How we rock the forest

You don't need to pack the kitchen sink when rockin' the forest with small children.
You don’t need to pack the kitchen sink when rockin’ the forest with small children.

We love bush walking as a family. We adventure almost weekly. It brings us together and provides for beautiful shared experiences. Our standard kit is shown below. Various items are added to subtracted depending on the conditions and duration of the walk.

Ergobaby soft carrier
What would I do without this carrier? It is by far my best ever baby purchase. Mine has a handy zip pocket that can carry a nappy, mobile phone, small camera and keys. Our infant is carried in this. She can breast feed, sleep, chat and admire the surroundings. Of course, she wears her Whistling Kite Collective bonnet for enhanced bushwalking comfort!
ergobaby

Kathmandu framed carrier
Our lovely toddler can generally walk great distances for a little person, but sometimes she needs to be carried for a rest.  This carrier is good, but there are many on the market. This carrier also has a zipped storage area that can carry most items required for a half day walk. She is up high and can see over Dad’s shoulders.
kathmandu carrier

Insulated lunch box
Healthy snacks and more substantial lunch items.  For a half day walk we usually take sandwiches, fruit, crackers, natural yoghurt, crackers, assorted dried fruits and nuts; packed with an ice brick.
lunch box

Melobaby nappy change wallet.
There are lots of brands available, but I love this as it has removable microfibre change mats. I holds four disposable nappies, plastic bags for used nappies, small bottle of hand sanitiser, wet wipes and a spare flannel cloth. Now we have two children, we use disposable nappies for bushwalking.

Camera
We have a Sanyo video and still camera, plus the cameras on our phones. My Ergobaby carrier pouch holds this camera for quick access. I find that my Nikon DSLR is too large for on-the-go photography when we are with our children. It only comes on particularly scenic walks or when I know flowers are on display.
camera

One pair of spare pants for each child.
If we are beach or creek walking, then I pack a whole replacement outfit!

Water- two bottles

30 + Sunscreen
This is applied prior to our walk and we carry some with us. Its absolutely essential for young children in Queensland, Australia.
sunscreen

Small microfiber travel towel.
images

If I am taking the girls for a walk by myself our walks are shorter and our kit is very minimal! We always have suitable footwear for each adventure…

She is a fast runner. You must be so proud…

Standard footwear for toddler wrangling...
Standard footwear for toddler wrangling…

Apart from the fact I lack the will, there is a very good (two year old) reason I can’t wear stilettos in public. Hmmm. Imagine some chase music. There is a bush turkey running for its life through the bush, closely followed by my shrieking toddler. Behind her is another bush turkey trying to keep up with its mate, closely followed by me. I’m trying to act cool, but sprinting after two birds and a toddler whilst wearing a maternity bra is not hilarious! Yes, any footwear other than flat sandals firmly strapped to my feet or a running shoe just won’t do for me at present.

Yes, my cherub is a runner; a fast one. She is at an adorable age where the world is unfolding for her in miraculous ways and almost everything is a joy to behold. Personal safety is not one of them. She can examine a dew-laden spider web for the longest time and describe it in the most beautiful way. There is innocence in her joy that makes my heart sing.

When she takes off without a moment’s notice though, I sigh on the inside and try to keep from freaking out! The parenting resources tell me this is a phase that will pass. I hope so.

I catch the toddler as the bush turkeys double back to the picnic tables (they are experienced with this situation of course). I crouch down and reconnect with her. She is so excited and instantly starts gesturing and telling me all about the fast bush turkey with the big tail that waggled as he ran. I find myself in a bind. I want to rouse and say “Don’t run away!” I also don’t want to stifle her curiosity and imagination. Really, for how long is she going to marvel at a bush turkey’s waggling bottom? What I do is this:

  1. Listen to her.
  2. Hold her and tell her I worry when she runs away and I would be very upset if she got hurt and I wasn’t there.
  3. Empathise and ask her to please stay with me when we are out.
  4. Describe simple consequences. For example, repeat offences will mean a swift car trip home!
  5. After the children are in bed, drink a large glass of wine.

Lately, she has been staying with me more often than not, but those occasions when she runs away make me crazy! The last time a lovely friend held my infant (and reassured me) while I collected my toddler off the ground. She was lying behind a parked car staging a protest… Ahhhh! Who knows what my cherub’s future holds? Maybe she will take part in some bush olympics against the animals. For now, I shall be in training…

Bellbird Grove – Brisbane Forest Park and D’Aguilar National Park

Quality creek exploration
Quality creek exploration

Brisbane residents are super lucky to have this wonderful place only 25 minutes from CBD.

The Turrbal Loop Circuit is an easy walk comprising a few wide steps, boardwalk and a soft path suitable for toddlers. It is 1.7 km long, so depending on the age of your children, some carrying may be involved (more on how we rock the forest coming soon- stay tuned). From the beautiful Rose Gum Picnic Area, the track winds through flooded gums and continues along Cedar Creek.

The vegetation is beautiful, ranging from woodland with a grassy understorey to wet riparian mixed forest with a shaded, herbaceous ground layer. I even saw basal leaves of ground orchids today (hooray)!

Walk on one track, or both to add distance.
Walk on one track, or both to add distance.

This very nice walk offers small children a range of sensory experiences including steps, boardwalk, bridge crossings, stone paths, pebbly beaches, crystal clear water, tadpoles, insects, fallen debris, colourful leaves, forest fruits (like red lilly pilly berries), bellbirds, birdsong and river rocks.

Cedar Creek is perfect for water play
Cedar Creek is perfect for water play

Facilities include undercover and outdoor picnic tables, bbq’s, toilets, water and open grassy areas.

Green, glorious green (quiet please, I’m learning!)

Check this out! Stop.
Check this out! Stop.

Welcome to the “A more natural life” series. In this series of posts I explore how I am attempting to have a wonderful life based on my appreciation of nature. So let’s see how nature will set you (and I) free!

What a wonderful thing, to be able to go outside and be surrounded by the Australian bush. Today I packed the children up and we went exploring with a beautiful friend in a Eucalyptus forest. As we walked up the path, there were so many plants to see that I had to hold back from starting a science lesson! Being a botanist by trade I find it difficult to refrain from naming all the plants I recognise (in latin).

The thing is though, when I watch my children in the bush, their quiet joy tells me to hold my tongue.

Children have a special way with nature if they are allowed to explore it at their leisure. I find my children’s’ experience is diminished when adults try to interpret nature for them. They really don’t need to be told to “feel this bark, it’s rough”, or “smell that flower”. Phrases like “stay on the track” or “keep on walking” really take away from their experience. My toddler spent 5 minutes today looking for the spider that belonged to a delicate web we found. She spent another 5 minutes following an ant along a fallen log. Another stint was spent walking back and forth across a timber bridge over a dry creek bed. I started to feel a bit unsure as the group was waiting for her to do her thing, but she loved it. On the way home in the car she told me “I love bushwalking with you Mummy”. How lucky I am.

So here is my plan to let my children and learn what they need to, when they need to each time they are exploring nature:

  1. If I point out something cool, like a web/beetle/bird/flower, stop it there. I will take a step back and allow their natural curiosity to take over. I will let them learn what they wish in that moment and not describe something for them. I will shut my mouth!
  2. My children will stop and burst into song at the trees. Let it happen. There is no need to sing along. Let it be their moment in the sun.
  3. If my children take what I think to be an excessively long time doing one thing, I will remember that they are making memories. These memories form connections that help them find their place in the world.
  4. Enjoy the moment. It will never be repeated.
  5. Plan the time, so I have the time. There is no need to rush a walk if we have no other plans.

I’m sure this approach can apply to other parts of my life too.

Baked corn fritters

Fast as a flick of a lamb's tail! Delicious for everyone and great for little hands.
Fast as a flick of a lamb’s tail! Delicious for everyone and great for little hands.

Baked corn fritters

I made this recipe in response to my little baby being extremely needy one day and my subsequent inability to fry anything on the stove with said child attached to my hip. So I made my usual corn fritter recipe and piled it into a mini muffin tin. Well, they worked out superbly! These little treats are moist and loaded with extra goodness from the chick pea (besan) flour. My toddler exclaimed “cupcakes!”, then proceeded to eat two straight up. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 cup chickpea flour
¾ cup wholemeal self-raising flour
2 tbsp sesame seeds + extra for sprinkling
1 425g can of creamed corn (low sugar variety if you can get one)
2 free range eggs
2 tsp minced coriander
2 tbsp rice bran oil
1 pinch salt + a grind of pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees celcius fan-forced (180 regular temp)
  2. Combine dry ingredients in bowl
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry and fold through
  4. Coat 24 hole mini muffin tin with spray oil
  5. Fill holes with mixture and sprinkle on extra sesame seeds
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden.

Note: These are dairy free. To make this recipe egg free, add another tbsp of rice bran oil. These are really nice with vegan cream cheese.

Perfectly sized for little hands.
Perfectly sized for little hands.

All you need is love, really?

Is love all we need?
Is love all we need?

Can you relate to this? I have been up for what feels like days. I am covered in milky vomit, there is a persistent smell of poo and I simply cannot find the source (maybe it’s up my nose), the house is in disarray, dinner is half cooked, both little people are asking for me to fulfil their needs, I haven’t showered today. There are dust bunnies against the walls that I will soon have to name if they don’t meet the vacuum.

Then my toddler starts “acting out”. I know it’s to get my undivided attention. I know she has big feelings and needs connection. My infant needs some mummy love. I feel upset, overwrought and frustrated. All I feel like doing is opening the nearest door and running up the street like a screaming banshee.

I went to a parenting seminar that basically instructed me to use a naughty spot, followed by a time out if my child didn’t comply with my requests. This didn’t work for me. What works for me is love, just love. I know it sounds unbelievably simplistic. When I want to run, or cry, or get angry, I am teaching myself to take a deep breath and give love. My goal in the moment is to get through it with empathy and love. My goal for each day is to go to bed with a happy heart.

You know what? I can see the difference my unconditional love makes to my children. They open up, relax, share more of themselves with me, tell me things, “act out” less, want to make me happy and sleep better.  When a moment gets a bit too tense the following is working for us at the moment:

  1. We breathe like Puff the Magic Dragon. Big breathe in through the nose and a slow exhale out through the mouth. In the early days we practiced this when we were all happy and relaxed. I have noticed that my toddler is now doing this herself without my prompting. It works for me too and we all feel better.
  2. I get down to their height and tell my children I love them.
  3. I offer some physical affection. I say “Can I please cuddle you?” Note the language of me giving love, not requesting it…
  4. I take it easy on myself and prioritise for a better moment. I have been known to call their father at this time and say “What would you like for dinner, thai or fish and chips?”

Not all my parenting challenges can be solved with a cuddle and a chat, but genuine interest and love gets me most of the way there. The only way I can give unconditional love to my children is to give it to myself. Being a parent is challenging. Some days I approach it with zen-like mastery, others I have to remind myself to breathe. Yes, I am flawed, but I try to remind myself that my family deserves the best of me. I must love myself (more on how I am trying to achieve this in the Journey of Wellness series- stay tuned). So really, I think maybe yes, all you need is love…