Celebrating Love The Simplified Way

Ah, anniversaries. They can be an interesting day, can’t they?

Some people forget them, others spend extraordinary amounts of money on gifts for their partners while some have a simplified yet special day.

How We Celebrate Love The Simplified Way

Mark and I have celebrated 11 wedding anniversaries and when I think back to each one, I smile. How we have celebrated is a reflection of whatever life stage we were experiencing at the time.

I was lucky to be home for our 4th wedding anniversary after giving birth to our second daughter 6 days earlier.

For anniversaries 4 to 8, we would buy Chinese food and a bottle of wine and drive down to our local beach, where we would watch the sunset and listen to the radio program “Love Songs And Dedications” (not because we were hopeless romantics but some of the callers made us laugh).

For our 9th we stayed at the Crown Metropol 5-star hotel in Melbourne and spent a night enjoying our city and staying in our luxury room. But then we realised we had to do something even more special for our 10th!

So we spent 2 nights at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne- which was the most relaxing weekend I have ever had, and our favourite anniversary. The hotel really made us feel special! Our annviersary coincided with the Chinese New Year and there were celebrations throughout the city. The day ended with a fireworks display which we watched from the top of the Eureka Tower.

 

 

Simplified anniversary

The hotel really made us feel special on our anniversary!

 

 

minimalism anniversary

 

 

 

simplified life

Chinese New Year celebrations viewed from the Eureka Tower, Melbourne.

 

 

This year for our 11th anniversary, we thought we would keep it simple but fun. We went ten-pin bowling in the city followed by dinner and a leisurely stroll along the Yarra river, to South Wharf where we have never visited before.

Each anniversary has been special to me because I got to spend the day with my husband, no matter what we did. And I think that’s what has made our anniversaries so memorable: we have focused on what’s most important and not what society tells us is important when celebrating an anniversary.

In fact, we don’t remember ever buying each other a gift! We have never cared about whether our anniversary theme is paper, clock, wool or leather. Who cares? Not us! What’s important to us is celebrating our love for each other. You don’t need gifts to do this.

Living a more simplified life is all about recognising and celebrating the important things, and leaving behind the stuff that truly does not matter.

Society places too much emphasis on materialism when celebrating relationship milestones- whether it’s buying a dozen red roses, a piece of jewellery from Tiffany’s or dinner at an exclusive restaurant. Just look at how commercialised Valentine’s Day is!

Society also places pressure on men to spend ridiculous amounts of money on their partners for their anniversaries. Many women expect lavish anniversaries and are disappointed when their partners don’t deliver.

We have friends whose partners have passed away, and friends whose partners are currently experiencing trauma or illness. Seeing what our friends are going through is a reminder to make each day count, and not just our anniversaries. It’s nice to celebrate our special day but our relationship is a lifelong commitment.

 

 

That’s why it’s important to create time each day to be with the one you love. Unfortunately for many people, the busyness of life sucks away the quality time that could be spent with their partner.

Before becoming unbusy, my husband and I would see other each for only 15 minutes a day during the week. He would work all day and come home, and I would then leave for work and work through until 11pm. That 15 minutes together was usually very stressful- he would be exhausted from work while I would be rushing in a panic. It was a bad time to have a conversation!

After creating a less busy life, my husband and I decided to make either Friday or Saturday night as our “date night” (depending on what night the football is on TV!). We have a love of movies from the 80s, so we pick something fun and share a bottle of wine and a laugh. But now that we are both unemployed (we were both laid off from our jobs in the last 10 months) we have all day together as well, and sometimes when the kids are at school and kinder we go hiking in the countryside or for a bike ride. We never would have dreamed of doing this 5 or 10 years ago!

If it’s a challenge for you to find the time to spend with your partner, then perhaps a good start is to set aside some time each day. It could be 30 minutes at the end of your day, or even a commitment to sit together and eat dinner. Set aside a “date night” either once a week or once a month when you commit to doing something together, even if it’s waiting until the kids are in bed and enjoying a quiet meal and a movie at home.

Do you celebrate an anniversary or relationship milestone? How do you celebrate? Do you find it a challenge to make the time to spend with your loved one?

Linking up with:

 

I Must Confess

 

A Child’s Life Teacher

Walk with child


 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can also be like a chain connecting us to feelings of guilt.

Oh, if I only knew about minimalism five years ago!

What do you wish you could go back and change?

I hope nothing. Every experience in our lives contains a lesson to be learnt, and sometimes these lessons repeat themselves until we finally “get it”.

Recently, I had a conversation with Miss 10 about some issues at school, namely friendships. She has had a bit of a rough time with friends at school, and hasn’t found that one true friend. She is usually the third wheel in a group of girls who have already built a solid friendship, so she tends to feel a little left out.

We spoke for a long time, and it was during this conversation that I was able to see another side to her situation. My heart ached for her, and I really felt sorry for what she was experiencing. I was also angry with some of the other kids at school and the way they had been behaving towards her.

I wished I could take back all her pain and the crap she had experienced over the past few years.

But then I had a light bulb moment.

Whenever I am experiencing something difficult in my life, I try to remind myself that there is a lesson to be learnt in this experience. Rather than feeling sorry for my daughter, and wishing I could protect her from these friendship problems, I decided to view her situation through different glasses.

I realised that these experiences were her “lessons to be learnt” and maybe they were repeating themselves because she had not yet learnt the lesson.

When I brought this up with her, it helped her make sense of what she had been going through. We even agreed that in a way, it was good that she was experiencing these issues now while still young, so that she could get a good understanding of what a true friend really is, and what behaviour is unacceptable. She could learn these lessons in a supportive environment, having her parents and her teacher to lean on. Then once she begins high school, she will have the opportunity to make new friends and will be a better judge of character.

But in this experience of listening to Miss 10, I also realised that a lesson had been presenting itself to me for a very long time but I was not “getting it”: I don’t think I was truly listening to the issues my daughter was coming to me with.

Each day she would come home and tell me about some of the arguments she was having with other girls, or incidents that I simply dismissed as petty arguments. You know how it is, one day girls argue then the next day they are best of friends.

But there was more to the story, and there was a lesson for me to learn: not to take my children’s issues lightly. Now, we cannot be problem solvers for every single thing that happens to our children, and we have to teach our children to be resilient, but I believe we also have to accept our children for who they are. Some are more sensitive than others, and that’s wonderful, because this world needs more sensitive people.

And what I may think is only petty or minor, could mean the world to my child. I can sit and listen to my child’s retelling of her day, or I could really listen to what she is saying and try to help her uncover what lesson she could learn.

I feel for those children who do not have the opportunity to spend quality time with their parents, or do not have anyone who can guide them through life’s tough moments, and help them uncover what lesson life is trying to teach them.

As parents, we can be our children’s “life teachers”, we can guide them on their journeys and help them uncover the lessons hiding behind every experience, no matter how small or insignificant we think an experience is.
And that’s where it helps to live a less busy life. We need to create more time for ourselves to spend with our children, to listen to their concerns and really be there for them. It’s not enough to listen with our ears, but keep our hearts and minds closed (or thinking about other things, such as what to cook for dinner or an upcoming client meeting).

Living an unbusy life also helps us to see things more clearly in our own lives- it helps us notice the things that we might normally think are small and trivial, when in fact they could be life changers in disguise!

5 Ways To A More Intentional And Less Stressful Christmas

 less stressful Christmas

 

“Where has the time gone?” seems to be one of the most common statements spoken at this time of the year.  Although we recognise that time is precious, sometimes we get caught up in the busyness of the holiday season that we forget to treat our time as precious.

But having a less busy life isn’t just about freeing up more time for ourselves. It’s about creating a more meaningful life, and making choices that allow us to spend our precious time in the most valuable way for ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. This all contributes to a less stressful Christmas!

Today I share with you some simple ways to use your time more intentionally this holiday season, so that you can create a more meaningful and less stressful Christmas for yourself and your loved ones.

 

5 Ways To Have A Less Stressful Christmas

 

  • Put more thought into gift purchases

 

Be more intentional when you are buying gifts for loved ones, by thinking about the person you are buying for. By being more intentional in your gift purchasing, you are also giving the gift of thoughtfulness and care, something that is priceless. Thoughtful gift purchases also reduce the likelihood of the gift ending up in landfill! Being intentional with gift purchasing does require more time and thought- set aside some time well before Christmas. Leaving everything to the last minute leads to a stressful Christmas and a higher chance of impulse shopping.

 

  • Spend quality time with your loved ones

 

We can often get caught up in the busyness of Christmas that we neglect to set aside time for our own families. By reducing our busyness, we can be more intentional and create time to spend with our loved ones. When we are running around trying to meet the demands of everyone else at this time of the year, we are forgetting to meet the needs of our own children. And we often create busy lives for our children- READ MORE ABOUT THAT HERE. But when we spend quality time with our children, we are not only strengthening family bonds but our stress levels decrease. This contributes to a less stressful Christmas!

 

  • Say no to distractions

 

December is a busy time for Christmas parties, and you can find yourself quickly filling your calendar with end of year celebrations. But how many of these Christmas parties should you attend? Try to prioritise the events that you decide to attend- the obvious ones would be your workplace and any events with your immediate family and friends. Many clubs or organisations you are associated with may host a Christmas party too, however it may pay to say no to some of these additional distractions. You need to save some time for yourself, which leads to my next tip…

 

  • Don’t forget about “You”!

 

A hectic holiday season often results in people becoming run down and getting ill at this time of year. Late nights, stress and poor eating habits (and too much booze!) all contribute to a weaker immune system and the possibility of getting sick. Try to make time for yourself each day, even if it is just for 15 minutes. Take a relaxing bath, go for a walk, phone a friend or spend some time cuddling your kids. There needs to be a balance between the time you give to others and the time you have for yourself. If you are giving more of your time to others, there is an imbalance and you will suffer as a result. Parents have been conditioned to feel guilt whenever they make time for themselves- this has to stop!

 

  • Let Go Of Expectations

 

It’s easy to get caught up in what we think the “perfect” Christmas should look like and be. If we let go of our expectations and spend December living more intentionally and in the present moment, we can learn to spend our time in ways that add value to our lives and those of our loved ones. Just because we have celebrated Christmas a certain way in the past, does not mean that we have to follow the same traditions and expectations if they no longer fit with our current lifestyle. Be honest with yourself: what works well, and what doesn’t work so well? A perfect Christmas is not what you see in magazines or on TV, but it’s what you make it. Don’t strive for perfect, strive for special. For more tips on how to create a less stressful Christmas event, please read HERE.

 

We can make small changes to the way we approach the holiday season. In doing so, we create a more fulfilling time of year that allows us to focus on the important aspects of the celebration of Christmas. We can create a less stressful Christmas just by making some wiser choices and being selective about the way that we want to approach this time of the year.

We can choose how we spend our time, so let’s be more intentional with our choices.

How are you intentional with your time at Christmas? What are some ways that you are creating a more meaningful celebration this holiday season? Please share!

 

 

Are Our Kids Too Busy?

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Image: followtheseinstructions

 

Piano, drawing, swimming, language classes, dancing, karate, football, tennis: our children are spoilt for choice when it comes to after school and weekend activities.

There are also play dates, birthday parties, vacations and outings to attend, not to mention somehow fitting in around six hours of schooling per day plus time for homework and studying for exams.

This is without factoring in time to just be kids, to play, or read, or spend time cuddling up with mum or dad.

Are we overscheduling our children and bringing them up to believe that busyness is the only way to live? Are we passing on some of our time-poor habits and misconceptions about what it means to live a meaningful life?

Are our kids too busy?

When my eldest daughter was our only child, I admit that I used to schedule something for her to do almost every day. Each week we attended a mother’s group gathering, a swimming lesson, and a “Gymbaroo” class, and when she was a little older we also started attending playgroup.

I was constantly having to drive around to different places, and would sometimes sit at playgroup half asleep, having worked late the previous night  and then being woken up early by our daughter, only to have to be at playgroup around 9am.

Fast forward a few years and two more children later, and the activities became less of a priority, mainly due to financial constraints but also a lack of time. My youngest only started her very first activity, swimming, about 8 weeks ago!

The thought of driving three children to activities was too much, and now we are trying to cut back on how much time we allow our children to spend in scheduled activities. Life is more “go with the flow” with lots of “chill out time” as well as the usual fun kid stuff.

I think as parents, we all try to do the best we can with what we know- each of us has different circumstances, needs, knowledge and experience, and so my views on children and busyness are not meant to offend or make parents feel guilty.

But imagine just for a moment, how different your life and your kids’ lives would be if the pace slowed down just a little?

Instead of rushing off to another activity, using this time to sit at home with a good book or cuddle up and talk?

Instead of scheduling something every day during school break/vacation, allowing the kids to have a break from their friends and to learn that it’s ok to have a day at home not doing much?

Instead of thinking our children need to start an activity from a very young age, waiting a few years until they are old enough to discover their talents or interests?

A happy childhood is rarely about the number of experiences a child has been exposed to, but the quality. Think back to your own memories of childhood: what are they?

For me, it was playing outside with my siblings and the neighbourhood kids, climbing trees and riding our bikes and not going home until dinnertime. It was reading Enid Blyton’s “The Enchanted Wood” and daydreaming about being lost in a forest with magical trees and worlds beyond imagination.

I played netball for 18 months and hated it. I never attended dance classes. I rarely had a play date with friends and birthday parties were attended by my siblings and cousins.

Do I feel like I had a deprived childhood? Do I feel like I missed out on anything? No!

Was I ever bored? Yes! Children need to learn it’s ok to be bored sometimes. Children need to learn that sometimes, you just have to sit and wait patiently for a few minutes without thinking you need to constantly be entertained and busy.

Busyness and constant distractions and entertainment do not add more meaning to our children’s lives: it prevents our children from learning what it is to truly live a happy and meaningful life.

Busyness gives children the wrong idea about what brings happiness to our lives, and what it means to be successful.

Let’s lead by example and start to slow down our own busy lives- lets embrace a journey of unbusyness, and show our children what it means to truly live a meaningful life.

Let’s embrace the years of childhood and enjoy the simpler things in life. Let’s stop living up to society’s expectations of what a childhood should look like.

Someday, your child will thank you for doing so.

What steps are you taking to slow down the busyness of you children’s lives? Share your comments!

 

 

Slow Down Challenge: Plant Something

Plant something

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Sharon Harding from Rediscovered Families. Thanks Sharon!

“There is a cost to a hurried life sans rest stops. And there is a richness to a more deliberate pace.” Jeff Goins

Life can be hectic and busy at the best of times, but life as a parent can get frantically busy.

We have so many different things competing for our time and attention. There are errands to run, places to be, and extra curricular activities to fit into our overcrowded schedules. On top of that there are the endless demands of our homes and gardens. Then there is the approaching holiday season.

ARGH!

The trouble is when we live frantic lives we can end up moving through life in fast-forward mode. Which really isn’t much of a life at all.

Our lives are not a race to the end. They are journeys of wonder that should be savoured and enjoyed.

If we can slow down just a little perhaps we can start to enjoy that journey with our families. Families that slow down tend to

  • Experience less stress
  • Enjoy a greater sense of creativity
  • Learn to appreciate the small things in life
  • Have the space to develop deeper relationships

An effective way for families to slow down is to make some space for a slow activity, something that can’t be rushed. One such activity is planting. You simply cannot hurry a seed. It will germinate and grow at it’s own pace. You can’t really hurry a garden either. It will develop and evolve over time.

Planting is also a really fun thing to do with children. There is something almost magical about germination that delights and amazes them. And you get to play in the dirt! It doesn’t get better than that!

This is the perfect time of year to plant something.

  • If you are living in the southern hemisphere you are right in the middle of the growing season and I am just a tad jealous!
  • If you are living in the northern hemisphere there is still time to plant bulbs.
  • If you don’t have a garden try planting something in a pot. It works just as well.

When you go to plant encourage your children to pause for a moment and hold the seed or bulb in their hand. Express amazement that everything the plant needs to grow is contained in that one tiny seed or bulb. Wonder how big the plant will grow. Imagine what it will look like. While you are planting invite your children to talk about previous experiences of planting and growing seeds. You might ask

  • How long did it take the plants to grow?
  • What was the first sign that the plant was growing?
  • How can we help the plant to grow?

When planting with your children remember to keep it simple. If you are planting a garden it doesn’t have to be picture perfect. It doesn’t have to be a huge project. In fact a few plants are better than none. While you are planting release the pressures of everyday life for a brief moment. Just treasure the precious moments with your children and enjoy a slower pace of life for a little while.

Some resources to help you

Dirt and Boogers posted The Beginner’s Guide to Planting with Kids.

It has all kinds of helpful advice and links.

Houzz posted Gardening with Kids: How to Plant Bulbs. It gives you some interesting information and has some amazing pictures.

So tell me what will you plant this week? In what ways do you find that gardening helps you to slow down and simplify your life?

If you would like to read more of my work you can catch up with me at Rediscovered Families. I write about building relationship and creating deep connections with your family. You can also catch with me on Facebook and Twitter. We have lots of fun over there and I would love to have you visit.

Play in the dirt

‘Tis The Season To Be Unbusy

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

With the festive season fast approaching, we’ll soon start thinking about family gatherings, food, decorations, gifts and while it is a fantastic opportunity to connect with the ones who are most special to us, for many it is a time of busyness, anxiety and stress.

The busyness can come from the actual planning, organisation and execution of the event, or from trying to live up to the general expectation that it is a season of giving, of happiness, and of love, even though things don’t always pan out that way.

When we see television commercials advertising Christmas, we see attractive looking people all gathering around a gorgeously decorated Christmas tree, or sitting at a table with an amazing spread of food cooked to perfection (no undercooked turkey!) with everybody smiling and laughing, and they are all dressed in white (I think that part must be an Australian summer thing!).

Although this seemingly picture-perfect scenario may make some people strive for a similar outcome, the reality is that setting such high expectations results in busyness that quickly diminishes any possibility of a joyous occasion.

Prior to my unbusy journey, I enjoyed organising gatherings such as my kids’ birthday parties. I would begin planning months in advance, firstly by selecting a “theme” and then spending hours on the internet and visiting retail stores trying to find the perfect decorations to match the theme. I spent hundreds of dollars setting up the event.

The night before the party, I would stay up all hours baking and decorating elaborate birthday cakes, each year trying to outdo myself: a carousel, teddy bear, giant cupcake, rainbow layer cake…My husband hated the night before a party, because he knew it would end with me stressing out over melting icing, or not being able to work with the fondant. It all had to be perfect.

And then of course the day of the event was always so stressful and busy, running around setting everything up and making sure all the guests were being fed and entertained. There was never any time to mingle with anyone, and I would almost always forget to stop and eat!

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the gatherings we had and my children loved their birthday celebrations, but the busyness associated with entertaining finally took its toll on all of us.

After beginning my unbusy journey, I realised that I could still entertain but in a way that did not create a day of busyness, stress and anxiety.

Here are some ways that entertaining can be simpler, more enjoyable and less busy:

 

  1. Change your expectations: By reducing your expectations and not trying to recreate a television commercial, you can focus your energy on actually enjoying being in the company of others.

 

  1. Ask for help: You are not being weak if you admit you need help, and most people like to be able to assist. When my in-laws have their Christmas party, each family brings a plate of food to share and helps out with the cleaning up afterwards. My kids also love setting the table.

 

  1. Downsize your gathering: Instead of holding an elaborate dinner party or buffet lunch, opt for a simpler option such as an informal “coffee and cake” gathering, or just going to visit family members without sharing a meal.

 

  1. Smaller guest list: Yes this can be difficult, as we don’t like to offend anyone but reducing the numbers can make a huge difference in reducing busyness. My kids no longer have parties with over 20 children attending- they now invite a few close friends to go to the movies or ten pin bowling with. Less stressful for everybody.

 

  1. Focus on what you can control: Family gatherings can be stressful when certain people don’t get along or if there is tension in the room. Although you cannot control how others behave, you can control the way you react to and perceive the people attending your gathering. By responding to negativity in a positive way, or at least not reflecting the same type of response, there is a chance that the situation will diffuse itself.

 

  1. Enjoy the moment: Learn to relax and enjoy the moment, rather than worrying about all the cleaning up you need to do afterwards. Things happen: someone drops a glass, there are muddy footprints on the floor, the cake was under baked, the Jones family arrived three hours late. Accept the hiccups, and move on.

 

By removing the busyness out of organising a family gathering, party or event, we can learn to focus on enjoying the day for what it is: the chance to spend time and connect with those around us, in celebration of life regardless of whether it is Christmas, Thanksgiving, a birthday or other occasion. We remember these occasions for the way they made us feel at the time, not what decorations were hanging or what colour scheme was followed.

How do you celebrate special occasions- are you a perfectionist with high standards and expectations or do you prefer to keep things unbusy and relaxed? Share your stories and tips!

 

Natalie

When You Are Too Busy For Friends

Friendship

 

I have a confession to make: when it comes to making friends and friendships, I’m pretty hopeless. Not intentionally! I have always only had a small number of people around me that I consider real “friends”, even though I have many acquaintances and chat to many people in my day to day life.

That isn’t to say that you can judge a person by the number of friends he or she has. When it comes to friendships, I strongly believe in quality over quantity.

I’m hopeless because I have let so many friendships, or potential friendships, slide away because I was always too busy to keep up with everyone. Sometimes months and years would go by before I would see a friend. One of my oldest friends: we would see each other once every two or three years and the beauty was that when we did finally catch up, it was as though we had just seen each other the previous week. Time never mattered to us, and we both understood that we were leading completely different lives with different priorities.

But ideally, we should be making more time to cultivate strong friendships because friends are people who bring us happiness and help us out when we are in need. Friends are an extension of our families and in many cases, friends ARE our families. As the saying goes, we can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends.

An article in the Huffington Post in 2012 outlined the results of a British study into friendships amongst middle aged people and found that people aged in their 50s who had at least 6 close friends were happier than those who had fewer or no friends. The article also pointed out that there have been studies that show that friendships have just as much an impact on the risk of death as smoking, obesity, drinking and physical activity do.

But why are we too busy for our friends? What makes us put busyness ahead of friendships?

Investment in the wrong friendships

Often the issue surrounding spending the time with our friends and working on our friendships is that we often invest time with the wrong types of friends- people who in fact are not our friends and do not deserve our friendship. This brings about feelings of resentment, anger, stress and tiredness. Who wants to spend time with someone who brings us down, someone who brings out the worst in us? Yes friends are allowed to have disagreements and issues, but there comes a time when we have to cut ourselves free from this type of friendship and accept that it’s time to move on.

Our time is valuable, and we want to spend our valuable time with people we care about who nurture us and bring out the best in us. These are the kinds of people we want to hang out with, laugh with and share life’s special moments with.

Getting caught up in life

When we begin a new stage in our lives, sometimes our friends take a back seat. It could be that we have married before our friends have, or have started a family and are going through different trials and tribulations to what our friends are. This can cause two friends to suddenly find that they no longer have anything in common, or they have to make more of an effort to find the time to spend together.

I can definitely attest to this. Getting married, having kids and moving to a new part of the city caused me to become so focused in what I was doing that I drifted away from many friends I had beforehand. Again, not intentionally, but because we were leading different lives. I didn’t feel like going out on a Friday night when I had a baby I was breastfeeding. Sitting at home in my pyjamas watching TV started sounding more appealing than weekends out partying. That’s just life.

But when we start to focus more on things that are not truly important, and we are so stuck in our busyness that we can’t even look up to see what’s going on around us, that’s when we need to start asking ourselves whether our priorities need to be shifted. Are you working two jobs, not having the time to spend with those you care about and not seeing your friends because you need more money to be able to buy more things: a bigger house, better car, better appliances? Are these things that important to you that you are willing to stop spending time with friends? Lose a valuable friendship over?

Our own definitions of friendship

How we define friendships may play a role in the amount of time we invest in them. Do we hold onto friendships we have had for over 20 years regardless of what is going on in the present moment- are we turning a blind eye to things that are hurting us, because we have known Johnny since we were five years old? Are we too afraid to get out there and meet new people? Do we have a “comfort zone” of close friends and are too comfortable to introduce someone new to our group? Is making friends more difficult when you are an adult than when you are a child? The answers to these questions may be contributing to not creating new friendships.

Today is the International Day of Friendship, a day to think about the friendships we currently  have and maybe look forward to the new people we will be friends with in years to come. Let’s try and spend a few minutes today catching up with our mates: maybe a quick phone call, a text or email. Let’s think about the types of friendships we now have- are there any that we can begin to let go of? Let’s spend some time engaging in a conversation with someone new we have just met. Who knows where the friendship will lead to?

 

When Playing Uno Takes Priority

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

Today, washing the dishes came second to playing with my kids.

If you visited my home today (and I’m glad you didn’t), you would have seen a kitchen bench covered in pots, pans, plates and cutlery, some leftover food and a couple of glasses and mugs. But you would have also seen a mother and two of her children playing Uno and Trouble, and having a laugh.

Miss 6 was home sick with a cold, and instead of making her rest in bed while I carried on with my day, she wanted to play games with me. She begged me for about two hours, and I finally gave in after my second coffee, and I’m so glad I gave in to her. We spent three hours playing, laughing and teaching Miss 4 the difference between a number “2” card and a “Draw 2”.

I could have refused to play with my girls- I had plenty of other things that I could have occupied my time with as there’s always something you can do to distract yourself, but sharing a special moment like this together with my kids is something that I will someday look back on with fondness. The housework will always be around, bills will always have to be paid and groceries will always need to be purchased, but a child wanting to play a game with her mother may not last many more years.

One day, mum will be uncool to hang out with and friends will take priority.

It’s like that old Harry Chapin song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”, where the father is too busy to play ball with his son and before he knows it, his son is a grown man who has turned out just like him- too busy to spend time with his father. The sad irony.

Kids remember things about their childhoods that you would not expect them to remember- not the expensive toys they owned, but the random moments that we consider trivial. Miss 10 remembers throwing an apple core out the car window, and every time we drive past the place where she threw the apple core, she brings up the story.

Playing Uno and Trouble today is probably going to be Miss 6’s “apple core” story- something she will talk about in years to come- and I’m glad to have sacrificed a clean house for a memory my kids can cherish forever.

Let It Snow

Growing up, I always wanted to go to the snow and every winter I would constantly nag my parents to take us. Dad hated the stuff, having grown up in the northern hemisphere with very cold winters and the pitfalls of living in sub-zero temperatures (and apparently walking kilometres to school in the snow in bare feet- this seems to be a common story told by European parents and dad assures me its a bit exaggerated!).

Finally, my parents decided that the following day they would take the family to the snow for the very first time. But the next morning, we all woke up with chicken pox! So our family snow trip never eventuated.

Fast forward 25 years and my husband and I finally decided to take our own family to the snow. This would be my first taste of snow in Australia but I had been to a ski resort in Europe, although during the middle of a horrible blizzard so I didn’t venture outside for very long!

We took the family to a mountain about 90 minutes drive from Melbourne’s CBD, Lake Mountain. This is a fairly small mountain which is easy to drive to and is ideal for families wanting to play in the snow without forking out hundreds of dollars to stay on the resort. There is cross-country skiing available and they do offer ski lessons for those wanting to be a bit more adventurous.

The resort has a restaurant and a gift shop, as well as a place to hire all equipment including ski’s and toboggans. We had previously purchased snow clothing from Aldi, including boots and gloves but didn’t think to bring beanies to cover our heads- myself and Miss 6 purchased beanies from the gift shop. We hired one toboggan to share between us at a cost of $32, but I believe these can be hired for a smaller price from one of the nearby towns such as Marysville.

 

Building a snow man at Lake Mountain

Building a snow man at Lake Mountain

 

Tobogganing was a huge hit with the kids and adults alike! Fortunately when we arrived around 10am the crowds weren’t too bad, and I have been advised that some days (especially school holiday weekends) can be extremely busy that they end up closing the resort gates by late morning so its best to arrive as early as possible. Plus the snow is nicer before the masses have trodden all over it!

Once the kids got tired from tobogganing, we went back to our car where we enjoyed our packed lunch. We kept it simple with homemade sandwiches and a treat for the kids and our own bottles of water (food can get expensive at these kinds of places!), while I packed myself a thermos with leftover dinner. We saw other families around us doing the same thing- one family had packed their own homemade rice dishes!

Following lunch, the kids decided they wanted to build a snowman so we made our way over to an area away from the tobogganing action, where one could play around in the snow or even take a nature walk. Have you ever tried walking in snow? Its as tiring as walking on sand at the beach!

We worked on the snowman together, except for Miss 6 who decided she wanted to build a mini-version of a snowman which funnily enough looked a lot like Olaf from the Disney movie Frozen:

Olaf from Frozen?

Olaf from Frozen?

 

We finished off our day with some more tobogganing before saying goodbye to Lake Mountain.

Lake Mountain ski resort

Lake Mountain ski resort

 

Goodbye Lake Mountain!

Goodbye Lake Mountain!

 

For those wanting to venture out to Lake Mountain or any other ski resort, here are some tips to keep your trip unbusy and enjoyable:

-Plan to arrive at the resort earlier in the morning to avoid traffic or the possibility of the resort turning you away due to large crowds. This also allows you to enjoy the snow before the large crowds arrive.

-Check before leaving if chains on your car tyres are required. On the day we visited, the roads were clear and no chains were required.

-Take a packed lunch from home to avoid expensive purchases at the kiosk.

-Pack beanies! These were more effective than the hoodies attached to our ski jackets.

-Pack a spare outfit for each person in case of wet clothing. Also bring along a garbage bag to store wet ski clothing.

-Pack some “eyes” and a carrot, scarf etc…for a snowman!

-Remember that it is very cold and that younger children don’t cope with the cold as well as older children or adults. Expect that you may not be able to stay all day long. We stayed for four hours, but the younger two started complaining about the cold after 2 hours.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve taken a trip to the snow with the family and have some other tips to share, let me know!

Quality Time With Your Children

Image: Herbal Academy of New England

Image: Herbal Academy of New England

 

When it comes to parenting our children, one of the most valuable things we can give is our time.

Through quality time spent with our children, not only are we able to create lasting memories and watch them grow, but we can also discover qualities about our children that we may have otherwise overlooked: their talents, dreams and fears, their quirks, likes and dislikes.

Recently, through spending some time with one of my children, I realised she no longer enjoyed taking dance classes. We had spent the year driving her each week to her lessons, buying uniforms and thinking about costumes that I had overlooked the possibility that she was no longer interested in dancing. She had told me a couple of times that she felt tired after school and I sometimes struggled to get her changed into her dance uniform, but I just dismissed this as being a one-off instance or just typical school kid tiredness.

However, there’s something to be said for being in tune with our kids’ needs, and this can only be done through spending quality time with them. Quality time doesn’t have to be time spent at a holiday resort- it can be as simple as asking them how their day went or having a conversation at the dinner table. The more time we spend with our kids, the better we get to know them.

When we take time out of our busy schedules to be with our kids and get to know them, we know when something doesn’t sound right with them or something is out of the ordinary or uncharacteristic of them. Time spent with our kids helps strengthen our intuitive voices which ring alarm bells when something doesn’t feel right.

Strengthening our intuitive powers helps us become better advocates for our children.

It’s like taking your child to the doctors and being told that they are fine and their complaint is probably nothing. But you have that niggling feeling that there is actually something more that has been overlooked. That feeling of intuitiveness comes from being a parent that has spent quality time with her/his child.

Quality time can be created regardless of how busy we think we are:

-During breakfast, I sit with the kids and we talk about whatever they feel like. There have been some interesting conversations about problems at school, how to bake bread and how to become the Prime Minister of Australia.

-Driving home from school, I always ask my kids how their day was and what did they learn. Sometimes they answer “nothing”, but most of the time they tell me something interesting about their day.

-Cuddles on the couch, even just for a couple of minutes. A little snippet of time together can lead to a moment of connection and conversation.

-Watching them during their after school activities. When my daughter has her swimming lesson, I make sure I am watching her and not distracting myself with Facebook. I can tell she is happy when she looks over and sees her mum watching her!

In what ways do you create quality time with your children?