Just down the river (shoo lie loo)

I’m really enjoying the song “Shoo Lie Loo” by Elizabeth Mitchell. It came to me as a gift just this week in the form of her cd Sunny Day. I recommend it as part of your collection of music for children – joyful songs, great rhythms, real music that appeals to a child’s world. The whole cd feels like adults and children alike had fun making it. “Shoo Lie Loo” has everything my children love: a catchy tune that won’t drive you nuts, simple lyrics that can be adapted, a celebration of childhood. I promise you’ll love it. There’s a clip of it at the end of this post, showing the circle game that goes with it.

Autumn Leaf Fairy3My children and I adapted this song yesterday when we went down to the river – it just burst out when we started taking note of all the bird life we have down there. We live on a quiet part of the Nerang river – just about the point where the water turns brackish and is just a little tidal still. It is more like a creek where we are, with mostly low ankle-deep water running over smooth rocks and soft weeds.

It is an interesting environment with SO MANY interesting birds. It is a very exciting event when we spot the pelican that comes to visit every now and then! It is quite odd, seeing a pelican paddling upon our quiet creek. Once my husband watched an eagle fishing, and I’ve been delighted by the flash of brilliant blue from a kingfisher.

Once we started singing, we just kept thinking of more and more birds we have seen in our area and of course we started to make a list. Our next thought is to take a photo of each of the birds and make a poster or a guide-book of our own with them

Our song goes like this:

This cheeky little one landed in our backyard and lived with us for about a month before flying away again.

This cheeky little one landed in our backyard and lived with us for about a month before flying away again.

Just down the river (shoo lie loo)

To see who lives here (shoo lie loo)

Hey Cockatoo (shoo lie loo)

Fly away over yonder (shoo lie loo)

Our song went on and on with willy wagtail, swamp hen, eagle, magpie, butcher bird, galah, ibis, pelican …. the little ones and I danced in a circle, spinning around with our arms out as we flew away over yonder. So much fun.

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Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Resources for Celebrations

linden garland 3I believe that our celebrations should be given thought – there should be an understanding of what we are celebrating – and why – and then we should consider how to celebrate it according to where we live. It has always felt strange to me to celebrate winter festivities at Christmas time when it is summer in Australia … and Australia is a country with great variety in landscapes so each celebration for each family would be strengthened with an inclusion of local foods, plants, animals, landscapes and people.

The following posts are my journey into understanding Christmas and Advent, and making it real for us according to where we live. I hope you enjoy them, and I would love to hear your ideas too.

ADVENT POSTS

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Advent

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: The Four Kingdoms

Advent Week One: The Mineral Kingdom

Advent Week Two: The Plant Kingdom

Advent Week Two: The Plant Kingdom Story

Advent Week Three: The Animal Kingdom

Advent Week Three: The Animal Kingdom Story

Advent Week Four: The Human Kingdom

The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Epiphany

CHRISTMAS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE POSTS

Finding Meaning In the Festive Season

What to Do About Santa Claus?

The Christmas Tree

The Jesse Tree

The Summer Solstice

CHRISTMAS RECIPES

Raw Gingerbread

Christmas Spice Muesli

Raw Chocolate Cherry Christmas Stars

CHRISTMAS CRAFT

Handmade Fabric Christmas Garlandslinden garland 3

OTHER CHRISTMAS ARTICLES AND RESOURCES

Christmas in the Middle Ages Part 1

Celebrating Community: The Free Neighbourhood Library

This is Little Alexandria. It is a free library for anyone who wants to come and borrow a book. You are welcome to sit and read, to borrow a book for a while or swap it for another. My friend made it for the pleasure of her neighbourhood community. One of her neighbours built and installed it and I think many have contributed books.

It sits outside the front of her house, built to withstand the weather, waiting for people to come and immerse themselves in literacy. With some comfy chairs to spend some time sitting and getting to know the neighbours too.

Isn’t this a great way to build community? I think it is also another wonderful way that children in the neighbourhood can have access to books, access to people who love books – and learn the joy of reading. Reading doesn’t have to be solitary!

 

 

 

The Essence of the Simple Doll

This is Lavender Baby. Lavender Baby was lovingly created by the staff at my daughters’ kindergarten, intended to be a friend who journeys between home and kindy with each of the children in the group. This week it was my daughter’s turn to bring Lavender Baby home, and Rosella received her with the pure joy and delight that one can only express in childhood, and has cared for her as tenderly as a mother can. It did get a bit tricky in the beginning – having Lavender Baby at Lavendilly House. It was very easy to get mixed up and start calling her Lavendilly Baby 🙂

She has been shown all around our house, has been hugged, sung to (all new, original lullabies by Rosella!), tucked in and put to sleep many times a day. She’s been to playgroup, soccer practice, school and the supermarket – tucked into the sling – and she has been safely buckled into the car many times. She has listened with enraptured silence to an endless stream of stories and succumbed to an overwhelming amount of attentive mothering. I am so glad to have had Lavender visit this week, her arrival has been perfect timing. Rosella had been feeling a little low recently, but Lavender, a most special friend, has really brought her cheerful, playful spirit back.

Lavender Baby LOVED jumping upside down on the trampoline

Lavender Baby has been made in the style of traditional Waldorf dolls: simple and uncomplicated. She sparked my thoughts again regarding the destiny and purpose of a doll. I’ve written a little about it before, however for some time I’ve wanted to write about the essence of the simple doll. Rosella’s thoughtful kindy teachers intentionally created her to be neutral. Her expression doesn’t betray her own feelings, but reflects those of the one she is with. We are referring to Lavender as ‘she’, because that is how Rosella has identified with her, however Lavender doesn’t mind being a ‘he’ either. That’s the beauty of the simple doll. They are so agreeable, so ready to be whoever you need them to be. Always there to be a mirror to your soul to help you experience your feelings from outside of you. How many toys these days are created to be a part of that flexible and responsive process of growth and learning?

Every child needs at least one uncomplicated, neutral friend. This was the original intention behind the Waldorf doll-making movement.  Dolls were made to be available to a child without making a statement about what that child’s hair or clothing should look like, what they should say, or what they should do. Lavender Baby is dressed head to toe in soft purple velour (comfort is important!) and she doesn’t have to worry about fashion or how her hair is arranged. She’s just there as she is for whoever needs her. Now, I’m not making a comment on whether it is right to have waldorf dolls with fashionable hair and clothes – I’ve made a few of those for sale myself – but I also do not believe that such dolls are as readily open and available to the child’s spirit in the same way as the simple doll.

The waldorf doll market can be an expensive, competitive and consumer-based place, but at the same time it is still one worth a visit just to admire the exquisite work, from an adult perspective, put into many of these dolls. There are many beautiful dolls looking for a child to befriend. I just invite you to be conscious of your reason for purchasing. Of course you could make one yourself (it ISN’T hard!) Any time you want to buy or make a toy for your child I encourage you to ask: What is the essence of this toy? What need does this toy fulfill for my child? Will it serve my child’s inner world (growth, feelings, thoughts) or my child’s outer world (image, fashion)? Will it grow with my child as my child grows?

We made Lavender Baby a pair of overalls to keep her clean when she played outside.

Of course I know that it is fun just to buy stuff just because you want it, and I think this is less of a problem in terms of consumerism when our real needs (for example, our basic needs for health, acceptance, creativity, expression etc) are already fulfilled.  This place of security allows us to then make good (and fun!) choices based on what we want, without being consumed by the need to have more. My good friend, parenting writer Amber Greene, recently drew my attention to this article: The Boy With No Toys. It is a great illustration of how simple playthings empower our children.

The fresh abundance of joy, freedom, love and imagination that our unassuming Lavender Baby has released in Rosella has made me very aware of how much the simple things fulfill our needs faster than the fancy things can fulfill our wants. Lavender Baby, thank you for bringing us all some simple joy!

Craft: Pressed Flower Fairies

In the beginning of the term I went for a walk up at Mt Tamborine, one of my favourite places, to gather some of Mother Earth’s fallen Autumn bounty: in this case, leaves and petals. I found some wonderfully large maple leaves, which have been lots of fun for the children to dance around with, rose petals, golden cassia petals, golden trumpet flowers, old man’s beard, grevillea leaves and smaller maple leaves. I took these home and pressed them for a few weeks in our phone book by laying them carefully flat in the pages and then laying a few heavy weights on top of the phone book to keep them all flat.

Inspired by a very beautiful book that I was given many years ago, Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwandin which the most exquisite clothes have been created out of pressed flowers, bark, feathers and leaves, I couldn’t wait for my own pressed flowers to be ready. I wanted to make some greeting cards with Autumn fairies dancing!

It was worth the wait. It was several weeks before they were dry enough to take out. Some of them had faded in colour, but I think that adds to the Autumnal feel 🙂

Here are a few of the pretty fairies that emerged when I brought out the pressed flowers at playgroup. I provided a cut out silhouette, some card, glue and Fairie-ality  for inspiration, and set the mums free –  this is what happened:

Rainbow Birthday Crowns for Little People

Children’s birthdays are wonderful opportunities for celebrating. I prefer simple celebrations for my children: a few friends, a park, some great food and a few well-chosen gifts. Anything more than that and I get whipped up in a frenzy of shopping, preparation, cleaning, crowd control … I don’t enjoy myself and my children get overwhelmed with everything that is going on and we all kind of collapse in a heap at the end of it. Some of the best children’s birthday celebrations I have participated in have taken no more than 10 minutes in a ceremony that acknowledges how special the child is. Here is my son at his playgroup celebration on his third birthday: a crown, a cape, a song, a story and a tiny gift was all it took to create a lasting memory and a warm fuzzy feeling.

I like to acknowledge the children’s birthdays at my playgroup too – the crown they wear for their little ceremony is their gift. This year I’ve chosen to make rainbow crowns because we love rainbows 🙂 Here’s how I made them.

Cut a length of red felt that, when it is doubled over, is enough to cover your child’s brow. Then cut strips of coloured felt, about 1 cm wide to sew the rainbow.

One by one, sew the strips along the length of the red felt base. Slightly overlap each coloured strip as you sew it.

Fold the red felt up behind the coloured strips and trim it to shape. Stitch one end of your elastic firmly between the folded felt. Stitch up the whole end of the rainbow. Measure the crown on your child’s head to get the right length of elastic to stitch on the other side.

Blanket stitch across the top of the rainbow. For a tutorial on blanket stitch, visit Mama Moontime

Add a few decorations if you wish. This crown is for a 2-year-old so I have added two little stars.

Gratitude Prayer Flags

Very young children have an expectation that all good things will come their way. It is a pretty good place to be. Gratitude, however, means taking a step back from this space and looking at what has come our way, sifting through it and feeling love for those good things.

It isn’t very easy to cultivate this kind of soul mood with very young children. You can’t sit down with them and say “Now, what are you grateful for?” I am not sure that gratitude is something that very young children experience on a conscious level, although it may come out in a physical way – expressions of joy, cuddles, caring play and precious out-of-the-blue remarks that make your heart sing. I think it is a pretty important skill to learn, and one that we can teach through imitation – that is by demonstrating gratitude in our everyday living.

There are a few ways we can show gratitude at home. They are simple, and some are considered old-fashioned now – but we make an effort to do them regularly:

– saying a blessing before meals

– acknowledging thanks and praising others for their achievements (my goal this year is to write more thank you letters)

– talking about our day in terms of what we experienced, what we enjoyed and what we learned.

For playgroup this week we made prayer flags – little colourful reminders of happiness and thanks to flutter in our windows. To be honest painting with children is not one of my favourite experiences – I have troubles getting over the inevitable spills of colour and the need to clean up afterwards. But it is so worth the preparation and the patience.

 

The children drew their own thing and I talked about the messages I was writing and the love I put into my pictures as I drew them. The littlest one was pretty grateful for the opportunity to paint – on herself. And it was a while before I realised she was just as happy to paint with a brush and plain water …

My son is a bit older and he caught the idea of the exercise quickly. Here he is grateful for his strength, which he used to create a straw bale cubby in our yard. This cubby has brought many hours of joyful playing and constructing.

We made them with an old bed sheet ripped into squares, felt pens and watered-down fabric paints. Hung to dry and stitched on to a ribbon. What are you grateful for?

Celebrating Summer: Sun Printed T shirts

the crew at Lavendilly House

Our summer this year was glorious – just the right amount of heat, beautiful clear days, cooling breezes, bright sunshine. Perfect for beach-going, creek-playing, bush-walking and exploring – and we did all that. Then the rains came and we had to dig out our winter clothes for a little while – and our umbrellas, raincoats, gumboots – and maybe some people needed bailing buckets as flood waters rose. Summer rains always bring a bit of drama to the season.

Our summer rains came right when I was planning to begin our new playgroup, Lavendilly Sunshine! We had to slosh through ankle-deep water in a big wet field to get to our playgroup last week. Never mind! We’ve had a week of sunshine in between and the sun printing paints I ordered arrived – NOW we can celebrate summer!

As our playgroup is held outdoors we have to be wary of the sun. Our Queensland sun will burn the skin in minutes, and being a fair-skinned person myself I’m pretty wary of it. Our first playgroup my kids and I were sunburned after five minutes of pushing at the swings with no hats on. Naughty! I felt awful bringing home my daughters looking like cherry tomatoes.

So this week we remembered hats, suncream AND we wore our playgroup t-shirts so that our faces and shoulders were covered. We decorated plain t-shirts with the sunprinting fabric paint. The kids and I had a little play with it a while ago – and glad we did too! Some of our efforts worked –  others didn’t. Here’s how you do it (and what we learned!)

I used Pebeo Setacolour Soleil paints. I watered them down a little bit (not too much I discovered!) and set up everything I needed: plain white shirt, brushes, resist layer (bubblewrap or newspaper) glass of water for washing brushes, resist objects or cut-outs to print with.

the little one thought the paints looked like juice - tempting!

Dampen your fabric (either by wetting and wringing out, or with a spray of water) then place something underneath the fabric to stop the paints from soaking through – I used a bit of bubble wrap on the inside of the t-shirt but you can also use a few layers of newspaper – then start painting! The wet surface of the fabric will help the colours to spread and blend beautifully. Make sure you fill all spaces and leave no white gaps in your painting, as this may spoil your design.

lay in hot full sun with designs on top - these are cardboard cutouts

When you have finished painting, place your resist designs over the paint and place in the sun. After a while the space under the designs that does not have direct contact with the sun will turn white. Once it is dry you iron it for a few minutes to set the paint. That’s it! Simple!

the designs come out better if you don't lift them off all the time to check for progress!

But here’s what I discovered:

1) If you are using natural objects like leaves for your designs – find old, dried ones, or press and dry them flat first. I picked a beautiful fern for one design and as it lay in the sun it’s frond curled as they dried, so the design didn’t completely print. In the end I went with designs cut-out from cardboard.

the fern frond curled as it dried and the design didn't work - still a nice shirt though!

2) It works best with strong, hot sun. There is definitely a difference between morning and afternoon sun. Mid-morning is best. Don’t so this in the afternoon – look how subtle my design is!

squint your eyes and you might see my logo inside a sun! Too much water diluted the paints and made the colours bleed

3) Don’t make your fabric too wet. This dilutes the paint and these prints look so much better with bright colours! Again – see my shirt above! If it comes out too faint you can re-paint it and put it back in the sun. Would be great to do layers of colours, getting layers of designs too.

So now everyone knows what they are getting for christmas from me: t-towels, bags, scarves … all sun printed! It was just too easy 🙂

beetles, butterflies and mermaids 🙂

There is a shark here - but the grey shirt doesn't show it up so well

How to Make a Doll Baby Carrier

The only thing I recommend new parents buy (in terms of equipment) for a new baby is a good baby carrier.  Ours is an Ergo and it is so good that it has been used pretty much every day for the last four years. I have never had to buy anything else, and we even gave our pram away.

Here is my littlest one feeling sleepy on my back. She used to spend a lot of time there when she was smaller. At the moment she is spending more time on my back because she is feeling pretty miserable with six teeth coming in all at once 😦

And as so often happens, my daughter’s babies have been feeling a bit miserable now and then too, and they want to be closer to their mummy also. We tried wrapping them on to her snuggly with one of my long silky scarves, and it worked ok … but it was a bit floppy and the scarves were not really long enough for a good fit.

So Baby Rosie and Baby Hans received a baby carrier for Christmas. It was a rush job (as my home-made Christmas presents so often are!) and I have some improvements to make on the design, however until I can update you, I’ll show you how I made this one.

I used a few online tutorials for ideas. I particularly related to the 41 steps involved in this tutorial! I’m pretty sure I managed to make mine in about the same amount of steps, but lets see if I can whittle it down for you. Sorry about the quality of the photos!

YOU WILL NEED:

1 baby doll

2 metal rings

at least 2m of strong ribbon (see note at end)

fabric of your choice (I used flannelette)

STEP ONE: Measure width of fabric

STEP ONE: To find the width of your pattern, fold your fabric in half and lay baby on top of it. Cut the fabric so there is about 2 inches either side of your baby. You will, of course, lay your baby more central than I have done here!

STEP TWO: Measure length

STEP TWO: To find the length of your pattern, lay baby so that the fabric reaches just up behind baby’s neck, depending on how much head support you feel baby is going to need. Fold the fabric up between baby’s legs so that it comes up and over baby’s tummy. Measure this point and cut there, leaving some seam allowance.

STEP THREE: Cut a tab for the rings.

STEP THREE: Place baby somewhere comfortable to watch the proceedings. Then cut some of your ribbon to make the tabs to hold the rings. Just enough so that it can be stitched into the seams.

STEP FOUR: Mark out place for ring tabs, just above midway.

STEP FOUR: Fold your fabric so the pattern is on the inside. Mark a place just above the end of the fabric when it is folded up for baby in step two. This is where we will sew the rings (but unlike me, you will pin them on the INSIDE of the fabric, not the outside!)

STEP FOUR: Pin and stitch straps and ring tabs on the INSIDE.

Fold your ribbons tabs through the rings and pin them INSIDE your folded fabric at the place you marked. I didn’t do this, so of course when I folded the fabric right way out, the rings were on the inside, which wasn’t very useful and required some unpicking.

At this stage, cut your remaining ribbon in half and pin those ON THE INSIDE right up at the top, at the fold of the fabric. These will be the straps (You can just see the edges of the straps peeking out at the top of the folded fabric.

STEP FIVE: turn right way out, then stitch up the bottom edge.

STEP FIVE: Stitch down either side of your fabric, over the straps at the top, and the ring tabs mid-way down. Leave the bottom open and turn your fabric right way out. Tuck in the raw edges at the bottom and sew them up.

DON'T do this.

STEP SIX: Fold the bottom edge up to just under the ring tabs and sew securely in place. DO make sure your straps are out of the way, unlike me.

Ready for wearing

That’s it! Baby sits in the seat of the carrier and is placed on the front or back of the child, then the straps are taken over the shoulders like a back pack, or crossed over if preferred, then through the ring tabs and tied up together.

 

Because this was such a rush job, I didn’t buy proper ribbon, and the stuff I found in my cupboard wasn’t very strong. The stitching from the machine effectively perforated the ribbon, so it tore off after the first wearing 😦 That’s ok – today’s job is to fix that with some straps made of fabric so that Baby Rosie and Baby Hans can be carried about when they need a cuddle from a busy mummy.

I am also thinking of attaching clips to the ends of the straps so that they can be clipped on instead of having to be tied up.