A new year, a new country

So we did it.  After six great years we moved ourselves, a lot of luggage and mixed feelings from beautiful Sydney to grey London.  Why? Why? Why? We have been asked a lot…..

The main reason is family, with all the grandparents, great, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins here it is just too hard to imagine our boys missing out on these great people and growing those relationships from a young age.  While technology helps a lot, in my opinion it cannot replace real time together (which I miss as well).  I want the boys to make memories in their relatives homes and understand that families work differently (and that that is just fine).  I want the boys to see us enjoying time with our families so they see families as an important part of their lives as they grow older.  They will always have their Australian citizenship to fall back on but England is a great place to live so the aim of this year is to find our special spot to call home!!!  Wish us luck!

On the subject of families this article was an interesting one about how women mainly pick up the legwork around keeping the family ties tight.  I would say this extends to friendships as well as Mr S invariably leaves me to do the organising of the fun stuff as well!

So whilst the last few months have been spent doing A LOT of admin, I have found the time to do some reading and of course the toddler entertainment never stops (we now have two in the house with our baby turning one and gaining his first pair of shoes!).

To read

I have started trying to make notes of non-fiction books that I have found interesting.  It allows me to absorb the information more and to help me recall it when I want to share a point with a friend.

  • The Savage Garden by Mark Mills – a pick from the in-laws bookshelf.  A good easy read and a little escapist.
  • High Output Management by Andrew Grove.  Interesting read around engaging employees.  Think it works best in a product type environment but the connecting and empowering is relevant to all.  Quite a short read as well.
  • Growing Great Marriages by Ian and Mary Grant – a library find.  Has a Christian slant to it but the advice is worth a read even if that is not your religion.  Has good questions to ask each other, as well as reminders of how in general men and women think and communicate differently and have different needs.

 

Parenting

  • Bit late but a good reminder to make time to enjoy each other’s company, not just the new toys.
  • Peaceful parenting, happy siblings by Dr Laura Markam – I would really recommend getting this while pregnant with number two and reading and taking notes as you go.  She gives great ideas of keeping your older one more content during the arrival of their sibling and how to connect with both children daily to make them better siblings to each other.  I want to study it like a textbook to really implement her ideas.  As both boys are walking now the rules of the game have definitely changed!

 

To listen to

  • Some interesting ones on my to listen to list from Sydney Writers Festival.  One on capital punishment was enlightening.
  • Smart Passive Income – on my list to listen to to help find a way to make money and be predominantly at home with the boys (whilst keeping my brain going and qualifications relevant!)
  • Best of 2015 from Tim Ferris.  He reflects on the interviews in the year and the points he is implementing.  These are the points I took from it
    • More reflecting less ingesting
    • Discipline is freedom.  Use bookmarks of set times for things to allow you to have creative freedom.
    • Using breathing techniques to reduce caffeine intake
    • Going First – little things add up.  Smile and say hello
    • What could you do which will be remebered in 200-400 Years time?
    • Only commit yourself/time to things that invoke a “Hell Yeah” response.
    • If you say you are ‘busy’ then you are out of control – you don’t have the right systems and are not making descisions
    • Reveal a little something before starting to make yourself seem vulnerable and you are likely to get more authentic moments of emotion as a result.
    • Use the Dickens process – think of what your beliefs / limiting behaviour is costing you/ those you love in past/ present / future.  Use this to modify your behaviour.  Can’t just look at the reward of action but need to consider the result of inaction.
    • Recommends Sapiens – on my to read list.
    • What is on the other side of fear? Nothing
    • Conduct year end review.  What have you do right / wrong / could do better?
    • If you say to yourself “But I am making so much money doing something” consider it a warning sign as you will never get your time back

 

To travel

We have done a fair bit of travel with a quick holiday before the big move – long haul flights and some reasonable drives.  With two little ones who are only used to short trips this took a bit of planning.  Here are our tips:

  • Invest in a portable DVD player.  It really helps with the downtime which busy toddlers do need.  It also allows you to more easily control the amount of TV time if you agree up front how many episodes they can watch; we find YouTube videos of diggers and construction games are great, but they always want another one.  Our favourite DVDs are playschool, Thomas, Peppa, Dora and Mister Maker.  A mix of semi-educational and stories is good.  We didn’t have a TV at home in Australia and this allows us to control the screen time a lot more than just seeing what is on the kids TV channels when staying with family. Would recommend one with a car mount and this was great for the seven hour road trip.
  • Use packing cells for children’s clothes if you are using large cases.  They make it far easier to find things.
  • Books, books, books – read them or just tell a story that you remember reading before.  Embellish, talk about emotions, examples that link to what they already know.
  • Snacks, snacks, snacks (don’t forget some for you too)!
  • Play eye spy an object/ something yellow/ beginning with..
  • Play rainbow spotting – e.g. find a red car, orange cone, yellow truck…..
  • Let’s pretend to be a vet, fireman, doctor etc… Use what you have to create a story and keep it evolving and their imagination working!  The more mock acting and silly voices the better.  The first time we did this Mr S made up a basic story around Fireman Sam, our toddler has now taken this into his own imagination and embellished it beyond belief – each day a new detail is added.  It is lovely to encourage and see his imagination grow.

Air travel

  • Use books and stories to prepare children for going through the airport.  Peppa Pig goes on holidayBrian Floca’s Five trucks (stunning illustrations and love his other book Locomotive but for an older reader), and Maisy goes by plane were all great for starting the discussions about what will happen with simple language and allowing a reference point back during the journey “do you remember when Maisy did…?”
  • Assign tasks if travelling with more than one adult – one person does children, the other passports and tickets etc.  Strap smaller children to you or down!  Research if there are any strollers/ trolleys that you can use in transit at airports.  Make sure you both know where the toiletries/ electricals/ baby food/ wipes etc. are.  And update each other if this needs to move around during the journey.
  • Give your toddler a task – ours had his own carry-on suitcase which he felt responsible for getting through security etc. which made him more involved with what was happening.  And obviously make sure they have their special teddy/doll safely stowed.
  • Put stickers with individual’s initials on the back of passports to speed up airport transit.  We had two passports each and this made matching passports to boarding cards much easier!
  • Make a small card with consolidated names, passports number, DOB, expiry date, place of issue on it so one person can easily fill in the arrival forms!
  • Check what food / liquids you can take with you – raisins and crackers/biscuits can solve lots of mini-meltdowns.
  • Lots of little lightweight books – our boys love the small Thomas stories/ Mr Men and Little Miss.
  • Few small electric toys that make a noise and hold / divert attention.  E.g. small toy phone/ v-tech toot toot vehicles.
  • Pack an activity bag with lots of different little bits.  Stickers with pictures, plain white ones, some snap cards (halve the pack so you have another activity if any get lost), some felt with some bits cut out into different shapes (sticks to itself), washi tape, post-its, washable pens, tape measure (sewing style) etc.  Do some research of small ideas that you can keep in your pocket to help yourself when you feel you are losing control!
  • Carry a large, light tote bag in an accessible pocket to allow for a fast clear away at the end of the flight and for a repack when off the plane.

Visiting family

  • Have some small activities to keep them amused.  Balloons, few books, stickers etc. all work well if you are visiting older family with lots of lovely (but fragile) ornaments and knick knacks.
  • Take some toys if there are children of a similar age so some ‘trading’ can be done.
  • Talk about who they are going to see and what they might like to tell them – provide conversation starters.
  • If you are staying for a few days use a collapsible crate/ large bag to collect your things in one spot (preferably by the door) as getting out the house can be a mission when you can’t find their glove/hat/waterproof trousers etc.
  • Do some research of what to do with children in the area in different weather conditions.  We found the days without a clear plan the hardest.  Are there any local playgroups to visit, a library to borrow some books from etc?  If you can do some things that are similar to what they enjoy doing at home it can make it easier when you are staying for an extended trip.

To connect

These few months have been hard work for Mr S and I.  We have really had to work on our communication to try and avoid things falling through the cracks and to deal with the emotions we are both feeling with the big move, not to mention give our little ones lots of support through the big change.  These ideas helped:

  • Create some code phrases which you can use to stop and reset.  We had “Can I have a ‘P’ please Bob?” for when more positivity was needed.  “Snap snap goes the crocodile” for when we were being unnecessarily snappy with each other.  “I’m having an ‘O’ moment” for when the overwhelm was taking over for Mr S.  He reaches a point when there is no point adding more to his plate or giving more information, best to save for another day.
  • On a Friday night use a piece of paper to categorise things to do.  I view weekends as  the time to get things done, Mr S views them as time to relax.  By having a joint to-do list (including fun things) we made our weekends more of a balance.
  • Conversation starters

 

To eat

 

Toddler activities

Extending the Messy Tray that I mentioned last time these have worked well:

  • Rice crispies and small plastic creatures
  • Custard powder, water and utensils (or dinosaurs)
  • Shaving foam and paint for marbling and printing
  • Some ideas for textured water play

On my to do list:

Near London:

  • RHS Gardens, Wisley – great garden to explore with all ages.  The Butterflies in the Glasshouse are stunning.  We also really liked the teepee building from long logs – particularly frightening how big a log our older son can lift!

 

I am thinking about what to write about this year; I really like sharing things that have worked well for me and my family, and hope that they are helpful to you.  I’d be grateful for any feedback on the content/ format and detail in my updates!

Have a great 2016.

Eleanor

topickwisely@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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