there, so even though it took her a little while to work it out, she does remember the kids still. It’s all a bit sad, but thankfully, there is still so much of their personalities that are retained despite their damaged memory.

Once we got out to the farm, it was a bumpy drive up the long driveway to get to the homestead. It had rained recently, so the driveway was very slippery. Vans are not made for wet bush tracks. So, I didn’t get in our car again until we were leaving. Now that we are home, the car is still waiting for a wash, it has a thick, thick, thick coating of mud over the mudflaps!

Mornings started with cousins playing together with a toy farm by the fireplace.

Caitlin's Happy Heart |Playing farms by the fireplace

 

It didn’t take long before the kids were outdoors. I had brought the triplets balance bikes. There were two enormous mud puddles in the driveway in front of the homestead. Mum and I spent a lot of the next few days yelling at the four youngest boys (5, 4 and two 3 year olds) to get out of the puddles. Honestly, boys and mud – it’s a magnetic combo. They would creep up to the side of the puddle and just stare longily at it. Next they would have a stick or be poking it with their fingers, and before you know it they would be riding through it. I looked out once and there was Jayden standing in the middle of the puddle with a plastic mower. Luckily there was a washing machine to keep washing the muddy clothes!

Caitlin's Happy Heart | Boys and mud puddles

The best thing to do to stay away from the puddles was get out and about and see what the big kids, Uncle Adrian and Grandad was doing. An excursion away from the homestead was always an adventure.

Big cousin with triplets

Like watching a truck unload the grain and get loaded up the auger.

Truck unloading grain | Caitlin's Happy Heart

Letting grain run through your fingers is such a great sensory experience.

Feeling grain on a child's fingertips

There was old machinery to play on.

Playing on an old tractor

Playing on old farm machinery

New machinery to explore.

Kids on tractor

Things to climb.

Climbing on a farm

And best of all, rides on machinery!

bulldozer

kids on a bulldozer

Lessons from a big cousin.

Cousins

Lessons from Grandad.

Grandson learning about an air compressor

Picnics for lunch.

DSC_0324

Getting spoiled by Grandma. Lollies!

Lollies from Grandma

And getting up close and personal with wildlife. The kids loved being introduced to an echidna.

echidna

children meeting an echidna

As nice as life on the farm is, I always wonder how I would go if I was living in such isolation, when a quick trip to the shops is out of the question and having a day of retail therapy is several hours away. As it was, I downloaded a book to read on my Kindle while I was away. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised that my Kindle was turned off and therefore was unable to deliver the book to the Kindle. There was no reception whatsoever except for a few random places on the farm you could get a very weak reception. (As it turned out, even those places wouldn’t pick up on the Kindle.) The triplets and I went for a drive a couple of kilometres away from the house one afternoon to see if I could get my book. When I pulled off the track to go to the tank where you can sometimes pick up reception, I didn’t realise how slippery the wet mud was and bogged the car. I felt like such a goose! Unluckily for me, there was no reception picking up that day either, so I couldn’t ring for help! I hadn’t brought the two way radio because it was playing up. I knew I could walk back to the house, but it would take a couple of hours, particularly with the triplets, but they didn’t have shoes on, so we couldn’t do that. I considered letting the triplets out and just letting them play in the mud, they had been trying to do this all day anyway, but I was figuring that it would probably be at least three hours before Dad would come by on his way home, so by then they would be very cold and far too dirty to get back in the car. The triplets did have fun beeping the horn repeatedly. I figured there was definitely no one but the cows to get annoyed by the sound!

Luckily for us, we didn’t even have to wait a full hour. Dad decided to bring the kids back and have an early afternoon, so he came by earlier then usual. Of course, I was feeling stupid, and he didn’t make me feel any better. My son who was with Dad also had great delight in laughing over my misfortune. Nevertheless, Dad towed me out and we returned to the house with no new book. Imogen was telling everyone that “Grandad was a superhero because he rescued us.”

bogged

Just as well, the end of the evenings were lovely with a fire to watch.

Cousins around a fireplace.

Or even better – a bonfire!

Bonfire

 

With bonfire food of sausages, spuds and corn.
Corn by the bonfire

And of course toasted marshmallows!

toasted marshmallows by a bonfire

But best of all going to the farm meant family bonding for the children with their cousins and grandparents.

Grandad and grandson

We live a rich and blessed life indeed.

 

Have your kids been able to experience farm life? Are you on holidays yet?

Linking today Flog Yo Blog with Grace.

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How to Handle a Public Tantrum

How to Handle a Public Tantrum

Those moments. The ones when you are in public and you have a child (or more than one) on the floor writhing at your feet screaming in a fit of discontent and sorrow. Knowing how to handle a public tantrum is one of those chapters that should be included in the parenting manual – you know the manual? The one we all didn’t get when we had kids. That one.

Last week Jayden chucked a spectacular tantrum at the checkouts in Target. For the first time the triplets had all had their own kids trolley and had been able to follow me around the store without fighting. They looked adorable all walking in their little red trolley convoy and as a special treat I allowed them all to put a ball in each trolley for us to buy.

Shopping with triplets

When we got to the checkout, they all unloaded their balls and delivered it to the counter. However, when they turned around to go back to their trolleys, Toby walked back to the wrong trolley.  It became obvious that it was impossible for Jayden to compromise and push any other trolley, despite the fact that it was identical to his original. I then asked Toby to be compassionate and let Jayden have his original trolley. Predictably this request was answered with a resolute, “No”, and his little hands gripped tightly to the trolley ready for the inevitable Onslaught.

Sure enough, when Jayden saw that his demands “request” had been denied, he did protest much.

And loudly.

Cue loud raucous crying. Cue launching himself at his brother. Cue brother hitting and kicking as he defended his “right” to use the red trolley of his choice. Cue rolling around the floor screaming.

Cue mother trying to pay and get the brood out of their as quickly as possible. On this particular occasion. I have no idea what other customers or staff were thinking of me. I only had the eyes to deal with the situation in front of me. I took the trolley off both of the two boys, because neither had been acting kindly wheeled them back to their home then scampered back to collect the children who were still languishing at the checkout crying loudly. I rushed back, took them by the hand and walked out, waiting briefly for Immy to responsibly replace her own trolley like the model child of the moment.

When we got out of Target, I kneeled down so I was eye level with Jayden and had a quick chat. I empathised that I knew he was feeling sad, and that he wanted to push only one trolley, and then I pointed out that it wasn’t fair that because he was feeling sad, he made everyone around him feel sad because they had to listen to his crying. I also spoke to Toby and said it wasn’t being kind to fight with Jayden. We then continued our shopping, and they did quite well.

To be honest, I’m becoming a pro at negotiating the humiliation of the public tantrum. My young brood of children are all strong in nature. This means they don’t back down readily and will tenaciously hold their position. Which is actually great qualities to have as they grow up. However while they are so young, it is tricky teaching them how to be gracious when they are disappointed. Especially when the lesson needs to be learned publicly.

It’s always helpful remembering that our children are learning. Knowing how to share, behave in public and thinking of others are skills that children learn. Tantrums are often a vehicle to learn good behaviour. Granted, it’s the least desirable transport on the road to good behaviour. Children should be encouraged and taught better methods of handling their frustration. But inevitably there will be public tantrums and outbursts. Here are some hints that I use when I’m in a public tantrum situation.

1. Distract
Of course, there’s a point where distraction is futile. But often, if the tantrum is in the early stages, you might be able to distract your child. Use your most bright cheerful voice while you point out something very ordinary extremely interesting. It’s amazing how interesting a mannequin in a window can be when you are using your best senior high drama voice! Of course there is the possibility that you make something look so interesting (there are drawbacks to pointing out toys, for instance) that your toddler switches modes and re-directs their tantrum to the new thing that is in their focus. If so, proceed to suggestion number 6.

2. Temporarily Remove Your Child From the Situation
Sometimes I find it helpful to take my screaming child to a quiet (or quietish/quieter) corner and talk to them calmly. Cuddle them and reassure them that you love them. Give them the opportunity to calm themselves down. Once they are calm, state firmly but lovingly what your expectations are when you return to what you are doing. Also state clearly what will happen if the bad behaviour continues. Of course, sometimes when you do this, the cries escalate, snot starts running, feet begin to stamp and your child makes all indications that it will take an hour before your offspring calms down. In which case, admit defeat and proceed to number 6.

3. Know That Most People Are Understanding
When your child is having a public tantrum you can often the burn of disapproving eyes on you and your child. Reassure yourself that in fact a lot of people are quite understanding. I know it doesn’t always feel like it. Because let’s face it, often we don’t even want to turn around and check out the expressions on the people around us. Of course, occassionally there is a situation where you are literally being judged by everyone around you. If so, proceed directly to number 6.

4. Recognise the Root Cause
Sometimes we need to pause and consider what is happening in our child’s life. Your child may simply be venting because they are worried about the dentist appointment that afternoon or they are feeling insecure because they are uncertain of how to behave in this situation. Children who enjoy routine can often just be unsettled by being outside the home. Acknowledge what they are feeling. Give their concerns words. Give them a hug and let them know that you are willing to guide them through their frustration. Of course, sometimes you may have correctly identified the root cause, you chat to them, hug them and they scream louder. If so, you may want to proceed directly to number 6.

5. Keep the Bigger Picture in Perspective
I constantly do this when I am parenting. Why do I want to deal with this issue in public? Really. It’s so much easier to deal with tantrums privately. Bigger picture thinking makes you realise that by dealing with this issue as it happens, you are in fact teaching your child how to behave in public. You are actually working towards this happening less in the future. If you retreat every time a child throws a tantrum, your child learns that they can completely manipulate you during public outings. However, some days you know you or your child is just too tired to deal with a tantrum in public. In which case, Hold your head high knowing you are doing what is best for you and your child in that moment and that despite what people are thinking, you have a large array of strategies that you implement other times and proceed to number 6.

6. Ignore All Above Suggestions, Do Whatever You Can to Retreat and Get the Hell Out!
Some days, there’s just no winning. Recognise those days, and do whatever you can to withdraw in a hasty retreat. Wave the white flag. Or not. The white flag may not even withstand the destruction of a toddler/preschoolers rage. Training can be done another day, save your own sanity woman!!!! (Or Man, there is no gender bias when it comes to being defeated by a small fry.) Get to the car as quickly as you can.  Try not to screech the tyres in your retreat, but if you need to enhance the drama – go ahead. Make your exit spectacular! Ugly crying may accompany this retreat. Embrace the emotions. You are not the first to be brought to their knees by their wild progeny.

Shopping with triplets for balls
Moments before the epic showdown.

 

There is no shame being beaten by a bambino providing you raise your head and live to fight train another day. You can be assured of this. The same issue will come up – the odds are with you that the issue will surface imminently. Believe in your child, believe that they can learn to negotiate, believe that they actually don’t want to tantrum but rather that they want, need and desire the security of boundaries. And know this. If I am in the crowd as the battle lines are drawn, whether I catch your eye and give you an encouraging smile or not, I’m cheering for you because the fact that you are dealing with a tantrum publicly immediately is a public declaration that you are a good parent. Further then good – you are an excellent and outstanding (and brave) parent.

 

Has your child every had a spectacular public tantrum? What works best for you when you are faced with a child having a public tantrum?

Joining with Essentially Jess and IBOT.

 

 

 

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