Posts Tagged ‘Family’

We all know kids do weird stuff. I try not to sweat it, just photograph it.

We had one of those blissful rare mornings last week when the kids played happily and unsupervised on a completely made up activity for over an hour. Let’s call it the game where you Use Masking Tape to Stick all your Stuffed Animals by their Tails/Heads to Different Surfaces in a House. There’s got to be a catchy name for that.

We’re big fans of sticky things in our house, but our favourite is masking tape. You can write on it, it’s easy to tear off, easy to apply, easy to remove and doesn’t leave a residue on polyester fur! Surely if there was a tape made for children, this is it.

This falls in the weird archives….but it’s gold.

Buy some masking tape today.

Kids and Masking Tape

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Meet ScarlettIf I were having this conversation with you in person I would say ‘Do you want to hear the long story or the short story?’ If you requested the short story I would say: “We received a giant burrowing cockroach as a gift and named her Scarlett.”

If you would like to hear the long story, then please read on:

My brother (a great animal lover) colluded with my husband (also a great animal lover) to obtain consent to give my son (another great animal lover) a native giant burrowing cockroach as a Christmas gift. Myself (a little ‘meh’ when it comes to animals) hastened to put a very quick and resounding stop to any talk involving cockroaches.

After much negotiation, my brother acquired the cockroach on the compromise that the roach would live with him and my son could visit it whenever we visited our family interstate. Consequently the little brown critter was placed into a plastic travel tank complete with dirt and gum leaves, wrapped in undignified Santa paper and presented to my son on Christmas day. My son took one look at the roach, his eyes filled with love and he announced to all his cousins that her name was Scarlett. From that point on the matter was pretty much settled. For the duration of our interstate holiday Scarlett sat in her little tank in the kitchen and we had time to get to know one another. She would burrow her head into the dirt and lazily surface for pieces of vegetable and gum leaves as the need arose. She didn’t move much, or do anything really, so I nic-named her pudding. When the time came to leave there was no doubt our new pet was coming with us…on our 1,400km road trip back to Sydney. The absurdity of the situation dawned on me a few times during the trip as Scarlett + tank would join us in cafes and roadhouses, but she really was such an agreeable travel companion that I couldn’t complain.

When we arrived home, we acquired a much larger glass tank and created a more suitable habitat for her. Scarlett spends most of her days sitting like a little pudding buried snugly into the dirt, surfacing only to eat, drink and be patted and poked by admiring children. Did you know that if you google ‘Giant Burrowing Cockroach’ you will come up with websites that describe these creatures as the ‘perfect pet’. I’m almost half-inclined to agree.

How to create an ideal habitat for a giant burrowing cockroach


1. Get a large glass tank and fill with a mixture of sand and peat moss. We purchased sand from an aquarium store and peat moss from our local hardware store.

Step22. Add some paperbark for shelter and privacy.

Step33. Sprinkle liberally with a variety of small dry leaves.

Step44. Add some larger brown gum leaves.

Step55. Squirt the tank with a fine mist of water to provide good moisture coverage. You can see the size of the water droplets on the leaves here.

Step66. Provide a very small, shallow dish of water. These critters nibble on dry gum leaves but also love small pieces of sweet potato and cucumber.

Now you’re free to sit back and enjoy the show. Unfortunately they spend most of their time completely buried. Amen to the world’s most low maintenance pet.

Watching Scarlett

And who says girls like playing with Barbie dolls.

Posing with Scarlett


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Surviving Road Trips with KidsBack in the day we did a lot of road trips across this beautiful, big continent. Australia is a large place and our Corolla has seen a lot of it. When the babies arrived, we started flying for most of our trips and experienced all the ups and downs associated with that! This past Christmas we agreed that the kids, aged 3 and 5, were the right age to undertake their first big car trip from Sydney to Adelaide and return. That’s approximately 3,000 kms there and back or 28 hours driving in total. We spent some time planning the trip, took our time and had a really enjoyable experience. Road trips are not for everyone, but if you’re considering a big journey with little kids I would love to offer these 10 tips:

1) Pack plenty of snacks

Pack SnacksMy children seem to be perpetually grazing. Pack a variety of healthy (and some not so healthy) snacks in advance. Have the esky accessible and distribute these as the need arises. With a little planning there’s no need to rely on petrol stations and roadhouses for your food fix.

2) Prepare meals in advance

Planning MealsOn the road we usually have lunch at a cafe and prepare the evening meals in advance. Pre-cook your meals at home, freeze them and then let them slowly defrost in the car esky on the way to your destination. This way I know that we’ll have at least one decent healthy meal a day and it also helps to maintain your regular night-time routine. Good meals to freeze are those that are sauce based eg bolognaise, curry etc. You can take the dry rice or pasta with you to cook fresh on the stove top, but most of the grunt work has already been done.

3) Stay in Caravan Parks

Caravan Park FunFor the same price as a motel, you can stay in a fully self-contained two bedroom cabin…usually with a playground and swimming pool at your doorstep. Unlike a motel room, you can put the children to bed early in their own bedroom and still enjoy your own time in the living area. We’ve stayed at many Big 4 Caravan Parks over the past five years (if only they offered loyalty cards!) and they’re renowned for being child-friendly. I can’t recommend them enough.

4) Prepare car activities

Car ActivitiesPrepare activities to be introduced at strategic points on the journey. These days there are so many little art/craft activities you can by at dollar stores which include all the items you need such as stickers/pencils/paper/glitter/glue etc. Buy some little portable clipboards that double as lap desks and make an event of it. Activities include colouring in, drawing, join the dots, mazes, crafts etc.

5) Create your own Spot It game

Spot It GameBefore your trip give some thought to they types of things you are likely to see out the car window such as road signs, animals, wind farms, trucks, roadworks, traffic lights etc. Put these images into an activity sheet that the children can mark off when they see them. My children loved this Spot It activity more than any other activity on the trip. They completed their two sheets on the first half day of driving and next time I will create a series of Spot It activity sheets for each leg of the journey.

6) Keep a travel diary

Travel DiariesGive the children a small scrapbook each so that they can keep a travel diary. Things you include in a travel diary are photographs, thoughts about the trip, drawings of things seen throughout the day, spellings of town names, the craft activities done on the trip etc. At the end of each day, the children can ‘complete’ pages of the diary. Interview them and record their responses.

Here’s what my son saw from his car window on day one:Travel Diary DrawingsThis is what my daughter saw from her car window:

Travel Diary Drawings

7) Travel music and car audio books

MusicPlay music that is fun to listen to, it doesn’t have to be children’s music, it can be Beatles, Abba etc. The sky’s the limit. Sing along and teach the children the lyrics or let the music be a backdrop to watching the world go by. I also discovered that Target stock a whole selection of 10-15 minute children’s audio books. Pop in a CD and the children can follow the storyline in the book and turn the pages when they hear a chime.

8) Create a map for the journey

Sydney to Adelaide MapInvolve your kids with a map of the journey. Maps give children a sense of where they’re going and they can circle or mark off towns that they pass through. Scan a map from your road atlas or download a good online map and put it in a child friendly format. Even if your children can’t read, maps are valuable in helping them appreciate geography and a sense of time and distance covered.

9) Bring an iPad stocked with kids’ programs

Shaun the SheepThis is not necessary but it’s a great tool when everyone needs an hour or two of down time on the road. Load up some good kids movies or programs beforehand. A favourite program in our house is Shaun the Sheep. It’s funny and suitable for all ages.

10) Plan each travel day

Plan It

Let’s face it…spontaneity with small children is overrated. Plan where you will be stopping in advance, research the playgrounds in the towns where you will stop. Prepare some running / stretching games to do on the grass to get them moving in the breaks. The last thing you want the kids to do is sit down during a entire rest stop.

Inside the car we structure the travel day with a mix of activities like this:

  • Looking out the window and watching the world
  • Craft Activities
  • Sleep
  • Snacks
  • Movie on the iPad
  • Music / singalong

In closing…

Happy New Year from Outback NSWI want to say how much fun it was to do this big journey with my children. We live in a great big world with so much to see and do and traversing it by car created some amazing memories and experiences that we would not have had in airports or on an airplane. On the way back home we went off road a little a stayed in a cattle station in the middle of the Hay Plains and saw so many wonderful things such as emus running along next to our car and a sunset to die for. It’s often not practical to travel like this on a regular basis, but it makes something pretty extraordinary out of the ordinary if you do.

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2014 Christmas Card We are huge fans of awkward family Christmas photos. You can go here and here for inspiration. Over the past few years we’ve strived to achieve our own little measure of awkwardness at Chrissy time. I’ve always felt a bit shy to share these on the blog, but have a devil-may-care attitude this year. Cheesy Christmas cards are fun to do even though they’re a lot more effort than you’d imagine. My tips are to wear matching outfits, use a camera with a tripod / timer or take individual shots and crop and position the images into a collage. This year’s creative effort involved reindeers – which are a huge deal in the world of three year olds – and my newly acquired photoshop skills.2014 Chirstmas CardLast year we dressed up as life-sized presents. We were way too big and boxy to fit in the same shot so instead we achieved a nice effect by taking individual photos against a plain white wall and creating a simple collage. Christmas Card 2013Our inaugural effort in 2013 involved matching outfits with iron-on transfer mistletoe. Husband grew a mo and we put our scratchy cat into a Santa suit. It was impossible to get everyone looking and smiling at the same time, so we let them just do their thing and I loved the way it ended up. Who said ‘never work with animals or children’?!2012 Christmas Card

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Around Here

These past six months I’ve been studying graphic design as well as juggling parenting and work. It’s been intense. However it’s also been wonderful learning new skills and being around other creative like-minded people. I love being in a place where we can have in depth discussions about the finer points of printing on gloss v semi-gloss paper. I guess you could call it crack for crafty people.

In other news, we have been growing beetroot and kale in our garden. Kale is robust and plentiful but quickly takes over the garden. Beetroot are low-maintenance, well behaved vegetables that sit nicely in the soil until you’re ready to eat them. We tried growing cabbage, but it didn’t fare so well as it seemed to attract the entire insect population of our neighbourhood.BeetrootWe had our first visit from the tooth fairy, twice in two days in fact. Surely there’s nothing more gorgeous than a gap toothed smile. Our tooth fairy gives $2 a tooth. I’m not sure what the going rate is, but I’ve tried to factor in inflation since I was a child.Gappy TeethMy children are now suddenly big, independent creatures that are quite good company. To all the parents out there struggling with babies and toddlers…IT GETS EASIER. They seem to spend much of their days swimming, fighting, lego-making, snacking, fighting, crafting, cycling and fighting.Cheeky ChopsI’m really looking forward to the Christmas break and to celebrate the upcoming festivities, have some Christmas posts coming your way.

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Pizza for Picky PeopleIt’s a truth universally acknowledged that once you make your own pizza dough, it’s near impossible to buy a shop-bought base again. Not only is it insanely cheap (the cost of flour and a yeast sachet) but the results are incredibly delicious. It also becomes a family activity when you have the kids on the bench helping out with their own little ball of dough and a small rolling pin.

My trick for the little picky people in my life is to put a bunch of mixed vegetables into a food processor and blitz. The blitzed vegetables can be stirred into some organic tomato paste with a pinch of salt and pasted liberally over the pizza base and topped with grated cheese.

The pizzas look deceptively vegie free but are filled with all the sneaky goodness of kale, capsicum, mushrooms and carrot.

For a quick and easy pizza base recipe, try this one from taste.com.au.

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May the force be with youAnd Happy Fathers Day to my husband, who spends way too much time deliberating on the perfect age for our son to first watch Star Wars.

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Muddy Puddles

MP1We’ve just emerged from two weeks of torrential downpour in Sydney and the worst cabin fever I’ve ever seen in my children. This week the sun is back and the only evidence of rain is in the form of irresistible muddy puddles.

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Ten Things

  1. Why those pelvic floor muscle exercises might have come in handy.
  2. Of all the toys you can tread on barefoot in the night, the small die-cast airplane is the most painful.
  3. The extraordinary capacity of a human being to function without sleep.
  4. Supervising small children is a lot like herding cats.
  5. How to hide carrots in anything.
  6. To read the books, but parent with intuition.
  7. Time-out is not just for kids.
  8. Cuddles are like crack for mummies.
  9. Sometimes your kids do strange things. Don’t sweat it, just photograph it.
  10. Parenting is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but also the most joyful.

Happy Mothers Day xo

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On Strength


You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. Unknown

In many years time I might look back on this year as one of the most intense periods of my life. I returned to work part time after my second child, my husband began commuting interstate weekly for a work project and at times I was struggling to manage the children and the household. I was grateful to have my mum fly over from South Australia to help me child-wrangle for a little while. We had some joyful times starting a vegetable garden and have been ironing out all the little creases from moving house, including dealing with a horrible pre-existing cockroach problem.

Then in March the unspeakable happened. My beautiful mum, a healthy and active 56 year old, was diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma, an aggressive cancer of the bile duct that had spread to many other organs.

Within two weeks she had passed away.

Through mum’s diagnosis and her passing and funeral service, we have been living out of a suitcase interstate in hospital corridors and cafeterias. I’m grateful that between her six children, she didn’t have to spend a night alone in the hospital. I was able to spend two nights with her sleeping on a chair next to her bedside, and we were all with her, holding her and loving her as she passed away from us.

We have now returned to Sydney and back to our ‘normal life’. It is like I have been reborn seeing the world anew wearing ‘cancer goggles’. Most people I speak to seem to know someone dear to them that has been affected by or is affected by this wretched disease. My GP said 30% of people die from cancer. I have also found that losing someone gives you membership to a strange club where you find yourself connected to other people who have experienced loss. I know there’s supposed to be five stages of grief but my stages seem to be flying around all over the place like clothes in a tumble dryer. Flying in and out of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In such a time of loss I have been grateful for my two beautiful children. Kids have a way of making you get up in the morning. They just keep dragging you into the present when you want to hide in the past. They are big electromagnetic bundles of energy that keep you rooted in the moment. There’s nothing like bathing a wilful 20-month old or wiping Weet-bix from the walls to help keep your perspective.

I truly thought my mum would live to 86.  She was at the birth of my children, the first person I rang in any dilemma or crisis, the person I compared op-shop finds with and got excited about crafting pursuits with. She was the matriarch of the family, a mother of six and grandmother of 11. It’s hard to imagine another Christmas without her mediating the chaos and doting on our children.  I miss her fiercely and it’s near impossible to imagine a future without her. She lived an extraordinary life.

Rest in peace beautiful mother.

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