Thursday, February 25, 2010

New seasons.

I'm reading a book at the moment called: Raising your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. So far besides learning about my children I'm actually learning more about myself. Which is pretty interesting as when we started this year I felt like this was a year that we, as a family would start to learn many new things about each other to strengthen our bonds. I felt like the Lord was saying we need to take time to really learn to accept and love one another for our strengths and our weaknesses.

So guess what? I'm about six chapters into the book and I've discovered I'm the Spirited one! Now if you're like me, I need to avoid labels. I know that I must not hang onto a label and say:that's me, that's how I'll always be. You see I believe that because I know Jesus, His changing life is in me. So I believe that because He is my Saviour He came to set me free from all bondages (labels, mindsets etc.) that tie me down and don't allow me to walk in His ways. It's up to me to choose to let go or not! When I read a book like this my eyes are often opened to two things-where I am as an individual and what the Lord has already done in me.
In the past when I did personality assessments it was pretty discouraging for me when I came out as a melancholy person or perfectionist personality. Being the melancholy perfectionist my immediate reaction was: Oh no, I'm always going to be this way! But then I got to know Jesus more and HE started showing me: I love you for who you are, you have a purpose and I can teach you to be more like me using what you see as your weaknesses.
So as I'm reading this book and I discover that I'm the spirited introvert instead of my old reaction I have to choose my new one: It's ok to be me, God made me this way and HE can complete the good work HE started. Thank you, once again My Lord, that you are the master potter!
I know that I haven't gone into detail about the book, basically I wanted to share that it is a tool which is helping me to accept myself, my husband and my children for who we are as individuals. Having explained all of that, now I can tell you about our new routines.

Last year was a year of letting go of routines and learning to not let them rule me. I needed to learn to trust that God knows best and that HE can lead us onto the path that we need to take. So, when this year started I was still feeling like we shouldn't be following any curriculum of sorts but I was feeling that I'd like to have some sort of input for the kids. I've always loved the idea of exploring our world outdoors and feel it's really important for us to know about the world we live in. I've also always believed in starting where you are and building on to that. By this I mean: explore your immediate environment before you start learning about the rest of the world. So with this principal in mind I had a strong desire to start taking the kids to explore Simon's Town-a very historical navy "town" nearby filled with lots of interesting museums and shops to visit.

the navy docks in Simon's Town

I still want to spend time in nature so once a month we're visiting Simon's Town and as often as possible we'll be out in nature. Besides discovering our world all of us are discovering new interests. Jenna started ballet this year-she is loving it! She says she always wants to be a ballerina. She has also been attending a club especially for little girls called The Princess Club. Once a week they meet to have a tea party, bible lesson and play games with the other girls. These two activities have taken care of her need to "do things on my own mom, you don't need to come with". Wow, when did she grow up? It all happened when she turned five!
Michael has started Play Ball. I love watching him participate. He is such an enthusiastic little boy who knows exactly what he wants to do, so it has been great to see that he can in fact follow another adult's instructions :-)
And me? Well I've started pottery and pilates! After the holidays my husband and I realised that I needed more me time. (Something which I have discovered us introverts need a lot of from reading the book-and I'm going to try not to feel bad about it!). I had been doing dancing and running a year ago but due to finances and time constraints etc. I had to give both up. So I am in dire need of exercise and I also felt I needed to release my creative side. It was my intention to take a Wednesday morning to myself for the pottery classes but when we got back from holiday to no maid and then found one and then lost her and found another(!), we haven't quite settled into that routine yet.

My husband is the only one now who needs to start something new. Or rather rekindle something old-we're hoping that he'll be able to start painting again, just finding the time has been impossible between his work and setting up a website (about oil painting) at night. And then of course he needs to find time to get to gym!

busy little hands: they love to help dad

So having let go of routines last year I found myself having to juggle activities and when they would happen during our week. The Lord is so patient and knows me so well though. When we were deciding who would do what when, it just so happened that each activity couldn't start in the same week. This gave me (the slower to adapt one) time to settle into our new routine. As the weeks have passed we've added one new activity a week!
This meant having to sit down again and plan a routine of sorts. Remembering that I shouldn't let the routine rule me and allowing for flexibility if my plans don't work out has been a lot easier than in the past. Slowly, slowly I'm learning to let the Lord be my Shepherd and to trust that HE will lead me to the quiet waters our family needs.

Jenna turning five has also brought about a few changes. She started the year begging to go to school-oh my! I realised that it was partly because friend's from church were starting Grade One and partly for her need to do her own thing. Since starting ballet and Princess Club she hasn't asked again. I am well aware now that this could be a question that is asked at the beginning of each new year, but I think that the Lord can use this in a positive way like He has this year. After prayer and chatting, my husband and I had to evaluate if we were still walking on the road that the Lord was wanting for us. So for this year we still feel that our children should be at home with me and not attend pre-school.
Jenna is also one of those children who catches onto new concepts quickly. She has always loved books, the computer, dvds and physical activity in abundance. She has taught herself to read-but is yet to realise fully that she could actually pick up an easy book and read it independently. (it's so sweet to watch her as she reads something and then proclaims:"I can read it mom, didn't you know?") She recognises letters and numbers above pre-school level and has the ability to write and transcribe most words she uses. Having a child who learns like she does can be a joy to watch but at other times it is quite pressurising for me. Knowing that a lot of her friends are starting more formal learning-even some of our home school friends- made me feel like I wasn't doing enough for her (silly how I let other's influence me, I know!) But once again after waiting, we are finding new ways for her to take little steps forward without putting pressure on her or myself to follow a school-like schedule.
We still feel that it is important to focus on relationships and to let our children enjoy as much free time to play as possible. As she was asking for school though, I thought I'd feed that desire a little more this year and started a journal with her. Every now and then we chat about something she'd like to write/draw about and she does it in her journal. We're reading longer chapter books and playing maths or reading readiness games too. (Of course this all has to be done when our little man is having his nap!)
Together we all have a bible reading, sing songs and at least once a week we try to have a crafts day.
Our weeks are actually so full now there's no time to ask: "Can I go to school?"
Of course there's still co-op, park days, library visits and friends to play with! I promise we do rest here ;-)

enjoying co-op with our friends

So as we take our steps forward, albeit slowly, we're learning more and more about each other and how to love and accept our individual personalities. If we are spirited or not, most importantly our goal is learning to LOVE as Christ loves us.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Birthday season!

Our year always starts with a bang! After dad goes back to work we start party planning season. Jen's birthday is in January and Michael's follows 3 weeks later-just enough time to celebrate, recover, plan and celebrate again :-)
For the past two years I've asked Jenna exactly what type of party she would like to have. Last year she wanted a Princess Party and this year it was a Kitty and Puppy party. I love the way that her choices reflect who she is. She is our princess who totally adores her cats!

This year she even decided what she would like to do at her party! She gave me an explanation for her theme choice: the girls are the kitties and the boys are the puppies and they'll chase each other. We discussed which games she'd like to play and she creatively changed Duck, duck, goose to Cat, cat,dog. She also remembered a game we had played at her third birthday party: catch the fish, and asked if she could play that again. All kittens like to eat fish don't they? So half the party was planned for me already-all I had to do was plan one or two more activities, party food and a cake.

Mmmmm a cake!? Baking a cake in our unreliable oven just wasn't going to work-so we phoned Granny and asked if she'd bake and then we'd decorate. This turned out to be such a great idea in the end-I really didn't realise how much I worried about having a cake that would flop. Actually I had very little to do with the cake at all. Last year my husband showed great cake decorating skills so I handed the job over to him and together with Jenna's help this is what they created:

Jenna just loved the whole experience and it was such fun to watch them work together. You can't see them here but she also insisted on having little pink and white butterflies around the side of the cake. What can I say, the girl knows what she wants!

The rest of the party planning was left up to me and together with Dad's creative computer design skills we created masks for the kids to colour in. (yes, he is quite a handy chap to have around :-)

Jenna decorating her mask with a little bit of help from her friend.

Which little puppy is hiding behind this mask?

A litter of kittens and puppies.

Cat, cat, dog. (and if you're a boy:that'll be dog, dog, cat)

Team work to blow out the candles.

And three weeks later we were celebrating Michael's third birthday. Deciding on a theme was not that difficult-convincing his sister that he should choose his own theme and not use her idea took a little longer. But this time mommy did know better and she soon decided that a Tigger theme had already been done for his First birthday and a CAR theme was definitely more suitable for her car-loving brother.

So we made steering wheels to use on our race track. (unfortunately we didn't take any photos of that as we were so busy helping the kids around the course)

We raced balloons-which were supposed to have a car drawn on them but that part didn't work so well. The races were fun though!

It's amazing how kids just love balloons-after the race they all wanted to keep their balloon-but it was impossible to part the balloon from the tape without making big holes. So luckily we had back up balloons in their party bowls.

It was so interesting to see the competitive side come out of some of the kids. I was really proud of Jenna-who was beaten by James- she had a moment of sadness cross her face and then decided to shake away the tears and just move on! Well done precious!

And of course there was a cake too. Once again thanks to granny and dad!

I suppose I should have realised that having a car theme would result in LOTS of car presents....

but each present was opened with just as much excitement as the previous one by our little car loving man. And since the party Jenna and Michael have spent hours playing with his new cars. He already has a favourite picked out: a BMW, just like his daddy's car! :-)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

We're back! And no, we didn't fall off the end of the earth....

I'm back! It's been a while I know, but I needed the break. It's taken a while to get back on line because, to be perfectly honest, I've needed the time to think.

I haven't even blogged about our holiday because we've needed time to settle into life at home again. Add to that two parties to plan and celebrate, a new domestic helper to settle in (and leave and another to settle in!) and the first ballet lessons for Jenna and Play Ball lessons for Michael and you have a lot of settling in time needed-especially if you're like me and you like things to happen slowly! So, I'll have to tell you about our new routines another time!

First let me share about our holiday.

We left on the Thursday 17 December, the day before my birthday. We were all very excited about traveling and although our departure time was a little delayed we left as a car full of happy holiday makers. Jenna couldn't stop chatting-anything along the side of the road that was new was worthy of a comment-it was so sweet to hear her excited chatter! Michael, on the other hand sat quietly sucking on his dummy taking in all the new sights from the comfort of a borrowed car seat which helped him to sit higher and therefore have a better view. As the morning progressed the hum of the wheels put Mikey to sleep and so Jen needed some entertainment. So I whipped out the first activity-a sticker book and note pad with her new Minnie Mouse pen from Granny. A happy little girl spent the next few hours drawing/designing/writing little stories to keep herself occupied.

Driving to our first stop went by very quickly. I love traveling by car because you get to see the landscape change and there's lots of time to just sit and think! (one of my favourite past times) Our first night was spent in a very warm Beaufort West. I really hadn't realised it would be that warm at night. You live and learn! The kids loved exploring our small over night home and also enjoyed an evening walk through the streets in their jammies-sometimes it's great to be tourists, you don't need to worry about what you wear when going on evening strolls :-)

In the morning we tried to leave as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day. Everyone had slept peacefully the night before-which was great as the kid's aren't used to sharing rooms at home and I wasn't sure how bed times were going to go! (Ok, so I did find my little man exploring the room in the dark while his sister slept peacefully after an excited day of traveling ;-) But he settled peacefully.)

We were in the car for five minutes and Jenna was asking for her activity for the day! She didn't even take the time to soak in the scenery. But at least her enthusiasm rubbed off on Michael and he was soon playing with his stickers too. After all, if he got tired of that he knew he could just go back to spotting windmills and sheep!

A typical Karoo landscape

On day two I got a little more trigger happy with the camera and tried to capture as many landmarks as possible (there are too many pics to put on the blog unfortunately)
Traveling took a little longer on this day. And it was also a lot hotter(39c)! The vegetation changed as we moved across the Karoo and closer to Bloemfontein. As we entered Bloem it was interesting to watch the kid's reactions-after sitting in the car (happily, I will add) for so long all of a sudden the scenery around them changed and their conversation increased again.
In Bloem Ray had to pop out to find a spare parts shop for the car-the automatic anti-hijack device had decided it was better for us to stay locked in the car at one stage and so he needed to find new fuses. Yes, it did look rather funny to see a driver who had to climb out his window before being able to unlock the doors! So after supper that night I was surprised by a blueberry muffin covered in candles to celebrate my birthday! Thanks Love, in the excitement of the travels I had actually forgotten it was my birthday, thanks for remembering.
Bloemfontein was also hot at night-can you tell I live near the cool sea? It took us a little longer to settle but we had a good night's rest for our last stretch of the journey.

The vegetation changed as we left Bloemfontein:whispy, greener grass!

Too hot in the car, too hot out! Thank goodness for air conditioners and ice lollies!

As we moved slowly across the country it was wonderful to watch the vegetation change. Everything was starting to look a lot greener compared to the dry Karoo we had already driven through.

The clouds started to change too until eventually, as we entered Pietermaritzburg area, we were travelling in a thick mist-definitely not what I was expecting.

By this time everyone in the car was getting very excited about reaching our final destination-but we didn't have directions yet and we couldn't contact our friend's, everyone was "off-line". So this meant more patient waiting at a garage in the rain. You know how you feel when you are so close but not quite there and the excitement has reached it's peak and then you have to sit and wait..... once again the kids took it in their stride and went to play in the warm rain with dad.

Eventually after a long winding, wet dirt road we did find the farm-ok so we did get "lost" a little. We thought we'd passed the turn off point and stopped to ask directions at a beautiful resort which had a baby zebra for us to oooh and aaah at and helped to take our mind off the fact that we still weren't there yet!
But our arrival was still an exciting event even if it seemed like it had taken days to get there! Actually it had, hadn't it?!
The farm was so unlike what I'm used to. No dry, flat lands, not much dust and lots of misty, rainy, humid weather. Everything is GREEN and hilly!!! What a beautiful sight to wake up to!

there were lots of little frogs in the pool to catch-such fun!

Our week on the farm was spent swimming, walking in mealie fields, walking in rain showers (which turned into hailstones!), celebrating our 8th anniversary and celebrating Christmas with fire crackers and all! The children were in their element. Friends to play with 24/7. Tree houses to climb up into, frogs to catch, motor bikes to ride (both the plastic and metal kinds!), rivers to play in, a new puppy to look after and even a special visit to the theater for the older 3 to watch Peter Pan!

sparklers, in the absolute dark of the farm night, such a thrill for the kids!

James and Jen enjoying watermelon in the tree house

The spectacular Karkloof Waterfalls where we went for a picnic

Michael learnt to swim on his own with a noodle-my fearless little man!

One of the view shots from the farm-wish I could post them all!

I rode my first motorbike on the farm and provided much entertainment for those who were watching as I took off with a wheelie! But I am proud to say I even managed to change gears!

Chalk and cheese: when it rains this is what they wear! (Ok, so it was humid-we'll let Mikey off on this one!)

Jenna and Rachel learning to rollerblade-they got it by the end of the two weeks!

I usually find that after 3 days in one place I'm ready to go exploring again, so when the week was up I was ready to leave.
On the way down to Southport we stopped in at my great aunt Mary (on my dad's side of the family). She's a lovely old aunty who I have fond memories of when I was little so it was wonderful to sit by her side and watch her mischievous eyes sparkle at our children just the way they had at me as a child! After a quick cup of tea we were on the road again.
And that's when everything started going pear shaped!
During our lunch stop I noticed that Michael had pimple-like spots on his hands and feet! My first thought was Foot and Mouth, Oh no! Friends of ours had come into contact with someone back home whose kids had had it! WE hadn't even been in contact with them!

So we arrived at the beach house with a little man who was showing signs of something for which I had know idea of how to treat. Add to that the humidity and temperature increase at night and we had one very unhappy little sleeper :-(
After a trip to a local doctor my suspicions were confirmed-he had Foot, Hand and Mouth Virus. Pretty much untreatable, stays in the system around 6 weeks and then rears it's ugly head in the form of chicken pox like pimples. Apparently it's a strain of chicken pox/shingles virus. So this meant he didn't want to eat much-until I discovered we had brought a mouth gel which helped numb his mouth before eating-a little relief for a little man who usually likes to eat!

Supper at the beach house-this HAD to be their dining place for every meal!

So nights were spent trying to keep him sleeping peacefully and re-hydrated in the heat. Which meant very little sleep for us as we were all 4 sleeping in one very hot, poorly ventilated room! (That is until dad discovered a way to keep the door open at night to let a little warm air in!)
By the end of our second week we were ready to go home, unfortunately it had been quite a tense week. Michael is usually a very happy little man who bounces back quickly when hurt but when sick and miserable he can be full of tantrums-not easy when you're not in your own environment and have other people to consider! Packing our bags was a sad experience because instead of going home with a bag full of happy holiday memories we left feeling like we needed another holiday!

One of the last days on the beach-so different to Cape Town beaches-I missed my white sand and gentle waves.

Having settled in back at home again though, we've had a lot of time to think over what happened in our last week. Although, when we were in the "moments", it seemed like our last week had been a total disaster we realise now that there were many lessons we learnt. Lessons which we hope, as a family, we can live and learn from!

Oh yes, and of course the journey home was great too! Like I said I love to be in the car traveling along the road watching the scenery pass by and as we took a different route home there was an entirely different view out of my window :-) Sorry, not many pics were taken as it rained most of the way back and I tried to catch up on my lost sleep ;-) I am so grateful I have a husband whom I totally trust to drive us safely home, even though he was exhausted too! Thank you Lord for a safe journey.