Leaf {Sunshine Sundays}

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Leaf animals

parsley

Winter leaf

leaf

Poppies for Quincys

Leaves for the quincys

1. Dead leaf

2. Leaf animals

3. Edible leaf

4. Lichen {not really a leaf I suppose}

5. Succulent leaf

6. Poppie flower and leaf {for the Quincys}

7. Budding leaves {for the Quincys}

Share your leaf stories or images for Sunshine Sundays. And here’s the Sunshine Sunday list for October if you would like to play along. #sunshinesundays

Sunshine Sundays October

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For more tales from the sunshine house, book ideas and imaginative activities, visit me over at Facebook. You might also like to visit my new website, The Quincys ~ Good Music For Kids.

Beginnings {Sunshine Sundays}

beginnings

Hi. It’s Sunday again. The week seems to fly, doesn’t it? Does yours?

It’s definitely been spring here this week.

The beginning of warm days. Almost beachy weather.

You can play in the garden without a jumper. Actually, we even weeded the forgotten veggie gardens {inspired by the Living Earth Festival}, replenished the soil and the girls sprinkled in seeds. I am not sure we will actually grow many veggies, but it has been fun thinking we might.

Also beginning is the start of a couple of creative projects. Something happened to me in motherhood – it’s like a faucet came loose, and all this stuff just keeps pouring out.

I get so excited about the next big idea, and work hard on something, and then suddenly realise I have several crazy balls doing silly things in the sky while I try and keep my feet on the earth. Pay attention to my beautiful children. Listen to the crazy, silly things they say, like:

I can’t eat Mum. I am full of playness in the heart.

Things like that.

The current BIG consuming project I am in cohorts with my husband, which is lucky because it brings us closer. We are struggling to squeeze in our comedy shows of an evening, because we are wrapped up in our project.

It’s music based. Kid’s music. We have a website, stories and pictures and all sorts of things. I have been teaching myself some basic website things and animation so I can do most of it myself. Except the music. Greg does that bit.

The project is The Quincys, and if you haven’t done so yet, come and follow our Facebook page, where we are leading up to a launch, hopefully in early October if my head doesn’t explode in the meantime!

Hope there are lots of great beginnings going on in your life right now. Would you like to share?

Link up or include in the comments your ‘beginnings’ post | photo | quote. You can also play along on social media by hashtagging #sunshinesundays. Next week’s theme is ‘awake’. x

Sunshine Sundays

 

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For more tales from the sunshine house, book ideas and imaginative activities, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, which is full of sunny goodness.

Sunshine Sundays ~ Let’s talk about fear

facing your fears “I’m not going to Richie and Mati’s house anymore,” said Elfie on Christmas Eve. I was dismayed. We visit her grandparent’s regularly. Worse, brunch was being held at their place Christmas morning.

“But, hon, we have to go. Otherwise we’ll miss out on Christmas. You don’t want to miss out, do you?”

“I’m not going,” she said.

“What about presents?”

“I don’t care. I am not going.”

“But why?” I asked.

“I don’t like Richie’s sneezes.”

It’s true – Richie – her granddad – has an atrocious sneeze. It comes unexpectedly, and is like a cannonball exploding.

“I understand,” I said, “but you know he only sneezes every now and then. Hardly ever. And when he does, although it’s loud, it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

“Well, I am still not going.”

The thing about Elfie is that once she makes a decision, no amount of cajoling is going to change her mind. She’s sensitive to stuff – loud sneezes, dogs that wiggle, deep water. They trigger an autonomic response, and make her feel anxious, so she avoids them. And she’s stubborn. (Can’t think why.)

I can’t remember a time when Elfie wasn’t worried about dogs. Friends who own a ridgeback kindly lock him in the bedroom when we visit, because they know how distressed he makes her. When we went to Austria two years ago, her other granddad sent his dog to stay elsewhere.

Until recently, if we passed a dog or came within twenty metres of one on our walks, Elfie leapt into our arms.

“She’s fine. She loves kids,” the dog’s owner would tell us, slightly offended. I am sure that’s true, but it’s not the point. The point is that something about furry beasts that bark stimulates a strong response in my daughter. That’s what’s making her leap.

“Did she have a bad experience with dogs?” people ask. No – well, yes, sort of. A couple of times in a row, when she was about two, dogs about her size came up to her and barked loudly and excitedly in her face. There was no biting or physical contact, but for her, it was a bad experience. The stimulation triggered her autonomic response in such as strong way that she carried the impression for months. Every dog she encountered for the next year or so reinforced that experience.

It’s the same with water. When I took her to swimming lessons at eight months, she was the only baby in the class who refused to put her face in water. For more than a year, she also refused to have a bath, because one time, I mistakenly put a little motorised toy boat in the tub which scared the living bejeesus out of her.

It’s not that she doesn’t want to swim, or get close to a dog. She really does, but when faced with the experience, she freezes. “Just get her in the water,” says Richie, as Elfie skirts around the edge of their swimming pool. She is tempted – she can see the fun we are all having – but she just can’t bring herself to get in.

After an unusually brave weekend, when Elfie lead a quiet, friendly dog on the lead around the park, she talked about getting a dog. It was incessant. As a compromise, I suggested we babysit my brother’s dog Albert (pronounced Al-bear). She was so excited by the prospect, she asked about his impending arrival twenty-million times. We prepared the house for Albert, and my brother drove him down from Brisbane. As soon as he arrived though, Albert scooted through the house, madly shaking off his pent-up car energy. Elfie jumped into my arms, terrified. “He’s too wiggly!” she said.

It was heartbreaking, as we knew how much she was looking forward to him coming. But the reality was, there was no way he could stay with us.

I’ve been reading an article in the Scientific Mind Magazine (Issue 89) by psychologist Jerry Bubrick about encouraging children to face their fears, rather than avoid them. Bubrick practices cognitive behaviour therapy – CBT – which helps people alter dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours that reinforce negative experiences.

Using a “hierarchy of fears” the psychologist and child together identify the least anxiety-provoking experience, and the most anxiety-provoking experience, and scale all experiences from 1 – 10 (10 being the most scary). They then expose the child to the most minimal anxiety-provoking experience, allowing them to face their fear in a controlled, safe environment so they can habituate to it. The psychologist then introduces a slightly more scary experience until the child feels comfortable, and so on, until the child is able to face their biggest challenge.

Bubrick and others believe that avoiding experiences that cause fear reinforces anxiety. By introducing the child gradually to fearful experiences, the child is learning to manage their responses and control their fear, rather than being dominated by it.

It’s like encouraging Elfie to dip her toe in the water. When she feels happy with that, encourage her to stand ankle deep, and when that’s comfortable, encourage her to get deeper still. One day, she’ll be diving for things at the bottom of the pool.

Bubrick says that parents play a very important role. Part of his therapy involves teaching parents to not protect their children from anxiety-provoking experiences, but instead allow children gradual and supported exposure.

We do protect her, to some extent, from her fear and anxiety. We don’t want her to have a bad experience. But I feel we are reasonable about it. When she started swimming lessons in January, it was a struggle for her. She resisted initially, but we stuck with it, using undesirable parenting methods like bribery to at least get her in the water. When she completed the lesson, we bought her ice-cream. But better than ice-cream, she felt proud of herself for conquering her fear.

As she gets older, and has increasingly more ability to rationalise, she is getting less and less anxious. We can now walk past a dog without an issue.

“Mum, I was brave,” she tells me as we pass a furry friend without a flinch. And she was. Is.

~

Back to the sneezes, and Christmas morning.

I tried every angle of rationalisation I could think of, but at last it was Elfie who worked it out for herself.

“Will Albert be at Christmas?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“But that means Richie might get dog hair in his nose, and that might make him sneeze.”

“Um, yes…” I said.

“But maybe – you could call Richie, and tell him to blow the dog hair away before we get there. Call him. Then we can go to Christmas! Yay!”

Only a nearly-four-year-old could work it out so perfectly.

She not only spent Christmas morning sitting next to Sneezing Richie, she walked passed Albert and touched, actually – held – little Stella, the newest canine family member.

It was a miracle.

Inch by inch, that water’s getting more appealing, that dog less wiggly and that sneeze more tolerable.

Tell me about your fear. Do you experience anxiety? Or your child? How do you deal with fear?

Link up your stories here for Sunshine Sunday, and pop by to read other links if you can. Because next Sunday is Mother’s Day, I am going to be really surprising and suggest that we link our “mother” posts here next week. See you then. Have a sunny Sunday. x

Sunshine Sundays

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Sunshine Sunday ~ Grandparents

Despite my little family moving into my Grandma Joyce’s house the week after she died, I have not spent a lot of time thinking or missing old Joyce. It sounds harsh, but it’s my nature. I do what I do in the present moment, and find it hard to reflect on what’s not immediately present – like my old gran, with the booming voice and the penchant for saying “B-rrrr-own”, like a proper English Lady.

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In her last years, she sat in her cane chair in what is now my little sunshine home, but was then her little cottage. Morning until night, she barely moved, except to toddle to the kitchen to get a black tea, or later in the day a scotch. She sat, cradling her tea by day/scotch by night while Kimba, her Golden Retriever, lay faithfully at her feet. She entertained herself with cooking shows, and her dirty little midday secret, Days of Our Lives (which was promptly shut off as soon as someone walked through the door.)

Her fridge was stocked with five packets of butter, several litres of milk and a whole corned beef roast in case Dylan dropped in for lunch. The pantry was full of several packets of breadcrumbs, and bottles of fish sauce and soy sauce, some of which dated back to 1989. A friend once suggested that perhaps Joyce’s hoarding and tendency to buy five of everything was a lay-over from the Great Depression. But reflecting back herself, Joyce assured me that the Great Depression didn’t affect her in the slightest. She always had plenty.

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Sorting out things from her loft after she died, it appeared that butter and breadcrumbs weren’t the only things she bought in excess. Joyce had seven of the same spotless white canvas shoes, and several ‘uniforms’ from each decade of her later life. The slacks from the 70s, the straight linen dresses of the 80s, and the box linen skirt with matching cotton shirts of the 90s and naughties. All sets were made expertly by a local seamstress, in only the finest materials.

The daughter of business man who drove one of the first cars on the north coast, as she aged, Joyce continued  to choose quality regardless of the price, despite living on a pension.

JOyce

She was proud, and known for her ability to talk – about nonsense mostly, or at least something you had heard twenty times before. But people loved her. The butcher brought her cuts of meat and eggs. The woodman came and sat with her and smoked a cigarette inside, because she said it was fine. Lance – I think he’s an electrician – just dropped in for a chat, even when her fridge was working.

She befriended most of the local kids. They’d drop by too. Mr Clifford, the gardener visited most weeks until he died, and fed Kimba under the table. Her great friend, Velma, lived within walking distance, and the two would nag at each other and about each other, but loved each other dearly.

Joyce was loud – proud – looming and sometimes frightening (if you happened to marry one of her children). But she was funny, and warm. When I brought Gregor over to meet her for the first time, she was in her bra and undies, trying to put on her stockings. She didn’t stop talking for a moment, even to put on her clothes.

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Beneath the large glasses were vulnerable watery blue eyes, that welled up with any mention of her children or grandchildren. She couldn’t talk about her late husband Charles without choking up.

In the last year of her life, I visited her with Elfie. I had to put Elfie in a clothes basket before she could sit up, because there was nowhere for her to lay which wasn’t covered in dog hair. I put the first great grandchild – the only one she got to know – at Joyce’s feet, and Joyce taught her to clap hands.

I asked Joyce a few questions about her youth in Mallanganee, and about going to boarding school in Armidale. Her stories were broken, and wandering. They meandered like a dream sequence, and she told me things that made me realise how vulnerable, and how scared she was, despite the occasional haughty English pronunciation of “brown” and “cow”.

Joyce had the best legs on the north coast, according to her doting husband. I read their love letters in their engagement period and could see why she loved him so dearly.

In her last few days, she was half-conscious, not eating and not medicated in hospital. She drifted in and out. When her oldest son sang her The Way You Look Tonight, and whispered that she could leave now and join Charles, she finally let go.

So although I am all stuck in the moment and all that, lately I have been really missing old Joycey. I miss how she drew people together. She was the linchpin of every family occasion. I miss that she rang me and everyone else if there was an event in the family, like a birthday, or someone winning an award. I miss that love I felt emanating from her. Big squishy love. Even in those quiet, lonely hours, someone – Joyce – was in her cane chair, talking about me to her neighbour or an old friend, and I was remembered, and loved.

Tell me about your grandparents, or your children’s grandparents. Do grandparents play a big role in your life? 

Link your stories here for Sunshine Sunday, and drop in to comment on some of the other posts. Next week’s theme is “Ritual”. And if you aren’t already linked up to my FACEBOOK page, I would love to welcome you there.

Sunshine Sundays

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Sunshine Sunday ~ Night

Sunshine Sunday NIght

I know it’s not really fitting with sunny Sunday mornings, but let’s talk about the night.

As much as I love my sunny days in my sunny home, I really look forward to nighttime.

I look forward to that moment, when at 9pm, I finally ease out of the girls’ bedroom, gently letting go of the door knob. Soft click.

I hurry to my computer, and write down the words that banked up in the quiet, dark hour of putting girls to bed.

I let the floodgates of Facebook Land open, and flick through the hundreds of emails piled up in my inbox. Open. Click. Delete/reply.

Gregor (Husband) waits patiently on the day(night) bed, reading running mags. We reconvene over a glass of vino that’s been sitting out, airing, getting all fruity and smooth.

We crack open the Lindt Lindor Extra Dark, diligently dividing the block into equal parts. One glass of wine, nine squares of extra dark chocolate, the shoulder of one lover to lean on…

We let the day flit between us. Stories of our girls, mainly. How much we love them, how cute they were when they… Did I tell you she said…?

At some point in our career, we may have broken up television nights playing cards, or poker with dice. Now, we go straight to the comedy channel in iView. We don’t have a television, so watch on the computer. It suits us as we can watch programs we want to watch whenever we want to watch them, from the comfort of our over-sized cushions.

Right now, we are enjoying Season 4 of Portlandia and Season 2 of SpacedGreen Wingone of my favourite British comedies just ended. We catch up on news with Shaun Micallef.

When good comedy is running low, we turn to a series on DVD. The latest has been True Blood. I confess I have a bit of a girl crush on Sookie. She’s so cool and strong. And Bill’s very charming for a vampire. Tonight, we’re starting Season 5 of 30 Rock.

With life, work, girls, housework etc. I don’t make a lot of time to lean into my husband, and feel connected through the day. But even without date nights and romantic rendezvous-es, we do fine. Really fine. We are a team, walking in the same direction, sharing a love of comedy shows, Lindt Lindor, good red wine, and of course our daughters. We don’t need much, but without our evenings together, I think we’d struggle.

My favourite part of the night, though, is getting into bed. Soft bamboo sheets. My latex pillow. I have a few good thoughts, then I am gone. Sleep, how I love thee.

How do you maintain a connection with your partner? What are nights to you? What are you watching on television right now?

Share your posts about the night here for Sunshine Sunday. Drop in and comment on other blogs. And if you’re in the mood, come back here next week for “Grandparents” week. If you have any suggestions for weekly themes, I would love to hear them.

Happy warm and sunny Sunday, friends. Pop over and say hi on FACEBOOK if you are about.

Sunshine Sundays

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