The flow of imagination

Orbit's slot car set

Orbit’s slot car set

At the start of our house sitting adventure, I took Orbit shopping for a new toy. Once in the toy aisles he looked, walked, paused, looked some more, pondered, sat, thought, re-traced his steps, and thought some more. Choosing a new toy was obviously a very serious decision for him.

I wasn’t sure if he would ask for more than one toy (even though I explained he could only have one) or if he would choose an expensive toy (he doesn’t have the concept of how much things can cost yet). As we walked the aisles together I started to have second thoughts on the decision I had given him – was it too risky to give a three year old open choice for a new toy? Was there a tantrum of my own making waiting to happen in the next aisle?

After about half an hour he decided to get a slot car set. It was a large slot car set, set up it was over 2m long and a bit on the expensive side. So we sat down and I explained that he could have a slot car set but the smaller one would be better because we could take it back to Medina with us, as well as play with it in the house. Plus, he would be able to carry the box around the shop, if we got the larger one, mummy would have to carry it. I was relieved when he agreed to get the smaller set and he was proud as punch carrying it around.

Using the 'cards' to make up stories

Using the ‘cards’ to make up stories with Orbit’s ‘road’ and cars

Once we got home and the slot car set was set up, it gave Orbit’s hand-eye coordination a good work out. It was fascinating to watch his facial features change as he worked out how the make the cars go faster and slower by the amount of pressure he put on the button of the remote control. But after a few days of setting the full set up each morning and taking it down again every evening (which needed the Skipper’s or my assistance), Orbit started to make his own ‘road’.

To make the ‘road’ a bit more interesting, I made some features, like on a real road. Using old paper (the clean sides of printing I no longer needed), I tore the paper into 2 or 4 pieces to make ‘cards’ and drew some traffic lights, trees, flowers etc. Orbit took this idea and ran with with it. He asked me to draw some shops, the doctors, his Aunty Miranda and his cousin Tilly, Hairy Maclary (a dog from one of his favourite stories), Medina, stop signs and many other things. We then used the ‘cards’, the road and his cars to make up different stories.

The idea of the slot car set and the cards gave me an idea for a game we can play when we are back on Medina. We could make a boat out of a box, pop some blue material on the saloon table as water and make ‘marine’ cards. We could include all sorts of marine animals but also navigational markers, islands and other boats. I’ll let you know how it goes …

Orbit and his 'shop'

Orbit and his ‘shop’

We were playing shops the other day when Orbit stopped, said “Mummy, idea!”. He disappeared into another room and bought back the two cards that had “shops” written on them. So we taped them to the chair that was his shop and continued to play. Orbit continued to add more cards to his shop as he thought about them. Hairy Maclary ended up sitting out the front of his shop and his Aunty Miranda and his cousin Tilly were customers.

Seeing the transformation of how one ‘game’ (the slot car set) can lead to another (card inspired road stories) and to another (cards and the shops) has taught me to keep my imagination open, to ‘go with the flow’. With Orbit’s imagination starting to flourish and enjoying role playing, who knows what the next adventure will be!

Migraines on a sailing boat

I am lucky to be blessed with a body that likes migraines. Yes, it is a strange blessing, but hey I do get to lie about all day when I have one! Seriously though, as any sufferer of migraines knows, they are not fun. My post this week is late because I had a migraine, so I thought I would write about my experience of having migraines on a sailing boat.

Given how much migraines influence my life, it was appropriate that they influence what layout Skipper and I were looking for in a sailing boat. Each person who suffers from migraines has different triggers and symptoms. The list of what can trigger one of my migraines is long and but so complicated (poor diet, lack of sleep, stress etc). I try to avoid the things that trigger them but I still get them now and again. I know I am going to get a migraine when I have a really strong craving for chocolate. Once I have a migraine in full force, I struggle to cope with bright lights and loud noises and they can last from one to three days.

Medina's hatches aft (or back from) the cockpit)

Medina’s hatches aft (or back from) the cockpit), the hatches in the back of Medina (the transom) are just above our bed

So when we were looking for a boat to live on, the need to have some separation from noise and light was essential, and part of the reason why we preferred a centre cockpit. A centre cockpit design allows for a aft/back cabin. From there it was finding a boat with a centre cockpit and one with a bed that was inline with the boat (not across it). This means the Skipper and I can get in and out of bed without creating too much disturbance on one another.

So aft cabin – check. Inline bed – check, next was the ventilation. I like to have as much natural ventilation as possible, it helps to prevent my migraines. Medina has hatches on all four sides of the aft cabin. I put my foot down on having hatches in the transom (i.e. hatches to the back of the boat). The Skipper would have preferred a lazaret (a storage area at the back of the boat, which prevents hatches), but I guess, “happy wife, happy life” won the argument. We also have a hatch to the deck which allows for any hot air to leave the cabin – particularly important in Queensland summers.

As much as hatches equate to ventilation, they also mean light and light is not my friend when I have a migraine. We were blessed that the previous owners had specially made blackout cards and ‘cushions’ that fit in all the hatches (most of the hatches are recessed) and covers for the deck hatches, so if I have a migraine I can lie in pretty much darkness if I have too. I have also been blessed with a Skipper who can install pretty much anything on a boat, and I nearly broke into tears when he bought home and installed fans in our cabin. I tend to cry a lot when I have a migraine – my mum says it eases the tension and I believe her.

Orbit getting some tummy time in the back cabin when he was 6 months old, you can see the back hatches

Orbit getting some tummy time in the aft cabin when he was 6 months old, you can see the back hatches

I also preferred to have a head (or toilet) in the aft cabin and preferably two heads (or toilets) on the boat. This is so I don’t have to walk too far to throw up (sorry for the detail). But having two heads means there isn’t the traffic of people coming into the aft cabin to use the head – they have an alternative. Luckily Medina has two heads and one of these is in the aft cabin.

When planning for an adventure, we always take into consideration fatigue and diet, making sure we are organised, so reducing the level of stress on the Skipper and I. With only two adults on board we can’t afford for one of us to be down for too long. I also make sure I have my pain medication (even if it’s for an over night trip). I have a variety of strength pain killers, because there are times, where I can’t ‘knock myself out’, I need to have my wits about me. Any medication has been prescribed by a doctor and I have discussed with them what impact it will/could have on me.

Orbit doing some planning in the aft cabin

Orbit doing some planning in the aft cabin

One of the best things I have found for a migraine, especially when I get that strong craving for chocolate is to go for a swim in salt water (lucky we live on a boat!). Off the beach with the Skipper and Orbit is okay but it can mean a few hours on the beach in the sun. What is better is to jump in when we are at anchor (and it is safe to do so). The Skipper and I don’t ‘jump off’ Medina at the moment when Orbit is on deck. We don’t want him getting the idea that he can do the same thing as he is only 3. So I have to wait for him to be asleep before I can jump in.

When I have a migraine, the Skipper and Orbit are fantastic, they try to do things as quietly as possible, bring me drinks of water and give me lots of hugs. So although migraines on a boat are not fun, they are manageable. The best bit about a migraine isn’t the opportunity to lie around all day, its how good you feel when it is finally gone!

Please note – I am not offering any type of medical advice in this post, it is just sharing my experience. 

Draw mummy, draw please (but don’t sing … please!)

Three jelly fish

Three jelly fish

One of the activities Orbit and I discovered while having a break from the blog was drawing songs. I am quite keen to develop his love of music whether its listening to it, playing it or in this case, drawing it.

Whether on Medina, in the car or in a house, we usually have some type of music playing in the background, anything from classic through to modern, by Australian and international artists. It could be a CD, the radio or playlist on our ipods/iphones. We have given Orbit the Skipper’s old iPod. It has his own music, so he can listen to what he wants to by either plugging it into Medina’s stereo, listening on his headphones or straight out of the iPod.

I am slowly building a playlist of age appropriate songs that Orbit can listen to, sing along to and dance to; but don’t annoy the Skipper and I (not an easy balance). Let’s be honest, children songs are great but after an hour or so they can get a bit annoying (particularly if its the same song on repeat)!

Our recipe for Orbit’s playlist was to start with some modern children songs (there are some great songwriters, producers etc out there producing some fantastic children’s music), throw in some of the old classics (can’t go past Play School and Anne Murray) then round it out with some everyday songs (i.e. songs that don’t have naughty words in them). If only I could describe how proud I was when Orbit started to sing along to Sunsets by Powderfinger and Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap.

Singing a Cowboy Song

Singing a Cowboy Song

We also try to use music in everyday learning. For toilet training we used to sing Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band (more relevant for boys than girls). Doing the actions to Open, Shut Them has been a fantastic way to build the strength back in Orbit’s hand after the splint was taken off.

Back to the discovery. It was a rainy day and we were stuck inside Medina, busy doing our own thing with Orbit’s playlist in the background. Orbit was playing with his cars on a ‘roadscape’ drawn in his scrap book. After a while, he looked up and said “draw mummy, draw please”. After a few questions and failed attempts at drawing what I thought he wanted me to draw (i.e. more roads, trees, stop signs etc), I realised, Orbit wanted me to draw the song.

Lucky the next song was something easy, Three Jelly Fish, so as I drew I sang along to the song. Which Orbit promptly stated, “no mummy, no singing, please!.” Those of you who have heard me sing will know, if there is something I do really well, it’s sing very very badly! The next song was the Singing a Cowboy Song, a bit harder to draw, but then relief when the third was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Twinkle Twinkle Litte Star

Twinkle Twinkle Litte Star

The trick to the activity is being able to draw the song, before the song ends, which can be quite a challenge when a song is only about 60 seconds long and the playlist is on random, so have the crayons out of the pencil case and ready to go!

I was meaning to get photos of the drawing the songs on Medina, but got distracted by other events, and I forgotten that we have discovered the activity until during the week when Orbit was going through his scrap book and was singing the songs as he got to the pictures. This activity will be great for when we are cruising, as we’ll be able to do it on angle of sail. And am so looking forward to when Orbit does the drawing and not just the singing!

A change is as good as a holiday

Orbit spreading out with his slot car set

Orbit spreading out with his slot car set

We are fortunate enough to be housesitting again, and I have to admit it, I love living in a house. Things just seem to be so much easier and take a lot less time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living on Medina, but as they say, a change is as good as a holiday.

Benefits of living in a house (according to little ‘ole me):

  • being able to walk around the bed and to make it with hospital corners
  • to stand and look into a fridge/freezer, rather than down into it (we are having to teach Orbit to not stand in front of an open fridge)
  • having hot showers with good great water pressure (I’ll have to put this on the Skippers to do list)
  • cooking on more than two burners
  • watching a wide screen tv
  • sitting/lying on a comfy couch to watch tv, read a book or take a nap (this will change on Medina once the Skipper builds in a new sea berth to replace our two black chairs)
  • doing a relatively large load of laundry, i.e. more than 2 towels at a time
  • having the space to spread out and not use one area for multiple purposes
  • waking up to the sound of birds, particularly the warble of a magpies
We distract Orbit from standing in front of an open fridge by putting his artwork on the door

We distract Orbit from standing in front of an open fridge by putting his artwork on the door

We are fortunate enough to be staying in a house that has a secure front and backyard, so Orbit can ride his bike and scooter to his hearts content without having to go somewhere to do so. Each time we pull up to the house, Orbit says “yeah, house, good job mummy”, so I think he is enjoying his time here.

Something really special to the Skipper and I is being able to look after the two dogs that also live here. We both love dogs. The biggest thing we miss about living in a house is having a dog. I know people have dogs on boats, but it just doesn’t suit us to have one at the moment. So we are getting our dog ‘fix’ while we are here.

Similar to the last time we housesat, our time off Medina is an opportunity for the Skipper to get stuck in an do the ‘big jobs’, this time he is upgrading our fridge and replacing the black chairs with a new sea berth/couch. We are also tackling our growing list of things to do to get Medina ready to go cruising, most of which are easier when Orbit isn’t on Medina.

By the time we move back on to Medina, she will feel brand new, and it will feel like a holiday from being in a house; and one day, we will have a dog again.

Toys? Who needs toys?

It never ceases to amaze me how much Orbit enjoys playing with his ‘non-toys’. Non-toys are things that Orbit plays with, which were designed for something other than entertaining toddlers.

A zip tie garden

A zip tie garden

I have already posted about Orbit’s ‘non toys’ when he was younger and he still plays with some of them, but in a different way. For example Orbit still loves playing with the Skipper’s zip ties. Instead of being satisfied with just threading the zip ties so they lock, he makes zip tie flowers. Orbit loves giving them to the Skipper and I, or anyone else on Medina at the time. This week he combined zip tie flowers with play dough and made ‘zip tie’ gardens.

Ropes are another non-toy that has lasted into toddler-hood. Lucky we live on a sailing boat, we have plenty of ropes! Orbit is genuinely interested in how they knot together. We were in the process of teach Orbit how to tie knots, just the simple ones, but that has been put on a slight delay until his finger heals and the splint on his arm can come off. The splint hasn’t stopped him doing many things. It has been wonderfully reassuring to see him adapt to everyday tasks and not be afraid to hurt himself. But learning to tie a knot with one hand is hard enough for an adult (something I am yet to master), so it might be a bit much to expect a three year old to learn.

One of Orbit’s coat hanger sculptures

A recently discovered non-toy was a set of spare coat hangers. We are lucky to have hanging space on Medina, and I always kept a small stash of spare plastic coat hangers stored away, for what reason I am not sure, and now they have a very good use. Orbit found them the other day and spends a great deal of time (toddler equivalent of time that is) making lovely ‘sculptures’ in the cockpit. Once he completes a sculpture, he announces “I did it, I did it. Mummy, photo, Mummy photo please”.

One of my concerns about raising a baby/toddler/child in a small space and on a sailing boat, was keeping him entertained. But slowly I am coming to realise I don’t need to keep him entertained, he does that himself. I just need to give him the freedom, the space to use his imagination, and to support him, then its just a case of enjoying his self-learning journey.

Do your kids like playing with non-toys? If so I’d love to hear what they are and how they play with them.