Monday, December 31, 2012

2012

As the end of another year draws to a close, I like to take time to reflect on the year that's passed and to envision the one that lies ahead.  As the kids are asleep in their beds and what's left of 2012 can be counted in minutes, I'm going to take the opportunity to do just that while the moment presents itself.

2012 was the first full year where we've been a family of four and this realization leads me to reflect on all the things I am grateful for.  I am honored to have such a beautiful and lively little family, a wonderful husband, a supportive and loving extended family and some of the most incredible friends I could imagine.  I am grateful for all the things Brian and I have worked so hard to accomplish which allow us to live our lives in a manner we choose.  I'm grateful to have had extended time off to spend with my children in the early months and years of their lives and I'm so thankful that Brian was able to take fourteen months off to be at home for the first year of Ari's life.  We have had an absolutely incredible year full of quality family time and we were fortunate to be able to spend nearly seven months in the US visiting the people most important to us.  Finally, I'm grateful that Brian has landed another contract in his field which will allow him to maintain his skills and that I am able to return part time to a job that I love.  With some very difficult decisions behind us (for the time being anyway), we are now able to relax knowing where we will be for the next year.

I don't often make resolutions to accompany the new year but starting next month I plan to carve out some time to think critically about where I'm at and where I'm going and how I can get there while taking good care of myself and my family in the process.  So many possibilities.

Here's to a great 2012 and to a 2013 that I hope will be even better! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

On the Record: Riker at Three

My friend Lauren over at Sparkling Adventures has a tradition of interviewing her children on their birthdays.  By asking the same questions year after year, she's able to see how their personalities and interests change. I liked this idea so much that I've decided to start doing an annual interview with my own children and since she's already come up with such good questions that capture a moment in time so nicely, I'm taking the liberty of borrowing those too - thanks for the inspiration Lauren.


What are you going to be when you grow up?
I don't want to be anything.  I want to be only a doctor to fix the chickens when they are sick.  Alright mama?

What’s that going to be like?
I don't know. 

What are your favorite toys?
Mm, playing with my trains on the choo choo train mat.  I like it. 

What is your favorite food?
Watermelon.

Who are your best friends?
Grandma Betty.

What makes you happy?
Mm, you.

What makes you sad?
Nothing.

When you dream at night, what do you dream about?
Eating chocolate coins.

What do you like to do with Daddy?
Play trains with him.

What do you like to do with Mama?
Play with trains with you too.
   
What’s your favorite color?
Red.

What’s your favorite book?
Humpty Dumpty.

What does Daddy do during the day?
Play trains with me.

What does Mama do during the day?
Play trains with me.

What do you do during the day?
Play trains.  A big one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

AriCam


Thanks to Kathryn Dwan for this great photo!

Monday, December 24, 2012

New Friends

There are two other families with children here on our little cul-de-sac and Riker has become fast friends with a four year old boy named Narayan who lives across the street.  He's such a lovely little guy - thoughtful, creative, mild mannered and polite - and he's perfectly happy to play with Riker even though he's a year younger.  They talk about each other all the time and several times a week we find ourselves going back and forth between the two houses so the boys can play trains, dig in the sandbox, check on the chickens or trade a special toy.  Which is great because it means we've acquired new friends too!

Riker and Narayan help to wash his family's car. Which is of course great fun for all ages as it means splashing in the bubbles!

Narayan likes to come over for a visit after his day at child care. When he arrives home, he doesn't even want to go into his own house before setting off to see Riker.

The boys favorite activity is playing with Narayan's extensive train sets and Riker always comes home with a new borrowed engine.

 It's great fun when all of the kids on the street are out at the same time.  Above, Riker and Narayan in the back make silly faces with Xanthe and her brother Lewis.

When the foursome grew tired of riding their bicycles, they made their way to Narayan's sand box and tunneled, poured, mounded and dug until it started to rain and everyone retired to their own bathtubs.

It's been great fun getting to know our neighbors and even more so having children of the same ages. If it weren't for Riker and Ari, we'd certainly have met our neightbors by now, but we'd never have spent this much time with them enjoying each others company!



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hiding Spots

Having now found toys stashed in the microwave, blender, oven and washing machine, we've learned to inspect our appliances for any unexpected inhabitants before using them!

Ari finds a less than ideal home for a camera.

And when they're not squirreling toys away, kids seem to love to hide themselves in small and cozy spaces like baskets and cardboard boxes. Above, Ari explores the bottom shelf of the pantry (which, with no doors to protect the contents, is left permanently empty for obvious reasons).

Which reminds me of how Riker loved to explore the cupboards as well.  This photo, from about twelve months old, was taken during Grandma Betty's visit to Australia.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Zonked

I've seen lots of photos of children who've fallen asleep in odd places.  And I've heard lots of stories of children who actually lie down and sleep when they feel tired.  Unless my children are strapped into a carseat or a bike trailer, they're pretty unlikely to willingly lie themselves down for a rest anywhere.  Riker gave up his afternoon nap quite some time ago and while Ari still has a long afternoon sleep, he usually requires some coaxing to get there.  So imagine my surprise when he dozed off in his highchair, not once, but twice last week!

Both days, I had tried to put him down for a nap three times before he finally fell asleep in his high chair in the late afternoon and then slept for nearly three hours (after being moved to his bed). 

A valiant effort at keeping up with his brother, but Ari finally succumbs to sleep in a rather odd spot!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Toddler Activity Bag Swap

My mother's group recently organized a toddler activity bag swap.  Each mother was tasked with choosing a craft that would be self-contained, transportable, inexpensive and easy to make and then replicating it nine times. Earlier this week we met and swapped bags and each of us went home with a bonanza of activities to be pulled out in moments of need.

Pasta Stringing

Button Snake

Mini Reversible Felt Board

Popsicle Stick Puzzle

Lacing Cards

Build a House

Homemade Playdough

Many of our ideas and instructions for recreating them can be found HERE.

Big thanks to Jess, Ali, Amber, Annabelle, Alison and Karin for putting in such an amazing effort and creating such fun crafts!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Swim Lessons

Now that Riker is three, we've enrolled him in swimming lessons at the Dickson pool just down the road. He seems to really enjoy the half hour lessons and it's been fun for me to see him interacting with his teacher. He does exactly what she asks of him and willingly puts his face in the water and blows bubbles. Not bad for a little boy who's hearing is getting more and more selective and who very much dislikes water on his head in the bath!

Benji, William and Riker with their instructor, Hannah.

Benji and William already knew each other before swim lessons, but it's been fun to chat with their parents while the boys are in the pool. Benji's parents were enthralled with Riker's name as they are huge Star Trek fans and most of the names on their baby name list were from that series. (Riker isn't named after the Commander but we don't mind the association and even occasionally refer to him as Number One). Then the other day I went to visit a friend and her daughter who live just down the road and who was there visiting but Benji from swim lessons and his mother.  Such a small world. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A New Home

Things are finally settling down a bit from the chaos we experienced earlier this month and things are looking up despite the fact that we're living in the unfortunately named suburb of Downer.  We've now moved in to our friends house (they are getting ready to spend the next year in the US) and I've finally unpacked most of our things. It feels good. Our new garden is really awesome - full of various natives and some ornamentals, a well established veggie patch and still plenty of space for the kids to play. 



Thanks to Cal and Carina for planting a garden for us!  Lots of herbs, spinach, radishes, tomatoes, chard, peas and rocket. Lots and lots of rocket. Happy to share the green goodness - I brought so much chard to work today that I couldn't even give it all away!


Our temporary chicken coop and the rain water tank that flushes the toilet.




We've got apples, cherries, lemons, figs and a bay tree. Probably lots of other interesting stuff too that I've either forgotten or failed to identify yet.

Wall of grapes on the garage.

We're also happy to be living in a cul-de-sac street again.  Like our place on the cul-de-sac in Lyneham, we find it to be relatively quiet and stocked with friendly neighbors.  We're also enjoying the space offered by a three bedroom house - far less cramped than the one bedroom flat we were renting previously!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ups and Downs

It's been a crazy couple of weeks.

We moved house which is stressful and physically demanding and involves juggling the needs of the kids while trying to get tasks accomplished. In amongst all of this, we managed to acquire a few things we needed for our new house, buy some groceries and not surprisingly, eat LOTS of takeaway. Brian got a hive of bees, and there are plans to get chickens.

We bought a car which of course requires lots of searching and researching and test driving. The car then failed its mandatory registration inspection.  Fortunately, the seller agreed to pay for the necessary repairs and after several days we got the car back with a passed roadworthy certificate. Then I went to register the car, only to find that we failed to submit a notice of disposal for the car we sold in March and the buyer never registered it in his name. With two parking fines against the car, I was still legally responsible for it and couldn't register the new car unless I paid the fines or found his details to officially dispose of it. After much searching, we found his phone number and he actually gave us all of his information so that I could file the necessary paperwork. My second trip to register the car would have been successful had I not been missing one signature from Brian. So, on Monday morning I made my third (and thankfully successful) trek to dispose of the old car and register the new car.

I went back to work for two days a week. On my first day back to work, Riker's finger got pinched in the hallway door. After much screaming, Brian loaded the kids into the car and headed to emergency to get his finger examined. However, since both kids fell asleep on the way there, he sat in the car park and then abandoned that plan and returned home. (He was mostly fine after waking - finger clearly not broken.)

Riker had his first swim lesson and loved it! He was very enthusiastic and it was fun to watch him cooperating so well with the teacher. He had to miss his second lesson though because he hurt his wrist, again not serious, but enough to miss the lesson.

So if you haven't heard much from us recently, you now know why. Here's hoping the next two weeks go a bit more smoothly. Maybe I'll even find time to finally unpack our suitcases for the first time in eight months!

Monday, November 05, 2012

More Boys in the Backyard

Yesterday was our last day house sitting before moving into our friend's place just down the street. Cal and Carina are moving to the US to work for a year and we're happy to be renting their home while they're away. We've really enjoyed living in this great house and we'll all miss the swing set in the backyard!





 


Thanks again to Lyn and Rob who so generously let us stay in their home while they were away, and to Su for bringing it all together.  It's made the transition back to Canberra so much easier!


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Baby Praying Mantises

Brian discovered baby praying mantises crawling on the table on our back patio the other day. Aren't they neat?



We love pointing out insects and plants and birds to the kids when we're out and about.  The sheer variety of species is fascinating no matter where we happen to be living. I hope that by drawing their attention to creatures great and small, that they will come to appreciate and respect life in all its forms.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

My Son's Wedding

Today I'm pleased to have a guest post published over at APtly Said, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.  The piece is called My Son's Wedding and it's a musing on the purpose of a funny daydream I sometimes have.


I have the somewhat odd habit of daydreaming about my son's wedding. Now, my son is only a toddler and is not betrothed to anyone so the exercise is purely hypothetical. I'm not entirely sure why I do this, but since I've shared my secret, I'll elaborate on my current hypothesis.

Read the full text of the post here and let me know if you have a similar habit!


Postscript: 9 September 2013

This article was originally published on the blog of Attachment Parenting International as a guest post. I'm now including the full text on my own blog for archival purposes. 

I have the somewhat odd habit of daydreaming about my son's wedding. Now, my son is only a toddler and is not betrothed to anyone so the exercise is purely hypothetical. I'm not entirely sure why I do this, but since I've shared my secret, I'll elaborate on my current hypothesis.

When I envision my son at his wedding, I am looking at a man who is kind, compassionate, loving, generous, patient, intelligent, ambitious, conscientious, creative, adventurous, honorable, talented, respectful, respectable, thoughtful, confident, eloquent, funny, and of course, handsome. I imagine my husband and I amidst our family and friends swelling with pride at the man we see before us. There are speeches and toasts and everyone is looking and feeling their best.

I suspect that the purpose of these daydreams is to give me space to reflect on the journey of motherhood and how my parenting practices affect my child, both in the moment and in the long term. Reflection is an incredibly important tool for analyzing our feelings about various issues, rehashing our responses and imagining how we might do better next time. But for most mothers, there is little time left in any given day for quiet contemplation. And so I multitask by stealing moments for reflection while pondering days to come.

By casting my mind into the future and envisioning the man I would like my child to become, I am offered the chance to critically evaluate my own role in shaping his personality and his outlook on life. Do my actions suggest to him that he is a unique and worthwhile individual? That he is a good person and worthy of respect? That his opinions and feelings matter? That the people in his life are trustworthy and that his parents are a consistent and reliable source of comfort? That he is loved even when his actions do not model the behavior we desire? While every parent wants to communicate these values to their children, it is all too easy to forget that there are lessons learned even when we are feeling tired or upset or are running late. It helps me to deal more effectively with day to day frustrations if I can remind myself of the big picture. For example, as I'm helping my son to sleep at night, I can sometimes feel irritated that it's taking so long because there is something else that I'd like to accomplish. As these feelings creep in, I try to remind myself that a) my response to his needs should leave my child feeling safe, loved and important and b) someday in the not too distant future I will likely give almost anything to have my little boy curled up next to me (or bouncing on the bed as the case may be).

Similarly, daydreaming about the future serves as a reminder to not sweat the small stuff. I have the honor and privilege of guiding the growth and development of another human being and with that as my mission, I can better temper my reactions to spilled milk, snatched toys and missed appointments. Don't get me wrong, I still get angry, frustrated and impatient with embarrassing frequency. But when I envision the payoff of my parenting efforts at some distant point in the future, I am better able to keep things in perspective and remember that while the days can be long, the years will be short. And so it seems to me that daydreaming about my son's wedding serves as a simple reminder to parent my child with an eye on the person I hope that he will become.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THREE!

After our big day out on Sunday for Jago and Imogen's parties, we had some friends over for morning tea on Monday to commemorate Riker's third journey around the sun.

 Riker's train cake with tracks made from Kit Kat bars and fruit leather strips and trains from his new train set.

 Riker enjoys his moment in the limelight.

I find it nearly impossible to believe that it has been three years since the long night that led to Riker's birth in the wee hours of the morning.  Many of the details are fuzzy now but some are sharply engrained in my memory.  The feel of the warm water surrounding my belly in the bath.  Looking deeply into Heather's eyes, searching for strength and encouragement. Brian's hands unceasingly massaging my lower back. Touching the baby on my chest for the first time and gasping at the softest skin I'd ever felt.

Three years later I feel as if I have been completely reinvented as a person.  I have been pushed, pulled, stretched, delighted and captivated by a small yet powerful being who turned my world upside down in the best possible way.  Three years later, I'm more in love than ever.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big Day Out

Riker and his friends Imogen and Jago all turned three on Monday October 29th!  In previous years the Octriplets had joint parties but this year each family hosted their own event.  Two of the parties were on Sunday so it was a full day packed with fun kid adventures.  The morning was spent celebrating with Imogen at the Kingston Miniature Railway where you get to ride through the outdoor railway museum on miniature steam and diesel powered model locomotives.

Riker and I must have done the ten minute train ride at least six or eight times.  He loved it!

The attraction is open to the public on the second Sunday of each month and volunteers run the trains.

There was even a teeny tiny model steam engine that could carry one or two passengers on a specially built mini track around the perimeter of the central grounds.  The operator would open a tiny door and use a very small and slender shovel to add to coal to the fire every minute or so.  Riker was completely entranced by the steam and when his short ride was over, he asked to go again and since there was no one else waiting just then, the operator obliged.  How awesome!

At $15 for an all day ticket (over age three and one adult rides free when accompanying a child) it's a great deal and we'll definitely go back.  

Then it was off to Jago's party the Farmyard Nursery, part of Mugga Lowline Stud, a working cattle farm located in south Canberra.  The barns are home to rabbits, guinea pigs, miniature horses, alpacas, sheep, chickens, cows, pigs and ducks.

Riker loved the lambs.  Then he discovered the rabbits and I couldn't drag him away even to have a chance to feed the cows!  He's clearly got a soft spot for bunnies, just like his daddy.

I wish I could remember what he had been saying in this photo, but I'm pretty sure it was something cute.

Later, the kids got to feed bread to the sheep and then bottles of milk to the lambs.

And to cap off a delightful day, we stopped at the toy store on the way home to buy a train set for a very special almost three year old.  Riker adored playing with the wooden train set at Grammy Jan and Grandpa Carl's house and we promised him that we'd buy him his own after we returned to Australia. 


Riker has spent most of his playtime since the train was acquired running the engines round and round the track.  We had to go to two toy stores to find a train set that wasn't Thomas branded.  I think the unbranded ones allow for more imaginative play and are a fraction of the cost.  I'm glad we got the basic set because he's having a great time with it and more isn't always better at this age, plus we can buy extensions as he indicates his readiness to build more complex tracks.  He loves the track too because it's in the shape of a figure eight, which if I haven't mentioned before, is his very favorite number and has been for some time.  And since he does really like Thomas, we did buy him an additional train - James, because he's red, and as you know, Riker loves red

Thanks to Imogen and Jago and families for hosting such great parties!