Wanting more ‘stars’

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I read ‘You are Special’ by Max Lucado over ten years ago and its story has stayed with me ever since.  For those who are unfamiliar with the children’s book, it follows a wooden puppet living in a puppet village.  Puppets would stick stars on others they thought were pretty, smart, popular or just for having lots of stars on them whereas those who were not liked as much or at all, received dots.  Some puppets had heaps of stars on them and thought they were above the others who only had a few stars or lots of dots.  The main character soon meets a puppet, Lucia, with no dots or stars on her.  The stickers don’t work because she doesn’t care what others think – only what her creator does.

I remember thinking what a terrible world to live in, for the majority to want as many stars as possible and have others see them.  The sad thing is, that’s the world we live in now via social media.  You can track people’s popularity by the number of followers they have, the number of likes they have.  Unfortunately, we also live in a world where almost anything can be bought, including fake followers and likes.

Since the birth of Miller, I have taken a step back from actively blogging and posting on Instagram.  I started to think about the real reason why I’m on a public social media platform and what I wanted to achieve from doing so. I started publicly blogging with the hope to share my motherhood journey, the ups and downs and everything in between.  Even though I didn’t have a clear idea of what my brand would be, I knew that I would be very selective on what I shared about my family, details and even faces.  I had heard stories of people stealing other people’s photos, especially ones of children and I never wanted to put my kids in such a position.

However, since taking a brief pause from social media, I started to fret over my account’s declining ‘engagement.’  In truth, I wondered why I was receiving less ‘stars’.  I read that people don’t like green on their feed (I post lots of photos from our park outings or in our garden), they like consistent pictures (my life is all over the place so why would my Instagram feed be any different?) and similar colours (but I’m not one to add filters to all my posts).

What I’m trying to say is, I’m going to stay more true to myself and focus on what is meaningful to me.  While it is hard to not care what others think (one of my many weaknesses!), I will refuse to let it drive my behaviour.  We all need to be less like the puppets of ‘You are special’ who go around handing out stickers to others they deem popular or not, and more like ‘Lucia’ and not let the stars and spots stick to us and affect us.

Being my true self

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I recently caught up with a group of friends at work and the topic of conversation turned to the various people we all work with.   Since I don’t work in the same business unit as most of them, I was surprised that I knew certain names my friends mentioned.  They looked at me with a confused at why I knew these people as my line of work requires no association with them.  As the conversation progressed, it was me with the confused face as my friends recounted their interactions with the people I knew outside of work, since their work behaviour was the complete opposite to what I was used to seeing from them.

When I expressed my disbelief that we were talking about the same people, I also suggested that maybe work brought out the stressed side of their personalities and thus certain behaviours were expressed on a regular basis.  While they agreed that work does bring on stress, the fact that they were known to act a certain way in meetings meant they were known as certain type of people.  I refused to let their opinion affect my personal opinion of these people, as I was used to seeing their constant kind, generous side.

This conversation, however, really played on my mind as I started to question if I was completely different at work to how I am at home.  While I understand that we adapt our behaviour given the situation, I ultimately want to believe I am the same person at home, work and play.  To think that I act the complete opposite to how my children, family and friends see me to how I act at work really made my stomach turn.

During my last few days at work before maternity leave, I was really lucky to have some people say very nice things about me.  Three people used the same word to describe me – genuine.  That made me realise that was the key.  As long as I was genuine in all I do, then I would act the same wherever I was and whatever situation I was in.  I am perfectly aware that I will sometimes put on a fake smile or politely endure a conversation I don’t want to be a part of, but as long as I am known for the things I want to be known for wherever I am, then I know I am being my true self.  And that is exactly what I want my children to understand and practice.

Preparing for the cooler weather

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The cool weather has finally arrived here in Melbourne.  The jackets are out, jumpers in drawers and lots of citrus fruits are now in our diet as we try combat the sniffles that usually accompany such change.

I have been meaning to try essential oils in our household for a while now, as I have heard of its many benefits.  I heard Lavender helps with sleeping, Peppermint and Eucalyptus assists with cough and colds and Frankincense can positively affect moods.  Since I wanted to try the oils on the children, I researched which method was best for their use.  While carrier oils were often suggested (where you use 10ml of a carrier oil to dilute with a few drops of essential oils), diffusers seemed very popular.

We were excited when Piping Rock offered to let us try their Essential Oils Starter Kit and Mist Vapor Diffuser.  The Starter Kit not only contains Lavender, Frankincense, Peppermint and Eucalyptus, but also Tea Tree and Cedarwood.  The Piping Rock website simply explains how each oil is extracted, the aroma, which part of the plant is used, benefits, history and what other oils it blends with.  I also appreciated the honest reviews each product contained, all from Piping Rock customers, since I was new to the essential oils world!

The Essential Oils Starter Kit contains six 15ml essential oil bottles, each with a dropper top for easy use.  A summary of the each oil’s benefits can be found below:

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We started off using Lavender and Eucalyptus with the children and have not stopped using these oils ever since we received them, especially when runny noses seemed to appear.  The Mist Vapor Diffuser was a hit not only because of its compact size but also because it turned out to be the perfect night light.  The kids take in turns choosing what colour the light is each night (you can even choose an option where the colours slowly change).  One limitation of this diffuser, however, due to its size, is that the steam only lasts 5 hours and not the entire night.  However, the children still love having it on each night.

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The other pleasant surprise with Piping Rock was despite being an American company, their prices are very affordable and shipping to Australia reasonable.  Shipping did take a while but if for the quality of product and price, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind waiting a bit either!

We’ll do anything to get a longer night sleep so it’s always great to find something that does help!

Thank you, Piping Rock for sponsoring this post.  Collaboration supported by Shopping Links

Our current baking list

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We have been baking up a storm lately.  Now that Easter has passed, we will not have as many Hot Cross Buns or Easter cookies in rotation but there is still a solid list we go through on a regular basis.

Many of the recipes below are ‘all in one’ cakes, where we just chuck all the ingredients in before mixing it now that Xavier is quite the avid baker.  He always wants to help put the ingredients in the bowl (which has also helped with his numbers recognition as we use a Thermomix and thus go by weight) and of course, assist with ‘cleaning’ the bowl by eating the remaining batter stuck to the blades and sides.  It’s really cute to see how proud he is when he does most of the baking himself (it does get messy and I do help out when the containers are full) and to see him happily announce to his Dad and sister that their morning tea for the next day is courtesy of him does make my heart melt!

We have made a few variations to the below recipes (usually reducing the sugar amount, replacing raw sugar with coconut sugar, making it dairy free, etc.) so I’ve added links and our little variations for those who are interested.

Banana and chocolate chip muffins

Recipe found here.  We are constantly baking these babies and now that I’m trying to get rid of all the Easter chocolate in our house, I usually throw in a handful of Easter eggs before we start the recipe, get thermie to chop them up for me then add the chocolate chunks when required.  Other changes we make is using nuttlex and rice milk (I buy the 1kg tubs of Nuttlex from Costco since we bake so much) and do the mixing all at once i.e. don’t move ingredients into separate bowls after mixing.

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Apple Cake

Recipe found here.    We like having other fruit cakes on our list and this one is a winner.  We don’t bother with the cinnamon topping, rather, add 2tsp cinnamon to the cake batter.  We half the sugar and use coconut sugar, nuttlex and rice milk.  Finally, we don’t always use apples in this recipe – we have used pear and it’s just as tasty.

Chocolate crackle

Recipe found here.  Sometimes I crave something sweet and crunchy and this seems to hit the spot.  We just use a mixing bowl then mix all the ingredients altogether.

Chocolate chip cookies

I’ll be making more of these cookies to get rid of leftover Easter eggs (seriously… we didn’t buy many this year but we have so many in the house!).  It’s our own recipe (found here on the blog) and the cookies always a hit during kinder morning teas.

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Chocolate Cake

This recipe yields a very moist cake.  Sometimes we make them in muffin tins (reduces oven time) and other times X man wants to do a cake (he likes to choose which tin we use – square, round or heart shaped.  Let’s just say our heart shaped tin gets a work out).  Again, we use nuttlex, cacao, rice milk and coconut sugar, reducing the sugar amount by two-thirds.

We hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do!

Our Montessori inspired activity shelf – 3.5 year old

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Now that Grace has commenced school, I have not prepared as many learning activities for her at home since she returns home quite tired and any energy she does have for learning we put towards reading.  Consequently, our Montessori inspired activity shelf now contains  activities predominantly for X man, who is almost 3.5 years old.  That’s not to say that Grace does not do any jobs from the shelf – she goes back to the Lego activity, block shape activity and letter puzzle every now and then.  I try to rotate the jobs on the shelf based on what the children go back to or what their current interests are.  So here are the activities in more detail…

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Hammer and screwdriver set – X man loves to fix stuff so he goes back to this job time and time again

Coloured popsicle stick patterns – I used the free printables from Playdough to plato and the kids replicate the patterns using popsicle sticks.  You may remember this activity on my Instagram page here.

Hanging clothes on line using pegs – I bought the clothes line on eBay, although you can easily make your own using string and a shoe box.  One bowl has pegs and the other has little felt clothes.  This is definitely a favourite job!

Musical instruments – This basket seems to live on this shelf as it always gets played with!

Sandpaper letters – I bought these off Amazon and I rotate between lowercase and uppercase

Make alphabet letters using Lego – I recently took this job out again for Xavier after putting it away once Grace did not play with is but she now goes back to it every so often.  You may remember this activity on my Instagram page here.  This is another great free printable from Playdough to plato

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Spelling puzzle – a great Melissa and Doug puzzle where you spell simple words using wooden letters

Shape halves puzzle – this was a favourite of Grace’s for a long time and now X man tries to do it.  It’s still a bit difficult but he seems to like it!

Block shape patterns activity – There are four level of cards where the child replicates patterns using certain blocks.  I actually bought this for my nephew 6 years ago which he kindly handed down to us when he and his siblings grew out of it!

6-way farm animal cube puzzle – another favourite puzzle the kids constantly go back to!

Beehive puzzle – the aim of the activity is to use the wooden tweezers to put bees in their corresponding hive colour.  It’s too easy for X man but he seems to enjoy it so it has remained on the shelf

Craft copying activity – jeans – we received this activity pack from the children’s childcare educator.  Basically they have to replicate the picture using a piece of material, scissors, glue and a black marker

And there you have it!  Our current Montessori inspired activity shelf for a 3.5 year old!  You can see our previous shelves here and here.

My evolving relationship with Motherhood

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Image by Marie-Luise

I knew being a mother would be one of the hardest yet one of the happiest phases in my life.  I read lots of parenting books while pregnant with my first child, I listened to all sorts of advice the people around me freely gave and I constantly asked the hard questions to try prepare myself for the impeding change a little one brings.  I honestly thought I had prepared as much as I could for the new and exciting role.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would pull, prod and stretch me in directions I never knew possible.

We eagerly anticipated Grace’s arrival so when she finally arrived, she brought immense joy into our lives.  The days that followed were difficult, but we knew they would be.  However, the degree of difficulty overwhelmed me.  Sure, there were factors and issues which were beyond our control which didn’t help but I vividly remember sitting in Grace’s nursery fully immersed in an intense emotional roller coaster ride.  One moment I would be crying because all I wanted for my baby girl was to marry an amazing man like her Daddy and to have a beautiful child like herself to hold in her arms so she could feel the joy I was experienced.  The next moment, however, I’d be in tears again because all I wanted to do was put my suit on and go to work because I craved to do something I was familiar with, do something I was good at and have people appreciate my work and give my positive feedback.  The new routine, sleep deprivation, not understanding my baby, absolutely everything was so foreign to me.  I was so ready to go back to work despite advising my employer that I’d be taking 13 months off.  Luckily, I had a caring and understanding husband who lovingly helped and guided me to increase in confidence not only in myself but in my own abilities as a mother.

I thought I was better prepared when Xavier came along and in many ways, I was.  But again, after a few weeks following his birth, I felt myself wanting to return to work early, not because I wanted to do something I was familiar with but because his high energy and personality was such a big shift from what I expected after having a gentle, sweet girl. There were many days where I would hide in the toilet, needing just a few moments to myself while a screaming toddler stood outside the locked door.  After 13 months of maternity leave, I had no shame in enjoying the opportunity to eat in peace, pee in peace and even work in peace.  Going to work felt like genuine breaks in my week.  I would look at other full time mothers and wonder in awe at how they could do it 24-7.  I was perfectly aware that my mental capacity to do so was not as strong and I beat myself up for that.

Now I am pregnant with number three, I can honestly say I’m in a good place with my relationship with motherhood.   I definitely experienced joy with my first two but I feel that I don’t have glimpses of happiness anymore – I have many instances where I go to bed at night and look back on my day with such joy.  I really feel at peace with being a mother and most of the time, I love it so much.  When I had this realisation, I was so excited to tell my husband this – that I feel like I’m at a stage in my life where I could do this motherhood gig full time and even he was so surprised.

I’m not saying I won’t return to work.  They treat me incredibly well and I feel that my career defines a part of who I am.  But it has been such a journey for me to reach this point, where I can say even though some days are long and hard, I still find the joy and happiness motherhood brings.  Motherhood means I have two little people who genuinely think I am the funniest person on earth, even if my husband tries to persuade them otherwise.  Motherhood means I have magic kisses which can heal a sore that just moments ago, was incredibly painful.  Motherhood means I have little people who love me so much, and unconditionally.  And I know my relationship with motherhood will continue to change as my children grow up.  But I know one thing will remain constant.  Motherhood is joy.  My children really bring me so much happiness.  I have never experienced so much joy in great intensity as I have as a mother.  I know the tough times motherhood brings only makes the happy moments all that more sweeter.   My relationship with motherhood, at the end of the day, really is joy and I’m so excited to not only fully understand this, but experience it as well.

Learning about different countries with World Bites!

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We have been the lucky recipients of World Bites boxes over the past three months.  The kids were always excited to receive a new World Bites box each month and discover what new treats they could try.

World Bites is monthly subscription where you get to experience different snacks from all over the world, delivered straight to your door (tracked postage is included in your subscription).  We tried the France, Japan and China boxes and loved eating their favourite goodies but we also appreciated the added informative booklet.  As soon as the box was opened, the children would go through each box and package, trying to figure out which one to try first.  We would use the booklet as a guide to each snack (most snacks have a little bio on them e.g. why it is popular in the country and the type of taste) before sampling each one.  The booklet also provides some key phrases in the language, stats on the country as well as some photos of iconic buildings and monuments that make the country unique.

I used the World Bites boxes to help teach the children a bit more about these countries.  It’s easy to show them where Japan is on a map and even photos of Mum and Dad visiting there but it’s a whole new experience to see the written language on packages and to taste what is popular there.  Grace even identified that Chinese snacks are not as sweet as the France ones and Xavier loved looking through my China, France and Japan travel photos, especially the costumes from the streets of Harajuku as I tried to explain more about the culture and different lifestyles to what we have here in Australia.  If you follow me on Insta, you may have remembered us sharing how the kids made sherbet in a toilet from our Japan box, eating a new flavour of Pocky and trying a new type of sweet, Fraise Tagada!

And now here are some photos of us and our World Bites boxes!

::X man was very excited to eat the Pocky from our Japan box::

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::I really loved having these booklets to help teach the children more about the countries::img_0226:::Treats from our France box!::img_9527img_0227

::Our China box!::img_0235

::These double fruit flavoured Oreos were definitely a hit!::

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Thank you to World Bites for allowing us to taste the flavours of France, China and Japan!