100 Ways to Be A Fun Mum

100 Ways to Be A Fun Mum

The Be A Fun Mum team brainstormed together and came up with a huge list of ways to be a fun mum. Some of these are super simple and quick, and some are more elaborate.  This list is supposed to be 100 Ways to Be A Fun Mum, but we ended up with more than that, so it stands at over 120 (at the moment). Do you have any other ideas to add to the list? 

  1. Laugh.
  2. Have a water fight.
  3. Let them win.
  4. Cute picnics outside.
  5. Slow Down.
  6. Go with the flow.
  7. Jump in puddles.
  8. Camp out in the backyard.
  9. Get down on their level.
  10. Lounge room dancing.
  11. Have a day of YES. Don’t tell the kids about it but simply just say yes to every request (within reason) and let the other things go.
  12. Tickle.
  13. Do an activity you’ve never done before (Google for inspiration).
  14. Join in with EVERYTHING the kids do for an afternoon.
  15. Be silly.
  16. Tell jokes.
  17. Let them help peel veggies.
  18. If you have more than one child, take them out somewhere special on their own, just the two of you.
  19. Squishes at bedtime.
  20. Sing songs.
  21. Quote lines from favourite movies.
  22. Forget the housework sometimes.
  23. Listen, really take the time to listen.
  24. Let them help you cook and bake.
  25. Camp in the lounge room.
  26. Make a fort under the table.
  27. Sit on the floor with your kids.
  28. Play in the rain.
  29. Skip together, anywhere!
  30. Do funny voices during story time.
  31. Sing off tune (on purpose).
  32. Use expression.
  33. High-Five.
  34. Make mistakes (on purpose) when telling a familiar story.
  35. Pretend to get cross when they fly away from you on the swing. “Come back here!
  36. Allow them to pick your outfit or do your hair for the day.
  37. YOU have fun.  Yes, YOU!
  38. Make doing chores fun by being enthusiastic. COME ON TEAM! WE CAN DO THIS!!
  39. Say, “I love you.”
  40. Drop your expectations.
  41. Run through the sprinkler in the backyard.
  42. Have a race.
  43. Wear colourful accessories.
  44. Make up a silly story.
  45. Smile. A lot.
  46. Make something yummy as a treat.
  47. Go swimming with them.
  48. Show them how to enjoy the little things in life.
  49. Practice gratefulness.
  50. Tell stories about your childhood. When I was a little girl…
  51. Enjoy nature everyday.
  52. Let them create.
  53. Be imaginative.
  54. Lay a beach towel in the back yard and look for shapes in the clouds.
  55. Watch television together
  56. Make paper airplanes and have a race.
  57. Sit back and watch your kids.
  58. Create felt pen tattoos.
  59. Organise surprises for your kids.  For example: Plan a trip to a theme park, the cinema or something your child loves but just tell them it’s a mystery outing. Have their bags packed and start driving to your mystery location. 
  60. Visit family and cousins.
  61. Have themed international dinners. Pick a country, do some research together online or at the library, shop and prepare it together. Maybe even find decorations or costumes eg. sombreros and brightly coloured serviettes for a Mexican night.
  62. Have a ‘stay in your PJs all day’ day.
  63. Chase the kids around the house.
  64. Leave little treats in their lunch boxes for them to find at school…like a special note or a  secret message on a banana.
  65. Introduce the kids to fondue!
  66. Make a dessert pizza (Max Brenner style). Put all the ingredients on the table and let the kids go for it! Nutella ‘sauce’, cornflakes, marshmallows, white and milk choc chips  Either buy thin pre-made pizza bases or make them yourself if you have a good recipe.
  67. Do funny-face selfies.
  68. Give them a spay bottle of water each on a hot day. Let the kids go nuts.
  69. Makeovers. Set up hair brushes, combs, hair accessories, lipstick, blush, glitter spray etc.
  70. Hair chalk.
  71. Do nail polish.
  72. Put a drop of food colouring in the bath. Or a few drops of different colours.
  73. Set up a fish tank together.
  74. Make a fairy garden together.
  75. Bury “treasure” in the sandpit and let them dig it up.
  76. Go to Bunnings and let them push a mini trolley around.
  77. Set up a beach tent in the lounge room, pile in pillows and snacks, and watch a movie.
  78. Make sock puppets out of old socks.
  79. Plant a vege/herb patch.
  80. Write a letter to a friend or relative and post it. Pre-writers can draw a picture.
  81. Wash all the doll clothes (old school style) in a bucket with soapy water, rinse and let them hang them on a lower line with pegs (good for fine motor)
  82. Go through or visit a car wash.
  83. Google natural face mask recipes (e.g. honey, oats, egg whites etc) and give each other a facial.
  84. Play ‘car wash’ with toy cars or small ride ons.
  85. Build a tree house.
  86. Flower pressing: find pretty flowers in the garden and press between wax paper inside some very heavy books.
  87. Buy fabric paint and get your child to decorate their own shirt.
  88. Camp out in your own backyard.
  89. Make paper airplanes and have a race
  90. Do a water fight outside.
  91. Set up a lemonade stall outside your house…see how many you can sell!
  92. Go strawberry picking.
  93. Get your child to choose a cake from a kids birthday cake book and make one…just because. Invite friends for afternoon tea.
  94. Lay a blue beach towel out in the living area and add toys to create a beach play scene.
  95. Get a huge roll of paper and let the kids go nuts with drawing a huge mural or tracing around their bodies.
  96. Make your own kites and fly on a windy day
  97. Go on a nature walk around the block & see how many cool flowers, feathers, rocks & leaves you can find.
  98. Treasure hunt around your house: Leave clues and drawings at certain spots around the house which directs them to the next clue with a little surprise or note at the end.
  99. Play wii with your kids. When mum gets involved sometimes, it can be lots more fun.
  100. Take the telescope outside at night a do star gazing. Get a book or research online about the stars.
  101. Let the kids to make their own placemats. They can cut out lots of coloured cardboard into shapes and stick them onto a piece of contact. Contact the other side and turn them into placemats for dinner time.
  102. Make barbie or dolls cloths together out of paper.
  103. Tarp, water & laundry liquid. Do a homemade slip and slide!
  104. Mix dishwashing liquid & water. Use a straw and blow bubbles upon bubbles on baking trays set up on a table top.
  105. Set up a photo booth and take funny pictures. Think party hats, sunglasses and stick on moustaches. 
  106. Work on a Christmas family concert for Christmas Eve. Read or act out the Christmas story, look for a Christmas poem to recite, play carols on instruments, a special dance or do a mock interview with Mary and Joseph ect. Good fun in the lead up to Christmas!
  107. Go on a family holiday at least once a year.
  108. Have an early dinner and then go for a ‘mystery’ drive to a lookout or a jetty and look at the moon. Then get a soft serve ice cream cone on the way home.
  109. Explore your own city! Get on the ferry, bus or train and get off at one stop per outing and explore that area. Look for parks, cafes, any local attractions, interesting houses.
  110. Take the kids to the museum and let them take photos of their favourite exhibits.  Print out the photos when you get home and make a book
  111. Go ice skating!
  112. Board game night. Scrabble, monopoly etc.
  113. Smash out exercise together with your kids.  Do something you all enjoy.
  114. Watch funny cat videos on YouTube.
  115. Establish a ‘how does it work Wednesday’. Each week, watch a how-to video on YouTube.  For example, how bread is made, how is rice grown, how is glass made.
  116. Research your family tree together. Draw it out on paper. Look at photos.
  117. Make shadow hand puppets.
  118. Try and draw anything your child asks you to. Take turns and laugh at your efforts.
  119. Watch old home movies…show the kids your wedding video!
  120. Make gloop, cloud dough or play dough
  121. Greet your kids after school with a huge exuberant smile!
  122. Be you. And share that uniqueness with your kids.

100 Ways to Be A Fun Mum

Other Lists

100 School Holidays Ideas

100 Ways to Love the Moment

100 Ways to Enjoy Nature with Kids

End of Year Teacher (Approved) Gift Ideas

I know many teachers personally (my sister is one of them) and they don’t expect gifts at the end of the year, but the gesture is certainly appreciated, especially a heartfelt card or note.  I appreciate the work teachers do with my kids, and each year the kids and I like to give a token gift. Last year we made bird wreath Christmas Tree decorations with a card written by the kids.

I asked the teachers in the Be A Fun Mum Facebook Community about the gifts they like best (you can through over 300 comments here). I’ve boiled it down here to the top 5 and other favourites..  What stood out to me was that it’s the personal gifts — personal notes and handmade cards — that mean the most to the majority of teachers.

Teacher Gift Ideas

TOP 5 Teachers Approved Gifts

1. Personalised handwritten card/letter/drawing

2. Christmas tree decoration

3. Wine

4. Stationery supplies: stickers, sharpies, stamps, sticky notes, storage boxes

5. Homemade food 

Note: This was popular amongst teachers, however some teachers had homemade food items on the strongly PLEASE NO list too, so be aware of that. Perhaps include a small note saying the items were made in an hygienic environment.

FOOD/DRINK

  • Wine/Champagne/Alcohol/Soft Drink
  • Gourmet coffee/Tea

Here’s a fun idea on how to dress up soft drink or other beverages: Reindeer Bottles

HOMEMADE

  • Personalised handwritten:
  • Food:
    • Shortbread
    • Biscuits/cookies
    • Peppermint bark
    • Rocky Road
    • Fudge
    • Choc balls
    • Rum balls
    • White Christmas
    • Cookie mix in a jar (recipe here)
    • Chutney
    • Jam
    • Brandied fruit
    • Homemade pesto in baking dish
  • Christmas decoration (you can find a list of handmade decorations here: Handmade Christmas Tree Decorations)
  • Fresh fruit basket
  • Pot plant/plant seeds
  • Pamper package jar with all the essentials for a mani/pedi
  • Teacher survival kit
  • Christmas wrapping paper + tape + fun poem on card (check out the tutorial here)

Since November you’ve been shopping,

barely sleeping, hardly stopping.

Now it’s late you’re in a scrape, out of paper, out of tape.

Hope this wrap helps save the day!

Have a Happy Holiday!

  • Artwork:
    • Word art with teacher’s name or the names of the children in the class. Use programs like Tagxedo or Wordle
    • Framed class photo signed by all the children
    • Framed thank you

teacher gift ideas

I made these graphics for free at Tagxedo

PURCHASED

  • Christmas tree decoration
  • Personalised:
    • Stamp/stickers (for labelling resources)
    • Keyring
    • Pen (engraved)
  • Perfume
  • Cookbook
  • Dictionary
  • Book
  • Diary/planner
  • Funky necklace/bangle/earrings (e.g. purchased from markets or handmade)
  • Scarf
  • Vase
  • Pot plant/plant seeds
  • Thermal coffee mug
  • Whistle + ball (Coach/P.E. teacher)
  • Scratchies/lottery tickets
  • Stationery supplies – stickers, sharpies, stamps, sticky notes, storage boxes

STATIONERY SUPPLIES/PACK IDEAS

Below are some ideas on stationery packs to give to teachers.

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Pack

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Pack

Giving them can be as easy as tying pens, pencils, sharpies & highlighters up in ribbon.

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Packs

Or place all the times in a gift box.

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Pack

A set of mini drawers is a fun ideas too!

End of year teacher gift ideas - drawers filled with stationery

VOUCHERS

  • Coffee
  • Bottle shop
  • iTunes
  • Books

GROUP GIFTS

One of the parents can coorindate to collect funds to contribute to a group present.

  • Vouchers:
    • Movies/Gold Class
    • Massage
    • Local restaurant/café
    • Manicure/pedicure/facial
    • Local artist
    • Experience gifts  (eg RedBalloon)
  • Shopping centre gift card
  • Photo canvas of the students
  • Watch
  • Jewellery
  • Handbag/Luggage

DONATIONS

Books/toys for disadvantaged children & donations to children-based charities (below are some of the mentioned charities):

PREFER NOT TO RECEIVE

  • Mugs
  • Lotions/hand cream
  • Soaps
  • Candles
  • Chocolates (boxes)
  • Teacher appreciation gifts (they get so many of these!)
  • Homemade food items (please be conscious that some teachers prefer not to consume homemade foodstuffs, particularly if made by the children)

There you go! A heaps of teacher approved gift ideas and tips!

More

Even more Teacher Gift Ideas

Handmade Christmas Tree Decorations

For the Love of Coffee

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Piazza D’Oro (S1 Post)

Back in September, I wrote a post about the Piazza D’Oro Barista of the Year competition, and the finalists have been announced. Congratulations to:

New South Wales

Apryl Curtin from Bar 2101

Jan Duan from Coffee Fest

Marius Beullens from Margot Espresso

Victoria

Wael Bou Karroum from Station Stop Café

Alex Petroulias from Urban Chill

Jesse Carrington from Skyblitz Café

Giacomo Dalla- Zuanna from Little Figs Café

Henry Elcheikh from Goldies Café

Queensland

Alyssa Day from Kedron Wavell Services Club

West Australia

Harrison Lewis from Rydges

The ten national finalists will head to The Barista Workshop in Sydney on the 26th of November to compete in the Piazza D’Oro National Finals so I’ll keep an eye on that and let you know how it goes. This competition is part of Piazza D’Oro’s commitment to training their baristas so they can develop their technical knowledge. And this is behind the delicious coffee I love so well.

When I found out about this initiative, I set myself my own little challenge: the aim was to visit many different Piazza D’Oro cafes on my travels, just because I love coffee AND new places. I believe it’s important to keep doing the things you love when you become a parent, you just sometimes need to find a different way to do them, scale them down a little or weave them into your life in a sustainable way. I wrote about it here. So this coffee thing is an example of me putting it into practice.

Over the last few months, I visited many different cafes using the Piazza D’Oro app to find them. Not only did I feel like I had this secret joy about me, an amazing…well only small really, but still amazing thing happened. Let me take you on some of my travels:

Going Home from Holidays

My first stop on my challenge was on our way back from holidays at the Sunshine Coast. I love sipping on coffee in the car. It’s like a little luxury.

coffee

On my way to a family day out

Setting my day up well. 

for the love of coffee

On My Way to the Country

I headed out to visit my cousin with my kids on this particular day. I drove through the city and stopped off near the Brisbane River at a café. I have a close relationship with my cousins and we have kids the same age so that’s special.

for the love of coffee

Shopping for Birthday Dinner

It was my husband’s birthday and it was a frantic day (and he wasn’t going to be home late) but I wanted to spoil him with his favourite meat pie. So I dashed to the shops before a meeting, grabbed a coffee, raced around throwing what I needed into the trolley before my next job on the list. 

for the love of coffee

General Errands

I needed to go to a Post Office, and this time, instead of going to my local one, I decided to head out a little further from home, close to where a Piazza D’Oro café was. I ended up meeting a lovely lady in the post office and while I was there, I made a connection important for some projects I have coming up. THEN I went close by for a quick coffee stop. I ordered my regular, latte please, when the lady behind the counter said to me, “You won’t need to pay for that.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

She smiled as she replied, “Someone before you paid for the next 2 coffees so it’s already been paid for! 

Just a small random act of kindness, and it made my day! I said to myself that I would do the same at my next coffee stop.

for the love of coffee

Before School Pick Up

I had a small window before school pick up one day, and I dropped in for a coffee and a spot of window-shopping. As I promised myself, I also paid for the next person’s coffee whoever that would be. Pay it forward. Enjoy! 

for the love of coffee

Sporting Days

Our daughter plays a lot of Basketball, and many Saturdays will find us travelling somewhere to watch her game. On this day it was at Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. I used the app to find a great café to help us through the afternoon and drive home. My husband and I were exhausted, and yet we just felt so happy to be together doing family things and this picture captures that. 

for the love of coffee

And so there it is: Don’t give up what you enjoy as a parent, live with joy and a spirit of giving and splash the beauty of it all everywhere you can.

How to Dust Mite Proof a Bed (& Other Allergy Friendly Home Tips)

Brought to you by Bupa and Nuffnang (S1)

20% of Australians have an allergic condition such as asthma, hay fever or eczema1. My daughter is one of them. She suffers from eczema (you can see how extensive it is, especially on her neck, when it is at its worst). 

how to dust mite proof bed for eczema and other allergy sufferers

Through years of investigation and tests, we discovered many triggers of eczema, and two main factors we are focusing on at the moment are wheat and dust mites. 

When Bupa’s Guide to a Healthy Home digital book came out I thought it worth sharing here because it has important information about how to keep your home safe from fire damage, flood damage, burglary and theft as well as allergens, moulds and dust mites.

Great tips, and I was especially interested in the allergy-friendly section of the book. There were a few ideas I hadn’t thought of like having 100% natural bamboo sachets in the cupboards to soak up moisture. The book is free by the way, just head to www.bupa.com.au/healthyhome to download a copy.

About the Guide to a Healthy Home

Allergy Friendly Home Guide

Bupa Home and Contents Insurance provides the best possible coverage for life’s unexpected moments, however there are a lot of things you can do around the house to create a happier, healthier and safer environment for the whole family. Bupa has partnered with experts across the country to develop the exclusive tips in this guide, taking us through some changes we can make in our own homes. Through ‘Bupa’s Guide to a Healthy Home’, we they aim to teach that, along with having the right home insurance, there are so many things you can do to ensure your family’s health and safety in your home.

How to Dust Mite Proof a Bed

The other thing I want to share along the lines of keeping the house safe and healthy is how I dust mite proof my daughter’s bed. There are a lot of so-called allergy friendly products out there and I have boiled it down to a system we use to keep her bed as dust mite-free as possible.    

How to dust mite proof a bed

Products/Process

  1. Mattress protector that covers the entire mattress (not only the top).
  2. Cover mattress with a dust mite-proof fitted sheet.
  3. Cover with a regular sheet (or allergy-friendly sheet). For my daughter, I use a silky feeling sheet with antibacterial properties.
  4. Quilts: Feathers are not ideal; Microfiber (e.g. Polyester, Tencel) quilts are better for allergy suffers and they are affordable. However, it’s best for the quilt to be covered with a dust mite-proof protector, even if quilts are labelled ‘allergy friendly’.
  5. Cover quilt in a quilt protector (for dust mite protection).
  6. Place quilt cover over the top.
  7. Place pillow inside a pillow dust mite-proof protector.
  8. Cover with pillowcase.

I purchased the sheets (that are smooth so they don’t irritate my daughter’s skin) and dust mite-proof protectors from Aussie company Allergend.com.au.

Cleaning System

Wash all items in hot water.

Weekly

  • Pillow case
  • Regular sheets

8-12 Weeks

  • Pillow Protector
  • Quilt Protector
  • Dust Mite Fitted Sheet
  • Quilt Cover
  • Quilt (or at least air the quilt)

Yearly

  • Mattress cover
  • Quilt

This system is both doable and effective.

We do a lot of things in our home suggested in the digital book, and at the moment we are fine-tuning by avoiding wheat and dust mite proofing the bed. You can see the massive improvement in my daughter’s skin so far!

eczema - dust mite proof your bed

Other Cool Stuff

I always like a good giveaway and this is a fun one from Bupa at the moment as part of their Healthy Home campaign. All details and the free digital book can be found here: www.bupa.com.au/healthyhome

BUPA healthy home giveaway

1. Bupa Guide to a Healthy Home Digital Book, 2014

You can read my disclosure policy here.

My Flower Girl, Her Flower Girl

Almost fifteen years ago, I married my childhood sweetheart, Matthew. Here’s a few pics I found on our wedding day (in the pre-digital days).

Wedding Kelly and Matthew

One of Matthew’s sisters was my flower girl. Her name is Emma and she was 5 at the time…and then 15 years later, that little girl got married. She’s the person that often looks after my children when I’m away (she’s a fab Aunty!). Emma is such a beautiful person and it was a joy to see her so happy and SO STUNNING on her wedding day.

Flower Girl then and now

And you know what was special?  My daughter was Emma’s flower girl and there is such a similarity between the two! Look!

 Emma (my flower girl) and I on my wedding day                    My daughter and Emma on her wedding day

Flower Girls

It was a special day, and I was struck with the beauty of family and the heritage we can create for generations to come. I was struck by God’s Grace and the gift of love.

Below are a few professional photos taken by Brisbane photographers Trent & Jessie. When I saw the picture below, my heart burst with the pure love and joy of it! I may of cried!

Flower Girl Dress

Flower Girl Dress

Flower Girl and Bride

Wedding - Matt and Emma

And here are some of my own pics.  How gorgeous was her flower girls dress!? My daughter loved it.

Dress: Just Adorable from Oillie’s Place

Hair: Anna Hockey from Timeless Grace

Shoes: Williams Shoes

Flowers: Bits & Buds

Flower girl dress

Flower Girl Dress

Flower girl dress

Flower girl shoes

Flower Girl Hair

Flower girl hair

Meet My Companion, Anxiety

NOTE: If you suffer from anxiety, I’m sharing this post for you my friends. But I also know that sometimes these sorts of stories can cause anxiety too, so I’m acknowledging that at the outset.


It was a lovely day; I felt tired but in good spirits. Not only did I feel happy, but I was in a productive mood, and was smashing through my to-do list: one item was to make an appointment with the doctor for travel immunisations. 

Before the appointment, I sent a quick email to my husband at his request. He had a presentation at work this day and forgot the slides.

I rang him.

“There was nothing with the file name you said.  I found something named similar so I emailed you that.  Just have a quick look and let me know if it’s the right thing.”

He said sure.

I didn’t hear back from him at that point so I assumed it was what he was after.

A good hour later, I glanced at the clock and decided to leave early enough to grab a coffee on the way to the appointment.  Fifteen minutes later, would see me sitting happily waiting in the reception area.  Does anyone else enjoy those forced waiting periods when you can just sit quietly (without kids)?  That sounds rather desperate, doesn’t it.

Anyway, so I’m sitting there, sipping my coffee and scrolling through emails on my phone. Content. Enjoying the moment.

My phone rings.

“Hello!”I said brightly.

It was my husband.

“Hey, I looked at the file and it wasn’t the one I needed,” he said casually.

Immediately, the happy feeling was replaced with a deep sinking feeling, and my mind raced. He forgot to look…he didn’t know I would be out…I knew his talk would be on soon…and I wouldn’t be home in time…I knew I couldn’t help out. All that ran through my head in a millisecond.

The phone felt hot against my ear.

“Sorry love. I’m out now,” I said simply, “I won’t be back home for another hour or so.”

I’ll add in here that it was really out of my control AND my husband wasn’t in the least bit upset (he had an older copy of the slides he could use). So, it REALLY wasn’t a big deal and there wasn’t tension in the conversation, but I couldn’t help but feel like I let him down. It’s part of being a sensitive soul. 

While I was talking on the phone, I glanced straight ahead of me to nothing in particular, but an image caught my eye as I said goodbye to my husband.

What I saw made me immediately nauseous.

I quickly looked away from the picture and down at my feet, desperately fighting panic. Below is what I saw. Oh, it still gives me a sweat. I took a quick picture before I left the surgery…and it was so hard to do so but I wanted to write this post, to share how anxiety plays out in life and how to overcome.

photo-105

I looked down. The image of needles and skin magnified in my mind and I felt both the strong impulse to both LOOK at the picture and the desperate fight of NOT wanting to look. Needles stabbing skin. My mind distorted the image into an ugly mass of skin, and needles pulling at it. I looked up again, confronting the poster in an effort to dispel the sudden fear but it was too late. I looked to the ground again.

I kept my eyes down and carefully rested one arm on my knee while slowly placing the coffee cup under the chair. If you would have been sitting in the waiting room with me, I don’t think you would have noticed anything amiss.

But inside me, a war had began: between me and my body.  The bluish-green carpet at my feet began to blur and swirl before my eyes. My breathing grew heavy like I had a pile of bricks on  my chest, my skin pricked with a sudden heat and I grabbed my knees tightly with my hands.  I was holding my knees in an effort not to fall. Fall where? I don’t know. I felt a deeply nauseous.

A wave of frustration come over me at how my body betrays me sometimes against my will!  Because the thing is: honestly, I was totally fine with everything that happened moments before. It was just normal stuff. I felt frustrated because this sort of panic for me is rare now, because I have developed a host of skills over the years to mange anxiety…and this time, it sprung on me without any warning. I’ve sat in the same spot many times, and seen that picture many times without it being a problem.  

I’ve been down this road a long time.  In this instance, it was combination of deep happiness replaced with the sinking feeling (it’s part of the joy and burden of being a person who experiences emotion very deeply), plus tiredness, but a hit of caffeine, plus the bright lights (that seems all of a sudden very bright), and the heat of the phone (which all of a sudden seems very hot), and the picture of the back with needles. It all happened so fast and all of those things combined as an assault on my person and I didn’t get a chance to regulate myself.  I am objective about my anxiety and so I can write about it quite freely because of that.

Fear…anxiety…it’s been with me all my life. When I was a child, I was terrified of the dark and was often plagued with vivid nightmares.  I’ve come to accept that anxiety as part of me. And it will never totally go away.  Most of the time, Anxiety and I live quite harmoniously together. Yes, that is possible. I’ve learned to manage it very well, but it’s always there lurking. For the most part, I shut anxiety down in the very early stages so I’m rarely plagued with full-on panic these days…but it can still happen…and that moment at the doctors is testament to that.

So I sat there in the reception area, waiting for the doctor, and forced myself to breathe deeply. It was quite a long wait so I made an effort to calm myself and pray.  I tried looking at the picutre a few times in this period but I couldn’t overcome the nauseousness at this point.  I debated with myself whether to move out of view of the picture or not. I didn’t move. I felt frozen. The picture as a focus point was fixed now…so I stopped fighting it, and let the anxiety be there. I’m not sure how long I sat there before I looked at my phone again to read articles to distract myself. By the time my name was called, I was more calm but the flickers of light in my eyes signalised the onset of a potential migraine.  The rest of the day was okay…but a lot of effort on my part was about compensating for the blip.

I tell this story to demonstrate how anxiety can play a part in every day life…even when I’m okay, and I know many others struggle in this way too.  Anxiety also plays a part in parenting…and I’ve had to learn two main things: one is not to be motivated by anxiety when I parent and the second is how to be the mum I want to be when I’m struggling with anxiety.   Below are some main points:

1. Be Aware

I don’t enjoy public swimming pools. I still go with the kids sometimes, but I prefer the beach.  If I’m struggling with anxiety on a particular day, then I won’t put myself in a position (unless I have to) that will make it a lot worse.  So, as an example: if I was having a bad day on school holidays, I might go to the beach, or have a quiet day at home with the kids rather than going to the pool.  Awareness is so important when it comes to combatting anxiety, and this is not to limit what you do, but more about giving you the power to do what you want in a positive way. I wrote about the things that set me up for a good week here.

2. Be Objective

I think the biggest challenge with anxiety is it can so easily become part of your psyche.  It can really MESS WITH YOUR HEAD!  I treat anxiety like I would if I had an ankle sprain.  If I sprain my ankle, I would elevate, put ice on it and rest it…knowing it would get better eventually.  In the same way, I do helpful, edifying things that help my anxiety rather than ignoring it (being strong which often makes it worse) or letting it mess with my head.

3. Love the Moment

I developed the love the moment series a couple of years ago as a tool to help me when I was anxious. They were just little achievable things to weave into my day that are now a beautiful (fun!) and effortless part of my life.  Being intentional about small woven moments is a great tool to practice. This practiced beauty is so important when you’re sometimes clouded by depression, or in my case, anxiety.

4. Insecurities vs Intuition

I wrote an entire post on this called trusting my gut.  I can so easily can let anxiety cloud my parenting decisions, which is no good, so I’ve learned how to distinguish between being motivated by anxiety, and making good decision based on applied knowledge.

5. Trust Someone

It’s so important to have a fall back in someone you trust. I adore having a partner for life and parenting in my husband.  Sometimes, if I am struggling in a decision because of anxiety, I will run it by him for his objective opinion. I also rely on my faith as a grounding foundation in my life. 

6. Model

I think if you have a few children, there’s a good chance that one of them will be prone to anxiety.  I would say that most people (even if they are not prone to anxiety) will suffer from it at some point in their lives.  There’s always an opportunity to give your children a head start on combatting anxiety and helping them to develop tools they can take with them throughout their life. No better way to do this than modelling it in your own life and gifting the knowledge to your kids.

7. Know

Know. Know there are better days, or moments ahead. Know that you’re not really, really crazy (just maybe a little bit). Know that anxiety is often a by-product of a positive personality traits like sensitivity, the ability to see attention to detail and insightfulness. Embrace that! Know that you are beautiful. 

8. Accept

Meet my companion, Anxiety.  I don’t fight it anymore…or hope it to be gone.  There’s beauty in acceptance, because then you find ways to work around and with a situation, rather than fighting against it.


And to end this post, here’s a random set of pictures of my sister and I. Which is a bit strange when I call this post, ‘Meet My Companion, Anxiety’. Shazz, it’s not a subliminal message to you, okay? You see, I couldn’t put this post together with just THAT one horrible picture that affected me…so I’m including this one, because it makes me happy.

sisters

When I’m Criticised as Parent

I said to someone recently, “Parenting is one of those things I desperately want to be good at, but just can’t, no matter how hard I try.”

Do you ever feel that way?

But what does being a good parent mean?  

Feeding

Nurturing

Providing

Loving

Teaching

Encouraging

Refining

Edifying

Inspiring

What other ing words can I think of?

If there was a nice flow chart manual for parents, that would be great.  This problem: look it up: this: yes: that: no: answer. 

If there was a universal benchmark for kids, that would be great.  But kids aren’t all the same and they develop in different ways.

Family situations are different. Roads are different. A lot of things are different.

Why don’t I think I’m good at parenting? Parenting is something I can’t achieve highly at because I experience so many failings, and just when I think I’ve got something right, something changes or there is another issue to address, and I’m back to square one! See my quandary? 

Recently, I experienced a passive attack against my parenting skills.  Not the first, and won’t be the last. My first reaction was sadness. I felt sad and heavy: burdened…misunderstood and misjudged even. Sigh. Then I felt defensive…and if I am to be brutally honest here (and I am) I would acknowledge there was an element of truth to the comment that was made against me.

But, but, that person doesn’t understand what I have been goint through this year, and why I have compromised in that particular area.  It really wasn’t an intentional deficit but more of a consequence of many things. A slow fade, yes.  But they don’t know how hard I’m trying. They don’t know some of the good things I’m doing as a parent and some of the successes I’ve had!  But, but, but…

I could go on. However that doesn’t help.  No. It just makes me angry and stubborn instead of gracious and open.

I remember something my mum said to me when I was a teen…she said, “If you start being defensive, there’s a high chance you are in the wrong (in some way).”  She’s didn’t mean that I was doing something wrong necessarily, but something was wrong.  A defence reaction usually meant there was something to either adjust or overcome.

I’ll rephrase that (for myself): A defence reaction is an opportunity to adjust a potential flaw or overcome an unedifying emotion.  Because of this, I have always red-flagged a defensive reaction in my life.  Always. It makes me stop to examine myself or my motives. Doing this has served me very well.  It has, overtime, made me more confident and free in my thought and action.

I’ve been criticised many times about my parenting, and been able to just dismiss it easily…and that’s because there was no founding to the judgement. It works both ways.  Even if a judgement (intentional or unintentional) is unjust or the criticism well indented, an intense defence reaction from me usually means there is something, something I need to address in my own life or some area to improve. That something doesn’t even have to be a bad trait or a mistake, sometimes it can mean a hurt to overcome, a wrong to forgive or a improvement to make.

However, there is a process. I felt sad about the comment that was made about something I ‘should’ be doing better.  And I then I felt defensive. Then…I panicked.

I’m not a good parent. Where else am I failing?  What else am I not doing as well as I should be?  Where are the holes in my ship? I’ve failed to teach my kids something I should have. But…I have done well in other areas. Haven’t I? But I SHOULD have realised that deficit, but I didn’t. I’m such a bad parent. But my kids love and trust me. That’s something isn’t it? But it’s not enough.   

Can you see the cycle?  Sadness, defence, sadness, defence…and so on.  It’s so easy for me to fall into this trap until eventually, the anxiety passes and I forgot it all…until the next time. But I don’t play that game.

When I felt defensive this time, I stopped myself right there. It’s tough dealing with criticism, and I think parents cop a lot of it.  However, I knew the reason the comment hurt so much in this particular instance, is I could see the truth in it.  The truth wasn’t in the ‘should’ but in my realisation of my failing. And even more than that: the realisation of how the failing came to be.  I felt sad. I felt defensive. Then I stopped feeling defensive and just allowed myself to feel sad.

I felt sad because I realised the emotion wasn’t really because of the comment that was made, and it wasn’t really in my failing, but the realisation of the road that led me to that moment.  It was a road I had to take, it wasn’t the best one, or most ideal, but a necessary one.  When you’re hiking up a mountain, you might use the same cup or coffee and soup. You cut corners because efforts need to more intensely be focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you are working hard at keeping your head above water while it seems all others around you are perfecting their stroke.  But there is a point where the road evens out and the waves turn calm…and it’s good to fine tune. 

I worked out why I felt sad, then I put it in perceptive. You see, this ‘something’ I’m talking about is a blip.  Really. It terms of what is important to me in raising the small people in my care into genuine, kind, bright, confident, inspiring people, it’s the orange in the pie.

chart

Then, I took the criticism on as a prompt. But I only took the truth in it. I didn’t take it all, just the truth the defence in me was screaming at. I took hold of it with open arms, even though it hurt. It worked like this in my mind: acknowledge of what had led to this moment wasn’t because of outright mistake but the compensations made on a particular road (no shaming or blaming or hanging on to guilt). I owned the prompt. I aligned it with what I believe and what is true. I turned it into a challenge for the better.

I’m not a perfect parent. I’m not even a good parent. I say that because what I see as ‘good’ by society’s standards is a fictional image floating around in my head (maybe I put it there myself) and its one of a magazine home, happy families sitting at the dinner table and well pressed, high achieving kids.  What is ‘good’ often means what looks good from the outside, and yet I don’t want to raise good children. I want to raise passionate people of conviction. I don’t want to be a good parent.  I want to be a real parent who shares the highs and lows — the beauty of connection and relationship — with the people most dear to me with an open heart and an undercurrent of deep Faith. I always need to remind myself of that: when I feel my failing keenly; when I feel overwhelming pressure to be a perfect parent.

Another post I’ve written along the similar lines: How I Became a More Confident Parent.

Getting the washing done…

Got home from holidays (which was wonderful) with dirty washing and hand-me-down clothes from my sister. Then one of my daughters had a camp. And then she came home, and all of a sudden my washing pile became a monster mountain.  I decided to put it all on the kitchen table to FORCE myself to LOOK AT IT and DEAL WITH IT.

I have a pretty good system now to do the laundry and you can read about it here. However, with six people in the house, it can escalate VERY quickly. My washing pile is always pretty big but it hasn’t been quite this big for a while.

{sob}

After waking to this, I took a deep breath, and I said to the kids, “Right! So every time each one of us walks past, we are going to fold a few things. We can do this!” And we did. Everyone pitched in and it all went down surprisingly well. Go team!

Washing Pile

Making the Most of Special Family Experiences

Brought to you by Tourism & Events Queensland (S1 post)

Making the Most of Special Family Experiences 

I’ve discovered one of the best ways to engage my kids in learning is to make it about connection. There is something beautiful about natural curiosity and capitalising on experience. 

With this in mind, when I prepare for certain experiences (like holidays) with my kids, I put a little thought into the big picture. It’s about providing the opportunity to learn and connect and then allowing it to unfold naturally (not having expectations on what that looks like). I have found this is the most rewarding way to encourage my kids to be learners for life, because it’s fun and satisfying.

Recently, our family went to Hervey Bay to do Whale Watching for a campaign I was involved in with Tourism & Events Queensland (TEQ). I had this idea of creating some sort of activity/craft to incorporate into the experience for my kids and TEQ were totally on board because they are as passionate about Queensland (my home state), and celebrating its wonderful nature and landscape as I am!

Step 1: Pre Family Experience

Before we went, I made up travel packs with a few relevant drawing materials and plastic figurine toys (I researched the wildlife in the Fraser Coast area). You can read about the pack I made up here: Road Trip Activities.

Travel Trail Mix

Step 2: The Family Experience

My son carried around a toy whale most of the time we were at Hervey Bay. It was gorgeous. It was such a great experience for the kids and we learned a lot about whales and why they love Hervey Bay so much.

This diagram of the whale journey from Antarctica to Tropical North Queensland is useful, and it shows Hervey Bay as a stopping place for many whales because of the protection of Fraser Island and the temperature of the water compared to down south. Hervey Bay is also an important stopover for the social development of young humpbacks, as hundreds of mothers use the Bay as a safe haven to teach their calves essential survival skills in preparation for the deeper, colder water of Antarctica.  

Whale trail - Queensland Coast

The whales deviate from the migratory path and stop, rest and play in Hervey Bay for up to 10 days at a time making it the best place to view them up close. On our whale watching tour, we saw 5 different pods of whales. Some were resting just under the water, some did massive breaches and flips, and some flapped their pectoral fins, like they were waving hello. My sister was recently up at Hervey Bay too, and one of the whales came right up to the boat. Incredible!

whale watching hervey bay

You can read more about Hervey Bay and our whale watching experience here: Whale Watching – Hervey Bay.

Step 3: Post Family Experience

Seeing the whales, in all their graceful enormousness was amazing. I wanted to take the opportunity to reinforce the experience through play. I think the key here is that it should feel natural and be fun. I’ve learned over the years not to force activities but instead to prepare, and then pick the right moments to do them.

Below are some ideas on how to capitalise on amazing family experiences:

  • Watch a documentary
  • Do a play scene
  • Make a craft
  • Research images or information on the web
  • Read a book (search the library for relevant books)
  • Make a memory book with photographs
  • Use a favourite photograph and make a wall canvas for the home
  • Make a memory jar like this one

I’m sharing two ideas I did with my kids below.

Play Scene

I set up a simple play scene with the toys I bought for the kids before we went on the trip. I did this during the day, and just left it there for the kids to find in the afternoon after school. They loved seeing it when they came home! You can find out how I put it all together here: Sea & Sand Play Scene.

Sea and Sand Play Scene

Look at these direct connections between the experience and play:

Whale Fluke 

Whale Fluke

Bird-life

Eagle

Whale Watching

Whale watching hervey bay

Sea Animal Printable

Another idea I had was to make a sea animal puppet theatre. This is especially great if kids want to do a talk at school about whales or sea animals. For the free printable and instructions on how to put it all together, click here: Sea Animals Puppet Theatre.

Shoebox puppet theatre

The tag line for Be A Fun Mum is ‘love the moment’ and there’s a skill to that. Sure, it’s about being present and enjoying time with your kids but there is more to it than that. It’s also the ability to capitalise on moments…and making them count! This is something I have been working on over the last couple of years and it’s not hard, but I have found that I have had to change my mindset to be very open to how it all plays out. It works! And it’s fun! 

I tailored these activities for my children with Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast in mind (which I highly recommend as a family holiday destination), however the same principles can be used no matter where you go:

1. Plan to enhance the experience by doing a bit of research and tapping into things your kids enjoy.

2. Enjoy the experience, allowing the planning to be a tool, not a fixed guide.

3. Do something fun in the wake of the experience.

These are the precious memory-making years with my kids and I’m making the most of it!

Helpful Links for Fraser Coast Region

www.whalesherveybay.com.au

Fraser Coast Activity Sheets

A Representation of Family

I could never have imagined how much my children’s drawings would encourage me on this parenting journey.

I see something very truthful about children’s drawings. And it’s not just truthful, but more than that: there’s an underlying truth.  So often it helps me see what resonates with them; how they see themselves and our family; what they particularly enjoyed about a holiday or expidition. 4 examples below.

One

In the excitement of an upcoming Easter trip, my 8-year-old daughter drew the picture below and shared it with me. So interesting: she explained to me that each child (4) have a different shape on their respective sleeping bags – diamond, square, heart, triangle. And then Mum and Dad have all the shapes together on their sleeping bag. I thought: What a gorgeous representation of family!  So much togetherness there.

1-1969356_10152324677149701_217224655_n-2

Two

This year has been challenging with my husband working away from home a lot.  I’ve noticed the strain on our family life, even though we are striving hard.  And then one day, I find this picture on the kitchen bench (again drawn my Miss 8) of our family.  All those happy faces!  I felt encouraged, knowing the unconditional love that forms part of the foundation of our family, shines through.
 
kid drawings

Three

The kids and I decorated an outdoor tree and many afternoon you’ll find them playing there.  I wrote about this drawing here.

kid drawings

Four

There are some particular moments in this parenting journey that make your mother-heart sing. Moments that help you realise there is essence there underneath all the chaos.

Miss 10 and Miss 8 showed me something they had been working on together. You see, Miss 8 was struggling to find “clothes to reflect something about yourself” as prescribed for the school concert. So Miss 10 said they could do brainstorming together to work it out. I only found out about this after it was all done.

They each used an A4 piece of paper to write and draw how they see themselves

Miss 10: Sporty, social, different, weird, friendly, awesome, bird-lover, imaginative, strange, messy, free, cool, likeable, wild. (I LOVE how she sees her unique quirkiness as a good thing and she’s so confident about it! BEST!)

Miss 8: Sporty, pretty, social, cool, dramatic, wild, free. (I love that her picture of ‘free’ is with arms up in the a air).

Then Miss 10 together with Miss 8 found an outfit that reflected herself and Miss 8 felt so happy with it. Best solution to “I don’t know what to wear that I have ever seen!” My heart warmed at the reflection of sisterhood, at the representation of worth, at the undercurrents of beauty on this motherhood journey.

drawings
 

Connecting With My Teen (Through Books)

connecting with my teen

In moments of waiting, you’ll often find me with a book.  This is a recent thing. I like it.

I love reading novels, but over the past…8 years or so…I haven’t made time for it.  There are three main reasons for this: it’s rare to have long chunks of quiet moments to digest a good book (the way I like to read); I find myself too tired at night; and reading articles on my phone is an easy and assessable distraction.

But I am reading again.  As I said: I like it.

It started with churning of thoughts in my head about my beautiful teen.  She’s absolutely fantastic, and I love how our relationship is developing.  One thing about my daughter is she loves to read.  And when I say love, I mean she devours books at an astounding rate and I can’t keep up with her appetite. It’s not uncommon for her to get through 2 full length novels in a week.

When it came around to her birthday recently, I asked for ideas of what she wanted.

“Money?” I suggested, thinking that perhaps she would enjoy to shop and pick out her own present.

“No,” she said. “I want books.”

Music to my ears!

Parenting changes in the different stages, and I find it necessary to connect with my teen in a new way.  She’s continually more of her own person, with her own thoughts, ideas and interests — I love that.  There’s also the emergence of a new generation that plays into it, a generation that is different to my own.

As I was mulling through information in the mother part of my brain, I realised the importance of tapping into my daughter’s keen interest.  It’s about connection.  So I started reading one of her favourite book series.

I love seeing her eyes light up when I mention a character I discovered. I love our conversation about plot, people and places.

My thoughts in action had the desired outcome I was hoping for: another level of connection. But there is more than that. I too have reclaimed my love for reading.  I love carrying around a book with me to steal quiet moments while waiting at school for the kids or in the waiting room for an appointment. 

This is it: the beauty of motherhood invested.  You give, and in the giving, there are surprises that give right back.

A Happy Childhood

Happy Childhood quote - Kelly Burstow - beafunmum.com

An ice-cream after the morning swim.

Late afternoon walks on the beach.

Climbing coastal trees with my cousins.

Playing skipping rope games my sisters outside the caravan annex.

Colouring in activity books.

Going out somewhere especial for dinner.

Spaghetti in plastic bowls.

These are some of the memories I have of our annual family holidays at the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.  I grew up in your average middle class family, but my parents always made family holidays a priority.  As I look back, I see how these dedicated family times played an integral part of my upbringing and to the relationship I have with my siblings and extended family.  Now I am the parent, I seek to provide the same value for my children.  I see it as gifting my kids with memories of an overwhelmingly happy childhood they can draw on for their entire life.  Good times ahead.

Worlds by Kelly Burstow (beafunmum.com) Illustration by  Fiona Chandler (@fionakatesimplegorgeousstorage)

More Illustrations

Holding Hands

Hold on to a sense of wonder

Joy is everywhere

It’s how you be

Reach for the Stars

More Posts

Family Life Stages – Memory Making

How to save money on family holidays

Travel Packs for Road Trips

School / Homework Station

I asked the Be A Fun Mum community on Facebook about their opinions on homework for primary school students. There was a huge response (737 comments) and below are the results:

What parents think of Homework

The main feedback to come out of the discussion are as follows:  

NO: 

  • children spend enough time studying at school & research suggests homework is not effective
  • parents find it hard to allocate time for homework
  • cuts into time for play, extracurricular activities, family time etc.

YES:

  • reinforces what they learnt at school
  • it gives parents an indication on how their child is doing at school and what they are learning
  • teaches good habits for high school years

I can see it from both sides. Personally, I’m in the no-camp (expect for reading!).  Homework impacts greatly on the harmony of our family life.  My husband is away a lot, and I’m on my own most of the time with the kids, so when there are afternoons like I described here, homework is another thing we have to juggle, another deadline to meet, another expectation to fill. I find the continuous grind takes a little joy out of the freedom to do some of the things I see add a lot of value to family life, like the children coming home, chatting, eating, running outside to play for hours, helping with dinner and that sort of thing.  I can hear words that say, “Can’t you still do that?” It’s not about the time, but about the impending job of homework affecting the tone of family life, and I’ve noticed this especially with my kids with learning challenges.

It was interesting to see that I’m not alone in struggling to juggle homework, with a whopping 72% of people indicating the desire to limit homework to a minimum.

Homework Box

There are certain things I do to aid the homework effort. One is to have a dedicated homework box with staples the kids need. The kids can grab the box and sit at the kitchen table.   It’s essentially a box with stuff thrown in it; not beautifully sectioned or pretty by any stretch, but it does the trick. Having things readily available makes doing homework easier.

This is what I have in it:

  • Lead pencils
  • Scissors
  • Colouring pencils
  • Paper glue
  • Tape
  • Erasers
  • Sharpener
  • USB (for Powerpoint Presentation Orals)

Homework BoxSchool Station

The Homework Box is kept in the School Station (which is an Ikea Expedit unit with drawers).

School Station

Hair: All school hair stuff is kept in this box. This includes brushes, hair bands, bobby pins & spray-in conditioner.

Homework Box: The homework box is kept in this drawer.

School Folder: The kids can put their homework folders in this drawer for when we get to it. Only the younger kids use it (the older kids keep their folders in their room).

Keeps: I keep this drawer for special drawings, awards and other things I plan to keep in each child’s respective school memory box. At the end of each year, I sort through the items and glue/add them to the scrapbook/box.  (I plan to do a post about this soon if anyone is interested).

School Paperwork

On top of the School Station I have two trays:

Forms In: Paperwork the kids bring home from school. I also keep any other child-related paperwork here (sports/medical).

Info/To Do: This is a fairly general pile.  For example, I keep information about excursions, sponsor chid letter to reply to, move paperwork from the ‘in box’ to this tray once done, paperwork that is not important but I have to look at again…

School Station

In addition to the writing materials in the Homework Box, I keep a few extra pens for general use in these cute juice bottles I decorated with tape.

Pencils / Pens / Permanent Markers

School Station

Another storage systems that has proven to be hugely handy (but not related to school) is my bits and bobs box.  My daughter made this toolbox at school and I claimed it for the kitchen bench. It looks cute and is great for the odd items that gravitate to the kitchen bench but have nowhere to live: Loose change, keys, my running watch, husband’s wallet, headphones, charger chords etc.

School Station

I would like to say these systems keep me organised and on top of everything, but alas, sometimes they don’t.  However, they certainly do help my effort to keep family life running smoothly.

More

Organising kids for school

Saying NO to micro-managing (what that looks like for me)

Benefits of an after school routine