The joyful child

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I try hard not to compare my children with each other. I’m very conscious of letting them be the people they are without trying to label them. It isn’t easy of course as it’s human nature to try to label things so we can understand them.

I have two very strong of mind children however. Actually, all four of us are very strong of mind. It makes for interesting times and will continue to do so as they grow and want to exercise their own opinions more.

As I watched Mr 3 joyfully run up and down the beach yesterday though, squealing happily as sand was tossed towards us by the wind, I was struck with just how joyful he is. And he is full of joy. He has a lightness that the rest of us don’t have. He’s quick to laugh, will find the silly in a situation in order to lighten the mood. He is full of love and wonder.

I was also caught in thought about the baby he was – fair to say he was a pretty miserable baby. He screamed a lot and loud. We walked laps of the backyard under the stars singing to him nightly for months. Until perhaps six months ago suffered from incredible separation anxiety. I tried a lot of things to make him happier. I had people tell me it wasn’t “normal” for a child to be this way. And though I questioned myself as a result of these comments my internal voice took it as a sign he needed my extra reassurance and did whatever it took to let him know he was loved. I left for work many a morning in tears as he screamed behind me, knowing the screaming would not in fact stop for perhaps hours to come.

Over time my reassurances that I would always be back seemed to work and he became happier to be left. But it took a long time for that to happen.

And so….My joyful child worked hard to be so. And so did I.

Generally

IMG_9333.JPGI don’t usually like to label myself. I hate being hemmed in by a label. I like to think of myself as “generally” one way with splashes of the opposite thrown in for good measure.  Kind of like the yin and yang symbol you know? I guess it’s the rebel within me that doesn’t like such definitiveness.

I am however, generally some ways as I suspect we all are.  I’m generally an introvert who likes other people and a chat for instance.

And when I read this article on gentle parenting on The Conversation last week I nodded along with it. It’s generally the way I parent and I wish I’d known more about these ways when I first became a parent.  I would have done things differently for sure.

I did though, make the mistake of commenting on the post linking to this article on Facebook thereby opening myself up to criticism and contempt from complete strangers as to my parenting philosophies.  Fun times.

Yesterday I took my boys out for a school holiday treat and we stopped at a local cafe for a treat.  As happens, a nearby toddler had a meltdown. Mr 2 put down his spoon, stood up and said, “I be right back ok?”, index finger akimbo.

Fascinated, Mr 6 and I sat back and watched him.  He walked, with purpose, over to the little girl having her loud, vocal moment and said, “Excuse me, I show you my special dance now, it’s called the ‘chip dance’. You watch!” And he proceeded to do his very special, twirly, stompy dance, singing, “Do the chip dance! Do the chip dance! La la la la.” It’s a dance he usually reserves for his closest family.  It, of course, changed the little girl’s mood instantly.  That he recognised the stress in another child and did something within his power to “fix” the situation made me extremely proud.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing a good job of taking care of my family. I get stuck in the cycle of work, chores, school pick up and drop off.  My head feels explosion worthy more than occasionally.

Empathy, kindness, curiosity and creativity are qualities I want my children to have in abundance.  And in this one little scenario my baby bear showed me that, generally, we are on the right track.

Space (subtitle: observations of a Term 3 School Mama)

IMG_9101.JPGMonday morning Mr 5 woke with a mild fever and complained of a sore stomach. Mr Be Loverly and I passed a knowing glance at one another and in that look we knew we would play along.

My Mr 5 is a beautiful child.  Everyone thinks their children are awesome but our first born is an insightful, wise, sensitive, funny and incredibly clever child.  His observations astound us regularly.  We knew this complaint was his way of telling us, “I am going through some stuff and I don’t know how to process it.”

Though this seems to be a thing that happens just before his birthday every year (the amazing Planning with Kids blog posts on half ages gave me incredible insight in to this – read here on the characteristics around this). This year though, is different….it’s the first real time he’s had peer influences.  He’s in the third term of his school journey and though he’s made friendships before he’s really been thrust out in to the world this year.  Something I have mixed feelings about.  Five is just, still, so young.  And five days a week just seems so much for a small child to be in the formal school environment (how I would LOVE to have the French model where children go to school four days a week!).

It’s also the first time that we, as a family, have encountered people whose ideas about how to raise a family are different to ours and so it’s a lesson to us all.  We are quite mindful of our principles as a family and we talk openly about what we believe in – kindness, learning, love of each other, loyalty, humour, self awareness.  It’s firmly entrenched in Mr 5’s mind and he knows himself well.  We are a household full of strong characters.

BUT he is only five and the unkindness he is experiencing from his peers is wearing him down a little.  He has been torn between wanting to play with his friends and disengaging from play he knows to be wrong.  He needed space to talk about this, to ask questions and process how this all fits together. The tantrums we’ve experienced the last week or so are evidence of this. His teacher is marvelous and we trust the school to deal appropriately but it’s not possible for them to see everything and be everywhere and besides, resilience is an important lesson.

And so, we sat together, around our table and I gave him room to just be himself…..I asked if there was anything he would like to tell me and the words, and tears, came flooding out.  I let him speak and when he was finished, the sheer act of naming the words, sharing them with me made him visibly lighter.  Mr 2, who understands much, said to him, “You are a very nice boy and I loves you and Mama loves you and Dada loves you. We always here for you.”

Though he will grow and experience much that is out of our influence he will always have space in our home to just be, talk, be angry, laugh, cry, play.  And it is our greatest hope that both our boys will understand that on every level.

Loverly food: broccoli, fetta and parsley mini scones

173The lovely Reem tweeted Amy and th3litteredhen and me on Saturday asking for some kiddo inclusive baking recipes. By the time I got back to her with ideas (I was at my much loved weekly Pilates session) she’d already made fruit scones and then, of course, I had to make scones too.

We still have a LOT of broccoli to use up and I went savoury cos lunchboxes and two birds with one stone and all that!

Now this recipe is one of my favourite kinds – using lots of good, healthy ingredients that are needing using up from the fridge and it is a one bowl mix situation plus created very few dishes. The kiddos even ate them happily so WIN!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups plain flour – if you want to use wholemeal then please do – they will just need a bit more yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 and a half cups plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 small head broccoli, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup fetta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • salt to taste
  • milk to “wash” the scones with

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix….don’t overmix as scones aren’t very forgiving with that.

Put mix on lightly floured benchtop and gently press the mix down until it’s about 2.5cm thick but truly, this doesn’t matter too much as long as the size you go with is consistent and you adjust cooking time accordingly.

Cut out the scones with an espresso cup or something of that ilk and place on a lined baking tray. When you’ve cut out as many as you can, lightly bring together dough and press it out again.

Brush the scones with a bit of milk – this makes them go a lovely golden brown on top – and bake for around 15 minutes but check at the 10 minute mark to see how they’re faring.

Allow to cool on an cooling rack and place in air tight container. They’ll last a few days in a container but as with all scones will freeze really well too.

 

Loverly food: Ricotta, broccoli & carrot fritole

149Given the sheer number of ricotta based recipes I’ve blogged over the years it’s hardly surprising for you to hear I rather love the stuff.  The only thing is that it is best served as fresh as possible so after I’ve gobbled some up fresh on my toast with honey I start looking to what I can cook with it.

I spied some sweet fritoles on a facebook page I follow and knew I had to try making some. My Nonna makes them sweet and I remember eating them as a child….but I wanted, as always, to try and veggie smuggle for the kiddos, especially Mr 2 and we have so much broccoli to use up that I thought I’d give that a go.  I found lots of recipes for fritters but none for these puffy looking morsels so I rang my Dad to ask his advice.

I did mine all in the food processor initially (cos I’m lazy!) and then, as I had already been using the little deep frier machine we have, I used that. But usually, when I fry something I do it in tiny batches in a very small saucepan so I don’t use heaps of oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 orange, zested and a little of the juice from half of the orange – use lemon if you like but I went with orange because we have so many to use up too!
  • Half a small broccoli, chopped roughly
  • 2 carrots, chopped roughly
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt to taste (I like salt in my food but I know some of you aren’t fans)
  • A dash of dried coriander/cumin/fennel or whatsoever you like
  • Oil of your preferred type to fry in

Method:

  • Set your oil to heat – bringing it up to the 180ish degree mark
  • Put all the ingredients in the food processor and whizz until it’s all mixed up nicely. If you don’t have one grate the veggies and pop it all in a bowl together.
  • When oil is to temperature spoon tablespoons of the mixture carefully in to the oil and fry for around 3-5 minutes until golden brown. If they’re not cooking on the top you may have to spin them over to cook evenly.
  • Drain well on paper towel.

These are absolutely best served fresh and I dipped mine in some yoghurt. Yum! But if you want to cook them in advance, reheat them in the oven til they crisp up again. They’ll kind of deflate a bit when sitting about.

The recipe above makes LOTS so do feel free to halve. I gifted some of them to my Mum and a friend and we still had lots of them.

As always, if you give them a try I would love to know what you think!

In the blink of an eye

IMG_8858.JPGIt’s been a really rough few months with illnesses. Mr 2 and I have been hit particularly hard. There have been many more sleepless nights than usual, more antibiotics than I would ideally like and many, many boxes of tissues.

My biceps are sore from carrying Mr 2 around more than usual. There have been a lot of cuddles, the latest round of separation anxiety and more than a few tears and I’m reminded how hard almost three was when we went through it with Mr almost 6.

I was on the bus with Mr 5 last week. It was full and I stood whilst he sat. He slipped his hand around my pinky. The way he used to when he was teeny. In the blink of an eye I felt the brevity of time since he was teeny. And then he made a silly joke that made me laugh and I was whipped back through time to see him for the funny, clever, kind boy he has become.

These boys of mine have changed my world. The way they grow and change so quickly in such a short time is deceptive. They talk big but they are still small.

Even when they’re not with me their presence is huge. I do carry them in my heart. The time will come when they set off in to the world on their own. It already feels like time has passed so quickly and though the days have been long and I feel like I could sleep for years I know enough to know that the years, like they have already, will pass in the blink of an eye.

Loverly food: Zucchini & ricotta muffins

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Our freezer stocks for lunchboxes is running low so over the next few days I’m concentrating on restocking supplies.  Mr 5 is a fabulous eater and I love having a freezer full of goodies to choose from for his lunches.  He’s really proud of his lunches too and his teacher giggles at how excited he gets about what he’s packed.

Yesterday Mr 2 was really unwell.  He napped for over two hours which he has probably never done in his life.  I think I blocked out the first year of his life as I truly can’t remember if he’s done it previously.  I decided to make him a raw coconut and cacao treat and with all that was on my mind I shoved my finger in the hand held food processor/whizzy thing.  Major cut on my index finger – gory and ick and I cried hugely.  So I’ve been cooking with an injury. Oh woe is me. 🙂  Like small children do though, he got sick quickly and has recovered quickly, waking at 4am for the day and he is very chipper indeed!

To manage some of his energy we’ve been cooking this morning.  He will eat almost anything if he’s helped cook it so there’s method in my madness.

In addition to the muffins we’ve made a batch of oat, quinoa and strawberry breakfast cookies and these chickpea and chocolate biscuits though I held the peanut butter to make them lunchbox friendly.

Anyway, these muffins are really lovely and fluffy, I think the ricotta helps with that.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • half cup milk
  • half cup coconut butter, melted
  • three quarters cup ricotta
  • 3 small zucchini, grated
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped – if coriander isn’t your thing use any herbs you like! And dried is ok too.
  • pepitas to put on top

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. If you would like to use muffin papers line a 12 cup muffin tray with them, if not, grease the muffin tin.

Combine the eggs, ricotta, milk, and coconut butter in a bowl. Grate the zucchini in to the bowl. Place chopped herbs in same bowl.

In a separate large bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder. Make a well in the centre and add the egg mixture. Mix carefully – easier said than done when a toddler is involved. The more you mix it the tougher it’ll be.

Spoon mix in to muffin tins til around 3/4 full, then scatter a few pepitas on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

This made around 18 muffins for us.