BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

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A few years ago, when my youngest daughter was at that age when any reference to poo, farts and toilets was all the rage, she took to altering a Christmas carol to sing ‘All I want for Christmas is poo!’

She thought she was so clever and that it was hilarious. So funny in fact, that she sang it ad-nauseum for days leading up to Christmas. Her older sisters pleaded with her to be quiet, but she continued on singing in a loud voice for all to hear. 

So on Christmas Eve, my older daughters decided that if all she wanted for Christmas was poo, that they would answer all her wishes. They secretly went next door to our neighbours and collected some dog poo that was on their lawn. They put it in a plastic bag by the back door; ready to swap this sack of feces for the Santa sack on the end of her bed once she went to sleep. Thankfully they were sent to bed before she went to sleep and forgot to do the exchange. Can you imagine being a 7 year old girl waking on Christmas day to find a sack of sh*t was all that Santa had left you! 

When I went outside the following morning, I wondered what the stench was at our back door. I opened the plastic bag left there to find its contents were dog poo – not the best way to start Christmas! I disposed of the bag and wondered where on earth it had come from – what sicko leaves a bag of poo on your doorstep???

It was only later that morning that I heard the older girls lamenting that they had forgotten to make their little sister’s wish come true by giving her poo for Christmas, that I understood why this mystery bag was at the back door.

So my message today is a clear one – be careful what you wish for this Christmas, because you just might get it!

 

PS. I dare you to now listen to Mariah Carey singing ‘All I want for Christmas’ without subliminally changing the word to poo. Heaven knows that song is ruined for me for life!

 

 

 

(Picture courtesy of Victor Habbick, Freedigitalphoto.net)

SPOTTO

As I pack the car to head off for a few days at a farm stay, I am thinking about how the kids will be amused on the trip there and home

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It occurred to me that there is not enough recognition for those selfless people out there who purposely purchase ugly bright yellow cars to provide entertainment to kids on car trips. My kids can’t drive past a yellow car without yelling ‘Spotto’. Where this game began and how it became part of everyday car trips is a mystery to me, but if it keeps the kids focused on something other than elbowing their siblings then I’m more than happy to play.

When there is a drought in yellow cars, we play the number plate game, making up silly sentences out of the letters on number plates, eg. GEB may be Giants Eat Boogers; Go Easy Baboon or Gassy Echidnas Burp!

Another favourite game we play with the kids to pass the time on car trips is the ‘Yes and No’ game. It’s simple, you ask them questions and talk to them. If they say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ (or yeah, nup, aha etc) they are out. To put a modern spin on it for our teenagers, I add in the word ‘Like’. It is such a huge effort for them to not use this word, as like, you know, it’s like, really hard to think of like, words other than that!!!

When we are really bored, we play the number game (I’m thinking of a number between one and one hundred). The winner is the one who takes the least guesses to get the number.

By the time we have made it through these games, it is time to put on a movie to distract the kids for the rest of the journey.  I guess the old adage, ‘Time flies when your having fun,’ is true, because travelling with children in the confined space of a car without any distraction drags on interminably! 

 

 

 

(photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

THE SANTA PHOTO TRADITION

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First and foremost I have to admit, I’m a Christmas tragic! I love everything Christmas from buying the presents, to decorating the house with the family, listening to Christmas carols and having our extended family come to our house to share the day. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I still get my kids to have their obligatory Santa photo each year.

It started when my eldest (now 16) was just 1 week old. I took my newborn baby girl to be cuddled by Santa. She ended up a crumpled mess and I think poor Santa had no idea how to hold such a tiny infant. The photo wasn’t that great, but the memory behind our baby’s first Christmas was something I wanted to capture.

Fast forward a few years and another child down and my second daughter had an aversion to the scary old man sitting on the big red chair. That year I had to sit on Santa’s chair with the two girls on my lap, whilst Santa popped his head over the backrest of the chair, out of sight of my kids.

By the time we had four kids, getting the photo was a logistical feat. One or two would sit on Santa’s lap, whilst the older two would perch themselves on the arms of Santa’s chair, trying to look happy as the photographer did tricks with squeaky toys to get them to look in his general direction.

Now my kids think it is lame that I still want to get their photo with Santa, but they humour me, as I’m such a Christmas tragic. We just have to drive to a shopping centre 1 ½ hours away from home where there is no chance they will run into someone they know. Last year we had a prolonged wait in the cue to see Santa, whilst toddlers that reached up to my kids knees, alternated between laughing and giggling to throwing themselves down on the floor in protest. My kids probably sympathised more with the latter group of kids, but stood there patiently so we could get our two minutes with the jolly old man.

A friend took her young kids to have Santa photos this week. Poor Santa wasn’t feeling so merry and had a meltdown, yelling at the photographer elf that she was a ‘b****’ before storming off.  ‘Tis the season to be jolly tired old Santa (whose wife probably signed him up for the gig as a bit of fun!) 

I have earmarked the weekend before Christmas to go away so I can find a remote shopping centre to get this year’s photo. I can’t wait to see relief wash over Santa’s face as he realises he won’t have to pretend to be jolly to get infants to smile at the camera. I know the years of getting this traditional Santa photo are very limited, so I will treasure this year’s pic and ad it to the fifteen others that I have tucked away for safe keeping. It is quite amazing that as my kids get older each year, Santa doesn’t seem to age – he truly must be magic!

 

 

(photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net – I was going to post a photo of my kids, but given the extent we go to, to ensure no-one sees them getting their photo taken, I didn’t think my teenagers would take kindly to me uploading their photo with Santa)

CAUGHT OUT

Yesterday I had to take one of my daughters to her basketball game and left my 16 year old daughter in charge of my youngest two kids. My younger kids don’t always like to take direction from their older sister, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got home.

Well I must admit, of all the scenarios I thought were possible, this is something that I hadn’t expected.  When I got home the house was quiet, which is something as a parent you are always a bit suspicious about! I then located my eldest daughter watching over her siblings playing in the backyard.

It wasn’t until later in the day that it became apparent what they had been up to in the afternoon. I heard chords being played on the piano – chords to a song that my 11 year old plays all the time, yet this time the playing wasn’t as polished. I glanced at the piano to see why she was tripping over the chords and discovered it was my 16 year old playing. While I had been out, my youngest daughter had taught her older sister how to play this song. I was amazed that they had spent time together (without parental instruction) playing music. What makes this even more special is that later last night, my 11 year old picked up a guitar and started to play chords to a song her eldest sister had taught her in return. 

Every now and again it is heartening to know that our kids support and encourage each other, even when we don’t make them. It is so nice to have caught them out actually being nice to each other, when so often we see the petty squabbles over who got a larger glass of juice or whose turn it is to ride in the front seat of the car.

Of all the scenarios I thought might have been waiting on my return from basketball yesterday; I hadn’t ever expected that they would have been having fun imparting their musical knowledge to each other.  Sometimes something so trivial can make for the loveliest surprise!

 

When have you caught out your kids doing something nice for each other?

 

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PLACENTA BRAIN

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I want to know what happens to your brain cells when you are pregnant.  It is like they dissolve overnight, as if your body is so busy cultivating new life, it doesn’t have time to maintain it’s normal function. I think maybe it’s the placenta sucking all reasonable thought processes out of your head – which is why I like to call the phenomenon ‘Placenta brain’.

When pregnant with my first child, I had many times where I wondered whether I might have had a lobotomy overnight! One morning I awoke, poured cereal into a mug, put the cereal container in fridge then instead of getting milk out to put on the cereal, I got distracted by grapes in the fridge and found myself standing there munching on grapes, wondering why I was at the fridge in the first place.

Any time through my pregnancy, and for some time afterwards, if my brain wouldn’t function, I would simply blame my placenta head and move on.

The sad thing is, that it isn’t like you give birth and your brain cells return immediately. The worse case I suffered was a mixture of placenta brain and sleep deprivation. A dear, elderly neighbour came to visit my gorgeous newborn baby girl. My neighbour was very talented at porcelain painting and said she would like to paint a porcelain baby’s bootie with my daughter’s name and date of birth. My first thought was how it was such a sweet gesture. She then asked me for those details. I stood there, my mind blank. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what my baby’s name was. This was my adorable new cherub that I was spending every waking hour caring for and I could not think of her name. I have never been so embarrassed! I tried to buy time mumbling platitudes about how lucky we were to have such great neighbours and what a lovely thought it was. Then crunch time came and I had to confess to her that I couldn’t remember my baby’s name. The dear old thing told me not to worry and just to let her know when I could remember. Who on earth can’t remember their own bundle of joy’s name? I felt like such a bad mother and stood there hating the fact that my brain cells had been hijacked by the placenta! 

As my elderly neighbour said goodbye and walked up our driveway, suddenly out of nowhere, my baby’s name came to me. I opened the front door and yelled at her triumphantly that I had remembered my baby’s name. Relief swept through me and I proceeded to fill her in on her details.

Thankfully years have passed and I haven’t forgotten her name again. In fact, I call it out a lot everyday (she might say too much!). I have also mastered the correct process for making cereal, so maybe those brain cells have finally regenerated!

What stories do you have about suffering from ‘placenta brain’ when you were pregnant?

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

THE ROD

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The expectation of a new baby being all smiles and settling easy, is often quite different to the reality! All first time mums (myself included) strive to be the most attentive, sensitive, caring mother a child can have. I remember picking up my eldest daughter every time she started to cry and spent hours rocking and patting her off to sleep. I have all too vivid memories of lying on her floor in the middle of the night with my arm reaching up into her cot patting her in the rhythm of different songs whilst willing her to finally doze off. I wouldn’t even leave my daughter in her cot while I showered in case she cried and I wouldn’t be able to hear her. I would put her in her rocker and sit that in the bathroom within arms reach. During the day I would let her fall asleep on me, finding that I was too scared that if I moved and put her to bed I would have to re-settle her all over again. I was literally trapped and immobilised by my little bundle of joy.

What I realised (all too late) was that I had created a rod for my own back. All humans are creatures of habit. Just as I like a cup of tea first thing in the morning, she liked to fall asleep on me. The other epiphany I had was that crying doesn’t hurt babies – in fact it makes them tired. As long as you know they aren’t hurt, have been fed and burped and have a dry nappy then they are crying just to whinge. 

Babies need to learn to settle themselves, which if you constantly do it for them, they will expect anytime (day or night) that it is your duty to get them to sleep. You need to give them a dedicated sleeping spot that is preferably dark and quiet and leave them to doze. It is always best if you have them in a routine so they know that they are expected to sleep, but that isn’t always possible. My poor son, as the fourth child, did a lot of his sleeping in the car as I drove his sisters to and from school and other activities. I did however always try to allow him at least one sleep at home during the day to keep up the routine.

So my advice to any new mother’s out there is that although hearing your baby wail is heartbreaking, it will make life easier for you in the long run to let them cry. There is still plenty of time in the day for special cuddles and bonding. You will find that if your baby learns to settle themselves, you will actually have time for yourself as opposed to hours spent pinned under a sleeping child.

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

MANAGING CHAOS

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I, like many of you out there, manage a few of my kids sporting teams. It’s funny how a room goes silent when there is the question put out as to who would like to nominate themselves for this role. I think in this world there are the doers and the whiners (have you ever noticed that the parents that whine the loudest about the way things are being done are the ones that don’t offer to do anything themselves?) The other thing that I’ve noticed is that once you put your hand up to help, you are then forever more stuck in that role. I naively thought the first time I offered to take on managing a team that it would be passed around to all the parents, but alas years on, I’m still in the same role.

I don’t mind the texting to co-ordinate everyone or dealing with the governing association for that sport – what I can’t stand is being in charge of subbing players on and off the field/court. No matter what I’ve done in the past, someone has complained that it’s not been fair to their child. I tried doing it alphabetically to make sure everyone had their turn but the mother of the little girl whose name was at the start of the list took offence to this method, so I changed to subbing the kids off in order of their jersey number, until one of the dads complained that it kept our two best players off at the same time. Add to that the grief from the child that just doesn’t want to come off the field. Some days I just feel like pulling my hair out!

So I was ecstatic this week when someone told me about a phone app that does all the hard work for you – all my wishes have come true! For all you parents who are coaches/managers do yourself a favour and download ‘FairCoach’ (I’m not paid to endorse this app – I am genuinely thrilled to have found it). It allows you to mark off which kids are present, set the format for the game (halves, quarters etc), set the time of the game and then it spits out which children are to come off at what exact time. It even allows you shuffle the players so it changes week by week – Hallelujah!

I used it for the first time last night at my son’s basketball and it was great – any time a kid moaned about it not being their turn, I could just say ‘the phone app says it is your turn’ and that shut them up. I love when technology makes your life easier in the most unexpected ways. Now if someone could just design an app that could drive the kids to their sport and wash their uniforms after, then life would be truly perfect!

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

REWARD SCHEMES

If there is one thing I can say with certainty, it is that not all kids respond the same to reward schemes and even if you find one that works, it won’t necessarily remain working for your kids.

I have tried every type of scheme I can think of. Some of the most memorable ones have been:

Sticker Chart

When my kids were little, it was a great way to reward them for good behaviour. However, there are two problems with this system: a) I would forget to update it when we got home and b) you can’t pull stickers off the chart when they don’t behave. For example is it okay to reward them for brushing their teeth and making their bed, when they have just hit their sibling for stealing a toy?

$100 Disney Money      

We had planned a trip to Disneyland with our kids, so I set up an incentive scheme for spending money. I gave them each a chart with $100 ‘Disney’ money. Each time they did something that was wrong they lost $1. Whatever was left at the end of the month they got to spend at Disneyland. One child ended up with nothing, one with $5, one with $75 and one with $90. The thing is, the one that doesn’t need an incentive to behave received a lot of money and the ones that the scheme was intended to incentivize, ended up with nothing.

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Jellybean Jars

I bought each child their own coloured jar and each time they were good they got a jellybean put in their jar, each time they were bad they lost a jelly bean. I figured this would give them a visual and tasty reward for good behaviour. Once again, one kid practically ended up in a sugar coma from so many jellybeans whilst another got none. It seemed unfair to continue this scheme when it obviously wasn’t having its desired effect for my youngest kids. They would even occasionally open someone else’s jar and eat their jellybeans, which meant they then lost any jellybeans they had earned. All in all, it was too hard to monitor.

Iphone App

This has worked well for us as I always have my phone nearby and can instantly add or take away stars as required. It can be customised to include chores appropriate for that child and the rewards can also be customised – my son may get Pokemon cards, whilst my daughter may get jewellery. The app I use is called iRewardChart, but there plenty of them on the market that do the same job. 

A girlfriend was telling me what is working for her at the moment is bribing her son with time to work on his ‘village’ in some game he plays. Each day he knows he will be allowed to have screen time once all his chores are done. He is so motivated by this that he is dressed and ready for school in a flash so that he can ‘save his village’. Obviously this is working a treat for my friend because her son is so invested in this game. I guess the key is that this can work for any game, sport etc if the child is passionate and motivated by it.

The main thing is to keep your mind open to any concept that you think will work with your kids. Then try them out and if they work that’s great; if they don’t, then try something else.  Even re-trying reward schemes that haven’t worked previously can be useful as kids change and may be more receptive than in the past.

Good luck. You deserve a gold star for trying!

 

Let me know what you have tried and if it was successful. It may help inspire another parent to come up with an incentive scheme for their kids. 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

HIGHLIGHTS

I have noticed in the Twittersphere that there is a lot of hype around Thanksgiving at this time of year. Obviously in Australia we don’t celebrate this holiday, however our family has its own tradition when we sit around the dinner table.

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I used to ask the kids what they had done at school that day and the response was normally ‘nothing much’, leaving me wondering why we were paying private school fees for them to sit around all day. We then introduced ‘highlights’ to our dinner routine, where each person around the table takes the opportunity to talk about what the highlight of their day was. It turns out the kids don’t actually sit around all day and in fact their days are varied and fun. Stating your highlight to the family gives each person a chance to be in the spotlight, as usually the dominant personalities generally control the flow of conversation. It also gives us an insight into what has gone on in the child’s day and to see what things they find fun/interesting/comforting. It also puts a positive spin on the events of the day.

My husband will often just say his highlight is ‘sitting down to dinner with his gorgeous family’; which is not a momentous occasion, but given he has been at work all day he doesn’t have a huge choice of events from which to choose. That, or he is tired from work and chooses the path of least resistance – sucking up to his family!

I have one child who often finds it hard to narrow her highlights down to one event and may list a whole heap of experiences as her ‘highlight’. Whilst we try to encourage her to choose her absolute favourite time of the day, I feel so blessed that she is living a life where there are so many wonderful times that can be shortlisted.

Every now and again someone will try to throw in a lowlight for the day, but that brings the mood of the discussion down. Whilst I’m always happy to discuss any issues my kids are having, I prefer to do that one on one and keep the mood of the dinner table upbeat.

So whilst in our household we don’t have Thanksgiving once a year to remind us to be grateful, we have daily highlights to be appreciative every single day.

 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

 

TRIGONOMETRY AND OTHER IRRELEVANT INFORMATION

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I remember as a student in high school, staring into middle space, wondering why they teach us such irrelevant skills such as trigonometry.

I mean when in the real world would you call upon tan, cos or sin in your everyday life? If you were truly flying a kite and it got stuck in a tree and you measured the tree was 50 metres high and you were standing 30 metres from the tree, would you really care what angle the kite’s string is off the ground? I think not!

In reality, I would either yank really hard to get the kite down or cut the string and walk away…..then race to the shops to replace the kite and return it to my child’s room, before they realised their mum has been out playing with their toys again!

So my whole life I have thought the concept of trigonometry irrelevant and a waste of time. That was until my daughter started studying trigonometry in maths at school. It was only then that it became clear. The time in your life that having learnt trigonometry becomes important is when your child is staring blankly at a text book and needs assistance in understanding trigonometry!

I guess the morale of this story is that no matter how irrelevant the things that you learn in life seem, maybe one day you will be called upon to dig them up from the recesses of your mind to pass on this irrelevant knowledge to the future generation. No experience or knowledge is a waste of time – you never know when you will find a time that it comes in handy!