Thursday, 21 December 2017

Happy Birthday, Liz


About 26 years ago, we lived in Brewarrina, a small town in north-western NSW, and I was pregnant with our first child. 

Brewarrina was a very small town, so we often went to Dubbo, about 5 hours' drive away, for shopping and medical check ups. 

On this particular trip to Dubbo, I was about 34.5 weeks pregnant and we were having a check up because my local doctor had thought I was a bit small for that gestation, so he wanted some checks done in a larger centre. 

So, after a couple of days of shopping, we marched into the ultrasound room, hoping to get the checks done and dusted, so we could start on our 5hr journey back to Brewarrina.    I wasn't feeling great, seeing stars and had a bit of a headache, but put it down to too much heat and shopping.   We were sick of the big smoke and the heat and ready to head north.   Little did we realise what a little smoke Dubbo was compared to Sydney. 

The ultrasound specialist began her checks and got very quiet.  She called in another technician and they both look worried.   Someone checked my blood pressure and asked a few questions.  Then they panicked!  

They gave us a pretty bleak scenario.  This child possibly had an external bladder and/or kidneys and was growth retarded and they weren't sure why.  My blood pressure was through the roof and I was being sent to Sydney immediately on a plane for specialist treatment.

'Um, excuse me, we're actually going home.  It's all good, you're all over-reacting and we just want to get home before it gets too late and we have to drive into the sun.' 

No, we weren't going home and it finally sank in how serious this could be.   So, I stayed put while hubby dashed off to let our Christian friends at St Faiths House of Prayer know to start praying!   Thankfully, there was a prayer retreat happening at the time, so there were plenty of pray-ers. No mobile phones back then to send text messages, no Facebook for quick coverage, just leg work. 

In the meantime, the medical staff started the process of organising a plane for me to go to Sydney, and let Dave know that he'd have to drive down.     I wasn't allowed out of bed and was told I had this condition and that condition, most of which I'd never heard of.  We then decided to freak the parents out, giving them enough information to worry and not enough to put their minds at rest, because we honestly didn't know ourselves what was going on.   It was a difficult time for them, because it was very difficult to get in touch with us and find out what was going on.  No mobile phones and this was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. 

So, on the plane, I'm lying on my back, thinking that I was going in the wrong direction and where was my hubby and what on earth was going to happen to this baby.    I remember looking out the plane window, seeing some clouds and lots of blue, and feeling pretty helpless, and I began thinking of some lines from a song I'd sung in church many times - 'God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea, Who gave the light its birth, careth for me.'  It sure was a big sky and I needed an even bigger God to fix this problem.   I felt quite calm after that and the attending nurse was glad of it, because anxiety wasn't helping my elevated blood pressure.  

We got to Sydney and I was taken by ambulance to King George V Women's Hospital, part of Royal Prince Alfred, and eventually sent off to intensive care, where I was parked next to a lady with gestational diabetes who was in a bit of strife.   Because it was only a few days before Christmas and something like midnight when I arrived in the ward, they were scrambling to find specialists.   A young female doctor came in, an intern from memory, and her first words were pretty chilling and not at all comforting - 'If this was the 1950s, you'd both be dead!'   'Um, thanks.  Your bedside manner could use some work', I thought to myself.  

So, here I am in Sydney, in intensive care, with a chatty and very sick lady next to me, wondering what on earth is going to happen next.   It's past midnight, I should be asleep, at home, about 800km away, with my hubby, but I'm not.  Hubby had had to get the car out of the garage where it was being serviced, try and convince the bank to give us a cash advance on our mastercard at short notice, and then drive to Sydney late in the day, not knowing where on earth he was supposed to go.   On the way through the Blue Mountains, he followed a truck with a large boat on it.   He suddenly felt an urgency to pull up, and did, and had he not done so, he would have been hit by the boat because it came loose from the truck.   When he finally got to the edge of the city, he rang NRMA, and someone kindly escorted him to Newtown and showed him how to get to where he needed to be.  I think he arrived at something like 2am, only to find me wide awake! 

The next day, they gave me endless drugs to get my blood pressure down, told me I had something called pre-eclampsia and oedema and that my baby would undoubtedly be born with life-threatening issues, based on the ultrasound information.   They did another ultrasound and decided that something must be wrong with the ultrasound machine back at Dubbo, because the baby was now bigger than the technician back there had measured her to be.     The original measurement showed that she was about 9 weeks behind in her growth, and this one showed her to be only about 7 weeks behind.   We put that down to prayer! 

They then put a central line into my heart, to control the blood pressure.  That was a whole lot of fun and the bruises were amazing.   

I also got my first taste of a catheter and endless canulas!   They did another ultrasound and found it gave yet another size reading, a bit bigger again.  More prayer from the fervent pray-ers!   After another 36 hours of drugs and endless conversations about conditions we had never heard of, it was decided that they needed to do an emergency caesarean because the continued elevation in my blood pressure could kill one or both of us.    I remember them saying they had given me enough drugs to knock out a football team and nothing was improving. 

So, Elizabeth Sarah was born by emergency caesarean in the early evening of  22nd December, 1991, about six weeks early.  She weighed in at one and a half bags of sugar (so dubbed by our friend Suzy), which translates to about 1.5kg or 3lb 6oz.  She came out looking like a frog - skinny legs and arms and a big belly.   She had a tinge of red hair and looked a lot like her Dad!  (No, he doesn't look like a frog!).   She had a large bubble on her belly button, which they had mistaken for incorrect placement of her bladder and kidneys, but it was all good.   It was a sac of amniotic fluid that soon went down.  

She went into a humidicrib and I wasn't allowed to be with her for about the first 36 hours because she was so tiny and I was still so sick.   Dave spent his time going between the two of us.  

At just four days old, she started to breastfeed, though we continued tube-feeding her as well.   I spent my spare time mastering the art of walking with swollen legs, a large, painful scar and many bruises.   You don't realise how hard it is to walk up and down steps until every part of you is in pain. 

Liz made good progress and at just 12 days old, she became the youngest and smallest baby ever released from the NICU, and we started heading back to Dubbo with our little 'doll'.  We couldn't find any clothes small enough (premmie clothes were virtually non-existent back then) so we went to a toy shop and bought some dolls' clothes.  Thankfully it was summer and we didn't need a lot once we got home to the Brewarrina heat.   We still have the one premmie jumpsuit we were able to buy, which is equivalent to a 0000, and even that was too big for her.   

Lizzy's Grandma made cotton nappies the size of men's hankies and a few little dresses, but mostly she lived in a few small cotton tops and nappies.  Lizzy's great-grandmother, Nan Gardner, knitted her a few bonnets and used an orange to guage the right size for them and got busy knitting some clothes for the cooler months.  She died when Liz was just a few months old, grateful to have seen and held her first great-grandchild.   

I'm thankful, looking back, that Liz was our first baby because we didn't realise just how tiny she was.   Many others did and often marvelled at her.    She took about 18 months to catch up to 'normal' size and you wouldn't know now that she was a premmie.  

We've had quite a few medical emergencies since then and the lessons learned in this first big test we have never forgotten.  The biggest lesson learnt and still being learnt is that when you're out of your depth and you really can't do anything, you have to trust God because He is bigger than all of it and He can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. 

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory...............  Ephesians 3:20

This is the hymn I learnt and sang many times as a child, the first verse of which I remembered and sang again and again during that time. 
1 God who made the earth,
the air, the sky, the sea,
who gave the light its birth,
careth for me.
2 God who made the grass,
the flow'r, the fruit, the tree,
the day and night to pass,
careth for me.
3 God who made the sun,
The moon, the stars, is he
who, when life's clouds come on,
careth for me.
4 God who sent his Son
to die on Calvary,
he if I lean on him,
will care for me.
Author:  Sarah Betts Rhodes (1870)

So, Happy 26th Birthday, Liz!  It's lovely to see you with your own little people now, knowing that you've survived a few of your own medical dramas and found God faithful in the midst of them all.   It's lovely to see you following hard after Him, and growing in the God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea and who careth for you.  

Friday, 17 March 2017

What's In a Name?

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.    John 15:13-15

Jesus called us 'friends'.  I wonder what that really means?

He talked about servants and masters, students and teachers, fathers and sons and daughters, but in the end, He called us, and calls us, His friends. 

Why?  I'm not sure and I haven't taken the time to study the original meaning of what He said.  
I have often wondered. 

It's something that started a few years ago when I was struggling with some relationships that just weren't 'working'.  I had put a lot of effort into these 'friendships' and nothing was improving.  It seemed pretty one-sided to me and there was confusion on both ends. 

I was incredibly frustrated - and hurt.

But God.     But God stepped in and showed me something about friendship and why these relationships weren't working for me, or for them, really.   

You see, a friend is your equal, someone you need in your life, and someone who needs you.   You share stuff and you minister to each other, as friends, not because one is superior, but because you take turns holding each other up - physically, in prayer, practically.

Ministry, well that's another thing entirely.   You see, the people I wanted to be friends with saw me as a ministry.  They felt sorry for me, they saw a need in  my life and they tried to meet it in their various giftedness.  But they didn't see me as a friend, as their equal, as someone they needed.   Sure, the word 'friend' was used, but it wasn't what it was.   They were my brothers and sisters in the church, but we weren't friends because they didn't need me, couldn't possibly see how they could.   It wasn't a two-way thing.   And I felt I wasn't good enough - perhaps that's not how they saw it.  And now, looking back, I can see that isn't and wasn't true, even if they thought so.   

But friend, that's different.   Very different - and  I have a few precious ones.  They don't look down and I'm not their newest ministry project or the way they get their value.  My friends struggle and groan and cry and I help support and pray and listen.  And they do the same for me when it's my turn.    They don't look down on me and I don't look down on them.  We're all doing the journey and we need friends - just friends.    

But just like a stay-at-home Mum is not just a Mum, but so much more, neither is a friend just a friend.  The blessing of having a friend who is just that - a friend - is truly something to savour. 

STOP - Linking up at Five Minute Friday, where we write for 5 minutes on a prompt word.  Today's prompt is 'friend'. 

One of the biggest lessons in this came when God rebuked me sharply about my relationship with someone I was trying to minister to.  I was ministering to her out of the same attitude that was causing me pain and offence when it was coming to me from others.  And those others were doing that very thing to her as well.   Well, God pulled me up big time, and I had to go and apologise.  But well before the apology, God changed my perspective and my attitude and the relationship with this amazing person - and to a lesser degree, with her hubby.  

I could see her, someone not much older than my oldest daughter, as inferior, as not knowing much, as having nothing to offer me, as someone who 'needed' my superior wisdom and 'grace' and correction.    That was the pervading attitude at the time from us older women in the church.   But, when God stepped in and showed me that I could and should relate to this person as an equal, and when I chose to do that, I was blessed to find that there was a great deal on offer in this new relationship.  I was blessed by her, not just the other way around.  She had, and still has, so much to offer and she was and is such a gracious, empathetic, giving person, that I am truly blessed to have her on my rather short friend list.    She has been my late-night 'rantee' many times, my sounding board, my prayer warrior and an all round great listener.    We don't see each other much in real life, but we 'chat' online often. 

I find myself very grateful for that rebuke because I would have missed out on a great deal and done a great deal of damage in the process. 

This is my friend, the friend I nearly missed out on, because I was so busy trying to 'minister' to her.

"...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."    Prov 18:24

Friday, 10 March 2017


Quite a few years ago now, I was in a car accident, with  my three older girls, just our vehicle, turned on its side. 

I was driving and I came around the turn too fast on a newly-graded gravel road, and lost control of our twin cab.  It veered one way and I tried to correct it, by over-correcting, and we ended up on the other side of the road and I had a split-second decision to make - the fence or a huge tree.  I steered for the fence and over we went.    We all managed to climb out of the vehicle with a few bumps and bruises and the car's panels on one side all smashed up.  

I was reminded of that experience today, not because we were driving.  We did that yesterday.    What reminded me today was knee-jerk parenting, on my part, driven mostly by repressed anger and tiredness - and fear.    I over-corrected today, like I did back then. 

Let me explain.   Yesterday we drove nearly two hours to visit my parents, and catch up with daughter number three, albeit briefly, because my parents' town is kind of halfway between our house and her current place of residence.    We took my Mum out for lunch and a bit of shopping and everyone seemed to enjoy the experience.  

But - there's often a but, isn't there?   When we got back to Mum's house, my father had gone through her things, again, and thrown some of it in the garbage, then taken the key to her cupboard and hidden it.  No, he doesn't have dementia.  He was punishing her for going out without him and for enjoying herself.    Lest you think she did the wrong thing, he goes out!   Yep, you can probably work out I'm a bit ticked off.  It's not the first time he's done it, probably won't be the last. 

But, why the connection to knee-jerk parenting?   Well, you see, my gorgeous little 4yo madam is SO much like him!   And today, after yesterday wanting to get stuck into my father and having to walk away, again, I repressed that anger again (just adding it to many years' worth, really) and it came out today in frustration with a little person who just can't take no for an answer, who can't see why demanding and shouting and bossing is not on, who can't see that thinking you own other people is not on, can't see the damage that does to them, and to you.   

From what I've been told, my father was compensated and placated by his mother as a child when he did these things, because his father didn't love him.   And ever since, he has surrounded himself with people who give in to him, who are afraid of him, and he receives any kind of 'no' as rejection and 'punishes' people, particularly Mum.    Yesterday, apart from being punishment for Mum, was a bait to see if I would fight with him, would once again decide whose side I'm on.  I walked away, again, not because I'm frightened of him, but because I won't fight with him on his terms, in front of my children.    One day, the time will be right to confront.  

So, today, Miss 4 continually defied everything I said, continually made excuses for why she couldn't obey, continually made excuses why she couldn't tidy up her little messes, resisted me at every turn, argued about everything, baited her sister continually, and made many loud demands that were unreasonable.   Was today any different to any other day?  Perhaps a little worse than normal, but what was definitely different was my frustration levels, my tiredness, my fear.  I am afraid for this child and for those who love her.   If she doesn't change, she will end up like him!   And it feels like a huge weight on my shoulders to not let her do that.  So, we battle against each other, almost hourly, it seems at present, because I will not let her treat me or other people the way he has treated everyone who 'belongs' to him. 

But, with that determination, and with the fear of how much that could happen, I need to remember that she is only 4 years old and doesn't see the big picture and doesn't understand why today I shouted at her.   I need to not over-correct and end up in a ditch.   Praise God His mercies are new 

Lamentations 3:22-26
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him;
26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Friday, 13 January 2017

When God Reveals Something, How Do We Respond?

I've been reading a book called Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown about  the spiritual journey.   We're all on a journey.     If you're a Christian, then you should be walking with God and moving forward, or at least not going backwards - though that is sometimes very hard to do, right?    Our spiritual life is always changing - growing and bearing fruit, or not growing and gradually dying, even if not obvious at first.  

But, maybe you've been hit hard by some stuff - death, loss, illness, incapacity, rejection, betrayal, toxic relationships, parenting, abuse - the list goes on.    When we're hit hard, we're tempted to retreat within and we often get lost and confused and can't seem to feel or hear God anywhere, in anything we read or hear.  Even interacting with His people can leave us feeling worse, not better.    So, how do we move forward, or just plain old get back up again?  

In Sensible Shoes, the characters are challenged, during a prayer retreat, to connect with God in a deeper, more honest way.    They are all broken and stagnant and stuck and withdrawn in some way, for different reasons, and not sure how to move forward.   One of the key tools presented to them for connecting better and deeper with God is to put themselves in a Bible story or situation or verse and to see what jumps out at them, what annoys them, what hits a nerve, what makes them cry or laugh or get defensive or want to run away.   Those are the places to start again if we're bogged, the places to sit and wait on God, to find out why we're reacting, to be really honest with ourselves and Him, and to then receive from Him.  

We can get so bogged down and negative and depressed and alone in our journey.   But God.   But God is waiting - waiting to speak with us, to give to us, to bless us, to fill us, to heal us, to restore us and so much more.   But, we have to be open to Him.   We have to seek Him and to find Him on that journey, not because He's hiding, but because we are so used to doing it alone and finding our own solutions and trying to clean up our own mess.   

In re-reading through parts of the book, I was inspired to make a word picture, if you like, of what our spiritual journey can be like.    The leader of the retreat takes her participants through a labyrinth, an old-world custom of winding backwards and forwards to a central point, pausing to contemplate and listen to God, to be filled by Him in the centre, and gradually moving on and receiving from Him on the way out.     Partly inspired by that, and partly by a play on words, I wanted to share this word picture with you and hope you can find here a treasure or two to help you on your journey.  

So, as you begin at the starting point, whether you're deliberately waiting on God or whether He interrupts your everyday life in some way, my question is this - 'When God reveals something, how do we respond?'   Let's start there, at the arrow.  

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.   Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.  When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart .....
Jer 29:11-13

Monday, 2 January 2017


Have you been reading the very many memes and ads and thoughts being presented on blogs, social media, the news, TV as to how to step into this new year - 2017?   I think I've seen it all - 3 steps to get fit, 4 ways to improve your health, 5 things to learn this year, 17 great thoughts for the new year, 21 people to emulate, 13 hoops to jump through, 10 new ingredients to cook with, 5 things to quit, and so it goes on.    There's nothing wrong with any of it, really, but it's not where I'm heading this new year, as tempting as they all sound. 

Have any new year thoughts or plans grabbed your attention over the last few days?   Did something ring true with you or inspire you or make you feel guilty enough to listen, to take notice?    Some of the thoughts I've seen have grabbed my attention, so I'll share them with you in no particular order. 

"Actions flow from values. That’s why resolutions usually fail.”   The blog writer suggested assessing what you value by writing down your activities and expenditure for a month and see what you were busy doing and spending money on.  That's a worthwhile task, probably more effective than  making resolutions you won't keep, because unless your values change, you won't see lasting change in your actions.   You can read more of that blog post here. 

Another one was this one-liner:    ‘Don’t go into 2017 with a rolling stop.’  I had to think about that one, but it was basically saying we shouldn't roll through a stop sign, but actually stop and look before we move on.  It's a good thought.   And we shouldn't just roll into another year.   Yes, the first day of the year is just another day, but God marks times and seasons and so should we.    If you have Facebook, you can read more here.

This is a quote I found with a picture of a chick, fairly newly hatched out of its egg.   
'If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends.   If broken by an inside force, life begins.   Great things always begin from the inside'. 
That one resonated with me, because God has been speaking to me about honesty on the inside, and that transformation has to start there - in our inmost being.   We can't be transformed if we keep pretending what's in there isn't really there or isn't as rotten or painful or complicated as it is.    We can't be transformed if we keep 'behaving ourselves' on the outside and ignoring the inner mess and pain.   God sees it, we need to let ourselves see it, and let Him touch, heal and change us. 

And here's another one.   'Christ's example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love.'   This is just a small part of the Queen's Christmas address for 2016, where she talks of being inspired by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.   God has been speaking to me about being more concerned with being Jesus to those in whose lives I am or could be 'big' or very significant, than striving to be big in the opinion of others. 

And here is another one that I am reminded of - 'So that's what I'm going to do. No goals. No timeframes. Just day by day,'    This lady was speaking of just taking one day at a time, one challenge at a time, one victory at a time. 

So, I take all these thoughts with me into the new year, and many more besides.     These thoughts, and more that are not mentioned, have grabbed my attention and I am tempted to write them all down, in different colours, and stick them up somewhere.  

But, Someone keeps grabbing my attention and reminding me of His thoughts for me for this year.     And it isn't about a ten-point plan to do better, be better, do more, try harder, nor is it about making goals.    Instead, He keeps asking me to journey with Him, one day at a time, to listen to His heart's desires, His goals, daily or even hourly, to get really honest with myself and Him, to be transformed from the inside out.  

Something He grabbed my attention with just last night while reading the book, Sensible Shoes, was this verse about Hagar. 

'...where have you come from and where are you going?'  Genesis 16:8  

I thought that was a pretty appropriate question for the first day of the year.   I have been pondering on that one all day.   It will probably take me the whole year and beyond to answer those questions.  

I was listening to a sermon last night that spoke of how Jesus grabbed Peters' attention when the fishing boat became so loaded with fish it was in danger of sinking.  I've heard this story many times, often in the context of not expecting enough of God, not asking for enough, being immensely blessed, reaching more people for Christ, etc.  But last night, I got something else out of it.  

The preacher suggested that Peter and Jesus knew each other before that incident, that they had perhaps grown up in the same town, attended the same synagogue, knew the same people.   Jesus had been preaching to people before this incident, and it was not long after Jesus was baptised and infilled by the Holy Spirit.    So, did something other than Jesus' words and His miracle grab Peters' attention that day?  That day,  why did Peter suddenly understand his own sinfulness and Jesus' Lordship? 
Did He suddenly see Jesus in a new light, suddenly understand something of Jesus' power and His purpose, experience something of His anointing that day?  We don't know, we weren't there, but something changed.   Jesus grabbed Peter's attention to the point that Peter dropped everything to follow Him.

Could that same Someone grab our attention as we head into this new year with our goals, our resolutions, our lists, our plans, our budgets and our burdens?  

Can we stop and look before we roll into another year? 

Can we stop and listen and be overawed, once again, at who Jesus is and just start anew the journey with Him? 

Can we be led by Him, taught by Him, challenged by Him, changed by Him, as Peter surely was those three and a half years and well beyond?   

Can we drop our plans, goals, resolutions, lists right there on the beach like Peter dropped his very full nets?   His nets were full of provision and future and goals and normal, but something about Jesus caused Peter to leave it all behind.

Can we just follow Him into this new year?   

Can we stay close enough to listen, learn, love and absorb who He is this year?  

Luke 5:11  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Building Fine Motor Skills for 7yos

Are you trying to help your 7 yo build some fine motor skills?   Me too.     There are so many ideas out there for preschoolers and that's as it should be, but the older kids get easily bored with them. 

So, prompted by a request from a fellow Mum, in response to seeing these necklaces the girls made this week, I've gone searching through our resources here at home, and got Miss 7 re-inspired to try some of them.  

In the photos, you can see some of the ones we have already, all purchased from our local op-shops for very little.     These are the ones I found easily without looking too hard.     There are so many more options, but these are the ones Miss 7 is most likely to use at the moment. 

I also found lots of great ideas online, which I've listed below - we'll definitely be trying some of these in the new year.  

You can also view my board on Pinterest here to see these ideas in picture form.    If you're a visual person, then it's worth a look.  

I also have a pinboard of shape activities, ready for next year when we start concentrating on shapes.    Many of these are fine motor skills activities as well.  

Before you read through the list below, you might want to read this lady's page about why fine motor skills are important for children of various ages to develop. 

So, in no particular order and in a somewhat organised fashion, here are the ideas I found, but there were many more.  

This one is about arranging shapes symmetrically within a circle.

Making symmetrical snowflakes

Another symmetrical snowflake activity   

This is a great game involving marbles on golf tees, which requires balance and careful positioning,  plus some strategy.  

Marble runs are also a great way to improve fine motor skills and get those 3-D skills working and developing.   We love ours and they are easy to find at op-shops or online.   

This is another great idea for marbles, which involves some sewing as well.  

We love our pattern blocks and I have found some websites that have great ideas. 

There are some great ideas here for making shapes from shapes, if you're happy to pay for the cards.

This site has lots of free printables for you to try out, from simple to more complex. 

This site has printables for making letters and numbers with the pattern blocks

And this lady has themed pattern block pictures, so it's worth having a look around her site for those and many other resources

Seriously, though, Google 'pattern block pictures' and you'll find a wealth of websites and pictures for all age ranges. 

We have this resource at home and the girls both really enjoy making all sorts of things with them.   Today, our loungeroom was filled with jellyfish and lionfish, squid and sharks, all made from these straws and connectors.    This is our 4yo in the midst of making her aquatic creations.   

This is a similar concept, making shapes with toothpicks and gumdrops, this time with straight lines.

And this lady prefers to use grapes instead of gumdrops.

Sewing and weaving are great fine-motor exercises for children older than pre-school level.   They can do simple weaving right through to sewing on fabric. 

This is a great, basic weaving idea on a large scale, for little hands and big ones.   Simple enough to achieve with household items and adapt to various sizes.  

This is a simple idea, great for Valentine's Day.

Or you could do different shapes like these. 

We are going to learn about shapes this coming year, so I was really impressed to find this activity. 

This sewing idea incorporates the concept of in and out of the fabric, and the dots on the fabric help the children to create lines and pictures.    I'm sure you could draw basic outlines on dotted fabric, or let them make their own pictures.   

Miss 7 made these earlier in the year to put in the Samaritan's Purse Christmas boxes.  

This game looks really fascinating if you'd like to learn how to use chopsticks.  Fairly easy to organise, I would think.

Here's a great idea for some Christmas craft that could appeal to various ages and the kids could make it as simple or as complicated as they like.  

This looks like a great alternative painting activity for older kids that could lend itself to all sorts of creativity.

The lady at the above website is a pediatric occupational therapist and has some great ideas for building those fine motor skills in older children.  

I like the look of this one from her website, using little white balls, pipe cleaners and pieces of pool noodle.   There is no end to what children can create with these.   

So, I hope I've inspired you to find fun and interesting ways to build those fine motor skills in and with your children, using activities that can be adapted to various ages and stages, including your own!      

Have fun!     I'd love to hear your thoughts on anything you've seen or tried. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Giving Gifts that Give Back

So, this year, in the silly season, I have set myself a challenge - to buy gifts for people that also give back to the seller in some way, and to avoid the trappings of expensive shops and their expensive, flashy, must-have gifts.   We walked through a large shopping mall last weekend and I felt quite sick seeing how much commercialism has taken over our Christmas season.   I wonder have we lost the point of it all?   It confirmed for me that I had made the right decision, spending the last couple of months in op-shops and online instead.  

I've had opportunity to look in a LOT of op-shops in the last month or so (over 20 different op-shops) and I've found some rather unique gifts.   And I'm happy to report that God has sent some really interesting choices along the way for me to look at.  It's also been good to think about each purchase and its potential recipient, rather than just buying something for the sake of buying a gift.  

Shopping in these places is like being in a treasure trove - it's amazing what you find, in good condition, at reasonable prices.  If your gift recipients are not offended at near-new items, it's a great choice for Christmas shopping.    Sometimes you can find new items as well and children, in particular, do not mind receiving pre-loved treasures.    These op-shops run various charitable services, and they include Lifeline, Vinnies, Red Cross, Lions, Salvos and many other, more localized charities. 

I'm also trying to buy from small businesses, run by one or two people or families.   Many mums at home run small businesses to supplement their family's income and they could do with the support of other mums and families.   

And I've also opted to buy from charities.    Charities can be large or small, well-recognised or just quietly getting on with helping people.   One of my favourite charities is Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, which is the charity arm of Catherine Hamlin's amazing ministry to the women of Ethiopia who have suffered fistula injuries in childbirth.  Their Australian branch can be found here.   Catherine's organisation also trains midwives to prevent fistula injuries.   The gifts in the Hamlin Store are made by the ladies who have come to their hospital and clinics for treatment, and the money goes back to them.  There is also an opportunity to buy  presents for these women and to receive a gift card thanking you for those gifts.   I bought some items from them just this last week and they came within a few days.  

I'm also making a few gifts, as I usually do at this time of the year, and making them specifically to suit the person receiving them.    This year I'm sewing, painting and laminating, cooking, and collecting various items and presenting them in simple plastic containers with a bit of curling ribbon and fabric.  I'll show you some photos in the next blog post, when I have them finished.  

Of course, I can't show you all the gifts that I'm finding and buying and making, because that would spoil the surprise for those receiving them!    Perhaps after Christmas, I will show you many of the treasures I've found.     For now though, I'll give you a peek at what I've found for those who don't read blogs!

So, with all that in mind, can I challenge you to look beyond the big stores and the 'easy' gift ideas, and buy gifts that give back to those selling them, both now and beyond the silly season?    You'll save money, have fun in the treasure troves, and be helping someone other than the big money-making corporations. 

Below, I have outlined some of my choices and bargains for this year.    I will show you more after Christmas, when the blog readers have received their gifts.  

I have also included suggestions from others for buying gifts that give back, beyond this crazy season of buying, buying, buying.  

Wholefood Simply - Bianca has come from a place of chronic illness requiring radical dietary changes and so has come up with new ways of making and enjoying old treats.   She is a wife and mum and she has many recipe books out, filled with great recipes, amazing anecdotes and tips.   Her website is well worth a look.  

It's Not Ok - This is an organisation set up to rescue young girls from sexual slavery in Asia.    Please read about it, and see if their gifts would suit someone in your circle.  Their gifts are hand-made by those that have been rescued and are reasonably priced.   Or you can donate or even sponsor a girl that has been rescued.  

Created to Be Books I've bought a selection of these books for my daughters and my granddaughters.    These are written by a Mum who wants to encourage and instill Godly character traits in her young children, written for both boys and girls.   We have a couple of her books and will be buying more.    They are available by clicking the icon for Australian orders at the link above.   If you follow this link, it will tell you more about the books and why they were written.

Jamberry Nail Products  -   This is a small business run by, Jo,  a friend of mine.   She is selling Jamberry Nail products, for those of you who like to pretty up your nails.  Jo says that her nails are nice and strong with these products and they looked great last time I saw her.  Even her toenails were decorated!     You don't have to join up to anything to buy from her and she has a huge range of nails and nail kits to choose from.   

Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper   Yep, that's right - toilet paper - no worse than socks and undies as a viable gift.    This is toilet paper that is apparently very soft and 50% of their profits are used to help build toilets in the developing world.   Now, there's a worthy cause.    We take toilets for granted, but for 40% of the world's population, toilets are not standard fare.  This group also sell tissues.    You can find out more here about their product, their purpose and their store - just scroll all the way down to find out more.    And you can save 8.37% on your first order!!  

Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks -  These look great!  You can watch the video about them here.   I think it could be a future investment for us.    They're not cheap, but they would last for years and span over several seasons of a child's development and last into your grandchildren season.      My girls love wooden blocks, but they do tend to fall apart, whereas these blocks stick together with the aid of strong magnets.   The possibilities are endless.   And they give back by helping people in Nicaragua have meaningful employment.  The manufacturers also give back by replanting more trees than they use.    They are available in Australia from

Food Wraps - these look like a great alternative to plastic containers and bags for food storage.    These Gingham and Wax wraps are made with simple materials and ingredients by Nina in the beautiful Blue Mountains.   If you're keen to use something other than plastic to wrap and store food, then please look at these.    

Destiny Rescue Jewellery and Accessories - have a look at these lovely products, including jewellery and aprons, made by girls who have been rescued from sexual slavery.     Please read about their organisation and consider buying something.   We can't imagine our daughters being caught up in this kind of exploitation.   Even one gift can make a difference in their lives. 

These Weighted Blankets look so soft and warm.   And Sam offers to weight your favourite toy as well.  What a great gift for a grandchild!   

These Smart Calendars look like a great, family-friendly way to manage time and activities for all the family.  These are made by Amanda, a busy Mum, who saw a need and has come up with a great idea.     Well worth checking out. 

Breastfeeding Covers and Baby Shower Gifts at Nandewar Nursery    Ebonnie Whan makes breastfeeding covers and Baby shower gifts in our local town.   What a great idea, obviously inspired by her own need and her love of sewing.    Even if you aren't anywhere near Narrabri in north-western NSW, why not look around your local area or on Facebook and see what local crafty people are making that you could give as gifts.  

Point Production and Design, Teacher resources - This lady, Naomi Williamson, has a lot of experience and qualifications in the education field and specialises in writing and developing quality resources to save teachers time.    Well worth checking out.  

And lastly, this is a large directory of small businesses, run by Australian homeschooling/unschooling families, and put together by Beverley Paine from The Educating Parent.   The family businesses start from page 58.   Well worth a look - a huge variety of resources and services here, plus lots of info on homeschooling and unschooling in all states and territories in Australia.   

Okay, so these are just some of the sources that I have used or have been suggested to me by others.  

There are so many more options, including looking locally for your small businesses, going to your local markets, art/craft galleries, Facebook groups, etc.  

Every time we buy something cheap (or even expensive) from a $2 shop or some larger firm, who are we really helping?   And obviously, there's a place for buying things from these places, but we can actually help real people and bless people we love, when we look beyond the easy, crazy gifts, and dig for treasure.  

So, if you haven't finished your Christmas shopping (and most of us haven't) then please look through the options, or dig out others, and think about giving gifts that give back this season.   There is still time to dig a bit deeper than the big stores and find some real treasures.  

"...remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"   Acts 20:35