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I'm sneaking in today 'cos we need to talk about kids and holidays. It's only day 10 for me and already their little faces are tilted earnestly upwards each morning with a beseeching "what are we going to do today, mum?" I quiver a little.

I've got a fun story up on Live4 about keeping the kids calm and happy in the hols. Thought you might like it... I'm planning to book my kids in with the hands-on home-based parent up the road in the new year...

I also did a collected post for Village Voices, finding 21 ways to entertain the kids at home. I can already attest to the power of a water wall. Easy to construct and even Max is right into it.

What's a 'home day' in the hols look like for you?


Merry Christmas to you

Thanks for reading, thanks for being there, thanks for keeping it real.

Thanks for boosting me, thanks for reminding me, thanks for all that you do.

See you in the new year. Have a Christmas full of wonder.



This week I'm grateful for... challenges

As much as I wish for life to just go away for a year or so, I know I would be bored within six months. Ha, ha. But really, I do complain about life's busyness, but the reality is that I thrive on it and without constant prompts to action, I would just be a puddle taking up room on the couch, watching Dr Phil reruns and dreaming about my 'best life' (Dr Phil / Oprah cross-reference there, I'm sure. They tend to blur into one big self-help mantra to me..).

So, this week I'm grateful for...

308. Challenges - I might whinge about it, but being challenged keeps my brain functioning and my body upright.

309. Sugar-free cordial - it's just a nice change from water and I'm pretty sure it's better for me than another diet coke.

310. Mice - is the plural of a computer mouse mice as well? It just doesn't sound right... but anyway, I'm grateful for my computer mouse because as much as I try to be a full laptop scratcher / roller, I just can't get to where I want to go efficiently enough.

What's got you grateful this week?

Link up with us here.

[Image via weheartit. Please let me know if it is yours.]


A star of wonder

Everyone in my neighbourhood must think we are very religious. It might be the 2 metre tall star that is currently gracing our front yard. Sorry about the slightly out of focus shots above... it is actually really, really hard to take photos in the dark with an instamatic camera and no tripod. Who knew!?

Yes, we've done the 'lights thing' this year. Once solar lights started making their way onto the planet, it was only a matter of time before this Tiny Tim succumbed...

I spend my nights patiently waiting on my front verandah for my first drive-by 'slow down'.

Nothing yet, but surely with that star it's only a matter of time before I'm rattling the charity bucket and booking the Mr Whippy?

Do you do the Christmas lights thing?


The sky in the Yarra

When I was in Melbourne on the weekend I mostly just walked. I walked until my feet were on fire and my eyes were tired from searching the road ahead. What can I see? I constantly asked myself. What can I see?

I saw a boy kiss the bag on a girl's back when she wasn't looking. He looked sheepish, but triumphant.

I saw graffiti that said 'Life is only here because you let it in'.

I saw a yellow mailbox with a bright pink heart.

I saw a beaming red balloon leave a boy's clutched hand and sail off across the sky reflected in the Yarra. Everyone around stopped to watch it go. We all looked for a very long time.

I saw a salsa band that was so cheerfully buoyant that even without sound they would have made me dance.

I saw a bird fall off a branch, dead.

Inside me I saw that there are no dead ends, only good and bad days. Every morning woken with the plain and simple thought: maybe today.

Maybe today.

What are you seeing lately?

[Image by Photoforia]


This week I'm grateful for... gingerbread

Yippee, I'm in Melbourne for one night only. I'm down here for work but I'm staying over night and having a wonderful 'Bronny Day' (as my husbie calls them) tomorrow. Oh how I love a Bronny Day. I'm thinking a laze in, leisurely breakfast cooked by someone else and a stroll around the shops.

Despite all the craziness going on around these parts, I just adore this time of the year. I've made a gingerbread house for the first time ever (under careful tutelage from a group of friends), we made a giant star for the front yard (will share when I'm back) and we laughed ourselves silly at the deranged corporate-type we met at a function on Wednesday night. So eager to achieve a 'work life balance' that he couldn't see that work was all he could talk about.

So, this week I'm grateful for...

305. Gingerbread - don't it make you feel good?

306. Time out - heeeeello lovely Melbourne. Thanks for having me.

307. Reminders - my funny Mr Corporate Man was a dear soul and he reminded me just how far I've come this past year.

What's got you grateful this week?

Link up with us here.


The magical fairy garden

 It was a low day. The grey skies above matched the grey hope in my heart. Little things were a bother.

I sat on the front verandah, watching the night leech the grey out of the sky, turning on a little orange glow that fired up the red in my children's hair. Little heads bent working, legs scurrying from here to there, gathering.

"Mumma, come and see!" came the excited cry. "We decorated the fairy garden!"

I dully lifted myself from my chair and ambled over, wondering why children always need their parents to verify every little thing they do. Look at me, look at me.

I swear the breath stopped in my chest when I saw what they had created. Every grey care I harboured was suddenly adrift, floating off to different waters and ships carrying joy, delight, wonder and perfect grace were coming in to dock. It felt that wonderful to see this fairy garden.

"It's beautiful," I said with all my heart.

"It's magical," said Cappers.

"Yes," I agreed, my heart light. "It really is magical."

When did you last experience real magic?


That Every Kid in the Class Thing: part 3

Not a year goes by that I don't promise myself that I will not do that every kid in the class thing. And yet, just like last year (those reindeer noses are my most viewed post ever... all those pinners popping over for a download) (actually, that's not quite true, by far and away this post is my most viewed, but I don't count it 'cos it's bad), I have failed to listen to my own sensible self once again.

I'm kinda glad. Sensible Self Me is not really very much fun. She is big on not-biting-off-more-than-you-can-chewisms and forgetting people's birthdays. I rather prefer to flog myself a bit to make celebrations special. Making loads of stuff for friends is a really nice way to spend some time with the kids too.

So, here we have the 53 Rudolf bags, the idea first repinned from somewhere long ago because I just knew it was the one (you know how you just know). Inside were Malteasers and clinkers and raspberries with candy cane antlers. Candy canes - who on earth eats those things?

Off they went to school today, some Rudolfs looking more deranged than others. No matter. The kids seemed to love the ones with the mismatched eyes and scary blue antlers even more than the 'nice ones'.

There's a Christmas message for us all right there.

Did you do the 'every kid in the class thing' this year? 

If you posted about it, please leave me a link in the comments so I can come share your madness.

Linking up with Kootoyoo's My Creative Space today too.

No, THIS be the verse

They fuck you up, your sons and daughters
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill themselves with faults you've never heard of
And add insomnia, just for you.

They won't say please or wait their turn
Or stoop to wear their hats or coats
They make you yell until you get heartburn
But still they're at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to woman.
Those kids will wring your last drop of health.
Get them out of the house as early as you can
And insist they have kids themself.

By Maxabella

With respect to Mr Larkin.

What would you add in your flipped-around version of Larkin's poem?


Picnic your cares away...

You know we've been having some troubles in Maxabellaland lately. We've been saved by good humour (although it's fast becoming very unfunny) and fresh air.

No, really. Fresh air.

Read all about it over at my other gig...

I've shared my deeeee-licious recipe for the above chicken and leek picnic pies to lure you across. Lure, lure, lure...


There's something missing from my organised life...

The more 'how to get organised' articles I read the more I realise that organising my life both thrills and terrifies me in equal measures. Thrills me because those types of articles offer my favourite thing in the world: hope. I can do that, I think and bookmark my way to sorting out my third drawer down, keeping track of those pesky socks, avoiding the paper explosion, finding the right sherpa to take me to the top of the washing pile... hope.

I purchase all the necessary tools - great wads of blu tac, nifty little notebooks, spools of labels for my pretty pink label maker and variously shaped boxes and baskets and tubs and jars.

I set up amazing systems where everything has a place and the world is calm and ordered and right.

I sit back, exhausted but with hope still shining out of me like a radiant sun and then... 

The trouble with organisation is that it takes work. Really, really hard work. Turns out that stuff doesn't put itself into the neat little tubs on cue. Every day, every day, you have to go through and put all the stuff back where it belongs. At day's end, you can't put your feet up and have a glass of whine because you haven't done your sorting today and if you don't do it today, and every single day after that, things will unravel at a speed fast enough to make Usain Bolt's head spin. You can't even cheat and throw something into the third drawer down anymore because you've got all these little boxes in there where everything has a place and there is actually no allocated place in the known world for stuff-that-doesn't-have-a-home-because-it-cannot-be-grouped-with-anything-else-in-the-known-world.

So, you've got all the Stuff that Cannot Be Grouped, but worse than that you've got Yourself Who Cannot Be Fucked.

In the red corner is all those systems I've created and in the blue there is me. I get so bloody bored putting things away in the places that I've allocated them that after a  while I just don't bother. In fact, some days the idea of having to spend another ten minutes or so regrouping everything into their neat little baskets makes me want fold myself up very neatly and put myself away in the linen cupboard.

So it piles up and eventually you've got all this stuff hanging around on the top of the very orderly, very neat system that you spent a lot of time creating. Your organisation system is effectively buried under chaos. You wonder, why did I bother creating this orderly, neat system when my house looks just as crazy as someone who never bothered in the first place? Why did I do that? Why?

All that stuff is depressing, but the idea of having to stay on top of it is even more depressing. So what's missing from my organised life is... me.

How do you get along with the organised life?


May your days be merry and uber-doober bright!

Usually I prefer rather subdued and subtle designs or decorating choices. I like the background to blend so life can take centre stage. Here are some of the Christmas decs I've decked this year...

But let's face it, sometimes we need a little help in the oomph department. So this year I've added a little roaring pink to the Christmas mix to brighten things up.

I really, really want 2013 to be merry and bright... so I'm wishing it onto my card this year. This year wasn't a terrible year or anything. It just kind of went on, rather than made its mark or kept us joyful. So, this year I'm wishing the brightest, merriest Christmas to everyone on my Christmas list. I do love to send a card each year. I genuinely look forward to creating and writing my cards each year. I take a little time to reflect on each person I'm sending one to and to vibe them over some big love.

So, cheers to a merry and bright Christmas.

Print one out from me to you!

Click on the image to download the card. Write the message inside that you know you want to hear this Christmas and pretend it's from me. You could also print lots and lots of cards and send them to your friends, of course!

Do you love sending Christmas cards each year too?


This week I'm grateful for... lights

Ho ho ho... ho... ho. Yeah, ho.

That's just me getting into the Christmas spirit. As you can imagine, it feels a little like someone has attached a dimmer switch to my usual festive brightness. But shine on, I will.

It was rather telling when LOML mentioned that the 'giant star surrounded by wreath' combo that I'd worked up for the fireplace looked like a Communist symbol. Rather telling. I quite liked it, but didn't want the neighbours to get the wrong impression, so I changed it to the scene you see above. There's stars and silver and deer and green bits. That's cheery enough, right? I can do this, right?

I'm okay. Really I am. In actual fact, this week I'm grateful for...

302. Lights - all the Christmas lights that are popping up everywhere are just lifting my spirits. Is it possible to be glum when hundreds of shiny lights are making your eyes twinkle? I am this close to throwing a Santa up on the roof and running some multi-coloured icicle lights over the carport.*

303. Adventure - we are packing to go camping as a family for the very first time ever tomorrow. Luckily we are going with my sister C, a seasoned camper and all-round good sport and we're camping at Tricia's, fellow good sport. They will be kind.

304. Organisation - we finally have everyone moved into the bedroom they are meant to be in and I have a dedicated office-slash-playroom to do my work-from-home work in. Every office needs a built-in playroom. It only took us 18 months to find the time to do it all. I'm saving the kids' bedroom 'reveals' (ha!) for after I get my DSLR for Chrissy... Yes! I'm getting a real-live proper camera. Crappy photographer me is going to make myself be good at pictures! So, the idea is I'll shoot the rooms so I can practice on something that doesn't move first...

Oh, and if you haven't 'liked' Maxabella loves... (that's me) (just in case you forgot where you were for a second) (happens to me all the time) on Facey... please do. I update little things over there sometimes that you might be interested in and it's fun to have a conversation. Always up for one of those!

What's got you grateful this week?

* We don't actually have a carport. Which is probably just as well...


Coconut coated curve balls

When life throws you curve balls, roll them in coconut.

Or something like that.

Over at our place, things have been both good and not very good at all. Life is like that, isn't it?

I don't want to go into too much detail because it's Maxi's story, not mine, but I just wanted to write a little bit about some insights I have recently had into this parenting jaunt. That is to say, it's often not much of a jaunt at all...

So, I've talked here and there about the fact that my boy is an anxious type. Well, to be honest, I don't talk about it too much because, like I said, it's Maxi-Taxi's story. It's Maxi's thing. I've always maintained that I think his anxiety is the reason why he wouldn't sleep as a newborn (and still doesn't). I think he just came out that way.

Anyway, he's always struggled with things that are much bigger than he is and recently I've discovered that they are much bigger than his parents are too. We called in some reinforcements to help him learn some new coping skills and it's been a huge relief. It's early, early days, but the fact that someone else is going to help us help my boy feels like they are carrying part of the enormous burden that parenting can be.

The thing about this parenting non-jaunt is that it gets too big for us sometimes. There we are with our newborn baby and nothing, nothing on this great earth, can prepare us for what's ahead. We stumble around, seeking solace in the writings of experts who can really only tell us about every child, not this child. Sometimes we need those experts to get to know this child.

This child.

Bold, thoughtful, radiant, complicated. And so I channel my inner, roaring Tiger Mother and push. I push him off to school and push him to eat. I push him to try his best and I push him to sleep. I push when I'd rather just pull him in close and tuck him snugly under my wing, but under there he can't fly on his own... so I push. I push him to know that he is fine just as he is.

Every day I am thankful for the fact that each of my children is healthy, capable, hopeful, caring, neon-aglow. There is nothing more that they really need than that. Nothing more.

Sorry for the rambling post. I think I am out of practice. And somewhat distracted by the huge love I have in my heart that is currently doing second grade maths up the road.

Do you parent an anxious child?

{Image found on weheartit. Please let me know if it is yours.}