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22092014Kidsgrowingup

Moving quickly into the grown up world...

It's interesting how life can move along so quickly sometimes that we feel like everything is rushing by. You can find yourself wondering...when did that happen? I feel like this sense of life rushing by is magnified since I became a parent over a decade ago. Even writing the word 'decade' makes me wonder, where did the time go? The logical part of my brain knows that it's been 13 years, and that there has been a whole lot of living crammed into those years. Yet still I wonder where did the years go? This morning I watched my eldest daughter getting ready, with minimal help, keen for a chat with me about all the 'stuff' she has going on.  Her little sister on the other hand demanded help with her shoes, clothes and then forgot her school bag because she was too focussed on remembering her show and tell. Without me asking, my eldest poppet calmly helped her little sister, chatting to her as she helped her with her shoes, reminded her to pack her lunch and asked if she was excited about Kindy. I was admiring how my little baby was fast becoming a young woman, one with compassion and the empathy and desire to help others. She seemed to sense that I could use some help this morning, and helped me out in such a thoughtful well, I couldn't help but admire her. On a recent road trip with the kids, it dawned on me that they are no longer babies. All four have moved on from Babyville, entering the unknown land of young adulthood. I am always a little slow to accept these shifts or changes in my life when it comes to the kids. I tend to focus on where we are right now, and I truly loved having a houseful of tiny people raging around playing, laughing and generally having a blast. Then, in a blur we gave away our last high chair, said farewell our cots said hello to big school and learning to read and write. Over the years, whenever I watched the kids I would  notice they have a lot in common with me and with their Dad.  When they were little I would recognise a physical trait or expression (how cute, the little poppet has the toes as her Dad). Now I recognise emotions, reactions and personality traits. How the kids deal with stress, the unknown and change.  The good and the not so good. I am proud to see that my sons have inherited their fathers love of animals and kindness towards others, not so proud that they also seem to have inherited a love of computer games.  All of my kids are avid readers (super proud of passing that one on), they are also crazy-energetic bordering on hyperactive and prone to starting giant projects and leaving the mess everywhere (not so proud moment). For me, one upside of seeing yourself reflected in your kids is an opportunity to make some changes in how you respond to things. For me, I am trying to learn how to slow down, relax and do one project at a time. How about you?  Do you recognise yourself or your partner in your kids? Enjoy xx
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2014 review As I said farewell to 2014, and welcomed the new year in, I reflected on all the big stuff we had been though here at This Grand Life. Here's what my wrap-up of 2014 looks like...
  • Our littlest poppet started at big school, and it was bitter sweet. She looked so tiny yet so grown up all at the same time. I loved hearing all about sport, God Class (religion) and all the new things she was learning with her new friends. Then because of the next point, we get to do it all over again.
  • We packed up and moved across the country to sunny Qld. Well, the kids and I did.  My lovely kind husband then spent the last half of the year working in Perth while we were in Bris-Vegas. So many big changes to take on board!  New school, back to day-care for the littlest poppet (very indignant that she was ready for 'big school'), new job for me... the list goes one and on. Amongst it all though we have thrived in the sunshine and being closer to our families.
  • Saying goodbye to Charlie the Wonderdog.  I had written a post, which maybe I will publish someday, though maybe I won't (I can't quite get the words right).  My beautiful furry friend had been with me for 14 years from when it was just me, then as my family expanded to include my husband, a sweet Newfoundland (Ellie) and our four lovely kidlets.  I still miss her sweet face each day.
  • Finally, finally, finally being a family again as the lovely Big A moved from Perth to Brissy.  Thank you to our lovely friends in Perth for lending him a room, inviting him over for dinner and generally making a tough time a whole lot easier.
  • Being able to focus more time and energy on my creative business. The move to the sunshine state, coupled with setting up a little studio and finding a lovely creative community to be part of have all meant that I  had the time and energy to design and create gorgeous frocks, boardies and super cute gear. All designed and hand-made by me.  I was part of some brilliant artisan and hand-made markets, which were the creative highlight of my year.  I really do get a buzz just from being around such talented creative folk.
  • Continuing to write and think, and question what is going on around me.  When I can, I find the time to publish here. I hope you have enjoyed reading it too!
So that is our year in review. Sort of rambling and rocketing along, filled with love, loss and fun. What does your year in review look like?  Feel free to post and have a chat. Enjoy xx  
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IMGP0604 I watched a brilliant episode of Q&A recently where the topic of social media and screen time surfaced. Over the years, since we began riding the wave of social media, I have often taken the time to reflect on my own use of technology and how I use social media. Which is useful in deciding boundaries for the kids and our family as a whole. It’s a tricky ocean of ideas, platforms and devices to navigate. I love the idea of connection, and the positive role technology can play in our lives. The advent of Skype was a godsend when we lived overseas. Our parents could see and talk to the kids each weekend, helping to bridge the huge distance between France and Australia. The flip side is that I see social media being used a tool for bullying, aggression and downright nasty behaviour. Typing derogatory words and sending threats, abuse and generally being a jerk is a lot easier in the comfort of your home rather than face-to-face with someone. We have even given this behaviour a cutesy name, ‘trolling’. Which conjures up an image of a fairy tale, rather than what it really is, antisocial behaviour and cowardice (check out this article in The Guardian). I can only think of a handful of people I know who behave like that face-to-face, and whilst some are praised for their bravery/ honesty, most are described as bullish and nasty. I wonder is this quick easy access to information, and the ability to rapidly seek out and find the answer anywhere anytime going to decrease our problem solving abilities? Are we having a detrimental impact on our ability to recall facts, describe situations and come up with ideas to solve problems? (Have a look at this article from Susan Greenfield) The proliferation of experts telling us via byte size articles with catchy titles how to parent, eat, live, exercise, sleep is overwhelming, even suffocating. Some of my favourite websites seem to want to provoke us into arguing with each with click-bait type headlines and reigniting the same battles (junk food in our tuckshops, critiquing parenting styles, etc). Does this all serve to distract us from learning, working through issues and focussing on the important stuff? I try to take a balanced and informed view. As a self-professed geek, I love a good scientific article, so I read a lot to try to get different opinions and perspectives. I also observe my kids, and try to reflect on our behaviour when life is going well, and when it goes pear-shaped. This is where I have landed. Setting limits on screen time, social media and technology is not a ‘set and forget’. As the world changes, and my children grow and learn, so should our approach. Different families have different dynamics. Kids are individuals; I have noticed some of mine are better at controlling their use of technology than others (have a look at this article about kids and technology). I believe one of the best things we can do as a community, as parents, partners and professionals is to discuss how we use technology in an open and non-judgemental way. Then keep talking and questioning and challenging what is going on around us. Do you talk about technology in your house? Have you set any limits? Enjoy xx
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Allowing my tribe to take risk...rock climbing!It’s a familiar battleground. Homework o’clock. Understanding, encouraging, cajoling, threatening, pleading, and any other tool I have in my arsenal in an attempt to ensure the kids are receiving a good education and we are not going completely loony trying to get EVERYTHING done. One of the major quandaries I seem to be coming up against lately is finding the balance between stepping in and stepping back. Helping your kids is one thing, becoming a helicopter parent is a whole other can of worms! Where do you draw the line? Take maths. The kids now have Mathletics (an online learning portal with a bunch of tests and ‘live challenges’), worksheets and timetables to learn by rote (yep, those are still old school). Then there are the incidental maths type activities, cooking (weighing and measuring, counting, sorting… The perfectionist in me wants each of the kids to get every  question right, to have every worksheet completed, neatly and on time.  Perfectly and correctly. No mistakes. I find I have to draw a line though because it can be a slippery slope to becoming THAT parent who possibly, no definitely, completed the assignment and then got disappointed when they ‘only received a B’. I think kids need to learn what frustration, failure and pressure to get things done feels like, and they need to know it’s ok and perfectly normal. We all make mistakes sometimes, become angry when things don't go our way and frustrated when we are struggling to master a new skill. It's ok to admit that and then work through it. That's what can ultimately help us to become independent and build our confidence, and find our way. There was a great article in The Age about how we can build resilience in our kids, and how it can be a great life lesson and skill to take into adulthood. What do you think? Do you allow your kids to fail or feel disappointed?  Or do you think there is plenty of time to learn those hard lessons? Enjoy xx
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Pocket money time!  This little guy is available from The Pig Pen via Etsy

Pocket money time! This little guy is available from The Pig Pen via Etsy

Happy Sunday! Sunday to me means late breakfast, kids sport (hello soccer Mum & Dad), and time to clean up. With four kids, two adults, a dog, not to mention two full-time jobs, one business (that'd be here folks), clean up at the end of the week means a lot of mess and chaos! When the tribe were little, the lovely Big A would take all the bubs out for a few hours while I cleaned up solo.  Sounds very 1950s doesn't it!  Despite being a little retro (in a housewifey way), it was a great way to get on top of things again, no litttlies underfoot, and Big A got a coffee. Win-win! As the tribe have grown up a little, I have changed my tune.  I decided it was important for all of the kids (yep, boys and girls, though I think that should go without saying) should learn how to clean up, and how much effort goes into keeping the house clean. Hand in hand with my change in attitude towards cleaning (goodbye solo approach)  has  been the introduction of pocket-money. Here's my system, Sunday is 'job jar' day.  Every member of the tribe gets a jar with their name on it, and every job they do is worth money.  The amount depends on the job.  Cleaning the windows is a 50c job, while cleaning the table is 20c. Our key bits of cleaning kit are Method spray (no not a sponsored pots, but this stuff is all natural so no nasties), water, paper towel and baby wipes (which are awesome for cleaning and can remove anything off anything). Two things about 'job jar' day constantly amaze me:
  1. The kids actually do a pretty good job, which means less cleaning for me to do by myself.  Windows are cleaner, bathroom is more sparkly, what's not to like about that?
  2. The money they earn is then spent very carefully, because they worked hard to get it.  All of a sudden that $5 trashie (this is the latest thing for the boys, who knew 'trash' was so much fun!) is not looking as attractive.
Job jar money = a weeks pocket-money. Simple. Do you have a system for pocket-money?  What is your going rate? Enjoy xx
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Today for me started at 5:10am, ok really 5:20am after a brief lie in.  I then crammed in a serious (in my land anyway) bout of gym time, healthy breakky with my little tribe, then a sprint to the bus. Closely followed by a rewarding day in corporate world (my daytime gig) quality time hitting the books/studying, catching up with dear friends, delish lunch.... Well you get the gist! Which got me thinking about how much we can squeeze into a day when pressed for time. Closely followed by how it is tempting at times to have a day doing nothing (trashy mag and the couch anyone?). The strange thing is that those insane crazy days are often the ones that leave us feeling the most energized. Top of my list are:
  • Completing my final exam for uni, oh the uncertainty of facing the real world
  • The birth days of each of my gorgeous little cherubs - the world changing in a moment
  • Travelling across the world by myself with my tiny cherub to introduce her to her great-granddad
Carpe diem my friends...
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 After a recent parent teacher interview I was left wondering…am I doing enough for the parent/ teacher relationship? I thought I was coasting just fine, brief but positive feedback.  Apparently my little tribe are well-mannered, and on track with all that literacy and numeracy jazz. That’s a thumbs up right? Apparently not says a good friend of mine. She tells me, that in her opinion and experience (as a teacher), it’s as the proverb tells us ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’.  In other words, if a parent is more vocal (demands, complains, etc), then their child gets more attention.  I was gob-smacked!  I am allegedly known as a ‘low maintenance parent’. The kind that goes with the flow, does their bit for the rosters (reading, etc)fills out permission slips on time, remembers the library books and most importantly never complains. Ever. Which is a good thing. Isn’t it? Apparently not.  What I should be doing is speaking up, raising objections if I think my child is being ‘left out’ or isn’t getting enough attention.  I have to admit, I did a bit of soul-searching after hearing this little gem.  Perhaps I was too agreeable, maybe I could advocate more for my child.  Then I thought some more about it and decided I was happy with my approach.  Lovely husband was happy too.  So if we are happy, my little tribe is happy, and the kids teachers are happy, then is there really a problem? What do you think?  Is a proactive approach the best approach?  Or do we treat our parent teacher relationships as a partnership?
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