31 August 2012

On My Plate is A Lot

I found myself having to say no, sorry to several people today. Usually it would have been a yes. But it really had to be a no this time, in spite of how much I hate using the word (pathological people pleaser that I am).

You see, I started listing off all the things I have on my plate in the next two weeks... and it kinda freaked me out. I simply can't take on one single thing more.
Just look at what I'm juggling right now...
  • look after kids on my own while hubby is off skiing
  • speech therapy appointment for child number three (who can't say eff's and ess's)
  • book in eye test for child number two (who can't see the blackboard)
  • pick up hubby from airport and wave him off again 6 hours later for a blokes weekend
  • pick up visas from Chinese consulate
  • bake four batches of cookies for ninja cookie drop
  • ninja drop four batches of cookies to secret locations around auckland
  • get birthday prezzies for the latest birthday parties the kids are attending
  • get awesome touching father's day gifts for father and hubby for this sunday
  • get food for awesome brekky-in-bed for the hubby who's been skiing all week
  • make sure hubby has an awesome fathers day (even though he's been skiing all week)
  • write my article for Parenting mag Christmas issue
  • meet with marketing peeps and make friends for life (or at least impress them with my wit and humour)
  • manage Summer Netball team
  • keep blog up to date (enough so I don't lose all my hard-won readers)
  • keep the house clean (enough so hubby doesn't think I didn't cope while he was skiing)
  • cook a meal every single day that is nutritionally sound and which my kids will eat
  • deliver fully-clothed, well-fed children to learning centres ready to embark on life's great educational adventure
  • complete assessment appointments for my child with suspected dyslexia
  • visit school umpteen times to discuss said child
  • remember to breathe
  • collapse in a heap and ask "when is it mother's day again?"
So you can see why I couldn't say yes, much as I wanted to help.

Yep, I'm sure I'll be pretty much doing everything at the last minute and hoping I survive long enough to stagger on board that flight to Hong Kong in two weeks time. I'll be ready to kick back and have a break from the daily grind. (I'll have earned it, dontcha reckon?)

29 August 2012

Who Knew? (There's Science on YouTube)

I learned something last night, from my son.
(This is starting to become a regular habit).
This time, instead of implementing an awesome breakfast routine, he introduced me to the educational potential of YouTube.

It started with those fateful words: "Mum can you do some homework with me?"
Who could resist such a golden opportunity?
I prepare to grab pencil and paper. He says, "No mum, on the computer."
OK. Computer it is.
I can do this. I am the Google Queen.

What's the topic, son?

"Newton's Second Law of Motion."

Oh dear. I know nothing about this. Science was not my strong point at school.
Still, there's always Google, right? Google will save us.

But before I get a chance to even type in a search, he's on YouTube.
YouTube? Why?
Isn't it just for fun, full of silliness and music vids?

Oh no, my friends there is so much more to YouTube than music and P-Takes.

The first video Dash finds is "Professor Mac Explains Newton's Second Law"
A cartoon scientist "explaining" the theory. I am lost. I look over at Dash.
"Are you understanding this, son?"
Nope, he's drawing a blank too. So complicated. So hard to follow.
Sorry Professor Mac, you have a cute Scottish accent and all, but we are only nine years old (well, some of us are).

We need more ACTION. More DEMONSTRATING. And it wouldn't hurt to throw in a bit of humour too.

Me and Dash are visual learners. We won't follow wordy explanations.
But you show us how something works, and we will get it.

So this video was perfect...

It even had NASA astronauts in space demonstrating the difference between Mass and Weight.
We are starting to understand Newton's Second Law!
F=ma was starting to make sense.

This one was the clincher...

Made by high school students it was so simple and clear...
The explanation at the end even made sense of the Equation (F=ma)

"The more MASS an object has, the more FORCE is needed to Speed it up or Slow it down (ACCELERATION)."

Throw in a few of the worlds fastest cars (perfect for speed-obsessed boys) and we are discovering how  Newton's Law works for ourselves (some cars use greater horsepower - Force - and some have less "Mass" to help them go faster).

Just to make sure that we really do have it, this morning after a calm and orderly breakfast we conducted some science experiments of our own... yay we remembered what we learned last night!
Newton's Law still works this morning.
(The single CD case accelerates faster and travels further than the double CD Case when pushed with the breakfast tray along the kitchen floor.)

Dash and Mummy to the head of the Science class.
We are so very smart! We have nailed Newton's Second law of Motion, thanks to YouTube.
Who would have thought?

Thanks YouTube!

[Have you ever used YouTube for Homework?]
28 August 2012

Surviving a Family Sleepover

It sounds like a load of fun when she suggests it.

"Let's have a family sleepover in the lounge!"

Everyone is enthusiastic, they love the idea of snuggling up and watching movies together camped out in the sitting room. It promises to be a Movie Night on Steroids, with the bonus of family togetherness thrown in.

Kids run in every direction, dragging in camp mattresses, cushions and duvets from all four corners.
Soon we have a colourful cosy-looking giant bed made up on the floor. Room for everyone.
We said, Everyone, Dad. Did you hear that?

We string up some Christmas lights, even light a few candles. No wait. We didn't.
We got the candles out but thought better of lighting them.
(Candles + Blankets + Scrag = Bad Idea)

So now the room is all cosy. We order pizza, spread a tablecloth and have a picnic on our giant bed.
We watch a movie.
Hey! Where has Dad sneaked off to?
Daddy get back in here and watch Rio!

Now it's dark outside, the fire is flickering, the coloured lights casting colourful shadows.
Scrag is already snoring. We turn off the TV and cuddle down.
Ouch, this floor is hard. The elephant foam camp mattress does nothing to save my hip from the boards underneath. I'm sure I remembered this as being good to sleep on last time we went camping?
Hmmm. Must be that sand/grass/dirt is softer than wooden floors.

Eyelids droop. Kids drift off to the land of Nod.
I toss and turn trying to get comfy.
But where is Daddy?

Daddy's not silly. He is asleep in his lovely soft bed. The one he can stretch out in cos he has it all to himself.

The next morning I am aching from head to toe. Back, neck, hips, head.
"Poor ma-ma!" says Scrag, as his old lady mother groans to her feet.

Daddy comes in smiling and walking freely, not an ache or a limp in sight.
He's off on a fifty km cycle now. Up bright and early, full of beans and the joys of almost-Spring.

Daddy take a picture of us in our sleepover bed! We survived the night and the rock hard floor.

Hey, don't try and pretend you were here... you look far too lively to have survived sleeping on the lounge floor!

So. The secret to surviving a family sleepover is... Do Like Daddy Did.

(sleep in your own bed and then fake it for the camera!)


27 August 2012

It's Monday Again (you know what that means)

This morning Dave the Female Cat was sitting up on the kitchen chair like some kind of Egyptian statuette.
(Poor Dave has been on the Outs a bit lately since Dash has developed asthma. No more sleeping on Dash's Bed. Doors slammed in poor Dave's face. She's feeling it.)

Anyway, there's Dave, looking like some kind of serene ancient carving, when the door to Scrag's room creaks. Dave's ears jerk forward and her body tenses.
We all giggle, and Dash says, "Watch out Dave, here comes Scrag!"
I say, "Any second now she's gonna jump and run..." (Dave and Scrag have a history; Scrag loves Dave and wants to hug and squeeze her; Dave - not so much)

Then Dash says: "Dave, you have to learn to overcome your fear!"
and Miss fab says: "Yeah Dave, or you will be trapped by fear all your life!"

Whatthe?? Who have they been listening to, these Wise Young Philosophers?
Sunday School? Shark Boy and Lava Girl?
Whoever it is, it sure made me smile today.

25 August 2012

Movie: Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl

Every Saturday we will be sharing with you our ideas for family movie nights. Movie reviews and fun theme night ideas.

Our Super-Cool-Fab Review Team...

Our crack team of expert Movie Reviewers are this week reviewing The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.

We watched this movie many years ago when the kids were much younger, and I loved it. Recently I decided to give it another go, see if it still had the magic, so I ordered it from Fatso using the GetNow option.
Last weekend we snuggled up by the fire to watch Shark Boy and Lava Girl, and yep, it's still got it. The movie is all about dreaming, believing and "working to make it real". A great conversation starter, as well as loads of action and fun. I guess it's like being inside the mind of a child - it's crazy, colourful and fantastical; anything can happen and "sometimes your dreams are so powerful they become real."

Movie Plot Summary: Fans of Taylor Lautner get to see him as a pre-teen cutie, Shark Boy, best friends with fiery and irresistible Lava Girl. They are a figment of Max's imagination, a young boy who finds it hard to make friends, so he creates an imaginary world in his "dream journal". Linus, a bully, steals the dream journal and vandalises it, wreaking havoc in max's Dream World. Shark Boy and Lava Girl make an appearance and take Max with them to help restore order. Max has lost faith in his dreams and must rediscover that he is strong, and can stand up to the bullies and fight for those dreams. In the end all comes right, after some hair-raising adventures that test friendship, faith and inner gutsiness. OK, maybe all grown ups won't get this movie, but personally I love it. After all, I'm a bit of a dreamer who still hasn't quite grown up...

"Everything that Is began with a Dream" ~ LAVA GIRL

Here's what our experts have to say about The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl

Dash. B. Cool: "It was alright. I liked it when SharkBoy turned into a Shark. I learned that you can dream with your eyes open and make your dreams come real. Some parts in it were a bit funny. I'll rate this one a Two."

Dash scores this movie's "coolness" as: 

Foxy Fab: "I liked the Ice Princess and I like Lava Girl; I thought her flaming hair was pretty cool. I don't think Adults will like this movie because they would just think its all fairytales and stuff. I learned that you should always believe in your dreams and believe that your dreams are real."

Foxy rates this movie's "fabness" as: 

Super Scrag: "I liked SharkBoy. Lava Girl had her hair on fire. I thought her name was Fire Girl. I thought it was good. I liked the end cos the baddies got losed."

SuperScrag scores this movie's "super-ness" as: 


OK, I might have left it a bit long to get the kids to give me their ratings! Seems that as time passes movies are remembered less favourably. But on the night, they all loved it, honest!

This movie is rated (G) but very young children might find some of the scenes a little overwhelming. However, if you keep the remote handy, you can always flick past any bits that the littlies are unsure of. Otherwise I think the whole family will enjoy this film, and it's a good choice for a family movie night.

Ideas to Make Your "SharkBoy&LavaGirl" Movie Night even more Super-Cool-Fab...

In this movie there are themes of fish, sharks, lava, volcanoes. Icecream and banana splits also make an appearance, so put together a few of these simple ideas and make your Movie Night into a Theme Night. Lava lamps, candles, banana splits (which appeared a boat in this movie), fish bites "lava icecream sundaes (with strawberry sauce)... even a watermelon shark?!?!

What are your best Movie Night Ideas? Send me an email with your ideas (include a picture or link to a blog post if you can) so I can feature it here on Saturday Night at the Movies.

Have a great Saturday!
24 August 2012

It's Friday and I'm Grateful

Friday morning and the sun is shining. Spring is mere days away here in Auckland.
Like nearly every other Tom Dick and Harry, friday is my favourite day of the week.
The day when nothing is scheduled. The day we can chillax and anticipate the weekend.
Mummy and Scrag Day. IceCream Friday. Date Night.
What's not to love?

All this and more makes me say without a hint of any cliche: "Thank God, It's Friday!"

Here's a few little bits and bobs I'm grateful for this week:

  • I love being free to go on Kindy trips with Scrag
  • I love getting to hang out with Scrag's lovely little friends
  • Auckland Museum is FREE ADMISSION again... and so very cool
  • Super glad that these critters don't live in my house...

I've signed up to be a Cookie-Drop Ninja. I love Sophie's Sisterhood and the challenge to support and show love to "Sisters" who need a boost.

I'm going to get the kids helping me bake and decorate and ninja-drop next Saturday morning. Soccer will be over, hubby will be away. We will swoop down on unsuspecting strangers and drop cookies secretly on doorsteps around Auckland. It will be fun!
(Go here to find out how you can be involved, baking or nominating)

Also super glad/grateful that...

  • We made it through a whole week of 7am breakfasts prepared the night before
  • We made it through a whole week of preparing lunchboxes the night before
  • We made it through a whole week of kids doing their chores and making their beds
  • My laundry basket is nearly empty - I'm on top of the washing pile!

Plus... Spring is only a week away.
Freesias are popping up in my garden. Blossoms are appearing on the trees.
My garden is already pruned and weeded in readiness.

The kids have a combined total of 49 stickers and we are just one good deed away from family mini-golf.
For once I feel I am in control on the domestic front - this is no small thing.
I owe this largely to Dash's brainwave, his initiative and our new smooth morning regime.
So very very grateful.
Because as disorganised and unstructured as I am (and I am) I actually need order.
I can't function in chaos.
So when I find a system that works it is a life-saver.
Sticker charts.Pre-prepared lunchboxes.Family Breakfasts.
All these things are saving my life and sanity... and I am truly grateful.

Have a Fab weekend!


[come back tomorrow for another Family Movie Theme Night idea]
23 August 2012

Politically Correct Bullpucky

This is a post I just have to get out of my system. You'll either love it or hate it.
Agree loudly or disagree vehemently. That's OK. I can handle a difference of opinion (I think).

Here's the scenario:

I'm not sporty myself, but my kids are. They get it from their dad. Before my kids started playing sport, I would have probably agreed with the "everybody gets a turn" "winning doesn't matter" scenario. Mr G would come home from his football games and I'd ask how it went (meaning did you have fun and enjoy it) and was baffled when his reply was all about whether they won or not. Winning and results didn't used to matter to me. I didn't get it at all.

But then I become a "soccer mum". I watched my kid excelling at sport. I became excited when we won a game, and was gutted when we lost. Now Miss Fab turns out to be a natural athlete and agreat little netballer, so I have become an enthusastic Netball supporter too. I'm one of those loud shouting cheering mothers who lose their voice by the end of the game. I love watching them play, and compete and give their best.

Team Sport is a brilliant thing for kids to engage in. They learn so much, and so do we. About life, being part of a team, playing by the rules, listening to the coach, winning and losing graciously... and fairness.

My gripe with the Politically Correct Brigade comes down to fairness.

What is "fair", anyway?
When it comes to kids and sport, does "fairness" mean everybody gets a turn no matter what?

Everybody gets Player of the Day at some point (even if they don't deserve it)?
Everybody gets to play key positions (even if they're hopeless and it costs the team the game)?

Is that really fair to the team? Losing week after week when they are actually a really good team who have a chance at winning if everyone is playing in the right position? How demoralising is that?
Oh I forgot that winning doesn't matter, just participating.

We dumb everything down so nobody wins and everybody gets a prize. Doesn't this only encourage mediocrity and discourage excellence?
This is the way of the Politically Correct Brigade, and it makes me livid.

We adults in all our "wisdom" seem to have commandeered the concept of fairness and replaced genuine reward for achievement and effort* [see below] with "everybody gets a turn" bullpucky.
At the cost of true fairness, which recognises effort and achievement* and rewards it accordingly.
In a well-intentioned attempt to help boost the self esteem of kids who are not as "good at sport" as others, we actually detract from what recognition and reward* really means.

Instead of rewarding a gutsy performance with Player of the Day, we feel compelled to give in to the mother who turns up demanding the trophy for her child who "hasn't had it yet" (despite the fact that the child has actually done nothing that day to actually deserve it).

Then we have to try and explain this decision to our angry child who is railing against the blatant unfairness; why the child who did nothing to help the outcome of the game got rewarded, while the rest of the team who worked and sweated and never stopped trying went home empty-handed.

"Any of them deserved it more than her, mum, any of them!"
"It's not fair!" she wails, and she's right.

The real world beyond school doesn't work this way.
Nobody got a medal at the Olympics because "they hadn't had one yet."
Michael Phelps didn't have to hand over his haul to his team-mates because he already had a gold and they didn't.
The very idea is plainly ridiculous.

Do we think our kids don't understand this?
They are smarter than we think.
They see through our attempt at so-called fairness and know that they are just "having a turn" at the trophy. They feel no elation or sense of pride if they know they didn't deserve it, haven't actually won it.
Actually, they feel stink because they know their team-mates resent it.
Better if they were given the trophy on a day they really did something.
An award has to mean something, or everybody loses out.
If something is easy to get, it means nothing.

Our kids understand this already. They already know what fair is, and what it isn't.
Something in them tells them it is so. An internal fairness compass that hasn't yet been skewed by political correctness and people-pleasing.

Handing out "turn trophies" is meaningless, and they know it.
Their self esteem is not built by us endlessly telling them they are great.
It's built by them feeling good about what they can do; knowing they are competent. Then and only then does our praise in their ears ring true.
Otherwise, their little hearts dismiss our words, saying "You're just saying that cos you're my mum."
Kids are smart.

Let's not pretend otherwise.
If we must, let's have two trophies.
One we take turns with (to satisfy the PC Brigade) and one that is a true recognition of effort and achievement.
So it means something. So they can truly take pride in themselves when they get it.
(I know which one my kids would rather have...)

There. I said it.
My two cents worth.

Now it's your turn. Thoughts, anyone?


*CLARIFICATION: By "Effort and Achievement" I don't only mean the top players or the ones who score the goals etc; I mean the ones who really try, give their best, work hard. My objection to "taking turns" is when it is given undeservedly. You really should have done something to deserve it - e.g. listened to the coach, remembered what you learned at training etc etc. Not because your mum complains. 

P.S. I also think sport is great for kids regardless of their ability (I would have benefitted from netball myself as a kid, despite my unco-ness). As long as the kids try, work, train, practise, do their best, that's what sport is about. Standing there watching the ball go past and THEN getting player of the day is what I object to.
Phew. Hopefully I've cleared that one up? 
22 August 2012

Mrs Readalot Anticipates China

Mrs Readalot just returned from the Chinese Consulate where she went to get her Visa for China. Less than four weeks until Mrs Readalot and Miss Fab venture into the orient on a mother-daughter adventure.

It was through books and reading that Mrs Readalot first learned about China. It seemed a mysterious place, full of history and untold stories. Many books were consumed over the years, biographies and novels and they all added to the mystique.

The land of Revolution and footbinding, the Long Walk and pandas.
Never in her wildest dreams did Mrs Readalot ever think she would visit there herself, but somehow the books about China continued to fascinate.
Wild Swans...
Mao's Last Dancer...
Red Lotus...
The Good Women of China...

Then Mrs Readalot's dear friend and fellow blogger went to live in the land behind the Bamboo Curtain.
It was fascinating to seeing pictures and read daily accounts of how this land was planting itself so firmly in her friend's heart. As her friend's six month adventure stretched into an 18-month odyssey, Mrs Readalot found herself wanting to go and see China for herself.
She wanted to experience what her friend was seeing so she could understand what it was about this place and its people that had captivated her friend so powerfully.

Through an unexpected windfall, it became possible for Mrs Readalot and her sweet girl to embark on a once-unthought-of adventure. To travel together into the land of China and see it for themselves, to spend time in this foreign land which now seemed so familiar and even more fascinating after seeing it through her friend's eyes.

So now Mrs Readalot is going to visit Book Depository and stock up on some more China Stories to get herself in the mood. Last Saturday she watched Mao's Last Dancer. Maybe tonight she'll cook stirfry.

The adventure is nearly here; the departure date less than a month away. She is beginning to anticipate all the sights she will see, places she will visit, shopping and long coffees with her friend, all the new things she will experience (and eat).
It will be life-changing.
To go to a place where hardly anybody  speaks English and foreigners are still an uncommon sight.
She knows to expect lots of staring.

But whatever happens Mrs Readalot promises that she will not, under any circumstances, be eating fried bugs on a stick...

[All photos courtesy of Gail's Most Excellent Blog]

Planning to Read before I go (as recommended by Gail):

Mrs Readalot's Bloggy Bookclub

If you are a keen reader, we'd love you to join in with our bloggy bookclub.
How it works:
  • Book Club members take turns choosing the Book of the Month and hosting the linky
  • You can choose to read & review either the Book of the Month or a book of your choice
  • Anyone can join in the linky fun - you don't have to be a signed up member
  • Members are kept up to date via email, so nobody misses their chance to link up or host
  • Linkies go up on the host's blog at the beginning of the month and remain open all month 
Sign up here to become an official member and linky host.

THIS MONTH: August Bookclub is being hosted by Stacey at Dear Future Me 

Stacey over at Dear Future Me is hosting and has come up with a great idea for Bookclub - rather than choosing a specific book, Stacey has picked a theme: "Books that Make You Want to Travel"

Stacey explains...
"As I'm currently in England for a couple of years, travelling, I want my Bookclub Theme to be books that make you want to travel or help you feel close to a country (similar to what Meghan has said about 'Cry the beloved country' and how that made her feel about South Africa.) There are other books like 'The Kite Runner', 'The Bronze Horseman' 'The Help' etc that have that same effect... Fiction or non-fiction books that draw you in to a country and particularly to its history and culture."

Please share with us a book (or books) that make you want to visit a country, or which capture the essence of a place for you.

Mrs Readalots bloggy Bookclub
21 August 2012

Breakfast Brilliance (an idea for smooth mornings)

This is a post about a Brilliant Idea - one which is revolutionising our mornings.
I can't take any credit because the idea is not mine.
It came from my kids and they deserve all the credit.
Especially Dash. Who would have thought?

Last week we had a family meeting. Things had gotten a bit ragged around the edges; star charts were being neglected, chores left undone and liberties taken.
There was way too much grumpy and growling, so the family meeting gave us all a chance to say our piece and redraw the boundary lines.

After the meeting, Dash said to me, "Mum you know when Nan looked after us while you were in Australia? Well she used to set the table for breakfast at night time and make our lunchboxes so that the morning wasn't a rush. I reckon we should do that too..."
I'm sure I nodded and smiled and agreed that was indeed a great idea.
Then I promptly went away and forgot all about it.

Sunday evening, Dash brought it up again.
"Mum I really think we should do that, what Nan did. It would be so nice to all have breakfast together as a family instead of rushing around, don't you think?"

Of course I agreed. Anything to make mornings run smoother would be fab.

Dash continued "...and we should make our lunchboxes at night too. Let's do it NOW!"
He jumped up and prodded his sister into action; "Come on Ab let's do it!"
They ran to get their lunchboxes.
OK, so we're really doing this, then???
[It's DARK because it's NIGHTTIME]

Out came all the lunchbox makings and Miss Fab set to work.
Meanwhile, Dash was setting the table for breakfast.
Down went the placemats, out came the cereal boxes. On went a plate, bowl, cup and cutlery for each person. I kept glancing over at Dash's handiwork, as Miss Fab and I put fruit and rolls into boxes.

Dash was bent over the table, writing something.
Then he came over and said, "I have put name tags where everyone is going to sit, OK?"
And he had. A little scrap of paper to identify our seats.
Bless him.

Now he said, "Mum, you need to get up at seven OK? Can you?"
"Well, I'll try," I said.
"Maybe you could write yourself a note?" he suggested.

Ha. Ha.

The next morning Dash was knocking on our door at 7.03am.
Milk and peaches and crumpets, a pot of tea and a jug of milo were added to the table.
Dash poured juice for everyone and we all sat down and ate together.
Chatting over cereal. Sharing last night's dreams over cuppa teas.

"Isn't this great?" Dash said. "We can all be together for breakfast as a family..."

With the lunch boxes already made the night before, all that remained was for the kids to get dressed and make their beds. (Which they actually did for once). No shouting. No panicking.

Such a nice way to start the morning. We could relax and eat and enjoy a leisurely start to the day because
(a) we were up half an hour earlier
(b) the lunchboxes were already made
(c) we were making time and space to eat and talk together instead of rushing
All through breakfast I kept congratulating my son on his leadership; thanking him for his great idea and intitative.

An idea which repeated itself the next day. Once again after dinner, the table was cleared and dishes done by children, then Dash set the breakfast table and we all made lunchboxes.
This morning, another lovely breakfast together, another smooth start to the day.

I could totally get used to this.