Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Toddler play, holiday boredom, etc

Hi all!

It's been so long between blog posts that Google got all hating on me and forced me to remember long-forgotten passwords.  Anyway, after trying several different combinations and cursing the ludicrously slow internet we seem to have today, I'm in.  I feel like I need a coffee to recover from the stress...

Here's some of our news - Amelie had grommets put in her ears just before Christmas, and I think while she was under the anaesthetic, the surgeons enabled the 'toddler' switch.  She's suddenly doing a whole lot of talking, shouting, laughing, and serious mischief.  Amazing what getting rid of a bit of glue in a child's ears can do!  Some of her favourite games of late are: 'Throwing All the Lego', 'Breaking All the Lego Things', 'Ripping All the Books', 'Taking All the Toys and Running Away', and 'Eating All the Stones'.  Great fun!

One of the perils of being a third child is that your parents are pretty much over the novelty of keeping toddlers entertained by they time you make your appearance.  Especially if you happened to arrive about 4 years after the last one, because now Mum and Dad are busy working, doing ballet recital or swimming lesson drop-offs, helping others with homework, or just generally vainly trying to find a quiet corner to hide in with a coffee and a book.  Things like Playcentre, music and gym classes just seem like way too much work, so they fall by the wayside.  There still remains a nagging sense of guilt though, so today I decided to temporarily switch out of 'Average Mum Mode' and do something fun for the littlest.  And also entertain The Bigs, who are probably spending far too much time playing with Lego or crafting with kilometres of Sellotape to be healthy, these holidays.

Back in the long lost days when I used to regularly do wonderful things with my children instead of relishing their ability to self-entertain, I had a love-hate relationship with play dough.  For one, it took a while to make, and while it seemed like such a great idea to involve the kids in the process, it was a nightmare of steps, hot dough, and watching your gluten-free child like a hawk to stop him eating it and getting sick.  And then it would go hard and crusty between uses, so you'd repeat the process, and then remember why you hated it last time. 

I've seen pictures of 'Cloud Dough' floating about on the inter-webs, so I thought I'd give it a crack.  It really is as easy as it looks and it has a very interesting texture.  Just like Ooobleck!

Here's how you do it:  Chuck cornflour, cheap hair conditioner into a bowl at a 2:1 ratio.  Slop in a bit of food colouring.  Mix and knead.  Done.

I don't know if it will keep for long, but as it tastes foul, it only took one nibble for Amelie to realise that it wasn't food.  It's also gluten-free, though that isn't an issue with Amelie, and Caleb is now (usually) smart enough not to eat it anyway.  On a good day.  It also smells great, in a cheap, nasty conditioner kind of way.

Amelie is not fond of different textures (she insists on shoes outside) so this stuff was a challenge for her initially, as you can see by her intense facial expressions.  She came around to it eventually though, and it kept her entertained for over an HOUR.  Yes, AN HOUR.  The others enjoyed it too, but kids being kids (or maybe just my kids...) the dough soon became Mt Everest, which soon became a volcano, that soon became a pony village, that soon became a troll under a bridge, that led straight back to Lego in the bedroom.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Pinterest says about us...

Like any red-blooded woman, I can kill a few hours at any given time on this modern wonder of the time-wasting world, but Pinterest alternatively leaves me bemused and disturbed.  I realise that clicking the 'Popular' category on your Pinterest feed is by no means a cut and dried way of analysing the state of popular culture and its values, but in a basic form, I think it can give you an indication of what's important to the pinning female masses.

Here's a quick summary of the world according to Pinterest:

* Get skinny.  Be skinny.  Beautiful people are skinny.  Skinny, skinny, skinny.  There is a magic formula to being skinny.  You just have to...  **insert any number of exercise regimes, tonics, diet fads or pictures of semi-naked skinny people in odd poses**

* Paint your nails in lots of colours and designs.  Because apparently fingernails are for looking at, and not for opening key rings, peeling sticky things and generally being useful appendages.  Who knew?

* Mason jars.  Enough said

* Recipes that contain nothing but 'just add...' ingredients are still classed as 'baking from scratch'.

* Men are stupid, untrustworthy and yet totally worth sacrificing massive amounts of time and energy to keep happy **insert endless sappy memes about heart-broken Daddy's Girls / the crucial importance of date nights etc**

The last one is really getting to me lately.  Women have spent generations fighting towards a world with equal opportunities for the sexes, and yet feel the need to tar all males with the 'thick and unreliable' brush.  I actually know very few men that fit either of these categories, and women are doing themselves a disservice if they wish to promote this stereotype.  It's telling girls that they can expect to be walked over by any male out there except her father.  It's telling boys that they don't have to own their behaviour.

What a crock.  I love my husband because he is human.  He works hard, respects others, is intelligent, and owns his actions.  Just as I do.  Stop the male bashing, because being a moron has no gender-bias.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The parenting battle ground

I've been writing this post in my head for a while.  Probably a few years, actually.  I'm potentially going to ruffle a few feathers on this one, and may lose a few readers.  Which kinda emphases the points I intend on making...

Motherhood is a really tough job.  It can be a pretty soul-destroying business for a woman with a history of improved academic performance and military precision in the classroom as proof of her success at managing children.  Babies don't tend to respond to intense targeted learning or behavioural programmes, and keeping a house clean and organised with even one toddler (let alone a preschooler or two thrown in the mix) can be like running a blender with the lid off.  It took me a few years (and children to experiment on - thanks for taking it for the team, Sophie!) to realise what mattered to us as a unit and how we could get there with the least carnage and as many smiles as possible.

I don't belong to a 'camp'.  I don't follow a school of thought with regards to my parenting, despite reading probably more than anyone I know on the subject.  Most sane people would rightly argue that I've wasted countless hours of my life reading about how to make babies do things or why not to make them do anything.  About the harm one can do by doing pretty much anything.  About how mothers must do everything RIGHT or their babies will break and have unresolvable issues for the rest of their lives.  Social media has become a battle ground for parenting approaches, and there seems to no middle ground.  One way is RIGHT and the other is WRONG, and one must adopt an ethos and stick to it.

I've covered both ends of the spectrum pretty extensively in my reading, and I've picked out bits and pieces from various approaches and methods that work for us.  We do some pretty way-out hippy-ish things in the eyes of many, such as baby-wearing (when my dodgy spinal disc complies) extended breastfeeding and baby-led weaning.  And we do some down-right dreadful things in the eyes of others, such as encouraging our children to self-settle in their own beds, and roughly routine-feeding.  Some days it doesn't work, so we do something else.  After all of my research, I've come to adopt an approach that my parents could have told me about 6 years ago - love and respect your kids, listen to them and be as fair as you can be in a life that isn't.

I'm always going to err towards a routine approach, because I'm not a spontaneous person and I like order.  That's who I am, and that's how we manage to keep our household happily ticking along the way we do.  Some people aren't wired that way, and that's fine.   Things that irk me, don't irk them, and vice-versa.

Sometimes my older kids don't like how I parent.  Pretty often they have suggestions about how I could do it better.  Sometimes we try their ways.  Sometimes I debate with them for half an hour or so and feel chuffed that in spite of doing everything 'wrong' in the eyes of just about every 'camp' out there,  my kids are able to think outside the square, solve problems and are confident enough in our relationship to question but (usually) ultimately accept that I have their best interests at heart.  Until tomorrow, when they might find another thing to take issue about.  And no, Sophie, you cannot have my white chair back in your room - it won't fit, we've gone there already.  And Caleb, I don't care if you choose to avoid boats, pools and every single large body of water for the rest of your life, you are still having swimming lessons.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.  And actually, the cat might quite like it, either way.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

DIY party stuff

Birthday parties are a BIG DEAL around these parts.  These Joneses and their bar-raising make me just want to insist on 2 friends and a visit to a park, but Sophie, being the social butterfly that she is, was grieved by this concept, so after much hand-wringing (mostly by me) and tears (mostly by her) we came to a compromise - 15 friends (or was it 16?  I lost count when it got bigger than 10) and a party at home.

We had a bit of a rugged week with a sick baby on meningitis alert at ChCh Hospital and a few other commitments, but we managed to pull together a few crafty bits and pieces to make it up to Her Nibs' standard.

Until now, I've resolutely refused to do loot bags.  I just don't like the fact that my kids pig out on lollies that get stuck in their teeth, hair and car-seats, then get grumpy when the sugar crash hits.  I also get slightly scowly at the expectation that every party has loot bags.  I've actually been told this by children before, upon a noted absence of loot bags on my kitchen bench.  Anyway, it seems I'm alone on that one, so I fell headlong into Loot Bag Hell with this party.  Only I forgot to buy bags.

I figured there'd be something online, but everything was confusing and involving pre-printed templates or else involved bad instructions and / or photos.  I really couldn't be bothered going somewhere to use a printer and cutting stuff.  I'm lazy like that sometimes.

So we winged our own, using square scrapbook paper from a regular pad purchased for next to nothing from The Warehouse about 9 years ago. 

Step One: 
Fold one side of the paper up about 2/3 of the way across, and glue edge.  Fold corresponding edge over, seal and crease.

Step Two:
Fold bottom edge up, creasing at fold.  This will be the base of your bag.  Ours was about 8cm.

Step Three:
Fold outside corners flat as shown, making a diamond shape.

Step Four:
Fold top and bottom points of diamond to meet in centre, creating two smaller diamonds.

Step Five:
Fold entire edge of bag in towards centre, then fold back the other way.  Do the same on the other side.  This forms the square edges of your bag, enabling it to sit nicely.  Unfold.

Step Six:
Tape the bottom of your bag.

Step Eight:
Insert hand into bag, straightening out edges and creasing any dodgy folds.

Step Nine:
Fold over top and decorate.  We used a heart craft punch to make a hole in the top, and used other paper prints to decorate the front.

We also made party pom-poms from this tutorial:

Quite a cute blog, actually.  I may have killed an hour or three browsing it.

My pompoms weren't photographed (clearly, I wasn't thinking!) but you can kinda see them in this pic.  And it shows off my fancy gluten and dairy-free 3 tiered cake, which I am ludicrously proud of.

And just 'cos I have your attention, here are a few other party snaps.  On autumn days like this, I can't help but think we live in paradise.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Changing times

So this morning I had an obscenely proud moment when I made the baby (now 6 months old - how did that happen?) a casserole, using entirely home grown ingredients.  I wallowed in my smugness for a bit, then realised that my grandmother wouldn't have found my prowess remarkable in the least.  I can just picture her face, actually, frowning a bit as she declared my culinary creation "not terribly exciting" before adding some salt or some other lacking substance.  The truth is, not only was she a vastly superior cook to I, but a much better gardener too.

Despite living most of their lives on modest sections, and wrestling with washing coppers and push mowers, my grandparents managed to grow pretty much all of their food too.  Might have struggled with the beef side of things, but I guess that was a bonus of having their daughter marry a farmer.  And although their garden was impressive, it probably wasn't *that* impressive compared to many others on their street at any given time.

When did buying our veges become the norm?  It can't have been that long ago. 

Probably about the time that we succumbed to the pressure of trying to make our children into concert pianists / Olympic swimmers instead of unremarkable yet content kids that climbed trees and read books.  Maybe when we started spending so much time working and ferrying ourselves and ours around in order to pay for our dream that we ran out of energy to enjoy the lifestyle we are working for.

Lets slow down and enjoy the ordinary.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2 years on from 22/2/11

2 years.  Wow.

At 12:51pm on February 22, 2011, I was at school, having just finished my day at work.  I was chatting to some children when we first heard, then felt the quake.  We watched the verandah do a cartoon-like warping wobble, heard the glass rattling in its panes and the continuing rumble of hundreds of kilometres of earth shifting.

We took cover under a doorway, a ridiculous number of bodies in a small spot and futile in any case, as the shaking threw us out.  I was told later that my vice-like fingers left marks on one child's upper arm.  Sorry about that, Sammy.

After the shaking ceased, we stumbled out onto the court, legs shaky, hearts pounding.  Staff wandered about in circles for a bit, unable to formulate words.  I think I verbalised ironically that I wished I'd updated my class register so that I could make sense of who was in my class that day.  Everything was bizarrely quiet. 

We all watched as a Year 8 boy threw the cricket ball he had in his hand, and magically, the spell was broken.  Games were renewed, play continued, as Mother Nature had not made such a rude intrusion minutes earlier.  With the toss of a ball, all was okay, and with bewildered looks, the call was made to let them carry on and we'd do a walk around check for safety and carry on as normal.  We assumed that was a repeat of a local faultline that had had a rumble a few nights earlier.

Apparently, parents began pouring in some 30 minutes later, some from ChCh, having seen some awful things, and the panic only then began to hit children.  I was gone by then.

My phone rang, and a panicked Steve informed me that he was okay, and was coming home.  He was picking Sophie up from nursery school on the way.  I remember feeling surprised that he was obviously stressed.  Steve doesn't 'do' stress.  I asked if was sure we needed to get Sophie, who was having her first all day session at a new preschool.  I was confused in my isolated wee cocoon 50km away from the ChCh CBD, that there seemed to be so much NOISE coming from Steve's end.  He told me bluntly that it was huge.  People had definitely died this time, there was a hell of a mess to clean up at his work, but he was leaving before the bridges were closed, keeping him from crossing the Waimak River and getting home. 

He tells of a long, harrowing journey home, driving over sunken bits of road, overtaking lines of banked up traffic and eventually getting to Sophie, where she was one of the last to be picked up.  She was totally unfazed, assuming no doubt in her 3 year old way that these crazy adventures were just what went down at Rangiora High School Nursery School.

I had returned to Mum and Dad's place, where a certain 2 year old boy was being looked after by Nana and Grandad.  Things had rattled a whole lot more at their 150 year old home than they had at school, as evidenced by the cracks in walls and fallen bricks scattered around.  The first aftershock struck not long after I arrived, and once again I was thrown out of a doorway, this time while holding Caleb.  I don't rate that as a survival strategy these days.

2 years on and so much has changed.  I find myself scoping out emergency exits when we go somewhere new, and if I find my children separated, I do a mental checklist of how I will get to each one and in which order.  I get the odd wave of panic when I hear a truck drives by, making that all-familiar rumble.  I have my own seismographs around the house - crystals dangling from chandeliers, mobiles in children's rooms - that tell me when it's real and when it's not.  We have a new baby, who will never know the old ChCh.  Our older two children know no time when there were no quakes.  They are just what happens.  They are a part of their day-to-day play, as are house fires, for an entirely different reason.  They talk about "When our house falls down in the next earthquake..." as if it's a perfectly normal, life event.

We are lucky that our children have no lasting effects from this tragedy.  Their worldview was so unshaped at the time that they just absorbed the event and its aftermath as normal.  We were lucky that they felt safe where they were and knew no-one personally that died that day.  The rest of us weren't quite so lucky.  Everyone knows someone that lost someone.  Or lost someone themselves.  Everyone got a taste of how precarious life is, and how no-one is immune to the randomness of disaster.  A loss of innocence, I guess.

What a two years it's been.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Felt food and gingerbread houses

I belong to a fabulous forum of very clever mums and mums to be.  They constantly inspire me with their craftiness and generosity, as well as impact my daily parenting with their wisdom and vastly differing, yet well-researched philosophies on raising little people.  Once upon a time, I naively thought parenting was some kind of innate ability that clicked into gear when you gave birth.  Um... nope! I love the way these women (and presumably their other halves) think about their actions and interactions with their children and embrace what they do, rather than just manage the 'inconvenience' that so many view children as.

They can be found here:

These lovely ladies have been so kind over the years, gifting my children with lovely handmade clothing, nappies and goodies, and offering an encouraging word on those days when I really needed one.

Recently, some of us on this forum got together and arranged a swap of felt food.  We all made mass amounts of something, sent them all to an organiser (thanks Kaz!) and she distributed a set to each of us.

Here's what we got - the tomato, cheese and lettuce is what I made.  Aren't they cute?!  Go on, make some.  You know you want to.

And here's what the kids and I spent yesterday afternoon doing.  Did you hear any ranting obscenities?  It wasn't me, I promise **darty sideways glance**

The children managed the icing and decorating well, using royal icing in a small snap-lock bag.  Much easier to handle for small hands than a piping bag.  We learned a few tricks along the way, such as the fact that 2 halves of a boiled sweet make a perfect stained glass window - one whole sweet didn't melt fast enough, and smaller bits tended to blend too much and burn.  Don't ask me how many we made before we realised this!