Wednesday 14 December 2016

Tips From the Motherofnine9

Think about being in a position of total submission to another person’s control, unable to meet your own needs, and the person in charge is not doing his job. When I ignored the warning signs that my kids were reaching their limits of endurance, I created either a clinging, whiny wimp or a screaming monster. Then nothing I did or said seemed to help the situation.
If I had to divulge one secret to making  childcare easier, one I was fortunate enough to discover early in my mothering career, it would be,
“Never let them get tired and never let them get hungry.”
There is a universal image stuck in our brains of a screaming toddler throwing a tantrum on the floor of a grocery store. Even the best parent becomes a helpless victim in these situations because nobody is as miserable and disagreeable as a hungry and irritable baby, toddler, or small child. This so-called temper tantrum is really a baby breakdown; they are over-stimulated, undernourished and physically exhausted without any tools to vent their frustration and anger.
This is simply the sort of behavior would you expect if a child becomes overloaded with sensory stimulation, hunger, and exhaustion.
Even adults get cranky, never mind little kids who can become just as unreasonable as an old curmudgeon, often experiencing complete meltdowns. In other words, little kids have a what we call a temper tantrum where onlookers assume they are simply spoiled rotten.
Sometimes I think we expect even better behavior from children than adults.
I might have looked like a self-sacrificing mother but I was merely acting out of a sense of self-preservation when I put my kids’ needs first. No time for resentment because happy and satisfied kids were worth every “sacrifice” I made. The peace was worth any compromise. One niece once told me that many people had given her advice when she became a new mother but the only thing she always remembered and practiced was,
“Never let them get tired and never let them get hungry.”

What advice would YOU share?

Sunday 6 November 2016

Encouraging Creative Play: Crocheted Playbooks

My Little House - a crocheted playbook

This crocheted playbook was fun to create; I think it will provide hours of playtime. It is for a granddaughter’s Christmas gift if I can wait that long to give it to her. I wanted to make sure it was still fun to play with even if the extras which can be snapped on, were lost. I crocheted a huge pocket on the back of the last page to store all the small interactive pieces and the dolls. I simply crocheted the pages together and they turn easily.
Although I changed details, especially the look of the dolls, it was based on  a pattern found on Creative Crochet Workshop .You will find detailed instructions for every page on this link.
front page
bedroom with closet for dresses

Thursday 13 October 2016

Presenting The REAL Seven Wonders

Celebrating the simple wonder of being alive with The REAL seven wonders of the world in images.

1. To see

2.  To hear

3.To  touch

4. To taste

5. To  smell

  • 6.To love

  • 7. To Laugh

  • Wednesday 28 September 2016

    The Day Cow Pies Exploded

    We expect playful pranks from boys in their early teens because they delight in stretching the boundaries. Firecrackers offer many exciting possibilities to a creative thirteen-year-old.
    My son, Joseph, along with a neighbour wondered what would happen if they lit a couple of firecrackers and threw them into the family’s country-style mailbox. The result was even funnier than they imagined as the metal door flew up and slammed shut again with a loud clang. Joseph and Riley doubled over with hoots of laughter.
    Unfortunately, for the boys, who should drive by at that exact moment?
    The principal from the local public high school.
    When the two boys noticed a car had stopped, they hopped on their bikes in a frenzy, rode down the long, curved, lane way to Riley’s house and lunged through the front door.
    However, that did not curtail this conscientious educator; he backed up his station waggon, followed the boys up to the house and rang the doorbell. The principle’s stern lecture mortified Riley’s mum and embarrassed the boys. Joseph sheepishly recounted his adventure at the dinner table that night and we just shook our heads.
    That incident was never repeated by my son but firecrackers in the hands of one father led to sheer mayhem at our house a few years later.
    We were barbecuing with a few other families. In the late afternoon, when the kids were getting restless and hungry, Pierre gathered the kids together, like he often did but this time he led them into the barnyard.
    What did this fun-loving father do to amuse the throng of children who surrounded him?
     Why he lit firecrackers and placed them in the middle of manure plops!
    We all heard the squeals and roars of approval from the kids. Before we knew what was happening, Pierre was paying the kids who dared to stand the closest to the smelly, disgusting explosions.
    We all shook our heads this time but smiled in spite of ourselves, wondering who was more mischievous, Pierre or the kids?

    That was before we saw the kids close up. They were splattered with manure.
    Actually, the foul-smelling gunk that covered all the kids couldn’t really be called  manure yet, it was fresh.
    The other mother’s and I were desperate to bathe our kids before dinner but we simply rinsed out their hair, gave quick sponge baths and I scrambled to find clothes to fit everyone. Rhonda, Pierre’s wife, fumed the loudest about stained clothing and Pierre looking sheepish, helped clean up his four small children.
    I must admit I had forgotten The Day Cow Pies Exploded until a chance meeting with an old friend triggered this memory, which might be best forgotten.
    My grown children  laughed in remembrance when I recounted this tale. I suppose that day is another example of the freedom, joy, and muck that a farm makes available to all playful kids, both short and very tall.

    Thursday 25 August 2016

    Easy Crochet Doll Furniture

    After I saw patterns which used pieces of cardboard or plastic  sheets with grids to make doll appliances, I thought of covering lego blocks with crochet. Then I added crocheted doors, countertops, handles, and buttons. The result was surprising and very appealing. I just wing it without a pattern;  cover stacked lego in continuous rounds and then make doors and counter tops separately and sew them on.

    This bed and dresser also have a lego base.
     I covered a plastic oval and container to make the table; the chair was scratched so I crocheted a sort of slip cover to match the table.
    I found a free pattern for the chair and cradle.

    Thursday 28 July 2016

    The Joy of Gardening With Kids

    The joy of gardening with children can be experienced in pots on a balcony, in a garden the size of a sandbox, in a community patch in the inner city or in a country garden. Often farmers will rent space to city dwellers to garden. No matter how large or small, children will be just as delighted with the joy of raising their own food and tasting delicious fresh vegetables. Gardening is pretty basic. Stick the seed in the dirt, keep the seed moist till it is rooted, regularly water the growing plant in the sunshine, weed it and then sit back to watch nature take over.
    Up until a few years ago, our vegetable rows  were 75 feet long. The sheer volume of produce we grew was our insurance that the raccoons, groundhogs, rabbits, deer, mice and bears would not eat it all. We also grew enough vegetables to barter with neighbouring farmers, sold some on the roadside or simply gave our surplus to our generous family and friends.
     The garden was always the children’s domain as well as mine because I wanted them in the garden, connecting with the earth.Although our gardens were lush and colourful, they were hardly gorgeous showpieces. The toughest  perennial flowers were the only ones that survived at our house, ones that could withstand being yanked, stood on and sat on.
    I am an avid gardener but as I had more and more children, I soon realized that if I wanted the kids to enjoy gardening, I had to relax and let the kids help without stealing all their joy away by controlling every little step of the process. That meant crooked rows, unevenly spaced plants, seeds that were planted too deep or too shallow.Children love to dig in the warm earth, especially toddlers who will dig holes everywhere with a small plastic shovel. One year the dog even joined in, shoving us aside with his front digging wildly and dirt spraying everywhere he actually did save us work.Sometimes Daisy, our goat, was allowed to help weed, much to her delight.
    When children take part in planting seeds, watering growing plants and picking fruit and vegetables, they became attuned to the rhythms of nature. They will marvel at the power packed in a tiny seed because after planting one bean seed, they soon ate handfuls of green beans  they picked themselves. Let your kids pick and eat beans, snow peas, raspberries, strawberries and carrots straight from the garden as snacks. Actually eating what you have grown is fun. Now, after a lifetime of eating garden ripe tomatoes, corn picked as the water in a pot comes to a boil and huge plates of fresh green beans with butter and salt and pepper, store-bought garden produce tastes bland to our university kids when they live in dorms.
    Let your kids make games out of their jobs, stage competitions when they pick potato bugs, let them have water play after they help water the garden and help make rhubarb jam or freeze strawberries, currants, and raspberries. Gardening won’t just be a hobby; it can be a large part of their childhood.
    For example, I usually recruited the older children to pull vegetables for dinner every afternoon.
    Of course, the toddlers and preschoolers always jumped at the opportunity to tag along. It was an adventure to walk through our jungle of a vegetable garden because a tiny person could lose themselves among the tall plants and weeds . This transformed the daily ritual of picking vegetables into an exciting adventure.
    One particular day, rain had poured down for days, soaking our heavy clay soil; when everyone trooped out into the garden wearing rain or barn boots , they were soon coated with sticky clumps of clay. As one of my boys struggled to pull out a huge carrot, his boots sank so deeply into the mud that he couldn’t lift his feet.
    Everyone began giggling as Matthew struggled to extricate his younger brother. David was finally set free but left a boot behind.
    Of course, as he stood on one foot, attempting to free his boot, he fell, landing in the mud. Matt was laughing too hard to help again.
    Of course, the next rescuer slipped and landed on their bottom with their feet straight out and their bodies coated in sticky clumps of clay.
    It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what happened next. The result was a bunch of laughing kids, covered from head to toe with mud.
    They startled me when they came to the door and even I had to laugh while I shook my head and tried to figure out what to do with all of them. Since it was hot enough, we started the clean-up outside. I peeled off ruined outer clothing, washed feet and legs in a bucket of warm water and then the older kids ran inside, one by one, to shower and  I carried a toddler and two preschoolers into the tub to bathe. It took three tubs of bubbly, warm water to cut through all that clay.
    I laughed yes but I did add,
    ” Remember, only one mud bath per year!”
    It actually  became a yearly tradition.

    Wednesday 20 April 2016

    Dowdy, If Not For Daughters

    My most devoted fashion critic and makeover specialist is Claire.
    Tiny, adorable, clever and independent Claire was also strong-willed, high maintenance and  rather high-strung. My fifth child, Claire was a beautiful little package of contradictions who gave me strife and hilarious joy, sometimes at the very same time. Most arguments were about clothes. Although her fashion sense has developed into a wonderful gift now that she is in her mid-twenties, at three and four-years-old this “gift” was a pain. Claire changed her clothes often throughout the day, from the age of two. Watching one of the few videos of our family, one of my older daughters pointed at the screen and laughed,
    “Look at Claire. That is the third time she has changed clothes during this video!”
    Sure enough, the pip squeak had another outfit on.4469404d0a64addfe8bcc67b59da8837
    Claire was always aware of what she was wearing as well as those around her, which often led to disagreements about what she could and could not wear. Although she was a mature, articulate, fashion conscious three-year-old, I was still concerned that Claire was too young to start four-year-old kindergarten. When she stomped into the house after the first morning, ranting about a little girl who had worn a “jean skirt with a matching jean jacket”, I realized that it was the school which was not quite ready for Claire!

    Alas, Claire's attention soon turned to her busy mother. I barely had enough time to make sure my dress was clean and I had brushed my teeth before I hustled everyone out the door. This changed when my daughters were in their late teens because they organized an all out assault to bring me into the 21st century. They took me to a hair salon for a cut and dye make-over, plucked my eyebrows, bought me clothes and make-up and forced me to throw out decade old comfy clothes. Claire has been the most persistent fashion advisor, however.
    camille-pissarro-peasant-woman-1880-large-1147142136One evening as I tried to rush out of the house, Claire looked up from her homework, looked me up and down disapprovingly and asked, very slowly,
    “Are you going out?”
    I answered in the affirmative.
    Claire continued, “And you’re wearing that?”
    I nodded slowly. I knew the direction that this conversation was headed.
    “I don’t think so”, she added, “Remember the navy pants that Melissa bought you for Christmas and the top that Rachel gave you on Mother’s Day? That would look really sharp with my light blue scarf and my little black belt. Could you pleeeease try it on?”
    I sighed and trudged back upstairs because it was easier just to comply. I must admit that she was right. Of course, once I came down, Claire had to jump up to adjust the belt and re-tie the scarf but as a result of listening to my daughter’s fashion advice, Michael, my husband, was pleasantly surprised.
    Really,though, Claire is an expert at changing outfits. She has been practicing since she was two-years-old.

    Saturday 19 March 2016

    Set Free to Write by Blogging

    Four years ago, when I closeted myself in a room to sit down and write, I froze. I considered writing to be a solitary craft but looking at a blank screen or talking into thin air was a sterile exercise in futility for me. I could not translate the same creative energy that I experienced telling a story verbally to the keyboard. My intuitive, imaginative side stayed buried and my logical intellect wrote boring drivel.
    Haynes King 1831 – 1904
    Haynes King 1831 – 1904
    I was struggling to start writing again, after raising a large family when I discovered blogs, blogging sites and  blogging directories. I snapped to attention.  Suddenly, I was thinking up a username,  a title for a blog,  looking at templates and design and layout. All these activities loosened up my creativity while I sat typing.
    It was like an invisible barrier slowly melted, allowing my imagination to bubble up in a stream of written words that felt just as exhilarating as my oral tradition. I was  excited to start sharing written stories with other people, people who would read them,  respond, comment and give me feed back on what I had written.  Within weeks, I was no longer an island but part of a community of other writers who had the very same insecurities and problems as I did.
    At first I felt like I had just stepped off a spaceship into an alien world, I did not know how to do anything. Reading directions on-line was useless, I couldn’t understand half the words they used, never mind how to follow their directions.womanwriting
    Early on I read that bloggers, are supportive and unselfishly helpful, rejoicing in each others success and offering free guidance . Well, I discovered that  this statement is true. So if you are tentatively  wondering if you will fit in, fear not. If a computer illiterate, web dummy can learn while having loads of fun, you can too. Trust me.

    Saturday 5 March 2016

    In the Burn Zone

    It's -28 C outside with 50 cm of snow but in the study, where I tap on the keyboard, the wood-stove is in the burn zone, thawing out my brain.

    Even though it is bitterly cold outside, my heart is burning with fervor and my thoughts are leaping for joy because at 60 years old, I am in the springtime of a new life. It doesn’t matter that it is freezing outside; inside it is warm by the wood stove. I am coming back to life. For the first time in 33 years, all my kids have basically moved out and I am free to write.
    My body has not yet adjusted because the body remembers the tension and stress of running a household of eleven people. My body has not quite caught up to this new reality because as the mother of nine, I was always on call. My ears are trained, listening for the sounds of my children playing, working and sleeping , always ready to soothe or help.The result is that I am still tense, rushing to squeeze in some time to write when in fact, I have hours of the day where I am free. I am free to write, relax and enjoy the acres of land the surround our old house.
    The subconscious too needs time to unwind long after the conscious mind has grappled with the past, let go of memories and forgiven. Then there are the pre-verbal, non-verbal parts of my soul that cannot be cajoled into coming out of their cave. Any sign of control or manipulation sends them scurrying back into hidingthey take the longest to warm up in the light and warmth of the truth.
    Although I have not yet adjusted to solitude and free time, I am thankful for this new freedom to start to write again. The walls of ice which imprisoned my writing skills are thawing out. It might be -28 C outside with almost 50 cm of snow but in the study, the wood-stove is burning.
    Yep, my heart is burning with fervor and my thoughts are leaping for joy because the wood stove and my mind are now both in the burn

    Wednesday 2 March 2016

    Unplug Kids From Technology with Crocheted Toys

    I have been having fun crocheting toys for my grandkids. Crocheting is a cheap, eco-friendly way to bless kids and to encourage simple, back to basics play.  It is easy to unplug kids from technology with toys that attract and entice such as play mats, toys and loveable stuffies for old-fashioned play.
    There are countless patterns for crocheted toys. Play mats were fun to make, especially knowing they will provide hours imaginative playtime. The first is a farm play mat. I added the woodland animal appliques and decided to use wooden or plastic farm animals with the mat.

    This undersea play mat just needs to be made larger with a plain blue area for crocheted sea creatures.Again. I added the appliques from too many patterns to mention but there are countless patterns on Pinterest or on Goggle.
    A hand puppet and finger puppets.

    Thursday 18 February 2016

    Mental Health: Coming Out Of The Shadows

    Just like a person with poor eyesight needs glasses and a diabetic needs insulin, some very ordinary people have a chemical imbalance and need medication.
    Mental health.
    We make an appointment every year with their G.P. to check out their physical health and reluctantly arrange for a dental check up but why don’t we also have a professional mental health check up?
    Some people might laugh off the implication there is anything wrong with them. Others might nervously skim the rest of this post, fearing to admit they have problems.  This question is far from ridiculous, though. Have you taken a good look around lately? What do you see and hear?
    The modern society is stressful because people are anxious about the economy and job security. They have problems sleeping; many self-medicate with alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to help ‘take the edge off’. More and more sick days are the result of depression and other mental health issues. However it never enters most people’s minds to seek professional help until they are in a crisis; there still is a stigma attached to mental illness.
    Most of us who do seek help, gloss over our issues saying we go for counselling because simply as a self-help resource. The labels are so damning.”Post-traumatic stress disorder, restless leg syndrome, depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, paranoia, panic attacks”….  The labels are a terrible stigma. Often people become ashamed and it is no wonder that they do.
    Others usually cannot understand these unseen illnesses. So they simply fall back on age-old admonishments,
    “Pull your self up by the boot straps.
    Just push yourself.
    Don’t be lazy.
    What’s wrong with you, anyway?
    You seem fine to me!”
    But often mental and emotional issues are a simple matter of serotonin levels. Problems with anxiety and/or depression are merely wake-up calls for people to seek counselling and open mental closets, setting shadows free.

    Sunday 10 January 2016

    Irreplaceable Grandparents

    Throughout history, and even now in agricultural, third-world cultures, extended families are the norm. Secondary attachments in such families enrich the lives of children. As the African proverb reminds first-world countries, “It takes a community to raise a child.”
    Most discussions surrounding attachment parenting center on the role of parents. While it’s true that children thrive when nurtured by their primary caretakers, attachments to grandparents enhance the process. By offering a helping hand in caring for the children, grandparents provide their adult children with much needed support.
    Unfortunately, secular society seems to believe that nuclear families should raise their children independently, even when both parents work full-time and have afterschool activities to manage. Conditioned in this way, families in need of help may hesitate to ask for it from anyone.  But grandparents have a wonderful way of establishing consistency in the lives of their grandchildren. They provide a sense of security, particularly for children whose parents are separated, live in poverty, have mental health issues, or struggle with addictions. Although articles on attachment parenting seem to address ideal families, I have witnessed families striving to maintain an image of perfection, eventually falling apart behind closed doors under the pressures of modern-day stress. It was grandparents who saw behind the masks.

    Grandparents Connect Kids to Their Family History

    Grandparents can be great role models, encouraging healthy development simply because they have the time and patience to spend playing, reading, and sharing family stories with their grandchildren. More importantly, they offer a sense of cultural heritage and family history, giving their grandchildren a sense of belonging to something bigger than their nuclear family. Of course, grandparents usually share similar values with their adult kids, so they can provide great parenting tips. They are natural babysitters who do not simply take care of their grandchildren’s physical needs, but lavish love on them. When my adult children have attended weddings or other overnight commitments, they only trusted me to babysit their little ones because they knew I had a heart-to-heart attachment with their kids.  When my adult children have attended weddings or other overnight commitments, they only trusted me to babysit their little ones because they knew I had a heart-to-heart attachment with their kids.

     The Bathing Grandmother

    One of my daughters-in-law calls me The Bathing Grandmother. For months, she actually timed bath days with my visits because I knew how to bathe newborns without making them cry. For my grandson’s first immersion bath, my son tried bathing him efficiently, whipping him in the air from back to front just like the nurse had done in the hospital. Of course, the baby cried just like he cried in the hospital. Babies do not like efficient baths. When my daughter-in-law asked me to help her with the next bath, she was thrilled that my grandson did not cry. I had to laugh as she literally ran downstairs to tell my son how to bathe a newborn. It took  time to build up my daughter-in-law’s confidence, but I was delighted to pass on all the little tips I learned while raising nine children.

    Encourage a Relationship with Grandparents

    Even though modern families are often separated by distance and busy schedules, parents can encourage kids to develop relationships with their grandparents through the telephone, email, Skype, letters and pictures. However, an attachment with grandparents is deeper than mere physical relationships because children are connected to their grandparents through strong inherited bonds.

    A Startling Encounter with My Granddaughter

    I learned first-hand that grandparents and grandchildren are connected to each other when meeting one of my newborn granddaughters, Lila, in the hospital. She quickly turned her head at the sound of my voice and her eyes actually opened wide when she saw me. Her look was not blank, but wise as she looked deeply into my eyes. It was if she thought, “Ah, so this is what you look like; I remember your 12 voice.” She remembered the sound of my voice in the womb, and at six hours old, finally put a face to my voice. My granddaughter connected with my spirit when we looked at each other. I was taken aback for a moment, and the experience would have been completely unnerving if it had not been so profoundly sweet. There was a bond, an attachment between us, even before birth.

    A Grandfather’s Prayers

    These generational connections are powerful. In fact, a grandparent’s prayers bless grandchildren, even if they never meet each other. A friend of mine was given up for adoption at birth. However, her birth grandfather, Anthony, was a man of prayer who understood the painful sacrifice his daughter had made and prayed for his granddaughter and great-granddaughter for decades. When my friend’s daughter, Sarah, finally met her grandmother, they connected instantly; it was as if they had known each other all their lives. Sarah looked just like her grandmother, had a similar personality, sense of humor, and even a similar taste in clothes. When Sarah gave birth to a son, she announced, “I am going to call my baby ‘Anthony’.” Sarah did not know it at the time, but Anthony was the name of her

     Grandparents: Our Link to the Past

    As parents who understand the value of attachment parenting, let us honor our own parents and invite them to connect with our kids’ lives even if it’s through technology. Grandparents are our kids’ link to the past, just as our kids are their grandparents’ hope for the future. The generations above and below us are irrevocably linked through blood lines, but more importantly, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
    first published in Tender Tidings
    To read the entire magazine for free click on the title below