24 Days of Christmas Kindness – well, that was the plan.

Decluttering December

For the past few years, December has been a month that just barrels along, with me feeling out of control and buffeted around by end-of-year gatherings, concerts, and the ever-looming ‘big day’ on December 25, when the kids disappear in a flurry of wrapping paper and new toys and gadgets, and I collapse in a cloud of exhaustion. Not this year, I promised. This year, I wanted to take things back to how they used to be when the kids were small : a few presents, a lot of my presence, and some key little traditions that made us feel connected and special.

I looked at the number of Xmas activities that had become part of our December traditions, and realised that some had to go…like the Xmas Parade in the City, and the orchestra’s Christmas Cushion Concerts. Some traditions we kept, like driving around in the evening to look at Xmas lights (which also had the added bonus of putting the four year old easily to sleep!).

Our two youngest were mesmerised by these amazing lights we found on Xmas Eve.

Our two youngest were mesmerised by these amazing lights we found on Xmas Eve.

But then I began reading about other mums creating calendars of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness for the Advent season, and it sounded kind of nice. I remembered I had been gifted a sweet little set of wooden drawers numbered for Advent, last Christmas, and had not wanted to put chocolate in the drawers, but was not sure of what I could place in the drawers instead. But now, an idea was brewing. An idea that might take us outside the focus of what the kids wanted for Xmas, and introduce a new mindset for the season – this season that was supposed to be about giving. And I reckoned we could pull it off!2015-12-01 15.28.08

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When we gave our girl a typewriter…

We bought a typewriter!

Not a digital typewriter, but a REAL one with little metal hammers that make imprints on the page, with a typewriter ribbon, and working parts that you can see.

The lady from whom we bought the typewriter told us it had belonged to her grandmother. She was reluctant to part with it, even though she wanted to sell it. We promised we would take care of it, and that it was going to a good home :)

The lady who sold us the typewriter told us it had belonged to her grandmother. She was reluctant to part with it, even though she wanted to sell it. We promised we would take care of it, and that it was going to a good home :)

We bought it for $25 on ebay, for our daughter, and it has just been a wonderful purchase in terms of generating all sorts of creativity, and developing her literacy skills.

When it came home, I  was itching to get my hands on it – I was amazed at how automatic the motions of feeding the paper through, rolling it around, and then pressing the metal bar down onto it still are – they seem to be ingrained into my body, and took me straight back to when I was young :)

My daughter was intrigued…and as soon as she saw how it worked, she was hooked!  She pretty much pushed me aside so she could sit down and have a go :)

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The Ekka for highly sensitive families

Last year, I took all three kids, aged 15, 10 and 3, to the Ekka BY MYSELF. The ‘Ekka’ is short for the Royal Exhibition, or Royal Show – like a huge country fair, complete with animal displays and cake competitions, in the middle of the city. This was a major undertaking, with all of us being sensitive in different ways, and needing to manage those sensitivities to make sure we made it through the day – and public transport – intact. When I got home, I sat and wrote this blogpost, to get it all out of my head. It’s sat in my drafts for a year now, so I thought I’d post it, as we head into Ekka Week.

My two older kids are somewhere in that blur of light - my girl's first ever 'proper' ride - she was so proud :)

My two older kids are somewhere in that blur of light – my girl’s first ever ‘proper’ ride – she was so proud :)

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Catch a ducky – win a dodgy cheap prize that will be loved fervently until tomorrow!

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When I make the decision to stop

This morning could have gone very differently, if I’d made different decisions. This post is to remind myself of the value in slowing down, and even stopping, to keep our family functioning well.

Our life feels so full lately, with the teenager taking part in many extra-curricular activities as part of the Duke of Edinborough award he is working towards, and the tween beginning to test the waters of more formal learning than previous years (ballet and yoga!). And the poor old 4yo gets dragged from pillar to post, from Ju Jitsu to drama lessons, from piano classes to art sessions…none of which are for him!

So, this morning, it was piano classes for the very-nearly-16 year old. I left the 11yo snuggled in her bed, on a very icy morning for our sub-tropical town, while her father worked in his home office. And the teenager and his little brother and I headed up the mountain for an hour’s piano lesson.

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A party without presents?

A few months ago, there were toys everywhere. I mean everywhere. We had too many toys…and a four year old’s birthday coming up.

It seems hard to believe that 16 years ago, there were no toys in our home. None. No soft animals lying forlornly flung on the bed, no Lego pieces lying in wait to sabotage the innocent walk of the barefoot parent in the dark, no Barbies arranged in contortionist positions on the kitchen bench. But steadily, since 1999, we have been slowly accumulating an astounding amount of paraphernalia that all comes under the general heading of “Toys”.

So, the youngest child, being 7 years younger than his next sibling, has inherited all of it. Masses of different kinds of toys, from ‘educational’ wooden ones, to McDonalds free give-aways we got in op shops. Early this year they were overtaking every storage item in the playroom…and I realised that we had never really sorted it, since moving into this house two years ago. The 4yo hardly played with any of it, as it was just too overwhelming. I needed a new plan.

Our playroom - just your average Lego disaster!

Our playroom – just your average Lego disaster!

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Homeschooling on the Toilet?

Do you have particular paraphernalia on the toilet walls for everyone to read while they’re…um…busy? The things we choose to stick on the walls of our loo offer so many opportunities for inspiration and ideas and conversations that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred. It can be especially helpful in a homeschooling life. It struck me recently how this has always been a part of my family history that I’ve now taken into our own family…

When I was growing up, my parents were always motivating themselves to try new things, see new places, eat new food, and develop healthier habits. One way they did this was to always have a map on the tiled wall right next to the toilet seat. These maps were lift-outs from the National Geographic magazines my father subscribed to, and depicted interesting visual images that told a story about some distant part of the earth. Perhaps they illustrated ancient burial sites in and around Israel, or showed how Europe’s map looked at the time of the Celts, or the winds that fuelled the sails of tall ships around the Cape of Good Hope and beyond.

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All before breakfast…a typical unschooling day.

After a year’s break from my blog…I’m back :)

Starting things off with a flashback from 2010, a time where I kept a journal about our life, but didn’t yet have this blog. I’ve shared this little snippet from an ordinary homeschooling morning… in a scenario that I could never have set up, where my kids connected, and imagined, and created, and explored life.

March 2010

Listening to my kids playing this morning…

 They have all their Pokémon out (they have a whole stash of  small plushy pokémon), and they have arranged them to have a wedding between two of their favourites : Bellossam and Pikachu.  

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