30 March 2012

Loving... NOT Loving

Crisp autumn mornings
Boys who do their homework without being nagged
Girls who tidy their rooms beautifully
Heirloom lamps with retro shades

Friends who bring flowers
Dressing Gowns
Bunny Ears
Second chances
Great writing {The Art of Writing Strong Blog Content}
Inspiring Quotes

NOT Loving...
Botched craft projects
Wasted ingredients
Ideas that don't work out...

(thank goodness for second chances)

29 March 2012

Stuff I'm Learning That's Changing Everything

Pancakes for breakfast on a School Morning??? This should be on the 6 o'clock news!
(If you knew how bad I am in the mornings, you would appreciate what a miracle these pancakes are.) 

It's not just the weekday breakfast pancakes, there's a whole lot of stuff that's been changing for the better around here since I've begun my Incredible Years parenting course..

I've already shared with you my awesome dinner planner and my new found play-ability.
Learning to play was the beginning of it all. Slightly awkward at first, I can now slip into play-mode at the slightest provocation. The increase in shared laughter and simple spontaneous games has begun to change the atmosphere in our home for the better. I feel closer to my kids and I know they feel closer to me. There's more hugging and kissing, more words of appreciation and morning snuggles.

Early morning warm-fuzzies can lead to surprising things... like pancakes on a Tuesday.

And playing becomes a natural part of life. See this pirate?

Last night he was sword-battled up to bed.
But only after he'd done what I asked him.

You see, I have been learning some other parenting gems as well. Some of them may be old hat, others might seem obvious, but I have been surprised at how effective some of these deceptively simple concepts can be...

New Magic Words: WHEN YOU... THEN YOU...!
This is my new magic formula for getting cooperation.
It works like this.
"Mummy can we have another pirate battle?" 
"Yes you can... WHEN YOU have cleaned your teeth, THEN YOU can fight me to the death (all the way up to bed)..."

Another example.

"Mummy can we watch Survivor?"
"Yes, WHEN YOU have tidied your room and done your homework, THEN YOU can watch Survivor!"

It may seem obvious to you, but to me this is pure gold.
Magic words that work every time, and take the fight away.

Of course, they may try to argue or negotiate. These are children we are talking about, after all.

"But muuuuum!! I don't want to do my homework. I'll watch Survivor first and then I'll do it, promise."
"Hmmmm... No. This is how we're doing things now. Jobs first, then fun."
"Awwwwww, not fair! I'm not doing it!"
"That's fine. No problem. You just won't watch Survivor..." (see how I calmly stick to my guns?)

Ten minutes later: Child is observed sitting at dining table doing homework.

It's a miracle folks.
This once spineless pushover mother has discovered her backbone.

Of course there is one other new weapon in the arsenal.

More Magic Words: Praise
Come on Simone, you might be saying, we already know this one!

Yeah, me too. I'm not too bad at giving praise.
But focusing on the power of effective praise has really been a great bonus.
We are talking specific praise, loud enthusiastic praise, and also (a new one) proximal praise.

Instead of a general statement like "good boy, well done!" we are encouraged to get specific about the behaviour we are praising. "Wow Scrag what a good bed-maker you are! You are such a big boy doing that all by yourself!"

Apparently if we give attention (praise) to the behaviour we want, it will increase, because after all, kids love receiving praise (don't we all?).

When we praise our child - catching them doing something good - they glow with pride and grow a few inches taller before our eyes. As a bonus, any other children within earshot hear the praise and want to get some too. This is proximal praise.

Watch how this works.
"Mummy come and see my room!" says little brother.
"WOW! You made your bed! What a beautiful job you have done, Scrag! And you got dressed all by yourself! Hey, you are great at being responsible! I am so proud of you!"

Pyjama-clad big brother glances up at messy top bunk.

Two minutes later....
"Muuum! Come and see my room!" calls big brother.
"WOW! you've made your bed and gotten dressed too! Great job Dash! And Scrag, look what a great role model you were for your big brother! Great bed-making, boys, I'm very proud of both of you..."

You shouldn't be surprised to know that little brother now makes his bed without fail every morning, and runs to drag me in and show me his efforts so he can get some of that lovely Praise.

He is three years old. His blanket is often lumpy, but I don't ever straighten it. I just sing his praises for all to hear and watch the rest go scurrying.

So with all of these warm fuzzies flying around, is it any wonder I felt awake enough to shake up a bottle of pancake mix and have a sit-down brekky midweek?

"WHEN YOU have made your beds and gotten dressed, THEN I will make pancakes..." I told them.

You should have heard the cheers and seen them go running. 7am and all beds made, kids dressed, pancakes frying. Scrag was my pancake helper, pouring the batter and greasing the pan.
Miss Fab set the table beautifully. Dash...? Well, at least he was dressed and had made his bed.

Daddy came home from the gym (he's always an early riser) and couldn't believe his eyes. Pancakes on a school-day morning? Lunchboxes made, kids dressed, beds made...all before 8 o'clock????!!!

Yep, miracles do happen, occasionally.
Can't say pancakes will be a regular thing.
But Playing and Praising are here to stay.

28 March 2012

WW: Eating Snails

Photos from "Kids go Wild" - a fun afternoon we ran in our backyard for 8&9 year olds,
based on Dash's awesome Boy vs Wild Party.

 then, she {snapped}
27 March 2012


Lyrical confusion runs in our family.
Mr G tells the story of how for years he thought Frankie Goes to Hollywood couldn't do maths, because he heard "Two Tribes Go to War" as "Two Times Three is Four".

So I shouldn't be surprised when my kids went around singing Reece Mastin's version* of "I kissed a girl and I liked it" with their version of the lyrics saying "...taste of her cherry chopsticks."

"Mum what's cherry chopsticks?" Dash asked me.
"Hehe, it's not chopsticks, it's chapstick!"
"Oh well, what's chapstick?"
"It's like lip balm..."
"Oh!" says Dash. "I thought it was like this... I go into a sushi shop... I get my sushi... I eat my sushi... I put my chopsticks in my mouth... MMMmmmm! CHERRY CHOPSTICKS!!!"

I like his version better.


*NOTE: Katy Perry's version of the song just confuses my innocent children. The idea that a girl would kiss another girl just never enters their heads. Miss Fab is sure that a boy wrote the song and Katy's just singing it. But then she gets worried about why the boy would also say, "I hope my boyfriend don't mind it..." Both my kids think the song is silly because of this, and only makes sense when Reece Mastin sings it. Unfortunately it's a darn catchy tune and they often go round singing it and improvising the lyrics. Dash sang the other day, "I hope that my mum don't mind it...!"
26 March 2012

Best in Blog - Monday Linky

Hello Monday!
We're back here to do it all again, sharing the best of ourselves from the previous week.

I just had to share the best thing from my weekend. We ran a kids event at our house for the 8&9 year olds at our church. We called it "Kids go Wild" {a version of Dash's Boy vs Wild party, one of my best parties ever}.

Sensible people would probably be nervous about having fourteen energetic kids "going wild" in their back garden. But we are not sensible, and we loved every minute of it.

For me the sweetest part was seeing how the kids made allowances for Scrag to fully participate. He was enthusiastically welcomed as a member of the "green" team. He totally threw himself into every aspect of the competition and was encouraged and helped by all.

The warm'n'fuzziest moment was when I spotted the captain of the "reds" helping his little brother and just had to capture it. The gentleness, the encouragement, the LOVE that was shown. It just melted my heart.

Also warm'n'fuzzy was going to church and being greeted by parents raving about how much fun their kids had and how they came home buzzing. Awesome. This is us doing what we do best, helping to create connections and community for our kids and others to be part of. Best Saturday in ages, in spite of the rain that started falling half way through.

The Best of You
Now back to the business at hand... Loving seeing all the inspiring links on a Monday morning. Last week a few favourites stood out for me...

Elena from A'Casarella had a great tutorial on frozen chocolate strawberries. Elena has a way of writing tutorials that always makes me smile - this post was especially good since it involved chocolate as well as humour.

Alyna from ThriftyGifty's post about making homemade lip balm had me inspired. She makes it look so easy - and so purty!

And finally I couldn't go past Remaliah from Lily and Georgie's trip-to-the-zoo-in-France. She had some great animal shots on her twin girls' first-ever zoo trip. Most impressive was the close up of that crocodile smile. Yowzer.

The Best of Me
I have a few favourite blog posts from the last week, but I can't ignore the outpouring of bloggy love that followed my "Letter to a Meaniepants" in response to a nasty comment I received. You girls are awesome; you all made me feel totally supported, loved and encouraged. Some of the comments almost made me cry they were so lovely. Shucks.

I also feel I should mention my "Battle of Hoth - a Play Adventure" post - because it includes a Lego giveaway. In case you missed it, you really should go read it so you can have a chance to score your kid some free Lego. There are two sets to be won just by leaving a comment on the post - how easy is that? (Closes April 1st, winners announced here April 2nd. open to NZ readers only sorreeee)

How to join in with my "Best in Blog" linky.

The "Best in Blog" Linky opens at 7am every Monday (NZ time*) and closes midnight Friday.
You don't have to write a special post, or take a photo on a theme or anything that requires extra work...
All you have to do is pick your favourite post from the past week (the one you are most proud of) and share it with us. I will feature my favourites on next week's Best in Blog.

Just one thing you need to do before you link up... Can you please dress your post with this pretty button I've made so your readers can find our linky too?

Best in Blog
Thankyou kindly!

(Oh, and please leave us a comment telling us why you picked this one... even if it was because it was your only one, hahaha!)

*For some of you US readers, that will be sometime on Sunday!


23 March 2012

Lovely and Yucky

Lovely is... "Mummy and Scrag" Fridays
Inspired by my parenting course, I have dropped Scrag's Friday kindy session and set aside a special day for me and him to spend playing together. He's my last kid still at home, and I mean to make the most of this year before he goes to school next April. Me and Scrag love our special days together.

We spend them playing the memory game, going to the park, playing "giraffe families", car races, baking, watching a movie or... going on a kindy trip.

Last Friday the kindy kids went on an outing to Waitakere Gymnastics and Olympic Park - and we had a blast.

It gave me such a buzz seeing my energetic son enjoying himself so much, and getting to meet his new friends (who think he's "really funny").

Fridays are Lovely.

Lovely is... my Dinner Menu Planner
We've been using this for a month now and it has changed my life.
OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but really - this simple idea has revolutionised our dinner times.
Dinner hour was the worst part of the day. Every dinner was a battle with someone about something. I was a terrible "last minute larry" cook - opening the freezer door and wondering what to cook at 5pm.

But now, all that has changed.

See the colour coding? Each person gets one day per week that they can choose a dinner from my list of options. We plan two weeks at a time.

I write in each person's choice at the beginning of the fortnight, and voila! I know what I'm cooking (and buying) for the next two weeks!

The rule is that nobody can complain about another person's choice, if they don't want people to complain about their choice. Guess what? It works.
We have had no battles and only minor complaints for the past month. I know what I'm cooking each night! Dinner is being served on time. There's less stress.
The kids also have a dinner chore, taking turns setting and clearing the table.

Eventually I can see that the idea will evolve into helping cook the meal you've chosen.
Bring on my little Junior Masterchefs! (BTW how lovely is Junior Masterchef? Those kids are amazing. We are all loving that programme.)

Lovely is... Great Role Models
Taylor Swift was in New Zealand this past week and I caught her interview on TV. Boy, was I impressed with that young lady. She is hugely aware of all the little eyes that are watching her, so she dresses appropriately, watches what she says and does, sings wholesome songs and genuinely appreciates the applause she receives and the crowds that attend her concert. She loves kids and knows they follow her. She knows she's a role model and takes it as a serious responsibility.
Taylor Swift I love you.
I just wish I'd known you were coming sooner so I could have taken Miss Fab to your sell-out concert. She loves you, you know, and so do I.

Forget about Miley Cyrus and her need to prove she's not a little kid any more. Sorry Miley, you lost me when you started dressing like a tart. Miss Fab won't be getting any more of your albums. Which is sad, because you're talented and we love The Climb.

But Taylor?? You are alright in my book. Better than alright. You're a hero and a great role model.
I am grateful for young women like you.

Yucky is... Slugs in my Rubbish Bin
Three slimy slugs waving hello from the inside of my rubbish bin lid. Look at those slimy things! How did they get there?

For some reason we often find random slugs that have squeezed between the cracks and come in from the rain on our kitchen floor. It pays to turn the light on if you get up for a drink of water in the middle of the night. Yeah.
But these three? All I know is that yesterday I spotted a slug on the floor, picked it up in a serviette and chucked it in the rubbish. Ugh.
Then this morning somehow there are THREE of them.
One slug went in. Now there are three. Was it a mama slug who gave birth to baby slugs in my rubbish bin? Or did the slug split into three because he was lonely?
It's a mystery to me.

That's all I've got today. I'd better get back to Mummy and Scrag day. I think we're off to play The train Game at the park... wahoo!

{Don't forget to come back on Monday for my "Best in Blog" linky. It's a really nice way to start the week.}


22 March 2012

Mrs Readalot Revisits The Shack

When Mrs Readalot first read The Shack three and a half years ago, it flipped her world on its head - at least that's what it felt like. Not many books do that.

The Shack is a bit controversial. Some people love it (like Mrs Readalot); some people hate it (without even reading it). Some Christian bookshops won't even stock it. Which is sad, because The Shack is the kind of book that really makes God real, and helps answer some of the really big questions.
Like "If God is a God of Love, why is there so much suffering in the world?"

The Shack is not a theology book, its a Novel.
A Novel filled with spiritual truth. It's been called by some, "The Pilgrims Progress of our Day."

Whatever you've heard about The Shack, Mrs Readalot respectfully encourages you to put aside your preconceptions and give it a try. This is a book that even non-readers can enjoy.

Mr G read it first; he gobbled it up in a few days. Mr G doesn't "do" novels. And he doesn't read books in a few days (he is Mr G - not Mr Readalot). But The Shack was different. He loved that book. It comforted him when his dad died suddenly of cancer and really helped him a lot. Mr G even went out and bought copies of it for everyone in his family for Christmas.

Young Miss Readalot - searching for the Real
It helped Mrs Readalot too, in lots of ways.

When you have grown up in church like Mrs Readalot did, sometimes its really hard to see God for who He is, because you've heard it all before.
It takes a lot to surprise you, to fire your imagination and capture your heart.
It takes something Real. Something Powerful. Something Unexpected.
That's what Mrs Readalot found in The Shack.

She found God in a whole fresh way; powerful truths that had been dulled down by tired old phrases became new and real again.

"God loves you" is a powerful truth, but if you've heard so many times, seen it on bumper stickers and billboards, it can really lose its edge.

But in The Shack, Mrs Readalot was quietly blown away by a simple little phrase that "Papa" said again and again... "I'm especially fond of that one..."

Papa. In the book God reveals himself to a grieving father in a surprising way. He gets around Mack's defensive walls by coming as a twinkly-eyed black woman.
(Plenty of critics and theologians would have heard that and wrote the book off as heretical right there.)

Mrs Readalot says:
I actually laughed when I read that part. Of course God would take someone by surprise. He never does what we expect him to. Look at the birth of Jesus - who would have thought he'd have his son born in a stable? Or Jesus' choice of disciples... fishermen, tax collectors and outcasts. He got a reputation of "associating with sinners". He didn't fit with the way the religious leaders expected a Messiah to be, so they missed him. But those "sinners" saw through his humble appearance and recognised him for who he was. He was constantly surprising people, and always loving, helping and forgiving those that others had written off. That's the kind of God I love and serve.

That's why God making himself look and sound like a black Southern mama (called "Papa") doesn't faze me. If that's what it takes to sneak inside someone's heart - someone who had been terribly hurt by their father -   then that's what my God would do.

This book sneaked into my heart the same way. It stripped away all my religious cliches and I saw the pure powerful beauty of God in a brand new way.

A few of my friends have been too scared to read this book because the main character, Mack, loses his little daughter when she is abducted and murdered on a camping trip - every mother's worst nightmare. I can totally understand why you would be reluctant to read a book about that. BUT, the tragic backdrop makes what comes next so much more powerful. In the face of the worst thing imaginable, can we find hope and peace? Yes, yes, yes. The book offers no cliches, no quick fixes. This book goes right to the heart of the matter as Mack asks God the hard questions; "How could you let this happen if you say you love her?" He is not an easy sell.

I won't tell you any more... except to say that as well as being a book full of spiritual treasure, it's also a great read with a very satisfying ending. But please... don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself.

When my Book Depository orders failed to eventuate in time to review our Book Club choices, I decided to re-read this life-changing book. I need to be reminded of the truth that God is "especially fond" of me.

Mrs Readalot gives The Shack ♥♥♥♥♥

{You can get The Shack from Book Depository for less than NZ $15; free delivery worldwide}


Mrs Readalot's Bloggy Bookclub

Don't forget, you can join in with our monthly Book Club any time. You don't have to be a signed up member to join in (but if you sign up you get to be a Book Club Linky host - bonus!)


All the details are kept up-to-date on my Book Club Page, including what's coming up next...

April Book Club will be hosted by Leonie Dons at Sunshine x3
Leonie has chosen has chosen The Birth House by Ami McKay.
The book sounds fantastic, a story about a Nova Scotia midwife. 
You can read other people's reviews of the book here on GoodReads 
You can get the book from Book Depository (free delivery anywhere in the world) for around NZ$17 if you can't find it at the library.

APMA12 Coupon Code / Book Depository