Wednesday, 26 August 2015

#highlightsreel // lowlights and love

This is life, our life. It keeps on rolling through ups and downs. We find joy in the darkness and bittersweet sorrow in our happiness. Somehow this mixture of joy and sorrow becomes a daily reminder of how tenuous and precious this life is. It makes me determined to be all the more purposeful in how we live it. Stark realities are a lingering reminder to our family of our hope and faith and assurance of things not seen. They give deeper meaning to the things we do. 

Although my joys are now forevermore tainted with sorrow, it makes me more grateful for them. 

That is the gift of grief, I suppose.

And so... here are our darkest days, mixed up, as they so often are, (particularly with small children!), with happy, light and sweet.

I found Eli busy at work creating a roadway of books. The path to literacy perhaps?
So cute! Not sure if he considers this endeavour worth the time it took him to pack 
them up again, however ;)
Allllll the way down the hall...
Decorating cupcakes, with quite substantial sampling going on...
We had our little buddies Finn and Harper over for a sleepover and disco. The
colourful streamers were a big hit! Eli was leaping for joy, haha.

Mark decided to make cupcakes as a special treat for the kids (awwww, bless him). The kids iced them, as you can see!
A sheet of pink fabric I had put out for play turned into the night's best game -
tug of war! Eli really put his back into it, heehee. My little strong man! 

Behind these scenes of fun and frivolity, which should never be far from life with children, was the reality of some of our very hardest days. 

My beloved step-father David passed away after his short and brutal fight with pancreatic cancer (I don't like the phrase 'fight with cancer', as it implies too much responsibility on the sufferer, but not sure what to replace it with?). Well, almost two months later and I'm still not yet ready to speak too much about it. Not sure if or when I will be. I have precious photos I took during this time I can hardly bear to look at, let alone share either. 

Instead, to mark this significant event in this, our online family record book, I will share a few photos I took of the beautiful view outside David's hospice room. These images were taken during the three days I stayed in his hospice room, his last days. Surreal, strange, beautiful, heart breaking days. In short breaks, I would step outside to breath some fresh air, soak up the view, pray and gather my strength for what was to come. 

The morning fog those last days was thick and heavy, lingering till well past lunchtime. A strange and rare weather pattern befitting of that surreal and precious time. I know I will always remember David whenever I see that hazy, lingering fog each winter. 

For three days we stood vigil at his bedside, awaiting that last precious breath, ready at last (can you ever be ready?) to send him home to glory and that perfect, perfect peace. For three days, I barely slept and sporadically ate and allowed my heart to crack open in a whole new way, as we nursed, and cared, and talked and waited. And then, he breathed his last and this beloved, dear man was gone from this fleeting life on earth. We grieve, but not without hope.

I miss him deeply.  

Hope floats.
In the midst of mist and grief, a little reminder pokes through - there is still life and joy to come.
The last morning, the heaviest fog...

After David passed, we moved through the exhausting, painful week between his passing and the various beautiful services we held to honour him. Then the very next day, my beautiful little tiger-man, Eli, turned five. And so, a birthday. Jarring, yes? From funerals to birthday parties in rapid succession, but that is how life is sometimes. And how could we deny this sweet little boy his celebration? If anyone, Eli is our ultimate reminder of the joy life also holds, my irrepressibly happy little man. So, we rallied to celebrate him as best we could.

We held a low key family dinner, and gave our all to make it a happy affair and my boy was indeed thrilled with what he had. And we will more than make up for a low key birthday with his (delayed) birthday party extravaganza coming up very shortly too (dragon themed!)! Yes, the party is two months delayed but as far as E is concerned, he wins as he gets two birthdays ;)

As hard as it is, as jarring as it can be, I'm so grateful for my children who remind me that life goes on, and there is always joy to be had.

Eli decorated his own 'Lego Cake'. Pretty epic, huh?? :) 
In awe.....
With much coaching and encouragement from my crafty friends, I made Eli his very own
Lego softie. I have never done something like this!! It was a big challenge for me, as
simple as it was. The stitching left a LOT to be desired, but the look of bliss on Eli's face
when he opened it made me so happy. He couldn't believe he had a Lego toy to snuggle
and that I had made it!? :) This little toy is seeped in extra love because I stitched 
him together while sitting at David's bedside in hospice. David smiled when I showed 
him what I was doing. He loved Eli so much... his favourite activity was swapping
funny Eli stories with other who knew him and his antics well :)
Lily trying on a very special outfit!
We gave our puzzle obsessive a new puzzle, and all enjoyed working on it together after dinner.
Lily as always put together her own very special bundle of crafts and cards for her beloved brother. She made these binoculars which were very well received :)
What a gift... she also decided to write a story dedicated to her brother. In her tiniest, neatest handwriting she worked for
three days over three big pages, while brother proudly and eagerly watching over.

Eli got an awesome beanbag for his birthday, and Lily felt she was missing out on a
cool chair, so decided to make her own special 'throne' out of a box - complete with
cup holder. Yep, pretty happy with herself!
Little Scientist. I found Lily with a piece of paper, labelling all these backyard finds. When I enquired what she was doing, she informed me she was trying to work out what the chickens' favourite snack food was. She was going to carefully present this sheet and see which one they ate first. Oh, my girl, you are so cuuuuuute :)
Translation: Twig, grass, big fat leaves, leaf, dry (jriye!) grass, flower petels, dry leaf.

What a mixed bag of photos and moments, huh? These are our days. And such is life.... such is life.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

a bedtime ritual to remember // the last baby

The 'last baby' tends to make you cherish babyhood to an extent you never quite did before. Sweet moments become all the sweeter, steeped in a preemptive nostalgia, aware as you are of how fleeting and precious these crazy days really are.

Hence, the bed time routine with my littlest one, Miles, has tended to linger a little longer and feel a little more delightful each night... especially as he gets all the closer to a big boy bed, when I can realistically no longer pretend he is my little baby, heehee! (Just kidding, he is my baby foreverrrrrrrrr, right?!)

I've never been one to drag out bed time too much, but how can I not with this little cherub? Putting him to bed is one of the most tender moments of the day. After bed time preparations are done, books are read and wrestles with Daddy have occurred, I pop him into his sleeping bag (putting it on backwards so he can't take it off overnight and freeze!!) so the snuggles can commence.

Miles is a stickler for routine and loves to remind me of every step. This kid does not forget.
Firstly, he reminds me to switch off the lights. I tote him over so he can flick the switch, then we say 'goodnight' to the little wooden airplane that swings from the ceiling, giving it a little push to send it soaring.

Now, this boy. Simply put, he just gets a kick out of seeing how far he can push things! Yet, it's not in a truly rebellious or stubborn kind of way, he doesn't even seem to really care about the outcome - it's just for his own amusement. As soon as I clearly and firmly lay down the boundary, he accepts it, basically just shrugs and moves on (with a twinkle in his eye that showed he was just testing for his own entertainment anyway!). Perhaps because he knows that a boundary once set is not movable goal, so there is no point getting too upset about it?? But being a little scientist, he just likes to test it over and over again, just in case!? ;)

Case in point, the 'snuggle blanket' for our song time. First, he asked for one blanket to snuggle with while I sang our special song. Sure thing, sweet child! (Trying not to take offence at my clearly too-bony shoulders, haha!). Then a few nights later, he asked for two blankies to snuggle. Ok, ok, sure, why not? I went with it. The next night he decided to step it up a notch, and request three blankies!! Seeing where this is going (and not wanting to collapse under a mountain of blankies), I said 'No Miles, two blankies are enough now'. He responds 'Awwwwww, want three blankies!!!', pretending to whine when really he is simply teasing (I suspect he discovered this whiny tone from older siblings *ahem* and likes to try it on for size). I repeat that two blankets is enough, and he cheerfully just replies 'Ok!' and snuggles in. I mean, really!!This must be a third child thing, haha. This little guy has such a sense of humour, our whole routine is full of little jokes, teasing and 'playacting'. I never knew a two year old could have such a sense of comedic timing :) He also likes to try to add an ever increasing number of steps to the routine, just to see how elaborate he can make it before I pull in the reins. Cheeky... give 'em an inch and they take a mile, right?! ;)

Ahhh, parenting. One day you stop and realise both parent and child are kinda just experimenting on each other, right?!

Anyway! The Blankie issue decided, he lays it on my shoulder, getting it perfectly cosy for nestling. As I begin to sing 'our song', he wraps one arm around my neck and uses the other hand to gently pat my hair - and sometimes even requests that I take it out of its topknot, lol!! Snuggled in, I sing the song that's been his since birth, 'You are my Sunshine'. If I attempt to skip the second verse, he starts to sing it as a prompt, especially the high section that is his favourite,  'I dreamt I held you in my arms'. I swoop him down into bed, blanket smoothed on top and tucked in tightly, rolling it under his arms so he looks like a baby burrito. I coo goodnight as I stroke his forehead and brush his hair to the side in that unrequired but oh-so-satisfying maternal gesture. We exchange smiles and grins and looks that say 'This is our special time, isn't it? We love it.'

'Goodnight, sweet Miles. Mummy loves you, Daddy loves you, God loves you.'
'Love looooo!!' he grins.
He then likes to follow up with 'What you doing? Cuppa tea??'
'Yes, Miles, I'm having a cuppa tea and a rest now. Goodnight, my lovely boy'
'Night, Mummy! See yaaaaaaa'

Grinning and giggling, he watches me as I leave the room, calling farewells. Every night I am aware that it's one more night of this precious routine, and one less night to go. So many moments to cherish in motherhood, surely one could not possibly 'cherish' them all while still functioning as an actual adult! We kinda have to pick and choose. And so, this one? Oh, cherish. Cherish I have and I will.

Goodnight, Baby Boy. Thank you for being so delightfully you, for precious memories and a night time ritual to treasure xx

Thursday, 13 August 2015

{Give Away!} Lottie Dolls // From Archaeology to Astronomy, Lottie can do it all!

Our family's love for Lottie dolls runs long and deep, ever since I spent countless hours hunting through the interwebzzzz for an alternative to Barbie - and was shocked to find there was hardly any! I finally came across the sweet and spunky Lottie doll, and gleefully bought one for Lily as a very special reward (for when she stopped sucking her thumb!). We have been fan girls ever since!

Lottie's age appropriate clothes, relatable activities and child-like body won this mama's heart, in a world where the sexualisation of 'children's toys' seems to run rife (I'm looking at you, Bratz Dolls). Lottie can stand on her own two feet (a useful skill for any girl!) and is all about being yourself, having adventures and enjoying simple childhood fun - from ballet to karate to walking the dog! My daughter Lily loves that she can relate to all of Lottie's adventures, and together they explore the world with glee! Lottie is like a true friend and peer to my daughter, it's just charming :)

Lottie Doll HQ (the Arklu company in the UK).got wind of our fan-girl status and very kindly sent us some new Lottie dolls to meet!!! Of course, we were super excited to do so, especially because their cool new range includes some fantastic Science themed Lottie Dolls. Stargazer (Astronomy) and Fossil Hunter (Archaeology) Lottie highlights women in science and celebrates girls whose love for science helps them discover cool new things! We also met 'Muddy Puddles Lottie', who loves to stomp in puddles like any other kid. Then there was Pony Club Lottie who comes with a beautiful horse for Lottie to ride through the fields (or through the backyard, as the case may be haha).

Check out some photos of Lily meeting her new Lottie buddies...  and don't forget to enter the give away at the bottom of this post - there are two chances to win a Lottie for the little adventurer in your life!! :)

Pony Club Lottie loves to ride around . Lily screamed for about 5 minutes when she saw this horse!!! What is it about girls and horses?? A match made in heaven. And yes, Lily has requested her own horse now ;) Lottie's riding outfit here just slays me.... how precious is that blazer!?
How awesome is Stargazer Lottie? Her own telescope, dressed for chilly evenings outside staring at the night sky. It came with these great little cards listing all the planets and included a history of female astronomers too! 
Checking out the telescope. We talked about how and why people look at the stars and planets. She was fascinated! A whole new world opened up to her... way up there!
Reading aloud the names of all the planets. 

Look at the stars, and reach for them! Love how Lottie makes it all seem possible for our mighty girls :)
Is this not the most adorable archaeologist you ever saw?! Fossil Hunter Lottie comes kitted out with backpack, digging tools (so tiny!!) and even fossils to dig for :) The little cards are all information about female archaeologists. The whole kit fitted into the teeny backpack... Lily was soooo thrilled about that. She packed everything in neatly, then these girls were ready to go discover!

Muddy Puddles Lottie loves splashing in the rain as much as my kiddos!

Having a serious little chat with her buddies :)
A little girl with four amazing new friends. What a gang! Brave, adventurous, fun and fascinated with the world around them! 
The details of their outfits are so precise and charming. The clothes are well made, detailed and easy to dress/undress. Yes, two minutes after these photos, all the outfits were pulled off, swapped around, mixed up, never to appear the same way again, lol! Part of the fun, right?!


Want to WIN a Lottie Doll for a special little someone in your life??

There are TWO up for grabs!! You know I love to share the love...especially Lottie Love!

One giveaway is being held on this blog, the other one is being given away on my blog Facebook page. Yes, you can enter in both places!!

To enter, just answer this simple question....

'Who would you gift a Lottie Doll to, and why?'

Just comment below with your answer!

Then click over to my Facebook page to enter there too... double your chance to win!! :)

xx Kate

Terms and Conditions:
Giveaway is for two Lottie Dolls (one doll each for each winner), including delivery.
Entries welcome worldwide! 
Must leave a name and email address if using "anonymous" or a profile not linked to a way to contact you if you've won.
Winners will be deemed most creative/interesting response as chosen by me. This is a game of skill, not chance.
Entries open 7.30pm Thursday 13th August 2015 and close Thursday 20th August 7.30pm 2015. 
Judges decision is final. Winners must respond within 24 hours or prize will be awarded to the runner up. Good luck!

Handy Lottie Links: Lottie Facebook Page and Lottie Website/Store Locator

Disclaimer: These dolls were gifted to me for review. All opinions are 100% my own,

Thursday, 6 August 2015

#highlightsreel // mother's day and teaching her way

It's been too long since I was able to share our #highlightsreel. These posts are at the heart of what I do here, recording, reflecting, documenting the delight in our days, so I wanted to get back into them even if I am waaaaaay behind. Bear with me ;)

These photos go a little way back, okay, a long way back, all the way to May! Ahem. Such is life, it's been an intense few months, and so that's ok. But I want to get back into sharing these snapshots of our days, otherwise my end of year photobook will not be up to scratch, haha!

These are the days of our lives, we love them just for being what they are. And I have never been more grateful for them....

I cheered on Lily and Eli in their school fun run. How surreal it felt, to scream and shout in support from the sidelines. Yep, yep, ok I am really a 'School Mum' now!!! They both ran their little hearts out :)
Not to be outdone, Miles was rocking out some serious yoga moves on the sidelines. Perhaps he thought he was missing too much attention, lol! 

Mother's Day... our way.

As is our tradition, we take the Saturday of 'Mother's Day weekend' for our own little family's mother's day. A quiet day to sleep in (woohoo!), and spend time just enjoying being together, having adventures and of course, Mama getting some chill out time too! As I said to Mark the week earlier, when he was asking me what I wanted the day to look like 'You know, all the good bits of mothering, without any of the grunt work' Haha! 

Then on Sunday we are free to spend the morning worshipping together at church, and the afternoon celebrating and honouring my own wonderful mother and mother-in-law. It works well for us! :)

So, the day started in the classical fashion, with a delightful long-awaited sleep in. Always soooo good. Pretty soon though I could no longer resist the sound of excited, eager little voices hovering outside my door, constantly enquiring of their father if 'mummy was awake yet!!???'. Who can delay such joy? In they tumbled, clutching those precious and quirky Mother's Day stall gifts, colourful home-made cards and of course a tray bearing the most delicately prepared breakfast one could imagine. 

Behold.... :)

I mean, really! It's the carefully cut grapes that really slay me.  Lily put her all into this breakfast! (There was croissants, coffee and pancakes too!) Love these munchkins :)
When pondering what activity to do as a family, that balanced both wide open spaces for kids to freely roam,  combined with good coffee, sweet treats and a delicious lunch, the Botanic Gardens came up trumps. The perfect location. We spent a couple hours adventuring and exploring together, then ended up at the cafe for lunch!
A father instructing his son in the ways of flora and fauna.

My ongoing attempts to capture the three of them together! This was the day's winner. My three little loves xx

We all know how rare it is for mothers to get photos with their children! Especially when the mother is rather obsessed with being the photographer (ahem!). I have made it a little tradition now to get photos with my kids every year on Mother's Day, so at least I know I have one shot per year at any rate!?! ;) And surely once a year I can insist on photos and snuggles, right? This was a quick and wriggly session, much reminiscent of herding cats as Mark snapped the shots and we tried to quickly swap kids in and out... oh yeah and the camera settings and light weren't great. But you know what? They may not be perfect photos but they are perfect moments. Perfect in all its imperfections, that's what family is :)

Miles. My sweet ray of sunshine, my beautiful baby foreverrrrrrrrr. FOREVER, I say!! ;)
Eli. Oh, my lovely middle man. You are joy, you are energy, you are beloved.
Lily. My daughter. My one and only girl. My teacher, my firstborn, my treasure.

This photo. This random little out-take. I was flicking through while editing and came upon this, and first it caught my breath then brought tears to my eyes. I don't know what we were talking about at the time. I was just struck by Eli's little face, shining up at me like sunshine, bathing me in pure love, adoration and grace. As mothers, how often do we even realise that our kids look at us like this?? What a privilege, what an honour. To be mothers, to be loved, to nurture these little souls. But, it's so easy to get caught up in the noise and the correcting and the daily grind and not even see these little faces, right in front of us. Thankful for this simple photo, a worthy reminder.
Group photo... this was the best I could get, lol.

Determined to make his own way down the steps, and hold the banister like
his siblings :)

Our Mother's Day ended with an unexpected detour... while at the Botanic Gardens Cafe, I was just taking Eli to the bathrooms. I pushed open the door and my finger grazed over a metal sign and somehow managed to slice open my finger!! You know one of those things you assume will be a momentary annoyance? But then it just kept bleeding. And bleeding. Blood kept dripping everywhere, I had to ask for bandaids and even with several of them wrapped around, blood kept dripping all during our nice lunch. ARGH! So we wrapped up the outing pretty quickly, and I ended up dropping the family off home and going to the Health Clinic!!! Thankfully, the nurse was able to tape it all up and I got to wear a cool bandage on my finger for a week. Good times, real life! ;)

And on we go....

Miles is obsessed with tools, fixing, construction, anything related! When Daddy gets out his tool bag, Miles freaks out with excitement, it's so funny and cute :) 'I helping!! I fixing! I really fixing!!' he shouts :) 

Their relationship has been flourishing as they find new ways to play together. They holed up in Miles' cot for almost an hour, just busily building Duplo :)

Oh yeah. Just my daughter, kicking back and reading poetry aloud!!!! I won't lie, as a life-long poetry buff, this warms my heart immensely! Someone passed on this lovely old book of poetry for children and all the kids have enjoyed listening to them!
Miles' life philosophy: Don't cry over spilled milk.... laugh your head off!

What can I say, I love my knits! Betty and the Whale... hmmm, sounds like a movie or band?! ;)
Grandpa came to visit from Queensland, for a week of painting, house projects and
hanging out with the grandkids. It was a huge help!! Miles enjoyed getting some
practise using the saw. He was so dedicated to the task, sawing all these little cuts.
You know I am all about play-based learning in the early years... no flash cards, no rote learning, no pressure. Just natural
child-led learning through play. But what do you do when your Year One child decides she wants to teach her brother his
'3 R's'?! And he eagerly accepts?! Haha, they got me there. What could I do but watch on with a smile as they spent numerous evenings in their room, Lily drawing up 'work sheets' and ever so patiently guiding and coaching her little brother. Pretty darn amazing - and cute!

I came across this little paper on Lily's table. These items are stapled to the page, lol!!
'How to plant a flower: Get some dirt and get outside, plant it in the ground.'