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This week I'm grateful for... tin cans

Ah, this feels better. I decided to only do Grateful over on VV for a while until I got on top of things around here again. Didn't happen, of course. My "new normal" continues to get the better of me, but not doing Grateful here on Maxabella loves... well, wasn't helping at all.

Just didn't feel right.

And so I'm back, from outer space, and this week I'm grateful for...

299. Trombones - Maxi thought it would give the French Horn a go when he joined the school band next year. The French Horn is known as the hardest brass instrument to play, so I was a little concerned that he-who-gives-as-little-effort-as-possible-to-things would launch himself straight into something like that. Turned out he was more 'suited' to the Trombone and he's so over-the-moon happy about being a trombone player and so, frankly, am I.

300. New rooms - the girls are in their new room. I repeat, the girls are in their new bedroom. The boy is in his new bedroom, repeat, in his new bedroom. And it took under a year and half to make it happen... ... ... when I get my new camera up and running, I will share the fabulousness. You might catch a sneak peek when I share our Chrissy decos this year.

301. Tin cans - I've been punching holes out of them and making them into lanterns for a party we're having a bit later. The image above is from Layer Cake - I'm not quite that clever. My holes look more like squelches, but I'm learning. I've been making them into pencil tins. I've been using them as vases. Behold, the humble tin can.

What's got you grateful this week?


What's keeping my child up at night?

I constantly strive (STRIVE) to understand the whole sleep thing with kids. I know I probably make it worse with all that striving. As soon as my kids cotton on that there is something I really want them to do, they promptly go ahead and do the opposite.

Yet, still I strive.

I think over the years we have really made a lot of progress. On VV today, I've shared what I've learned and what's working best for us these days. Hope you'll join me over there.


{Image is of a very tired Max at about three months, clearly loving his ears.}


Friendship and our kids

Those of you who read my blog (when I used to write on it properly, that is) (and a day is coming when I will return, I promise) (and this promise is like a real promise and not like all those other promises that I sometimes make and never keep) (promise)... will know that aside from liking to ramble on quite a lot, I also like to talk about friendship. The getting of it, the tending of it, the wrecking of it, the observing of it and, most importantly, the fostering of it in our children.

It's a tricky thing, young friendship. So rock-solid one minute, so epic-fail the next. Helping our children work out how it all fits together (and not get too hurt, but maybe just a little) is one of the great challenges of parenting. And that's if your children can even find a friend in the first place.

But before I write a whole new post over here, come over to Village Voices where I recently talked a great deal about helping our kids navigate their frienships

I'd be very happy to have a little chat via the comments because we have Disqus over there and I can reply and then you can reply and I'll reply again and then before you know it, we're best buds ourselves. It's true!


How does my garden grow?

Well now, that's a very good question. Well, it grows with a husband and wife gardening team coming over once a month. I love Frances and Tony. They keep me on track and do the 'lawns' - the rumbly grass patches we manage to keep alive with their help.

It also grows with me doing as little useful gardening as possible. I prefer to pull the odd weed and plant stuff with the kids than do the really hard yards (pun!), but I ADORE having a lovely garden to look at, potter through and just generally lay about in. A once a month gardener isn't going to get me that, so I've come up with lots of useful ways to garden when you're not really gardening.

Do you like the girls' Smurf garden?

The used pants

About a week ago a friend gave me a small bag of clothes that her daughter had outgrown. I accepted them with thanks; we are not fancy and hand-me-downs are welcome at our place. It's the least we can all do to be environmentally cautious. Re-use children's clothing and pick up good stuff off the side of the road on hard rubbish day.

But there's a line.

I get the small bag home and the Badoo and I gleefully open it, ready to tuck into a pretty new dress (these bags almost always include a favourite party dress, often hand-painted by a small child as a bonus). But when we saw the contents of the bag, even the Badoo knew that the line had been crossed. Her face crinkled in that disgusted face that a four-year-old does so well.

"It's pants," she said.

Yes, I agreed, it's pants.


My friend had given me pair after pair of her daughter's used pants. Nice pants, carefully washed, but pants. Nothing else in the bag.

We tied the small bag back up and put it in the corner and spent a few days avoiding it. Then the day before rubbish day, I took a photo of some of the pants (as you do) and threw the small bag into the bin.

So, the day after rubbish day, my friend stops me on the school run and says brightly, "how's the Badoo enjoying the new clothes?"

What do you say to that? WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Added later on: There was some concern in early comments and over on Facebook about my friend reading my post and everyone was all worried. I just wanted to add that OF COURSE I had 'the chat' about the pants prior to writing this post. I would never write about a friend on my blog else without having 'the chat'  first... well, there were a couple of times that I didn't do that and I HAVE LIVED TO REGRET EACH OF THOSE TIMES VERY, VERY MUCH... so, yes, all is well with my friend (who is probably reading this right now and thinking, "she's nuttier than I am with my used pants present, that one.")


Preschoolers make the best cleaners

That lil' Badoo of mine, she loves to help. She's a lot like her mummy like that, with one major difference. The Badoo likes to help with the cleaning.

Set her up right and she goes and goes and goes. I wrote about her six best chores today on Village Voices.

{Image of Little Eco by my lovely mate Tricia at Little Eco Footprints}


One child versus 27 children

I would just like to mention that sometimes I wish I only had one child (as opposed to the other sometimeses when I wish I had none, of course). Easy there tiger, don't get all roar-y on me, I'm not wishing away my beloved girls, not at all.
But sometimes I imagine what it must be like to have the one kid to... focus on. All the loving, all the attention, all the time you've possibly got to give, you get to lavish on that one kid. It must feel bloody good (and I'm pretty sure the kid loves it too).
More than that, there would be no tag teaming. Around here, my kids get together at the beginning of January each year and plot out the year ahead. The AGM goes something like this...
"You take January, Cappers," Max directs. "Fall off the trampoline and sprain your ankle so mum has to carry you everywhere for two weeks... no, wait, you'll need to stretch that to three weeks because -"
"-because I can't implement the morning tears-and-skirt-hanging routine until preschool goes back in February," chimes in The Badoo.
"Great," agrees Cappers. "So you take February, but make sure you throw in at least three weekly up-all-night episodes, mum's looking a bit too well-rested lately - she copes with us all so much better on sleep so keep her up, won't you?"
"I'll do the school-meltdown-anxiety-attacks March through to June," Max says generously. "I could probably stretch them to July if there's any sign that mum is getting over them."
"Or if I can't get a nobody-at-school-will-play-with-me festival up and running by then," agrees Cappers.
And so it goes. Each with their own little idiosyncrasies and foibles, all guaranteed to make you think you're both the most unfortunate and the worst parent currently working the beat. There is just so much going on that you'd swear you had 27 children (something I often mention to the kids - "It's hard having 27 children you know", to which the reply is always the same "aw muuuuum".)
Every child has patches of sheer golden delight, of course, but the presence of their siblings means their parents can't bask in the light. You might even hope that they would all get their big problems over and done with at the same time so you could have a little break every now and then, but every parent of any child knows that there's no way you could survive that lot. So you are sadly even a little bit pleased that they work their annual schedule so well. It's rather considerate of them, really.
I just can't help think that one child couldn't possibly be all the trouble of three. That one, sweet, lovely child, giving off a golden glow every now and then, uninterrupted. That one child with one set of problems and one random phobia (probably even a 'normal' phobia about dogs or the dark or something... bliss!). That golden, sunny, delightful one child who doesn't even have that many problems because their parents actually have time to sit down and talk to them about their troubles before they escalate into full-blown anxiety issues requiring $280 visits to the psychologist, speech therapist and occupational therapist weekly for, oh, about three years.
I digress. 
One child - whoever you are, wherever you are - I miss you.

Do you sometimes wish you could focus on the one?


Cooking with kids

You know how you see all those charming scenes in mags and on blogs where mum and the kids are lovingly baking a spot of afternoon tea together? The kids are wrapped in festive gingham aprons, mum has just a smidge of flour on her nose and, most charming of all, there isn't a mound of flour all over everything else?

It's not like that at my place. For years and years I have endured cooking sessions with the Tsunamis. They do all the wrong things, such as lick the wooden spoon while they're still stirring the batter. Fight over whose turn it is to stir the batter.Fight over who stirred the batter the most. Fling the batter madly around the kitchen while they're sorting all that out.

But, still I do it. Week after week.

I wrote a little piece for Village Voices this week that explains why... have a read because I love it, but also have a read because this particular series of posts (me on 'everyday rituals' with 'everyday crafting' by Frog, Goose and Bear and 'everyday cooking' by Local is Lovely) is sponsored by Eggs Australia and I want you to tell me what you think of 'that kind' of sponsored post. The sponsored post where we're not really talking about the sponsor much at all.

Do let me know.

Enjoy your weekend!

I'm 'resting' Grateful on my own blog lately but I'm still going strong over on VV
Having a writing job with a few different people makes keeping a blog really, really hard.


Best kids' sports for parents

When you think about it, most of the sports on offer for our kids are not particularly parent friendly. We can immediately rule out things like:

Swimming or rowing - parents become 4.05 am alarm clock and 4.10 am chauffeur

Cricket - say goodbye to all of Saturday and most of Sunday

Rugby - all those nasty emergency hospital visits

Netball - too much general whining

Gymkhana - unless you paid for the house in cash. 
[Gymkana wallpaper image from Ginger and May]


What my kids thought

The Tsunamis and I are very important movie reviewers, didn't you know? We do a series of 'What my kids thought of X' for Live4. It's an absolute hoot, mainly because Maxi says pretty much the same thing about every movie we watch. It goes something like this...

"Hahaahahaahahah my favourite part hahahahahahaahah was when the guy goes hahaha [insert unintelligible important message from the guy here] and everyone goes hahahhahahaha."

And Cappers pipes up with, "I liked the girl but I didn't like the boy. The movie was too long."

And Badoo chimes in with her standard, "there were no scary bits."

Oh, we are so in demand my fellow movie reviewers and I.

You can read our (ground breaking) thoughts on The Lorax here and Pirates! Band of Misfits here.

What's your kids' current favourite movie? (I am making mine love Brave.)

[Image found on weheartit - please let me know if it's yours]


How to give good blog: Idea #1

Am I qualified to write a 'how to give good blog' series? Probably not. Is anyone? All I know is that I work with bloggers and blogs, I've got a (sometimes, call me maybe) blog, I've read countless blogs over the 2 1/2 years I've been blogging. I use the word blog a lot.

About that blog reading I've been doing... so, so, so, so many. They come, they go, some stick, most don't. A few stick because I personally know the blogger, some because I feel like I 'should' read them because every one else seems to. But many stick just because they are that good. I want to read them because they are special.

How do you make a blog special? Depends on what you want to get out of it, I guess. Blogging is a hobby for most, an income for some. But for any kind of blog, there are a few key things that guide a personal blog in the right direction towards interest, engagement and longevity. These are all just ideas, mind. I'm no expert, just an innocent bystander.

 Here's idea #1.

Know your purpose.

Yep, just a thinly disguised 'why do I blog?' question. Sigh. But it's important.

Whether it's just a hobby (in which case you won't care a jot what I have to say here - check out my mice) or whether you're trying to make it into your business, you've gotta know what you are trying to get out of it in order to make it good. Reasons you might blog include:

Being a part of a community
Although I hesitate to point out that you can get that pretty well just being a reader of blogs (hello Heather!) or Facebook and god knows you don't want to end up working your butt off to gather 10,000 hits for Facebook every day and 11 for your blog...

Talking about stuff that people don't generally talk about
The beautifully raw, the beautifully honest, the beautifully perceptive

Sharing your knowledge
You're a marketer, a image maker, a web producer, a Photoshop guru, a wearer of the clogs

Sharing a lifestyle that's a little bit different
You live on a farm, you're particularly eco-friendly, you're a traveller, you have a very nice house

Making us laugh
Funny almost always makes great content

Showcasing your existing business
Maybe you're a photographer, a writer, a life coach, an artist

Creating a new business
You are possibly a food blog, a style blog, a fashion blog, an interiors blog

Curating stuff from around the internet
Creative stuff, business stuff, general stuff, vintagey stuffstuffy stuff

A specific blog 
A blog for your class, for your trip, for your (groan) wedding

Of course, there are also lots and lots and lots of blogs out there that are just about 'my life'. That's find too, but just remember that there are lots and lots and lots of blogs out there that are just about a life. If you are keen on going into sponsored blogging, I think it would be very hard to get the kind of traffic volume you need to make that a profitable, long-term venture. Unless you are an incredible writer, in which case, as you were.

But for the rest of us, the way I look at it, it's very hard to keep a 'personal' style blog engaging enough to sustain relationships over a long period of time. Not without a lot of hard work it's not. We are mostly just not that interesting, not that consistent and not that into ourselves.

Remember, this is your voice on the internet and you want to say things that count. Once you've been blogging for a while, you'll want the content of your blog to 'stand alone'. You don't want to have to keep working hard every single day, flogging yourself around to get eyes on your page. A year or so in, you want the search engines and Pinterest boards of the world to be doing that for you. If you're just blogging about yourself and your life, that's a very, very hard thing to do. You need a hook!

Ah, but that's another story for next time.

What's your purpose? Did I forget to mention yours?


A very merry (un)slumber party

how to make a slumber party

It's true that I am something of a mad woman, but even I knew that having a slumber party for a seven year old's birthday party was a little bit nuts. Especially when certain circumstances conspire to mean you will be running said slumber party after just 3 hours sleep the night before.

In our defence, we thought just two girls were sleeping over, but by the time we'd entertained them to within an inch of their lives, two other girls refused to go home and stayed the night as well.

I don't blame them. Considering that we didn't go to too much trouble with this one (except for the bloody mice, of course!), this was probably our funnest party ever.

We didn't have a food 'tablescape' - we just had dinner and dessert.

We didn't do any decorations - just balloons and lots of colour.

We didn't even do a single party printable. I know, crazy huh? (Seriously, I am just as concerned about my party madness as you are... see me having a little joke at my own expense there... twitch, twitch).

But we did do some really awesome games and stuff that made this party go right off. The kids didn't even need a few glasses of wine to get partying, it was that good.

The balloon pop

We put notes inside helium balloons that revealled what was going to happen next at the party.

slumber party game ideas

The 'winner' of  the previous activity got to pop the next balloon. If they dared...

slumber party game ideas

Mr Crocodile and the cake decorating competition

Give a group of kids two different cake flavours, six different icing colours and a million small things to put on top and they are in heaven. Tell them it's a competition and there is a prize for the winner and they are in heaven for ages. It's great.

So great, in fact, that we backed it up with a 'decorate your own biscuit' competition and they still weren't bored.

slumber party game ideas

slumber party game ideas

slumber party game ideas
Maxi's little man lost and arm and a leg so he quickly became 'army man' instead. Worry.

slumber party game ideas

"Does everyone get a prize?" That One Kid asked me.

"Absolutely not," I replied crisply. "Only the best one is the winner, so get decorating."

To add a real sense of occasion, we handed over judging duties to the world's strictest judge, Mr Crocodile. That would be LOML in his crocodile pyjamas. Yes, the man was in his 'fun' pyjamas along with the kids and totally deserves being showcased for all the world to see.

slumber party game ideas

Mr Crocodile took his judging duties very seriously and the children hung on his every word. They were kept in suspense while he deliberated and pontificated and selected his 'top three' and then deliberated some more before finally announcing the winner to great applause.

slumber party game ideas

slumber party game ideas

The kids went wild and loved him to bits. I've never seen anything like it and urge you to have a Mr Crocodile judge every event at your next party. Rather than a 'prize for every child' kids actually seem to prefer a very serious competition and they were the best sports about the whole thing.

slumber party game ideas

Spin the nail-polish bottle

Here's a simple little game to play at any girl party. Cappers and I made the 'board', the object being to have a spin when it's your turn and paint one toe nail the colour that you land on.

slumber party game ideas

The girls loved this one. Depending on numbers, paint just the one or one on each foot.

slumber party game ideas

slumber party game ideas

Decorating cake boxes 

There was a competition (naturally) for the most colourful cake box, which we later filled with extra lollies and their decorated cupcakes and biscuits as their take home 'thank you' loot-bag thingy.

slumber party game ideas

Drawing the 'short straw' 

To see who got to pop the very first balloon.

I don't know about your kids, but mine absolutely loathe deciding things via 'the straw'. I think they would even prefer me to play favourites and just pick one of them than to leave it up to straw-fate. Naturally, I force them through this ordeal as often as I possibly can. Life is chance, kids, life is chance.

slumber party game ideas

Going on a mouse hunt

We're going on a mouse hunt.
We're going on a mouse hunt.
We're gonna catch a little one.
I'm not scared.

They didn't actually know what the treasure would be, of course!

slumber party game ideas

slumber party game ideas

Eating pizza and whoopies for dinner 

We were going to make these, but ran out of time! A quick call saved the day. Not sure what I'm going to do with three blocks of mozzarella and a leg of ham, of course.

We followed it up with whoopie pies with ice cream for dessert. The plated dessert... what a novel idea for a party. Rations!

slumber party food ideas
Admired and sadly ripped into the slumber party cake

slumber party cake ideas

A beautiful 'Best Aunty in the Whole Wide World' Lucia original. The oohs were only just beginning, however because when the covers were pulled back...

slumber party cake ideas

slumber party cake ideas

We didn't actually have any other food at the party, figuring the less sugar the better. Oh, except for some random doves, just because Cappers wanted them and her Zia Lucia is even madder than I am (and ten times more talented!)...

slumber party food ideas

Attempting sleep

Most of the party-goers were collected by 9 pm (all excited for being up so late) and the 'stayers' were finally asleep at, oh, 11:23pm and awake at... oh, 5:15am. Oh help.

But they all loved themselves so silly and despite completely trashing the house (there is icing and sprinkles everywhere, still...) they were a pleasure to have around. Seven year old girls are delightful.

Happy birthday, Cappersmcdappers. We love you so silly too.

Oh, what's your favourite nail polish colour? Mine is neon yellow right now!

You might not know this, but Cappers' 'real name' (she actually answers to Cappers, BTW!) is Arabella. Arabella Rose. To celebrate her birthday, Tyrells released her as a bottle of bubbly.

"An elegant pink sparkling with fragrant floral notes. Arabella Rose is a naturally sociable creature, happiest when surrounded by friends. Charming, sensual and refined, you'll wonder how you ever managed without her."

Yep, that's my girl. I hope it cellars...


If you're keen, here are some other parties I've gone mental over: