Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Gifts For Females

So much for my goal to complete my Christmas present shopping before December.  To date, I have bought a grand total of six and a half presents which means I'm still not even half way there.  However, I’m hoping that with a bit of planning beforehand, I can knock everything off in one mammoth shopping trip next week.

Choosing presents for family and friends is actually one of the things I enjoy most about Christmas.  I love coming up with a great idea for a gift I’m confident its recipient will like and take great pleasure in seeing them open their carefully wrapped package. 

Since I’ve known him, Paul’s extended family have always done a Secret Santa for the adults.  For a few Christmases now, following a suggestion I made, we’ve carried things out slightly differently, in a way that involves buying for an unknown recipient and which incorporates a fun, game type twist.  Such a way sees the men buying a present suitable for any male family member and the women doing the same for the females. 

Last year I bought a scented candle.  The year before it was the latest Donna Hay cookbook.  This year, I’m turning to you all for some inspiration.  I need to think of a gift that will be suitable for a female, aged between say 25 and 65 to the value of approximately 50 dollars.  What would you buy? 

Any suggestions from your own wish lists?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Important Year Of 'School'

Grace’s kindergarten orientation session yesterday morning went brilliantly, something which surprised me following her behaviour the night before.  In hindsight, I had built things up too much for her before bed.  As I tucked her in, we chatted about her big day ahead and about getting to meet her new teacher before saying goodnight and turning out the light.  However, our conversation must have left Grace lying in bed feeling anxious as she made an appearance in our living room numerous times with excuses of needing to go to the toilet, wanting a sip of water or pleading with me to lie with her.  Sensing her nervousness, I initially responded with compassion and care.  By the third of fourth time, I mumbled something about Father Christmas watching her and she disappeared back to her room without a squeak. 

And so our session yesterday surprised me.  Grace greeted her teacher confidently and introduced herself as well as her little sister.  She skipped off to the drawing activity whilst I sat at another table filling in forms and she then proceeded to give her teacher a full description of what she’d drawn.  She was the only child in our session I heard talk.  When our half hour was over, Grace looked up sadly from her play dough creation and said, “But I don’t want to go home yet Mummy, I want to stay longer.”  I smiled at the teacher and told her I’d been anticipating the opposite reaction.  Of course yesterday, I was still within sight and the transition session in a fortnight’s time where Grace will spend an hour doing activities with her teacher in her new classroom without me will be the real test. 

I returned home yesterday though feeling at ease and with a real sense of peace about the whole kindy journey ahead of us.  Grace’s teacher was warm and sweet natured, greeting the children kindly and making the parents feel welcome and valued.  It left me thinking about what people perceive as the most important year of a child’s primary school education.  As a parent, I can definitely see the significance of that initial experience in a kindergarten or pre-primary learning environment as it sets the scene for the years ahead.  As for my own kindergarten experiences though, I don’t remember much besides the bridal veil in the dress-up corner and the mud pies I made in the sand pit.    

What has been the most important year of schooling from your own experiences?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Good, The Bad And The Exciting

Today started off on such a good note.  Following my new rule of not venturing out of the house on a Monday (I’ve found following a busy weekend, my girls need to lay low), we’ve stayed home and simply pottered.  Several loads of washing have gone through the machine and been hung out, biscuits have been baked, floors vacuumed and tea is already half prepared.   The girls have spent time happily in the sand patch, made endless play dough creations and camped out in the play tent with their stuffed toys.

However, after a much needed snooze, Grace woke in an even crankier mood and her over the top crying awoke Sophie mid-nap.  I was not a happy mama and angrily sent her outdoors until she had settled herself down.  Sophie refused to go back to sleep though and has become increasingly over-tired as the day has progressed.  Not fun.  To add to the negatives at the moment, I have recently found out that the painful elbow I was putting up with was not a repetitive strain injury after all, but instead, together with a stiff and inflamed knee is part of a rheumatoid arthritis flare up, something I have not experienced in over twenty years.  I am now on anti-inflammatory medication and spend short bouts each day with my knee elevated.  Our heat pack has become my best friend. 

As for the exciting, tomorrow Grace has orientation day at her kindy.   Just a half an hour ‘meet the teacher and tour' of her new classroom, but after months of kindy talk, it is such an important event in this household. We're looking forward to seeing the environment she will be a part of next year and to getting a glimpse into this first big milestone of her schooling days.

How has your start to the week shaped up?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Living Room Needs

We’ve been thinking a lot about our home lately and how we can best make use of the floor plan to suit our needs.  On the weekend, Paul came up with a renovating idea, one that has left me mulling over the use of our formal dining room ever since.  His suggestion was to extend our open plan living area to create a slightly bigger space.  Such a project would create a spot where a larger table would be possible, which would take advantage of the small unused part of our patio and if done correctly, hopefully let in more light.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of our other formal dining space.  For one, it is barely used.  Also, I’d prefer such a room to have floorboards rather than be carpeted and if I had my choice now, I would have chosen a more casual, hard-wearing table as well as chairs that weren’t upholstered.  If we had space for a bigger table in our every day living area (possibly a table that could be extended), we wouldn’t even need a formal dining room and that area could be put to better use. 

I think it’s important to make a home work for your needs.  We love our house and look back over the changes we have made since we moved in here and the renovations we’ve carried out with a sense of pride.  However, there are certainly things we could still change to better suit our family. 

Of course, these ideas are all still in the ‘dreaming stage’ and the likelihood of any coming to fruition is a possibility that is still WAY off into the future.  We have a home office to re-jig first and shelving to decide on for either side of our (fake) fireplace before any more major renovations take place.  But Paul’s suggestion has given me a little boost of interior decorating enthusiasm over the past week and the freedom to look back at magazine pages I’d bookmarked and to wonder if spaces I thought were unachievable might be possible after all…

Both images courtesy of Homelife
Photography by Mark Roper / Styling by Indiana Foord

Friday, November 16, 2012

Our New Place Of Calm

In recent weeks, the girls and I have re-discovered a favourite spot, perfect for morning tea picnics, sandcastle building, shell collecting and paddling in the water.  It's a tranquil little part of the river with plenty of shade and plenty to see where we've been spending the odd morning here and there lately.

I know Paul thinks that I take the girls on simple little outings like these when I don’t have anything else to do, or when our friends are all busy and playdates can’t be organised.  On the contrary, I purposely set aside time for little outings like these BECAUSE I have too many ‘to-dos’ and too many people I feel I should be visiting.  Getting out of the house forces me to ignore the lists, the housework and the responsibilities and to simply ‘be’ and enjoy spending time with my girls.

I make time for such mornings just as much for Grace and Sophie as for myself.  Too often I find I'm doing something like sitting with the girls in the sand pit, building shell covered castles and digging moats, only to be distracted by a few weeds peering out from beneath the shrubs beside me.  And then before I know it, I’ve not only pulled those out, but I’ve then taken the washing off the line, tidied up some outdoor toys lying about and watered the vegetable patch instead of playing with the girls.  While I know multi-tasking is part of our lives as Mums, I’m trying to consciously ‘sit and be’ more often as I know these precious toddler and pre-schooler days will be over in the blink of an eye.  

Earlier in the week, Claire from Scissors Paper Rock made reference to a beautifully written post over at Enjoying The Small Things.  As I popped across myself for a read, I discovered some real words of wisdom...

"Nothing is more urgent than being kind to ourselves and present for our families" 

... I'm glad that this week, I've taken this outlook on board, spent quality time with my darlings and enjoyed some moments of calm and tranquility out in the fresh air myself, all of which makes me a better Mum and my girls happier little girls...    

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Snail Mail Fun

About a month back, when Sarah extended an invitation to fellow bloggers to join in her Good Mail Club, I emailed her excitedly, eager to participate.  Let's face it, with our mailboxes these days being filled more often than not with bills and advertising, the prospect of opening it to find something pretty and unexpected sounded wonderful.  However, as I sat down to actually create my own contributions, I must admit to feeling a tad stressed.

When would I find the time to write eight letters and create something to include in each envelope? What on earth would I make?  While I had a few trinkets from my own collections to add, I wanted to put together something I had made myself, something that was somewhat personalized and suited to its recipient.  

I found inspiration for this project one afternoon as Sophie's scalloped pattern birthday invitation jumped out at me from the fridge.  And so, as Grace worked away beside me on a collage picture, I ignored the ever growing washing pile and unswept floors and sat with her and crafted.  Using the same design that I came up with for Sophie's party, I chose 'words of wisdom' to suit each of my fellow bloggers, altered the colours to suit their tastes and came up with the simple quote cards above.  I was really happy with how they turned out and am even thinking of making up some of these to add to a few Christmas presents this year.

As for the envelopes that made their way into my letter box, I received some lovely notecards and ephemera which you can see a glimpse of above.  As chief 'mail box inspector', Grace was thrilled to find the colourful, postage stamp covered packages that were delivered to us.

After the initial stress subsided, in the end, the lesson I gained most out of this fun project was the importance of taking time out of the hectic pace of daily life more often to enjoy simple pleasures like crafting, a hobby which I can not only share with Grace, but one which encourages me to take time to 'be' and to relax... something I am going to try hard to take on board in these coming months... 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sad 'Lasts'

While this past year with Sophie has been filled with exciting 'firsts', it has seen us do lots of things for the last time too.  There was the last time I let her fall asleep on me on the couch at night.  The last time I put her to bed in the bassinet before her move to the cot.  The last time I dragged myself down to the nursery to feed her in the wee hours of the morning.  This time last week, it was the last time I gave her a breast feed.  After 12 and a half months of doing so, this one was a sad milestone for me, especially seeing as our family is now complete and no more babies are on the cards.

Breastfeeding definitely hasn't always been smooth sailing for the two of us though.  I had issues in the early days due to my oversupply of milk and feeding created a bit of a vicious cycle.  When Sophie was unsettled, a breastfeed was the only thing that seemed to settle her and yet unknowingly, this ‘over feeding’ was contributing to her pain with her little belly unable to cope with the huge amounts of milk. After our hospital visit at around seven weeks, we began shorter five or ten minute feeds, offering only one side at a time and things drastically improved.  Feeding was once again a peaceful experience that I cherished and while I did get the odd blocked duct here and there, I loved our little ‘milk bar sessions’ throughout the day.  However, as much as I loved feeding my girls and as much as I know I will miss it with Sophie, I know in my heart the time is right for us to stop.  

Now, Sophie’s feeds are carried out in a slightly different manner, but I still get my quota of snuggles nonetheless.  I’m trying her out on a2 milk and she drinks it from a small sippy cup by herself, usually on the go whilst playing.  However, our night time cup is enjoyed cuddled up on the couch together and is one of the few times our little wriggly worm will actually sit still. And just like in the picture above displayed in Sophie's room (an adored gift given to me by lovely Jane), after her milk, before I put her into the cot for the night, I pop her into her sleeping bag, turn out the lamp and she nestles her little head into my shoulder, wraps her arms around me and tugs affectionately on my hair. I'm happy that we can still enjoy our precious cuddles with one another just as we did throughout all those months of breastfeeding.

For those interested, the illustration above is a photo of a framed greeting card in Sophie's nursery by Anita Jeram (illustrator of the popular children's book 'Guess How Much I Love You')  This print is called 'Hold Me Tight' and is available at Two Bad Mice.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creating Christmas Traditions

One of the best things about being a Mum at this time of year is being able to create special Christmas traditions for my girls.  This year, I'm keen to try and make my own Advent Calendar. As well as having a visual countdown, I want to include a whole bunch of fun activities for us to do together, as well as a few treats for the girls to open.

I've been thinking back to my own childhood and bugging Paul for memories of his own so that I can include some of these onto the calendar I make.  I love that we're able to come up with a unique own set of Christmas traditions now that we have a little family of our own.  Christmas Eve will definitely be 'open one small present', just as both of us were allowed to do on the night before Christmas and the first day of December will be 'put up the Christmas tree'.

As for the calendar itself, I haven't decided yet which style I'll go with.  I love the look of the tree one above, made from paint sample cards but the ready made one below from Create Lovely on Etsy is enticing too.  With only 23 days left of this month though, I'd better hurry up and decide...

Which Christmas traditions did your family have when you were growing up and which ones have you continued with your own family today?

Image #1 from A Simple Nest
Image #2 from Create Lovely

Friday, November 2, 2012

Embracing November

November last year was a definite 'blink and miss it' month for me.  I hadn't long been home with newborn Sophie and with her suffering from terrible colic and in extreme discomfort after every breastfeed, combined with my surge of new Mama hormones making me emotional and teary, I was feeling overwhelmed trying to divide my attention between my two little ones. I simply focused on getting through each sleep deprived day as best I could, waiting for the time when things would finally settle down. Up until Christmas really, I was feeling rather frazzled and after the situation with Sophie reached a peak and we ended up in the children's ward in Fremantle Hospital (which thankfully led to us discovering her discomfort was due to lactose overload), Christmas appeared out of nowhere and it was soon the new year.

Fast forward to the same month in 2012 and Sophie's milestone first birthday is now out of the way and I have made the decision to be kind to myself and not host my usual Pink Ribbon Day Fundraiser as I have done for the past three years.  With various functions already being penned in on our calendar for the coming months, I want our days ahead to be kept slow paced and filled with things like time spent pottering around the home, catch ups with friends and their little ones and lots of fun together as a family.

And so, this November, I'm going to take in all the things that I missed last year. I want to appreciate the beauty of our star jasmine bush outside our back door, currently exploding in an abundance of blooms and smelling unbelievable.  I want to spend time in the backyard with the girls, having picnics and tea parties beneath the shade of our bottlebrush.  I want to continue with my spring cleaning projects and hopefully finish before spring is over and summer is upon us. I'm hoping to get all of my Christmas gift shopping out of the way and to do it as stress-free as possible (unlike last year when I was madly running around the shops in the final days of December).  I want to enjoy the warmer weather and the treat of being able to eat outdoors in the evening.  I want to finally join in with the Photo A Day challenge and hopefully capture some great memories along the way... 

How about you?  How is your November shaping up?