Thursday, 31 January 2013

Easy Caterpillar Craft

We did a really easy craft activity for Very Hungry Caterpillar day.  (You can see all the fun of our special lunch here.)

After lunch we painted some cut-up egg cartons.

Painted faces when bodies were dry.

Then added antennae when faces were dry.

You can see the original instructions here.

Easy.  Fun. Cute!

What's your favourite way to reuse an egg carton?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Being Present

We had a perfect start to the week.  We spent Monday – the last day of our summer school holidays – at Litchfield National Park.

Litchfield is the closest national park to Darwin and has some really fantastic waterfalls and swimming spots.

We usually plan on doing at least two of the three main swimming spots with lunch in between, but this visit ended up differently. 

Rohan fell asleep.  He fell asleep on my chest while I was sitting in a floating pool ring/seatthingy.  (Splashing in the water is hard work!)  As a result we spent our entire visit at the one swimming spot and I learnt a valuable lesson.
Okay, so I already know how important it is to live in the moment; to pay attention to your thoughts, your actions, how you interact with others – especially your children; to practice mindfulness.  It’s very hard to do- especially when life is so busy.  There are so many places to go, so much housework to do, so many children to feed and deadlines to meet. 

And though I want to be mindful there are times - like when I’m scrubbing the toilet- that, quite frankly, I’m okay with daydreaming about relaxing in a hammock next to Aitutaki lagoon in the Cook Islands.  Yes, my daydreams are rather specific!

But, when Rohan fell asleep on me, I was given permission.  Permission to let go.  Permission to just BE PRESENT. 

Not to think about the time, not to list what had to be done/cleaned/cooked, not to worry about the other children (who were having a blast climbing rocks and/or jumping off things with their father.  Okay, I worried a little!) 

For 30 to 45 minutes – and it doesn’t even bother me that I don’t know how long he slept! – I was present.  I focused on the feeling of the water, the pull of the current, the dappled sun on my skin, the wind through the trees and the precious little bundle asleep on my chest.

He won’t be this little for long and I got to treasure his perfection without any many distractions.  Bliss!
For more information about the Northern Territory see here.

Friday, 25 January 2013

A lunch for tiny, Very Hungry Caterpillars

Earlier in the week I shared the special invitation we had sent for a Very Hungry Caterpillar themed lunch we were having.  You can see it here.

I promised to share all the details so here they are...

We started with some decorations.

This cute balloon caterpillar was super easy to make (the hardest part was climbing on the kids' swing set to reach the branch!)  The balloons were simply attached with kitchen twine.

The rest of the party was all about the food.

If you remember the book, from Monday to Friday our tiny caterpillar friend makes some healthy food choices.

We made the labels in Word, printed, cut and stuck onto small bamboo skewers. 

We had the yummy treats too- chocolate cake, cupckaes, lolly pops, icecream cones (actually cupcakes baked in cones with frosting and mini marshmallows), cherry pies and slices of watermelon. 

And a nice, green leaf in case of stomach aches!

I put the savoury food (salami, Swiss cheese, pickles and sausages) on the table in the vain hope that they'd be eaten before the sweets.  Didn't happen!

We had such a fun time.  After lunch we did some caterpillar themed craft too.

It was so nice to make something really special out of a simple lunch date.  Do you enjoy making the ordinary a bit extraordinary?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Play Space for Baby

I've spent a lot modest amount of time on Pinterest collecting ideas for organising and decorating the kids' playroom and I'm slowly implementing some of my favourite ideas into the space.   

Most of these ideas, however, are things that the older children will be able to utilise and learn from.  So I was delighted to find this image and link to The Imagination Tree.

Anna (who showed us to how make this terrific space play dough) has created a Reggio and Montessori inspired play space suitable for a baby 6 - 18 months.  You can see her space in full here.  She also has a space for a 0 - 6 month old here.

My older sons attend a Montessori-based school and I'm learning so much all the time about this approach to learning which is impressing me greatly.

I also really loved the idea of Rohan having his own space in amongst the world of his older brothers and, as everything is a collection of items we already had, it didn't cost a cent! 

Here's what I created...

I've used a small rug we had sitting in the cupboard to define his space and added a lovely soft bunny rug with satin ribbon edging to add a textural contrast too.  Then I added the following elements:

* A series of high contrast black and white images 
I found most of these online and pasted them into a Word Document table.  The heart, sun and arrows I made in the Word table.  I simply printed it out and used clear contact paper to stick it to the back of the Kitchen bench!

* Some images of faces 
I decided to use some recent family holiday photos of Rohan and his family, friends and Godparents.  Attached as above.

* A mirror 
A real mirror would not be a good idea around my boys!  This one is acrylic with a felt frame that came with the activity play-mat he has outgrown.  I've attached this with Command Adhesive Strips - the kind that interlock like Velcro - but discovered I needed to hot glue the strip to the mirror as baby loves to grab and pull this one!

* Simple wooden puzzle (I have a few of these I can rotate) and animal puzzle blocks

* A cute stuffed toy 
This is "Fiddle" and he's a Floppadoodle.

* Wooden blocks 
While not the traditional stacking Montessori blocks, these are different shapes and colours and fit into their own mini wagon.

* A collection of board books (He's crazy about books at the moment and these are easy for his brothers to read to him too.)

* An African drum (Anna had a drum in her space and after these photos were taken I found the little cow-hide drum I bought in Uganda!)

* A Treasure Basket
Anna has a heap of amazing ideas as to what to put into Treasure Baskets and a variety of different themed baskets too.  I've used a collection of household items, with differing textures and colours, I thought he'd find interesting. 

These include:
    - An interactive sound and feel soft book
    - A touch and play toy
    - A plastic slinky spring
    - A plastic dinosaur
    - A fabric sand-filled dinosaur
    - A cup
    - A mini metal saucepan with lid (which seems to be missing from the above photo!)
    - A mini metal ladle
    - A mini metal whisk
    - A small wooden and silicon spatula
    - A wooden maraca
    - A wooden stick Tambourine
    - A ceramic bee-shaped egg cup
    - A metal dinosaur cookie-cutter
    - A fabric slice of watermelon
    - A fabric banana
    - A wooden train
    - A small water bottle shaker (This one is filled with barley.  We have a series of these in our musical instruments box.) 
    - Two different types of ribbon
    - A mini wooden spinning top
    - A mini maze puzzle
    - A wooden train whistle
    - A leather bookmark
    - Small balls - tennis, fabric, plastic with a car inside and rubber light-up bouncy ball

**Please note that active supervision is required when allowing a small child 
to interact with some of these items.**

And, what's the verdict?
 The mirror is a big hit.  He likes smiling at and "talking" to the photos too.

The rubber ball was the first thing he pulled out of the Treasure Basket and the only item he played with for the first three days!  That was before he discovered it lit up too!  The wooden top is a favourite as well, though I'm not allowed to spin it he just likes holding it.

His three year old brother is enjoying it all too.  He wants a Treasure basket for himself!

I'm finding it such fun to see what item/s take his fancy at different times and on different days.

I might look at buying ask the Easter bunny to bring him an authentic Montessori toy for Easter.  Much better for him than chocolate!

What are your baby's favourite things to play with?  I bet they're not the expensive toys he/she got for Christmas, either!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Monthly Organising Challenge: Home Office

I love being organised.  This is partly a necessity because I have four children and partly because I'm a little OCD.  Mainly, though, it's because my environment affects my mood.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I spend the majority of my time at home and I feel calmer and more in control when my surroundings are clean, tidy, beautiful and organised.

It's no surprise that one of my favourite blogs is iheartorganizing.  Jen Jones is the creative genius behind this site and she shares some really fantastic ideas that, quite frankly, make me giddy with excitement!

This year she's running a monthly organising challenge which appeals to me greatly. So, this month my challenge was to organise our home office. See Jen's Home Office Challenge here.

We don't really have an office, per se.  It's more a desk for the computer.  Shoved in a corner.  And a filing cabinet that has to live near my scrap-booking desk, because it doesn't fit out here (I've tried!)  As my "in-basket" had become a bit of a dumping ground, it was in desperate need of an overhaul.

The first thing I had to come to terms with were the things I can't change due to budget constraints.  The desk is pretty ugly, but functional.  The chair is falling apart (the kids like to pick at the cracked vinyl-Grrr!), but comfortable.  The boxes that I'm currently using are a little dented, but most of the systems I have in place are doing their jobs nicely.

Jen recommends clearing everything out and reassessing what goes where.  With this desk I'm restricted as to where the monitor, cpu and printer can go.  The rest needed a reshuffle.

I moved the magazine files to the top shelf.  These only have bookplates on the open side, so I added Martha Stewart adhesive bookplates on the back to neaten them up a bit.  They house paperwork "To File", scrap paper and printing papers (plain paper, sticky labels and photo paper too).

I also turned to trusty Pinterest to provide me with some inspiration.  This gave me some great ideas to add a few things.

Firstly, a clock, in the vain hope that my adolescent will restrict his computer time (Ha!)

Secondly, a charging station for phones and somewhere to pile the mail before I sort it:

These are stacking trays from Martha Stewart I found at Officeworks.  To avoid putting holes in the trays (in case I ever re-purpose them) and to prevent the cords from falling behind the desk, I added adhesive cord storage clips. 

Finally, somewhere to put the kid's job charts and my daily organiser and cleaning checklist.

I planned on covering some plain clipboards with patterned contact paper, but I found these cute leafy boards at Officeworks and preferred their streamlined clips and hooks. The colours also worked well with my black storage boxes and the family portrait!

It also made sense to move our calendar from the side of the refrigerator and our pinboard/key hook into this space.  They are all now housed on this unused bit of wall.  As it's located near the front door, my hope is that it'll be easy to walk past and drop everything where it should go.  I've attached everything using Command adhesive hooks.  Those things are genius!  We have concrete interior walls, so screwing things in is a pain.  These hooks hold a lot of weight and come clean off.  No holes!  (They don't adhere when it's really humid, as I discovered on the weekend, but they stay on without issues once set.)

Recently, I needed more cupboard space in the kitchen, which led to me needing to rehouse some general household items like light bulbs, picture hanging hooks, my mini tool kit etc.  So, I added more storage to the desk.

These baskets used to be in the baby's room and I really wasn't using them efficiently.  To make  them look super cute finding things easier I added some labels.

I colour photocopied the clipboards to use the same pattern, added a label and slipped the paper in a cut-down plastic scrap-booking page protector.  Then clipped them to the baskets with a mini wooden peg.

The final step in my home office challenge was to organise the little things... to make life easier.

All cords (that we actually needed to keep) have been bundled up with reusable cable ties and placed into a box with separate compartments for each type.  I made the compartments using a base that fell out of one of the magazine files!  Just cut it to size and sticky taped it to the bottom and sides of the box.

After opening the mail, our paperwork will now go in one of three places: the shredder basket to be destroyed, the "To File" magazine file or our "Family Organiser".

I've set up this concertina file to have one section for each month.  When a bill arrives I make note of it on the calendar, then file in the appropriate month.  When it's time to pay the bill, I simply remove it, pay it online, note the receipt number and put in "To File".

What do you think?  I'm loving that everything I need to be organised, open and sort mail and pay bills is now in the same place.  I'm sure that as this blog business continues I'll need to rethink things, but for now it's working fine.  I just need to train the hubby to leave his keys, wallet, phone, sunglasses etc. etc. here.  Instead of everywhere else!!

 What are your tips to keeping home office items organised?


Monday, 21 January 2013

In the light of the moon...

"In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf..."

How great is this book?  We love it so much we're using it as inspiration for a lunch date today.

We surprised our friends by putting this little clue in their mail box on the weekend.

I got the idea from here via Pinterest


 Our leaf says "We're so glad you're coming for lunch...  ...Hope you're Very Hungry!"

I will do another post later this week with all the delicious details!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Space Dough

I love Pinterest.  Have I told you how much I love Pinterest?  It's such an easy way to share ideas, and there are a lot of people out there with fantastic ideas.

One of them is Anna over at The Imagination Tree.  She has heaps brilliant ideas for using play dough in lots of creative ways.

The one that caught my eye was Black Sparkle Space Play Dough.  The recipe was so easy to make and it has produced a really lovely feeling dough.

We could only find multi-coloured glitter to put in ours, but I think it turned out well.  Was a winner with the kids too.

What are your favourite ways to play with play dough?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Recipe for Summer Holiday Fun

Step One: Take one Slip n Slide (or long piece of plastic). Spread it out on grass.

Step Two: Add shaving cream for something a bit different (and, by the way, one can is not enough!)
This was supposed to say "Slide"

Step Three: Add a sprinkler.  One that covers 180 degrees is best.

Step Four: Get sliding!

Cute baby watching from swing optional ; )

 How do you cool off on a hot day?  Been on a Slip n Slide lately?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Roy G Biv

Monsoon season seems to have (finally!) started here in The Territory.  Those long, hard months of steamy heat are giving way to more steamy heat with a few torrential downpours to cool things down.  For a bit, anyway.

With rain comes rainbows! The boys and I have been busy with some rainbow inspired art in the form of collage.

The kids were able to help with the preparation.  First, we did a Google search to find a rainbow colouring in page to print.  Then, we rummaged through the craft box, scrapbook papers and magazines to find everything we could in the correct colours. Finally, we cut everything up small enough to fit our rainbows.

We used PVA (craft) glue to stick on pom poms, pipe cleaners, paddle-pop sticks, metallic confetti shapes, foam, feathers and paper plus cotton wool balls for the clouds.

Lots of fun and practice of our fine motor skills too!  Educational too...  Did you know a rainbow is made up of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet (ROY G BIV)?

This inspired me to finally go ahead with a project I've been admiring on Pinterest for a while now- Organising bookcases according to colour.

I know it's a bit pathetic sad, but looking at this makes me really happy!  Such a lovely spot to feed the baby and share a story before bed.  

We've found a great place for Peter and Jemima too, Grandma and the gorgeous new frame from you, Godmother Brooke... Completed with one of my favourite photos from Rohan's First Birthday and Naming Day- baby with his Godparents : )


So, what about you, friends? How do you entertain children (and/or yourself) when it's pouring rain outside?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

To be where I am.

I only officially became a "Stay at home Mum" four years, three months, three weeks and four days ago. 

With my eldest (step)son I had no choice but to study, then work, full-time and do the working-mother-juggle. I was pretty good at it too. Clean house, happy kid, healthy dinners, newly wedded- perfect little family bliss. 

With my second son, and first baby, I got nine months of maternity leave. After that, I tried really hard to start juggling again... and did so for nearly two years...but it was Just.  Too.  Hard!  I felt so guilty leaving him in care when he was Just. So.  Little!  I felt like I wasn't giving my all to my job, either (How could I when my heart no longer lived inside my body, but in his?) 

So we moved. A week after my 30th birthday. When I was nine weeks pregnant with son number three. 

We moved interstate. Here to the capital of the outback, Darwin, Australia. The nation's "Top End". Away from everything and everyone I'd ever known.  But, my husband doing his job up here meant we could afford for me to stay home.

And it was hard. I was very isolated and lonely in the beginning, being home all day with a two and a half year old toddler.  I struggled to make it all work. I struggled with the heat!  So I made a decision. "Stay at home Mum" was my new occupation. I planned our daily activities, like I used to plan lessons.  I rotated toys. I bought all the right equipment for amazing play. And it worked. For a while.

Then I started thinking about how shitty my employment contract was. No pay, no've heard all this before. You're probably living this too. You know.

Then, upon discovering mummy-blogs, I read a quote that changed my whole outlook... 
"Motherhood is not a job, it's an adventure"
For the last year or so, just as son number four entered our world, this has been my approach. I have planned, yes. The advent of the iPad has introduced me to new blogs and Pinterest.  (Oh, Pinterest! How I love thee!)  So, I've pinned things and found lots of fantastic ideas, BUT, I've also Enjoyed the Ride. I've tried to plan and live this life as an adventure. An expedition into the big while world of being-an-amazing-parent.

But then I read this...

"No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it.  The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.” ~Barbara Brown Taylor
So, I decided to take the plunge and write a blog. Why? To celebrate where I am. Here. Right now. In the moment. In my new home (it's taken four years for me to think of it like that) with my perfectly-crazy big family. 

I'm still planning, 'cos that's how I roll. I'm still going to be setting the bar impossibly high, 'cos old habits die hard (if at all) BUT... I am giving myself consent... to be happy where I am.