Tuesday 11 June 2013

Dressing appropriately

Luckily, my children don’t mind looking ridiculous. It’s kind of a family tradition. I was brought up regularly modelling for my Auntie’s fancy dress shop so perhaps that’s why I have never batted an eyelid when Ezra wears his pirate shorts to tennis, or Niamh decides to go to church dressed as a phoenix.

Their delight at looking ridiculous has got me off the hook many times. Like when Niamh gently woke me up at 6.30am cooing the words: “Mummy, have you made my kookaburra outfit yet…..the assembly is this morning…..” My eyes flicked open. “You get the cardboard, I’ll get the sewing machine!”

By 7.30am, she had a giant cardboard beak attached to a yellow cap, with a pair of “wings” (a large semi-circle of fabric) pinned to her t-shirt and attached to her wrists with hair elastics (Why did it take you 1 hour to do that, I hear you murmuring….I don’t know….but it was before coffee.)

I was hoping that when I had a girl, I may get some fashion advice to help me through life, but no. Well, I do get fashion advice, but I am not sure I can really follow it. “Do you think red and green together looks a bit Christmassy? I say, wearing my bright red skinny jeans and emerald green jumper. “Nooooo!” says Niamh, in a whimsical tone, “It’s always good to look Christmassy when it’s so close to Christmas.” It’s June.

It’s non-uniform days at school when they suddenly get concerned about what they wear…..but they decide at 8am, when we need to leave at 8.10am that their outfit is “just, arghh!” Perhaps they have been influenced by the fashion industry myth that “You are what you wear”; that clothes somehow express their identity…ok, so I’m not completely opposed to this, but when they are trying to express someone else’s identity (ie, their mother who has bought their clothes for them, or the “cool kids” at school who have been taught how to dress in a cool way) I get a little dis-heartened that the world of joy I’d like my kids to live in is being muted.  
Apparently, when you have a boy, they don’t worry about what they wear. At the time I was reading the article, that said as much, Ezra was squeezing on his 7th T-shirt, one on top of the other, because he couldn’t decide which one to wear. 
Of course there is such a thing as appropriateness. Ezra wearing 7 t-shirts on a 30 degree day would not be appropriate….and trying to defend myself in hospital as he’s being given IV fluids with “he was just trying to express himself!” would not be appropriate.  
Sometimes however, appropriateness is not always clear. 

Do I let Niamh go to church dressed as a phoenix

Harry Potter is a controversial series afterall, especially in some churches. Well, the costume was made by me, so it barely gets recognised as its inspiration (one mother tentatively asked “is she some sort of chick?” when Niamh wore it to school for world book day) so the occult connection isn’t an issue.  As an item of clothing, it functions well; it’s warm on a cool day, slightly waterproof, it’s neat and won’t hurt anyone. She’s happy in it. All is well. 

So when we’re in the car on the way home, I was surprised when Niamh exclaimed “I am not wearing this to church ever again!” I could feel my brow furrow, which mean-spirited old lady commented to make Niamh feel this way? Then she continued “…the beak got in the way when I was trying to drink the communion wine!”

So appropriateness wins in the end…without any fuss or tantrums….they work it out eventually, even if they look a little ridiculous on the way.


Monday 10 June 2013

Bad-guy and chips?

I think it’s the neat shape of lamb chops that I like best. They’re also quick to cook and tasty, so I’m always keen for a treat at least once a month. I normally associate lamb chops with a heartening dinner, but today, Ezra’s comments made me think twice, and not in a way you’d expect.

So kids go through a phase of realising that the “meat” they eat, comes from a cow, a pig, a chicken, a lamb etc….the cute animals they have been reading about in children’s books and decide that it is so awful to eat them, that they won’t touch meat again. (Until they can be persuaded that the cow had died anyway, or they smell cooking bacon…)

We thought we’d got away with this one. Ezra has always been a keen carnivore, often eating nothing but the meat on his plate. Today, however, he revealed a miscommunication that may have happened a long time ago, making it seem to him that cannibalism is entirely acceptable, and mummy serves it up regularly at home “as a special treat”. Because today for lunch we are eating “Bad Guys”. 

“What?!” I asked him again.
“….those things you have just put on the plate in the oven, they’re from bad-guys.” 
“Well, no Ezra, they’re from lambs.”
“Oh,” he said, thoughtfully wandering off to ponder this latest revelation. He sat quietly at dinner, in front of the meat he’d eaten many times before, and would you believe it, didn’t touch it. He didn’t like it.

It seems, that ridding the world of “bad-guys” one chop at a time was all the motivation this 5 year old needed to finish his dinner…..and to be honest (despite the fact that cannibalism is ethically, morally and dangerously wrong) it does seem rather cruel to be eating something so beautiful as a lamb, when there are all those bad guys running about messing up the place……!

Sunday 9 June 2013

The Niamh 5000

“If you get me all the equipment….I’ll do it everyday!” She’s not talking about the latest craze for 9 year olds, or hobby (possibly involving an upgrade to our medical insurance)…she’s talking about hand-washing clothes! Niamh had just come back from a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Tocal Farm Homestead, the highlight of which was washing sheets, table cloths and jeans – entirely by hand. They soaked and scrubbed them on washboards, before wringing them out with much hilarity in pairs. The final stage was hanging them on a huge washing line “which was too high to reach!” she says pointing at the diagram she’d just drawn (yes, the enthusiasm had extended to drawings of the events, possibly due to our confused expressions, we’d never seen her with so much energy describing the days’ activities.) She explained how the washing line had a special mechanism to enable the lines to be pulled down, within arms reach.

Jumping on board now, my husband and I could see the delight in her face “I think I would do all our washing if I just had one of those washboard thingys!...and then I’d wash all the neighbours clothes. Perhaps I would charge $5 for a load of washing…..” She gazed into the distance at the potential profits to be made from having such fun. So we turned the conversation to what she, as the amazing hand-washer, might call herself…."The Niamh5000”. So it will forever go down in family lore that Niamh would more than happily take on household tasks (don’t worry, we won’t exploit it!)

I thought of our influence as parents…that we need to allow our children to have fun in places we don’t expect. We need to provide them with as many experiences in life as possible, without shadowing them with our own. To remove our expectations, remove our been-there-done-that attitude or giving an air of “I know best” . Let them find out for themselves that simple everyday activities, with the right frame of mind, are much more fun than that iPod they keep asking for……

Friday 4 May 2012

February – Sew young!

In February, Niamh made…..
... a birthday present for Ezra! All her own idea, all her own design, made completely by herself. I am as proud of her as she is of her creation!(Oh, and Ezra loved it too...especially as it had some chocolate in it!)

Thursday 3 May 2012

January – Camping and glass painting.

We’re on to this year now….nearly caught up with the here and now! So in January we made…..
…..painted jars! We went camping with The McDowells (as in The McDowells) ….the weather was great, so was the campsite…and the company! I took a few crafty things to do (making paper, making kites, pencils, pens etc…) This was one of the activities for “craft hour”. I put a few jars through the dishwasher, and peeled the labels off. In the UK I used to use sticky stuff remover to get the last bits of glue off  the jars, but I haven’t found it on the shelf here in Australia. I can get it online, but haven’t got round to it yet. Anyway, I made do with Aeroguard which got most of the glue off! I have proper paints for glass painting, from peebo. But for the younger children, I have found that permanent markers are easier to use and more satisfying for them. So we had a mixture of ages, and a mixture of techniques. It was great lighting them up in the evening – they looked fab!

In January, I also revived my 6 month old sour dough starter, and made this.....
.....my best sourdough loaf yet! I used this sourdough method (I've tried a few, but I think this is the best!) I don't have a cloche to cover the bread in the oven, so I use an upturned pyrex casserole dish - works brilliantly and gives the bread a proper crispy crust. I think I'll make some more tomorrow!

Wednesday 2 May 2012

December – Fabric Vegetable Patch.

In December, I made…..

….a fabric vegetable patch for Ezra! I used Sew Hip Issue 8 to make the veggies. Then I improvised a cardboard box covered in an old woolly jumper for the “soil”. It was really just to give him something else to open on Christmas morning, but it proved to be a hit! He loved pulling the veggies out of the “soil” over, and over again! And 4 months on, it still gets played with…..and the best thing is, it didn’t cost me a penny! I only used fabric and stuffing from my stash. I love it when improvising turns out ok! 

In December, we also made…..

….clay models! We used air-dry clay, which is actually a bit difficult for a 3 year old to model, but with a bit of help from Mummy (rolling out long snakes, over and over again!) Ezra managed to make some things he was happy with....and he was even more happy with them when he had painted them blue! 

Tuesday 1 May 2012

November – Portraits and spectacle cases!

In November last year, I painted…..
 .... a child’s portrait….my child….Ezra….looking cheeky and coy! I painted one of Niamh too, but whilst I was happy enough with it that I sent it to my mum (Niamh’s Nanna) for Christmas, it wasn’t quite as “life-like” as the Ezra one. I will do another and share it with you in the future….In the meantime, I thought I’d share a painting of Niamh that I did when she was about the same age as Ezra is in this one.

This giant painting (1m x 1.30m) is in my parents loft. My poor parents have got a lot of our stuff in their loft…..it’s a reminder Mum and Dad, that we will be home in the future to clear it out for you. x

  In November, I also made a glasses/spectacle case for my Mum (so she will be able to find her glasses and see the paintings when they arrive!) 

I made up the pattern for this one. I’ll do a tutorial on how I did it if you’re interested! I got the “Internal flex frame” from the best  handbag supplies website in the world! http://www.u-handbag.com/ I used to use this website a lot when I made bags. …and she delivers to Australia! Anyway, note the improvement in embroidery (if I do say so myself!) …..I love embroidery on patterned fabrics. I just love the way it looks so eclectic… I can’t wait to do some more…

Finally, in November I made…..
 ….an illustration for my Niece Chloe. “Chloe in Wonderland”. It is my first attempt at something so detailed. I know how I would improve it, but for now I am happy. I was even more happy that Chloe liked it, and it was her FB profile pic for a while. There might be some more illustrations coming your way in the future Chloe….!


More creative fun