Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Family time vs housework

On my quest for quality family time and improved organisation I have found that I've been swinging like a pendulum.  I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person and the ability to find my balance has been a real challenge. 

I seem go from spending a heap of time cleaning and organising the house to spending no time on it at all.  I have it look really fantastic and then feel guilty for not spending as much time with my boys so then I plan a heap of wonderful activities and outings and then feel too tired to deal with the house again.

Jayden, Dylan, Ethan and Louis at Mansfield Zoo...

The difference this time, opposed to the numerous other times (years?) I've gone through this is that this time I'm really accepting the difficulty.  I'm really trying to assess where I can make positive changes that will work on a long term basis.  Changes that will bring peace, calm and organisation into my home along with fun and connection. 

This is all a work in progress so I'm sure I'll still have to make adjustments here and there however I'm really enjoying the results so far. 


Step 1: I initially cut out my computer use through the day completely, however now while the boys will have their "electronic time" so will I.  My endeavour to blog daily is just too much of a commitment right now with 4 little ones so I will just be taking each day as it comes!

Step 2: The boys now have "zones" that are their responsibility to keep tidy.  They are only little so when I say keep tidy, it's just a matter of cleaning up the toys at the end of the day.  They don't have to clean as such.

Louis: Dining room/kitchen
Dylan: Lounge room
Ethan: Bedroom
Jayden: Bedroom

I've been amazed at how much this helps and how they've really stepped up.  Of course we help as well and if one room is particularly messy the other boys will help as well.  It's all about teamwork and working together as a family!

Step 3: They each have a little job to do around the house.

Louis: Take the rubbish out to the outdoor bin (daily)
Dylan: Set the table (placemats, plates, forks and cups of water)
Ethan: Help empty the dishwasher (he's just doing cutlery for now)
Jayden: Hmmmm....not sure just yet!  Although he is a great helper throughout the day which I'm happy enough with for now! 

Dylan on the slide at the Mansfield Botanical gardens

Step 4: I have a basic schedule up on the wall of what needs to be done each day.  This is not hard and fast by any stretch of the imagination however, on the rare occasion when I'm unwell or am out for afternoon/evening I'm hoping that everything will run relatively smoothly.

The reason for this is I found that when I was out of action I would have either a whole lot of mess to catch up on or that I would be interrupted because only I knew what should be happening and when.  I really believe now that it's important to have systems in place so in case of emergency the household can remain stable and function as normal (or relatively normal)

Step 5: Weekly menu up on the fridge with each dinner for the same reasons mentioned in step 4.

Step 6: Weekly planner up on the fridge with all major and minor commitments listed including school and after school activities, Dr appointments etc.  I tend to colour code each person as well as whole family activities so that it's easy to read. This is also for the same reasons outlined in step 4. 

So I'm pretty happy with the organisational and planning side of things and now I'm moving on to the fun side!! 
It's so easy to get caught up in the housework and our to-do lists that the non-urgent activities get pushed aside or never even make it on to the schedule. Our children don't understand why they're not a priority when we're so busy and to be honest, they shouldn't have to!  They are only little for so long I believe it's critical that we put as much time and effort as we can into these little ones.  They are so worth it!!!

Jayden having a visit to Kinder and loving the sandpit

Do you schedule or plan the fun activities you do with your kids?  Do you even feel you have time to do them at all?  I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts on this!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday night movie night - The Nightmare Before Christmas

I've had a little break from blogging this week.  After posting my computer challenge earlier in the week, I've spent very little time at my computer. More on that in an upcoming post...

After celebrating all things Halloween this week we decided to watch a scary movie for Friday night movie night.  That scary movie was "The Nightmare before Christmas".

Yes, I was absolutely hesitant, worried that the boys may be scared and find it hard to sleep.  They all loved it though, even though it was quite a strange and different movie and so far they're all asleep without a problem.  Poor Jayden has the sniffles so now doubt he'll crawl into bed at some stage through the night for a cuddle. 

Short and sweet tonight...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Louis's Halloween Party!

Yesterday we held Louis's Halloween Party for his school friends.  It was SO much fun.  The kids had a ball playing on the jumping castle and some of the costumes were amazing!  

Our halloween watermelon...much better suited to our season in Victoria and very easy to carve!

All lit up...

Scary skeletons...

and ghosts...

Caution crime scene DO NOT ENTER

Trick or Treat...

Louis  and his friend Ryan who went to a great effort to get dressed up! 

All of the kids in front of the jumping castle!  They loved it!

A few tips that I would share when hosting a party include:

1. Enough adult helpers for the number of kids attending.  We ended up with 2 extra Mums that decided to stay and hang around and it was really helpful.

2. Write names on drink cups. 

3. Take a photo with the birthday child with each guest and the presents they brought (of course, you can take a photo with each child without a gift as well) I found this a great way to remember who gave them what as they open presents in a mad frenzy!

4. Have lots of easily prepared food so you don't have to spend much time in the kitchen!

5. Make sure you have contact numbers for each child's parents.  I've noticed that as the kids get older, they get dropped off at the party and picked up later, however for children of this age (7yo) they can still be a little unsure of a new house, new adults around and can be easily overwhelmed with a lot of kids.  Also, you never know when someone may have an accident! Luckily all was OK at Louis's party however we did have the need for 2 band aids, a strained arm and Ventolin for an asthmatic (luckily they gave me a run down before they left of what to do!) 

It was a heap of fun and Louis loved having all of his friends around!  I love making these special memories for my boys. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My computer challenge week 1

Lately, I've been trying to find ways for my family to connect and to stay close.  Family is the most important part of my life and I want that to reflect in how I spend my time. 

I can honestly (regretfully) say that I'm sure there were plenty of times my children have felt that I have not put them first.  Sadly, they may even say I have at times spent more time on the computer (facebook, blog reading etc) than I have playing/interacting with them.

When I think of this I feel really sad at the lost hours and days that I could have been loving on my children, teaching them, getting creative, just hanging out and getting outdoors. 

I know I have spent too much time on the computer due to avoiding my responsibilities around the home, zoning out, feeling the need for time alone and also reading, learning and researching on my personal growth journey. 

While I can't go back and change how much time I've wasted on the meaningless stuff, I can make changes now. 

My challenge for myself is to no longer spend time on the computer between the hours of 7am and the boys bedtime. 

If I need to do some research with the boys, or look up a recipe I will do it on Michael's computer to avoid the urge to check email or facebook. 

Part of this is also due to my concern with how much my boys spend on electronics (computer/ipad/tv/Wii) and I feel like before I start moaning about how much time they spend on it, I better pull my finger out and make the changes as well! I'm not completely opposed to them spending their spare time playing, however I just want to encourage other types of play as well. 

Louis my little gamer boy when he was about 3...sitting there with no pants on! Lol...(dont' mind the mess in the background...I used to be a hoarder who was very unorganised!)

I'm so interested to see what this week will bring.  I have already lowered my computer time considerably in the last month however to drop it completely will be eye opening.  I will be so interested to see how this impacts on my family, my relationship with my children and the time I'll have to work on other projects and goals. 

I will post an update at the end of the week letting you know how I go!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday night movie night - The Gruffalo

A quick round up of our movies tonight...

The Gruffalo

Love this movie.  It only goes for about half an hour, which was great for us tonight as we had some boys that didn't need a late night!
Based on the book it really is a fantastic movie.  We've had the puzzle book for years and Dylan used to spend hours pulling them apart and putting them back together.
We also took the boys to see the live theatre show in Melbourne a couple of years ago.  It was fantastic and they loved it. 

What to expect when you're expecting

This was for the hubby and I (yes, I realise it's a chick flick, however we take it in turns to pick movies so who knows what I'll be watching next week).
I thought it was really funny and obviously I could relate to so much.  I had plenty of laugh out loud moments and thought it was really well done. 

I'm not sure how much I'll be posting over the weekend...we have a busy weekend hosting a Halloween birthday party for Louis and a heap of his school friends.  Should be lots of fun. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finding purpose and contentment...

I was always told, due to a number of my big ideas that I would no doubt be a success some day.  I used to come up with all sorts of big business ideas, and I would get caught up in the idea of making money and proving to everyone how clever I was. 

This even continued after I started having my boys although as time went on my ideas grew smaller...

Of course, out of all of these great ideas nothing ever really took off.  Yes, I started a small dance school which was a lot of fun but I kept it casual and fun and there was never a whole lot of pressure. 

Then, as I started working on my own personal growth I dreamt of ways to help other people...I could become a life coach or start weekend retreats.  I could study yoga or counselling.  The list went on and on and changed sometimes weekly.

I soon realised that the idea of all of this was great, however I really didn't want to do any of it when it came to the practical side.

So, naturally after this realisation I started to think that I just must be lazy and unmotivated.  Who in this day and age doesn't want to strive for bigger and better?   Who doesn't want to earn more money to buy bigger houses and new cars, luxury holidays and expensive clothes?

Turns out that I don't. 

I started to think about all this ego building success and wondering how satisfying it would be if the relationship with my children suffered?  If I missed so many important firsts and if they grew up thinking that I valued career, success and money more than I valued them? 

Just to point out, these are the decisions that I came to, that resonated with me and I feel is in line with my calling and purpose in my life. 
I have never been so content and at peace as I have since I letting go of all the inner conflict that I once felt. 

All of a sudden, I didn't feel like I should be more.  That what I'm doing wasn't good enough, and that I needed to prove that I was worth more to anyone.  The amazing part is that I started getting so much more done!!  Because it's where I was meant to be all along.  I'm achieving more with my family and in my home and I'm becoming the mother I always wanted not just in theory but in practise.  
I can't predict my future, however I have trust that everything will continue to fall into place now that I'm not fighting it. 

If there's one message I would really love to send out to anyone reading, please have trust in yourself.  That you are just right the way you are.  If you find yourself battling internally, or you're in a constant state of stress to get through your day to day, take a step back.  Reassess who you are and what you love.  What are your passions and what is your purpose?  Get back to basics and work out what you value most in your life. 
Of course, we all have responsibilities and not everyone drop everything to follow their passions at any given moment, but just asking yourself those questions can be a start.  We can always start altering our path little by little with each choice we make. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Enjoying the moment...

After a particularly hectic day of kinder drop offs and pick ups and shopping trips and Louis's big excursion to Healesville Sanctuary we were all exhausted this evening.

Knowing that Louis has no school tomorrow due to stop work action and there is no-where we need to be gave us permission to fall in a heap. 

Cuddling Louis when he was little and very unwell with Croup

Sometimes we just need to let go of all of the to-do lists and normal tasks and just all snuggle up on the couch and relax.  Even though the boys were tired they stayed up a little later because we all just couldn't be bothered getting ready for bed earlier than 7.30pm. 

Michael fell asleep cuddling Jayden in his bed, and I fell asleep cuddling Ethan and that was us done until I woke just after 9pm!

Michael cuddling Louis when he was teeny tiny...

In my opinion those are such special moments.  Those moments where we can forget about all the "shoulds" and just enjoy being with our children.  We all get to relax and rest and the kids get a lot of comfort from Mum and/or Dad.

When I first had Louis (and the rest of my boys for that matter) I had a lot of well meaning people tell me that I cuddled them too much and that's why they wouldn't sleep through.  I was told not to rock them to sleep and definitely never bring them into my bed. 

I didn't want to do the "wrong thing" so would try and teach them what they needed to learn and didn't trust that they already knew what they needed

My boys are growing up so fast, if they want to have snuggles with Mum and Dad in our bed then they can.  We often wake up with at least 1 boy (mostly Jayden!) in our bed but sometimes Ethan or Dylan as well.  Louis basically never does now, however I usually invite him to have a sleepover if Michael's away over the school holidays and he finds that really special. 

Daddy and Dylan
Oh my goodness, how I wish I could turn back the clock and offer that freedom and connection back to my first 3 boys in their early years...I'm not sure if I've mentioned that there was a time when Ethan and I felt quite disconnected and he spent a good couple of months climbing into our bed each night and I feel like he really needed that to feel close to me again.  I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to do that even at this stage rather than get cross at him and push him away again. 

Our children rely on us for everything.  When we push them away and discount their needs it must be so heartbreaking for them.  They are so vulnerable every time they reach for us and how many times have we pushed them away because we don't want to pick them up again or we're too busy?

Nanna snoozing with baby Dylan and Daddy catching up on sleep as well...

It's so funny sometimes when we surrender ourselves to our children how much they grow emotionally and don't even need us so much because they know we will be there when they do need us.  It has been proven to me time and time again. 

Our children need us and it will not make them more clingy or dependent. 

Daddy and Jayden...

Slow down and enjoy them...enjoy the little moments and try not to wish them away so fast.  I completely understand how sometimes especially with a little baby that it can feel like they're in a difficult stage for what feels like forever, but as the saying goes "this too shall pass"...

When my boys are acting out it is one of my biggest mistakes to work out how to "fix" them.  They do not need fixing.  I need to look at my interaction with them and work on myself and my communication and level of connection with my children.  It works everytime.  If I'm feeling low this completely gives me a return of energy because all of a sudden any problems are within my control  It is empowering to realise that we can make changes that impact on our children and our family in such a dynamic way.  It is a gift to be able to look within at ourselves and see our own faults and weaknesses and to stop projecting them onto our children. 

Daddy and baby Jayden

Monday, October 22, 2012

Compliment days...

Raising 4 young boys it is never far from my mind the fact that one day I will have 4 teenage boys.  While I have no idea at this point what that will be like, I am aware that there are some really important values I would like to aim for starting while they are little.

One of them is a family culture of encouragement.  I know it is inevitable that my boys will compete with each other in certain areas, however I really want them to be each other greatest supporters as well.

So on that note, I recently read about a great idea on the Seven Cherubs blog (here) about having Compliment Days. 

Basically I've assigned each of us a day of the week in which we will all be showered with compliments. 

Our list looks like this:

Monday - Jayden
Tuesday - Ethan
Wednesday - Dylan
Thursday - Louis
Friday - Mum
Saturday - Dad
Sunday - Everyone

So, having 6 people in our family it works out perfectly and on Sundays we can just give everyone compliments galore. 

Today was our first day of implementation and I was so surprised how they all picked it up straight away.  We gave a heap of compliments to Jayden on the way into Kinder and I was surprised with him being  2 1/2 how much he understood and appreciated.  He was sitting there nodding away, agreeing with all of the nice statements being thrown his way, it was really gorgeous.

At dinner, Louis decided to compliment him unprompted on his cute face and smile, which then snowballed around the table with everyone adding lots of genuine appreciations of his character, behaviour and great little personality. 

I can only imagine as we go through the week how each of the boys will react and respond to being showered with praise for all of the greatness about them. 

My dream is that they carry this with them as they grow older and their self esteem is tested in many ways.  That they can also pay it forward and understand how much value there is in helping others appreciate and see the value in themselves rather than need to tear them down. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

High country living...

We moved to the country almost 2 years ago.  We bought 33 acres and designed our dream home.  Our original plan was to rent while we built the house, though lucky for us my in-laws had an investment property for us to move into instead. 

About 2 years ago...

We were so excited to make this tree change.  Why else would we leave with Michael in a stable job earning great money and with a 4 little ones aged 9 months, 2, 3 and 5 years old? 

Hay rides today to feed the cows

All 8 of them...

Love this...Dylan's face when we were talking about sausages and where they come from...

It's always the simple things...the boys had a ball playing with this pipe

We had dreamed of a move to the country for as long as I can remember.  The idea of all of that space with 4 boys just made a lot of sense.  Michael was a country boy at heart having grown up weekending in this same area and riding motorbikes. 

So, we thought why not? We were making the move to live our dream life. 

Reality was a little different. 

Work was quiet, our savings dropped, we faced a lot of personal challenges and it turned out to be the most difficult year of our life.  The house plans were put on a back burner and we fumbled our way along trying to keep ourselves afloat.  We questioned every element of our life at this stage.

We talked briefly at times about selling our block, returning to Melbourne, Michael heading away to work in mines the other side of the country.  Each time we would get to that stage though we both knew we didn't want to let go of our block. 

3 boys running up the driveway to our house site

I can honestly say now though that I'm grateful to have had these challenges. It has forced us both to face some stuff we really didn't want to.  I can be grateful now because we've come out the other side. 

Now it's just a game of catch up financially and rebuilding our dream.  It will happen, it will just take us a little longer than first anticipated.  I believe that everything happens for a reason, so I will continue to be confident knowing that this is the path we were meant to walk. 

We all love living up here.  The boys enjoy visiting family and heading down to the "big smoke" however the country is our home.  They love the freedom and of course the fact that it doesn't matter where you go, there is always someone they know! 

We look forward to building and moving up to our block one day...just watch this space! 

Our dog Daisy...she was so tired after a big run around!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beautiful spring day...

Today was the kind of day you wake up, the sun is shining and you want to spend all day on projects!  Michael made a start on my new vegie garden (post coming soon) and then decided he would put up a rope swing for the boys.  This meant cutting some branches off a huge gum tree we have in the back yard.  

The boys were very impressed with his climbing ability...

Dylan had the best view as the branches came falling down

They boys were super helpers dragging the branches away having a clean up...made the job a lot quicker when there were 5 of us. (Ethan did a runner back inside, didn't like the look of this particular clean up!) 

Dylan having the first ride

The boys were super grateful for all of Dad's hard work and it was the hit of the afternoon.  I'm so grateful to have a husband that is so handy.  I certainly have no complaints having a tradesman for a husband!  

I just absolutely love this weather.  I'd decided a BBQ was in order for dinner and that it was so nice we should eat it outside. 

Yummo asparagus on the BBQ

Yes, Jayden is naked...he undressed on purpose and jumped around stating the fact...2 minutes later he was cold and needed to sit on Michael's knee.  Crazy kid!

Overall it was just one of those relaxed, carefree days that are just so dreamy.  It's my idea of absolute bliss where we are all hanging around, happy, having fun.  My heart could burst sometimes seeing everyone enjoying themselves and content, filling their tummies with food. 

Having my children and creating this life for them is the most rewarding, fulfilling thing I could ever imagine. 

When Michael and I moved in together at age 18, I remember consciously thinking I would like the cooking and cleaning and mundane jobs that I had seen my Mum struggle with in the later years (while also working extreme hours and dealing with a failing marriage).  I remember thinking I would do it and I would like naive!  It has taken me 12 years of us living together (married for 9 of those), 4 children and a tree change to the country to finally get to that place.  I've let go of my issues and past conditioning and I can truly appreciate what I have and can see it now how I always dreamed.

So yes, it is these simple moments that mean the most to me...moments that are easy to enjoy when we stop expecting more or better or different...

This quote says it all...I definitely started watering my own grass and it has turned into the most beautiful garden.  The weeds are pulled and the flowers are standing tall and bright.  The sun is shining and it is growing and flourishing.  There will always be the occasional cloudy day, and this is OK, because I know the sun will shine bright again after...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday night movie night...but first and adventure

We were all in for a bit of a surprise tonight.

Michael, heading home from work messaged and asked if we'd all like to go for a swim tonight. 


I had already put Jayden and Ethan in the bath, and wasn't keen on them swimming as they have little sniffle noses.

I asked Louis and Dylan if they would like to go for a swim with Dad and their excitement was obvious.  They certainly got changed a lot quicker into swimming clothes than they do kinder/school uniforms!! 

It was a beautiful afternoon, and it's always nice when Michael thinks of fun things to do with the boys so of course we all headed down to the lake.  All 2 minutes walk away!

Tentatively taking a dip...

a little further...

 Dad's in...the boys are still a little unsure...

They're all in!

The temperature of the water about 2 weeks ago was about 12.5 degrees so it would have been icy.  There was no way I was getting in there!

Ethan striking a pose

Jayden smiling even though the sun's in his eyes 

The three of them only lasted about 10 minutes and we wandered home where they could have a warm shower.

We cuddled up for movie night and watched "G-Force".  An oldie but a goodie!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Walking to the bus stop...

Most afternoons if the weather is nice, we all trek out and collect Louis from the bus stop.

Dylan loves to ride his's a struggle on the dirt road but a bit further ahead is concrete paths!

Jayden was all ready with his sunglasses...

We often meet Louis on the way depending on how quickly everyone gets their boots on, any last minute toilet visits and how slowly Jayden dawdles up the road...Although Louis is capable of walking home on his own it means so much when we all walk up and meet him after a big day at school.  The boys all run to each other with excitement for big hugs, almost like they haven't seen each other for a week! It's so gorgeous. 

Louis, Ethan and Jayden stopped to pick some flowers for sweet...

On a side note...Jayden was very proud of his Lego creation today...very clever! Also...

My gorgeous husband brought me home flowers!!  He has been working so hard lately and this week in particular, finishing his normal day of work around 4pm and then going to other jobs to work overtime.  We love and appreciate him so much.  It was so kind and thoughtful of him to bring home flowers for me.