A busy, pint-sized bird flitted around, peering down at me from the guttering and muttering to herself in soft, high-pitched chirps, while I hung my washing. The little bird brought back her mate later in the morning. They were noisy myna birds and, generally, I discourage myna birds from loitering in my garden. They're noisy and cheeky and very territorial. They'll chase away kookaburras and honey-eaters, even cats and goannas.
The couple was obviously young and looking for a place to build their nest... ﬁrst home buyers, I called them.
And I honestly didn't think they'd return. After all, it was a potted shrub, for goodness sake, placed just outside my bathroom window.. not exactly the best location. But they both seemed to like it and she started work immediately. By mid-morning, she'd built a basic foundation for her nest. It was looking good. The male ﬂittered around inadequately making encouraging noises which she totally disregarded.
Work continued for some time and I went back to my own activities.
I was surprised, a little later, by a noisy altercation outside. The male had obviously brought her a gift, a small contribution to the nest construction. It was a nice gesture. I can understand its appeal. It was a pretty blue scrap of a ribbon. He'd probably searched all morning for just the right interior design accent.
But she was not happy.
I don't know whether she hated the colour or resented his intrusion. Perhaps she would have preferred something of a more practical nature. Maybe he presented the gift with a 'too cavalier' an attitude. Whatever the reason, the ﬁght continued for some time, and then the male retreated to a nearby shrub in a huff.
The offending little ribbon was dropped unceremoniously at the base of the potted plant.
The next interruption hit with the ferocity of a cyclone. It came fast, hard and furious and without any warning. I think it was the in-laws. The air was ﬁlled with shouting and recriminations and, I'm inclined to think, a fair amount of ﬁlthy language though I don't speak bird talk.
The battle continued for some time, and then there was silence.
I peeked outside; the small couple sat in a nearby tree whispering together and looking at their unﬁnished new home. At length, they left. I kept hoping they'd return, but they never have. I just can't bring myself to remove that small nest, begun with such excitement and determination, and destroyed with such acrimonious family discussion.
Now, I don't know anything about nest-building.
I can appreciate that the location of the birds' nest was a little unconventional. But it was under the cover of the house eaves so that was a plus. And my husband loves to feed birds so a constant food source is certainly another positive.
I can't help thinking that there should have been a better way of handling the whole irregular nest building situation.
One of the hardest things to do as a mother or grandmother is to just sit back and let your kids make their own decisions. Now, I'm not saying that we can't voice an opinion when we're asked. And I'm sure that you can delicately drop your pearls of wisdom as needed without ruffling feathers. But as kids get older, grow up, and perhaps leave the nest we have to take a back-seat in decision-making. (I'm sorry.. just couldn't resist the 'bird' metaphors.)
However, you can have an even greater impact on your family through difficult times with patience and encouragement. Did you notice that your kids took time to research a problem before making a decision? Let them know you respect their diligence. Have you seen the care they take ensuring they have all the facts? Tell them. Are there moments when your kids or grandkids show kindness and understanding? Take note and encourage them... perhaps even drop them a note to let them know how much you appreciated their actions... leave a little sticky note of encouragement.
And.. although I mention it last it should come first; it's prayer. It's something that we tend to overlook until everything starts to unravel and fall apart. I've found that everything just falls into place in ways I could never imagine if I hand it over to God first; and especially before I say or do anything.
Maybe, the moments your family will remember most will be those times they experienced your support and encouragement in their life. Our time is finite- we need to spend our time doing things that are helpful, loving and encouraging.
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No matter what else happens... some memories can never be replaced.
Memories are elusive. I know there have been many times when I've decided I could never forget a small family moment, or a funny comment by one of my grandkids, or a touching interaction between kids. It was just a small moment, but surely I'd never forget it? But then I'm struggling to remember the details by the evening, let alone the next day.
I know that photos are a wonderful way to recall these moments. But even photos can't capture comments, dialogue or laughter. Sometimes, the only way to catch and keep a memory is to write it down. I've mentioned previously about some journal apps that make it easy to note down these special memories. But some people prefer to use an actual paper journal.
I know that's it's not easy to take time to journal when you're busy or tired. And many people comment that, once they open their journals, the words escape and they don't know what to write.
A white page of nothing, just waiting for your words can be very daunting. Regardless of how beautiful a journal may look, it's not easy to fill. Often, it's helpful to have a writing template to kick-start your journaling. Some journals provide these suggestions to help you start. You can find some examples below from Kikki-K. I really like their products.
But, if you'd like to download some pages to use for journaling about your day and the special moments that you don't want to forget, you could use these pages.
They are A5 size and it's free to download, print and use.
It comes with some suggestions to help you begin to write. Just note the date at the top of the page. Then add a couple of lines for each of the following:
I am thankful for......
I was happy because...
Tomorrow, I will......
The highlight of today was ........
I hope you enjoy using your journal to help remember special moments with family.
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What is it about food that lingers in our memories and why are our favourite family memories tied to delicious meals? It's been said that 'The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind.'
Certainly, a sense of smell is crucial to enjoying food. And family events generally involve food.
But simple family moments can become just as memorable as large family events, and just as enjoyable when a delicious dessert finishes the meal. Desserts are an all-age favourite. You'll find these four desserts will quickly become family favourites.
But they are also very simple to create... a big plus!
1. Macaron Bliss Dessert.
This dessert is so easy and only uses 3 ingredients. But you'll find your family will rave about it and request it time and again.
My grandkids still talk about the first time I served this at the conclusion of a large family gathering. My granddaughter took a mouthful and said, "Yum! This is the bestest."
3. Homemade Pineapple Coconut Icecream
This ice-cream is a dairy-free alternative as well as being easy to make. It only uses 3 ingredients: frozen banana, frozen pineapple and coconut cream.
Just make this dessert and serve- delicious!
I've also varied it by substituting other frozen fruit for the pineapple.
4. Peanut Butter Cookie Sundae Cups
I love desserts that taste delicious but are simple to create. These delicious biscuit bases are filled with ice-cream, drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with crushed nuts.
You can substitute a different flavour biscuit mixture for the cups if you wish or use bought cookie dough for even an even simpler recipe.
They are sure to please.
Try any one of these simple but delicious recipes and create some wonderful family moments.
You can find more ideas on my Pinterest dessert board.
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A note from my daily journal.....
The bright spot of green against the white balustrade drew my attention as I stepped out onto the decking. A soft breeze stirred and the green smudge seemed to move and sway.
"Hardly a paint spot," I thought, and moved closer to inspect it.
The large green stick insect was clinging tightly to a paling and I wondered how or why it had managed to crawl so far from the shrubbery. It was a beautiful shade of gum green with darker streaks of emerald down its back. Although impossible to detect in the bush, it wouldn't last long exposed and vulnerable in its present position. A rescue was obviously in order but I didn't particularly relish the task. I had a vague notion that the creature would bite under provocation.
Moving quietly to the end of the decking, I leaned over and called softly, "Clebby! Could you possibly help me with a stick insect I've found?"
Instantly, the screen door below slammed open and two small, turbo-charged boys erupted from inside and stormed up the stairs shouting 'It's mine!' 'No, Nannie asked me'.
I calmed the storm while they eagerly assured me that the insect held no fears for them. Then, clutching their prize, they disappeared downstairs accompanied by rapid-fire comments and admiring observations about the hapless green insect.
Don't miss these moments
Moments like these are regular, but fun, interruptions to a normal day. We'd hate to miss them, and long to chronicle them in our memories.. But the busyness of life messes with our thoughts and the memories are long gone by the evening or the following day. Without a daily journal, there is no way I could remember the fun moments I enjoy with my family and grandkids.
What do you use to remind yourself of these moments? I've used regular paper journals for years. I love them and would spend hours choosing a new one.
But now I've gone digital. it just makes it so much easier. Many of these journaling apps add information automatically: time, location, weather, activity. And... more importantly, it's so easy to include a photo with any notes you care to add.
I've listed 7 top journaling apps below with some of their features for you in case you'd like to check them out.
1. DAY ONE
This app is widely recognised as the best journaling app available at the moment. It is great... and yes, I do use this one, but there is a cost. I've listed some of the features of this app below.
2. Capture 365 Journal
This is another beautiful journal with plenty of incredible features. Yes, this one is a paid app, too. Oh.. and you can add notes on the go with an Apple Watch, if you have one.
3. HeyDay .. an automatic journal
This journal is a little different. It's really helpful because it adds so much automatically. If you take a photo, you'll find it in your journal; visit a location and it's listed in your journal. It sends you reminders and makes it easy to share your memories with others. It automatically creates lovely collages of your photos which make it easy to share online. You'll probably find, though, that you don't write so much with this journal.
4. My Journals iPad app
I've included this app because it just looks lovely. You can have any number of different journals so you can have a journal for your family and kids, a journal for your home renovation, one as your prayer journal, one for your hobby or craft, one for your Christmas plans ...... Not only that, you can create a special look for each of your journals with cover image, fonts, colours.
5. ASKT life tracker journal
This journal is just a bit different. This is a journal app for those who need a bit of help writing their journal. The app presents a question every day of the year. Just answer the question and start journaling. Compare your responses over time.
6. My Wonderful Days
This little iPhone is a little different. Chronicle your day, attach photos, describe your mood, add stickers. Check out the video below.
7. Penzu- free online personal journal
Penzu journal app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android. This app includes custom email reminders so that you don't forget to journal. It will also email you past snippets as a reflective memory-nudging device. There is also a comment feature rather like a post-it note for your journal entries. Check it out!
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Recently, I watched an old movie. Actually, it was a good movie- great plot, good acting and it had been colourised. But the thing I really noticed was the background music.... or lack thereof. Yes, music creates atmosphere, suspense, drama, light and shadow. Without it, it's as if only part of the story is being told. Music has become an integral and award-winning part of any movie.
If you play the soundtracks of popular movies, you find yourself picturing the movie in your mind as you listen. Music paints pictures and contributes to memories. It's been said that nowadays, even a moment's silence is accompanied by background music.
The importance of music
Music is important in our own lives, too. I know if I want to complete my chores quickly I put on bright, enjoyable music. If the kids are tired and grumpy, then I put on some of their favourite songs. And I'm sure that everyone uses music to help entertain kids in the car when it's a long trip.
Music builds memories
But music isn't just nice to listen to. Have you noticed that some songs or music will bring particular family times and events to mind? And music is important for children. Research has shown that it helps build and develop their brains- inspires creativity, imagination and self-esteem, and memory skills.
The power of music
Lousie Miles from the Australian Music Therapy Association notes that, 'Music has the power to access emotion, stimulate memory, affect your physiology and change your thinking patterns if you're exposed to it over a period of time.'
Thankfully, there are plenty of quality music options available for children and family. Here are some suggestions:
Just a simple search on Spotify yields a full list of choices: children's playlists, children's party music, children's nursery rhymes and lullabies, Disney playlists and so many more. If you haven't checked it out, you can listen to Spotify free if you don't mind the occasional ads (sort of like your own radio station) or pay a bit extra to listen ad-free.
Visit Kinderling online- a digital radio for babies, toddlers, kids and adults on mobile, tablet and computer.
You'll find playlists that welcome the day, dreamy gentle music for early risers. There are active soundtracks to help everyone get moving and out the door; toddler time, playground, traveling home from school, music to relax and unwind, bedtime.
Sign up and get Kinderling in your email.
* Common-sense Media
Common-sense media rates, educates and advocates for kids, families and schools. You'll find age-appropriate ideas, music and inspiration for everyone on this site. You'll find lists of music that are graded according to age and interests and then rated. Check them out, find something inspirational and download.
What music do you enjoy with your kids?
Let's enjoy these small family moments, fill them with memorable melodies, and make them so beautiful that they will be worth remembering.
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The offices of memory are collection and distribution. -Samuel Johnson
There are so many times when I sit down in the evening and open my journal.... and then can't remember what I had intended to write. The memory has just slipped between the floorboards, or floated out the window. I'm not sure which. Yet the laughter, the fun, the cute sayings of the kids had seemed poignant enough at the time. Surely, I could remember them now to record. Sadly, no.
Is it just me, or do you struggle to recall those special moments, too?
If so, this simple little idea may help you remember those 'unforgettable' moments with your kids and family.
It's a really simple Blackboard Memory Plate. I saw something similar a while back on Pinterest. I tried to recreate the finished article but it was rather like those Pinterest fails. The idea was to paint a circle of blackboard paint onto a plate and use it to leave notes to your family or highlight the evening's meal. But, despite intense concentration and following the instructions to the best of my ability, the painted blackboard on my plate could not be called a circle by any stretch of the imagination.
A simple memory aid
So, here's my simple version. It's so easy you could involve your kids in creating it. They'll probably want to write on it, too, once it's finished. But that's ok. Use it to write down anything memorable that happens throughout the day. Display it prominently. And.. in the evening, either transfer it all to your journal or take a photo of the blackboard plate and add it to your family albums. Hopefully, your plate will look attractive and photo-worthy, especially with your noted memories.
I also use my Blackboard Plate to write up the weekly joke or riddle for my oldest grandson when he pops in. It's something he'll look for, even though he groans and calls my jokes 'lame'. But then he responds with his own joke so I add that one, too.
You'll find the instructions below.
Instructions for making a Blackboard Memory Plate
You will need: a large plate (You don't need to go out and buy one. An old one will work just as well and it doesn't need to be white. You'll also need a roll of adhesive blackboard film. These are very inexpensive and you don't need much. You'll need a plate stand. I also used stickers but again, don't go out and buy them. Use up some of your old scrapbooking stickers or the ones you set aside for the kids to use. It's just to add a splash of colour.
If you want to be really creative, you could make a Blackbooard Memory Plate for different kids and decorate them accordingly- baby stickers for little ones, sporty ones for your older kids, favourite colours or themes and more.
Step 1: Find another plate that is just slightly smaller than the one you intend for your Memory Plate. Use this to trace around as a circle template on the blackboard adhesive.
Step 2: Cut it out. Peel off the backing sheet and carefully position in the centre of your Memory Plate. You'll find that, even if you make a mistake, you can reposition it without any drama.
Step 3: This one really is optional. I think it provides added appeal, but you may not require it if your plate already has a decorative edge.
I added some small themed stickers around the edge of the plate- just ones that I found amongst some of my scrapbooking supplies.
Most importantly, using a plate stand, you can now display your Memory Plate and add notes and highlights throughout the day. Don't forget to record them later.
Just a quick note: despite my teaching days, I don't like to use blackboard chalks on my plate. They're just a bit thick and difficult to write with on a smaller surface. I bought a white pastel pencil and it works really well. You could use any colours, too.
Give it a go... I think you'll enjoy it.
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Arsenic hour approaches
By late afternoon, small boys are often weary, unsettled and more than a bit querulous. The day has been a long adventure, but tiredness has hit hard. And so it was with the two small boys in the back seat of my car.
It was not quite 'arsenic hour', that time of day when children are at their most demanding and mothers are desperately trying to focus on meal preparations, but it wasn't far off. So the idea of McDonald's drive-through for hot chips followed by a play in the park was a brainwave.
The two boys kicked their feet with excitement and even waited with a semblance of patience as we joined the slow-moving queue. Then, fortiﬁed with a ﬁstful of slightly limp chips, we headed for the park.
At this time of day, the afternoon sun was softly sieved by the circling bushes and a cool breeze fanned the ﬂushed faces of the boys. There was an almost audible sigh. I settled the boys in the boat swing and they seemed content to swing gently while mindlessly reaching out a limp hand for more chips.
I was suddenly aware that we had been joined by another youngster, equally tired and demanding. A ﬂedgling magpie settled noisily on the nearby fencing and called impatiently to its parents.
I smiled sympathetically at the adult magpies and tossed them a french fry. Instantly the demanding young one ﬂuffed out its feathers, squawked, and opened its beak for food. The chip looked like a strangely shaped, golden worm as the parent thrust it down the throat of the magpie baby. But it seemed to enjoy it...ahh, the universal appeal of McDonald's french fries.
There was welcome silence at that park for one beautiful moment. The magpies and I shared a glance, almost a smile, of common understanding and relief. And then the kids.. all of them..interrupted for more chips.
Some days, with all the best intentions and all the best planning, just do not go well. It was like that with my grandsons. And there may be similar days for you.
Maybe your kids are tired and cranky. It may be that you are overtired and just feel like you're jumping through the hoops. Even the weather can contribute. An overly hot and steamy day will drain everyone's energy.
On days like this, you need to accept that you'll need to go with the flow. Be flexible. Your ideas and best laid plans might just have to be put aside and you need to look for a stress-free alternative activity.... perhaps even french fries at the local park. (Yes, I know it wasn't the most healthy afternoon snack.)
But, you can still enjoy the moment. It might not be the type of day you had hoped and planned for but it can still be an afternoon, a day maybe, that you and your kids will enjoy... and probably remember as a wonderful moment with mum, or grandma. Go for a walk- spend some time at the playground- have a picnic in your backyard- fill buckets with water and go fishing for small toys with ladles or tongs- be spontaneous!
Let's enjoy these small moments, yes, even these moments that don't begin so well, and make them so beautiful that they will be worth remembering.
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I'd love to think that the excitement of special outings and trips or the varied events I'd planned, organised and prepared for my children over the years would have produced a rich tapestry of childhood and family memories.
Haha..no... in fact, I often have to remind my children of things we did when they were young. But they'll remember, in vivid detail, the small moments that seemed insignificant at the time... things like, sock wars or washing the car. (Can you believe it?)
It was like that with the muffins. I started cooking a batch of muffins each week for my grandkids.
It wasn't a big deal. Muffins are easy to make. I know they love them. I realise that families are busy and it was just a little thing I could do to help out. If I had time, I'd package them up in a nice box or paper bag and add a label and drop them in on Monday morning for breakfast. I prepared another box and popped it in the freezer for my other grandkids who live farther afield.
But it wasn't long before they were requesting their own particular favourite muffin: apple crumble, raspberry & white chocolate, blueberry, lemon and poppy seed...
Monday mornings very quickly became 'Muffin Mondays.'
And then, I got a phone call from one of my grandsons. He was pretty upset. It was Saturday. But he said he'd woken up excitedly to see what muffins I'd made.. only to discover that Muffin Monday was still 2 days away.
Yes, the best moments in life very often are the simplest!
So... if you'd like to make some 'muffin magic' for your own kids or grandkids you'll find plenty of recipes on my muffin Pinterest board. You can find it below. And actually, when you're really busy, the packet mixes are pretty good, too.
I've also created a simple homemade bakery label that you might like to download, print. Attach to a paper bag and pop in your muffins for a special gift. You'll find the file below.
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It was the soft rufﬂe of feathers that ﬁrst drew my attention. I'd been relaxing on the decking above the pool, half-dozing in the warm sun. I looked down and saw the magpie standing on the wide top step of the pool. He glanced brieﬂy in my direction but then totally disregarded me, as though of little consequence.
Then he bent and splashed his head and shoulders (does a magpie have shoulders?) beneath the surface of the water and shook the water droplets far down the length of his smooth, black feathers. He minced along the step of the pool and I could almost imagine that he was kicking the ripples of water in enjoyment, as kids do. Three times he dipped under the water and shook himself. Then he sailed over to the towel someone had slung carelessly across a beach lounge. Before its owner had even noticed his presence, he wiped his beak and head abruptly against the towel and was gone.
It was a small moment- a funny, little moment that brightened my day. I enjoyed watching the magpie's antics and my grandkids loved to hear about it when I recounted the story to them later that day. But how do you build on these special moments, or on other fun, family activities?
Have you considered a Memory Jar?
Yes.. you can take a photo. But what about a Memory Jar, something that can stand as a daily visual reminder? It's not hard to make and you can replace the contents whenever you please. You can find simple directions below.
So... how do you create a memory jar?
It's one of those small things that you can do with your family to build memories with lasting impact.
1. Find a jar.
You can use an old jam jar, a Mason jar, a large jar or a small one. It really doesn't matter. I like to find a small one with a handle for my grandkids. Kids seem to think that anything with a handle is special.
2. Add a small amount of sand or soil.
I can't give you precise quantities to use because that will depend on the size of your jar.
3. Pop in the collected treasures- shells, seed pods, stones.... just a couple.
You might want to re-read yesterday's article about collecting these items. I f you missed it, you can find it here.
Your memory jar can also be used as a table lamp by slipping a small tea light inside the jar. Use battery operated versions with kids.
Let's enjoy these small moments and make them so beautiful that they will be worth remembering.
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The sun had already peeped above the horizon but still hid sulkily behind the curtain of grey clouds. The waves lipped the beach and slid up the sand towards the lone fisherman, surrounded by his bevy of watchful seagulls. They stood quietly, almost without moving, with only an occasional gull moving impatiently or snapping at its closest neighbour.
Two figures followed the edge of the shoreline towards the fisherman, their shoulders hunched against the soft but icy morning breeze. The smaller figure danced excitedly just beyond the reach of the waves.
"Here's one," she called. "A 'ittle one. Can I heep it for my hollection, Daddy?"
He smiled and held out his hand for the shell before slipping it into his pocket. Dakotah patted his pocket and smiled happily as the shells chinked softly.
Take a moment to enjoy a morning walk
We live very close to the beach and there's something very soothing and restful about walking along the beach, especially early in the morning before it's too hot. It's a wonderful way to begin a day and everyone seems to handle the difficulties of the day with greater patience. Sometimes, we've planned ahead and eaten breakfast at one of the picnic areas located along the foreshore.
Not only is it really fun, it's a healthy way to begin a day. Authorities have noted that engaging children in some form of exercise before they begin their school day has very positive benefits. Research indicates that the more physically active children are, the better they perform academically. And I know walking is a great form of exercise for me, too.
But, despite that, it's amazing how rarely we do actually take the opportunity to walk there early morning. We're always rushing somewhere or too busy; it's too much effort or we sleep in.
Note it on your calendar now
Why not plan now to enjoy a small moment one morning this week? Go alone or take your kids or grandkids along for a morning walk. You'll start the day well, build some beautiful memories, and you'll improve your health. Take a photo while you're there.. I'll explain more in tomorrow's article.
Maybe you don't live near a beach. But an early morning walk with your kids or grandkids at your local park is just as much fun. And, by all means, spend some time collecting shells, or leaves, or stones or seedpods. Limit each child; tell them they can keep their favourite 2 or 3.
I've included a pdf with couple of seashells for you to download and print. Cut them out and adhere them to your calendar as a visual reminder to go for a morning walk.
Let's live in these small moments and make them so beautiful that they will be worth remembering.
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I've decided to accept the 31Day blogging challenge with my own focus for the month: falling in love with small moments.