Home Alone

Now that Iris is in full time school, six hours a day, five days a week, I thought I’d have free time coming out my ears. Nope. In fact, I feel more busy than I was last year when she was in school a lot less. So let me just say for the record, especially to everyone who has ever even insinuated that stay-at-home-mums sit around on our arses all day long, WE DO NOT. In fact, speaking as a mum who has both worked full time with a child and is now staying at home, I am FAR busier now than I was when I was working. I do not want to go into a long argument but because I’m at home and I don’t feel entitled to pamper myself since we only have one income, I end up doing a lot more STUFF for the family and the house. Just look at how long it’s taken me to find time to write a blog since my last post. As a result, I am actually trying to find a job so I can, perhaps, actually sit on my arse for half a day.

So anyway, Iris is in pre-primary now. She really enjoys school and has all her bffs in her class again. Sometimes I look at her and think how big she’s grown and how much more independent she is. Then I’ll look at her and think, no she’s still so tiny and I just want to smother her with protectiveness. Yet I have to remind myself that she needs to be allowed to grow and do her own thing. I am reminded of this particularly when I notice her try and boss her father around. She even tried bossing me around but that didn’t last very long. Heh.

Ingenious Jean by Susan Chandler and Kate Leake was another op-shop find th    at I’ve grown to love. It encourages creativity, perseverance, resilience (to sarcasm) and individuality.

Ingenious Jean

While her brother and sister engage in common kid behaviour, Ingenious Jean loves inventing stuff from things she already has on hand (recycling!). The first three goes are not quite successful as she seems to have invented things that already exist.

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This is very politely and considerately pointed out by her siblings, which is a great lesson for us adults on how to handle our children’s creative output.

Ingenious Jean

Yet Jean doesn’t give up and is finally awarded inventive success.

Ingenious Jean

Ingenious Jean

Iris often surprises me with her intelligence and creativity and I give appropriately excited praise. However, I do need to remember to encourage her even when it’s a horse made of corks that has three legs and no head. I don’t believe in indiscriminate praise because I think kids need to know when something is not up to par, particularly when I know she hasn’t put in much effort. So encouragement refers to acknowledging their effort, however small, finding the positive and helping them to see how it could be better. Believe me, this is very hard for me as my default is sarcasm so this is what I’m aiming for, not what I actually do all the time.

Making Them Feel Special

So about a third of Iris’s library is made up of hand-me-downs from her cousins and among them is Max Lucado’s You Are Special.

You Are Special

We always say the year has flown by at the end of it but somehow this year really has gone quicker than previous years. This is probably because so much has happened and how busy we’ve all been. For Iris it has been a tremendous year! She’s formed her first girl posse; learned to read; learned to swing herself on the swing; had her first successful ballet concert in front of a big audience on a real stage; AND stopped sucking her finger (this one is huge and I will do another post just on this later). I try to let her know just how proud of her I am but words really cannot express it all. What I fear is for her to lose her sense of self-worth for whatever reason because I know the world, and especially other kids, can be cruel.

This is why a story like this is so important.

In the world of the Wemmicks, small wooden people carved by a woodworker named Eli, they rate each other with dots and stars. Those with lots of stars are admired for their looks or talents. Those with dots are looked down on because they’re not pretty enough or good enough at anything. One Wemmick with lots of dots is Punchinello. No matter how hard he tries, he couldn’t seem to stop getting dots. And he believed he deserved them.

You Are Special

Then one day, he meets Lucia who has no dots or stars at all. When other Wemmicks tried to give her a star or dot, it would just fall off. Punchinello wanted that too so Lucia told him to go see Eli.

You Are Special

Filled with self-doubt, Punchinello did.

You Are Special

There, Eli told him he shouldn’t care what the other Wemmicks thought of him because he thought Punchinello was special.  If Punchinello focused on what Eli thought of him, it wouldn’t matter what anyone else thought.  “Why don’t the stickers stay on her (Lucia)?” “The stickers only stick if they matter to you.” “I’m not sure I understand.” “You will, but it will take time. For now, come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care.” As Punchinello began to believe Eli, a dot fell off.

You Are Special

It’s not just about God, everyone should feel special because we all are. No matter your race, religion, colour of eyes or whether your hair is straight or curly. Everyone is entitled to feel unique, beautiful and worthwhile as a human being. As a parent, it’s so important that we help our children retain their sense of self-worth and for the most part I think I do okay. There are times when I feel like I don’t deserve to be a mum and that’s why I’m really glad Iris has someone else, far more qualified than me, to fall back on to tell her how wonderful she is. This is my Christmas wish for her and all kids, that they’ll always have someone to tell them they are beautifully and wonderfully made and no one has a right to make them feel bad for being who they are.

XOXO

Getting All Arty Farty

It’s been about 2.5 months since my last post. We’ve had a pretty major happening in our nuclear family, which I’m still deciding whether to talk about. Also, I have been INSANELY busy. Every morning I wake up feeling hungover without the good part! Then there’s Paris. I am not going to go into that because this is not what this blog is about. It’s about recognising little mercies, artistry and beauty, something the world sorely needs.

Therefore I am going to give a big shout out to art in all its myriad forms, good and bad. Appreciating art is not about being snooty, turtle-neck adorned, squinting know-it-alls who use the words “minimal”, “je ne sais quoi” and “composition”. It’s about being moved. It’s about human expression. It’s about being transported away from and into the depths of what it means to be human and to live on this earth. Before I float away on my cloud of existentialism, let me introduce the inimitable Hervé Tullet’s The Game of Sculpture.

I am a strong believer in instilling a love for the arts from diaper stage. No matter if the child prefers eating the paint than looking at it, or joining in the modern interpretive dance with gusto. We’ve been dragging Iris to museums since she was a few months old; taking her to live performances; and my favourite children’s event of the year in Perth is the Awesome Festival, an arts festival for kids. Being able to appreciate the arts just makes life so much more interesting and filled with loveliness. It really helps to remind all of us, but especially mini people, that human beings are capable of creating beauty and not just of destruction.

Published by the pinnacle of arty farty publishing, Phaidon, The Game of Sculpture is not a book in the traditional sense. It teaches colours, shapes AND physics! All without words so kids can get into it all by themselves! And you know what, I don’t think there’s any shame in us adults, sitting quietly, trying to create something pretty, even if meaningless, from time to time.

the game of sculpture

It comes as a long fold out cardboard with pop out pieces and a sleeve.

the game of sculpture

Dark colours on one side

the game of sculpture

Light colours on the other

And here are just a few examples of what you can do with it! Pieces can be balanced, slotted and angled, hence the physics element. It’s not complicated but if you’re lazy to whip out the paints and dough, this’ll do in a pinch for a good half an hour.

the game of sculpture

the game of sculpture

the game of sculpture

*NB: Not for kids in the mouthing/destructive phase. The child also needs to have pretty good fine motor skills so probably more for 4 and up, or if you’re prepared to invest the time, you could do it with them.

My Baby Can Read!

This reading mum is so bursting with pride I just had to post this. Iris read her first book on her own!

Now, she has been sounding out words for several months already but it’s never been a sustained length of text, just random words. In the last few months, she’s grown familiar with all the letter sounds and can more easily piece them together. She can recognise many two-letter sounds as well like th and sh. So on Sunday, I took out the stack of classic Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme books that were gifted and have been sitting around thinking she might want to try.

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I started the process with the first one, helping her sound out the words. After that, she took off and read the whole book by herself!

Jane and Peter

Then the next morning, I woke up and found her reading the next in the series. I stood outside the door barely able to contain the tears, grinning like a monkey. Then of course I had to grab my phone and take a video. #mybabysnotababyanymore #happyandproudbutsadtoo

Morning read

Does this mean an end to my enjoyment of children’s books? Are you kidding me? She can read but can she do the voices?

AND THEN after that uber intellectual start to the day, in the evening, I heard, “Mama, can you help me? I’m stuck.” She had wedged her head, arm and other hand into the little curve at the end of the banister and was balancing precariously on the stair railing. Nice. #monkeyswillbemonkeys

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Embracing Everything

I knew Iris would be an active child because of her constant movement in utero. However, I never expected her to be so, super, duper, ridiculously, chatty. Ever since she was about 10 months, it has been relentless. That’s what I called her then and it hasn’t changed. Except that before it was cute baby babbling, easily ignored if necessary. Now she actually expects a response, especially when I’m driving. If she’s not singing, making up stories, playing pretend with a piece of fluff and stray raisin, she’s arguing with me, over everything. Argh does not begin to describe how I feel. I admit, this results in a lot of yelling, particularly in the car when I’m trying to navigate roundabouts.

Yet I also love watching and listening to her. She’s so creative and happy. It’s amazing how two people so reserved and the exact opposite of exuberant could produce something so bubbly and full of life. I love her to bits, even when she asks me what the weather’s like while sitting outside. Then argues with me that it is NOT sunny because there is a puff of cloud in the sky.

The old man who love to sing by award winning artist John Winch was another brilliant op shop find. Yes it was FIFTY CENTS.

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It’s about embracing nature and not being afraid to sing aloud. It’s about getting old and being loved.

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A nameless old man left the noise and smog of the city to live gloriously in nature, singing his heart out whenever he felt like it.

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His musical zest  grew on the animals around him and they came to accept him and love him for it.

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So when the time comes and the old man’s oldness catches up with him, they help him to remember.

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Iris helps me remember to find joy in the littlest things and not be afraid to be myself or dance in the middle of the street. If everyone was as unselfconscious and non-judgemental, it’d be a much happier world. Nosier, yes, but infinitely more joyous.

Big, Bold and Beautiful

I used to be an elephant. Nooooo, not in size but in remembering a ridiculous number of things. From facts and figures to trivial events in the lives of friends and family, I was a veritable fount of useful and not so useful knowledge. Now, I find my mind is developing holes and I can no longer recall what my friend was wearing on 15 September 2001 or who had the shepherd’s pie at dinner on 20 May 1995. I know, terrible isn’t it? Bah.

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One of these holes is who gave us this gorgeous book! I love Lucy Cousins. BIG fan. In my youth, I favoured black as my go to “cool” colour. As I got older, I embraced my childhood and now my wardrobe pays homage to all the members of the rainbow. So I feel drawn to Cousins’ wonderful use of primary colours and simple but so effective illustrations.

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What I also love about it is that soon Iris will be able to copy the illustrations and so it becomes an art teaching aid as well! Most of us will know the story of Noah’s Ark and those who don’t may not want to but it retells the biblical story simply and concisely.

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It was fun guessing what some of the food was and is a great counting tool as well.

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So even if you don’t subscribe to any belief system, you could see this as like a fairy tale and just enjoy the colour, pictures and happy ending.

Mixing Up a Storm of Happy!

Combining art and humour in educational children’s books is what acclaimed children’s author Hervé Tullet is all about. We fell spot over dot from the moment we picked up Press Here (see my review here). So when I saw he’d done a sequel I knew we had to have it. Thanks to one of my bestest, most generous girlfriends in the world (major point-scoring going on here as you can tell), who sent Mix It Up! in a beautiful care package with lots of other goodies, we do! Are we thrilled or are we thrilled? Are we going to binge on Dutch confectionaries? Oh yeah.

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Similar to Press Here, Mix It Up! employs colourful paint splotches to teach children about something interactively. This time it’s about colours and how they combine to make other colours. In just a few words a page, Tullet manages to engage the reader and the read to in an entirely enjoyable way.

Mix It Up!

The paint splotches are so vivid you can almost feel the gooey paint. It also gives lots of great ideas for playing with real paint, if you feel so inclined. It’s so successful Iris has been yelling out colour combinations randomly ever since we got it. This may or may not be a plus point for some.

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Sure it kinda engenders those “I could have done that” comments, but hey, you didn’t did you? So unless you’re going to go through the process of making a book, zip it and bask in the delicious primary colours while your child shouts out what happens next.