Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing Letters to Your Children

Today I have started a tradition that I hope I can keep up. I wrote my first letter to my future, grown up daughter.

The inspiration hit me last night and these letters serve as a way for me to document my children's quirks, personality, my thoughts and my continual love for them. As morbid as this sounds, I want these letters to talk directly to my children just in case I'm not around to do it in person. Nobody will ever be able to convey just how much I adore being their mother more than I can.

This first letter to my daughter documents her excitement about starting school next year. Something I am both equally excited and sad about. Her enthusiasm for 'big school' is infectious, yet I am apprehensive about sending her to school 5 days a week. My letter reflects both her feelings and my angst about this new chapter and if I've made the right decision. I hope this letter will instill a newfound respect in her for the amount of thought I have given to almost every decision I've made on her behalf in the past 5 years.
My letter also discusses her excitement about turning 5 next month, the party we have planned and her current door slamming tantrum style.

I am not sure how I am going to store these letters yet, but it will need to be pretty. A nice notebook maybe. A jazzed up display folder perhaps? Something to ponder anyway. I am also hand writing each letter. It does take time (especially in a world where old school writing is almost defunct) and it hurts my hand a little, however, I think it will hold extra meaning for my children seeing their mother's own handwriting on each page.

So why write a letter for your children?
  • It strengthens the connection between you and your child. 
  • It documents their personality, their milestones, funny things they say, their behaviour and more. 
  • It conveys your love for your child like no one else can. 
  • It expresses your dreams and vision for your child. 
  • It's fun to predict their future and see how spot on or not you were!
This website and this website have some terrific ideas on what to write about when writing letters to your children. I am choosing to write when I feel inclined to and not to any particular schedule.

While I will write about my dreams and intentions for the kids in future letters, my main goal is to record our family's little history and to try and articulate just how very loved they are. My actions may not always convey that. I get tired, cranky, impatient and snappy like everyone else. Regardless, there is never going to be anyone who will ever love those kids like I do and I hope these letters I write will express that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Medicine Charts for Sick Kids

Dealing with sick, cranky kids is never pleasant. And in our house, sick kids = a poor night's sleep. A poor night's sleep = an extra forgetful mummy.

One thing we're guilty of in the past, is forgetting to give our kids their prescribed medicines. A bit silly really when we've made the effort to go to the doctor's, paid for the medicine and have a child who is desperate to feel normal again. 

With my own little poppet battling a very nasty chest infection, I created a Medicine Chart to a). remind me to give her the medicine and b). keep track of each dosage given. 

Below is a copy of my daughter's Medicine Chart, but you can easily create your own customised Medicine Chart on the computer or even on a blank piece of paper.

 How To Create Your Own Medicine Chart:
1. Open a Program - I use Publisher for almost everything, but you can create your chart in Excel, Word or any other program that can have a table inserted. If using paper, have a ruler handy.

2. Add Your Information - At the top of the chart, clearly identify who the chart is for (with the child's full name), with the dosage amount, how often the dosage needs to be given and where the medicine should be stored all written down too. This information will prove handy for any other parents, carers or babysitters looking after your child during this time.

3. Insert a Table - Select the amount of rows and columns that work with the medicine's dosage requirements. I created a column for each required dosage (three times daily) plus a column to label what day of the week it is. Then create enough rows for each day of the week or until the medicine runs out.

4. Other Medication - On the demo chart above, I also added room to keep track of Panadol usage. When your little one is dealing with pain and high fevers at all hours and you're dealing with sleep deprivation, it can be difficult to keep track of each Panadol dosage given or if there's been enough time since their last dose. Allowing room to record each dosage and preferably at what time, will ensure you don't exceed the daily limit written on the label. If your child is on additional medication (as per your doctor's approval), you may wish to add additional rows for this or create a separate chart.

5. Print it Off - Keep your Medicine Chart on the fridge or any other visible area. Keep a pen close by to tick off and record each dosage.
If you have a repeat prescription, simply print off a new chart to record this new information. You may want to destroy or remove the old chart to avoid confusion.
If you have multiple children who are sick, I would recommend using ONE chart for EACH child. Try colour coding them for easier reference.

If you do use one of these Medicine Charts, be sure to let your partner know and let them know how to use it. In our house, however, we find it works best when one person (usually me) is the Chief Medicine Giver and is therefore responsible for all medicine administrations, unless otherwise specified.

For us, this chart means my daughter's getting her medicine in the dosage it was intended and helps my baby get better sooner. I know when my sleep is being disturbed, the days can start blurring into one, so this nifty chart takes away the stress of remembering each dosage on my own.

Here's hoping you all have a healthy run through the dreaded 'cold and flu season' and don't have to use this Medicine Chart too many times!

P.S. Got your own tips on keeping track of medications? Let us know.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Painting with Kids

So far in my children's short lives, I've kept the amount of times we have to paint to an absolute minimum, preferring to keep any messy craft activities as an exclusive part of their preschooling/daycare experience. Truth be told, there's just something about the thought of my kids being let loose near paint that sends me into a cold sweat.

Realising though my little cherubs are getting older and needing a little extra stimulation in order to prevent boredom, I've recently admitted defeat and am now trying to include more paint time into our stay at home schedule.

In any case, today's painting mission was actually alright. The kids were entertained for a while, they squished paint through their hands, experimented with colour and when I overheard my youngest exclaim how much fun he was having, I knew I'd done the right thing - despite the mild panic attacks I went through!

For future paint sessions, I'll be bearing the following tips in mind to ensure our painting time goes as smoothly (and as cleanly) as possible:

1. Have everything ready - This means getting your paints, paper, several old towels or cloths, smocks, easel, paintbrushes & containers out and ready to go before the kids get started. Find a suitable area in or outside of your house and set everything up there.

2. Cover up - Don't let your kids wear anything you wouldn't want paint to ruin, no matter how 'washable' the paint is supposed to be. If the weather's warm enough, strip your kids off. Otherwise dress them in old clothes or buy some art smocks.

3. Keep it clean - To stop little paint footprints covering your house, have an old towel on the floor ready for the kids to wipe their feet on or catch any spills as they occur. Alternatively, you may like to cover the floor with a cheap, disposable tablecloth that you can pick up for a few dollars in the party section at Spotlight (which I have continued to reuse & even machine wash successfully several times). Keeping an old, damp cloth on stand by is also a great way to wipe down your art easel or other equipment before the paint dries.

4. Paper rolls - The best $10 I have ever spent was on a roll of butcher's paper bought from my local newspaper (also known as an 'end of roll'). Our roll will probably take the whole year to finish, a bargain considering how much we've used in the past two weeks. For your painting session, roll a large sheet of the paper onto the floor or cut into appropiate sized sheets. Whatever works for you.

5. Set a limit - Unless you want all your paint & paper wasted gone in one paint session, discuss setting a limit with your children. While this isn't a necessary step, it will keep the amount of mess you need to clean up down a little and hopefully prevent a tantrum when you unexpectedly announce paint time is over. So give your kids three sheets of paper each, a certain amount of paint to use or set a time limit. Once their limit's been reached, it's time to clean up. 

5. Add in some learning - No doubt, learning works best when it's hands on and fun! Draw some shapes, letters, numbers or animals onto one of your child's sheets of paper and get them to paint it in. Don't forget to let your kids have some freestyle painting fun while they're at it!

6. Use little paintbrushes - At first, I was cursing the fact I only had little paint brushes, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The smaller brushes worked out easier for the kids to hold, gave them greater control and significantly reduced the amount of excess paint dripping onto the floor. Not to mention, you'll get a few extra minutes out of the activity since the little brushes take them a little longer to paint with :P

7. All over, red rover - When the kids are finished (or bored with painting), use an old cloth to wipe off any paint from their hands and arms before you march them towards the bathroom. Better yet, clean them outside under the hose with a towel or two you've set aside for cleaning and drying your child. If using the bathroom to wash up, place a hand towel over the basin so that it hangs down over your cupboards to catch any paint transferred from your child's clothes. Carefully remove their painting clothes/smock and throw them into the washing machine immediately along with any other towels, cloths, etc used during your painting time. Use your old cloths to wipe any equipment down as well removing any paint from your brushes.

So my next step here will be purchasing some proper paints and accessories to make paint time a little more exciting for the kids. And slowly, but surely I will be relaxing in the fact that I am embracing messy activities into our lives!

P.S. Have you got any painting tips that work for you? Any paint activities your kids love doing?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Alphabet Collage - Part 1

If your kids love craft time as much as mine do, this Alphabet Collage is a great little activity to do with your toddlers.

I know I've said it before and I'm going to say it again, but preparation really is the key to ensuring you enjoy these craft/activity times as much as your kids do. You'll feel more in control plus there seems to be less mess involved when our activities have been prepared in advance.

But moving on to our collage. Inspired from other learning blogs, I have tweaked this activity to suit our learning style and what resources I have on hand.

Step 1, print your A, B & C outlines.

Step 2, print off your worksheet with assorted images beginning with the letters a, b & c (hence the part 1 title. As more worksheets are developed they will be posted on this blog). Since I'm unsure how to insert PDF documents, this image below will have to do! Please contact me or leave a reply below for the original worksheet.

Step 3, cut out your letter outlines and all those individual little images. These can be all mixed together since part of the learning process involves sorting through the various a, b & c images and gluing them to the appropriate page.

Step 4, allow your child to colour in or decorate the letter outlines as they see fit. Glue them onto separate pieces of paper (I've used different coloured paper for each letter). As an alternative to this step, you may like to make your letter outlines large enough for the pictures to be glued inside of the actual outline instead of surrounding it like I will be doing. 

Step 5, let your children sort through the images and glue them onto the correct page. For example, all cars, cats and cameras will be glued around our letter C.

And just to emphasise the point of being organised, this is how my planned activites will now live. I have labelled a spare document wallet (now called Planned Kid's Activities), which quite rightly stores any planned activities or craft ideas I may have in store for the kids later on in the day or for tomorrow.

When not in use, our Planned Kid's Activities wallet will now reside in my newly organised and recently beautified errands zone/station (see below). I like to keep my little folder close by so that I can add ideas and worksheets whenever inspiration strikes and have all necessary bits and pieces ready to go when I get a chance to do so. It also makes life easier when I need a stand by activity to keep the kid's amused, particularly during all this wet weather we've experienced.

There you have it. A quick, easy and relatively mess-free activity to perform with your kids. 

P.S. How do you fit in learning/craft activities with your kids? Is it a structured thing or unplanned?

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Days of Christmas Activities

One thing I've recently noticed about myself, is how much I look forward to events and social activities, with Christmas being no exception. Since I'm married to an introvert and a man who works physically hard for a living, I don't participate in nearly as many social gatherings/activities as I'd like to. I know for me, I'm a happier and more spirited (and less panic attack prone) person when I have something fun to look forward to.

I then had the realisation *insert lightbulb moment here* that I could essentially 'create' my own events to look forward to. This would help make every moment, even the little ones, become an exciting event that I can prepare for, involve my kids with, countdown towards and ultimately enjoy the buzz that comes with celebrating the big day.

It was perfect timing then for me to read the Super Organiser Mum's latest blog entry: Our 12 Days of Christmas. As I read through it, I knew this was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do with my kids. Spending quality time with the kids? Check. Keeping them entertained through the holidays? Check. Having fun? Check. Creating a new Christmas tradition we could all enjoy? Check.

To elaborate a little further on the Super Organiser Mum's 12 Days of Christmas blog, I've broken the process down and added some further hints to help you create your own fantastic Christmas activity list.

1. Write a list of 12 activities - Most of my activities (see below) were copied from the Super Organiser Mum's blog, but I did add a few new ones to fit in with our schedule. Some alternative activity ideas include: Make your own egg nog, Do a Christmas jigsaw puzzle, Make a gingerbread house, Make your own Christmas wreath, Work on a Holiday Scrapbook, Make your own Christmas cards, Do some Christmas crafts, Host a Christmas Themed Morning Tea and much more!

Here are my completed Christmas activities.

2. Mark your calendar - To make this idea work for you, it helps to co-ordinate your 12 activities with local events and your current schedule. We have several birthdays and parties to attend during this period, so I had to make some of our activities work around this.

First of all, I would suggest numbering each day on your calender with 1 to 12 (shown above). Writing in any set events like Carols by Candlelight on the appropiate day. I also matched up some of our activities to work in with the kid's last days of preschool and swimming lessons so we could present their teachers with a small homemade gift. I then added a little activity abbreviation for each day before finalising our list.

If you start your 12 days of Christmas activities today, it will end neatly on the 25th. You may want to start a day earlier (ending on Christmas eve) for future Christmases, but it's up to you. 

3. Get decorating - Once you've got your activities written down and matched up for each day, it's time to make them pretty! I wrote my numbers and activities out in Publisher, found a nice font and printed them off. Then I cut them out and glued them onto some spare scrapbooking paper.

4. Make an accompanying To Do List - This is your special mummy list to write down any additional notes or instructions for each of your planned activities. Mine includes addresses of Christmas lights to look at, supplies I need to buy beforehand and any prep work I might need to do the night before.

As an extra daily activity for my children, I've also printed off a colouring in page for each day. My daughter wants to send today's colouring in picture with her letter to Santa, but our other pictures will be proudly stuck up around the house. You could also use these pictures as part of your Holiday scrapbook, incorporate them into your gift wrapping, or frame them to make re-usable Christmas decorations.

If all of this appeals to you, but you need some time to plan, simply start today with Writing a Letter to Santa. You'll find a link above for the Australia Post website with Santa's address and letterheads you can print off. If you send your letter before the 17th, you'll get a reply from Santa! Alternatively, try these Loo Roll Christmas Fairies as a quick and easy Christmas craft to get you started.

Some of the fairies we created yesterday.  Gotta love no-mess crafts!

All credit for this fantastic idea (and many others) goes straight to Jade aka Super Organiser Mum. Please check out her blog for some terrific decorating and organising ideas suitable for all mums.

P.S. Have you got a fun Christmas activity to add? Or a cool craft idea? Let me know.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tis The Season (For Tomatoes and Berries)

A new subject that holds a lot of interest for me, is seasonal eating. Among the growing list of things we can easily do to reduce our environmental impact (and be healthier people) is eat fruits and vegetables that are currently in season.

Walk into any supermarket and you're likely to see the same varieties of fruits and vegetables on display all year long. We've grown so accustomed to seeing items like broccoli, bananas and potatoes available all the time, that most of us don't even question how they got there or whether they should even be there!

There's a number of reasons why eating seasonally makes a lot of sense:
1. In-season produce has a higher nutritional value - Produce that is out-of-season has either had to travel incredibly long distances (mainly being imported from overseas) or has been picked prior to being ripe (meaning it will only retain its pre-ripeness nutritional level). Either way, this produce has generally lost most of its nutritional content during transit since B vitamins and vitamin C break down very quickly.

2. It tastes better - Since seasonal produce doesn't need to travel as far, it arrives to its final destination (and ultimately your mouth) in a much better and much fresher condition. Put simply, fresher produce = better flavour. There's no denying that eating something that is perfectly ripe, grown in the right season, during peak weather conditions is going to taste several times better than an imported or artificially ripened version.

3. It saves you money - In-season produce naturally grows more abundantly, meaning you pay less money at the checkout. As someone who has previously shopped at the supermarket and is now a farmers market convert, I can personally vouch for the markets being more affordable and offering a better quality product. Since I'm also paying in cash at each stall, I give each purchase careful thought about IF and HOW it will get eaten before buying. This also means reduced food wastage at home.

4. It's better for the environment - Since in-season fruits and vegies require less resources (including heating/cooling/lighting/pumped water/chemicals) to flourish, they have a remarkably reduced impact on our environment. Local food also uses less fuel, transport and refrigeration energy.

5. It may prompt weight loss - Eating seasonally means you'll be eating foods that mother nature intended you to eat during that particular season. Fruits and vegetables produced in one season can often have significantly different nutritional values than those produced in the opposite or even following season. This could suggest, for example, that eating winter vegetables designed to help your body store fat more effectively can encourage weight gain when eaten in summer and other seasons since you'll be storing fat all year long. There's also the issue of taste. If in-season produce tastes better, you'll naturally be more inclined to eat healthier.

6. You'll reduce your chemical exposure - Locally grown, seasonal produce doesn’t require any genetic altering to make it withstand long journeys, needs little to no pesticides, no artificial growth hormones, no artificial ripening, has less exposure to exhaust fumes (from transport) or any other chemicals that can adversely affect our health. Plants grown in season are growing ‘naturally’ and will automatically require less chemicals and fertilisers.

Eating seasonally really doesn't require much extra work. This handy Seasonal Food Calendar gives you a comprehensive guide to what fruits and vegetables are in season for each month. I personally keep a copy of this calender on my fridge and take it along with me when I go shopping for further reference.

To start eating seasonally, make your menu a seasonal one. Plan meals that utilise in-season produce or use the internet to help you find delicious recipes based on the fresh, in-season produce you've just brought home.

The best place to find in-season produce is your local farmer's market or road side stalls. To find a local farmer's market near you, check out this website. Buying locally also supports your local economy rather than big, international companies, and is generally farmed under much kinder conditions by farmers who value their product (and can personally vouch for it). If you must buy your produce at the supermarket, take your seasonal food calender with you to assist in buying seasonally and look for items that specify 'Product of Australia'.

As you can see buying seasonally is a big step towards a healthier, greener lifestyle. Although it's more effort for me, I do my fruit and vegetable shopping with two toddlers in tow because I want to show them yet another example of eating ethically and also expose them to lots of yummy, natural, unprocessed foods. And a fresh punnet of locally grown blueberries is a delicious and healthy way to end our shopping expedition!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Organised with a Christmas Planner

First up, sorry for the delay in posts. With a trip to Fiji, my (very) big birthday bash, my cousin's wedding and the usual busy-ness (if that's a word) that is being a mumma to two toddlers, things have been a little ker-azy around here.

But, I digress.

I really want to talk to you about Christmas and more importantly, planning for Christmas since it is now officially just over 4ish weeks away.

Confession time: I've never planned Christmas before. Never even thought to actually plan Christmas before. While the basic info gets worked out months in advance, all the other crap stuff usually gets nutted out on a more last-minute kind of basis (much to our friends and family's disgust).

I really don't like enduring Christmas this way, but it's hard to stay motivated and organised when ALL of the Christmas planning responsibilites land in my lap. Needless to say, most of our Christmases end up with a very stressed me.

But not this year. Things are gonna change. And I'm determined to bring back some of the magic and excitement that is Christmas with a little bit of planning.

To get your own Christmas planner started, here's a few simple steps:

1. Grab a folder - You can use a folder, a photo album, a notebook or even a large envelope to keep all your lists in one, neat spot. Jazz up the outside... or not (I personally don't have the time nor patience for any scrapbooking/arty crafty projects). But do mark your folder with the words 'Christmas Planner'!

2. Create some dividers - Using dividers for your planner will help keep your notes a little more organised. Some dividers (and mine will) include: Gifts, Budget, Receipts, Calender, To Do, Cards, Parties & Entertaining, Decor, Traditions & Celebrations, Craft, and Meals, Menus & Recipes.

2. Print Your Lists - There are some great sites out there for free Christmas planner printables. Check out Life... your way for their comprehensive free e-book and printable lists. Organized Christmas is another great site that has probably one of the most extensive collection of Christmas planning lists you will ever need. You could seriously waste some time on here if you're an organising wanna be like me. Although I'm a little behind, I've joined up for their 6 week Christmas organising challenge, which includes daily messages and reminders (or join their Facebook page for updates). 

3. Compile your planner - Now, put it all together! File your lists under their appropiate divider and get to work. It's worth noting, you may want to keep this planner for several years. Make sure you leave room for changes or updates as needed for any future Christmas planning.

I am still kicking myself for not creating a Christmas Planner years ago. They certainly make a lot of sense if you want to create a happier, more memorable and more enjoyable Christmas with your loved ones.

And, if you're feeling particularly crafty and/or generous, why not create a gorgeous Christmas Planner for a friend or family member's gift? Granted it'll be no good for this year, but it will definately come in handy when Christmas 2011 comes rocking around in approximately one year and 4ish weeks away.