29 June 2012

Grateful and Gobsmacked

I'd never believe it happened if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes; heard it with my own ears.
Possibly the most heartwarming moment of my mothering years.

Let me paint the scene.
Dinner is over and the debris of our meal litters the table.
We are feeling rather mellow; the school term is nearly done so bedtime has drifted towards 8pm.
David Attenborough is on the telly, introducing us to another of Nature's Great Events.
Everyone's happy... except Scrag.
He's wriggling and complaining, angling for attention, ants in his pants, unable to sit still.
Of course he should have been in bed an hour ago, but we are feeling mellow remember?
After pausing the show umpteen times to try and sort Scrag out, I finally give up, hit the stop button and order everyone to bed.
"But what about pudding?"
"Yeah mum you promised us an iceblock..."
"I wanna iceblock! I wanna iceblock!"

I grab the keys and head out in the cold to the garage where we keep the treats under lock and key.
Everyone is happy with the Rainbow PaddlePops I bring back... except Scrag, who wants my Jellytip.
"Waaaaaah! I don't want that kind! I want the other kind! Waaaaaah!"

{Scrag throws a hissy fit every time we say no lately. This is a fun new development since he turned four. We're working on it. Sigh.}

It's too much all of a sudden. Patience and good humour have flown in the face of Scrag's rambunctiousness.
The noise has worn me down and I feel a headache building. I need this day to end NOW.
Leaning on the bench for support, I say through gritted teeth, "Right. Everyone finish your iceblocks and GET TO BED..."
Then I start to clear away the dinner mess, just hoping they'll do as they're told.

[You're wondering which part of this sorry scene is heartwarming. Don't worry we're getting to it.]

Then it happens.
Dash comes over to me, puts his hand on my shoulder and says:
"Just leave that mum, we'll do it. We'll do everything. You need to go to bed...."


Miss Fab chimes in, "Yeah mum, we'll do those dishes, just go lie down."

I'm sorry, have the aliens invaded?

"But I need to put Scrag to bed..." I say, stunned.

"We'll do it. We'll read him a story. Honest."


They have their hands around my waist now, sending me in the direction of my room. I'm still in shock. I can't leave a 9 and 7 year old to clean up and put the 4-year-old to bed all by themselves, can I?

"Um, look, that's so lovely you guys. So kind of you. I'm very touched. But you can't do everything by yourselves. How about if you clean up and I'll put Scrag to bed?" I offer.

"NO mum! We're doing EVERYTHING. You just go now."

Stunned I find my way to the bedroom, get in my PJ's and lean back on my pillow amazed, as I hear the sounds of Miss Fab piggy-backing Scrag to the bathroom for cleaning teeth. She reads to him while Dash boils the kettle. He comes in carrying a Milo. In a Princess mug. For me.


I hear the sounds of dishes being done, cooperation is afoot.
Honestly, I am truly in the nicest kind of shock.
They didn't just offer (which was amazing in itself) but they pulled it off.
Got their brother in bed. Cleaned the dishes and even brought me a hot drink in bed.

I was singing their praises.
And brimming with gratitude.

The hard work is paying off.
Remember this post, about how sometimes things get worse before they get better?

Well me and my man have been working our asses off to change things up in our family.
Old lazy habits, out the door. Old unhelpful mindsets, kicked to the kerb.
Standing our ground in the face of tantrums. Engaging more with our kids. Playing more. Facing our own issues.
A combination of the amazing parenting course I did and our trip to Coffs Harbour to see a man About a Dog (and subsequent follow up with counselors here in NZ).

New strategies.
Play. Clear routines and family rules.
An effective reward system. More play.
Time out used properly and consistently. Play play play.

Life is not without its bumps, don't get me wrong.
But last night was a clear indicator to me that what we're doing is working.
Even when we have a bad day/meal/morning/moment we have a plan. And tools.
We know what to do and we're on the same page. Me and the Daddy.
Working as a team. (Finally).

Oh you thought your family was the only one that struggles with naughty kids, tantrums and bad behaviour?
You are not alone.

{OK, if your kids never drive you batty, then you probably are alone; it's the rest of the humans I'm talking to...}

Here's what I am over-the-moon and round-the-sun Grateful for:
The things I've learned and the work we've done that has resulted in a moment I would never have thought possible.
Kids unselfishly helping. Being thoughtful, caring and kind. Without thought of reward.
(They didn't even ask for stickers).

Unbelievable. But all true.

The Posts about What I've Learned 
(and am eternally Grateful for):

27 June 2012

Kids Cook: Rainbow Marble Cake (with Printable Recipe card)

What do you do to brighten up a winter's day when all your friends are busy? Why, you bake a bright cake of course!

Scrag loves to bake, so when we couldn't find a friend to play with on a rainy Friday morning, the suggestion of baking and decorating a cake turned his frown upside down.

I decided to use Meredy's Rainbow Cake recipe - because it's so simple - but instead of baking separate layers, we would turn our rainbow into a marble cake instead.

Here's the recipe [so simple any Kid can Cook it]...

Meredy's Basic Butter Cake

1 1/2 cups of flour*
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
125g butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

[* We used Gluten Free Baking Mix instead of flour; Meredy's recipe calls for self-raising flour. After googling, I discovered that 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1/2 cup of flour will give you the same result as self-raising flour] 

Plonk all the ingredients into the bowl and then beat together for around five minutes on medium speed (I have a simple electric hand beater and it does the job just fine).

Don't forget to lick the beater!

Separate the mixture into three bowls. Let your little helper choose his favourite colours - Scrag chose  Red, Orange and Green: "Traffic light colours, mum!"

Add a smidge of gel food colouring to each bowl and mix well. Use gel food colourings to get bright colours  or you will likely be disappointed with the result. They are worth investing in, as they last for ages. Only a tiny bit is needed for lovely bright colours.

In a well-greased cake tin, tip the first of the coloured mixtures, smooth carefully, then 
add the next colour.

Repeat the process until all the mixture is in the baking tin. 

We used a ring-cake tin, so it wasn't necessary to do anything else. If you are using a regular round cake tin, perhaps stir the mixture with a skewer in a few places for a swirly marble look once baked.

Bake at 180 degrees Celcius for 20-30 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

In the meantime, look what we found... 
a friend to help with the decorating!

Scrag decided on peanut buttercream icing, and as it was my first attempt at that flavour, I may have overdone it slightly on the peanut butter. 
Originally he asked for yellow icing, but well, er, when added we yellow to the brownish buttercream... it sadly resembled something rather.... pooey. So we made it orange instead. Slightly garish, but since orange is Scrag's favourite colour, he was not complaining.

Our young cake decorators had a lovely time making the very bright cake beautiful.
They went to town with the Smarties, sliced marshmallows, white chocolate squeeze tubes and sanding sugar....

They were mighty pleased with the result.
And look how cool the cake turned out when we cut it? It has a swirl of green... completely unplanned and totally random. O Happy Accident!

Ah yes, baking a bright cake is a fab way to brighten up a winter's day.
We are planning another cake-bake this Friday, and are inviting some friends to come join us to celebrate the end of the School Term. Who says Winter has to be dull and dreary?

Printable Recipe Card
[right click to save to your computer]

26 June 2012

There's a Boy Band Groovin' in my Kitchen...

[Scrag would love to be in *One Direction*]

Flicking through TV channels with Miss Fab last week, we spotted a music video that got our feet tapping.
Before long we were singing along with One Direction...
Oh yes. The Boy Band who made it big after winning  X-Factor UK in 2010 has finally made it big in our house.

The song that caught our attention is the super-catchy That's What Makes You Beautiful. Within minutes we were on iTunes, downloading the track.
Dash heard the song playing on Miss Fab's stereo and wanted a copy.
Before long, One Direction was playing in nearly every room.
Even Scrag wanted his own copy.

Scrag is four. But with a big brother and sister he is quick to pick up on trends.
For a while there he loved Josh Krajik, Johnny Ruffo, Stan Walker... running around shouting their names and requesting their songs.
Now it's One Direction's turn.

He refused to go to sleep until I'd made him his own CD of One Direction.
He refused to eat his dinner unless we could listen to the song while we ate.
Every morning he wants to start the day with One Direction up loud.
He knows the words, he's got the moves.
He may just be One Direction's youngest and most enthusiastic fan.

Of course, he's not alone.
As soon as that song comes on, our kitchen turns into Party Central.
Flippin hilarious.
I must admit, there are worse boy bands than One Direction.
Actually I think they're rather talented. And pretty cute.
Heck if I was an 8-year-old girl, I'd be dancing in the kitchen too!

{What am I saying? I'm a 42-year-old woman and I end up dancing to That's What Makes You Beautiful right along with the kidsI dare you to play this song and not tap your toes to the beat!}

Here's what we get when the song comes on; I just had to capture the kids on my camera.
Watch and giggle at One Direction's Kiwi Fan Club, *LIVE* in my kitchen....

{Do you have a guilty Boy Band secret???}

25 June 2012

Best in Blog - Come Link Up your Best

School on a Saturday?
Turns out it can be rather traumatic.
Our school celebrated it's 125th Jubilee this week and held an Open House, for former teachers and pupils. On a Saturday. So of course they needed to fill the classrooms and playground with little bodies, much to Miss Fab's distress.
School on a Saturday? Giving up her FAMILY TIME to sit in school???
Actual tears of anguish were shed. But she went.
Her class was performing at the assembly, and Miss Fab is not one to let the team down.

{Dash had football; all footballers were excused. Lucky Dash, said Miss Fab.}

I think she makes a rather enchanting Edwardian girl, don't you?
As it turned it, she had fun. And I was able to sneak in the back and watch the performance, which gave her a thrill.

And as a treat we went for coffee and cake at our favourite local cafe, Cosset.
"What does cosset mean, mum?" Miss Fab asked me as we waited for our drinks.
Cosset is like, cosy. To "cosset" someone is to make them feel cosy and comfortable, I told her.
A very aptly named cafe. Everything quirky and vintage, from the mismatched plates and chairs to the stacks of old books and toys. Also, Cosset is a haven for the dairy  and gluten intolerant not that you'd ever know that these delicious treats were lacking in anything. Sticky gingerbread, lavender cupcakes, ladysmith cake... every day the offerings are different.
We love Cosset. A lovely spot just around the corner to enjoy mummy-daughter time together.

Something else I love that I spotted at school, written on one of the classroom windows:

If you can't quite make it out, here's what it says:

Be there. Say yes as often as you can. 
Read books out loud with joy. Stop yelling. 
Encourage silliness. Search out the positives. 
Teach about feelings. Plan to build a rocket ship. 
Make a zombie survival kit. Invent pleasures together. 
Express your love... LOTS

Don't you love it? I especially love the bit about the rocket ship and the zombie survival kit. You won't be surprised to know that this guy is the Year Three teacher everybody wishes they had. I just had to take a picture (Miss Fab thought that was pretty weird but she's used to my photo-nerd tendencies)

Anyway, that was just some of our weekend. Now on to Best in Blog...

Best of Me
Did you read my Scrag's Guide to Making Girls Scream? I had so much fun writing this, but it didn't score very highly on the response-o-meter. I'm guessing it was all the talk of bodily fluids that put people off? Whatever it was still my fav from last week.
I also had fun making collages of my home, for "On Housework". You can bet that my house looks nothing like these photos after the weekend.

Best of You
This week my two favs from you were...
Natasha in Oz on the Power of Blogging - some amazing onformation in there that I'm going back to re-read when I get a minute
and JackstaB on Thankful Thursday - just a lovely heartwarming story.

 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 Linky

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!

22 June 2012

Loving... Girlfriends

Girl friends.
Where would we be without them?

I snapped Miss Fab and her girlfriend playing dress-up yesterday, complete with {old broken} cellphones and Texan accents. These two have been friends since age two. Dress-up used to mean fairy dresses and backyard picnics, but I suspect those days may be over *sniff*

Their friendship has seen plenty of ups and downs. Two strong-headed females, who both like to be in charge, at one stage there were regular tears, fireworks, and Auditions for the Oscars. For a while they went their separate ways. 

Netball has reintroduced them to each other, and with the passing of time they seem to have mellowed. Now they can negotiate better. Take turns being the Teacher when they play schools. Enjoy each other's strengths instead of constantly competing.
It's nice to see them playing well together. Even if they are pretending to be teenagers already.

Then there's this special girlfriend.

These two have been besties since birth, but are separated now by the China Sea.
School holidays will bring a longed-for reunion and an early birthday party, brought forward so this special friend can come. What fun it will be.

And in September there will be a return trip.
This time, the best friends will be reunited IN CHINA.
Yes, oh yes.
Miss Fab and I are taking a trip, making a journey.
We are going to China to see our girlfriends.
Tickets bought and paid for.
A mummy-daughter adventure, just us.
Girlfriends reunited.

Where would we be without our girlfriends?

P.S. For those who don't know, my lovely friend and fab blogger Gail has been in China for the past year; her daughter and mine are besties. How convenient! We miss them like crazy, so found a way to go and see where they've been hangin'.

21 June 2012

Scrag's Guide to Making Girls Scream

by SCRAG a.k.a. Scraggadag a.k.a. SquidRing a.k.a. Little Bruvver

Hey lads, today I'm gonna share with you my favourite ways to make girls scream. Actually girls scream pretty easy, but it's way fun to gross your sister out and annoy her. It's part of our job as Little Bruvvers.
So here's my Five Top Tips for getting a guaranteed reaction every time...

1. Leaking in the Loo 
[Scream Factor: 4]

Forget leaving the toilet seat up, that's old news and will only get a groan. If you want a really good scream, make sure you leave the seat DOWN, and then while you're standing there doing your business be certain to look everywhere except where you're aiming. Don't flush, whatever you do. Just leave puddles on the seat and floor, the perfect booby trap. You can bet that when your sister stumbles in without looking, she will SCREAM when her socks get wet and her butt lands in the puddle you left on the seat.

[WARNING: This booby trap may also snag your mum or dad. Be prepared for a growling.]

2. MakeUp Mayhem
[Scream Factor: 3.5]

If you really want to annoy your sister, you are guaranteed a scream if you sneak into her bedroom and ransack her makeup. Stick your fingers in and smear it all over your face, making sure that what's left is completely unusable. Then go and show her your artistry (a snotty nose really adds to the overall effect). It doesn't matter that it's only *play makeup* - when your sister sees what is left of her treasure she is sure to scream really big.

3. Butt Cracks Galore
[Scream Factor: 2]

This one is fun for an average everyday scream, without any danger of trouble from your mama. Just make sure not to pull your pants up properly - the sight of your little butt crack in your sister's face will get a scream of *Oh that's disgusting! I can see your butt!* every time. He he he.

4. Nose like a Dripping Tap
[Scream Factor: 3]

Whatever you do, don't blow your nose. Ignore the boxes of tissues your mama leaves handily around the house. When you sit at the table next to your sister, let the "green man" bubble out your left nostril. When she starts to say *Oh gross* use your sleeve to wipe the snot across your face. She will start to scream, I guarantee.

[NOTE: to increase this reaction to a Scream Factor 4, try leaning in for a kiss. He he he]

5. Picking a Winner for Dinner
[Scream Factor: 5+++]

Wait until your sister has a bunch of friends over. When they notice your crusty nostrils, it's time to strike. Casually remove a morsel of dried booger from your nose and the screaming will start.
Pop it in your mouth, chew and smile, and they will go ballistic.
The screams will be heard all across town, I guarantee.
For even more fun, try chasing them and watch them scatter in every direction screaming, *Booger Monster! Booger Monster!*
Yum Yum. Salty. He he he. 

I hope you have fun tormenting your sister with my Handy Hints.
Tune in next time for Ways to Get out of Eating your Dinner....

Also By Scrag:

20 June 2012

On Housework

Housework has long been the bane of my life.
Dust bunnies, my nemesis.
I have blogged about it, complained about it, resented it and frequently avoided it.
At times I have attempted to master the art of it, going to strange tea-towel-ironing lengths...
But I could never say I've enjoyed it.

I could spend all day cleaning and shining, polishing and scrubbing, but the next day it would be as if I'd never done a thing.
Because People live in my house; messy humans of all shapes and sizes. Which means that chores never stay done, dishes don't stay washed, clothes don't stay clean... futility has robbed me of any sense of satisfaction.

But I love my house.
I love the height of the ceilings, the shape of the windows, the architraves, the doors. I love its 1920s vintage, its wobbly walls and uneven floor.
Perfect it is not, but beautiful it surely is.

This week has seen me caring for my home in a burst of housewifelyness.
Re-purposing shelves, re-arranging furniture, re-hanging pictures.
Of course, when things get moved, dust is revealed in all its rabid dust-bunny glory.

Somehow I found great satisfaction in wiping and scrubbing, vacuuming and dusting.
Sorting and de-cluttering. Scraping off stickers, turps-ing away pen.

I was Caring for my Home.
Not merely "cleaning".
Not just doing chores. Housework. Drudge.

Caring - taking care of - my Lovely Home. 
Though not High Style, our home is filled with things we have collected together over the years that are  useful and beautiful to us. Priceless art by kids, friends and family. Gifts and heirlooms, keepsakes and memories. Shells, books, pillows and teapots. 
Somehow it all comes together to create a place that reflects who we are.

This is the place where the people I love come to Rest and Play and Eat.
Our castle. Our sanctuary.
I was Caring for it. And in doing so, I was Caring for them.
I've never thought of it like that before.
Somehow it made all the difference.

Other Posts About Home and Housework:

18 June 2012

Best in Blog - "Eyes Wide Open"

I spent all day Sunday at a football tournament.
The coldest morning of the winter to date, and there I am layered up, shivering in scarf and gumboots, watching my son's team fight their way through some epic battles.
These lads have been unbeaten for the past two seasons, but now came face to face with some of the toughest teams in the region. There were losses. Missed opportunities and bitter tears.
Some of life's hardest lessons are first faced on the sports field: Being gracious in defeat; Learning to get back up after that defeat to try again.
As a mother, I absolutely love team sport (in spite of the fact that I have two left feet and was always picked last in P.E.). Team sport teaches so much.

My son is a passionate footballer. He holds nothing back and leaves everything on the pitch. The emotions which accompany such passion can be overwhelming for a kid.
Difficult as it was to watch my boy beat himself up for a missed penalty that would have delivered victory, it was heartwarming to observe his teammates put their arms around his shoulders and tell him he did great. Their words of encouragement meant more to him than mine ever could (I'm his mama; he thinks I have to say that).
While he learnt the lessons defeat had to teach, I learnt how to back off and give him space to process his powerful emotions, without attempting to dive in and make it all better.
We all learnt more from losing than we ever had from the back-to-back wins the team usually experiences.

Ah, yes, a Sunday well spent.*

* NOTE: Sunday morning is usually spent at church, a very important part of our life as a family. Mr G took the younger kids while I supported Dash at his tournament. For something important we can miss the occasional Sunday, knowing that God is with us wherever we are.

Best of Me Last Week
Last week was about finding my way back from the bloggy wilderness. I had become a barren desert, devoid of inspiration. Writers block was raging in full force. In true Bear Grylls style I decided to scour my wilderness and make use of anything useful I could find, to help me find my way back.
I started to go around with my eyes wide open.
And it worked. I found things to say, things to smile about, things to be grateful for.
So this week I'm going to ask you if you'd like to join me. Try a week with your eyes wide open.
Write what you notice, share what you see.
Let us get up close and personal.
What might we discover?

{Link up any Eyes Wide Open posts you write this week and/or your favourite post from last week - it's up to you}

Best of You Last Week.
I loved Tori from 2plus1's photos of an afternoon at the beach; when their plans were thwarted they took a spur of the moment side trip, and wow, loved the result. She really had her eyes open and her camera-phone ready that day.
I loved Rach from SweetasNZGirl's simple reminder to let our love have a face. Technology is no substitute for living breathing friends. An email can't hug as good as a human. Loved it Rach.
And I also loved that my old blog-buddy Melinda from Mothering from Scratch  has reinvented herself and linked up another lovely reminder to love each other. Melinda is awesome from way back.

 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 Linky

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!