Wednesday, 13 May 2015

why kids are like vegetables...

They grow....

Though you planted them, though you had some small part in their creation, it somehow still takes you by surprise. They flourish, unfurl... blossom. They emerge into something amazing and while yes, certainly, you watered and fertilised... you know you can't take full credit for their fruition.

They are just so incredible, huh??! You want to take photos every day and share them on Facebook!!! Look, everyone, look! Because yes, you are bursting with pride, but really it's more than that... it's marvel. Look... these amazing creations. They are so much more than the sum of their parts. They are so much more than the labour and love we pour into them. We 'blindly' plant and 'hopefully' water but it is God who gives their growth... and it is much more than we could ever have hoped or imagined.

You want to shout this wonder to the roof tops, you want to murmur it over and over in your heart of hearts... It's not pride, you know you can't take credit for all they have become. You want to just shout out an invitation to others - to marvel and wonder along side you..... look at these fascinating things! How did they become all this?!

Am I getting carried away here!? Ahem ;) Well, gardening can do that to a girl!!

You see, over the last year, I have become an eager (if somewhat clueless) owner of a kitchen garden. I plant things.... some fail, some thrive, it's all a bit of an experiment, but to my utter shock and amazement, I love it. Never thought I would say that about gardening.

I have been taken by surprise at how absolutely thrilling it is to see actual, real live, vegetables growing in my very own veggie patch. Sure, some wither and fade (*cough*raspeberries*cough*) but the ones that make it.... yowzers, I cannot believe how exciting it is!

Out there, amongst the dirt and the mulch, I couldn't help but be surprised at how satisfying it was to raise this little crop... humble though it is! That feeling of joy, satisfaction, pride but also gratitude and wonder... it felt like a lighter shade of how I feel about my kids. Now, I am not saying I love my zucchinis as much as my kids.... (or am I?! Ha!). But I kept asking myself, why am I so excited about this? Why do I want to talk to everyone about every garden picking? Why do I feel the urge to take a photo of every cherry tomato and share it on my Facebook page?!

Yes I am excited and 'proud' in a way... but honestly, I hardly feel like I can take credit for this crop. I really have no idea what I am doing it, I am kinda winging the whole venture, it's rather 'learn as you go'. I plant a seedling, I water (sporadically!) and fertilise (thanks, Chookies for your manure!)... but the result is honestly still a shock!! I can only marvel at the result... in a similar manner (just a glimmer of the depth of it) in which I marvel at my children. I nurture and train and discipline and pray... yet who they are - these amazing, individual, strong, quirky little people - is so much greater than what I invest in them. They are hardy and robust little creatures really, to stand up to my fumbling parenting! I can only gaze at them in wonder, thank God and yes... snap a photo to share on Facebook ;)

Whether in the garden or the home, that feeling of love, of joy in nurturing, of satisfaction in seeing them thrive, that wonder in seeing something grow and flourish.... it is the same privilege to watch a life emerge. It is a daily miracle that we get to witness up close.

So... that's why I think kids are like vegetables!! :)

My lovely readers, fellow parents and gardeners, let's continue to prepare the soil, to plant, to water, nurture and tend... Give it all you've got. Knowing we hardly know what we are doing, yet knowing that the 'produce' will be something far greater than the sum of its parts...something we can marvel in. Go ahead, enjoy your bounty of blessings! Watch them thrive before your very eyes xx

Just some musings from my kitchen garden :)

Thursday, 7 May 2015

#highlightsreel // a birthday bounty + a checkmate

My baby girl learnt to play chess! Playing my first game with her kinda blew my grown up. She 'taught' me all the rules too, which was pretty cute, and kept telling me through the game 'Don't worry, Mum, I have a plan'. Her plan seemed to involve losing a lot of pieces ;)

So determined to take his rightful place at the 'craft table'. He wants to draw and glue and anything else the kids get to do. A serious artiste.
Miles informed me 'Circles!'

Lily went on an interstate trip to be a flower girl in a relative's wedding. We missed her desperately but none so much as Eli. He set up this 'welcome home' display for her, every toy set up with their own special prop. When she came home, he went absolutely crazy with joy. Ah, sibling love is the sweetest!
Miles teaching himself to use scissors. Adult 'crimping' scissors no less! He sat there for ages, using both hands to open the scissors for every snip. PS Note the crossed legs!!!

He took his huge Bible, and propped himself in front of the TV like so, while Eli was watching Aladdin. He 'read' from the Bible in a very stern manner for several minutes. Was this some kind of rebuke about Disney movies? A sermon on the evils of TV? Who can say?! ;) 
He prefers to do his own reading these days. 
Trying to teach her brother chess...
Nothing like hearing the happy sounds of my trio singing 'Ring a ring a rosie' in the backyard, over and over. Giggles galore! #melt
Lily asked if we could make 'meat pies' for dinner and so, together, we did. Well, meat and veggie pies ;) Sure they were rustic but the kids were proud of their handiwork! She was eager to make little decorations for the top of each, this one was a bird in its nest :)
Eli has been teaching himself to write the letter 'A' lately, so decided to top his pie with that letter. Love seeing his eager natural learning unfold :)
'Yes, Ma'am??'
She pulls out this British accent and silly faces, I don't know where from, but it slays me!
We are all in love with these 'Peek and Seek' bags from Finlee & Me! Great little activity to keep hands and eyes busy in the car, the waiting room, during church services, etc. Who needs an iPhone?! #gifted
Sleeping Beauty... on the coffee table.
Teaching Miles to help unstack the dishwasher. Two eager teachers, one even more eager pupil.
You know you are focusing hard when it gives you double chins.
It was one of those sweet afternoons that was actually as idyllic as it sounds (rather than much more chaotic in reality!). I spent over an hour gardening with Lily and Eli.  It was truly precious time. They eagerly 'dead headed' all the roses, swept gravel, and just generally clipped and dug and of course, found bugs and worms. We chatted together as we worked in the fading afternoon light, happy to be productive and together. I was diggin' it :)
Sweeping that pesky gravel from the driveway.
I don't know where these crazy kids get their crazy ideas... but I love them. It was Daddy's birthday so the kids decided they would ALL dress in Spidermen outfits for the entire day. In his honour. you know?! And don't ask me how come we have three Spiderman outfits, I have no idea. All hand-me-downs from somewhere!
Oh me, oh my, I love them so much I could cry.

She finally got her chance to play chess with Papa - after teaching him all 'her rules' first of course! :)
Someone was determined to give 'the most presents'. Lily spent two solid weeks crafting about 16 presents for her beloved Daddy... each one presented in  a gift bag. She was soooooo excited to give them, with so much love and time and devotion poured into each gift. Just love her generosity xx
I made a baked blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake... birthday treat for my wonderful guy xx
'Don't touch the freshly blown out candles!'
My beautiful boy made twenty Lego creations in honour of his Dad's birthday. He then spent about 10 minutes presenting each one individually to his Dad and explaining all about it. Bless :)
Some of Eli's precious Lego creations made for his Dad. Mark was just so proud of him :)
Reading out one of her many Birthday stories for Daddy...
Canberra: Showing off at Autumn

The kids volunteered to make dinner one night (Black Bean Wraps) and decided to get out the kitchen scales to weigh every topping. Too cute :) Eli was very keen to be precise, though not sure he really knew what he was measuring, lol.

Her 'fancy platter of sauces' is clearly just the right weight.
They learnt to chill like this from their Daddy :)
So excited, I had to share!! After hunting foreverrrrr for the perfect 'car caddy' to keep
our very full back seat organised, I got one custom made from a lovely lady on Etsy.
Just love all the pockets, the print and the space for all the kiddo's bits and pieces!
Hopefully it helps me keep the car cleaner?! Just love Etsy :)
Another day, another lunchbox... but made all the sweeter with these gorgeous Lunch Love cards from Finlee & Me. I have a whole set of cards to choose from each day, it's so fun to select some daily encouragement for my little lady (and Eli has a boy's set too!). #gifted
Luscious pomegranates, delicious boy xx

Monday, 27 April 2015

6 reasons why you should {still} read to kids who can read to themselves!

We all know how important it is to read to our children, right? We want to raise up happy little readers, and so from babyhood to school age, we eagerly read, read, read.

However, once they get to the age where they can start reading for themselves, it can seem like it's the right time to hang up the old 'Read Aloud Hat' (What, your family doesn't have a reading hat!? Ha!). Because we know much they need or want to practice their new reading 'skillz', we let them read aloud to us instead of us reading to them. Or we even encourage them to just read silently to themselves. Our job is done, right? They can READ, after all!

It's all too easy to pass that reading baton on to our kids after five or six years or so of dedicated service, huh? We might prefer to still read to them (reading and snuggles each night is the best!!), but we start to think we are doing them a disservice by not letting them practice their own reading. But guess what - there are a bunch of good reasons to continue to read to our kiddos. There are rich benefits to reading to them from birth... until they can read to themselves... and then keeping on reading to them until they leave home.... or at least beg you to stop, haha ;)

My daughter is six and a half and quite a confident reader these days - she is often keen to just read to herself! So, as much as I love reading to her, at times it has been tempting to just encourage her to go read to herself at the end of a loooong day. That's why I have been reflecting back on all the reasons I want to keep up both types of reading, as reminder to myself. I thought I would share some of these reasons here! Some of these facts were picked up from one of my favourite books, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (not an affiliate link, just a book I love! I highly recommend to anyone wanting to encourage a love of reading in your home or classroom)....

6 reasons why we should (still!) read to kids who can read to themselves....

  1. BONDING. Reading aloud to our kids at any age continues to promote close bonding, the benefits of quality time and the joy of shared experiences.
  2. ADVERTISING. Yes, advertising - a good thing in this case! Every time we read aloud to a child, we are giving a 'commercial' about the pleasure of reading. You, as their (awesome!) parent are a huge influence. They think you are pretty cool - even if they are at an age where they won't admit it! Every read aloud is an ad for the simple pleasure of reading. And a child/tween/teen who believes reading is fun will read, and learn to love to read :) 
  3. STRETCHING. Children can listen and comprehend on a much higher level than they can read. Continuing to read aloud exposes them to more words, more concepts, more complex, interesting and engaging stories than they could read for themselves. This enhances attention span and also encourages them to stretch their own reading abilities - when they want to keep reading a book they may not have felt interested or confident enough to tackle before. Fun fact: Reading and listening skills tend to begin to converge around 14 years of age.
  4. EXPOSURE. The more we read aloud from rich texts, the more our children are exposed to a wider vocabulary and correct grammar forms. Written text is much more complex and structured than spoken/conversational language, so the more exposure kids get to it, the better off they are. Not to mention hearing the correct pronunciation for words they may be mispronouncing in their heads when they read. Rather than correction, let the right form simply seep in through listening! All those words and phrasings pour into listening ears who can then apply it in their own writing and reading. Remember that grammar is more caught than taught!
  5. ALL BENEFIT. Kids, teens and (let's be honest) adults don't really read as much as they could. Reading is sooooo enriching on so many levels, a little more reading is good for everyone - including us, the parents! :) The shared learning has double the benefit!
  6. INFLUENCE. Sharing a good book together is a wonderful way to continue to connect even through the tween and teen years when they can start to gravitate to outside influences (peers, TV, internet). You can introduce books that deal with sensitive issues, moral dilemmas or other subjects you want to open up a dialogue about with your child. If possible, read together one on one, which gives your child a comfortable space to talk about any thoughts or feelings that emerge after sharing the book. Keep connected through reading!

Now, does this mean we only read to our kids and don't encourage them to read to us, or read silently to themselves? Of course not! In a literacy rich household, ideally there is a mix of all three. As in reality, we don't have unlimited amounts of time (nor energy!!!), this could mean you include a little of all three elements each day. Another option is alternating each night (e.g. one night you read to them, the next night they read to you, the next night they read to themselves). No doubt you will find your own groove!

The important thing to remember is that just because a child can read for themselves, doesn't mean there aren't still numerous and rich benefits to you reading to them. So grab a book and a kid, snuggle up and read away :)

xx Kate

PS I would love to hear recommendations of your favourite 'read alouds' for ages 6+. Post them in the comments and I will continue to edit/add to this list of some of our family's favourite books so far. We are always looking for new read-alouds and it would be great to build a good resource list for everyone!

  • The Chronicles of Narnia series / CS Lewis
  • Milly Molly Mandy series / Joyce Lankester Brisley
  • Enid Blyton - any of her hundreds of books!
  • Harry Potter series / JK Rowling (as age appropriate)
  • Little House on the Prairie / Laura Ingalls Wilder

Adding to the list as per YOUR suggestions...(keep 'em coming!)

  • Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
  • Anything by Roald Dahl
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • Charlotte's Web
  • The Secret Garden
  • Peter Pan
  • Heidi
  • Dot and the Kangaroo
  • Noddy series
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Blinky Bill
  • The Magic Pudding
  • Little Women

(Ok, ok, this list obviously has a more classic bent... I am going back to childhood faves! I'd love to add some more modern but good quality reads to our list, so I would LOVE some suggestions of that type too!)

PPS If you are interested in reading more about building a literacy-rich home, you can read here about the benefits of 'silent reading' for the whole family!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

family camp 2015 // kangaroo valley, part two

More moments from our family's very special week away in Kangaroo Valley...

A little morning at the beach. Miles was fascinated :)

Cousins exploring together

My sweet niece Frankie and her epic mullet, blowing in the wind :)
Little knees, holes in jeans, collecting acorns to put in pockets.
Although it's called Kangaroo Valley, wombats were the most popular animal to spot!
Gettin' air on the giant trampoline. Old school style with no nets! ;)

This kid was obsessssssed with this tractor!
Epic baked potato dinner!!
Miles was all over this scooter business :)
This wonderful man. We love him so.
Tickles with Nana :) Always a fun time with Nana!
It was fascinating to stay by an olive grove, right at Olive Picking time! Over 700 trees, heavy with olives...

Amazing Mark took five little guys for a bush walk :)

The little trailer used for gathering the olives as they are picked from the trees.
Oh Eli. Winning my heart just with the simple act of grating the cheese with complete focus and dedication :)
Our family portrait, taken by the one and only, wonderful Alex Vaughan, my sister in law!
When you have nine cousins under seven, any group photo attempts are pretty much chaos. Delightful chaos, that is ;)
No words.

Part One here.
Why this was such an important time together for our family, here.