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I’m planning a series of posts covering the PopSugar Reading Challenge. If you’re doing this too (and blogging about it), please link your blog in the comments as I’d love to read about it.

I didn’t make a 2015 resolution to blog more, but I do want to read more (and more widely), and to write more. I like the PopSugar challenge because the sometimes offbeat categories mean I’ll have to try at least some books and genres I wouldn’t normally read. And by blogging about each of the fifty odd books after I read them, I hope I’ll be thinking about them more deeply and critically than normal.

I’m still writing too, and about to start the flash fiction course over at www.hollylisle.com. Holly suggests (at least I think it’s Holly) that one of the key jobs of a writer is to read. (I’m sure she says it much more elegantly though). So I’m declaring that for me, 2015 is going to be a year of reading.

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Little Pearl’s third birthday is coming up soon, and I’ve been trying to think of a special gift. She does have a lot of toys already, mostly Montessori inspired (with an over-large side serving of Toy Story merchandise… sigh), and anything she doesn’t have here at home is probably at her grandparents’ house.

I was given a doll when I was four, who still sits in the top of my wardrobe. She is in very poor condition but I just can’t bear to throw her away. I want my daughter to have a special doll like that.

For a while I have been hoping to get a Piccoli Waldorf doll – she makes the most beautiful dolls but they are very hard to buy. This is my favourite (even if she is – choke – Disney Princess-inspired):

But the birthday is creeping closer, and despite several attempts over the last couple of months a Piccoli doll remained elusive. I love the sweet faces on the Piccoli dolls and the colours in their hair, so I went on an Etsy – madeit- ebay hunt for a Waldorf doll for Little Pearl’s birthday. I finally found this little lass several pages into an Etsy search –

– and she went straight in to the shopping cart.

Unfortunately, my newfound obsession didn’t stop there. I began wondering how hard they were to make, and if my rusty sewing skills could be resurrected for the job. So, in my typical fashion, I promptly went and ordered a doll making kit and DVD… you know, as if I actually had time to be making dolls.

I would really like to give Little Pearl a doll that looks like her though, with curly brown hair and hazel eyes. And part of the philosophy of the Waldorf-Steiner dolls is that they are handmade with natural materials and one of a kind. I can be pretty confident that any doll made by me will be one of a kind for sure, but I really like the idea of involving Little Pearl in making a doll especially for her. Also, I haven’t sewn or knitted since she was about six months old, and I want her to see how things can be made at home.

So it’s decided:our winter project will be doll-making.

On Monday, my little girl walked into her new classroom without so much as a backward glance. And why not? In front of her was a new world of little people to meet, books to read, pictures to paint. Behind, a mother feeling a little sad, a little envious and a lot of hope.

We all parent in our own ways. When I was pregnant with Little Pearl, it was the attachment parenting literature that resonated the most with me. So when she arrived, she spent most of her daytime hours in a sling and her night time hours in a three sided cot by our bed. If she cried, she was comforted, and she continued breastfeeding well past the one year mark.

Well meaning people (at least, I hope they were well-meaning) assured me that my daughter would grow to be clingy and insecure using such methods; that she would be unable to manage her own emotions, or learn to fall asleep on her own. She would be a late walker from all that time spent in the sling, and she would be having a ‘breastfeed at the school gate’. And yes, under the age of six months, all those things were probably true.

But she’s more or less slept through the night from six months onwards, and she puts herself in ‘time out’ when her emotions get the better of her. She walked on time. She goes to sleep herself, after a little play with her dolls. And if she still has the occasional breastfeed, it’s never been at the school gate.

I write this not to suggest that attachment parenting is for every parent, or that it is the only way to parent, and certainly not to ascribe the miracle that is my daughter to a set of techniques. I write it to dispel the myth that a child raised using attachment parenting philosophies will be insecure and clingy, with a mama complex.

This week, my daughter took her first steps in to a world without a family member. She did it confidently and with great anticipation, without any thought of fear or anxiety. The only fear and anxiety was mine, that we had hit another milestone on the great journey of ‘letting go’ that is parenting. Now she will make friends without my encouraging smile, fall without my ready hand to steady her, and learn new words and skills without my teaching.

Just how it should be.

Little Pearl goes to school next week.

Most kids don’t begin school (kindergarten) in Australia until they turn four or five, but Little Pearl is going to Canberra Montessori School. Montessori students begin attending school from three years of age, and go into a class that has a mix of students from three to six years old (Cycle 1).

What has struck me is the very gentle transition process. Little Pearl and I have been going to the Parent Toddler Programme for over a year, so she is familiar with the campus. We’ve also gone to the school fairs and ‘discos’, where she has had a blast petting animals, dancing and wide-eyed watching of the big girls going across the monkey bars. And over the last half of this term, each week we’ve attended the Parent Toddler Programme she has also gone across to the ‘big school’ class room for a visit.

At first she was reluctant to stay in the class room and wanted ‘mummy’, and wouldn’t walk down to the classroom without me. After all, this is the first time she has ever been left with someone who was not a family member. Nonetheless, her first impression was positive; I asked her what she saw in the class room, and she said, ‘Girls and boys.’ And when I asked what they were doing, she turned to me with a wondering expression on her face and said, ‘Playing!’

Two weeks before the end of term we did an orientation visit (a one hour visit to the class room after school had finished for the day) where she did some painting and activities with her new teacher, and left them to dry on the rack. Two days later, when we were back at the school for our regular Parent Toddler Programme session, I asked her if she wanted to go back to the classroom to pick up her paintings and maybe do a new one for me. Next thing I know, she’s packed up her work and trotted out the door with the Parent Toddler teacher saying ‘Mummy will be so surprised with my painting!’. She didn’t look back once, and stayed in the Cycle 1 class room without me for forty minutes. The power of familiarising a young child with something new is amazing.

The other thing that makes starting at a Montessori school very different is that their intake of new students is continual throughout the year – instead of all the new students beginning in February at the start of the school year, children begin in the term they turn three. So instead of being one of eight or ten new students in a class, she’s one of just two new students, and the teacher can devote some time to just the two of them. When Little Pearl begins, she will stay for just an hour the first day. Then we’ll gauge her readiness each day until she’s able to stay the full three hours every weekday.

I feel very lucky that we’re able to have such a stress-free transition to daily school. I’m not sure whether it is more stress free for me or for Little Pearl, but I’m grateful nonetheless!

In my search for images and creative techniques to help draft my book, I began coming across decks of story telling cards. The ones at thecards.com were recommended, but the folks there seem to have some problems with my billing address being in Australia and my delivery address in the US (a remailer) so I’ve kind of given up hope on getting the Archetypes deck.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing, because it led me to Herewood Gabriel’s site http://www.herewoodsart.co.uk/. Herewood publishes a deck of storytelling cards with his original artwork. His deck of 40 cards are bright and full of inspiring imagery (and he had no problem figuring out how to ship the cards to me in Oz!) One of my favourite aspects of the cards is that they have not all been created in the same medium, so the sense of variety and space in the deck is much stronger.

Little Pearl and I are enjoying the cards together. Because the designs are more concrete than abstract (yet have wonderful surreal elements as well), they are very suitable for a young child (Little Pearl is not yet three) to spin a tale about the place depicted, or what the people or animals are doing in the picture. Some of the discussions we have led to learning conversations about why people throw things away, or where thunder comes from.

I can see these cards getting a lot of use over the next few years. Do you have story telling cards? How do you use them, either for yourself or with your kids?

In proof of my sci-fi nerdiness, today I took delivery of a set of Dr Who mini-figs: Lego-style reproductions of the Eleventh Doctor and his Dalek nemeses. My two year old was instantly fascinated, and the resulting scenario she played out made me wish I had my video camera to hand.

DALEK 1: I’ve lost my friend. Where’d he go? I’m lonely.

ENTER DALEK 2.

DALEK 2: Hello! I robot. Play ring a posie?

[DALEKS DANCE IN A CIRCLE]

[DALEKS KISS]

ENTER DOCTOR

DOCTOR: Let’s go skating!

[ALL SKATE, SINGING LA LA LA]

[DALEK AND DOCTOR HUG]

DALEK 1: Cuddle, cuddle!

DOCTOR: Off you go now! Bye!

EXIT DALEKS

Two Daleks embrace as the Eleventh Doctor looks on

Index Cards

I recently got an iPad (readers of this blog will be familiar with my love of all things Mac). Cruising the App Store for useful or interesting apps is my new favourite time-wasting activity. I began thinking though – what do I really want my iPad to do?

Not surprising that the first answer that came to mind was a digital replacement for index cards. I’m doing some additional research and outlining for Last Ride (yes, it’s still going) and keeping the index cards straight was driving me nuts. I was researching categories for Religion, Magic, Culture & Society, People, Places, Language and Mythological Creatures – I didn’t have enough coloured index cards for all my categories plus they were getting mixed up with my scene cards. I wondered how hard it would be to learn how to develop an app… but of course I realised that someone else must have had this idea first.

Enter Index Card. Inspired by Scrivener (and yes, it syncs with Scrivener), this app gives you a corkboard with index cards. You can manage information by projects, stacks and index cards; there are 14 background colours to choose from; you can write on the front and virtual ‘back’ of the cards. Simple to use and beautifully laid out, I am sending my index cards digital.

I sent a message to the developer suggesting that they include support for Text Expander, another useful little app for those of us who do a lot of writing on the iPad. I was delighted to receive a response within 24 hours, with information on future plans for the app that addresses the need for typing shortcuts.