Thursday 31 October 2013

A Valuable Lesson

On our weekend away, I learnt something from Mini Miss.

We were travelling home. On the way we passed a LOT of motorbikes, hundreds, all obviously riding together in groups. Between them groups of bikes were police cars. They were all dressed in the same jacket. Basically, a gang or group of bikies. (what IS the correct term for a group of like minded bike riders? a Gaggle? a Group? a Gang?)

this is just a stock photo!!
When we stopped at a rest stop there were several of these bike riders at the same stop. To be honest I was intimidated. "I don't want to cross paths with the likes of these people" is what I thought. 

Mini Miss charmed an older lady first. The lady, instantly charmed by Mini Misses cheeky smile around a mouthful of lolly pop, said to her "Hi, aren't you a sweetheart. That looks like a nice lolly! Could I have some?" Obviously expecting a no, the lady was taken aback when Mini Miss promptly removed the lolly pop from her mouth, held it out to her and said, very matter of factly "of course!" 
The lady was very surprised at mini misses willingness to share. 

Then, dancing around and generally being silly, as she does after being cooped up in a car for several hours, and while waiting for our order, she bumped into and stumbled over, a biker.

Now this guy was what I would call burly. He was big, had a crazy beard, dark hair, sun glasses still on, jeans and black leather jacket with his club/group/gang (I really don't know what is politically correct here!!) colours and image on it. 

This is what, in my mind, he looked like!
I'm sure he wasn't quite this stereotypical!
He slowly pushed his sunglasses up to look down at Mini Miss, now laying in a heap at his feet and giggling like a slightly psychotic monkey! (she had been cooped up in a car for 2 hours!!). 

(Has she annoyed him? Is he going to yell at her? Because if he does, the mother in me is going to tell him to back off, and the shy scared mouse in me DOES NOT want to have that sort of confrontation with anyone, let alone someone like this!)

He smiled at her, gave a big laugh and said "well who do we have here?" She gave her name & he reached down and helped her up. "Tank you man" she said and off she went, dancing and spinning around some more.

He smiled at me and said "well, she sure is full of life and surprises isn't she?"

"Yep sure she is" I replied, both relieved and surprised. 

So true! More life than I know what to do with and more surprises each and every day!!

Lesson learnt. Don't judge a book by its cover. 

He might belong to "a gang". He might look tough and scary. But he could also be a Dad, possibly a Grandad. An uncle and a friend.

And kids? They cross all social barriers to spread their joy of life and their love with everyone, regardless of how they look.

I think that's a lesson we could all benefit from.......

Monday 28 October 2013

Activity Monday - Paint

Today I decided on some messy play. Something simple but so much fun! 

We made our own paint!!

It's a very simple recipe

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup of water
  • Food colouring of your choice. 

I gathered the ingredients we would need with Mini Miss. She loves being involved in EVERYTHING at the moment, so I pulled it out of the cupboard, she put it on the bench. Then she went straight to the Tupperware cupboard to get our "special mixing bowl". It's just a silver bowl, but I always use it for mixing craft stuff in, so she just KNEW!! 

As Mini Miss is now 2.5, I decided she should do the making, with supervision of course! 

I find it VERY hard to ignore the mess, but this activity isn't about me, it's about her and I don't want to fill her head with my weirdness, so I reign it in as much as possible! Also, she is like her Mum, messy in the kitchen! (I drive myself crazy with cleaning up as I go when I cook. I am a major mess in the kitchen, but apparently my creations always turn out ok, so I guess it's a good thing!) 

I talked her through each step, explaining things like she needed to fill the cup right to the top, what she needed next etc. this is a VERY basic recipe, so it wasn't hard, and pouring, scooping, measuring and stiring are perfect skills for her to be learning. 

In fact, all I really did was add the food colouring and finished off the stiring to get out most of the lumps. 

So basically, you put all the ingredients in a bowl, add a few drops of colour and stir. I added extra water to this recipe as I was putting it in sauce bottles and I needed it a little runnier to make it easier to use. The consistency to aim for I think is runny pancake batter. (Everyone knows what a good pancake batter looks like!!).

I then poured it carefully into seperate sauce containers. We ended up with 4 colours. 

Of course, Mini Miss insisted in being involved in the clean up, and seriously, what Mum is going to say no to that?!! (And if you would, then I say don't! Encourage their involvement in all steps, including clean up! Believe me, all too soon they are teens who dont do anything with being dragged by the collar! Yes, it takes longer, sometimes it creates more mess, but it's teaching them to clean up after themselves.) So I gave her a sponge and let her wipe down the bench while I did a quick wash up.


This is a messy activity! They will spill flour, splash water, miss the cup, and if your toddler is like mine, eat some of the ingredients as you go! (Her face when she tasted it was priceless! Like she just sucked on a lemon! But she kept eating it!). 

The good thing with making things like paint at home is you know what's in them, and despite the taste, it won't make your little one sick. 

So yes, in hindsight, I SHOULD HAVE put a towel on the chair she was standing on! Good tip that! If they are standing on a fabric chair, COVER IT!! 

Another good tip if you are letting your toddler do this is have separate "craft" flour/salt/other ingredients. They put their hands in the containers and packets, they lick their fingers and dive back on in! So, keep the food ingredients separate from your craft ingredients!! 

After lunch we headed outside where I had set up a special painting activity, painting with her new paints on black card. We nearly ALWAYS paint in white paper, so I thought she would enjoy this difference. She sure did! Lots of talk followed as she painted about the night sky and "outta space". Lots of describing what she was creating with her new paints, it was great! 

And her final products? 

The first one was "night time" and the second one was "space". 

Today's activity was great, it was messy, sensory and gave us lots of opportunity for talking about lots of different things (textures, colours, measuring, space, night time....).

Best of all? 

It was FUN!

Sunday 27 October 2013


Over the past couple of weeks, a few people have mentioned that I seem to be grieving over the loss of my friends baby Melinda, more than I did my own Charlie earlier this year. 

They are right. 

I am grieving more. Harder. Longer.

This is not to say I don't still miss my Charlie. Everyday I think of how he should be here, with us, joining in on fun swims in the pool, snuggling in bed late at night, tucked up in the pram as I go out and about for a walk or to the shops, having cuddles with with his Poppy, his Gran and Pa.

He isn't here, and it hurts. 

And there is an emptiness that is never going to go away. I understand this emptiness now. I have lived with it everyday since losing my Mum. It's a different kind of emptiness, but essentially, for me, still the same.

So why then do I grieve even more for a baby that wasn't even mine? A baby that I didn't grow in my womb, that wasn't even a blood relative?

I'm going to try and explain this, and I hope it makes sense without upsetting anyone or diminishing anyone's grief. That is not my intention at all.

Melinda was a baby. She was full term. She had beautiful blue eyes, rosy round soft little cheeks, gorgeous rose bud lips. She long fingers and long little eye lashes. She had beautiful dark hair on her perfect little head. You could see her big sister in her features. Her Mum and her Dad.

Had she been born the day before, she could have been fine. She was perfect in every way.

Had she been born the day before she died, had she even taken just one breath after her birth, then people would view her loss very differently.

And that, for me, is the difference.

Charlie, while loved from the very beginning, while I was immediately filled with love and hopes and dreams and excitement when I discovered I was carrying him, Charlie was not yet a baby. There is no way he could have survived. He was MY baby, but he wasn't yet a physical baby. 

He was a spirit, a soul, but not of this world. He was not yet made for earth. 

I know. I held him in my hands after 10 days of bleeding and cramping. I held him and I cried. I sobbed from the very depth of my soul at this precious little bundle of hope and love and dreams and "what ifs" no bigger than the palm of my hand. My heart broke in that very instant. But I was only holding what could have been. Dreams.

But Melinda? 

I got to touch her rosy little cheeks. I had to resist the urge, from the very pit of my soul to pick her up, to squeeze her, to try and breathe life into her somehow. I looked at her and knew, that despite the fact that she was perfect, she was a baby, she wasn't here. She was already in heaven. But she had her earthly body. It was whole. Her earthly body was ready.

I am not trying to diminish any loss. The loss of a baby, any baby, regardless of the number of weeks gestation, is more than anyone should have to bear, ever. Period. I am not trying to say that the loss of a baby before term is not heart wrenching, its not life changing. No matter at what stage of pregnancy you are at, it hurts like hell. It changes you, your perspective on life. Suddenly everything is a little darker. Suddenly there is always something missing. It's the loss of so many hopes and dreams. I know, I have been there.

I am there.

But Melinda was different. A baby lost at full term IS different. Because if you put her side by side with a newborn, there was no difference. They would both look like healthy normal babies. Except Melinda never got to take a breath of our very own air. 

And so yes, I do grieve more for Melinda. I will continue to grieve for her. I feel her loss greatly, as I would any baby who I had held in my arms, or in my heart and loved.

It's been over 6 years since I lost my Mum and I still cry, I still feel it. I still grieve. Nobody questions that, they accept it, they agree, they sympathize. 

So if I am still grieving for Melinda in 6 years from now, if I still cry at the unfairness of it, if I still cry as I realise she should be starting school, if I still grieve and remember her on certain days, then I would hope that people would be the same. Not question it, accept it, sympathize.....understand. 

After all she was a person I loved too.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Activity Monday Part 2 - Straws!!!

I love how one activity often leads to another one. When I let Mini Miss's imagination run wild, and follow her lead, we often end up where I would never have expected! Other times its my own imagination that runs off and leads us down the yellow brick road of craft adventures.

Bubbles Monday was no exception. Once we were done with our bubble painting we were left with lots more straws, and lots of bubble paintings.

So I decided rather than put these paintings away with all the other paintings that are gathering dust, in a box, at the top of our wardrobe, we would use them to make something else. 

So, off to Pinterest I went while they dried!!

And I found 2 great ideas that were perfect (that is quick and easy and didn't require any more planning or prep!)

First was at the Growing a Jeweled Rose website. This is a FANTASTIC site with sooooo many activities you don't ever really need to go anywhere else!! (but I still do!). 

Paper Rockets! 

Mini Miss loves rockets and space and planes and adventures. These were so easy to make and so much fun to play with. 

They are so simple to make. Cut an A4 piece of paper into strips. Obviously we used the bubble painting paper, but you could also get the kids to decorate some pieces of paper etc.

Roll the paper around a large pencil and either glue or tape shut.

Then to seal the top end, simply fold over and sticky tape shut.

See a full list of instructions HERE at Curious Kangaroos, where the original idea came from!

Then, inspired by a single image I found on Pinterest, I decided to make 

Straw Flowers.

What a cool idea for straws!!!!!   Photography Tips: Kids Art and Crafts - Creativity for Kids Blog.

Disclaimer: our flowers are NOTHING like those above! You know those "I found it on Pinterest and nailed it" memes? Yeah, we could be one! BUT, we had fun!

First I cut out some flower shapes from our paintings, found some colourful cupcake cases, and cut out some flower centres. And then I let Mini Miss put them together!

Then I found an (empty!) toilet roll and let her loose with the paint to make our vase!

And the final product? 

These activities kept us busy ALL day! Mini Miss was happy as she is at that "give me all your attention all the time, RIGHT NOW" phase and she was kept busy! I was happy too because as well as spending quality time with my Mini Miss, where I was focused on her, I can see all the skills she is learning, the fine motor development, the cognitive connections....or maybe that's the retired child care worker in me.......

Wonder what the plan for next Monday is? (no really! Any suggestions?! Its tough stuff coming up with interesting fun and engaging activities for a very busy active and easily distracted toddler!!)

Thursday 10 October 2013

Activity Monday - bubbles, my bubbles!!!

Monday was a public holiday this week. Which is awesome. It meant everyone was home on a week day for a change. 

It also meant I was not prepared for Activity Monday. Again. 

"oh well" I said, "I will just move Activity Monday to Thursday this week"

"No, don't mess with the routine" said Muddled Hubby
"No, I want do some activity" said Mini Miss

So it was fly by the seat of my pants Activity Monday. Again.

After a quick peruse of my favourite site Pinterest (<---- you can follow my boards there if you want to :0) I decided on doing Bubble Painting.

I found a great link HERE about bubble painting that inspired me. I also used my own experience as a daycare teacher and student teacher, from MANY MANY moons ago! 

I set about gathering supplies. The good thing about "Fly by the seat of your pants Activity Monday" is that if you want to do it too, you should already have everything you need in your cupboard!

Basically, for those who are not visual, here is a list!
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Food colouring and a little paint (not pictured, oops!)
  • Water (no excuses here, we are on tank water and we had some!!)
  • Straws
  • some containers (Im sure you have a hideous Tupperware cupboard like me, don't you? Please say you do!)
Firstly I put a good squirt of dishwashing liquid in each container (i had 3, one for each colour) then topped them up with water. Then I added a good splash of colour to each container. Then about a tablespoon or so of paint and mixed.

That's it. Easy!

Then let the kids go for it! 

They blow lots and lots of bubbles, just like this

Then put your paper over the top and Voila! A beautiful, swirly marbley bubbly painting! 

A couple of rules I highly recommend:  

  1. Its important that they understand to BLOW and not SUCK the liquid. I used the water and NON TOXIC paint as inevitably, despite knowing this, Mini Miss was bound to suck, which she did, once. It tasted awful, obviously, and she didn't do it again!
  2. In my opinion, this is obvious, but play outside! This is going to get messy! Unless you have ample drop sheets and want to do loads of clean up, keep it outside! 
  3. Food dye can stain. Clothes on a hot day, like it was on Monday, are optional! If you do need clothes, make them old ones or wear a paint shirt over the top, just in case! Most food dyes come out, but I don't need an angry rant from that one Mum who decided their brand new $60 Pumpkin Patch outfit was perfect for this activity! OLD CLOTHES people!
Mini Miss was having so much fun even Miss Teen decided to join in, sort of! She blew bubbles, but wasn't so much interested in the painting side of things! 

When we were done with the bubble painting, which was about the time Mini Miss decided that blowing bubbles wasn't fun enough anymore, and she was wanted to paint with her hands, feet, get the idea, we cleaned up! 

I quickly whisked away the bowls, and gave Mini Miss a bowl with just water and a bit of soap

Then let her play in the wading pool. She had so much fun with that, that I decided to fill up a second bucket with warm soapy water to see what she would do. 

A lot of fun was had!

But the fun thing about Activity Monday is that you never know where it will lead.The planned activity usually leads on to another and another. Part of that is because I love to let Mini Miss lead the experiences, and also because I can see an extension opportunity....and there was so much more fun to be had.....

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Activity Monday - Dominoes

So this Monday was a little hard. After spending several hours at the hospital with a somewhat sick Mini Miss on Sunday night, I had no time to prepare our activity. 

So, a spur of the moment decision to pull out one of my old toys (yes, I still have somethings from when I was a kid....yes, I guess you could say they are antiques...), Dominoes.

At first I was a little lost as to what to do with them. Then I thought we will start with some sorting. Having a domino set in 5 different colours made this easy. I just got a large muffin pan out of the cupboard, placed one domino of each colour in each muffin and showed Mini Miss how to sort them.

We talked about the different colours, we matched different colours. So, suddenly, what was a simple idea had turned into an opportunity for sorting. 

Once we had sorted them for a while, Mini Miss decided to make up her own game. This involved her purposely putting a colour in the wrong spot and seeing what I would do. It quickly became a funny game, where Mini Miss would put it in the wrong spot, I would notice "oh no, thats not right! Where should it go?", followed by her putting it in the right spot and shouting "we did it!" (again, Dora, you have so so much to answer for!). So, the activity also encouraged Mini Miss to think outside the box and make up her own game rules, and gave her a chance to show her awesome sense of humour! (she really loves to make me laugh, which I also love)

Then we decided to count them. Mini Miss loves to count everything, so this didn't take much persuading. Just because she can already count one to one doesn't mean we shouldn't practice this skill regularly, and try to extend it further! She can currently count one to one up to about 10-12. There were differing numbers in each section, with one going up to 15. With a bit of encouragement, and fumbling on 13, (what is it with that number? Miss Teen used to always just skip it when counting, Mini Miss seems to get stuck on it too....must be unlucky or something) I'm proud to say she got there. 

Once all the "learning" fun was done, I decided to show Mini Miss what I, as a 10 year old, used to do with my Dominoes. I was given them to set up in fancy tracks, then knock them down and watch them fall. After setting it up about 100 times (I'm not as steady with my hands as I used to be) I finally set up a fun little track, and Mini Miss was more than happy to set it off! She cheered and clapped her hands in absolute delight as they fell down one by one in about 15 seconds. She then wanted to set it up over and over and over again. Sadly for her though, my patience was shot. After having her knock them down too soon, or knocking them down myself with my old person shaky hands, I decided to give up! Happily though, she went back to sorting, grabbed a measuring container and "poured" them into the individual muffin sections, and generally amused herself.

So, although I was completely unprepared for Activity Monday this week, it worked out well! The dominoes are still out and I will leave them out until Friday as Mini Miss still isn't 100% well and will be home from school all week! 

Now, what else to do to keep her amused........