Friday, February 25, 2011

Blogging linky love

Seems ages since I gave a link to anything, here are some gems in my RSS feeds lately:

The fabulous Rachel (and IRL friend), who has the lovely blog spinnering, where she finds gems scattered across the interwebs, has a new gem of her own, a blog about great etsy finds: etsycoup.  Check it out, it's gorgeous!  I love it when people with taste do my shopping for me :D

I am loving the blog, life with a severely disabled child, OMG that woman is hilarious!  You can tell you're gonna like it from her blog header:

It's black humour with awesome coping stylings thrown in.  It's the life with a disabled kid blog I wish I could write!

I enjoy the Montessori inspired One Hook Wonder, not least of which for her witty self description:
I am a mom of 4 living in a small town. Because this can be boring, I'm forced to craft and do Montessori activities with my kids. Oh, and we do some Waldorfy things too. If not for those saving graces, I'd be living a life of crime and mayhem.
If you need Art inspiration, check out The Artful Parent, particularly this summary post of every kind of art you can imagine!  It mostly makes me feel inadequate as a parent, but hey, it's a start that I'm looking at it, right?  ;D


Thursday, February 24, 2011


We had friends over last week, and had to bounce!!!  Lolly did her first successful bum bounce and back to standing bounce :D  Don't they both look so free!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On being a stepmother

Stepmother, I are one.

Here is a post about that, in which I give a potted history and post cute pics, but also talk about some of the good and bad in my step-ish journey thus far.

Did I set out in life to have a failed marriage at the tender age of 30, and then to hook up with a recently separated fellow who had him a couple of kidlets?  Nope.  Who does!?  But, despite my lack of intention, I nevertheless found myself, 8 years ago, becoming a stepmother to two kids in shared care (half and half, week about) between their father and mother.  Smash was 8 and Snail was 4.
OMG the cute!!  Snail at 4.
More photos of cute, Smash at the start of Grade 4.  He is 15 now!
This photo is from so long ago that Snail didn't have her wheelchair yet, she was still in a special stroller!

Smash and Snail with me at the BMX park, 2004

Sleepy morning our first Christmas together, 2004.
DinnerDad and I got hitched in 2006, and one of the main reasons we both decided to get formally married was the kids.  It meant a lot to both of us that they know we were committed to each other as a family, and while we both firmly believe that is the case whether or not you have a bit of paper that says so, it seems to mean something to society, so we went along with it.  Whatever you think about marriage, it's an ace experience to have a day celebrating your commitment to each other, and to a family.
Our wedding, 2006
 I made vows to the children, to always respect them and love them, and I gave the kids a special necklace each as part of the ceremony.

For our "honeymoon" we took the kids to Sydney and went to the zoo.  This is the best "honeymoon" shot evah!, Snail and I asleep at the hotel.

 I had Lolly in March 2008.

Big brother, March 2008

Snail and Lolly eye each other off at bath time, March 2008
Stepparenting has by turns been the most awesome and the hardest shit I've done in my life.   It is second only to having my "own" child.  So, here are some hard things:

- you are there for an awful lot of firsts, lasts, and emergencies, but aren't high on anyone's list to congratulate, feel for, or generally admire as awesome.

- sometimes, people can be unkind.

- you're in-between all the time, it is a liminal state, both being a "step" and not a "real", and only having the kids half or most of the time.  We are always waiting, for the kids to arrive, to leave, to be told things, to get informed, to get on with it.  And I will forever be waiting to transition from "just" being their stepmother.

- you don't get as much say, or, as we call it round our place, "hand".  The real parents have the hand.  You have maybe a couple of fingers.  Maybe.  This isn't a power struggle thing, or a "real" parents are arseholes thing.  It is what it is.  The longer I'm with the family, the less this is an issue (my theory is that I am gradually growing more hand), but it hurt a few times in the early years.  And your hand will never be as definitive as the real parent's hand.  Or recognised at all, legally speaking.

- no one, and no institution, will EVER ask you to something, have a "day" for you, send you shit in the mail, inform you of things, or, on occasion, be entirely sure you are allowed to pick up the kids from school.  When your stepdaughter's teachers are just wonderful, they will get her to make you a mother's day card, which makes you cry.  Just saying...

- you will probably never be totally and completely comfortable calling your stepchildren "my kids" or "my daughter" or "my son."  No matter how okay they may be with that, or who you are talking to, you may always feel a twinge of dishonesty about it.  This also applies to Facebook.

- but "stepchildren" is insufficient. For example, I had a stepmother for a time, when my biological father married a third time, who I scarcely even knew!  She could call me her "stepdaughter."  Snail, as my "stepdaughter" is several degrees of magnitude my "daughter" than I even was to this woman.  Same name.  I know, this is the case with just regular old "mother" and "father" too, but that added step...some days it chaps my hide.

- you always and forever have to live with your partner's history.  And their ex. This is especially the case when your stepdaughter is high needs disabled and will never be independent.  Just think on that for a moment.  That is a shitload of time to be handling your partner's ex.  Their life "before".  In our case, it affects where we live (schools), what work we can take (no interstate or overseas - custody issues), our travel (see above), our money (don't ask), our time, our plans.  Everything.  Forever.  This is not a dig at ex's.  Your partner's ex can be the most awesome person in the world, it would still suck the big one.  

Here are some awesome things about the stepping:
- you get kids.  For free!

- you generally miss a whole lotta hard years, though of course this isn't the case for some.  But generally, you get to miss the sleep deprived newborn and interesting toddler phases.  Which of course does make me sad sometimes, but also...once has frankly been quite enough, thank you!

- you get kids!!  You get a part in a whole person's life, being there for them, being a part of who they become.  Anytime you get an opportunity to do that for a person, it's a privilege.

- you get love.  Sometimes it's teenaged monosyllabic love, but sometimes it's squeal with delight on seeing you love (thanks Snail). 

- you get a family.  There are no real words for that kind of awesome. 

- your kids get a family, Lolly and her relationship with the kids has been a joy to me, and to her.  It's very, very special.

I have, as you can tell, a lot to say about this stuff.  I know my "hard" list is longer than my "awesome" list.  But the awesome stuff is just qualitatively more excellent, and outweighs the negatives.  It's your family. Full stop.  If not for my step-kids, our last Christmas would not have looked like this, and that would suck:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fun at the shops

Lolly loves the shops, here's a quick photo hit ...

On the carosel with her friend, D.

At the toy store, being Buzz Lightyear!!!

Too cute!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wreckage at the Weir

The Weir at Mr Crosby opened again a few days ago, I drove through there and managed some quick phone shots, look how much damage there has been to the wall of the treatment plant (click on the photo to look at it larger)!

Crossing the Weir from the Ipswich side.

Damage to the retaining wall of the treatment plant.

Flood damage at the Weir.

Monday, February 14, 2011

More doings: Catching up after all the Catching up!

Some doings from the past month or two, and some nice pics.

Lolly loves dinosaurs.  Loves 'em.  Before the floods we had a visit to the museum, where the dinosaurs are a big attraction.

Dora obsessed Lolly rides the dino-roar.

Dino Lolly

We always get ice cream at the Museum!  Yum!
A picnic lunch at "school" after we got the time wrong for Nido :p  She was so upset to miss "my school" and the lunch we packed that we stopped and had our lunch there anyway.  Om nom nom!

Conked in the car next to her cute sister.


Driving our friend at another friend's birthday party at the weekend!  Fun!

Cupcakes!!  (Thanks A for the pic!)

More painting fun!
Thanks for the pic, A!  :D

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Painting and other fun stuff

[Lolly is much better now, thanks for all the well wishes!  She's back to her normal exuberant self.  Thank goodness!]

Confessions of a regular mother: I'm kinda slack.  I don't love spending hours painting, making playdough, crafting and so on with my small ones.  I get bored.  I don't like mess.  I suspect many of us are the same, if we're honest.

We had some friends around for an art day recently.  I wish I had pictures, but my camera is still out of action (damn floods!!).  I snapped these with my phone during her second painting session the day after.   I was interested to see she now does arms and legs in the "correct" spot on a figure.  I drew the two circles for head and body, she did the rest.  The big swirly lines are (sorry Nanna!) snakes, apparently.
Lolly's person (I did the two basic circles for head and body).
You can see what I mean by the mess, right!?
Lolly is very proud of her best canvas: herself!

She LOVES painting.  LOVES it.  I've been fielding requests for painting several times a day since then.  Damn it.  :D

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Emergency rooms

We took Lolly to the children's emergency room last night, she had a fever and was complaining of a sore neck, which made me pretty worried, sore necks is one of those symptoms that freak me out :-o  They saw her straight away, we had fun collecting some wee for a test, and after a couple of hours and a good examination, she had perked right up.  No sign of a rash or other meningitis symptoms, thank all the gods.

Here she is enjoying the hospital bed and feeling a lot better, just before coming home.

She's low with fever on and off today, but she seems more "normally" sick today, not that sick that worries your instincts.

So, a fun night for all, at least we didn't have to bring Snail too, she's at her mum's.

Send us get well vibes!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This week's shelves

What with floods and crazy holiday times, Lolly's shelves had become a bit of a catch all of chaos for whatever she had out playing with at the time.  I've recently done a sort and put away, and put out some new things that she is enjoying!  Again, excuse the grainy phone shots, my lovely camera is still mouldy :(  Here is the bench I'm using as her shelves since we did up the lounge room.  It works well and is a good height for her, and gives three roomy sections underneath.

On top we have her money tray, some animals in a bucket, a lock box, her horses, a container of padlocks and keys, and one of click-together eggs.  Underneath are her stacker blocks, her tool box (Christmas pressie from Nanna and Pop!) and some toy library puzzles.

I got this lock box from the toy library - she LOVES this!  It's interesting for the different locks, and she treats it as a "stables" for her various plastic animals. 

Hiring this sort of thing is great, it only engages a child for a short while (relatively), I hire it for 2 weeks and by then she will be pretty much over a toy like this one.  I love the toy library!  We also hire a lot of puzzles from there, same thing, they remain a challenge for such a short while, then she isn't interested any more, making me glad I didn't pay for them, other than a small hire fee!  It was $9 to hire the lock box for 2 weeks, compared to around $90 to buy one!

Here are her two horses (lol) and egg shapes she likes to put together, and put stuff in (though she has not chosen this at all since I put them out "officially"!).  I also got the idea to do padlocks and keys with Lolly from a lovely blog - One Hook Wonders.  Lolly loves keys, and is working out locks, but I hadn't thought to add something to her shelves before until reading Nicole's blog post.  Thanks!  As per her recommendation, I'll put a matching sticker on the lock and key it goes with.  She's been keen on these so far, but I the two small ones are too fiddly for her little hands, and the locks on them are quite hard to do.  I'm planning to get some more large locks soon for this activity.

Money matters!
Here's a close-up of the tray I've done in response to her love of coins and money!  It has her little cat purse (thanks Nanna!) and a small piggy bank that can be opened underneath that I got on sale for a dollar!  She likes this, and stacks the coins and makes patterns with them as well. 

I recently bought her more ocean animals, which live here, but which get played with at the sink every day!  And a new set of dinosaurs due to her recent addiction to Harry and his Bucketfull of Dinosaurs.  And also a bucket :p

Along the bottom of the bench I've got some new puzzles from the toy library.  I've noticed Lolly is less interested in puzzles now, and more into imagination games with her range of plastic animals and dinosaurs.  She's okay if I do them with her :D

Her stacker blocks are in use a lot, more as "stables" for a variety of animals.  She lays them out in patterns and puts things in them (she's loved putting things in things since she was a tiny baby!) - too cute!
Barn and bucket for small plastic animals.
This is across from her shelves, and normally has two chairs set up at it, too (they are on semi-permanent duty as "stable" doors ATM nearby - lol).  The white container is for more plastic animals, but she LOVES these so much that they are always in buckets and other containers around the house as she plays with them.  Oh, and that's my vacuum cleaner.  lol.

Down next to the bench, I've got her Poingo Dora book, which was a Christmas present for the girls (Dora for Lolly and Elmo for Snail!).
She quite likes this, though apparently we got the old system, not the new one - lol.  It's pretty good, lots of interaction, games and words, and it reads the books to you!

So that's our shelves at the moment, it's nice to have new things out to play with, and a glimpse of what Ms Nearly 3 is interested in!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More fun apps for your iPod or iPad for kids!

Here is what Lolly is choosing regularly on the iPad/her iPod lately.  She is nearly 3. 

Madera and Figaro Save the Day
Many books on the iPad only really give the same experience as a paper book, with someone else reading the text.  That's fine!  But many are billed as "interactive" when really you just touch words or characters and get a single unchanging sound or movement.  I don't know about your kids, but mine finds that interesting for about 2 seconds.  It's the truly interactive apps that she loves.  Something with variety, where she sees that she is affecting what is happening, different levels of challenge, bright and cheery.

Lolly is nearly 3 now, and definitely more interested in story than she was.  So, we love these two apps from Lyn and Line.  They are some of the few "book" apps that are really stretching what a book means given the new technogies we use to view and truly interact with them.  There is a central storyline, with activities on each page, interactive things to touch, things that move and dance (we love the mice!), puzzles and elements to move on the story line onwards.

Even some choose your own next step stages, where you can choose between three options to do next.

Just a great and challenging app/book.  One of the best apps I've seen for toddlers and young children.

They have another game, but this was made for iPhone, which means it's not as speccy on the iPad: Madera and Figaro: The Rescue of Ginger.  Still awesome though! 

Bartleby's Book of Buttons:
Okay, I'm including this one though it's a little too advanced for Lolly to get the most out of, but it too is an awesome app that is stretching the technology available on the iPad. 

At the moment it's a little complex for her, but there are some stages she is really enjoying, and I see her choose it on the iPad often just to have a look and short play, so she is obviously attracted to it. It would be a great choice for slightly older children.

Clicky Sticky:
This is one of the best of the 'sticker' apps available, with lots of screens and stickers to choose from, and interactive "stickers" to use.  Lolly loves it too as she is very keen on "ocean animals" at the moment, so she loves the ocean scene.

You can save and email the pages made too, which is very cute.  A simple app, but Lolly chooses it reasonably often.  The plane page is cute too, and makes some good sounds with simple animation.  A good sticker app for young kids.

Park Math:
By Duck, Duck, Moose, who have some great apps for kids.  Again, this is an app for iPhone, so we miss the high definition graphics.  But Lolly likes this app a lot, it at the same developmental level as she is, she gets challenged by it and often chooses it to play.

**Oh I just noticed they have an iPad version now!  Yay! *goes to download*

It has simple maths, counting, addition, sorting from large to small (and small to large), with nice clear graphics and an easy-to-use menu.

Sorting from small to large -

Feeding the hippo (counting, discrimination) -

Lolly loves this last one, the food you aren't supposed to feed the hippo gets stolen by ants and carried off, and she thinks this is the height of hilarity.  If you hold your finger down on the "wrong" food, the ants can't get it.  I think she thinks this is the point of the game!  Very funny, and she totally cracks herself up "stopping the ants from getting it!".

Their other games are also well worth it, Lolly also loves Fish School (now with an iPad version), and Baa Baa Black Sheep (the latter is iPhone only).  This developer is doing some great work on children's apps, for a reasonable price.

Dora's Christmas HD:
Okay, I have some issues with this one, it's based on a "naughty" or "nice" dichotomy which I totally disagree with, and have never used with Lolly!!  But she is obsessed with Dora (and Diego) and saw an ad for this on an episode of Dora I'd recorded off Foxtel.  It's relatively pricey at $5 or so, and other than it's terrible "naughty" message, is a great little app, a simple story with interactive steps along the way that kids have to solve or do to further the plot.

It has Santa in it, and we don't "do" Santa, but I don't mind this so much as we just talk about Santa as a character, and she's used to charaters not being real.  It's the "naughty/nice" crap that drives me crazy if she plays this.

Other than this major flaw, which if I'd know about, I wouldn't have bought this!!, a nicely presented app with plenty to interest your toddler/young child.  Miles better than the terrible rainbow game app they had prior to this one!  So boring!  We recently got the new Dora colouring app, too, which is nice, but far too expensive for what is basically just another colouring app.  Lolly rarely chooses these, she's not a huge fan of colouring in.  She basically just chooses it to see Dora and Boots.

Toddler Counting for iPad:
This is the simplest app EVER, but both girls LOVE it!  Its just a nice friendly voice counting as you touch different things.  As you touch the objects (there's a huge range) they grey out and the number appears.  You can set it to below and above 10.  I also like that is often does "one" and the voice says "there is only one" - good for her learning, and also cracks up this Highlander fan :D.  The repetition must be interesting to Lolly, who has recently been mastering counting, up to ten anyway, different objects, as she chooses this app a lot.

Snail also loves it, as it's simple, responsive, and she feels she gets a result from simply pressing the screen.  She absolutely cracks up with laughter, it's VERY adorable!

A popular app round our place!

What apps are your kids choosing!?

You might like to read my previous posts on Apps - Great iPod/iPad Apps for Kids and the Montessorium Apps.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Small Treasures

Lolly loves a bag, and to stuff things in a bag, to carry with her.  I looked in this bathroom bag recently and saw this adorable mix.  Some Dora figurines, an iceblock maker stick, some sticky tape, and a tea strainer.  Nawwwww.