Wednesday, 29 January 2014

on my first child starting school // looking back and looking forward

The time has come - that time that once seemed an eternity away now springing out at us from amidst the dust of Christmas decorations and summer holidays. My firstborn, my daughter is starting full time school next week. Kindergarten has come!

It feels.... strange.

This sentimental post may or may not be inspired by seeing Lily decked out in her uniform today!!!
I was checking it all fitted before I ironed on the labels ;) 

Last year was a special one. We became a family of five, and I also always had in the front of mind that it was my firstborn's last year before beginning school. I am so grateful I had that precious year - of having three at home, and of adjusting for the transition to come. I am also glad we got a little 'trial' run with preschool which is five days a fortnight (yay, Canberra!). A taste of the school life!

I have heard it said, that when your first child starts school, the whole family starts school. And how true it is. Lily is not the only one who will now arrange her days around school picks and drops offs. Nine AM and three PM will become firmly entrenched in all our body clocks - even the baby who must be duly woken early from naps, (even in the pouring, freezing rain) to do the school run. Lily is not the only one working around school terms and school holidays, we all do - planning our vacations accordingly (to an extent!). A new world. A world of packed lunches, five days a week (eeeeeeek, just the thought of this exahusts me). Homework and parent/teacher interviews, assemblies, school-friend drama and whatever else will come at us. I cannot even fathom at this point!

Come Monday morning, we commence what I quickly calculated to be seventeen years of schooling for our family (combined for my three).

Seventeen years.


Though certainly on the tail end of that I don't expect to be packing lunches or doing school pick ups, it is still a season commencing, and a rather significant one!

I will be a School Mum. Something so official about that, when half the time, (even three kids in), I still kinda feel like I am just 'playing make believe' at this whole grown up, mothering, responsible life! A school mum, wow. It's hard not to smirk at the 'cliche' of talking to school principals and hunting for the perfect lunchbox!!

As this era commences, so another one closes... for Lily at least. I was so blessed to have over five incredible years at home with her. Yet a little while ago, I began to feel a rising panic... now she was off to school, and our 'stay at home life' together was over. What about all the things I didn't do, do enough, or not do at all, during that precious half-decade? Did I go to the MUSEUM enough??? Why didn't we do more BUSH WALKS!!? And didn't I always plan to go to the Recycling Centre but we never did!! Did I give her enough rich learning experiences, cuddly quiet home days, a firm enough foundation? Why didn't we travel more?! And so on. You know, just your mother's standard late night self-induced guilt trip ;)

I quickly realised such thoughts were silly and pointless and not even the point of what this 'stay at home' gig is all about. Because you know what? It's mostly about time. And of that.....we had an abundance. Together. So I began instead to reflect on what I was thankful for about these five 'early years' at home with my daughter. For I am thankful for so very, very much. Gratitude has truly been the primary emotion rising to the surface as I reflect on this upcoming transition.

I am brimming over with gratitude for this half decade with my girl. Being at home fulltime was a conscious choice that we planned for, prayed for and God helped us bring to fruition. It's been wonderful. I'm not saying that there were not hard, hard, hard days, but I always knew we were both in the right place for our family. It has not all been fun, clean, glamourous or Pinterest-worthy, but it's been life in our family home and we have both been present for it - the good, the bad and, oh yes indeed, the ugly!! ;)  Today I feel grateful that even in those wretched moments, I never even for a moment doubted our decision for me to stay home. Not saying that it's right for every family or the only way to parent well, please be sure of that!! I'm just feeling personally thankful for these five years, that I got to be there and witness each moment of this transformation from baby to girl. Getting to know her heart and learn her ways. My girl, she has been ever so gracious with me as I have learnt along the way (with many fails and falls!).

I am thankful she has experienced a carefree childhood. A quiet, simple, adventurous and nurturing five years. Full of the magical and the mundane. I am thankful it has been rather protected - largely free of technology, pop culture and commercialisation. Five years safe in this gentle little world before she launches into a bigger, wilder and more complex one. The outside world's influences will begin to flood in much faster now as she enters those school doors, a somewhat unstoppable tide. But for five sweet and transformative years, her heart, her mind and her eyes were mostly free from those pervasive influences. Her tender heart has flourished freely in our home, amongst family, friends and a tender church community. With burgeoning independence, she will now spend her days influenced in a much greater sense by her teachers and oh yes, her peers. She will make decisions, she will make mistakes, she will be both strong and weak. But I am grateful... for five gentle years, for time to fill that heart and mind with (what I pray has been!) a strong and solid foundation. Our work has been building her sense of identity in our family and in our faith... things which may help her stand strong against those outside pressures and challenges.

I am also grateful for a childhood free of academics, flashcards and pressure to learn in a formal sense. It's been a childhood full of play and real life experiences. Play-based learning, self-led discovery, adventure, learning and creating. Kids free to be kids, in other words ;) Play is the work of childhood and my girl embraced that work with vigor - and had the time and support to do so. As more structured academics take place, I know she is ready in every sense to embrace this too and is eager and excited to learn - having already soaked up the basics in her self-starting enthusiasm! I hope that eagerness is not too quickly quenched. A love for learning is a key that opens so many doors. She is one blessed little girl to receive a quality education in our country.

I am grateful for time to instill foundations of faith and values in the hearts of my children. Stuff that is more caught than taught, the stuff of faith that I pray flavours our daily life and motivates our priorities and our way of living. Ultimately, these are the things that truly matter, and what motivates my parenting (and everything else). I pray she knows that her loving Heavenly Father will be there to walk with her through every high and low of school life. There will be tests, temptations, stresses and peer pressures, but God is a patient, loving, and wise Father and above anything else, I pray she turns to Him and His loving care and guidance.

Little brother was eager to get in on the action. His school transition will be so much easier - on both of us!

Now... I recognise Lily is not actually being sent off to war or anything, haha!!! ;) But still, the upcoming shift is significant. For her and yes, for her mother!! And yes, I already miss her, and the place she takes in our home...

She is growing up, stepping out... it is all as it should be. She is ready for school and so I am ready to support her in that journey. We will learn together, adjust together, struggle together and apart. We will soak up those holiday breaks with lazy pajama days and of course in the mean time, I will be chugging along with life at home with two little boys. My job in the home is certainly not yet done! It will be different for them too, they also 'start school' in a way, when Lily does. They will be my busy little men at home and we will have our own adventures and hijinks!! Eli will miss Lily dreadfully but he is blessed to have a little brother to play with in her absence. Things don't ever stay the same. The past season was a great one and this one will be too, in it's own unique way.

So, this year is a big one for our doubt tiring, no doubt it will have it's challenges (and blessings). But I am also excited to see my first little bird fly a little way further out of the nest and learn to fly read and write and learn, learn, learn in a new, rich and supportive environment! She will have fun, make friends, all that good stuff. She is tender but resilient, eager to learn and I know she will love school (though she is a little nervous at the moment too). Her independence and capabilities will flourish and we will be at home - always waiting, and ready to cheer her on.

So... let's do this. Sniffles and nostalgia aside, we are ready for this new era. God be with us :)

The contrast between home life and school life is quite apparent :)

Sunday, 26 January 2014

4/52 - dancing with you in the summer rain


Little girl in a white cotton dress. 

A classic combination that always captures my heart!


The heatwave of last week broke when dark clouds rolled in, and fat drops of rain began plopping down, quenching the earth and relieving the muggy heat.

We had to celebrate the moment with a giddy rain dance - and no one does a rain dance with more abandon and joy than this kid.


My darling baby boy turned one. 

This little ray of sunshine clicked over into his second year and suddenly my baby was no more. Sniff.

Such a grown up and well mannered boy, he remembered to read the card before opening his first birthday gift ;)


Horsey Wrestles

One of those phrases that develops in a family in its own time and way. It came from when  Lily was tiny and she combined Horsey Rides and Wrestles - her two favourite activities with Daddy.

Now 'Can we have a little Horsey Wrestle??!' is a frequent plea from the kids in the five minutes before bed time. Well, sometimes they even say 'Can we have a punch in the guts?' !! Which has garnered a few raised eyebrows from guests, let me tell you ;) Well, all the research says Daddy-wrestling time is so very important, so I just turn a blind eye to the Wrestlemania going on (eg can hardly bear to watch!). As I prepare Miles for bed, all I can hear is gleeful shrieks of laughter and squeals of joy. Thudding pillows, the occasional mishap (tears, but a quick recovery 'cos they want to keep playing), and lots and lots of good memories. Apparently, Daddy is a shark in the water, or something??! Anyway, a lot of jumping and pillow-thumping seems to happen. 

As I snuck into the room to take these impromptu pics, I was cringing but also smiling at the mayhem. 

He is such an involved dad, utterly adored and adoring.

Project 52: A portrait of my family, once a week, every week, in 2013.

More highlights from the week that was...

Ice excavations

And the rain came tumbling down...

A quick peek into the bedroom to see my three little loves at play. Together. It's beautiful - the dawning of yet another sweet stage. This play session was because Miles was scared of the clippers' sound when I was cutting Mark's hair, so L&E insisted 'we can look after him, Mum' and took him to their room to play blocks. Bless.

Crinkled white cotton and those little gold sandals.

Tousled hair, flying in the wind.

Pretty white dress, and playing in the dirt. That's my girl!

...and there she goes.
Baby's first boundary. Each of my kids has learnt their first limit in this big ol' world of ours with this stereo. Though the
house is mostly kid friendly and kid safe, I intentionally have a few accessible but 'don't touch' items around so the kids
can safely and slowly learn respect for property, and healthy boundaries. This stereo is always the first one, with its intoxicating flashing blue lights and mirrored front. As soon as they can move, they go straight for it. This boy... oh, he knows! He crawls right there, looks at me with a cheeky knowing glance and shakes his head, saying 'no-no'. He now usually keeps crawling, but every now and then he touches it again, just to test that limit and see if it still stands ;) 

His first sweet birthday gift - from his lovely Papa. Of course, the twirly ribbon was the biggest hit!

While I was hanging up the washing, Eli jumps from the trampoline and bolts for the house. Inquiring what he was doing, he informs me the trampoline has too many leaves on it and he is just getting the Dustbuster!! Well, I could hardly stop the boy from cleaning, now could I?
 Love the contrast of the tough construction tee with Dustbuster!
This is the kind of young men I want to raise. Strong boys who take initiative
with the cleaning ;)  Yes, that is an 'ultimate strength' in my eyes :)

Love the anticipation in their eyes...

Clearly I popped in during a 'the shark fights back' phase, cos trust me, these kids attack poor Daddy a lot too!

A tangle of happy kids!

Monday, 20 January 2014

3/52 - heatwave


Is there anything better than coming across your child, snuggled up and enjoying a book?

(And a Bible, no less!)

Read on, little bookworm! The world of books is rich and enchanting - and will open your heart, your mind and your eyes to so very much.


An absolutely delightful day spent on a friend's property out near Yass. 

The land, the views, and the peaceful open spaces made everyone seriously consider moving to the country post-haste...especially after the kids got to enjoy feeding the sheepies :)

Eli was an eager farm hand!


Mark took a bonus day off so we could capture a little extra 'holiday' just for our tribe
of five, after a wonderful Christmas season that was fantastic but ended up a little lacking in chilled out family time. 

It was such a good decision as that bonus day turned into one of those 'perfect' days - both productive and relaxing. In the ongoing war between 'getting stuff done' and 'quality family time' we managed to divide the day - a super productive morning, pottering around the house getting stuff done inside (baking with the kids, sorting the linen closet, cleaning etc) and outside (progress on the chicken coop, vegie garden and clearing out the car port). Everyone took a quality nap, and by late afternoon we jumped into swimmers, tossed together an easy picnic dinner and took off to Canberra's loveliest oasis, Manuka pool. Surrounded in lush grass, leafy trees, and gorgeous art deco architecture, it's the perfect place to splash and relax. And so we did. And it was a super chilled and enjoyable time - the kids running and splashing and playing, the parents relaxing, enjoying and playing/swimming too! Days like these, as any parent knows, do not come together so well all that often, so we soaked up every inch of blessing that it was!!

Miles first real pool experience! He was splashing up a storm and loving every minute. He was so intrigued by it all.


He's an ideas man - a visionary, if you will. ;)

On a super hot afternoon, he comes up with the idea of wrapping the sprinkler hose around the trampoline to create some kind of super vortex of water spray. I'm not so sure this will work, I thought/said.

But it did, and soon Lily and Eli were shrieking in absolute glee as they bounced around whilst getting shot with cool sprays of water from every angle. Somehow, Mark and I ended up there too - getting soaked, squealing, laughing, bouncing and dancing with the kids in the refreshing spray.

It's good to have someone bring all the crazy ideas to the table!

Project 52: A portrait of my family, once a week, every week, in 2013.

More highlights from the week that was...

Peg wars with his little buddy Blake :)

Flat palms and eager sheep!

Backyard sprinkler runs during one of Canberra's longest heatwaves.

Sprung by the spray!
Can you hear the squeals and shrieks?! :)

Four things that make this a typical Aussie kid's summer scene:
1. Running through the sprinkler 2. The Hills Hoist clothesline!
3. The Hills green/yellow swing set and 4. The brown, scorched, dead grass!! ;)

Somewhere, under a rainbow...

He tried to sneak in a drink whenever he thought no one was looking! 

'I'm getting cold, Mum!'

'Just joking!!!'
Ice-cream treat time! Eli looks so much like my sister Megan here!! I can't believe I haven't seen it before... 
Paddlepop lips. 

Why yes, we also got a treat - Connoisseur Salted Caramel... mmmmmmm!
E-man, chillin' - laying back on Dad, enjoying his icypole!

No icypole for Miles but he can take good care of a mango seed!!

Ok, ok, Mark took this and insisted that I post it now I plan to post pics of him weekly!! Revenge?! ;)
So, this is my best dorky pose ;)

A blurry shot but I can't go past the look in his eyes. I was twirling him till we both collapsed in laughter. Love this kid
and his joie de vivre!.

Eli asked to help grate the carrots for our Black Bean wraps. He later informed me he had grated a little pile for each family member. Seriously, what a darling!!

These whispy bits of hair escape every hairstyle I attempt. 

A super easy hot day activity. A bucket of ice cubes and a couple of hammers.
Seriously - an hour of kids happily smashing ice and eating it!!
(The next day I froze little toys in containers of water for toy excavation!)

Mouthful of ice/possible ice headache?

chip, chip, chip, crush!

She always requests a photo sitting on the rock :)