27 February 2009

Food Fight

Food, glorious food. Such a source of enjoyment... such a source of frustration and angst! Has there ever been a parent who didn't have at least one fussy eater??
Lately Scrag has started eating so many new types of food, which is fantastic. He gets to rub spaghetti in his hair, pumpkin in his ears and smear plum, peach and banana in every other available crevasse. It's a pleasure to see him enjoying his food so much, and experimenting happily with new tastes. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that his open-mindedness about fruit and veges will last.
Because mealtimes can be such a battlefield!

Dash is our Fussy Boy. Even as a baby he would gag over pumpkin, spit out mashed banana, clamp his teeth down at the sight of any type of pasta.
Oh, he would happily drink buckets of milk, and got through a kilo of weetbix a week. But try to get him to eat mince, steak, beans, spaghetti, even scrambled egg... forget it.It just wasn't worth the battle.
This is a kid with very plain tastes: bread and butter, potato, roast chicken, plain rice and of course Weetbix were the only food we never had to fight over.
Thankfully bit by bit we have been whittling away his resistance to new tastes and textures. He will now eat plain pasta. He manages to swallow down steak, peas, corn and apples. The other day he ate broccoli! There was some rejoicing, I tell you. And last night, we had nachos, a meal which used to cause some consternation because of all the lumpy bits (beans, corn, tomatoes), and he ate the whole thing without a murmur! Amazing - a meal without a fight. Woohoo!

Princess on the other hand: she is my healthy girl. She asks for fruit for a snack, declares broccoli and sushi as her favourites, tucks into salad with her meal; and requests a ham and avocado sandwich to go with her fluffy at a cafe (instead of a cake).

We praise her healthiness long and loud. We extol her vege-eating virtues to her sporty brother. "Wow look at your sister eating all those veges; she's such a healthy girl," we say. "Look out, Dash, in a few years your sister will probably be faster and stronger than you, because she's putting such good stuff into her body..."
We emphasised the health aspects of food and how fruit, veges and meat are what make you fast and strong - all things very important to our competitive fussy eater. Bit by bit Dash has started to be interested in whether something was healthy or not. On his own accord he has started to try foods he would previously have refused based on the way they look.

And I am thinking this emphasis on healthy food can only be a good thing. Our daughter lives in a world where young girls are bombarded on all sides with distorted body images, and an obsession with physical beauty.

Our gorgeous girl is tall and strong; she stands a head taller than most of the girls her age. She is muscular and athletic, but will never be petite. I want her to be proud of her stature, and confident in her own skin. I want her to make choices about food based on whether they are healthy and nourishing, not whether they will "make you fat".

Ah yes, the world of food can certainly be a minefield for us parents...

How bout you? Do you have battles over food?? How do you get your kids to eat their fruit and veg??
24 February 2009

Mental Health Day

I have had Dash home from school all day today. He's not ill, he aint injured... he just needs a day of mummy time.

The idea of "mental health days" was around when I was working, but we said it as a kind of joke, when we'd pull a sicky. Actually I now believe that prevention is sometimes better than a cure.

I tell the kids, they get one "pass" each Term for a day at home with mummy.

For the schoolboy it's not a free pass to play and watch TV, oh no.

We spend some time together working on school stuff; I get him reading and writing me stories, working on his handwriting, spelling. Sometimes we do baking together or go to the shops to pick up things he needs but mostly it's just a day where he can catch his breath.

Yesterday was a bit tough for him; he is finding the schooldays so long and the nights are still so light and warm, it's hard for him to get sleep. On Mondays he has soccer club so it's particularly gruelling after the weekend where nights tend to be later anyway.
Then there's the fact that he's been around people in a noisy stimulating environment for 8 hours, on the go.

Dash is a bit of an introvert. In the book "Raising Your Spirited Child", Mary Kurcinka explains what Introverts and Extroverts really are: its all about where you get your emotional energy from.

Introverts get their emotional energy from being by themselves. If there are in crowds of people for too long they will become drained and then unable to cope with challenges or disappointments; this can often lead to tantrums or bad behaviour in kids (and adults!)

Extroverts, on the other hand, get their energy from other people. They become emotionally drained if they have to spend too long by themselves without the company of others to energise them. When extroverts have to spend too long on their own they become like caged lions: accidents just waiting to happen. Princess is one of these types of kids. Her behaviour deteriorates if she doesn't get a good dose of social contact every day.

Dash on the other hand needs alone time in his room after a long day at school. Yesterday, he had gone straight from school to soccer and when he had to deal with a disappointment there, he came home looking like a thundercloud, thumped into his room and slammed the door.

I recognised what was happening and guessed the cause. Sure enough, I was right; and what Dash needed was some alone time and a little bit of TLC to calm him down.

I helped him into bed, turned on a favourite soccer DVD and pampered him a little with a snack on a tray brought to his room. Then I exited, reassuring him that his coach wasn't overlooking his efforts, and left him to have some "space".

About 20 minutes later I heard the familiar sound of the ball being kicked in the garden and the endless soccer commentary... "Yes! What a finish! It's a great goal for Stephen Taylor of Newcastle...!"

Ahhh, my little introvert had recharged his batteries and was now back on top of the world.

And a mental health day can only help as well - he's used up his one for this Term, I keep reminding him. Tomorrow it'll be back to school, but hopefully with a bit more emotional fuel in the tank!

Click Here to read more on "Spirit" and Kids Personalities...

I'm an introvert too. How about you: Do you do "mental health days"? Are you an introvert or extrovert? How do you get energised? What about your kids? Love to hear your thoughts...
21 February 2009

It Takes A Village

There's an old saying that goes, "It takes a Village to raise a child. "

Early on in my mothering days I lamented over this, feeling sad that, in these days of urban living and scattered families, "villages" seemed to be in short supply - let alone a nearby granny or aunty who could lend a hand to a struggling new mum.

A few years on, I feel differently. I still live amongst urban sprawl, my family is still scattered to the four corners of the earth, grannies and aunties are still in short supply. But bit by bit I seem to be building a little Village of my own.

It's made up of school mums, church mums, soccer team mums, coffee group mums and neighbours. Thrown in for good measure are some surrogate aunties and uncles, borrowed cousins (and the occasional Fairy Godmother).

When my third baby was born, I was astounded as night after night people turned up on my doorstep with meals, baby clothes, and offers of help. I didn't need to cook for three weeks!

I was in awe of some of my friends in particular, who came not with one meal, but with bags and boxes of them. These gifted and generous friends make a habit of spreading their good cooking around. They are the ones with the deep freeze in the garage, who cook extra and seem to always have something frozen on hand to drop off to a sick friend, or new mum. I am in awe of these Domestic Giants.

I have to admit, I have not always been the first one around with a batch of muffins or a pie, but I am trying to be quicker off the mark.

I have experienced the value of that seemingly simple gift of a meal or home baking. It comes with love. It says: Hey, you matter; I'm here for you; You're not forgotten. Inspired by the example of others, I am trying to up my meal-making, muffin-baking game.

But it's not just the meals and home-baking. There have been times when I've been physically incapacitated and have once again been blessed by my wonderful Village with offers of rides to school, play dates, sleepovers (and yes, even meals made).

I'm trying to make sure it's not all one-way traffic though, because "what goes around, comes around." I help you, you help me. We help each other, right? We're in this together my mummy friends. We may live in a very different world than our grannies did, where the village was just over the fence. But the old saying is still true - we need each other. Our Village may look a little different, but it can be just as supportive, just as real, just as invaluable. Thing is, it takes time to build one.

New mothers may be struggling with the isolation of their new role. Hey, reach out! Connect with others, even if it's online. Start building a Village now with muffins, meals, play dates, phone calls, emails, a card…

Then one day when you most need it, you'll find you have a wonderful Village supporting you after all.
20 February 2009

Blog Followers Giveaway

I know there's lots of you that read my blog although you are mostly too shy to comment - I hear from you on Facebook and via email and I just love getting your feedback.

So I am holding a competition for the next month to boost my "official" blog follower numbers. If you become a "follower" this month you will go in the Draw to win something from me: a Parenting book (your choice of the following):

  • Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

  • Growing Great Boys by Ian Grant

  • Growing Great Girls by Ian & Mary Grant

  • Of Course I love You Now Go to Your Room by Diane Levy

The Draw closes on March 20th and will include all my current followers (God bless you) and every new follower.

All you have to do is:

  1. Click on "Follow this Blog" in the sidebar and then complete the instructions; if you're already a follower then skip this step

  2. Leave a comment to say which parenting book you would prefer if you win!

I hope to see more of you following soon...!


The prize book is kindly donated by my hubby Rory's company RJ Graham Ltd (Personal Assurance Brokers) Thanks Rory!

19 February 2009

Mortal Thoughts

It's been quite annoying and perplexing lately, I just seem to be having one health issue after another. First it was my back, which left me unable to walk, bend or lift for long enough to be extremely inconvenient - especially with a baby.

Then I have been getting these funny dizzy turns where I nearly black out or faint. A few days ago this turned into constant dizziness, nausea and numbness in my hands, feet and lips.

Kind of worrying. Mr G drove me to the doctor and the whole way there I felt like I was on a roller-coaster. Did I also mention that sounds have become heightened for me? The music at church overwhelms me and if there's background noise I can't make out what people are saying.

The doctor thinks it's an inner ear problem and has ordered a week of rest and peace (hahaha), and then see how we are in 10 days. She doesn't think it's anything more sinister than that, but until I spoke to her I was freaking out quite a bit.

I mean, I'm young and usually in pretty good health. But can I afford to take that for granted?

A friend of mine had her best girlfriend pass away from cancer two weeks ago. She was a young mum. Another friend of mine's sons have good friends whose mother passed away suddenly after giving birth, leaving the dad alone with the kids and a newborn.

Then there was our own grandad who passed away suddenly at the age of 59, having been diagnosed with cancer only 5 days previous...

OK, Simone, slow down! Stop it, just don't go there...!
But I can't help it.

I keep thinking, what if I did have something bad? My kids are so young, would they forget me? I'm in hardly any photos because I'm always the one taking them. Most of the video footage is also taken by me... they wouldn't have much to help them remember me.

Could I turn my blog into a printed version, so they would always have what I wrote about them? They would have their first five years books and the DVD's I've made; the journals I have written...

Ahhh... do I even want to publish this post? I'm sure it's all fine, it's just my paranoia. But we never know how long we have do we? We just can't see what's around the corner.

I said to my hubby a few days ago, I want you to take more photos and video of me and the kids. I want them to see me doing things with them, not just observing and recording them.

In the end, the fact is that our days with our kids are limited. They grow so fast, and that's no cliche. Surely I just blinked and my newborn has turned into a 6 year old, a 4 year old, a 10-month-old. All those cute and funny things they do and say that at the time we are so certain we will always remember... don't they just grow fuzzy and blurred?

Fact is we are mortal. Our lives pass in the blink of an eye. Our kids sprout up and will be gone too soon out into the big wide world.

I want to grab them, hold them, kiss them and squeeze them, imprinting their feel and smell on my senses. I want to capture their every expression, their funny sayings, their milestones and misshaps to keep and treasure always. Most of all so that they will remember me, and know how much they were loved and rejoiced over, adored and valued. Just in case.
14 February 2009

Aint Cleaning FUN?

Today was rainy and a little chilly (especially after the heat we've been having), and the house was a mess... which I hate, expecially when you're stuck inside.

So I thought we'd try something a little different... a Cleaning Party!

I told the kids: "Righto, I'm going to put on some party music and we're going to dance and clean and have fun. Then I will make muffins for all the people who have done a great job!"

They looked a little unsure at first, so I put on Dash's Sports Party CD (which has lots of high energy songs) and started to sing and dance while I unloaded the dishwasher... they caught on real quick!

Dash got Scraggy dancing in the kitchen while Rory swept the floor and Princess tidied her room. Eventually Dash stopped dancing with the baby long enough to go and do his fair share - which left the Scrag to his own devices, and he thought he'd have a go at his room too...!

Oops, sorry Scrag, not quite what we had in mind!

Without being asked Miss Fab went in and straightened out the mess Scrag had made, even making his bed. What a star!

We got the whole house straightened out and had fun along the way boogying with the broom to Dubi Dum Dum, Crazy Frog and Ole Ole Ole Ole among others.
We ran out of time to make muffins before we had to go out, but a promise is a promise so I'll make them as soon as I get a chance.
I thought I'd have a go at making my cousin Trish's Lemon and Poppyseed ones... she brought them over the other day for morning tea and I have to say, YUM! (And they looked pretty special too)...

Trish's Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

125g softened butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain yoghurt
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup poppy seeds
2 cups self raising flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Heat oven to 200C. Grease 12 hole standard muffin tin or line tin with paper muffin cases
  • In a bowl beat butter & caster sugar together until pale & creamy
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  • Beat in yoghurt, lemon zest & juice and the poppy seeds.
  • Sift the flour & baking soda over creamed mixture and fold in to just combine into a smooth batter. Do not over mix.
  • Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tin and bake for 15-20mins or until muffins are golden. If you want to test to see if the muffins are cooked all the way through just insert a skewer and if it comes out clean, they are done
  • Remove muffins from tin to cool.
2 cups icing sugar
100g melted butter
1/4 tspn vanilla essence
2 Tblspn hot water OR 2 Tblspn lemon juice

Sift icing sugar into a bowl.
Add butter & vanilla essence.
Add hot water (or lemon juice) gradually until desired consistancy obtained.

TIP: try using a piping bag to apply icing onto muffins - Happy baking!
09 February 2009

25 Random Things About Me

Here's everything you never wanted to know about me... well, at least 25 random things that go some way to explaining why I am the way I am...?

  1. I was born in the suburb where I now live: Mt Albert, Auckland.

  2. I am the eldest of four children, three girls and one boy

  3. I went to 10 different schools when I was a kid - 6 primary schools, one intermediate and 3 high schools; the shortest time spent at any school was 2 months.

  4. When I was a kid I HATED silverbeet and brussels sprouts; I still can't eat them

  5. At primary school I loved gymnastics but mum and dad got me and my sister into Running Club. I hated it, especially the little shorts you had to wear (they looked like green undies); ever since then I have hated sport and struggled with exercise :(

  6. My favourite TV show as a 4-year-old was The Brady Bunch; I was in love with Bobby Brady; I named my first three cats "Bobby", after him

  7. My first pet was a dog called "Lassie"; she used to eat the clothes off the clothesline so she had to go. She went to live on a farm (or that's what they told me...)

  8. I never had much luck with pets; my favourite cat "Sooty" was hit by a car; my pet guinea pig turned up dead on my next-door-neighbour's front step; my first three cats (Bobby #1, 2 & 3) all ran away...

  9. The only time I ran away from home I was 4 years old; I went down the alley that was near our house and it started to rain so I hid in a box; after what seemed like hours I decided to go home; to my annoyance nobody had even realised I'd gone!

  10. I broke my wrist when I was 3. I was playing "parking" with our ride-on toys on our verandah and rode off the edge: SNAP! We lived in the country and had no phone. Mum had to wait all day til Dad came home from work so they could take me to the hospital.

  11. I went to live in Vancouver, Canada with my Aunty & Uncle when I was 16. I travelled the whole way by myself, my first time on a plane! I was meant to stay for a whole year, but they sent me home after only three months!!! Oh dear... (Well, I did refuse to eat my brussels sprouts). I've had the travel bug ever since.

  12. Before I got married the longest I had ever lived in one house was one and a half years.

  13. I was engaged at 19 (twice) to a guy six years older than me.

  14. Both my younger sisters married at 19, before me. I was the eldest sister and the last one married (at age 30).

  15. My mum and dad prayed for me all through the 90's, that God would bring me a great bloke; they prayed: "God even if you have to bring him from the other side of the world..." (and He did)

  16. I was Mr G's Bible College lecturer; when we first met we didn't get on at all. He was my worst student and he used to walk out of my class (boo, he was lucky to pass!)

  17. In 1997, while doing youth work for my church, I became an Ordained Minister; I never actually officiated at a wedding, but I could have! (I didn't renew my credentials so after three years they lapsed)

  18. When we got married we had nothing. Our wedding was BYO Food. It cost only $2000 (including the dress) and was largely put on for us by our wonderful church family - but what a fabulous day it was!

  19. Three weeks after our wedding we went on a mission trip to LA Dream Centre to work with homeless people; I had my first ever panic attack just before we left for the airport; thankfully we got upgraded to Business Class! Woohoo!

  20. The first time Mr G mentioned marriage was in a ski lift coming down from a magical day on Turoa; we'd only been dating 2 months and he said, "I can just imagine us married with kids; I'll have the two boys skiing and you and the little girl will be off having coffee..." !! Since that moment we always pictured ourselves with 2 boys and a girl. Snap!

  21. My first name is actually Donna. My mum thought my name "flowed" better Donna Simone rather than Simone Donna but she always meant for me to be called Simone. It has been confusing people ever since.
    Once I left my passport by accident at the check-in counter; they were calling out for "Donna Grace" over the tannoid and I didn't even realise it was me! (check out Donna Grace in her first passport photo)

  22. I once had to go to Court for unpaid parking fines; I was terrified and threw myself on the mercy of the judge rather than trying to justify myself. The judge took pity on me and ordered me to just pay the original fine; he waived the court costs. I was so relieved!

  23. I didn't get my drivers licence until I was 27!! I just kept putting it off; now I can't imagine how I would have ever survived without it.

  24. I am a bit of a TV addict; Greys Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Spooks, Seinfeld, American Idol, Gilmore Girls, and Friends are among my favourites. Sad huh??

  25. I am also an approval junkie; I crave words of affirmation and comments!! (oh boy, that's just tragic now)

Find out much you didn't already know?

05 February 2009

No Way, Sharpay!

If you haven't seen High School Musical, you probably won't know who Sharpay is. Lucky you!

She's the spoilt, selfish, mean girl (with a great fashion sense and pretty blond hair) who is the "bad girl" in the popular Disney movie.

It's a sweet movie, innocent, no kissing, nothing suggestive, just lots of singing and dancing... and Sharpay.
Miss Fab (age four) loves High School Musical. And I thought it was fine, no problems... until I woke up and realised I had Sharpay living in my house!
A certain little miss had been displaying rather horrible attitudes: smart-mouthed, talking back, selfish, spoilt, demanding, mean to friends and family, being extremely unhelpful with volatile moods - not to mention show-offy, wanting to wear tons of jewellery and honestly acting like a snotty teenager.

Mr G and I were racking our brains, where had our sweet, lovable, kind-hearted, generous (if somewhat feisty and spirited) daughter disappeared to? And where was this attitude coming from???

Then one day about a month a go, I suddenly saw it... She was copying Sharpay! It was all there in the stance, the attitude, the tone of voice - even the body language. Not the role-model I was wanting for my daughter at all!

I sat down with Miss Fab and had a little chat about it... "Oh but I love Sharpay; I want to be like her..." she shocked me by saying. "Sharpay is so beautiful mummy; she has such pretty hair and nice clothes...!"

I was horrified! Didn't she realise Sharpay was the one nobody liked? It's no good being pretty if you're horrible. You won't have any friends left! They won't care how pretty you are if you are mean and selfish, I tried to explain to her...

Like talking to a brick wall.

I mean, I don't know if I can blame all her bad attitude on Sharpay... but what to do?? How on earth to make it clear that this attitude and behaviour were not going to be tolerated??

Sharpay does not belong here!

We tried bribery, threats, confiscating jewellery, banning High School Musical, time-out, missing out on treats, praying (help!)... you name it. Even Dash was saying to her, "Stop being a Sharpay!"

It felt like nothing was working. We were worried. We wanted our lovely daughter back!

Then, overnight, for no obvious reason, Sharpay disappeared.

It's been nearly a week now and no sign of her. Is it safe to say she's gone?? I hope so.

I am completely mystified as to what we have to thank for this turn-around. A combination of everything? Was it hormonal?? A growth surge? A developmental blip? Seems that lots of mums had been having problems with their 4-year-olds.

Then I came across this article, in the Washington Post online. Interesting. Seems there's a few of us out there who are worried about the influence High School Musical is having on our wee ones.

"The pressure to succeed, materialism, an emphasis on outer beauty, narcissism, romance trouble and other issues faced by high schoolers may not be what draw young children in, but the issues are there nonetheless," the article states.

"Any hint of parody or sarcastic nuance is most likely lost on the very young... Consider Sharpay, the brash and popular HSM schemer who wants heartthrob Troy to herself and makes dark-haired, brainy Gabriella miserable in the process. While Sharpay may learn some life lessons on the way, her journey might be difficult for the very young to process."

Hmmm. It's sweet, it's fun, it's innocent in lots of ways... but it's probably just too much too soon. Let the teenagers keep their angst, their drama, their back-stabbing and cliquey groups. I think my 4-year-old will stick to Barbie and Dora.

Sorry, Sharpay you are simply not welcome here!
04 February 2009

The Joker (and friends)

I think this is going to be the Year of the Joke around our house.

Seems like any time we sit down over dinner, a picnic, a cup of tea, the first words to pop out of Dash's mouth are: "Mum, can I tell you a Joke???"

My six-year-old son has become a Teller of Jokes, sort of. His favourite one is:

Q: "Why was the man sleeping under the car?"

A: "Because he was lazy!!! Ha ha ha ha!"

For some reason the kids he tells it to also think it's just the funniest thing. They fall about laughing! Maybe because he tells it with such enthusiasm?

In the last week of the holidays we had a few playdates and sleepovers.

One was a picnic with Princess's friend Yazzy. We rode bikes to the park, set up our picnic, and then the Joke telling began.

None of them made the slightest sense, but oh boy, there was great hilarity!

It's the funniest thing seeing these three kids repeating to each other the same (made up) joke and them all laughing their heads off, as if (a) they've never heard it before and (b) it was the wittiest thing they've ever heard.

The same scene was repeated when Dash's pal JayJay came for a sleepover. The same joke, the same hilarity??!!

I was laughing too of course, but for completely different reasons.

It's kind of wonderful watching your kids develop their sense of comedy.