A change of pace

The past week has been filled with lots of changes and signalled many new beginnings for our family – Luka had his first week of Prep and full time school, Mila started 2 days per week of pre-Kinder, and I started back at school as well!

When Luka was born we made the decision as a family that I would take a few years off from my teaching career, at least until our children were starting school. Having a business gave us the flexibility to do so, and it has been a time I have absolutely cherished. Not without its challenges, for sure, but for the most part I have loved being home with my two little squirrels. 

The time has come however, for me to start thinking about heading back into teaching. I had been missing the classroom and the challenges of teaching in early childhood, and I knew it was time to ease back into things. Helping to make this decision was an offer from a previous principal of mine to teach Prep two days a week for the following school year – an offer simply too good to refuse!

I always knew the logistics of two school drop offs plus Rich and I both getting to work on time would be difficult, and it’s fair to say that this week it definitely was! It’s been hectic, stressful and at times fraught with emotion but I’m happy to report that we got through it all relatively unscathed. And what’s more, I think we quite enjoyed the challenge of it.  And I know that as the weeks progress we will settle into our new routine and things will become just that little bit easier as we adjust to our new normal.

As I was rushing about school earlier this week trying to get a few last minute things organised, a senior colleague with many years of teaching experience under her belt said to me “remember to be kind to yourself”. At the time I just kind of dismissed it as I was so busy and focused on what I was doing, but since then I’ve had time to reflect on her comment a little. And I’ve come to realise, that I simply cannot do it all. A statement which seems so simple, but for a perfectionist like me, is so incredibly difficult. 

So this year marks a bit of a change of pace – particularly for Brother Fox. Whilst I will definitely continue blogging (writing is my true love, if I’m honest), the Brother Fox Store will unfortunately have to be put on hold.  For the sake of my sanity, and the sanity of those around me, realising that I simply cannot fit it all in at the moment is what “being kind to myself” looks like.

Melissa xx

 

Our favourite Christmas books

We always look forward to bringing out our Christmas books each year. Through my years spent teaching in the Early Years field as well as in more recent times with my own children, we have acquired quite a lovely little collection of Christmas titles. Today I thought I'd share some of our favourites with you...

Thank You Santa

Written by Margaret Wild / Illustrated by Kerry Argent 

Lots of children write to Santa before Christmas, however not many continue to write to him after Christmas. This charming book tells the story of Samantha and her pen-pal Santa Claus, and the special way they help each other throughout the year. Definitely one of my all-time favourites.

Wombat Divine

Written by Mem Fox / Illustrated by Kerry Argent 

The delightful and heartwarming story of Wombat, who so desperately wants to be in the Nativity play but there just doesn't seem to be the right part for him. Another story beautifully illustrated by Kerry Argent, and so lovely to find a traditional Christmas story with an Australian flavour.

The Jolly Christmas Postman

Written and Illustrated by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

It's Christmas Eve and our favourite Jolly Postman is busy delivering letters to lots of different fairy-tale characters, each letter bringing a special surprise. This magical little interactive story never fails to delight. 

What Do You Wish For?

Written by Jane Godwin / Illustrated by Anna Walker

Christmas means different things to different people, and each person has a different wish come Christmas time. This is the story of Ruby, and her journey to discover what her special Christmas wish will be. Jane Godwin's beautiful words combined with the magic of Anna Walker's illustrations really do make this special story a modern day classic.

The Spirit of Christmas

Written and Illustrated by Nancy Tillman pic

We absolutely adore Nancy Tillman books, of which we have quite the collection. Each book is filled with so much love, and wonder, and whimsy as well as the magic of what it means to be truly loved and cherished. The Spirit of Christmas is a joyful celebration of all the traditional loveliness of the festive season, one for the whole family to share, no matter your age.

Melissa xx

 

Keeping it calm this Christmas

It can be pretty easy to get caught up in the Christmas crazies. I’ve been guilty of this is the past, rushing about the shops at the last minute, buying gifts without putting a great amount of thought into it (simply for lack of time!), generally just stressing out.

As I’ve gotten older however, I’ve mellowed a little and realised that stress and Christmas need not necessarily go together.  Even more motivation behind this realisation is the fact that I now have my own small children, who absorb all my actions like little sponges, and I really don’t want them associating what should be a special time with stress and anxiety.

That being said, I am definitely not all ‘zen mama’ about it all the time, and there are certainly moments of chaos, but I've come to learn and put into practice a few things that make things just that little bit easier during the festive season.  I thought I’d share some of them here, and would love to hear any other useful tips or words of encouragement from others out there in the cyber sphere!

It wouldn’t be a teacher’s household without lots of Christmas craft happening. Each Christmas I’ll usually pick about four or five craft activities to work on during the school holidays, and then head to the shops early to pick up supplies.  Pinterest is a fantastic resource for these activities, and where I get most of my ideas. The teacher in me also always has a Christmas activity book photocopied and planned for each of my littles; they enjoy working on this during their down time or when I’m knee-deep in housework.

We also like to send out Christmas cards to family and close friends each year. Mostly we like to make them ourselves, but if it’s been hectic then we just buy some, and don’t beat ourselves up over it!  We get out our Christmas decorations and Advent calendar on 1st December, which I fill with simple activities to do each day, and this year we are going to pick out our real Christmas tree from the Christmas tree farm. These are the things that I want my children to remember – the little traditions and activities carried through from year to year.

The unavoidable presents. So many presents! It seems like each year there are just more and more people to buy for. There are family members, partners, children, friends, teachers… the list goes on. A few years ago in our family we said, enough! We decided that we would buy small, useful and educational presents for the children in our extended family, and we do a Secret Santa amongst the adults. That way each person only has to buy for their spouse/partner and one other person. We always buy our children’s teachers something nice (usually wine or chocolate, this year we went for pretty orchids), and for friends we’ve found a lovely card and getting together for drinks or a nice dinner is actually lovelier!

In terms of gifts for our children, for me the key word is planning. Mila has her birthday in late November so I start planning her birthday and Christmas simultaneously around late October/early November. I’m a big online shopper (just ask my postman, hi Steve), so I need to make sure I order things in time, because they often take a little longer to arrive down here in Tasmania. It also means I get to avoid the shops during the silly season, which is a win on all counts!

Whilst we like to make a fairly big deal out of the kids’ birthdays, at Christmas time we take things down a notch – whatever your beliefs it’s fair to say that Christmas is about other things than the latest toy or gadget. For the past few years I’ve adopted a little mantra for the children’s gifts, which is by no means new, but definitely useful:

Something they want / Something they need / Something to share / Something to read

It really is a fantastic little guide, it takes out a lot of the guesswork, avoids present-overload (which I believe is a genuine thing!), and everyone is happy.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on some of your Christmas traditions and how you avoid the Christmas crazies!

Until next time,

Melissa x

Happy travels

We have just gotten back from a five-week trip to Croatia. Both Rich and I have travelled quite a bit in the past, but we have never taken our little people overseas before - needless to say we were a little apprehensive!

The adventure begins!

The adventure begins!

After having chatted to friends and other mums who have travelled overseas with their children, I left armed with lots of useful hints and tips. We had lollipops for the plane (to deal with any ear aches when taking off and landing), lots of books and activities, snacks, hand sanitiser, iPads - we felt up for the challenge! And generally speaking, the plane trips went quite smoothly. Both kids managed to sleep a little, and were more than occupied with the in-flight entertainment systems (read: lots and lots of movies!) What we did find quite difficult were the transit times; waiting in long queues in passport control and customs, waiting for luggage, navigating terminal transfers in large airports, these were the things that were quite difficult. We very quickly learnt that whilst adults are quite skilled at 'keeping it together' when jet-lagged and hungry, children on the other hand are not! 

All that aside we arrived safe and well in Croatia, ready for our 4 and a half week adventure in this amazing place where my family is from. My parents had already arrived a week earlier and were there to greet us at the airport. It was a relief to have an extra couple of pairs of hands after almost 40 hours of travel! 

Our first week was spend in Croatia's capital, Zagreb. We rented an amazing little apartment on Airbnb which was perfectly located in the middle of the city, in the picturesque Cvjetni Trg ('Flower Square"). Most of my family lives in Zagreb so we spent that first week catching up with lots of aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins, being fed lots and lots of soup and strudel, and exploring the old town of this beautiful city. 

Settling in nicely

Settling in nicely

Practically locals!

Practically locals!

Wishing I had brought a bigger suitcase! 

Wishing I had brought a bigger suitcase! 

St Mark's Church in Zagreb's Old Town

St Mark's Church in Zagreb's Old Town

Old Town, Zagreb

Old Town, Zagreb

It was then time to embark on our two-week road trip around Croatia. We picked up our hire car and drove straight to the island of Pag, which is where my family have holiday homes. The weather was still quite warm and sunny, so here we were able to frolic a little on the beach, and the kids even went for a swim in the ocean (their mama, however was too chicken!) Before leaving Pag we took a day trip to the picturesque city of Zadar, where we saw the iconic sea organs and The Church of St. Donatus, which was built in the 9th century!

Pag

Pag

Pag city

Pag city

On to Dubrovnik! I have visited this amazing city before so I knew what to expect, however its beauty still managed to take me by surprise. The iconic orange rooftops paired with the almost-white stone buildings, set against the blue of the Adriatic Sea, it really is breathtaking. We were blessed with perfect weather to explore the old town and famous city walls, we swam in the ocean, and for the first time in our trip we booked ourselves into a fancy hotel and enjoyed the luxury (and prepared meals!) this had to offer.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Off the beaten track in Dubrovnik

Off the beaten track in Dubrovnik

After five amazing days in Dubrovnik we then piled into the car to head to Bosnia and Hercegovina, where my Dad is from. We visited family and saw where my dad was born and grew up - it was so lovely for him to share this with his grandchildren. They were fascinated by the fact that their 'Dida' was once a little boy, and didn't actually always have his signature moustache!

Following on from our trip down south we then headed north back into Croatia, to explore the city of Osijek, which is where my mum is from. Once again the kids were able to see where their 'Baka' was born and grew up, and we all fell in love with beautiful Osijek, which reminded us of one of our other favourite cities - Melbourne. Luka now often says that Osijek is his favourite place.

The stone cottage where my dad grew up in Hercegovina

The stone cottage where my dad grew up in Hercegovina

Hercegovina

Hercegovina

Mostar, Hercegovina

Mostar, Hercegovina

Reminders of a war-torn country in Vukovar

Reminders of a war-torn country in Vukovar

Osijek at twilight

Osijek at twilight

Corn fields, Slavonija

Corn fields, Slavonija

After an epic two weeks on the road it was time to head back to Zagreb where we would stay for the remaining ten days of our trip. We sadly couldn't book into the same apartment we'd stayed in earlier on, but were able to find one very close by and still within Cvjetni Trg. Here we developed into a routine of buying fresh croissants each morning for breakfast, going out for coffee and taking long walks around different parts of the city - experiencing it as the locals would. We visited family and the children were able to meet and play with their endless amount of cousins! It was so lovely seeing Luka and Mila playing and 'conversing' with their cousins, it didn't matter that they could barely understand each other. The universal language of play I suppose. Rich and I were able to leave the kids with their grandparents in Zagreb and we took a day trip to the breathtaking Plitvice Lakes and National Park. We went for a four-hour hike and experienced first-hand the stunning waterfalls and caves and aqua-coloured lakes.

Plitvice Lakes and National Park

Plitvice Lakes and National Park

Plitvice Lakes and National Park

Plitvice Lakes and National Park

Plitvice Lakes and National Park

Plitvice Lakes and National Park

And then, before we knew it our trip had come to an end! It was time to commence the epic, almost 40hour journey back home. Although we'd thoroughly enjoyed our time away and the wonderful people and experiences (and food!) we'd had along the way, it was certainly time to come home. The children were craving the routine of their every day, missing school and their friends, and of course all of their toys waiting for them back home. Rich and I too were craving the comforts of home, sleeping in our own bed and the vast expanse of space we are so lucky to have here in Australia however, which we sometimes take for granted I think. Europe is so compact and tiny, we really are blessed with a lot of room to move down under!  Although we are definitely now back into the swing of 'everyday' life, we have returned with what I think is a more relaxed approach to things, a throwback to the European way of life I suppose. We are closer as a family unit and have realised that whilst difficult at times, travelling with small children is certainly do-able, and whats more very enjoyable! We have learnt a lot about ourselves, are trying very hard not to sweat the small stuff, and already planning where we will be going to next!!

Medvedgrad, Zagreb

Medvedgrad, Zagreb

Melissa xx 

 

Book Week and Mr Huff

Each year, the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) brings children and books together celebrating Children’s Book Week.  It is during this time that schools, libraries, bookshops and other organisations celebrate Australian Children's Literature; often culminating in an annual Book Week Parade, where children and their teachers and librarians dress up as a favourite book character. This year my children chose to be Tin Tin (Luka) and Madeline (Mila). They had an absolute ball pretending to be their favourite characters for the day, it really such a lovely celebration of the joy of literature.

Each year the CBCA also announces their shortlist of Australian children's books, chosen for their high literary and artistic quality. It is then during Book Week that the winners of these shortlisted categories are announced. This year one of our favourite books was announced the Book of the Year for Early Readers: Mr Huff.

Mr Huff was written and illustrated by one of our all time favourites - Anna Walker. We have a number of her titles at home and they are always well loved and enjoyed by all. Mr Huff tells the story of a little boy called Bill who is having a bad day. A dark cloud 'Mr Huff' begins following him around, getting bigger and bigger as time goes by, engulfing Bill in darkness. However a tender moment between Bill and Mr Huff sees the sunshine start coming through again.

xx

Hello

Hello, and welcome to Brother Fox!

I have been writing and blogging across different platforms for several years now, and I wanted to create a space to kind of bring it all together - a place to muse, share, and reflect on my journey of motherhood and all the adventures and challenges that come along with it. 

My name is Melissa and I live in Hobart, Tasmania with my husband Richard and our two children Luka and Mila. Luka is 5 and the most caring, sensitive, and spirited little person I know. His world is full of wonder and imagination, with a fair dose of mischief as well! Mila is 2 and the sweetest, and cuddliest little dot - she is full of giggles, cheekiness, and the joy that comes with being the youngest.

I am an Early Years teacher who is currently taking a little break from teaching whilst my children are so young. My plan is to go back to teaching in the next year or two, once my two littles have settled into more of a school routine.  I have always loved writing and wanted to do more of it - it's a process I find equal parts challenging and therapeutic! Here at Brother Fox I hope to share and reflect on what it means to be a mum as well as the adventures of our little family. 

Thank you for reading along and sharing the journey with me!

Melissa x