27 August 2008

Getting Sorted - the Kids Bedrooms

I re-organised Princess's wardrobe and dressups yesterday; previously they were all stashed in an old cane chest which was falling apart. It was hard for her to find anything and as a result she wasn't using her dress-ups much.
When she came home and saw what I had done in her cupboard, she said (literally) "Wow mum, that is not the same cupboard... that is Fantastic!" (I didn't know she knew that word). And then she gave me a big hug and said, "You're the best mummy in the world!" Ohhh, that just made it all worth it!

Best of all, she is doing a great job of putting her things away, without any help. She has also been playing dressups and using her dolls clothes, which she hadn't played with in ages.

I am not really a naturally organised person, I don't enjoy picking up kids' toys 10 times a day, and I get really tired of nagging them to do it as well. So I have found the best way to avoid the nagging and the endless picking up of toys, is to get a bit more organised!

It's great having the kids take responsibility for their own things (one day their spouses will thank me). Dash and Princess have been tidying their own rooms since Princess was just 3 and Dash was 4. Of course they needed a bit of help to begin with, so the easier I can make it for them to know where things go, the sooner they will be able to manage it themselves.
It's a bit of a mission getting a good system going intially, but it saves lots of nagging and bending later!

I had to invest a little on storage containers, hooks etc, but not heaps. Yesterday I spent $15 on a new dressup-box, $3 on the hanging basket and $12 on Command Hooks. $30 for a whole new and better way of life(!)

The first thing I did was ruthlessly go through their toys and do two things: (1) Throw out broken toys (2) Put aside toys they don't play with.

I involved the kids in this bit, and checked with them what they wanted to keep and what they could let go of (otherwise there'd be tears!)
The kids got given the option of listing their unwanted toys on TradeMe and getting some money for them, or giving them away to needy children. It was a good opportunity to talk about how some kids don't have any toys.
Last year Dash listed his unwanted toys on TradeMe (I did the actual listing, but it was his idea) and he sent the money raised (about $23) to our Tear Fund boy, Innocent. He was very moved by the idea that Innocent didn't have any toys at all. It was great to later receive a photo of Innocent with his new truck that Dash's money had bought.

Recently, Dash and Miss Fab sorted out some toys for a newly arrived refugee family with five children. I think it's fantastic that they want to share what they have with kids who don't have anything.

I find that if toys are separated into containers of "like" toys, there is much less mess to begin with. This is because the kids can easily find what it is they want to play with, without having to tip out the whole lot e.g. a box just for cars, a box for farm/zoo animals, a box for dolls clothes, a box for teasets etc.
It also means that they can easily see what they actually have and are more likely to play with stuff they forgot they had.

I made use of the space under the beds. This is usually a great dumping ground for mess, but after getting some rollaway containers that were shallow enough to slip under the beds, I gained lots of easily accessible storage space, plus it mostly stops things from being pushed under there and lost. I got the ones in Dash's room from Kmart for about $11 each. He has his train set in one, his cars in another, and blocks in another. Scrag also has one in his room under his cot.

In Dash's wardrobe we have put a big shelf that used to take up a whole wall. It's a great space saver, and will also keep his special things safe from Scrag!! On the shelf are books, puzzles & games, plus a TV screen (not hooked up to an aerial, just to the DVD player) and the kids' DVD collection.

In case you're horrified at the idea of a TV in the kids' bedroom, we have strict rules about its use... there's no DVDs after 6pm on week nights. For a special treat on the weekend or school holidays they can sometimes have a DVD night/sleepover on Dash's bunks. Any fuss about the rules will result in us removing the TV from the bedroom. It will never get an aerial attached because we carefully monitor what they watch.

These nifty little fabric hanging baskets are great for keeping all the annoying little things that otherwise just get everywhere. Dash has all his soft toys in his; Miss Fab has her "handbags" & dressup accessories in hers. Because they are see-through, they can easily find what they are looking for. They are colourful and super-cheap from the $1,2,3 Shop ($3 - $5 depending on the size).

Miss Fab also has another hanging shelf for her shoes and dress-up wigs. I put up a row of hooks along the back and on one side of the wardrobe for the dressups that are best hung up - capes and dresses, beads etc.

Hobby boxes are great, cheap ($6-$7) and colourful. In Dash's room his toy animals & movie themed toys are in his, and his shoes in another; Miss Fab has a box for barbies & little toys, one for blocks and one for dolls' clothes. Dress-ups are separated into his'n'hers (they used to be combined when they shared a room) and are in plastic tubs on wheels. Miss Fab's is full of fairy wings and girly princess stuff, Dash has the animal/pirate/superhero stuff.

After I showed the kids where all the different things belong in their newly-organised rooms, then I can just put on the "tidy-up song" and let them go for it!
25 August 2008

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

I was having a conversation with someone in the mums' room at church; she was worried because her 2-month-old baby didn't seem to want to sleep during the day as much as the "experts" recommended... but this little treasure was a great sleeper at night.

There was a resounding chorus from other mums in the room of "don't listen to that... every baby's different... wow, I wish mine would sleep at night like yours... don't worry, he's happy isn't he??"
It got me thinking that there's a lot of stuff we read in baby manuals, and even get from Plunkett that can put a lot of pressure on new mums, and cause unnecessary anxiety when their babies "don't do what they should"!

Someone recently mentioned that only 20% of babies are textbook babies - I believe that!

I thought I would write some of the things I have learned about babies that you might not find in books - for you new mummies I know are reading this.

Firstly... the best piece of advice my friend Val gave me when I had Dash (my first bub) was: Don't compare your baby to any one else's. She said when she had her first baby, she would hear stories from other mums about what their babies were doing (milestones, sleeping, temperament) and she let it get to her for a while. She felt the pressure and got anxious about stuff which she later learnt to just not worry about.

Now that I've had a third baby, it gives me even more perspective on the whole thing.

One thing's for certain, if you have a friend whose baby is textbook perfect, sleeps and feeds on the clock and hardly cries, while yours has you up through the night, can be heard four blocks away and you never know what to expect... believe me it's not because your friend is a "better" mum than you.

I firmly believe that babies come pre-programmed; their personalities now give us clues about what they will be like later on. And apparently demanding babies usually go on to be highly intelligent people! So the baby experts say. They also say that next time around you might get the sleeper while your poor friend won't know what hit her when her next baby won't follow the programme!

So remember: Every Baby is Different!

I now know this from experience. I was so pleased with myself when Dash slept through the night at 11 weeks old! I'm talking twelve hours!

Then I had Number Two... hmmm, try 11 months? And then she only did it occasionally. In fact, my biggest goal before Scrag was born was to get Miss Fab to sleep through the night (she was three years old!).

Dash nearly killed me trying to breastfeed him, Miss Fab was a dream feeder.

Dash was active and an early crawler and walker... Princess did everything a month sooner than Dash did!

Next: Beware the Breastfeeding Nazis!

Hey, we all know breast is best, but what they don't usually tell you at antenatal classes is that it can also be incredibly difficult and soul-destroyingly painful.

I remember trying to breastfeed Dash... and feeling horrified when I took him off the breast and saw blood ringing his mouth (!) I thought, omigosh, he's a cannibal!

It became so painful I would dread every feed. Not for me those soft-focus posters of mothers contentedly bonding with their contented babies. Nope, I had to bite my lip to stop from screaming when he latched on and sat with tears streaming down my face, wondering how on earth I could keep this up.

The thought of giving up was terrifying - the stigma! The sense of failure! (All that weight to lose!)

I was blessed with a very understanding midwife who took pity on me and offered me some practical alternatives. We tried nipple shields (hopeless), and then she suggested getting a breast pump and recommended the Avent Isis handpump. Brilliant! I was able to express breastmilk for him without pain.

I was so scared of the pain, and so determined he would have breastmilk that I continued expressing until he was four months old and I was getting RSI from all that pumping!

One day I woke up and said to Dash, "Buddy, today's the day. Either you take the milk straight from the cow (i.e. me) or you're going on formula."

Thankfully he went straight on the breast. What an amazing feeling that was, no pain. He seemed to have outgrown his cannibalistic tendencies! I continued breastfeeding him until 15 months, by which stage I was 20 weeks pregnant with Miss Fab. She was a breeze, breastfeeding-wise.

Then came Scrag. I didn't think I would have any problems! Hey, come on, this is my third baby, right?

He seemed to do fine in hospital, but once I got home, with no-one to buzz in the middle of the night, he stopped latching. He wouldn't suck!! My first night home from hospital, I sat for an hour and a half trying to latch him. In the end I went and got out my trusty breastpump, expressed a feed (which he sucked down quite happily) and went to bed at last.

In the morning my midwife (not the same lady as before) was horrified!!

She said to me, "Are you committed to breastfeeding?? Are you?? Because I don't think you are!"

She was worried that he wouldn't take to the breast again and I would get sick of pumping and put him on formula, since he was my third baby (what's that got to do with it??)

If Scrag had been my first bub, I would have been totally intimidated. It made me feel so lousy to be judged by someone who should be supporting me, but I knew that I could do it. And I knew what was best for baby was my peace of mind.

See, I know that now. The best thing you can do for your baby is be happy and healthy yourself. So you have to look after You. Because "if mama aint happy, aint nobody happy!"

I hope this has helped you if you are doing it tough as a new mum. You're not alone!
21 August 2008

The Good Old Days

A friend emailed this to me recently and it gave me a laugh (cause it's true!)...

"First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks some of us took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a Ute on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Red Rooster.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and cubby houses and played in creek beds with matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape or DVD movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms....

WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Footy had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all!

And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!"

It's kind of funny thinking about how we try desperately to shelter our kids from life's hard knocks, as if it were possible.

A pastor I respect immensely because he is a fantastic dad, once said, "Better broken bones than a broken spirit".

In other words, our bones will heal if we fall off the roof of that playhouse (Abby), but it may be a whole lot harder to regain confidence, if our mums are forever saying, "Don't do that, you might fall" or "you'll get dirty!"

What's that old saying, "Better to try and fail than never try at all?"

Sometimes I have to literally swallow my words when I see my kids doing crazy things like climbing trees, stamping in puddles, making mud pies, building tents in the back yard with all my sheets.... Because that's what kiwi kids do, don't we??!!
19 August 2008

Grateful for Broken Sleep

Last week I was privileged to attend a fundraiser, REVAMP, for a couple in our church, who's precious baby Jethro was stillborn not long ago.

It was a fantastic event, lots of fun, but in the middle of it I found myself crying, as I read Jethro's story in the pamphlet his beautiful mum, Misty, had written about him.

She wrote:
"For 9 months I have shared an intimate journey with my son Jethro. From the very beginning, he was determined to stay around. He seemed to have a story to tell... we went for our 20 week scan where we were told that Jethro was probably missing his lower jaw and had a kink in his spine. He also had a very tiny stomach... and could possibly have trouble breathing when he was born.

We could have ended his journey then... When I considered it out loud, my little boy (only 20 weeks old) gave me the biggest kick in the gut - and I knew HE had an opinion too. He wanted to
stay around and we knew we had to continue...

Every scan we had after that initial one, we tried to see his chin and mouth. But every time without fail, Jethro tried to cover it up. He had either one or both hands covering it up. He was even born with a hand in his mouth as if he had a secret. We loved this about his personality. Almost as if to say, "Don't judge me by this one thing. I am so much more than that. Can you see ME? Jethro knew he was loved and wanted.

I was so SAD to say goodbye to my baby boy, who I had such dreams for. I so wanted to believe the scans were wrong... This journey has been long and difficult in a whole lot of ways, but I have learned so much from being Jethro's mum. I have learned to love more intimately than ever before, and I know too that I am very much loved... I have asked "WHY?" Why is this happening to us? Why would God allow it to happen? I don't know why, maybe I never will. But my trust in God has never wavered...
Even though it's been incredibly hard and sad, I feel so blessed that I carried him for over 39 weeks and we had him for as long as we did. I know he is in heaven. And I know I will see him again.
Jethro has a story to tell, and now you are a part of that story. Our hope is that you'll keep his story in your heart, and share it with those who need to hear it."


Last night my own baby boy was unsettled and wakeful - I had to feed him every two hours. But somehow I didn't feel like complaining, like I usually would. Instead I felt so grateful; grateful for the chance to feed him and hold him, and wake for him in the middle of the night.

I kept thinking, "Jethro's mum would give anything to be waking up to him in the middle of the night."
Today I am cuddling my baby just a bit tighter, a bit more often. (I am writing this while he is asleep).
It's too easy sometimes in the midst of the busy days to forget how precious our children are, and how fragile life can be. Jethro's story has jolted me out of complacency.

I am grateful for my broken sleep.
18 August 2008

Fairy Party Menu

Fairy food is beautiful, colourful and decorated with berries and flowers. Try arranging it on tiered cake plates, for a garden party feel.

Use the pre-made ones from the supermarket; make sure you get the "nests" which have a little hollow for putting cream in. Put a blob of whipped cream and top with a berry (defrost some frozen ones. the blackberries and raspberries look best).

Use a chocolate cake mix and bake cupcakes in muffin papers. Ice with pink and white butter icing. The flowers are made with a jube lolly for the centre (but smarties look good too) and the petals are sliced marshmallows. Put white petals on the pink iced cakes, and pink petals on the white ones. Very simple, but look great!

Use the short pastry sheets, and roll out flatter so the pastry is not too thick once cooked. Use a glass to press out rounds of pastry. Line muffin pans with baking paper and press the pastry rounds into each one. For the filling mash up some frozen mixed berries (defrosted) with some strawberry jam. Spoon into each pastry shell. Cut out hearts and stars using the left over pastry and place on top of jam mixture. Cook at 1800C for 10-15 mins or until pastry is cooked. Leave to cool and then turn out.

Ingredients: Blackcurrent syrup or clear apple juice; Soda Water; 2 handfuls of Mixed Frozen Berries. Put about 1cm of blackcurrent syrup in the bottom of a glass jug. Clear apple juice can be used instead if preferred, in which case fill the jug about 1/3 with apple juice. Fill nearly to the top with soda water. Put frozen berries on top. The colour from the berries will tint the juice pink. This is such a light, healthy fizzy drink - that's also yummy and refreshing!

Cut the crusts off 4-6 slices of white toast bread. Spread with low fat spread and then cut diagonally into 4 triangles. Dip into a bowl of 100s & 1000s. Arrange nicely on a plate. Easy peasey.

Use low fat puff pastry; cut each sheet into 9 squares (3 across, 3 down). Place squares on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread with fruit chutney or tomato sauce & sprinkle with grated cheese. Cut 2 cabanossi sticks into slices and use for the flower's centre; place in the middle of the pizza square. Use salami slices for the petals, cut each slice into thin triangles, like bicycle spokes. Arrange around the flowers' centre to create petals. Bake in the oven at 1800C for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is golden and pastry is cooked.

Ice cupcakes with red butter icing and make white dots by slicing white marshmallows in half. The ones pictured here are from Littlies magazine, and they cut dots out of rolled white fondant icing. I think marshmallow dots are easier and taste better!

In theme with this and very yummy, I also had chocolate dipped strawberries. I melted a kingsize block of dairy milk chocolate in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. Then half-dipped the strawberries into the chocolate and laid them out on a sheet of baking paper to set. You have to work quickly or the chocolate starts to go grainy and won't dip easily.

FRUIT KEBABSHere for step by step instructionsOTHER NIBBLES
I also had a bowl of lovely fresh cherries (with stalks on), Fruit kebabs (see separate post) and a bowl of pretzels (don't they look a lot like butterflies?)

3-4 firm Bananas cut into 5-6 segments
Desicated Coconut, Lemon Juice
Marshmallows, Seedless grapes
Fresh pineapple cut in chunks
Strawberries cut in half
Bamboo skewers cut in half

Dip the banana pieces in lemon juice and then roll in the desicated coconut.

Thread the fruit & marshmallows onto the skewers in this order: 1. Banana/coconut 2. Grape 3. Marshmallow 4. Pineapple chunk 5. Strawberry (Don't forget to snip off the sharp end of the skewer before you start)
The banana rolled in coconut is a real tropical treat; delicious (and the lemon juice stops the banana going brown as well as sticking the coconut on)
Yummy yummy yummy, and a great way to get kids to eat fruit at a party!


Old Fashioned Lemonade Recipe

To Make the Syrup:
Rind and juice of 3 lemons
3 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons of Citric Acid
1.2 litres of boiling water

Peel the lemon rind off the lemons and whizz in the food processor with the sugar. (If you have no food processor, grate the lemon rind off and mix together instead).

Dissolve the sugar/rind mixture and citric acid in the Boiling Water.
Stir in lemon juice.

This makes 1.5 litres of concentrate which, once cooled, can be bottled and kept. Dilute with soda water for a fizzy lemonade: 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water (or dilute still further for a lighter drink).

Made up this way you will have 6 litres of deliciously tangy Old Fashioned Lemonade.

Serve with ice cubes and lemon slices. Mmmmm! A yummy and healthy fizzy drink for parties or anytime.

17 August 2008

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins are a stand-by favourite - simple enough that you can throw them together in minutes, delicious enough that you can serve them to unexpected guests or send them with love to a friend in need. They are our every-day favourite.

1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 mashed bananas
2 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 handfuls chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Beat together the egg, sugar, oil and milk. 
  • Add the banana and mix in. 
  • Sift in flour and baking powder. 
  • Sprinkle in chocolate chips and fold in carefully until just combined (don't overmix or the muffins will be hard). 
  • Spoon into two greased patty pans (or line with cupcake papers). Bake for 15 minutes or until the surface springs back when touched. 
  • Tip out when cooled and dust with icing sugar.

Enjoy after school with a nice cup of tea or take some to your friend who has just had a new baby (they'll love you forever).

15 August 2008

Deep Blue Sea (Pirate) Party

For Dash's fifth birthday last year we had a "Deep Blue Sea Party" - a theme that incorporated pirates, sea creatures and sharks, with room for favourite animated characters (Nemo, Sponge Bob etc) and of course mermaids, for the girls.

Being in early summer I anticipated a sunny day (as you do) and so planned whole bunch of outside games involving water and getting wet. The guests were instructed to come dressed as their favourite sea creature, mermaid or pirate and bring their togs as well. There were prizes given for best costume/best effort.

I made a shark pinata (click here for how to make it), found some great fish squirter "water guns" at our local $2 Shop and got Mr G to fill hundreds of water balloons the night before, ready for a Great Sea Battle.

For extra comedy, we dragged in another dad, a crazy Cockney friend of Mr G's, He and Mr G dressed as dastardly Pirate captains and set the tone of fun and craziness for the whole party. We called them Captain Hook and Captain Crook.

The pirate captains would each lead a team to compete in great fun water games. We planned a water balloon relay and a "Great Sea Battle", complete with Pirate flags and treasure chests.

Alas. The day before the weather forecast was for... rain!

Of course I stressed out big time, and had to re-think the whole plan to allow for wet weather. I decided to stick with the water games even in the rain, as the kids would be getting wet anyway and the temperature was actually pretty warm.

Instead of having the food outside I set it up in the dining room, using our blue Christmas icicle lights, blow-up dolphins and a tropical fish mobile hanging from the ceiling. A bluish "underwater" atmosphere was created very effectively by covering the windows with blue cellophane. It was very cool and was surprisingly easy to do as the cellophane pretty much clung to the glass by itself and I only had to use masking tape in the corners.

We moved the first couple of games under the carport, decorated with some big shark pictures, more dolphins and the shark pinata.

Captain Hook and Captain Crook were fantastic - they had as much fun as the kids, and held twenty energetic 4&5 year olds (mainly boys) enthralled with their antics. They threatened any naightiness would be punished by walking the plank, which made for some very well behaved little sea creatures. There was lots of "Ooh arrgh! ooh arggh!" and "ahoy there me hearties!" resounding in all directions.

The first game was a Buried Treasure Dig. We had filled a blue "clam shell" with sand and buried "treasure" in it. The kids each wrote their names on a coloured iceblock stick and stuck it in stuck in the sand. Then the pirates dug down and to see who had struck gold. It took a few rounds but eventually all the treasure was recovered.

There was also a bit of limboing (a great laugh, watching Mr G try to show them how it's done) followed by smashing the pinata (which worked really well, considering the grief I had making it!)

Following the food and birthday cake, all the kids got changed into their swimming togs.

We pre-allocated the kids into teams, making sure everyone had a buddy and there was a good mix of ages and abilities. Captain Hook's team had gold bandanas and Captain Crook's were in black of course (those dastardly blackhearts).

As it turned out, the rain held off; not that it mattered because everyone got absolutely soaked. We did make the deck a "safe area" for anyone that wanted to step out of the game (and the sane mummies). It was fantastic mayhem; absolutely great fun. There was no clear winner, but nobody cared, it was simply a great laugh.

The video footage is very shaky as the cameraman couldn't stop laughing. All in all, a great success and a lot of fun.

  • Click Here for How to Make a Shark Pinata
  • Click Here for my Kids Party Invitations


For the cake I made a great big rectangle chocolate cake in a roasting dish, and iced it blue with yellow at the bottom for sand.
I painted the icing with blue food colouring using a medium paintbrush after it was iced to give a watery look, and sprinkled some jelly crystals on the yellow for a sandy effect. Then it was easy to use jelly lollies and chocolate fish to make octopuses, seaweed and sea creatures. The decorating took me only 20 minutes!

Click Here for my easy One Egg Chocolate Cake Recipe

4-5 oranges
2 pkts jelly crystals, green & red
Plain white paper, cut into triangles
Cut the oranges in half and scoop out the flesh, leaving just the skin.
Make up the two flavours of jelly, but with half the amount of specified water; e.g. instead of adding 2 cups of boiling water, just add one cup. Pour the green jelly into half the the orange skins and the red jelly into the other half. Leave until firmly set.
Once jelly is set, carefully cut each orange in half again (i.e. you now have quarters).
Thread a white triangle of paper onto each toothpick to make the "sails". Poke into the middle of the jelly boat. Very cute!

  • Click Here for step-by-step instructions on how to make the jelly quarters...
  • How to Make a Shark Pinata

    I made this shark pinata by trial and error. There were a few bad moments where it looked like all it wasn’t goining to work but the result was worth the headaches.

    The trick is to plan ahead. You need to do three layers of papier mache, so allow enough time for it to dry in between layers.

    Start making it at least a week out from your party...

    Stage 1: PAPIER MACHE

    1 Large balloon (from party supply shops)
    2 cups flour
    3 cups water
    Newspaper (ripped into medium-large strips; small strips takes forever!)

    • Blow up the large balloon and tie the end
    • Mix the flour and water together until it makes a smooth paste
    • Dip the paper strips into the flour mixture and then plaster them all over the balloon until it is covered, leaving a hole on the top for filling with sweets later
    • Set aside somewhere it won't get knocked, e.g. the garage, and let the balloon dry (about a day). Repeat three times (three layers in total).
    • When the third layer is dry, pop and remove the balloon
    • If cracks appear after the last layer is dry, you can patch it up using duct tape or masking tape. This is what happened to me! I nearly gave up on the whole thing, at that point, but luckily my clever hubby suggested taping it. Brilliant! You couldn't even see where the cracks were after it had been decorated.

    Stage 2: DECORATE

    Silver crepe paper (2xpkts)
    Glue Stick
    Black Marker
    Red Paint
    Plain white paper
    Duct tape or masking tape
    Wrapped sweets (for filling)

    • Draw a wide opening at the round end of the pinata for the mouth and paint in Red.
    • Cut small triangles of white paper and glue round the edges of the mouth to create teeth
    • Cut a triangle of cardboard for the shark's fin, and one for the tail. Cover them with silver crepe paper or silver duct tape (if preferred), then use tape to attach to the pinata.
    • Cut the silver crepe paper into strips about 3cm wide (cut while still folded). Glue in strips all over the pinata until it’s all covered.
    • Draw two large eyes on the white paper with black marker; cut out and stick on.

    • Strengthen the edge of the hole with duct or masking tape. Punch or cut two small holes in the top near the opening (not too close to the edge so the string doesn't rip through once it is hanging. Thread a strong piece of string through the holes
    • Fill your pinata (through the hole you left at the top) with wrapped sweets and cover the hole with a square of silver crepe paper.

    Tie your pinata from a beam or a tree and have fun!

    13 August 2008

    Morning Rush

    I am not the most organised person in the world (as Mr G often reminds me), and the morning rush to get ready for school & kindy can be quite stressful. It was bugging me that I seemed to be nagging and growling so much - not a nice way for anyone to start the day, including me!

    The other day I thought, "There has GOT to be a better way..." We use The Macarena as our tidy-up song. I turn the volume up way loud and the kids scurry and race to be the first one finished tidying up before the song ends.

    Much more fun than all that nagging - even I was sick of the sound of my voice going on and on!

    So I had a chat with the kids and asked them for their input: What songs would be good for using in the morning to help us get ready?

    They suggested Hi5 One Step Forward for cleaning teeth and I like to Move It for being at the door with jackets, bags, shoes and socks on, ready to go. They wanted to stick with the Macarena for getting their rooms tidied.

    We agreed it would be a race each day to find the winner - who can be at the door first all ready, teeth brushed, rooms tidy? I made a star chart to record each day's winner and on Friday night that person will get to eat off the Star Plate.

    We painted the Star Plate together a while ago at Paint the Earth (a make-our own version of an idea from Parents Inc.). We still hadn't figured out a way to fairly allocate it's use, so it's been sitting on the windowsill looking pretty.

    I am the queen of mix CD's - I like to put all my favourite songs together on one disc, so I can play what I'm in the mood for (I know, I haven't moved up to MP3 players yet). So I put together 40 minutes of music - the first 25 minutes is nice calm stuff to help me in the morning. The last three songs, I crank up the volume for - those are the racing songs.

    Well, it went great! It actually helped me be organised and stay on track. The songs were great audio cues to tell me how much time I had left. For the first time we were all ready to walk out the door, rooms tidy, teeth brushed by 8.20am!

    Dash was so early to school we beat the guys who do the lollipop signs at the pedestrian crossing.

    No growling, no nagging - they took responsibility for getting themselves ready. Woohoo!

    A much better start to the day... long may it continue!

    Hey we did even better today... Dash was ready and at the door on the first song; his room was tidy and teeth cleaned without being reminded once! Such a nice way to start the day; I even got breakfast before we left!!

    Did have to nag slightly this morning - but only Dash, and not really about getting ready. After winning the race two days in a row Dash had grown a bit complacent in his winning ability and was stunned to realise that this time Miss Fab was the winner! She had tidied her room and brushed her teeth all by herself. A nice big star for Miss Fab!

    The Get Ready CD is now so firmly entrenched in our family's culture, there is no need for stars, stickers, or rewards. All I have to do is crank up these three songs and the kids scurry. Not only that, but when they have friends over I put on the tidy-up song and even the friends scurry!
    12 August 2008

    Sports Mad

    My oldest boy Dash, is absolutely bonkers about soccer - actually any kind of sport. He has been in a soccer skills club since he was three and this year is his first year playing for a club.

    I was never the sporty type and I used to imagine that the sports side of things would be left up to the kids' sporty dad - but I have to say that I love watching Dash's games, even if it means being out of the house on a cold winter's morning at 7.30am - on a Saturday!

    From the minute Dash wakes up he is in soccer mode, kicking a ball up and down the hall. Ask him what he wants to do when he grows up and he says "play soccer for England". Mr G is English, from Newcastle, and Grandma sends over soccer "strips" (team uniforms) for Newcastle United and the English team. It's hard to get him to wear anything else - I've given up trying to stop him wearing shorts all winter.
    Dash knows all the players' names; he watches soccer DVDs and copies the players' moves.

    Not only soccer but he also loves rugby - he collects rugby cards (from the Weetbix, not the chip packets!) and knows all the players names, their numbers and what position they play. He cried when the All Blacks lost against France (who didn't??) and refused to let me watch South Africa getting the trophy after they had beaten England in the world cup. He kept trying to turn the telly off!! Did I mention he is only 5??

    Recently when the All Blacks played England at Eden Park, I thought it would be a great thing for him to go with his dad. When would he get a chance to see them play each other again live - not for another four years! Mr G wasn't so sure, as it would be a pretty late night and would he hack it? He got two tickets, planning to take a client, but it fell through.

    "Come on, take Dash!" I urged him. So he did; and didn't they have a blast?! All rugged up in their Black gear they caught the train to the stadium. Mr G says he felt so proud walking along with his boy; the atmosphere was amazing, the game was great... Dash didn't stop talking about it for weeks.

    I encourage you mummies, sometimes we see things that the daddies don't. Mr G is so glad he listened to me and took Dash. It was a night Dash will always remember; it was great "male bonding", which is so important for little boys.

    I am a firm believer in not overscheduling the kids' time. They need time to play with friends and just relax at home as well. My plan is "one thing each" - Dash has his soccer, Princess does gymnastics (which is so her).

    I reckon if we nurture our kids' interest, it can become a life-long passion. Who knows where it will take them?