Friday, 2 December 2016

a letter-writing journal // staying connected with your kids

As our children grow and especially once they head off to school, it can be a little jarring to realise that they are becoming their own little people, with emerging private worlds of their own. It is a glorious thing of course.... we want them to be independent! But like most parents, I've also been really aware of wanting to keep those channels of communication open as they start to venture into the big wide world! Especially as these early years slowly but surely morphing into the tween years (and, like, 'tweens' didn't even exist when I was one, lol)... and then the teens. Eeeek...what a ride we have ahead!

I am not even sure now how this precious routine emerged. Something to do with a glut of beautiful little notebooks and a very eager little letter writer and pen pal. My eight year old daughter, Lily, is the kind of kid who pre-writes responses to her pen pal friends so as soon as a letter arrives she has one ready to send in reply. Ha!!!

So, about a year ago we began to write letters to each other in the pages of a journal. These notes were written 'in secret' then the book was surreptitiously placed under the pillow of the other person for them to discover. Often accompanied by a few eager and not-so-subtle hints of 'have you looked under your pillow lately??'

There has been a beautiful and gentle evolution to these letters, especially as her writing skills and stamina have improved over time and her desire grew to write more and more. Lily had the idea that we should ask each other a question in each letter, which we then answer, as well as writing about our day, our thoughts and anything that's happening in our family. It's even been a safe place to write about miscommunications and some hurt feelings. Sometimes, the journal has been passed back and forth several times in a day, other times a week or even a month can go by before it is delivered under a pillow again. Life gets in the way, you know! And that's okay.... the journal is there when we need it. Sometimes I need a few reminders before I get a chance to reply and sometimes I have to teasingly request a little return mail from my daughter too!

How fascinating it is to have a peek into her world, to hear about her favourite things and to be charmed by her questions and insights about life and family and her many dreams and big ideas. She is her own little person, and so utterly lovely to get to know. She is getting to know me too, in a different way (as a real person, not just a mother haha!), as we ask each other questions as friends do.

Right now she is an open book (no pun intended!) and I love how easily we can share our hearts. But in years to come, when emotions and hormones, peers and other influences pervade, my hope is that this simple little journal, and the trust we have established along the way, might provide an avenue to continue to openly communicate with each other through the written word, at times when speech may otherwise fail.

It's also been a bonus to have all our notes bound safely into one book rather than loose papers that often get waylaid... or is that just me?!  Best of all has been having a blossoming conversation with my daughter that I hope and pray will continue to evolve and mature over the years as we do the same.

Day by day, letter by letter, we grow together xx

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Take me home, country roads....

On the long drive home to Canberra from Brisbane, we took a short stop through the little country town where I lived till I was about nine. It was my first time passing through since I had children and while I duly expected a fun little trip down memory lane with my babies, I was rather surprised to be hit pretty full force with a strong wave of emotion and nostalgia. 

It was surreal to say the least, to see my own trio of children standing in front of the house I lived in at their age, part of a sibling trio myself. So many fond memories of that simple little country life, running around barefoot and grubby with my sisters. Feeding scraps to the chickens and bringing the cows up from the paddock after school... yes, those were our chores. How sweet it was to share some of those old stories with the kids. They could barely believe I lived somewhere so 'exotic' haha... and they also found out that we had our own pony. Uh oh!!

How can it be that life moves on, through so many winding paths, and yet this little farmhouse remains, basically identical to the day we left it....those two palm trees, the fig tree, the huge pepper tree on the right, the loooooong driveway (felt like miles as a little kid) which we walked to and from the bus each school day... often I was also lugging my cello.

The same rusty old mail box still remains.... looking even rustier and a great deal wonkier, yet still standing, still in use. I remember being terrified of spiders when I reached inside for the mail.

When I was about four, my grandmother bought some of our land from us to build a house next to ours. We had a connecting driveway about 100 metres long and we loved running along it to go visit her after school, where she would teach us to garden (we each had our own little garden bed set aside for us) and to bake (we each had our own particular biscuit recipe we would bake with her each time... sadly I can no longer remember what mine was though). Oh, Granny. She was very old school, super strict, a lady of the highest order...tough as nails yet as elegant as an aristocrat. All about manners and decorum and so on. She was strong and she was amazing, having lived a fascinating life filled with writing and theatre and travelling to Europe as a Red Cross nurse in World War Two. She spent so much time telling us stories and family history, walking us through the house and showing us all her incredible family heirlooms and antiques. She passed away when I was about twelve and I often wish I had known her better, as an adult. To have soaked in and better understood her stories, who she was as a strong, creative, passionate woman.

Her mailbox still stands. Her hand painted lettering fading but still neat and tidy after all these years (thirtyish?!)... I expect our surname got scratched off by new owners! But 'Weetwood' still remained. Granny named her home thus after the heritage listed home that had been part of our family in decades past. How lovely it is to see 'Weetwood' still standing.

As we stood there, taking photos of the mail box, the current owner came driving up. Being the country, he was friendly - even when discovering some random family taking photos of his letterbox!! And being the country, he still knew of our family, remembered meeting my Dad. We had a good chat about the neighbours living in our old home, and how long he had lived at my grandmother's place. He chuckled and said he had always meant to update the letterbox but never quite got around to it. Life moves slow in the country and I could only be grateful for that thread still connecting me to my past, a thread far stronger than I expected it to be.

Thank you, country roads, for that trip down memory lane..... nothing quite like a heavy dose of nostalgia x

Thursday, 20 October 2016

giveaway! win a stainless steel bento lunchbox + trio of reusable bags!

Hey folks, just popping in to say I am currently a fantastic giveaway on my Facebook and Instagram!!!

The prize is a stainless steel bento lunchbox and a trio of reusable sandwich/snack bags from the simply fantastic Litter Free Living

You all know I LOVE reusable and plastic free options wherever possible so suffice to say I have fallen in love with all of Litter Free Living's lovely wares. Another amazing WAHM too :) 

Feel free to pop over and enter!! I am giving away a set of each at each location.

Enter the Facebook giveaway HERE.

Enter the Instagram giveaway HERE.

All the best, lovelies xx

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

#highlightsreel // the sand and the sea, where the children roam free

After a week spent volunteering as a family in July, we road tripped up to Brisbane to spend a little time by the beach, with family and friends. 

It was sweet indeed :)

When the label fits... wear it with pride!!

Lily spent a lot of time walking up and down the beach with my Dad's dog, hoping people would think he was hers ;)

By the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere, at low tide on the mudflats. Our favourite place to run free and explore.
That magical moment when you happen to capture a teeny crab leaping from a hand...

...and that magical moment when they just happen to be walking like this...all in order, all in a line? Abbey Bridge?! ;)

We met up with my lovely, ridiculously over-talented, generally amazing friend Tarnya and her son Thomas one day at New Farm Park. Eli and Thomas clicked instantly. I just wish they could play every day! Also, Tarnya knows all the secret amazing spots for photos around there... like these incredible orange trumpet blossoms around the performing arts school. Just... wow. I think I could take photographs there all day every day!!!

Today she was like 'You can take some photos of me, Mum'. A rare occurrence so
I was happy to oblige. Oh, that sweet smile x

Just two sweet boys, trying out a little innocent 'break and enter'...
Three little loves, I heart you!

Circus on the outside, watching the circus on the inside...
(yes, they are really circus performers, practising inside! it was amazing!)

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Art Party // An Arty Girl's 8th Birthday Party!

My darling daughter Lily was turning eight and was due for a party! 

We don't do parties too often (so far, each of my kid's have had one for their 1st, 5th and now 8th birthdays). Lily's last party was her adorable Princess Tea Party when she was five (check it out here.... my teeny girl!). As we don't have them every year, when we do, I enjoy going all out to celebrate my little munchkins - and boy, do they LOVE a party :) They get to choose the theme too of course - and after running through a hundred theme variations, Lily finally settled decisively on an Art Party - fitting given her firm plans to be 'an artist' one day!

I have to admit I was thrilled with such a fun and creative theme and had an absolute blast pulling this together, with my ideas-filled little assistant planner! This kid had a clear vision and actually I was basically the assistant planner, carrying them all out on her behalf haha! Maybe she will be an event manager like her mama one day :) Lily's original big idea was to hold the party IN an art gallery so she could 'look at all the art with her friends then paint pictures of what we saw and have cake and dancing!'. Amazing, right?! But it was the midst of winter and I couldn't find a gallery that also had a good space for art and food and a horde of giggling little girls... so we decided to bring the art to us instead - with our own little gallery!

We had an absolute ball putting this all together. Homespun, simple, child-led and theme-driven, it was just a joy. I couldn't do this every year but I have to admit I absolutely love throwing parties when the time comes! I'm mostly grateful for the opportunity to make my kids feel cherished with a big celebration. And I was thrilled with Lily's creative choice because the theme just made it so easy and fun for everyone. Lots of art, laughter and food - what could be better?!

Thanks to my lovely friend Amber for taking many of following photos while I was busy flitting around! 

I think most of them speak for themselves so.... enjoy scrolling, if kid's parties are your thing ;)

DIY Art Gallery. It was so fun gathering images of some of our favourite art works. It was amazing how powerful and inspiring they all were displayed on the walls together too. The impact of beautiful art is not to underestimated :)
The Art Table, ready and waiting...
I made this simple little banner for Lily's 1st birthday party (I did the same for the boys too) and we pin them up for every birthday :) 

I made this in Canva - easy and a nice little welcome sign and wall decor.
What's a themed party without coming up with silly matching names?
Pop Art for Popcorn?! Yes, I am a genius. Ha!

'Art Palette' Rainbow Poke Cake! Click here to see how I made it and how it looks inside (clue - colourful!!). It was so easy, fun and delicious!! :) 
My lovely mother-in-law made these adorable art palette cookies
Lily came up with these names and wrote the signs. LOVE :) You can't see them too well but they are layered jelly cups.
Healthy Bliss Balls go rainbow!
Eli (6yrs) bought this little mannequin as a gift for Lily with his own money! *melt* Perfect table accessory!
Who needs table decor when you have art supplies to scatter around!? Colourful, useful and fun!  For art supplies, I had watercolours (both liquid and dry), watercolour paper, charcoal, black fine tip pens and also this fun colourful air-dry clay the kids could use to make mini-models.

An arty rainbow of fruit and veggies

I love open ended arts and crafts for kids, so I simply laid out all the materials and let them do what they liked - painting, drawing, modelling with clay. It was very relaxed and so sweet to see all the girls working away at their art. The drawing prompts on the table and walls helped inspire them when they needed it too.
I was thrilled when I found these cute little art palettes and brush sets at a cheapie shop. It meant each girl could have her own little set to use and take home. I wrote their name on each in gold pen.
'I'm just here for the food'
So, so excited for his sister's big day, my sweet boy xx
Little artists get to work!

I like to come up with (more useful, less sugary) alternatives to party bags where I can :) This time I got a bunch of calico 'library bags' and the kids had a total blast decorating them with puffy paint pens (retro!), fabric stickers and markers. Something to carry home all their art in, and use after the party. The girls were thrilled with this and I think the lollies weren't too missed ;)
Beautiful artworks drying in the afternoon sun. Little clay model animal figurines too!
They were very serious about their library bag decorating!

Lily came up with this game, kinda like 'pin the tail on the donkey' but each
blindfolded girl had to try and draw some clothing on the Lily outline, haha!
Another Lily Idea: Play Arty Musical Statues - we played music and everyone
danced around. When the music stopped, you had to freeze in a pose from one of the
art works on the walls!! It was super cute :) Harper is giving a great pose here!
Dancing up a storm and suddenly looking way too grown up! He was very into the game and had no interest in being 'out' haha

Blissfully happy to be with friends at her very own party :)
The artistes at work!
Miles was very much part of the action :)
The moment arrives... lighting the cake....

Oh my, I love this photo, cuddled up with my stripey little party-planning accomplice
as she joyfully eyes off her cake! I love this girl so much, planning a party for her was
truly a pleasure. What a wonderful young lady she is, I'm simply in awe of her xx

Great memories of a wonderful day...

Happy Birthday, Lily. What a privilege it is to celebrate you xx