31 October 2008

I'm Dreaming of a... Bright Christmas

By which I mean a fun, light, meaningful, colourful, memorable Christmas for all of us. Jono's first Christmas. A new stocking to hang...

But I've been doing it again - over-extending myself. I get growled at by my husband when he sees me starting to show signs of stress. "This is how you burnt out before," he warns me. He threatens to cancel all my plans for the good of my (mental) health... which I then vehemently object to, so I have to agree to take it a bit easier.

It's that old habit of doing "just one more... OK?" But all the stuff on my plate soon adds up.

I have sat down and made lists, recently, of all the things I have to get done. There's Dash's 6th birthday party, the Christmas Project and Party, doing stuff for Mr G's end of year mailout to clients, doing some Christmas stuff at Princess's kindy, planning my mum and dad's 40th anniversary party on the 3rd of January(!), and then not to mention Christmas itself, with all the decorating, gift buying, extra cleaning, gardening, and cooking.

Hmmm, that sounds like an awful lot. No wonder I am experiencing heart palpitations and racing thoughts again...! Oops. Mr G may be right.
I am going to have to do this a bit smarter. Simpler. I am going to have to make a plan and stick to it, communicate properly with my husband, ask for help, write things down.

What we both really want to focus on this year is enjoying the build-up to Christmas by doing Christmassy stuff with the kids, together as a family.

You know: baking Christmas cookies and decorating them, making presents and Christmas cards for people (grandparents, teachers, neighbours)...

Watching our favourite Christmas movies together (Polar Express, The Snowman, Nativity Story), reading our favourite Christmas stories...

Visiting the lights on Franklin Road and taking time to walk up and down together, savouring the festive atmosphere.

Putting up the tree, stringing the lights, wrapping all the presents before Christmas Eve so we can just sit and enjoy the moment, have a glass of wine, chill.

That has to be the priority. Everything else is going to have to come secondary to that. We want this year to be full of meaning and fun and magic moments. Last year was just too rushed. The magic of Christmas is all the special moments that lead up to it - not just the day itself.

So that's my plan, take a big breath, re-order my priorities and enjoy the moment.

30 October 2008

Fireworks and Politics

I can't believe it's that time of the year already, November 5th - Guy Fawkes night.

We will be having a BBQ on Saturday with some friends and pooling a $20 box of fireworks each. It's always great fun watching the kids' eyes light up as they watch the rockets explode in the sky, (hearing all the "ooooohs!" and "aaaaahs!" as the Catherine Wheel finally manages to spin properly).

Dash had a hesitant start with fireworks - the first couple of years he insisted on watching from behind the window. These days he and Miss Fab are right into it, and twirl their sparklers with the best of them. In the picture below, we were sharing fireworks with friend and blogger Sophie and her family; Dash, a sensitive little animal lover, was particularly concerned about the birds! He was worried they would be frightened of all the noise.

I remember as a kid, climbing onto our verandah roof in Grey Lynn to watch our neighbours' fireworks display. I must have been 6 or 7 years old, and I can still picture the sight of hundreds of sky-rockets going up all over central Auckland.

Mr G has memories of "Bonfire Night" in Newcastle when he was growing up. Neighbourhood kids would collect fuel for a huge bonfire in the middle of the street which would sometimes burn all night. They also did "Penny for the Guy", making an efigy of Guy Fawkes and collecting money off people, then burning it on the bonfire. Fun as a kid - but quite gruesome when you think what it was all about.

In 1570 Guy Fawkes and some others tried to blow up the British Parliament. Guy got caught with the gunpowder and was hung, drawn and quartered as a result. Back then, people didn't get a chance to vote and have their say about how their country was run.

Thank goodness we do now.

There's an election coming up very soon, and I have been reluctant to put anything here on my blog about it, as politics is not what I am all about.

However, since the chance to vote and freedom of speech are part of the priviliege of living in a democracy, and since the outcome of the election will have repercussions on the freedom we have to raise our children, I have decided to just put out this quote by Helen Clark, our NZ Prime Minister. It shocked me when I read it and I thought you may like to read how she views us as mothers:

"I have never had any intention of having a child. I definitely see children as destroying my lifestyle. It's inconceivable that I would become pregnant. I realise my attitude is unusual, but I have other interests which crowd out everything else, and I think i would go round the bend if my small amount of spare time was taken up by children. I was able to develop as a professional person with no breaks in career... I wasn't caught in the trap of the young bride who seems to stop maturing when her kids are born." Helen Clark, in her Essay in Virginia Myers' Head and Shoulders, published in 1986

Food for thought? I myself find it hard to understand how somebody who seems so personally "anti-kids" can lead our country and make decisions and laws which affect the way we raise our children. She also appears to have a rather dim view of motherhood!

In my view, far from stopping maturing when we have children, it seems to me that's when we actually start to grow up, learn to put others' first instead of following our own whims, and discover what life is really all about.
And the job we do as mothers is so important! No child-care worker in the world can do what we do, the way we do it, no matter how clever or qualified they may be.

So don't forget to vote this Election, and I hope you will use your vote to choose representatives who will value and appreciate the job we do as mothers. That's all I want to say about that!

(I have just added in some pictures from our BBQ on Saturday - we did
manage to scrape together a few fireworks people had stashed
from last year. We all had lots of fun... phew!)
Click here to read Gail's Account of our Fireworks Party
25 October 2008

"Tea with the Ladies"

Have you ever seen Little Britain?? I don't know whether I should admit publicly that we have (it's a bit crass)! There is a particular sketch on it where two blokes who think they are ladies go into some posh TeaRooms and have "a nice cup of tea with the ladies" (click here to see it)

The particularly poncey way they said it seems to have stuck in our family's vocabulary...

Now, whenever we have cups of tea together, the kids crack up at the funny way daddy is talking; we all talk posh and have tea with the ladies.

Making a pot of tea and sitting down together after Dash gets home from school, or on a Saturday morning, has become a regular feature. Of course the kids' tea is mostly milk, but they love it. And they love the conversation. We talk about the kids' days, and life in general.

Funny what comes up over the teacups.

This morning we were having a nice Saturday family Breakfast and somehow got onto getting married.

Mr G was telling the kids how clever I am for making such a nice breakfast, and that Dash and Miss Fab should marry someone clever and kind, not just good looking (fatherly wisdom for the future).

Miss Fab has a little friend at kindy who is a very sweet boy and who she says she will marry one day (unbeknown to him, I think!) Let's call him "Desley".

She says, "Well, I think Desley is very clever. He does want to be a superhero when he grows up not just work in an office. But when we practice being mums and dads in the family corner, he is just awesome. He doesn't run away or anything!"

Honest, that's word for word what she said! Sometimes it's very hard to keep a straight face!

Last Saturday we fancied Devonshire Teas. So I made these lovely cream and jam scones. Mmmmmm. Cups of tea (from the pot) with the ladies. Lovely!

Devonshire Teas (with the Ladies)

3 cups Plain flour
6 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g butter
1 cup of milk, approximately

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Rub in the butter so it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the milk and mix quickly with a knife. Knead a little bit.
Press flat until about 2cm thick. Cut out circles with a glass. Place circles of scone dough onto a floured oven tray (or baking papered). Brush tops with a little extra milk. Bake at 2200c for 10 mins or until golden brown. Makes 12.

Serve with strawberry jam and whipped cream, and a pot of Tea. Superb, dahling!!

24 October 2008

Christmas Project: Ticking Along

Our family Christmas project is coming along slowly but surely. I have had a very enthusiastic email from Andrew at Tear Fund offering ideas and support - they are so great to deal with there! They really have that personal touch; you don't get the feeling you are dealing with a machine.

The kids are slowly filling up their chart of earnings from their special chores. There have been some changes on the employment front - Princess is now on her third career; folding the washing lasted a week; I re-thought it and offered her a switch, because it's a huge job! She did very well at it though, and insisted on doing it all herself. I was so impressed.

Her next job was setting the table. Dash has kept up with taking out the recycling but this morning asked for a change; so now Princess has taken over recycling and Dash is going to have a go at unloading the dishwasher.

They get $2 a week each for completing their special chores, which will add up to $22 each by the week of our Christmas Party.

Natalie from Tear Fund also sent me a bunch of Gift for Life catalogues for our party invitees.

My idea was that if taking on a time-consuming family project was too much, our friends could pick something from the catalogue and work on something smaller with their kids. The point was to get our kids thinking about helping others at Christmas so the amount isn't what's important. As they say "it's the thought that counts"!

You can get a batch of chicks for $12, a pig for $45 or a goat for $50. Bargain!

We have made 6 complete packs of collage cards which my mum and her friend are buying; I have designed a special batch of cards for Grandma in England, with the kids dressed as Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. She wants 40 plus maybe more. That gives us $70 profit so far, plus what the kids are earning, we stand at about $114.

I have also listed some of my party invitation designs on TradeMe and will put any proceeds towards Watoto.

I still want to do a lemonade stand, maybe hook up with a couple of our neighbour families - I think it would be lots of fun to do that together. My friend Nic gave me the recipe we used at the Kindy gala for delicious Old Fashioned Lemonade. I will post it below.

Now I have to start thinking about the party itself, which all of a sudden doesn't seem so far off!

I sent a pre-invite to a bunch of friends and neighbours, and we have 8 families confirmed.

I am trying to get hold of some haybales for the party; as seating and to create that "barn" feeling. If you know anyone in the Auckland area who may be able to help out with that, please email me! I need about 10-15 at least. (greatfun4kids@live.com)

Andrew from Tear Fund has offered a DVD to play and show people what it's all about, which I will set up to run somewhere. The party will be outside, a relaxed BBQ; I'll string up lots of lights, put up a big outdoor tree and get everyone to bring/make a decoration for it showing what their project has been. Mr G will do his Santa thing (he's great at it) with some crazy games for the kids, we'll chill out, eat drink and be merry to my extensive collection of Christmas music. Maybe I can bribe people to come dressed up this year? I'm thinking "Christmas Story" theme - hey there's great scope there and very easy costumes! Wise Men, shepherds, angels, donkeys...!

I am thinking it's going to be great fun!

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

    Serve with ice cubes and lemon slices.
23 October 2008

Rough Nights and New Teeth

We have reached a milestone in the last week: Scrag is now six months old.

Here he is on his six-month birthday; daddy offered free donkey-rides for all!

And to celebrate further, Scrag and I have spent a lot of time together ever since - mostly during the night or the wee small hours of the morning. There has been a lot of shushing and cuddling and walking up and down - not to mention tears (his and mine).
It's come as a bit of a shock actually! He was such a happy little chap, that I have been completely bowled over by this sudden change in the weather!

I mean, it's not that he slept through the night as such, but even as a newborn he would only wake me once. I forgot that newborns usually induce bone-shattering levels of weariness and a grey fog that could be mistaken for early morning mist, but is actually from trying to see out of eyes which are too red and dry to open properly.

I have been so spoilt. But in the middle of Tuesday night, after being woken for the 5th time between 12am and 3am for several nights running, I lay awake with thoughts racing (like the bad old days) feeling like I was sinking down an old familiar mine-shaft.

I prodded Mr G and said, "This is dangerous ground for me. It's not just tiredness. This could really put me in a bad place."
I seriously do not want to head back down that road. Tiredness has been a trigger for me in the past (with depression).

The next morning I thought, OK, after the kids have gone to school and kindy I will catch up on some sleep, and then I'll feel better. I was so lucky Mr G was able to get the kids up and out, as I simply could not drag myself out of the bed. My body was made of lead and I felt like I was swimming through liquid when I walked.

I was relying on the fact that the small boy would be so tired from all his night-waking that he would have a good morning kip. Ha! Instead he preferred to stay awake and cry. All morning.

He wouldn't feed but acted hungry. He would be happy and laughing one minute then arching his back and screaming whenever I tried to cuddle him to sleep. But he had to be tired?! Surely? Was he still hungry? Had my milk dried up? Could it be teeth? Was he constipated? Did he have wind?? Who knew???!

After trying all my tricks and wracking my brains to try to figure out what the heck was going on with him, I eventually just had to put him in his room, close the door and walk away. To the lounge. Where I proceeded to phone Plunketline. Feeling like an egg, because this is my third baby and he's six months old and I haven't got a clue what's going on?!

Their advice was to go to the doctor and have him checked out (and let her know how I was feeling) which I did. And of course, Scrag was 100% healthy and robust, smiling and laughing at the Doctor (she called him a Scamp) but with swollen gums. Teething. But no dribbling to clue me in!

Ahhhh. A viscious cycle! He has sore gums, so he won't feed properly (or for long enough). Then he wakes up after only a short sleep because he's hungry. Which means he gets overtired. And so it continues.
My Doc prescribed him some phenergan to help him get out of the habit he had formed of over-tired waking; and now I am keeping him comfortable with Pamol.

Last night was a vast improvement (woke at 2.30am and 5am). Tonight I will tweak a few things and hopefully improve it still more.

All I know is that I simply can't function without sleep.

There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture! And there's also a reason God made babies so darn cute!!

So, happy six months birthday Scrag! Roll on Sleeping-through-the-Night. May it be soon!

22 October 2008

Spirited Kids Personality Test

A friend recently asked me for advice about full-on kids. I should know, I have a bunch of them, I guess! Rather than see this full-on-ness as negative a wonderful book I came across helps us to better understand our kids with big personalities and work with them rather than fighting them; enjoy them rather than being tormented by them! Here I have taken some excerpts from the chapter which helps to clarify where our kids fall in the range of personality. So grab a pencil and paper and take the test... you might be surprised!

Other Posts on Personality: Click HERE


Excerpts From the Book "Raising your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

"Even in the hospital nursery the differences in emotional intensity are apparent. Some babies 'squeak' when they are hungry. Others wail, their cries echoing down the corridor.
Spirited kids are born intense.... There's nothing wrong with the spirited screamer. He is temperamentally more intense. That isn't all bad. It means he is also more enthusiastic, exuberant, zestful.

Spirited children experience every emotion and sensation deeply and powerfully. Their hearts pound, adrenaline flows through their bodies. There is actually a physical reaction that occurs more strongly in their bodies than in less intense individuals.

They are not loud because they know it irritates people; they are loud because they really feel that much excitement, pain or whatever the emotion or sensation might be. Their intensity is real..."

"Spirited kids "lock in". If they want to do something, they want to do it now and can't easily give up on it.
The advice to stop a persistent child's cry by ignoring it is worthless, a frustrating joke. Although other children may be asleep within minutes of being put in their bed, this child can scream for hours unless mum or dad find a way to soothe her and help her stop.

...Persistent kids are committed to their tasks. If they want a cookie, they will keep coming back until they get one. They are goal-oriented, unwilling to give up easily.
...they are persistent when they are motivated and personally interested in the idea or activity. If it's their idea, they won't let go of it. If it's yours they are much more interested in what's going on in the world around them.
The world needs people who are persistent, but as their parent you can expect to expend more energy and skill to win cooperation."

"Spirited children are born with a super set of sensors. Although many kids can fall asleep in a room full of people, the spirited child stays wide awake taking in every sound and sight...

Sensitive kids also respond to emotions, serving as the family's stress gauge. When you feel the worst, they'll act the worst.
To the sensitive child, every experience is a sensory bombardment.
He sees, hears and smells things that others (including parents and siblings) might miss.
If your child is temperamentally sensitive, hearing, smelling and feeling things that you may not even discern, you can expect that food, clothing, crowds, noisy celebrations and other sensory loaded activities will easily trigger him.
Now when it happens, instead of worrying that he is being obnoxious or naughty on purpose, you can recognise it for what it is: his first and most natural reaction, a reaction you can help him learn to manage..."

"Not only are spirited kids more sensitive, they are also more perceptive. They'll notice everything...

Their perceptiveness can often get them into trouble because it might appear they are not listening. Ask a perceptive child to get dressed and she'll disappear, Thirty minutes later you can find her still in her pyjamas staring out the window at cloud formations or playing with the ball she tripped over on the way to her room...

The keen observations of perceptive kids feed a rich imagination... They'll point out a king's crown left by the strokes of the vacuum cleaner, or the letter B formed by the spaghetti sauce on their plates. They'll act out stories and design crazy costumes.

It may be impossible to nurse the perceptive baby in a room full of people... every time someone speaks or walks past, the baby will turn to look or listen, taking the nipple with her - it's a painful stretch!

If you have marked a 4 or 5 for your child's perceptiveness, you know that your child is engaging more of the world around her than the average person. She will need your help learning how to tune in to the most important messages..."

"Spirited children usually adapt to change very slowly. They hate surprises and need time and forewarning in order to shift from one activity to another.

You may find the concept of adaptability new to you and may not have noticed how your child reacts. Yet adaptability may be one of the major reasons why you and your child are finding yourselves in daily hassles.

It's the slow-to-adapt child who loses it because you cut his toast in triangles when he wanted squares, or you stopped at Burger King when he wanted McDonalds. Naptime, lunchtime, bedtime drop-off at day-care time and pickup from school time are all daily transitions that are challenging for this child...

Changing from daylight savings time is a hassle. A new season and the inevitable change in clothing may prove to be a major source of contention. Stopping a game in order to eat dinner can be a significant intrusion.

They are not trying to be stubborn and make life miserable for you. They need time to adjust...

Understanding how your child reacts to transitions and changes is key to winning cooperation. If your child is slow-to-adapt, you need to know it so you can help him prepare."

"Many but not all spirited kids never fall into a schedule on their own, leaving their parents exhausted. It seems impossible to predict when they will be awake, when they'll need to sleep, or when they'll be hungry. Irregularity can also affect how children handle mealtime, bedtime and toilet training; get up in the morning, travel; and 'prowl' the house at night. Getting an irregular child on a schedule can be a very frustrating experience.

Spirited children who are irregular by nature are not intentionally trying to upset their parents. Their bodies are not easily scheduled into a predictable pattern or rhythm. If you have marked a 4 or 5, you can expect to work much harder at establishing regular routines in your household.

You can expect a child who isn't hungry at dinner but is hungry the moment you put the dishes away. It's her temperament that causes this behaviour, not her disrespect for you. When you understand that, it is easier to work out a mutually acceptable solution."

"Many spirited children are energetic; however not all of them are climbers and leapers. Some merely seem to possess incredible energy. they don't walk, they run. They can't pass through a doorframe without jumping up to touch the header.

They fall out of their chairs at school and at the dinner table.

It isn't that they aren't paying attention or trying to follow rules; they simply have a need to move. A long trip in the car can be a nightmare unless frequent stops are taken to let this child release the energy pumping through his veins.

If your child is temperamentally energetic, you can expect that he will need to move. You can predict it and use this information to plan for his success."

"A group of spirited children will split right down the middle on this trait. Half the children will jump into new situations, which poses the problem of children literally jumping into trouble. They leap before they look.

The other half hang back, often refusing to participate; they may cry and throw themselves on the floor, kicking and screaming the first time they are introduced to anything new. It is this half that poses the greatest challenges for most parents, as our culture tends to be more supportive of go-getters.

Whether its the first bath, the first day at school, a new food, a new car seat or the first try at swimming lessons, many spirited kids don't want to try it and insist they don't like it. It is important to recognise this as a first reaction - not a final decision - because often, with time, the child will change her mind and really enjoy participating..."

"In spirited children, approximately half will possess a generally positive, happy mood. The other half is definitely the most challenging for parents. They tend to be more serious, to cry more, and to appear to be more negative because they are always offering suggestions for improving an activity.

Asked a general questions, such as "How was school today?" the  more serious kids will respond with comments like "boring", "dumb" or "fine". They'll tell you they didn't do anything interesting despite the fact they took a field trip to a radio station. They really don't mean to appear unappreciative or uninterested. they see the world from a more analytical perspective...

When you recognise he is responding because of a first and natural reaction rather than intentionally being contrary or ungrateful, you can teach him to be more diplomatic and respectful of others' feelings.

Now go back through each of the temperamental traits and total your responses. Mark your total on the scale below.

My Kids Scores:

DASH = 29 (borderline spirited)

MISS FAB = 37!! (spirited)

SCRAG = 23 (spunky)

As you can see I have no potential librarians in my brood! Our house is always noisy, often chaotic, frequently crazy.

Where they scored highly varies; Miss Fab and Dash are both intense, perceptive and energetic but Dash is more sensitive, Miss Fab more persistent. Scrag is energetic and loud but happy and mostly easy-going. Phew.

I wholeheartedly recommend Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's Book, "Raising your Spirited Child". This book has saved our lives and helped us to understand our Spunky and Spirited kids.

You can purchase it from http://goodbooksnz.com; free shipping anywhere in the world. All profits going to a great cause.
15 October 2008

A Taste of Summer

I'd like to shake the hand of the genius who gave us daylight saving at the start of the school holidays. Fantastic - two whole weeks to adjust to the time change; what a difference it has made this year! Someone give that woman a medal.

This evening was just so pleasant! It held all the promise of warm summer evenings eating outdoors, relaxing, playing and just enjoying being at home together.

As usual I had left dinner prep to the last minute and hadn't decided til after 4pm what to cook - hamburgers and homemade chips. Mmmmm... and since it was just so lovely outside, why not have our first al fresco dinner of the season? Brilliant! Unlike our ill-fated Indian Party, there were no tantrums or tears, just lots of playing and eating.

Baby Scrag was happy in his swing that we have hung up for him next to the outdoor table. Afterwards the kids jumped on the trampoline in their PJs (Dash has superman jammies - made for some cool photos!)

I like spontaneous best. So if the mood strikes you one balmy evening, here's how we made our outdoor feast...

Homemade Kumara and
Potato Chips

2 medium washed Kumara (skin on)
4 small washed potatoes (skin on)
Olive oil spray
Baking Paper

Slice the potatoes and kumara into 5mm thick slices, so they cook quickly. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Spray with a little olive oil. Spread kumara and potato peices out on tray one layer thick. Spray the tops with a little more olive oil.
Bake in the oven at 190oC for approximately 20 minutes. No need to turn.
When cooked pop into a bowl lined with a paper towel and sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Yum! These taste just like the store-bought oven fries but way cheaper and better for you. (Enough for 4 hungry people)

No-Fry Homemade Hamburger Patties

500g beef mince (lean if possible)
1 egg
A handful of cornflour
A splodge of tomato sauce
A splash of gluten free soy sauce (Tamari)
Salt and pepper
Roasting dish lined with baking paper

Squelch together in a bowl until all mixed. The flour and egg binds the meat together. Grab a handful and pat it round and flat.
Place in roasting dish on baking paper.
Repeat process until the mixture is used up. Bake in oven at 190oC for approximately 10 minutes or until cooked through. No need to turn. makes 6-8 patties (depending on the size)

Burger Buns: Burger Buns (you can use gluten free baps/buns for those who are gluten free). Split the buns and smear some lite olive spread or oil on each side. Bake in the oven on an oven tray for approx 3-4 mins when the patties are nearly cooked. this makes them light and toasty.

Burger Fillings: Put the fillings on the table in bowls for everyone to make their own favourite combination. Ingredients could include: Sliced tomato, Lettuce, Avocado, grilled bacon, sliced cheese, pickles... plus mayo, tomato sauce, relish - the list is endless.