Monday, 31 December 2012

Camp Challenge Day Five: Dirt and Dress Ups

Noah and Eli  just happened to turn up at camp both with 2nd hand
red/blue versions of the same shorts...
so coordinated, they must have been texting each other?!

Oh, these two girls! Ella and Lily sat together at every meal at camp and nattered away like two old ladies! It was
hilarious and sweet to listen in to their conversations. This was quite an important chat happening about who was
going to be what fairy/princess at what time and so on!

'Ella, how about you be Aurora and I be Aurora and there is two Auroras??'

When he gets hot, he gets these little beads of sweat across the bridge of his nose. One of those teeny little things
that absolutely slays you as a mother - just because it's just a part of your little one and you know
it about them and love it simply for that reason!

My lovely friend Nicole taught the preschooler's Bible class at camp and did an amazing job - fabulous craft and
meaningful lessons. The kids loved it! Here are Lily, Ella, Noah and Eli 'reading' their teeny Bibles!

Eli gets up close and personal with the Fruit of the Spirit

A tribe of little ones invented all kinds of adventure at camp and one big project was just digging in this spot of dirt
with sticks, then filling the holes. Kids getting dirty - yep, ain't nothing better!

Putting their own girly spin on it (filling the hole with flowers to make a fairy well), these two were not afraid to get grubby either!

The New Year's Eve activities were hotly anticipated by the kids as a chance to
dress up - the theme was Movie Stars/ Characters so here we have Peter Pan
(or Peanut Pants as he says) and Snow White!

Always finding adventure!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Camp Challenge Day Four: Water, Stages, Taking Big Steps

Today we had the delightful honour of seeing a wonderful young lady whom I have known since she was a baby take a very big step - Rachel decided to commit her life to Jesus and accept His gift of love, grace and salvation! Well, there ain't nothing more exciting than that for me! We all gathered around to watch her get baptised - going into the water as her old broken self in need of forgiveness, and coming back up renewed with His eternal and ongoing grace. Transformed by His love. Much cheering, praying, singing and joyful (damp) hugs followed! Always brings a happy tear to my eye and breaks open sweet memories of when I made that decision myself many years ago... best decision I ever made, I gotta say!

A face filled with pure joy!

That evening was the Annual Camp 'Talent Night'. I have been on the Board for Challenge Camp for quite a few years and one of my roles is to organise the evening activities each night for the camp. This year I forced myself to hand the duties for three of the five nights on to others as I knew I would not be able to physically cope with running every night of camp. Those who took it on did a fantastic job and it was good lesson for this busy little bee to force myself to ask others to step in - and also a big relief to free myself of some of the responsibility!

One of the nights I did still organise and host was the Talent Night. Or, as I usually jokingly call it, No-Talent Night! (It releases some of the pressure for people to only participate if they are pros - I think jovial participation is the key to a great night of entertainment, not just serious talent - though of course some super talented people always sneak in!). A mix of funny/cheesy/quirky camp skits, earnest teen ballads, and cute little kids belting out a tune or two or putting on a play. It is without fail a night of unforgettable performances, jaw-aching laughter and precious moments (oh  yes, and of course happy groans at some of the cheesy skits). I absolutely love it because every person who has the guts to get on stage is cheered, encouraged and applauded. A moment for anyone to shine. I love seeing introverts put themselves out there, little ones grow in courage and confidence each year and talented people sharing their gift of song and skill. Good times, people!

Lily remembered me being on stage last year hosting and had sung an impromptu little song back then, and so this year has been talking for weeks and weeks about the 'concert' at camp and what she wanted to do. She decided she wanted to sing one of her and Eli's favourite songs 'Do-Re-Mi' from the Sound of Music. Brimming with excitement and enthusiasm, she was soooo keen to get up there, and she and Eli practised and practised in the days before, had it word perfect with even a few actions thrown in. I knew however there was no telling what the reality up on stage would be!!! She eagerly dressed up in her best fairy outfit for the big performance and bounded up on stage when the moment came, little brother excitedly scampering up too. This was it....

Then my little lady caught sight of 90ish sets of eyes lovingly looking at her, and froze. The look of terror in her eyes was just tragic as she threw her arms around me and said with tears in her eyes 'I can't do it, Mummy, I can't'. Oh, darling girl! Knowing Eli was not yet at the age to be as phased or aware of the crowd, I told her it was ok if she didn't want to and asked Eli if he wanted to sing a song. He grabbed the microphone with gusto and launched immediately into a complete and enthusiastic rendition of Jingle Bells (his absolute favourite tune). Yeah, not quite the song we had rehearsed but Little Bro took the opportunity to sing his fave and ran with it!!!

As he completed his tune, the crowd burst into rapturous applause combined with coos at his adorableness and sweet laughter at his brave little performance. Just look at that face.... his moment in the sun!

His little eyes just lit up in surprise and joy at the reaction to his little tune, and his loving sister could not have been prouder - she was laughing, smiling and squealing with delight and pride. Our little E-Bear!

Not quite sure how to proceed, I wanted to give Lily another chance to try and so I suggested we give our original tune a go now that she had relaxed a bit, and so the two of them launched in. Lily only sang bits (with moments taken to bury her head in my neck), giggling and half whispering much of it, but mostly making her way through somehow. Well, it was not quite 'as rehearsed' but we got through it and Lily still felt plenty pleased with herself for getting up there. 'Mummy, everyone was looking at me! I was so scared' she told me later. She mostly talked about how cute Eli was - she is such a doting big sister!

I gotta say it was a bit of a stressful moment for this Mama (not the least of which was trying not to topple off the stage while crouching with my big belly, trying to balance against the 4 year old clinging to my neck!). I wanted to also balance encouraging Lily to do the song she so keenly desired to do without pressuring her in her legitimate fear... all on the spot in front of 90 people! Argggghhh, talk about parenting under the spotlight, haha! But everyone was gentle and encouraging, and thankfully I think we got through without undue trauma; a little experience with the realities of life on the stage and a few good laughs and sweet moments. Who knows what next year will hold, huh?!

My husband, who is really not a show pony, even got up to reprise his role from last year with his mate Jason of 'Cletus and Jed' - two American Southern farmers with drawls as long as their piece of chewing-grass! Hilarious and rather cute, I must say!

All in all, a great day with joys, a little unexpected drama, and a whole lot of laughs and memories made!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Camp Challenge Day Three: Kids just wanna have Fun!

Pool time fun with Samantha

A blow-up jumping castle and slide provided much entertainment...

An amazing sand-art activity where you peel sticky paper then pour on different colours of sand had both
kids and adults enchanted!

It was hard to mess up, even with eager 2.5 year old hands!

Summer Camp days are made for icypoles

Eli, Lily and Noah chill out and enjoy their treat!

One of my favourite things at camp is seeing the children make a huge leap in independence. Free to roam about and
explore, it warmed my heart to see this little tribe of kiddos creating all kinds of adventure for themselves.
Here they intently involved in trying to dig a hole with sticks and filling it with various fauna, for a purpose I don't even try to understand! 

Sitting and chatting with friends whilst loosely watching the kids run around, caught up in their magical world?
Pretty much perfection!
This yearly retreat is a wonderful time for them, exposed to so many lovely people of all ages, new activities and wild adventures. They come away so much more grown up and independent, with hearts and minds filled!

A complex fairy game was underway throughout camp. Lily and Ella flew around on
various missions and capers, it was charming to say the least!

Who is this little dude just roaming around and exploring? Oh, my little E-Bear.... love you!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Camp Challenge Day Two: Sleepovers

Ella and Lily

We love hanging out at camp each year with some of our dear friends, the Whaley's from Woolongong. Our little girls are best buddies and were positively giddy at all the hang out time! In our lodge at camp, there happened to be a spare room so we Mamas conspired to let the girls have a sleepover there one night. Suffice to say, there was much giggling, chatting and wriggling before they finally settled down to sleep - but hey, isn't camp all about late nights and giggling with friends?!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Camp Challenge - Day One

Today we packed up and trekked off to Camp Challenge - a Christian family camp near Sydney I have been attending since I was a teen! It has become a family tradition for our little crew, and Lily has been talking about it all year long (she even wanted to have her July birthday party there - it was a bit hard to explain why that was not possible as it only happens in December!). 

A week in the bush in a school-camp type facility, hanging out with lovely Christian folk from around the country. Mornings are filled with Bible classes and spiritual discussions, afternoons are filled with resting, chatting, swimming, activities and sports for those so inclined (not me, haha!) and evenings filled with fun and funny evening games and events. Six days away from the daily hustle and bustle to focus back on faith, family and friends. Reflecting back on the year that was and all that we hope and plan for in the year to come. Shaking off some of the outside noise of life and getting back to the heart of things, what really matters to me and mine, and the purpose behind this life we are privileged to live. I love it! 

This year I am still sick, heavily pregnant and all kinds of achy and exhausted, but still we went 'cos that's what our family does. I scaled back, I took it easy but I'm still glad we were there because it was a wonderfully refreshing and refocusing time, with my little family and my extended Christian one too. The kids had a ball of a time, just absolutely blissed out on the non-stop action and fun... and to many people's relief I did not give birth at camp either, lol!!

A week of adventure, deep chats, thought-provoking talks, long laughs and many, many wonderful memories....

Singing, snuggling, eating apples...

A big joy at camp is 3 x hot meals per day that I do not have to cook or organise! Plus 3 x snacks! Eating and chatting
with friends over every meal and watching the kids dig into all sorts of yummy dishes!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Day Between

Ok, it's probably bad parenting to let them ride the scooter in the house...
but while they are still fairly slow and wobbly we are letting them cruise
around a bit. Soon will be relegated to an outside toy!
But yay for hardwearing floors that aren't bothered by it!
(No idea why he is wearing that huge jacket, btw)

Lily loves this thing. And her new fairy outfit from a kind relative!

Soon we are off to a Christian family camp near Sydney. The kids are so excited they have taken to just sitting in the
car waiting to go!! 

SERIOUSLY EXCITED. Although I'm pretty sure it's impossible he remembers camp from last year, he keeps squealing
how excited he is to go! 'I CITED FOR CAMP CHALLENGE!'  Love this kid...

Ok, for some reason at 10pm at night, after feeling sick and vomiting all day,
I remembered and decided to cross 'take belly pic' off my list as ppl have
been kindly asking for evidence.
Here I am in all my worn out, 8 months (36 wks) glory... one month to go!!

Cannot wait to meet this little one - yep, you can kinda see a foot kicking me
near the belly button!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Delightful Christmas Day

Our Christmas Day dawned bright and early - not with children bouncing eagerly into bed but with me feeling queasy and vomiting! Er, yeah not quite a picturesque start, but ah well! Then I had to (im)patiently wait for the kids to wake after a late night out looking at the Christmas lights. Finally just after eight, a very excited little girl crept in and whispered that there appeared to be something in her and Eli's Stockings - but she was very confused and a bit upset that for some reason Mummy and Daddy's stockings were empty!? Such a sweetheart, worrying about us missing out! We told her we might get something later and that she should just look in her stocking for now, so she scampered into our bed with her stocking full of treasure. It was just pure delight to lie there in bed and watch her delve and discover...

Christmas with little kids? Just the best....

(I can't even apologise for all the pics, I was just enjoying the sweet and quiet light-filled morning with her so much! Plus of course the rest of the Christmas magic had to be captured)

(But I am sorry!! Feel free to skim through!)

I can open this one too?!

Digging for treasure...

Eli came up to me and held up his little cupped hands containing Baby Jesus from the Nativity.
'Happy Birfday, Baby Jesus!!' he joyfully proclaimed.  Consider my heart officially melted... thanks Darling, for reminding
us of the greatest gift of all!

Two little darlings, waiting (im)patiently at the door for Grandparents and
my lovely Step-brothers to arrive!

Excitedly waiting for the gift-opening to begin. 

With all the gift distributing and overseeing, I didn't get much chance to take pics but this pretty much sums up
the scene! Kids lost in a pile of wrapping paper!

E-Bear got a scooter.... it was a big hit!
Yup, he was right into it!! So cute!
And yes, that's me and my big belly (one month to go on Xmas day) peeking into the picture!

The main gift of the day for the kids was a joint gift from Mark and I, and the lovely QLD and WA grandparents....
The kids racing to unveil it under our awesome wrapping job (tossed some sheets on top, haha!)

A kitchen!! Big enough for three littlies to cook their little hearts out (and yes, I hunted far and wide to find a
gender-neutral colour too, what's up with all the PINK ONLY kitchens?!). Cue two stunned little kids....

They soon warmed up and got right into cooking up a storm!

She asked to put her craft table next to the kitchen so she could set up her restaurant.
Admiring her entrepreneurial skills!

We made our way through the pile under the tree, taking turns to open a pressie, and trying to enjoy each person's gift with them. Mark and I try to focus our gift giving for the kids around one main and hopefully long-term gift (which most of the grandparents also kindly contributed to) rather than stacks of random toys. We supplemented the scooter and kitchen with just a couple of Christian books and Cd's (one I was really excited about for Lily was this great collection of Bible stories with a read along CD for the car). However, by the time all the generous and loving relatives also contribute, it makes for quite a pile!! I could tell by half-way through the kids were reaching saturation point (read: overwhelmed by the bounty and not able to truly appreciate what they were receiving) so I ended up putting aside quite a few gifts for later as I figured that was better than them just getting lost in the mayhem. They were very blessed little children to receive some wonderful books (a really thoughtful, classic collection), clothes and craft items!

Trialing Little Bro's scooter. Yes, she loves it and wants one too but alas... 

Off to Christmas Lunch with extended family...

What happens when two kids discover they both have pockets!

Just a small and simple lunch.... ummmm.... NOT!  A very decadent, delicious meal (and this is only 2/3 of it!)

Yeah, my kids are never far from a food table!

Love this little tree monkey!

She makes her way through the magical garden...

Happy hours were spent with her cool older (10yrs) cousin. She adores him
and he is so good to her! Everyone was charmed watching them play in the
trees together.

Father and Son, watching the older boys fly their new remote-controlled helicopters. Eli was enraptured!

A beautiful late lunch rolled into a lazy-leftovers dinner with our local extended family. By 7pm, Mama (and kids!) were well and truly exhausted and it was home for a quiet evening and early bed!

All in all... a truly lovely, relaxed, family-filled, richly blessed Christmas day!