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Adventures at Knee-High

A happy gal, her three kiddos, & her best friend

Shhh, Shhh, Shhhhhh, Let's Pretend It Hasn't Been Eighteen Months.
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 Eighteen months!

(Okay, kinda blew my own cover there.)

So, what's new? School stuff (back to school tomorrow, grade three, grade one, littlest one in kinder, new teachers, exciting times). Health stuff (Liam's back in the pants he wore ten years ago, and I... just ate nutella mixed with peanut butter because I Wasn't Hungry Enough For Lunch but Wanted A Little Something, but apart from that, fine thanks). I guess I write poetry now... We've been away on a camping trip...

What d'ya wanna know?

I'll just introduce some people.

This weird hooman bean is my wittle baby Elanor (of "It's a girl! It's Elanor!" fame). She's... um... she's eight. And a bit. She's a grade three. She writes poems and stories, and draws pretty good pictures, and makes up songs as long as nobody seems to be listening, and makes Actually Funny jokes, and is getting a class pet, and magically, wonderfully, still somehow thinks I'm funny.

She's actually really good company. We hang out, we chat, we crack each other up. She talks honestly, bravely, with me. She's kind and generous to her brothers*. She's a mad keen gymnast who will somehow be surviving her first two hour training session after her first day back at school tomorrow arvo, and this term she'll be adding weekly recorder lessons to the mix. I'm starting to see glimpses of the wisdom that's growing in her. She's gonna be a cool grownup someday. She's already a pretty cool daughter.

Then there's this guy:

This big boy is Owen (pictured right). He's six. I wrote his seventh birthday on the calendar for later this year, and had to check my working out. But yep, apparently that's how it works. Seven. He's six, going into grade one - no longer the babies of the school. He's a kindhearted boy and a conscientious student and an avid learner. He devours chapter books, builds Lego spaceships, eats sleeps and breathes Minecraft facts, and is Such A Ham.

He gets anxious sometimes. And he struggles with his own high standards. I am so super proud of how well he's learning to handle and work with these things, to let the adrenaline settle, to make things right afterwards. He's learning to think about his own thinking, and he's always willing to learn. His insight and level of understanding blow me away. He's also super crazy funny, and he knows it. It's a joy to see this boy grow up, and watch him mature into the guy he's meant to be. I once prayed for patience, and I'll never regret it - I got this one.

And, adorably:

Theo. This one, my baby, the youngest, their little brother, is three and a half. He starts 3yo kinder next week, and he could not be readier. He recognises the first letters of his name ("Look! Up, and to the side! That's me!"). He can dress himself, put on his shoes, find things, sit quietly. He's independent and confident and resourceful, and so perseverant I once watched him mutter and cry over the turning and putting on of an inside out sock and its corresponding shoe for ten minutes, refusing all help, before finally he stood up and calmly showed me his finished work. No fanfare, just as if it were an expected outcome.

He likes dinosaurs, train sets, Hot Wheels, and books about superheros. He knows what he wants, and he expects to get it. He's sweet and silly and affectionate and generous, and he's still got an earsplitting shriek that tears the liminal veil from time to time. He's super cute, but content and self contained enough to not be a monster. Soon I'll have days of just he and I hanging out again, and it's going to be lovely.

We done pretty good.

Okay, I'll be back. This writing gig is pretty good. Sometimes it just takes a small (eighteen month) hiatus to remember how much you enjoy a thing. Brace yourselves.

* as much as lieth in her, which is, well, a little bit.

A Love Letter
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Love doesn't need to make sense.

I like hot weather. I always believed I needed to live by the beach to feel sane. Ballarat, my love, you're (literally) freezing and the nearest coast is an hour's drive away. You don't have good salt and pepper squid, or a shopping centre with an indoor playspace, or people I'm related to, or anything I grew up with or believed I wanted in a home for myself and my family of littles.

Nonetheless, I love you.

I'm not putting down roots here - but only because I'm not putting down roots anywhere on this earth. There's somewhere else for me. But for now, while the Lord sees fit to bless me with it, Ballarat is my beloved.

Is it the glorious green of a countryside bursting with life in spring? The magnificent autumn display of golden tree-lined leaf-paved streets? The crisp fresh air of a cold, foggy winter's morning?

Sure, I enjoy those things immensely. But I love this town because the Lord put it into my heart to do so. Because this is where He wants me, and his grace gives me everything I need.

There are towns by the beach that have a vibe that's much more Me. There are places closer to family, more convenient, maybe even more beautiful.

But this here is love. It's love, because God turns "despite the cold" into "because the cold is stunningly beautiful". It's love, because God turns "even though it's utterly landlocked" into "because it's completely surrounded by natural beauty".

God takes a nothing much, applies His love, and turns ashes into beauty. He loved me when I was nothing. He loves me still, and I'm still nothing much. His love - beyond and over and through all my flaws - is humbling and fills my heart with joy.

And love.

Cold brings snow, and snow is unspeakably beautiful. Weakness means I need Him, and leaning on God reminds me daily of His grace. Less of what's Me has taught me more of what's Him.

I'll set down roots, one day, when He decides it's time. Until then, His gifts are more than sufficient for me.

It doesn't have to make sense. It's love.

Theo Doesn't Wanna Do That
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Here's a nice photo of my children. Everybody in! Thanks, Owen - nice smile! Good team player there, Ellie! Um... hi Theo.


In seven weeks and one day, Theodore Hurtado will be two years old.


Two: the age of growing independence. Two: the age of blossoming personality. Two: the age of NO.

Ellie was pretty fine as a toddler. Owen forgot to be Terrible until he hit three. Theo... well, Theo's been practicing. And he can stop practicing any time he likes. He's ready.


Oh, he's definitely still our laid-back one. Still content to do his own thing and sort himself out a lot of the time.

But when he's not...
When Theo ain't chillin', ain't nobody chillin', to quote absolutely no pop culture reference at all.

Some of his current themes include:
   "MINE," or the more emphatic "MI-neh."
   "Don' wannoo!"
   "MY turn!"
   "I wan' EAT."
   "Wan' go DIS way."
   "Wan' 'po-LEEN!" (He's a trampoline-at-inconvenient-times addict).
   "Wan' soos on!" (He's an other-shoes-when-he's-already-wearing-shoes-and-has-changed-shoes-fifteen-times-so-far-today-oh-my-goodness-say-shoes-again addict, also).
   And "             ," a high-pitched shriek which cannot be read by human eyes but can DEFINITELY (and regrettably) be heard by human ears. All of the human ears in the land, probably.

Parents of toddlers live in a complex and contradictory world. We're SO PROUD of their new capabilities. But we desperately miss that helpless little bundle that used to stay where we put it and sleep through grocery shopping. We're SO EXCITED about the language explosion they're going through. But if we hear "No! Don' wannoo!" one more time, so help us...

It's all very awesome, watching a little bundle of mystery person turn into someone real and interesting, and I'm so appreciative of the opportunity I've been given to see this whole fascinating process three times over. But like all important things, it's not always easy.

To find the boundaries, these little growing people have to test them. And push them, to see if they stretch. And beat against them, to see if we they break.

They're starting to understand about choices, and about language. This means they're aware of the things they want to do or say but can't. It might be frustrating for us as parents (or innocent bystanders) - but it's even more frustrating for them.

But it's still PLENTY frustrating for us, thanks very much.

Parent-of-Toddler-hood - it's an honour, and a joy... and ever so tiring.


I've talked before about how they're not the only ones learning and growing - about the gifts of patience, and perspective, and knowledge of our own strength, and understanding of our need for the Lord, that this role gives. It's a defining time for all involved parties.

Let's remember that, when the toddler is turning into a chopstick to avoid being inserted into a trolley seat, or trying to run down the up escalator because "NO, I wan' go DIS way," or begging at the pantry door and then pushing away every snack on offer because we don't have the specific exact item they just thought of, or screaming like a banshee at the very IDEA of going to sleep at someone else's house, or in the wrong pyjamas, or at all.

It's worth it. It's Worth It. It'sworthitit'sworthitit'sworthit...

Also, sometimes they come in handy. Like when they're the only other human in the house, and you just realized you're out of toilet paper.


Thanks, Theo.

Oh, and also, he's SO sweet. And brave. And resourceful. And crack-us-up-every-dinnertime funny.

Honestly, my heart has never been so full.

He loves having "cuggles", and trying terrifying stunts, and putting on ridiculous outfits.

He stops to ask "You ah-kay?" when someone's sad, and makes hilarious faces when you least expect it, and bounces back immediately after falling on his head. Which happens a lot (see "terrifying stunts").

BUT he also wants to touch all the things he shouldn't be touching. And he wants the OTHER dwink. Not that one. No, not that one either. Actually no, the first one.

And he wants to go DIS way.

Obviously, God knew exactly what he was doing when he made toddlers cute.

Going Bigger, Going Smaller
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I'm a big-picture girl. I do understand the importance of details - and if I set my mind to it, I can do a half-decent job of dealing with them - but they're not what I'm about. Liam's good at details, so we're a good team. I'm the "What if...?" one; he's the "What about...?" one. Generally.

It's good to have both.

There are occasions where a big picture perspective is awesome. When you're parenting a child and they're being all strong-willed about something and you're trying to stand your ground, it's a huge help to zoom out - to pause, look at the big picture, and remember why you're doing what you're doing.

There are also occasions where a closer look is awesome. When you're in the middle of a busy day and the kids are dawdling and you're trying to get to the next item on your to-do list, it can be so important to zoom in - to pause, see your little ones enjoying themselves in that moment, and remember why you're doing what you're doing.

Zoom out. Zoom in.

We need both.

I'm well aware of the drawbacks to focusing too long on the big picture. It's so easy for the little day-to-day things to slip by unnoticed as we work towards The Greater Good, whatever that may be. Little jobs that need to be done, little troubles that need to be attended to, little victories that need to be celebrated. Little moments that need to be cherished. When the pressure of the big picture gets too much: Zoom in. How's your week looking? Zoom in. What's important today? Zoom in. What's happening, right at this moment? Find a focus that helps lift the weight of the bigger picture.

There are downsides to too much time spent in the minutae, too. We find our direction when we go bigger; focus in close for too long, and we find ourselves wandering aimlessly and wondering why we don't feel like we have a clue what we're doing. When the distractions of the little picture get too confusing: Zoom out. What's important today? Zoom out. How's your week looking? Zoom out. What are you working towards? Find a focus that helps you find your direction through the smaller picture.

Zoom in. Zoom out.

We need both.

Zoom out...

As adults, we need an awareness of the future. Our kids are PEOPLE who are going to be GROWNUPS. What's happening right now is so TEMPORARY.
It's good to spend time in the big picture sometimes. Step back, and feel a sense of What It's All About. It's encouraging. It's inspiring. And it gives us direction.

Zoom in...

Kids live in the moment. Two days away is AGES. What's happening right now is EVERYTHING.
It's good to join them there sometimes. Get closer, and feel connected to their Now. It's refreshing. It's fun. And it gives our direction meaning.

Feeling lost, or stuck, or frustrated, or confused? Go bigger. Go smaller.

Zoom in, zoom out.

What do we need?
That's right*.


**And a new word, because "both" doesn't look like a real word now I've used it so many times. Sorry about that.

Grace for Big Girls
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That's the hot topic in many households this week, I'm sure. Our Ellie starts school next Monday, and is SO VERY EXCITED. Her bag's packed, her uniform's ready, her snacks are even dispensed into ziplock bags in a special "Ellie's School Snacks - Do Not Eat THIS MEANS YOU OWEN" box in the pantry. She's been breaking in her shoes, practicing her writing, and squealing with excitement every time we drive past her school.

She's ready.

Looking at my little big girl, I'm amazed by how far we've come from those early days.

But with this new stage come new issues - one of which has been brought to my attention a couple of times lately, in conversations with other parents of five-year-old girls... and in daily life with one of my own.

It's this:


Good grief.

She certainly still means well, generally. She loves being helpful, loves feeling like she's done a job well, loves hearing she's making good choices. But.

That attitude!

I'm not going to tell you how to fix it - I think the answer to that might be "time", and no one wants to hear that. But I will let you in on three little things that have helped us...

1. Pocket Money.

Eep! Pocket money! As if all this talk of school wasn't enough to make me wonder if I'm old enough to start referring to myself as an "adult" (naaaaaahh), I also have a child who's old enough for POCKET MONEY!!! I understand everyone's different - some kids already have pocket money long before this age, while others still don't feel ready. And that's fine, of course.

We decided being old enough for school was a good indicator of being old enough for some other things. Ellie already has a handful of Ellie-specific chores (emptying the cutlery rack from the dishwasher, wiping down the sink after toothbrushing, setting the table for dinner, bringing her laundry hamper to the laundry on kid-clothes-washing days, etc), which she does pretty reliably and generally takes pride in - besides the occasional bit of interrupted game angst. So, next step: income.

Her first week's pocket money went on a Frozen purse (I matched her $2 for it), to keep future pocket monies. Next was a bell for her bike - we went to the shops, checked out prices, and she spent the next fortnight saving up enough for a $3 bell and $1 change. Such a proud moment. Now, she's saving up for "something good" - she hasn't decided what just yet. We're at $5 tomorrow.

This pocket money lark is all about teaching her responsibility, and that we value her contribution to the family. I'm not giving her money directly for doing a task - I'm not interested in bribing her to get work done - but in recognition of her new level of responsibility.

And it's interesting to see what an impact that awareness of Big Girl Responsibility is having on her Big Girl Attitude.

2. The List.

This one came about one morning when I was putting Theo into his highchair, and asked Ellie to fetch me a bib from his room. She was sitting watching cartoons (which I'd already told her it was time to finish watching); I was wrangling a writhing bag of snakes - I mean, eight-month-old - into a small, contoured seat. I figured she was the better candidate.

Did I get a bib, as requested? Oh, yep. Did I also get a bonus side-order of Big Girl Attitude?


Apparently, I made her miss the end of Peg + Cat. (Actually, SHE made her miss the end of Peg + Cat, by standing in Theo's room shouting about what she was missing instead of GOING BACK AND WATCHING IT. But anyway.) And apparently, it wasn't just any old episode - it was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ONE. There were tears. Arms were vehemently folded. Feet were stamped.

No way THAT'S okay. Theo had his breakfast, and then Ellie and I had a Talk. We talked about priorities. We talked about the importance of family vs. the importance of things on TV. We sat down in the office with a piece of paper, and brainstormed this list together:

And then we discussed what it meant, using examples:

"If you're playing a game, but I'm trying to explain something to you, which is more important?"

"If you're practicing your writing, but it's time to go to the meeting, what do you do?"

"If you're watching TV, but I need you to fetch something for Theo, WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?"

She was spot on every time, of course. We also talked about the fact that when you look after the things at the top of the list, they tend to help take care of the things lower on the list. Think about it. It's true.

She LOVES her List. Later, I heard her giving the same examples, pretty much word for word, as she explained it to Liam. And from then on, AND THIS IS THE BIGGIE, if I ask her to do something, or remind her about her attitude... SHE GOES AND CHECKS HER LIST. And she comes back with the right choice, every time. Based on a list of priorities we decided on TOGETHER.

She's such a stickler for rules, her annoyance at having to prioritise something else over what she's doing is far outweighed by her enjoyment of making what she knows is a good choice. And with family in #2, Owen gets victimised WAY less.

Everyone's a winner.

3. That Time I Feared A Pinterest Fail But It Turned Out Awesome.

There are various versions of this lesson floating around Pinterest, where someone hurts someone's feelings, and someone else gets a smooth sheet of paper, crumples it up, then smoothes it out and points out that it's never completely smooth again.

There's some kind of "saying sorry doesn't mean it's okay" lesson there, or something.

So, this morning Ellie did THAT THING again, where she goes against everything I tell her a squillion times a day, and moves Theo without an adult present.

In this case, she stood him at his activity table, and then left him to it.

He's not exactly a pro at standing just yet.

Inevitably, he fell. I was out hanging washing, heard him crying, and came running. Ellie admitted what had happened, sighed, threw a "Sorry, Theo" his way, and wandered off. Again.


I sent her to her room - not for time out, but to wait for me. I told her I'd be there to talk to her when I'd sorted Theo out.

Hugged, comforted, and distracted with a small plastic frog, Theo sat in my lap while I talked to Ellie about why I ask her not to move him on her own, what could happen, what DID happen, etc, etc. Sighs, and the occasional bored "Yes, Mummy," were not quite the response I was looking for.

I sent her for a sheet of paper.

At this point, I should mention, I had NO IDEA what I was going to do. The crumpled-up-paper lesson from Pinterest was in the back of my mind, but in that moment I couldn't even remember clearly what that lesson WAS, let alone figure out how I was going to make it relevant to my five year old.

She returned with the paper, and I held it in front of her and talked about how we ask her not to move Theo without us. I talked about what happened this time, and as I spoke I scrunched the paper up into a tight little screwed-up ball right in front of her.

She couldn't look away.

Then, I talked about how she'd said sorry to Theo. I opened out the paper and laid it on the floor in front of us. She stared at it, and watched me smooth my hands over it as I talked about how saying sorry hadn't changed the fact that he'd been hurt.

Her hand slid out, and gently ran over the creased paper in an attempt to help me smooth it.

I reminded her that this was not the first time something like this had happened. I talked about how she might say sorry at the time, but if she goes away with no intention of changing and does it again later, the paper just remains crumpled.

At this stage, one bit of my Mummy-brain was ringing the "Don't pile on the guilt!!!" alarm. I was still very much winging it. And I was very aware that I did NOT want to be teaching her "If you make a mistake, there's nothing you can do to make it right."

Where was I going with this?

In the next moment, That Thing happened; the Thing that makes me glad I wing things, because it leaves me open to this kind of inspiration. These words were not mine...

"But do you know," I said, "what the Lord does with this piece of paper?"

Ellie shook her head. I picked up the crumpled piece of paper, and threw it over my shoulder. She watched it fall to the floor.

"He throws it away," I said. Ellie looked astonished. "And HE GIVES US A NEW ONE. A nice, fresh, smooth piece of paper, to start again, like it never happened. That's what happens when he forgives us."

Ellie stared.

"So," I said, "we might make mistakes and bad choices sometimes." I picked up the paper and crumpled it again. "And we always say sorry, not because we should, but because we really are sorry and really want the other person to feel better." I opened out the crumpled paper again.

"But the Lord knows when we REALLY MEAN IT. And if we REALLY MEAN IT - that we're sorry, that we want the other person to feel better, that we don't want to do that again..." The paper floated to the carpet of my daughter's bedroom. "He'll always, ALWAYS give us a fresh piece of paper.

"That's what it means to repent, Ellie. And that's how it feels to be forgiven."

She got it.

That piece of scrunched-up paper is stuck up on her wall, right next to her List of Priorities. I walked past her room earlier, and she was standing in there, looking at them and whispering to herself.

Good things, I hope.

There are no easy answers to the Big Girl Attitude thing. But Big Girl Responsibility, Big Girl Priorities, and a regular dose of Big Girl Talks do seem to help. The rest comes down to time, love, and oodles of patience.

I think maybe the Lord feels the same way about us.

*rubs eyes blearily* Whoa, where was I?
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YOU GUYS. How long has it been? I mean, really?
Long? Yeah. Let's go with that.

I make no excuses for this. My simple explanation for my absence: Life.
But I've missed this. I've missed sitting down with a blank screen and a cursor, and just blabbing my words out. This is nice.

So, what've you all been up to? No, really. Let me know.
What's new with us? Let's see...

This week, Elanor had her LAST DAY OF KINDER.

EVER, you guys.


My little Christmas pudding!

Also, she reads. Looks at words, sounds them out under her breath, and comes back to me with what she thinks they say.

"Mummy, does this say 'Milky Way'?"
(Oh, the educational value of chocolate.)

"Mummy, does that sign say 'Stop'?"
"That's right!"
"Um... why aren't you stopping?"
(Relax! It was on a side road and not applicable to me.)

"Mummy, does this say... 'Way...tor'?"
"Close! It says 'Water'."
"Oh! So... what's in it?"


This girl is SO EXCITED about school. Got her uniform, got her school bag, got her book list all ordered. She'd start this week if she could.


No, not this week. This week was the kinder party, and there were pink cupcakes. She'd start next week if she could.
Well, maybe after Christmas. And camp. Next year, then? Righto.


Owen is currently eating yoghurt with gusto. We had an inspection this morning, and I think he's enjoying the luxury of being able to eat in the lounge again.


Oh, and speaking of kinder, guess where Owen will be going on Friday mornings next year? ... K- Oh, I made it too easy, didn't I?


Yes, kinder. My big boy will be going to kinder. I can't wait to see him love it - because he will. He'll build things, and climb things, and maybe even learn to discuss his preferences without shouting til he's red in the face and shaking and calling people such delightful honorifics as 'Rudey Pudey', 'Weirdy Peirdy', and the new favourite, 'Pooky' (with carefully enunciated 'k', because he's been told off multiple times for 'Poopy').


It's an exciting development!


And Theo? Theo is sleeping off a big ol' roll around the lounge and twenty minutes of overtired squawking. The instant he fell asleep, Liam texted me to see if we were free to meet him for a cuppa.




You heard right: that kid's on the move. He's been rolling over for ages, but suddenly it's all come together into a gloriously ungainly-yet-effective means of getting to things. Hip thrust, hip thrust, leg throw... ROLL. Ah, belly. Good. Now... Awkward lean, awkward lean, awkward lean, leg throw... ROLL. Right. Face up again, but closer. Now... And repeat, until access is gained to the desired item (usually an age-inappropriate toy with small chokey parts or trappy-fingers mechanisms, or both) - or, failing that, a piece of furniture blocks the way and Mummy (okay, more often Ellie) comes to the rescue.


It's exciting, especially when you put him down and blink and then CAN'T FIND HIM for a few seconds...


Oh, and we met Santa. By accident. At the library.

Ellie: "Okay... But I'm not going to sit on his lap."
Owen: "Nope."

On a related festive note, tonight's plan is Christmas lights looking. "LOL, JUST KIDDING," said the sky, as it suddenly and without warning threw back its pretty blue curtain and revealed the gloomy grey backdrop we all know is really the default setting around here, and proceeded to POUR OUT UPON US ITS UNWELCOME  SKY-JUICE.

So... Tonight's plan was Christmas lights looking. Tonight's revised plan is an early night for the kids, some catchup time for Zoe and her long-lost friend Couch. And there's some Pringles in the pantry with Liam's name all over them, so everyone's a winner.

Stupid sky-juice.

But anyway, just checking in. Hi, you guys. I'm still here! Intending to get back into this blogging lark now that the newborn baby haze is gradually receding.

Stay tuned!