Monday, July 25, 2011


"I always tell my clients 'Your home is your decorated personal space but your child's bedroom is their personal space, so it should be an expression of their personality." 
Maria Killain : Color Me Happy.
"Kids use their room for many things; sleeping, playing, learning, getting creative, and feeling comfortable. It's their space. That is why decorating your kids rooms the right way is so important." : Lolita Galstain

I love colour, always have, that's why when we built our house years ago and came to the walls, we used strong colours. We've never regretted it. Living rurally we found that strong natural colours framing native timber windows, looked superb. At the time of building we had lots of little kids, endless building decisions to make with managing the project ourselves while maintaining normal working patterns. 
But one of my regrets now is that my husband and I chose all the colours rather than letting our kids make choices for their own rooms.
Recently I noticed that there is a trend to paint not only the living area and the children's or baby's room white, but to also paint the children's furniture white - the all white look. I looked online to find that the most popular selling colour paint for kids bedrooms is white, then beiges, grey greens, pale blues yellows and pinks, following close behind.
A person at "Surf Net Parents", says "white is a great color but it isn't great for walls. It makes walls look boring and cold. It doesn't make you feel invited. Use a color your child likes...."
As I kept reading I found some colour experts and interior designers for children's areas, said that neutral colours or off-whites should be used, then a child's own work or things they have made, can be shown off on this background. Then there were people who thought colours should be cheerful and energizing in children's rooms and needed to be ones that would "grow with them". One lady said to use colours that make a statement, giving the example of light charcoal and white for a baby's room, saying "It's unexpectedly elegant". Others recommended doing what I didn't - use your child's favorite colours, the ones they love and connect with their character.
There is a lot written on colour psychology - how colour affects our mind, mood, feelings and behavior. Certain colours seem to create specific sensations.


Blues cause the body to produce calming chemicals. Blues can give feelings of sadness or indifference for some people. People are more productive in blue rooms - studies show that weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms. (I know this has nothing to do with children's bedrooms but I found it interesting) Another interesting fact, blue is often used on the walls of psychiatric and correctional facilities to provide a soothing effect. Blue they say is a healing colour. If blue is diluted to a lighter hue it can reduce stress. Blue generates a sense of well-being. Blue gives an impression of space.

Purple gives a feeling of whimsy and fantasy. Purple has connotations of luxury, wealth and sophistication. It is a romantic and sensual colour. Historically purple was a colour of royalty and drama. Pale purples are friendly but at the same time a cooling colour. We mixed a purple-blue colour for our bedroom in a previous house which was high, overlooking the sea - it was totally ethereal.


This is the most emotionally intense colour. It represents passion and is the colour of love. Red symbolizes aggression, boldness, assertiveness along with opulence and excitement. Red attracts attention. It is an appetite stimulator. In a large space red can be energizing and invigorating. In a small space some think it is cozy and intimate, while others sense it as claustrophobic.


Pink is a tranquil colour. In the past it was thought to be a girl only colour, but not so today. Sports teams sometimes paint the locker room used by the opposing teams bright pink so their opponents will lose energy.


Orange has a feeling of sumptuousness. It's a colour from the earth and rocks with many rich tones. Orange conjures ideas of the cultures of India, the Middle East through to Morocco. It promotes the feeling of excitement and vibrance. The colour orange improves the appetite and enhances social interaction.


Yellow is a cheerful  wake-up colour. It is a fun colour. Certain shades are quietly distinctive. Yellow enhances concentration, communication, circulation and stimulates activity. However people loose their temper more often in yellow rooms. Yellow speeds up metabolism :) Most people's mood is lifted by yellow light frequencies.


Green is the easiest colour on the eye and can improve vision. It is a calming refreshing colour. People waiting to appear on TV or go on stage sit in a 'green room' to relax. Green is a restful colour and aids in sleep. Green gives the sense of gracefulness and reflects a garden palette. It symbolizes freshness and a summery feel. Green is my favorite colour.


These are earthy colours. Thought of as being restrained and subtle but always harmonious.


These colours have an absence of pigment. They are elegant colours of restrained luxury. Some think they are reticent colours. Associated with minimal decor. The paler tones reflect light.
The example of WHITE - a colour of innocence and purity. White suggests cleanliness but it shows dirt and is more difficult to keep clean. It implies sterility from its association with hospitals. White gives an impression of enlarging a space.
The example of BLACK - a powerful colour which can be intimidating.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ if you are about to repaint the kids bedroom, ask them about the colours they'd like to live in. Look at what is already there - the flooring colours, curtains, furniture, the colours of items that will be in the room. When you get down to some final choices look at them in the natural daylight, night light and when it is raining. Colours can seem very different in different weather conditions. The final choice colour must make the occupant feel comfortable. And as many people wrote - have fun with your colour.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


"Last summer, on the Channel Island of Jersey, on a cliff overlooking the harbour, I came upon a worn, mossy covered  bench. A century ago, when Victor Hugo was in exile, ill, persecuted by his beloved France, it was here that he climbed every evening and, gazing into the sunset, gave himself up to profound meditation, and at the end of which he would rise and, selecting a pebble of varying size - sometimes small at other times large - he would cast it, with satisfaction, into the water beneath. This behavior did not escape the notice of some children who played near-by, and one evening a little girl, bolder than the rest, pushed forward. 
"Monsieur Hugo, why do you come here to throw these stones?"
The great writer was silent; then he smiled gravely.
"Not stones, my child. I am throwing self-pity into the sea."


This past week having been home seeing my family in the Blue Mountains, I've spent the gap in between talking talking talking, reading a conglomeration of 'bits'. This quote from an old book was one such bit. I find it interesting to hear how the past, even the ancient past, thought on and dealt with the things we are still struggling to handle today.
"Self-pity," is it still in existence, or is it that it has new names today? To reverse it and think of it as pity of one-self, could help.
I suffer with it, I think everyone does. May be it's due to our in-built character or because of a disappointment or expectation of a person or situation not working out in our favor, as we had hoped.
How have we become vulnerable to self-pity?
  -  it's an unrecognized behavior that's become a habit for through practice
  -  we have copied the habit because it's lived out in our family
  -  we suffer from a glum perspective on life
  -  because of our overly high expectations on ourself
  -  its our response having experienced repeated 'raw deals' through life
  -  because of an unforeseen let down, betrayal or dumping by someone close
  -  due to our under developed skill to get a bigger picture on the situation
  -  we have a belief that our view, method, plan WAS the best and deliberately was ignored
  -  we are agro, that even by using clever pressure, we didn't get what we wanted
With children, self-pity is due to their immaturity to handle their own character failings or control their temper or other negative behaviors.
Sometimes with children and adults there is an agenda in our self-pity - to put pressure on another to give way, 'change their mind' .... and we may even succeed. The practice however can not be depended on to get that result, because it doesn't always work, and we just go on moving toward an automatic uncontrolled habit of self-pity.
In families like mine, the things that cause adults and kids alike to spiral down into a bout of self-pity, are often simply pathetic ~
 *  "Everyone always eats up the best breakfast cereals first and leaves me the rubbish"
 *  " I'm the only one  round here who puts the empty toilet roll in the bin, AND gets out a new roll!"
 *  "It's no use me playing soccer/tennis ..... I'm hopeless. I can't control the ball ...."
 *  " The coach never spends anytime with me, he's only interested in the good players."
 *  " He's happy to play when his friends aren't around, but as soon as they arrive he doesn't want to know
"So many of us, despite our many advantages, have developed to an inordinate degree the capacity for being sorry for ourselves. We are forever alert to find cause for personal grievance in the ..... small things and the great - a late train, the threat of nuclear annihilation ...... we dwell on the difficulties and dangers ..... of modern life."
We often expect that others around us should simply cope with it when we are in the zone of self-pity. But it is a wild expectation. No one finds it attractive to live and watch it. It brings a shut out to relationships and gives nothing positive to the self-pityer.
One writer says, "On it would go, until I felt beaten down mentally and physically and she, at the end, diffused an intolerable sense of the misery of being alive. In truth, she had little to complain of, but by brooding on her troubles, real or imaginary, she had magnified them out of all proportion to their importance, and simply could not escape from them."
"Doubt and fear, the great enemies of human advancement, are born in the darkness of self-pity, and if we yield to them we thwart ourselves at every step ..... (we need to get out thoughts) away from ourselves."
The ancient writer Seneca said, "In thoughts of self-commisseration, a man will discover no advantage but will rather incline towards deterioration and softening of himself, and with this there will come upon him a growing indifference to his fellow man."
Seneca seems to be saying the essence of self-pity is selfishness, and that sorrow for self, prevents and blocks an adult or a child from ever feeling and knowing true sorrow for others.
An ancient Greek saying is, "As a man thinketh, so is he."
Another person said, "Our thoughts have the power to make or unmake us."
Recognizing self-pity in ourself and helping our children to recognize it in themselves, is a start.
So, how can we as adults and how can we show our children, a way, away from self-pity?
1. You could read together stories and biographies of people through history who have lived well through terror, challenges and disappointment. "Consider how countless unknown, ordinary people have overcome illness, hardships, continuous pain and lived their lives cheerfully, successfully, in an unsung epic of uncomplaining heroism." I have always been stunned by the life story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan.
2. You could watch movies as a family - "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader". The first is an amazing life story of hardship where the option of self-pity was not considered. The second movie has a character who chooses self-pity, lives with its consequences through which he is changed for the better.
3. Because self-pity is a habit, you can us Charlotte Mason's method of changing habits. A run down of her method is - (a) Talk with your child about a future which could be theirs where self-pity controls their life. Give specific examples using the situations they now resort to self-pity in, speaking of how life for them would feel and affect others around them. The aim is to convince them they want to work at change now.                (b) Then get them to identify what regular situations in their life result in them turning to self-pity.          (c) Offer help in a specific way - a plan of action to help them choose to not spiral down into self-pity. Charlotte Mason says it's like a wheel caught in an old rut and it keeps travelling along, gouging a deeper, harder to get-out of track. What is needed is that the wheel be lifted out and put on a new track - a new habit started with assistance to maintain it and develop it.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ the habit of self-pity CAN be changed. The practice of it is optional. We can choose to practice self-pity or not. Our children can be taught how to change.


Thursday, July 7, 2011


"Over the next few months, the district established a preschool and kindergarten classroom in the very heart of Grace Living Center Retirement Home. Surrounded by clear glass walls (with a gap at the top to allow the sounds of the children to filter out), the classroom sits in the foyer of the main building. The children and their teachers go to school there every day as though it were any other classroom. Because it's in the foyer, the residents walk past it at least three times a day to get to their meals.
As soon as the class opened, many of the residents stopped to look through the glass walls at what was going on. The teachers told them that the children were learning to read. One by one, several residents asked if they could help. The teachers were glad to have the assistance, and they quickly set up a program called Book Buddies. The program pairs a member of the retirement home with one of the children. The adults listen to the children read, and they read to them.
The program has had some remarkable results. One is that the majority of the children at the Grace Living Centre are outperforming other children in the district on the state's standardized reading tests.... But the children  are learning much more than how to read. As they sit with their book buddies, the kids have rich conversations with the adults about a wide variety of subjects, and especially about the elders' memories of their childhoods growing up in Oklahoma. The children ask things about how big iPods were when the adults were growing up, and the adults explain that their lives really weren't like the lives that kids have now. This leads to stories about how they lived and played seventy, eighty or even ninety years ago. The children are getting a wonderful textured social history of their hometowns from people who have seen the town evolve over the decades. Parents are so pleased with this extracurricular benefit that a lottery is now required because the demand for the sixty available desks is so strong.
Something else has been going on at the Grace Living Center. though: medication levels there are plummeting. Many of the residents on the program have stopped or cut back on their drugs.
Why is this happening? Because the adult participants in the program have come back to life...... they have a reason to get up in the morning and a renewed excitement about what the day might bring. Because they are reconnecting with their creative energies, they are literally living longer....
In a way the Grace Living Center has restored an ancient, traditional relationship between the generations. The very young and the very old have always had an almost mystical connection. they seem to understand each other in a fundamental, often unspoken way. Our practice in the West is often to keep these generations apart. The Book Buddies program shows in a simple yet profound way the enrichment possible when generations come together. It shows too that the elderly can revive long-lost energies if the circumstances are right and the inspiration is there."
 "THE ELEMENT": Ken Robinson  page 204 - 206.

When you find a great book it's like finding a close friend. Each time you read, it is like a conversation that builds a closer friendship. Here is a great book ~ Sir Ken Robinson's "The Element". I quoted from this book last year, Week 8 Quote 8 

The partnership between the Jenks Primary School and the Grace Living Center Retirement Home began in 1998. It worked because the retirement village "works to eliminate loneliness, helplessness and boredom in aging populations;". The objectives of the school's curriculum " to make learning as engaging and purposeful as we can, focusing on integrating content with real-life ties."
"Elders", if they wish, are part of the whole school day - they can watch the children as they play or go out into the playground themselves. But it is the capacity as "book buddies" or mentors, that the seniors get to know and become known by these 5 year old children. These relationships, like grandma/grandpa with grandchildren, continues to develop as they work together in craft, science, drama and other curriculum subjects.
Teachers in the school say that children in this program are learning values such as compassion, responsibility and perseverance, respect, self-discipline, tolerance, acceptance of physical differences, good listening skills, through living each day in the company of the elders.
"Rich social and emotional learning comes as a response to the environment .... kids observe greeting and touching .... they visit residents in their room, learning to knock and asking permission to enter .... death is dealt with head on."
There is also the "weekly ice cream social" - casual chats between the two generations where natural relationships are in process.
Other documented benefits for the children, are that they discover seniors, despite their physical limitations, have extensive knowledge, motivation, abilities and engaging personalities. So respect and value for elders is acquired by the children from these known experiences, rather than from a series of lessons taught to them.
The benefits for the Elders, includes, an increased understanding of the challenges faced by children, improvement of their self-esteem and self-perception, feeling they are making a contribution to society through being a role model for the children. The program decreases the incidence of seniors isolation or solitary behavior, and increases memory function.
One senior, Laurie Chilcote, said, involvement in intergenerational education had turned his life around. "It's the opposite of a thread you pull and the sweeter comes unravelled. You pull on this thread, and you find yourself connected"
One could read all this and credit the total success in the lives of the two generations, to the program itself. But researchers, teachers and parents in many other similar projects throughout the world, have all pronounced that the success comes from the combining of these two age groups.
So, what is this mystical connection between children and elders? Testing has proven that seniors were more patient listeners than middle-aged adults or young adults, and were relationship orientated in their dealings with children. Is it that elders have more available time to be able to give to children, listen to children? Or are they at a point in life where looking back to their own childhood with its positives and lacks, they wish to support and encourage a new generation in its infancy?
"A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, to grow a little more securely in an unfamiliar world." Charles and Ann Morse.
"What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And most importantly, cookies." Rudolph Giulliani.
"Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day, and now the day was complete." Marcy De Maree.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ do your kids have grandparents or seniors involved in their lives in a vital way? Do you see that mystical connection between them, that brings happiness, depth and fulfillment into the lives of both? If not, would it be something you could 'work-on' for your children's sake?

Friday, July 1, 2011


This is the sixth and final post in the series "PARENTS LIVING UNDER DIFFICULTIES".

"Five years ago our family decided to check out what it would be like to live in Indonesia. We arrived with 2 big bags, 2 little girls (6months and 2years), and a desire to learn and grow. We started out with an Indonesian family. At least 10 of us shared a squat toilet and a kitchen with a dirt floor. It was slowly being tiled as they had money! We still have a squat toilet, but now have 3 girls (8months, 5years and 7years) and a house to ourselves with a lovely tiled kitchen floor!
While our initial savings to get us through our trial year have dried up, money continues to come in at varying rates for things like visas and Indonesian schooling.
The fact that we eat meat and fruit most days - or at least could - means we are generally considered rich here. My girls sometimes try to place themselves on the rich-poor scale, but it's almost impossible to do since they see what life is like for people in such a variety of situations. They come visiting with us regularly, and so they know that the lines are not so clear. It's dependent on who you are with on that particular day! Some of our friends here holiday in popular tourist destinations outside our country and drive super expensive cars. Many of our friends here have no running water in their house, so wash their clothes in the canals that function as drains, and bucket water into their houses for baths. This becomes 'normal' after a while.
 I wonder if our perspective on our financial situation is very important in determining our ability to cope, or even live freely and lightly within the means we have. If everyone we know is buying another car, a bigger house, putting substantial amounts of money away for their children - then our idea of what is necessary and 'normal' is shaped by this. Maybe we need to keep exposing ourselves to people living in contexts very different to our own and make active choices in the way we mentally frame our current financial situation? If our kids have healthy food every day, have access to some form of schooling, have pencils and paper and maybe even a bike ...... then maybe we are going OK?!? Maybe they could actually be happy and fulfilled?! 
After being away from Australia for a few years, our 5 year old daughter couldn't contain her amazement on a trip back. She asked whether there were any 'poor people' in Australia? Of course there are, and poverty has a range of faces, but it's inescapable here.

Having said all this, there are very genuine difficulties with a low income. Thinking about future opportunities like university for my girls sometimes makes me worried. We are not able to be putting away much money for them. If we had a medical crisis - far from the wonderful Australian welfare system, things would be very tough. Making sure that our girls don't get caught up in any stress we may have at times about money is also an issue. While they don't need to carry that as a burden, letting them in a bit at points has meant they have seen God do things we couldn't have contrived. They have seen our own stories of his kindness and gutsy involvement with us on our journey - often using unexpected people and situations.
We use far less money than we did on things like movies, music, cafes and experiences that require money. This is partly because our options are dramatically reduced living here, but also because we are not so financially able. At points this feels like a sacrifice. There is a richness to being able to experience these things. But then the longer I live here, and the more parenting experience I get, I see how easy it is for any kind of 'treat' to become expected and under-appreciated. 
So much can be accessed for free on the internet now that our kids don't have to be limited or deprived of rich cultural experiences. Last week I found on the net a whole lot of resources about "Peter and the Wolf" by the Russian composer Prokofiev. My girls could listen to the music on You Tube and engage with it in a way I never could have done when I was a child.
Like anyone in any country living on a small or unreliable income, we have to ask ourselves questions about whether something is necessary before buying it. A new hair clip, or real milk if it ever happens to be there, are exciting events! We avoid regularly shopping in places where we all immediately feel discontent if we don't go home having bought something new.
Our first child was born when we were still in Australia. We were living in community and doing a small amount of relief teaching to support our voluntary youth and social work. Despite our desire not to be caught up in the hype of what 'must' be bought for a new baby, it was hard not to feel guilty for pushing her cot in the walk in wardrobe (with a small window, mind you). We don't do the decorated, fitted out baby room 'thing'. She however, thrived on lots of love from many people and the sense of being caught up in something bigger than just her.

After these last 5 years of seeing how people here in Indonesia do the baby years, I really believe almost all the hype can be ditched! Clothes come in abundance from others who have older children, breastfeeding costs nothing and there are great washable nappies/diapers now, so the costs involved in having a baby are minimal.
There are many advantages to a life with more limited resources. Engaging with people rather than things becomes a more central activity. 
Exploring the world around them brings children alive in ways money can't buy. We all know this whether we have lots of money or a little!
I hope that in the future if our financial circumstances change, we don't forget how to pursue these fundamental things - that we don't consciously or unconsciously shut ourselves off in our home, our own family, with all our 'stuff', and lose what is so precious about this sometimes unpredictable 'messy' life we lead now!

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ spend some time asking yourself and watching your kids to see if the desire for things at your house, or your hold on 'stuff' is too tight?
Our attitude to possessions is passed on to our kids. Are you happy with the perspective you are currently living and giving your children, on the place of money, possessions and wealth ownership? Could it help your family to have a regular, clearer idea of how most people of the world live - what is 'normal' for them?