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Find Joy

Hello everyone – hope you are having a happy, sun-filled day.  We are finally getting some nice almost-spring-like weather – blue skies and sunshine.  Still a bit chilly for the likes of me, but so much better than the dreary, grey and rainy days we’ve been having.

On the weekend I went to see my nephew perform in his school choir, as part of the One Big Voice event.  Four thousand primary school children singing as one huge ensemble.  Pretty amazing.  Each choir practiced the songs individually, before coming together for the first time on the night of the event.  Can you imagine organising four thousand kids, aged around 9 to 11 years, to do anything, let alone sing together for a few hours without it all falling in to chaos?  Well, the only chaos I saw was when all the parents went to collect their children at the end of the night.  Then it was a bit of a free-for-all and all order and organisation went out the window.

Anyway, the kids were amazing.  I was thrilled to be able to spot my gorgeous nephew in amongst all those faces – I wanted to be able to tell him I had watched him perform.  So much joy in all those little people, singing their hearts out, and how brave to do that in front of thousands of people (there would have been at least ten thousand in the audience).  I could never have that kind of courage! (although my nephew did say it was easier to be brave because the lights were so bright, he couldn’t see anyone in the audience anyway!).

I dedicate this little collage to my nephew and his brave and joy-filled choirmates.  I struggled with finishing this one off (don’t I always struggle with something?) and then used my brand new alphabet rubber stamp set (thank you, Kmart!) to stamp “sing” in bold letters.  Adding “find joy” in smaller letters below completed the piece.

Thank you for stopping by – hope today brings you happiness
and adds a song to your heart 🙂

x

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Blogging Challenge – Day Twelve : Favourite Childhood Book

Howdy folks.  Yes, I am skipping challenges on the Blogging Challenge.  Just pretend you haven’t noticed ok?

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I was a big reader as a child.  From the age of six onwards, I always had my head stuck in a book.  I was the annoying kid in class who always finished the assigned reading way before schedule and had to be given other books to read while everyone else caught up.  Yeah, THAT kid.  I was like it in high school too.  It’s very possible I was the only one who actually READ the books we were assigned.  But I enjoyed them – everything from
Catch-22 to 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm.  I loved them all.

My Mum always read to us when we were little and I suppose that’s why we always enjoyed books in general.  As a child, I loved stories with animals in them, but didn’t like anything scary or dark.  I remember one book I read gave me nightmares and actually made me physically ill so my Mum had to go to the school and asked for it to be removed from the library.  I don’t remember what it was called, but it was a book of so-called fairy tales, and it had one story in it where a witch rips the faces off pretty young girls so she could disguise herself as them and get up to mischief.  Kinda gross.   A less sensitive kid might not have been bothered by it, but it frightened me and my Mum took action ha ha.

I know I had a book about a dog called Barney, that my Mum used to read to me (until it fell to pieces) but I haven’t been able to find it since.  Another favourite was “The Golden Egg Book” by Margaret Wise Brown.  It too fell to pieces from being read to death.

When I was a bit older, I read voraciously on my own.  Enid Blyton was an early favourite, particularly the “Magic Faraway Tree” and “The Secret Seven” (my Mum won a set of these in an art competition when she was ten years old – I have them now 🙂 ).  I still secretly read Enid Blyton books, when I am needing some comfort or just to take some time out.  There’s a been a bit of a backlash about them in recent years, with regard to them not being very politically correct, but I love them.

Of course, Judy Blume was a HUGE favourite as I entered into that tricky pre-teen period.  My best friend and I loved her books and read all of them.  “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret,” was probably devoured by more 10-12 year olds in the 80s than just about any other book ever written.

I also loved Ursula K. Le Guin and Paul Gallico, Beverly Cleary and Diana Wynne Jones.  I read all the classics – “Charlotte’s Web”, “Watership Down” (a little bit adult for me but I trudged through it when I was seven, not really understanding all of it I’m sure) and “Little Women”.

I read non-fiction too.  Mostly about animals and magic and art.  I Loved poetry and silly rhymes, and books about mysteries and fascinating facts.

I have a favourite children’s book now though.  It was given to me by a friend when I was in my twenties, and I dearly love it.  I would give it to my own children, if I had any, and have actually given it as a gift to friends and family (both children and adults).  My favourite children’s book is “A Little Bit of Winter” by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.  It’s just GORGEOUS.  The story of Rabbit and Hedgehog, best friends in the wood.  It’s Winter and Hedgehog has to go and hibernate.  Rabbit is worried that Hedgehog will forget about him during the long, cold months that Hedgehog is asleep.  Hedgehog himself does not know what Winter feels like and so they are both missing out on something.  It’s a story about friendship, mostly, but it is SO ADORABLE and the illustrations are the best.  I love it.  I have to do the voices when I read it, which is quite sad, but it’s just so darn cute.  There are other books in this series, but this one is my favourite.

Do you have a beloved children’s book that is dear to your heart?  There’s so many great ones out there, new and old, modern and classic.  Don’t let the kids have all the fun – try a few titles for yourself.  They’re comforting and calming and make you feel better about the world.  And, if you do have children of your own, get them in to reading early – it’s SO important.  My brother’s children all love to read and it makes my librarian heart proud. I’d be proud of them, whatever they did, but the fact that they love books and often can be found with their little heads buried in one is just icing on the cake.

Happy Reading Everyone x

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(Picture : The Book Depository)

Little Peeps & Helpers

Little Peeps & Helpers

A busy couple of days for me on the weekend.  My car window decided to die (ie wouldn’t go up or down) on Friday night, meaning I had to get it fixed somehow on Saturday.  Which, in turn, meant a very expensive call-out fee for a mobile mechanic and an equally expensive part that I’m sure was worth much less than what I was quoted.  But it was a Saturday and I couldn’t leave my car unsecured all weekend, plus we were due for a thunderstorm that night, so I had to pay the big bucks and get it fixed then and there.  I hate dealing with car stuff – it stresses me out.  How do you know if you’re being ripped off and, even if you are, what can you do about it when you need the thing fixed right away on a weekend?  I even looked up on Youtube how to repair a car window regulator cable yourself, but decided that was fraught with danger and the possibility of me having a tantrum and ending up with a broken door panel as well as a broken window cable.

Waiting around for the mechanic and the repairs took up half of my day.  I then had to go and get my groceries (I had NO food in the house, literally) and do some laundry.  I really wanted to get some crafting done, so I got stuck in to my little Christmas people that I had started last weekend.  I made a handful of them, ready to assemble on to cards.

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I managed to get one card finished, with this little lady in blue :

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On Sunday, it was my niece’s 2nd birthday, so we attended her birthday party in the park.  It was a lovely morning – there was a gorgeous cool breeze (a relief after the heat of the day before when it was RIDICULOUSLY hot for Spring, reaching 40 degrees) and plenty of shade.  Lots of kids running around, having fun with sack races, water-balloon fights and a piñata.  Miss Two was rather bemused by it all, but very well-behaved.  I sat with her while she ate her piece of delicious birthday cake, very lady-like with her little fork and paper plate.  Adorable.  I spent most of the morning carrying her around and, although she is a tiny little thing, she weighs a ton ha ha.  My arm today is about to drop off.  But there were lots of ant nests and I couldn’t really let her just toddle around on the ground, in case she got bitten.

Afterwards, I had to take my Mum grocery shopping.  It just so happens that her local shops are close to an amazing papercraft shop, Scrapbook Secrets, so I took the opportunity to buy a few bits and pieces from there.  Not too many, as I had just shelled out for my car repairs, but enough pretty papers and embellishments to help me finish off some more cards for Christmas.

I made one more card last night – not sure if I am happy with it, but I guess it is quite cute.  I do rather like my little Christmas people – and I am pleased I have been able to use something that is my own design, for the most part.  I must have drawn a hundred little faces and hands by now, but colouring them in and cutting them out is quite therapeutic, if not fiddly and hand-ache-making!  I wish I could do eyes properly, but for now they will all have to have closed eyes.  It makes them look peaceful, anyway, and I suppose that’s what you want at Christmas time!

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Such a dreadful week, internationally, with the bombings and terror attacks in Paris, Lebanon and Syria, as well as other disasters like earthquakes, fires and floods.  Such scary times we are living in – so many people living in terror and fear for their lives, and the lives of their loved ones.  The Paris attacks this weekend got the most attention, and indeed I found myself tearing up over the lives lost and the horrific actions of the perpetrators.  It is impossible to make sense of these things, or to understand what is going through someone’s head when they decide to commit these crimes.  I’m not going to go into the politics of it all – I’m not qualified to do so – I just know it is human beings hurting other human beings.

There’s a quote from Fred Rogers circulating at the moment which encourages us to remember that there is still good in the world, still people who want to help and do the right thing.  I am trying to take some comfort in it and know that, for the most part, human beings are good and kind-hearted, with no desire to hurt anyone.  I like to think that’s true, anyway.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Cards & Kids

Cards & Kids

A busy weekend this week.  A public holiday today (due to it being Labour Day here in Western Australia) so it was a long weekend.  Never long enough in my opinion but unless I become Prime Minister (which is fairly unlikely at this point in time), there’s not much I can do to change that!  Yesterday my Mum and I babysat my four nephews and nieces as my brother and sister-in-law had a wedding to attend.  My poor brother had had a fall earlier in the day, badly bruising his ribs, neck and leg so we were a bit worried he might need to visit the hospital – but he is ok (just very sore and battered).

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(This is Nanna by Miss Four-and-a-half)

I love the the little rugrats.  They are full on and energetic, feisty and so, so smart (too smart for their own good sometimes) but I love them dearly.  We did some drawing and colouring-in, played a makeshift game of tennis (which ended badly with Master Six getting hit in the head with a racquet), rode bikes furiously around the backyard (in a game I like to call “Let’s See How Much We Can Make Auntie Panic and Cover Her Eyes a Lot” ) and watched some DVDs.  And Ate.  A lot.  You cannot fill those little bellies up.  Which is preferable to them not eating at all but, still, it is a never-ending job.  Little Miss A (who is now walking and developing her personality and adventurous spirit) was an absolute delight, happily going off to have not one, but two, naps throughout the day, eating all her lunch and afternoon snack and playing peacefully with Nanna, with never a tear or upset over anything. I love spending time with them all.  Giving them back at the end of the day is a relief though.  I don’t know how their Mum does it all day, every day.  I’d be exhausted.  As it is, my back is killing me from carrying Miss Four-and-a-Half around.  She’s too old to be carried and I know I shouldn’t pick her up, but when that little face is asking for a cuddle, how can you refuse?  The cuddly/carry-me stage is over so quickly, I put up with any subsequent pain that results!

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Today, attempting to ignore my bad back, I crafted for most of the day, making cards.  I have put my name down to have a stall at a local arts and craft market and I only have a couple of months to get things made.  I want to have a range of things so there’s lots for people to look at.  I was given a big box of craft goodies from the children’s Mum last night – with four kids on the go, she doesn’t get time to craft as much as she would like so, instead of wasting her supplies, she gave much of it to me!  yay!  I used one of the rubber stamps today to make these cards:

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I also finished off a few I had already started – just simple little “girly” cards with simple embellishments and colour combinations.  I am trying to get quicker at making cards – I am so slow!  It takes me forever to find the right button or piece of ribbon.  I agonise over the tiniest detail – it’s crazy.  But I finished a few off today that I am reasonably happy with:

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Now the weekend is done.  I am hoping my back will be better tomorrow and that I have a stress-free day (stress is the WORST thing for my back and neck) at work.  I need to go walking in the afternoon – I’ve been so slack lately and am eating way too much comfort food – and I should take advantage of the good weather while we have it.

Hope your weekend has been sunny, inside and out 🙂

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(Got this cute cushion from my brother and sister-in-law as a belated birthday gift.  So sweet and cheery!)

Everything I Know, I Learned from the Kids…

Everything I Know, I Learned from the Kids…

I have been babysitting a lot this weekend.  My brother and his partner have four BEAUTIFUL children under the age of 7 (the youngest just a few weeks old) and they are a delight.  Most of the time.  They are children after all and they do have their moments of not-so-delightfulness.  But, on the whole, they are developing into charming little people that I like as well as love.  They have empathy for others and a care for their siblings.  They’re just so nice to be around.

I learn a lot from them.  Mostly, I am just happy they love me and we have fun together.  I am constantly amazed by their wisdom and insight.  They are creative (thank goodness), funny and energetic. They make me laugh ( a lot – sometimes when I should be telling them off) and I wish I could wrap them up in cotton wool and protect them from the world forever.

Today we did painting (hey, a sun can be black, right?) and papier mache (I’m still hoping to get glue out of my denim skirt), did magic tricks (how many times can you “pull” something out of a kid’s ear before it gets boring? Apparently many, many times…), baked cookies and watched dvds involving trains and sing-alongs.  It was too hot to do anything outside for any length of time and I let them watch tv a little more than usual – just because it was so darn warm.

As much as we adults teach children about life, I think they show us a few things too.  They are wise and courageous in many ways and live the heck out of life every single moment of every single day.  We can learn so much from them if we just listen and watch:

Stuff I have Learned from Kids

1. It is never too cold, too hot, too sunny, too wet, too windy, too anything to go outside and play, even just for 5 minutes.  Embrace the great outdoors and be amongst nature.

2. Hugs.  One size fits all, always.

3. Build a bridge and get over it.  Literally.  There is nothing Lego can’t fix.  Or build.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  This includes mess, unmade beds, toys on the floor and cereal in your hair.  Worrying about these things only takes time away from more important stuff, like playing. And making more mess.

5. Baking cookies is an anytime kind of activity.  Licking the spoon is obligatory and non-fattening.

6. Colouring outside the lines is ok.  In fact, it is recommended.

7. Jokes are funnier when they don’t make any sense.

8. Sometimes you just need to cry.  For no reason.  Let it out.

9. Wearing pants should be optional.

10. Saying “Fart” is always hilarious.

11. Meals should be looked at as intermission between snacks.

12. Sometimes you just have to dance.

 

I hope you have some little people in your life.  They make the world a much nicer place to be in. 
Have a happy week everybody 🙂

 

Tidings of Family Joy

Tidings of Family Joy

So, Christmas is over, technically.  The tree is bereft of gifts and the turkey is nothing but a carcass being picked apart for sandwiches and stock (unless you’re vegetarian, like me, in which case you’re probably so glad right now you don’t have to deal with a turkey/chicken skeleton in your fridge).  The rush to get cards written and sent has passed and now it’s time to ponder the cards you did get (and why you didn’t get as many as last year or why so-and-so didn’t send you one this year) and try to figure out where to put all the presents you received (if you’re lucky).

I had a lovely Christmas.  I was going to have a really quiet one, away from family and basically mope around and be miserable with myself.  My Mum was going to be co-conspirator in this – she wanted to do whatever would make me happy and figured if I wanted to boycott the family Christmas, then so be it, she’d help me and keep me company so I wasn’t completely on my own.  A couple of family members weren’t happy about this.  Christmas is a big deal in my family – our grandparents believed in family and togetherness and so we have always spent Christmas as a united whole – cousins, Aunts, Uncles, siblings and parents.  So, when I announced I wanted a break from it (for my own selfish needs I must admit), there were a few grumbles of discontent.

In a loving, caring way, I was bullied a little into joining in the festivities.  I’m so glad I was.  I love my family and I don’t know what made me think I would want to be away from them at such an important time.  I guess, after the year I’ve had, I didn’t exactly feel like celebrating or making with the merry.  But that’s the whole point.  When you’re feeling down in the dumps and completely unsociable, your family should be the ones to pull you out of the doldrums, give you a kick up the bum and make you remember that you are still loved and wanted around.

So, needless to say, I had a lovely Christmas Day, spent with loved ones who have supported me and comforted me this year, as they always do.  It would have been insulting if I had ended up not making an appearance.  Moral to the story – be grateful for family and be with them whenever you can, because they love you even when you don’t love yourself and are more than willing to drag you, kicking and screaming, into the familial bosom for a little distraction and fun.

There was one awkward moment when my young nephew asked where Uncle “E” was, but all in all, I forgot I was on my own for the most part and just joined in with the over-indulging, gift-giving frenzy. There is something very heart warming and comforting about watching little ones open their gifts and I am so glad I got to share this Christmas with my nephews and nieces. Their squeals and cries of delight made me feel happy and content.  Blessed and thankful.

I stayed with my Mum for the night.  She goes all out with her Christmas decorating (I am too lazy and don’t have the space).  She has six Christmas trees, throughout the house, each one with a different theme and colour scheme.  They are usually beautiful and co-ordinated.  In other words, they put my decorating to shame.  Her home is a Christmas wonderland…no tacky neon Santas or inflatable reindeers, Mum tends towards the vintage, traditional or classy, elegant looks.  There are snowmen on shelves and snow-globes on tables, baubles in boxes and enough stars and tiny twinkling lights to fill Santa’s workshop.

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We spent a few nice days together, Mum and I.  We even went and stayed with my Dad and Step-Mother in the country for a day and night.  I am so proud of my parents for getting on with their lives and, after the initial emotionally trying time that comes with all divorces when hearts are bruised and battered and lives need to be rebuilt, they are friends and still care about one another.  My two “Mums” had a heart-to-heart while my Dad and I pottered about in the paddocks, checking on fences and livestock, and I think it was good for both of them to speak freely and find some common ground.  I can only hope that I do not succumb to bitterness as my separation continues and divorce looms ever closer.  On that subject, “he” did not call, message or contact me at all over Christmas which has hurt me more than I can say but I suppose has solidified in my mind how much I mean to him (or rather, how little I mean to him).  I don’t think I am asking for too much to have the person I have loved for the past seven years to send me a little text message or email just saying “Merry Christmas”.  Maybe I am dumb and naive.  But it still hurts and makes me wonder what a terrible person I must have been to him to not deserve even the smallest of kindnesses.

But I digress…

Christmas this year has been restorative and soothing to me.  I am rather ashamed that I thought I would be better off avoiding it (*slaps wrist and looks suitably guilty*) and hope that next year I am a little more gung-ho and enthusiastic, if only because I am so amazingly lucky to have the family I do and I should celebrate that whenever the opportunity arises.

I hope you enjoyed Christmas (for those who celebrate it) or some time off or just had a good week.  I am looking forward to a New Year with new opportunities and challenges, a fully-mended (if somewhat fragile) heart and a healthier, happier, less stressed and sad me.  I want 2014 to be a year of joy and well-being for all of you too.

Thank you for reading (and sorry for the self-indulgent wallowing associated with my break-up.  It will pass soon enough but I hope you can forgive me a little while longer.  I’m still mending…)

x

Why isn’t there an Aunt’s Day?

Why isn’t there an Aunt’s Day?

It’s my nephew Deacon’s 6th birthday this week.  I made him a simple little card this morning (using Kaisercraft’s “Technologic” range) which I will give to him later in the week.

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Six!  Already?  How can that be?  It seems like just yesterday I was being introduced to his tiny 3-hour old self and gazing at him in awe (he was a BEAUTIFUL baby).  Now he’s a rough and tumble six-year-old with the attitude to match and a beautiful spirit.  He is into Angry Birds, robots and magic tricks (although trying to keep him still for five minutes to learn one is a lesson in patience and strength of will).  He loves to run and ride his bike and play lego.  He is kind (most of the time) to his younger siblings and is well-mannered and sweet.  He is super smart and constantly astounds us with his artistic abilities, an almost photogenic memory and an understanding of difficult concepts far beyond his years.

I am, of course, completely unbiased.  I love my brother fiercely and, so too, his offspring.  I could not love them more and they can do no wrong in my eyes (we shall see how this pans out when they are teenagers…).  I can be having a terrible day, tired and miserable, and a couple of hours of babysitting them pushes everything back into perspective.  They make me laugh and fill my heart up with love.  Reading a bedtime story (or three, depending on how far they wrap me round their little fingers) is a joy.  An interrupted, takes-longer-than-it-should joy, but a pleasure nevertheless.  As a librarian, it makes me happy that they love books and, even more so, that they like me to read to them.  There is nothing nicer than being a loved Auntie.  My brother and his partner are amazing parents – they have been through a lot (relationship-wise) over the last few years but have always put the children first and done their best to keep them feeling secure and grounded and loved.

I love being an Auntie.  I know some people feel sorry for those of us that can’t have children, but, for me, I think being an Auntie is just as special.  I get to be the one they will come to when they can’t talk to their parents.  I get to spoil them and love them and be silly with them. I can watch them grow up and don’t have to worry about the price of shoes or school uniforms or what subjects they will take at university.  I get to see them at their best and be there for them at their worst, if they need me.  I get to hand them back to their parents when they are being rambunctious and get to change just enough nappies for it to be a novelty and not seem like a never-ending task.  I get cuddles and laughter and games and bedtime stories, without all the homework and tantrums and illnesses (although I have dealt with all three in small doses).  I get to be an anchor in troubled waters and a warm hug when things aren’t going right. And, above all, I get to have a little person (or two, or three) love me and want to be around me just because I am me.  That is worth more than all the money in the world.

So, to all the Awesome Aunts (and Uncles) out there, I say give yourselves a pat on the back and know that you are special and important.  Give those little nieces and nephews of yours a hug for me and be super grateful that you get to be in their lives.