Friday, January 31, 2014

Goldfish for a lucky Chinese/Lunar New Year

Chinese Lunar New Year, Luck, Goldfish

When we were younger, my Mama would host Chinese New Year parties with gifts for the guests born in the new year. In 1991, it was my turn - the year of the ram/goat. In a long skinny box was an intricate sandalwood fan for me, and then when a guest didn't arrive a copy of Ming Shu: The Art and Practice of Chinese Astrology. I spent hours pouring over that book working out the whole family's dates and balance of wood, fire, earth, metal and water - drawing up elaborate Heaven and Earth plates.I saw my life, our lives, written there, our fortunes and futures in blue ink on the page. I don't recognise much of my pre-teen scrawly words and numbers anymore, so I'm not sure how much has actually come to pass. But I'm keen to sit down and do one for Dear Boy - to imagine, more than anything really, what the future holds for him, my little Rabbit.

At midnight last night, we heard the faraway pops and thuds and bangs of fireworks, people in the city celebrating and ringing in the Chinese Lunar New Year. We're going to take Dear Boy in the city tomorrow if it's not too hot, to watch the dancing dragons and lions, to see the decorations, to listen to the music and be surrounded by festival glee.

To celebrate today, I've made us lucky goldfish for running through the backyard and fluttering through the still air. Goldfish are considered lucky, or a symbol of wealth and propsperity, in Chinese culture because the word for fish and abundance have similar pronunciation.

Chinese Lunar New Year, Toddler craft

These little fish are super easy to make. All you need are:

  • a toilet roll or carboard tube
  • orange/gold tissue paper
  • googly eyes (although easy to draw on)
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • String or a long pipecleaner  and tape for a handle
Simply cut some long thin strips of tissue paper for the tail, a few pieces for fins, and a rectangle a few centimetres longer than the carboard tube. Glue on the end of the rectangle and wrap it around the tube, tucking in the ends. Glue on tails strips, fins and googly eyes. Then use a piece of tape or two to secure the string or pipecleaner inside. 

Chinese Lunar New Year, Luck, Goldfish
Happy Lunar New Year!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Intentional play - Our Month of Summer and Water


It's been a great month of play and craft at our house. Dear Boy and I have been exploring all kinds of new and old toys and books and games and craft. And, in the process, we've been more engaged with each other and in our time together. As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, searching for ideas for how to entertain your child is hard - but having a really loose theme for the month has made that so much easier.


We've been more crafty this month than we have in a long while, and it's been interesting to see how Dear Boy's fine motor skills have been developing when I was wasn't really paying attention. He's much more particular about how he holds his brush, adjusting it in his hand just-so before he starts to paint - he's noticing his own control and what works for him much more. He's definitely favouring his right hand over his left much more than a few months ago.

At the centre of our craft this month has been a little stack of paper plates, that we've painted and then morphed into a range of shapes and critters and objects and scenes including:

  • Sun - rays crinkle-cut with pinking sheers
  • Fish - using the centre of the plate as the body, with the rim cut for fins and tail; we also added some googly eyes
  • Jellyfish and octopus - stapling/taping on legs/tentacles made of coloured crepe paper (although wool/string would also work well)
  • Sea turtles - using two plates painted green, one for the body and the other to cut head, feet and tail pieces
  • Boats - cutting the plate in half, taping on a twig or paddle-pop stick as a mast and using the leftover half plate to create a triangle-shaped sail and little sailors
  • Beach - using half blue, half yellow plate; we added a little sand for texture to the yellow side
  • Swim-ring/buoy - painted red and yellow to match our Australian lifesavers, then cut the centre of the plate away; the leftover ring fit perfectly around our old Cabbage Patch Kid's body.
  • Shells - cut into pippi and fan shapes
As well as the paper plate craft, we played with our new easy-peasy toddler stamps, and felt fishing game, and attempted a waterfall scene with colourful fish thanks to inspiration from Ordinary Life Magic. We also repurposed a large cardboard box into a Dear Boy-sized boat, but he insisted on having one end open, so it became more of a WWII Beach-landing craft.

It was finally hot enough (perhaps even too hot) to pull out our neon-pink paddling pool again, we loaded it up with cool water and tub-toys and had quite a few al-fresco baths during Melbourne's heatwave. When the plastic wasn't meltingly hot, we slid over the playgym and had our own Wet and Wild fun park, slipping down the slide into the pool. The long, hot evenings just called for water play.


We also remembered our old friends, toys long forgotten and packed away, rediscovering the gorgeous Australian Geographic dolphin, clown fish and sea turtle soft toys we'd been gifted before Dear Boy was born and Sebastien the Crab of The Little Mermaid fame that I'd picked up quite a long time ago on a strange and manic trip to Disneyland Paris.


Dear Boy fell in love with Sebastien's 'Under The Sea' - "the crab, Mummy, the crab, under the seeeea!". We also jumped onto You Tube for The Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Octopus's Garden' (Dear Boy insisted on this video over and over - couldn't find an original/official one).


We took a trip into the aquarium last weekend with Lovely Husband. Dear Boy was much more interested in running up and down the ramps and through the tunnels than he was in the fish themselves, although I think he was fairly blown away by the massive rays and sharks passing over his head. There were no sea turtles at the aquarium, as they have a rehabilitation and release program and I think that they would have a been a favourite. He was mostly captivated by the jellyfish (although there was only a single tank of them) and the penguins (although we just missed feeding time - damn their incomprehensible map and elevator system) - and you might see why in the videos below. They're much better with the sound turned down!

video

video

What were the highlights of your month?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Intentional Play - The Mum Craft



As well as rediscovering old and forgotten toys, our month of intentional play has also been an opportunity to spread our craft wings. Dear Boy's been playing with stamps and painting lot of paper plates that we've crafted into fishy-type things. And I've finally made him a little fishing game, raiding the felt scraps, my safety pins and Lovely Husband's small collection of magnets.

I freeformed some fish designs, stitched on some fins and then pieced them together. Some are stuffed with a little hobby fill and some aren't. I started stitching at the 'mouth' end, then when I came back round, stitched in a safety pin (backwards) for the magnet to grasp. Those suckers are stitched in there good and tight but if Dear Boy manages to pull apart the whole fish, it's possible, he'll score one of the pins.


Last stage was to make him a little fishing line with a magnet. But turns out Dear Boy doesn't actually like to fish. He dabbed tentatively at the fish with the rod a few times before throwing it away. He just prefers to cuddle those fish instead.

Western Australia government, please take note.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Songs on a Saturday Morning (961-1000) - Exclamation mark!

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Part one and an explanation of this musical escapade can be found here

I may or may not have a thing for the audition process on talent shows - it's an easy way to hear something new and chase it down (a big plus for this New Songs project). So colour me happy when American Idol started another new season and there's guitars and a much more folksy feel drifting in. Hurrah!

And so this is the last push for 1000 songs. 

I promise.

961. Alex Clare - 'Too Close'.
962. Patty Griffin - 'Up To The Mountain'.
963. Gavin McGraw - 'Not Over You'.
964. Alicia Keys - 'No One'.
965. Sara Bareilles - 'Stay' - Fingers sliding on the guitar strings. Beautiful.
966. Janis Joplin - 'Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)'.
967. Sugarland - 'Stay'.
968. KT Oslin - 'Do Ya'. 
969. Sublime - 'Santeria'.


970. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - 'Paris (Ooh La La)'.
971. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - 'Stars'.
972. The Fray - 'Love Don't Die'.
973. The Fray - 'Heartless'.
974. Train - 'Marry Me' -ack! So sweet. That guy's look to camera and his joker smile. Ack. 
975. Train - 'When I Look to the Sky'.
976. Train (feat. Ashley Monroe) - 'Bruises' - Toe tapping along to a weird fabebook-esque reunion song. Weird, but sweet.
977. Taylor Swift - 'Begin Again'.
978. Imagine Dragons - 'Radioactive' - okay, is that Lou Diamond Phillips in the filmclip?
979. Etta James - 'I'd Rather Go Blind' - Dim the lights and watch them play off ice in your glass. 
980. Amy Winehouse - 'You Know I'm No Good' - Poor Roger Moore. What did he ever do?

Oh... just for something extra because it took me a few moments to realise I know this one: 

Whitney Houston - 'My Love Is Your Love'.

981. John Legend - 'Who Did That To You?' - First time I've seen him sing 'live' without sitting behind a piano.
982. John Legend - 'So High'.
983. Carrie Underwood - 'So Small'.
984. Hunter Haze - 'Wanted' - This kid is 12, right?
985. John Mayer (feat. Keith Urban) - 'Perfectly Lonely' - Oh Keith, the shoulder... you're killing me. Two beautiful guitar-pickin' men.
986. Need To Breathe - 'Washed By The Water'.
987. Reba McEntire - 'Fancy'.
988. Jesse J - 'Mamma Knows Best' - Nice. 
989. Adele - 'One and Only' - Have you heard a bad Adele song? Me neither.
990. Robbie Williams and Ollie Murs - 'I Wanna Be Like You' - The Jungle Book?
991. Ollie Murs - 'Dear Darlin'.


992. Ollie Murs - 'Dance With Me Tonight' - Lovely. I want to do a little twist with my boy.
993. Aretha Franklin - 'Ain't No Way'.
994. Nina Simone - 'Ain't Got No... I've Got Life' - That voice. This song. P.S. I want her guns.
995. Nina Simone - 'Love Me Or Leave Me'.
996. Oren Lavie - 'Don't Let Your Hair Grow Too Long'. Blerg. Ruined by the sound of saliva in his mouth, taking a breath to start a new verse.
997. Oren Lavie - 'Her Morning Elegance' - Sweetness and sunshine with short, sad draws of cello.
998. Anoushka Shankar (feat. Norah Jones) - 'Traces of You'. The vocal layering here is mesmerising.
999. Tim Minchin - 'Drowned' - Love this bloke.
1000. Tim Minchin - 'Feel Like Going Home'. Unexpected but just what I wanted.

So that's 1000 songs, folks.

And this... this is just because it's a great address to a graduating class. I've heard a few. And a few awesome ones, but this is one of the best. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

26 New Tricks: The Wrap Up

So I learned how to do 26 new things in 2013 (okay, one in 2014 as well). They were small and large projects, some obvious and not-so-obvious, some googled and some made-up. They're things I've wanted to learn and things I bumped into in the course of parenting or pinning or being in the world. There's nothing monumental here, nothing ground-breaking, but they're new to me. Having them all logged on Lilybett and Boy makes me feel not only that I accomplished something but that I took steps forward, always learning and always striving to be better and do better - for myself, for him, for us.

So what did I actually learn?




HTML fancies and blogging tricks:


Food:


Craft:


Toddler:


Miscellaneous: 

I am still chasing HTML tricks that'll help me improve my blog design and connectivity and am finally going to learn to use a sewing machine this year. That just opens up a whole new world of New Tricks, including making Dear Boy a pair of shorts that he can actually wear (the 'can actually wear' part is the important bit of that goal). 

Did you teach yourself any New Tricks in 2013? Anything you want to learn in 2014?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We mostly eat healthy


But every now and then... just because... we have pikelets for lunch.

With sprinkles.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Easy Peasy Toddler Stamps (New Tricks 26/26)


I am all for easy craft ideas and this is the easiest. So stupidly easy, in fact, that I can't believe it's taken me this long to figure it out. I had both a packet of foam stickers and a handful of old ribbon rolls/bobbins that I'd chucked in our Useful Box after they'd been denuded of ribbon. And one day... bam.

Stickers, meet ribbon roll.

Add some paint and it's a cheap and easy-to-hold toddler stamp.

Der.

The thicker the foam sticker the better in terms of stamp quality, but Dear Boy was happy with these. The vague shapes of sea creatures appearing on the page was greeted with all manner of exclamations: "Octopus! Seahorse! Fish! Shell!" That's a success in my book.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Intentional Play: January (the mid-point)


We've hit the mid-point of our first month of Intentional Play and have been thoroughly immersed (sometimes literally) in our summery, beachy, watery theme. I have to say, it's been fun for both of us - for him because he's revisiting old toys and being introduced to new books and songs and activities; and for me as it's taken some of the burden out of thing keeping him entertained. The structure of the theme has provided opportunities rather than limiting them, showing me (in Bourdieu's term - ha, because I can) the space of possibles.



At the beginning of the month, I did a stocktake of our existing summer and water themed toys, collecting them all together and setting them up in the middle of the loungeroom floor. A sheet and a towel are our ocean, where a pirate ship sails, two fishing boats float and a handful of bath-tub creatures dwell. At the edges, a queen and a schoolgirl surf the waves... because that's how we roll.



 We also got the paint out for the first time in quite a while. A small stack of paper plates dug out from the junk cupboard have been painted and coloured and turned into suns and fish and jelly fish (photos at the end of the month).

We've also been swimming, or wading and splashing, visiting the local pool in the early morning and retiring to the paddling pool in the backyard in the late afternoon to help beat the heat as Melbourne sizzles and bakes at 40+ the last few days. Once the mercury drops back down we're heading down to the bay, to put our feet in the sand and collect sea shells.

Have you done any intentional play this month? If it's over 40 degrees at your place, how are you keeping the kids busy?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Songs on a Saturday Morning (921-960)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Part one and an explanation of this musical escapade can be found here

There was a final push to try and get this baby finished before the New Year so I could tick it off my Before I Go list and feel like I accomplished more last year - to feel resolved...resolute? To listen to 80 new songs in such a short period was a bit rough while we were away. I gave it a good shot, though - with Rage on through the morning and making notes about the songs on my brother's mix CDs that live in the door pockets of the car he lent us. It's been a weird and wonderful few weeks of music. I'll link some of these babies up later. But pushing on...



921. Boy and Bear - 'Harlequin Dream'
922. Vance Joy - 'Playing with Fire' - Love this.
923. John Legend - 'All of Me'
924. Meg Mac - 'Every Lie'
925. D2 Deathrays - 'Northern Lights'
926. Saskwatch - 'Hands'
927. Metronomy - 'The Look'
928. Died Pretty - 'Stoneage Cinderella'
929. Client Liason -'Feeling'
930. She-Rex - 'P.O.W.E.R'
931. Passenger - 'Let It Go' - Ummm can't believe this hasn't made it onto the list already. I've been hearing it for a while and kept assuming it was on a New Songs list weeks and months ago. 
932. Passenger - 'The Wrong Direction'.
933. Passenger - 'Holes'.
934. Passenger - 'Riding to New York' - whole box of tissues.



935. Passenger - 'I'll be your Man'.
936. Passenger - 'A Thousand Matches'.
937. Lorde - 'Tennis Court'.
938. Lorde - 'Team'.
939. Miley Cyrus, The Roots and Jimmy Fallon - 'We Can't Stop' - Okay, I liked this song (but not the clip) a while ago, but this version is redeeming.
940. Robin Thicke, The Roots and Jimmy Fallon - 'Blurred Lines' - Strangely, same comment as above. But this time there's a little Casio keyboard.
941. The Roots - 'How I Got Over'.
942. The Roots - 'The Next Movement'. 
943. The Roots feat. Erykah Badu - 'You Got Me'.
944. The Black Keys - 'Your Touch'. 
945. The Black Keys - 'Little Black Submarines'.
946. Lana Del Rey - 'Summertime Sadness'.
947. Lana Del Rey -  'Blue Jeans'.
948. Gossling - 'Wild Love'.
949. Gossling - 'Heart Killer'.
950. ASTA - 'My Heart is on Fire'. The only time I've listened to Triple J in...errr... years, this lady was on and in a trivia quiz with Triple J listeners. It disturbs me that she didn't know what s'il vous plait translated to in English. Has she never seen a movie? 
951. ASTA - 'I Need Answers'.
952. Art versus Science 'Parlez-vous Francais' - Crass but catchy. And now that I think about it - I think I've already counted this one. Damn.
952. The Avalanches - 'Frontier Psychiatrist'.
953. Elizabeth Rose - 'The Good Life'.
954. Elizabeth Rose - 'Crystallise'.
955. Redfoo - 'Let's Get Ridiculous'.
956. Katy Perry feat. Juicy J - 'Dark Horse'.
957. Beyonce - 'Countdown'.
958. Beyonce - 'Party'.
959. Beyonce - 'Drunk in Love' (explicit).
960. Beyonce - 'Dance for You'.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Intentional play themes for 2014



I posted a few days ago about my desire to do some more intentional play with Dear Boy this year. I've wrangled together a list of themes, including seasonal and event specific themes where possible (please note, these are Australian/Southern hemisphere based), starting with a summery, watery month. Not sure how successful that's going to be given Melbourne's *ahem* temperamental weather (19 degrees, I'm looking at you). Below you'll find my initial list of ideas for January, although these are by no means exhaustive or prescriptive. I've also put together a Pinterest board for inspiration and to help coral ideas.

Gross motor – swimming/kicking/splashing in the water; running in the sand; “swimming” in projected blue light/ocean scene; cardboard boat races; slip and slide/tarpaulin; beach ball throwing and kicking;
Fine motor – playdough with shells; fishing with magnets; pipe cleaner/colander “octopus”; putting rays on a round paper/foam sphere sun; balloon octopus with crepe paper tentacles; homemade fish stamps; collage with sand/shells; fishbowl collage; sea horse/turtle;
Sensory – sand pit with shells, sea glass, pebbles, pumice; seashell mobile; jellyfish goo/blubber
Imagination – underwater themed finger puppets/felt board for making up stories; laundry basket boat/cardboard box submarine on a blue sheet;
Small world – “underwater life” in clear container; fishbowl; jellyfish in a bottle
Lessons – sunscreen and hats; water safety

Everyday adventures - beach, pool, floating cork/paper boat down the creek
Outing – Melbourne Aquarium

BooksWho Sank The Boat?; Rainbow Fish; Peppa Goes Swimming; Mister Seahorse (Eric Carle);
Songs – ‘We All Live in a Yellow Submarine’; ‘Octopus' Garden’; ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’; ‘Here Is The Sea’; ‘Sail and Float (Little People)’
Poems – ‘Owl and the Pussy Cat’; ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’
MoviesFinding Nemo
TVOctonauts
Existing Toys – Little People boats; pirate ship with sailors; surfing safari van; bath toys; green sea turtle/clown fish/dolphin softies; Peso & jellyfish; dune buggy

I'll be posting a new list of ideas at the beginning of each month, and a wrap up at the end. If you're interested in joining us this year, please feel free to follow the pin board, suggest pins, leave comments or links to your own play adventures. 

Now, I've got a list; I've got some ideas. Let's get playing.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Intentional Play

Sometimes parenting is a pretty dull gig.

It's not easy to run trains across a coffee table for more than an hour. It's really not.

And most days I'm short of ideas and, increasingly, short of patience for regular 'toy' play.

There's been a lot of solo unstructured play for Dear Boy in the past few months - time where he entertains himself and will happily lay on the floor for half the day, chatting with his trucks and trains. This is a blessing when things need to be done, and great for letting him discover his own imagination and preferences, but I think there's a hole there too. We hang out, we talk, we read books, we cuddle and love each other. But he and I, we don't really do much craft or sensory play; we don't have much connection to nature or the broader concepts of the world; we don't cook together or even do much physical activity.

I think this is a space where more intentioned play could fit. I'm not talking fully scheduled and structured days, but rather encouraging his natural development and giving me some ideas of things to do.

Before Christmas, Dear Boy wasn't throwing or kicking balls... not because he's not a physical kid, but we just never really played with balls. He didn't see me throwing or kicking them; we don't watch or play any sport, so why would it occur to him to do it? If we gave him a ball, he'd hang on to it, or insiston handing it to me, or hold it above his head and let it go so it fell behind him. So I set the goal to have him throwing and kicking balls before we came home from our holidays. We enlisted our family and made it a regular thing. And whaddaya know? He's throwing. He's giving kicking a good go (although it's hit and miss - boom tish).

Intentional play for me is not about building him into a super human or a prodigy. Not interested, thanks.

What I am interested in is putting together a bunch of ideas for activities and conversations and adventures, so I can feel like a more active and intentional parent and be more aware of his knowledge, skills, abilities and preferences. I don't want this stuff to pass me by while I'm busy stressing about what he's (not) eating and that he's taking forever to fall to sleep and transitioning to a big-boy bed and getting rid of the dummy, etc.

So here's my new project for 2014: intentional play. 

This is going to centre around a monthly theme for activities and play, tying into the seasons, cultural dates and events where ever possible. I'd like to see a handful of big(-ish) family outings tying into some themes (Werribee Zoo, Bundoora Farm, Philip Island, etc) as well as some everyday adventures. For each theme, I want to introduce activities that focus on one or some combination of:

  • gross motor skills
  • fine motor skills
  • imaginative play
  • sensory play
  • knowledge, language and literacy
  • nature

I'm hoping to use resources we already have at our disposal. I'm hoping Lovely Husband joins in occasionally. I'm hoping it might be interesting. I'm not expecting to pull out something new every day. I'm not expecting Dear Boy to love or finish everything we try. I'm not expecting complexity or masterpieces or miracles.

He's a toddler after all.

I'm putting together the themes and a few starter ideas for activities now and will reveal them in the next few days. Any suggestions or favourite activities?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dear Boy (2 years old - Happy Birthday)







Dear Boy,

It's your birthday, my sweet little man. There have been presents (but really, what are presents to you after weeks of gift-giving as we toured the family estates through December) and tonight there will be cake. Oh yes, there will be cake. There were cake and presents over the last week or two as well as we celebrated early but there must also be cake on your actual birthday. I can't actually believe it's actual birthday already.

Where have these two years gone?

On the plane ride home to Melbourne yesterday your Dad and I marvelled at the stream of tiny babies making their way through the airport in their parents arms, not believing you were ever that small. In some ways it feels like just a few months, a few weeks, a few days since you were so small.



These last few months have been incredible in terms of your growth, your development, your milestones, your knowledge and the sweet little heart you've shown the world.

You have shaken hands with loved ones and strangers and pronounced your name to them over and over until it became a game. You have rumbled and rolled and chased a handful of dogs all much bigger and smaller than you, sticking your fingers in the mouth of the muscled staffy, and trying very hard to be gentle with little Vinnie. You have barreled in and out of the ocean, sinking down under the waves and emerging again in a daze of sea salt and snot.


My Dear Boy, you have laughed, oh my goodness, how you've laughed. And you've sung, sweet songs emerging from the back seat as we drive or softly from the lounge room as you play - 'Jingle Bells' and 'Wheels on the Bus' and the 'ABC Song' and 'Jet Plane'. You have danced, to 'Open, Shut Them' and Lady Gaga, and your own little cock-armed driving motion. And you have started to imagine, wandering into the world of story-telling and make-believe as you zoom cars and trains across the coffee table or sprawled across the floor. Your toys go to school and climb up mountains and ride in jet planes. They kiss and they love and they get cross. Last night, as you were going to bed, you whispered "I'm a queen in the darkness".

You are running faster and falling far less often than before. You've thrown a ball (and your toys). You've climbed onto beds and chairs and tables and ledges, and slid down from heights where previously you called for help. Your last set of teeth are emerging - the dreaded two-year old molars - but you're still sunshine with a chance of whingy rather than stormy periods or frequent showers (of drool). There are faux tantrums and bursts of "this is a disaster" and "this is impossible". But I am blaming the Wise Old Elf rather than your disposition.


You are becoming ever fussier with your foods but more open to trying something new. It may not get into your mouth, but you're willing to pick it up to bring it close to your face and examine it, to poke out your tongue and lick before you discard it with a grimace. That's progress. So is the fact you're eating bacon. And pinenuts. And haloumi. And cucumber. And the ever-present corn. I am also perfectly happy to keep feeding you frozen peas, to keep you thinking they are lollies. And if you refuse water then ice-cubes will do. If we have them.

Everyone we have met in the last few weeks has been taken with you. They ask me if you are always so good, so happy, so easy-going. I tell them "mostly". You have your moments, my Dear Boy, but they are fleeting. Mostly, you are a joy. Mostly, you are a source of merriment and amazement. But always, you are my heart.

All my love,

Your Mum. xx

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