Friday, 24 June 2011

Things I know - about siblings

I hate mess. Overhauling a few areas of the house this week has made me quite happy, maybe I'll find the time to blog about it... Ikea furniture does help in that regard a lot (what's that, 5 posts in a row where I mention Ikea?), If only I wasn't constantly interrupted by kids fighting I could get this place looking good in no time...

So this week the things I know are just a couple of observations about siblings and birth order:
  • if you make it alive through childhood with an older, rougher sibling, you can pretty much survive anything
  • all the annoying habits of the firstborn are even more annoying when the younger sibling copies them 
  • 2nd borns appear to learn words like "no" and "mine" and "tv" much earlier than 1st borns
  • this post got interrupted twice to break up fights 

But there are also beautiful moments, and these by far outnumber the bad moments:
  • Lucas caressing Sofia's head saying "k-vess"
  • Sofia singing "Ba-ba black sheep" for Lucas when he's upset
  • sharing biscuits and passing bottles of milk to each other
  • Sofia helping Lucas put dress-ups on
  • hearing Sofia say "oh thank you Lucas" and "it's okay sweetie"
  • Lucas calling out for her as soon as he wakes up in the morning
  • it's fun having a sibling to do stuff with and play with and take crazy photos with...

But some days the only thing you can do for peace is put both kids on your lap and put good ol' YouTube on

Hop over at Shae's to see what everyone else knows this week :)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Is this child endangerment?

In an unexpected turn of events, yesterday morning we found ourselves having a mid-morning greasy snack in the play area of a local McDonald's. These sort of places pullulate with a variety of parents and children. This is at the same time interesting, as I do really enjoy people-watching, and frustrating, as I am often witness to questionable parenting choices.

Yesterday I was witness to what is indeed one of the most questionable behaviours I've seen.

Firstly I'll present only the Facts to you.
This is what I saw:
A mother with 2 kids, Boy around 3 1/2 years old, Baby Girl probably just turned 1. She's there with a friend with another 2 of her own.

Fast forward. I see said mother "rescuing" Boy from other room, scolding him for leaving the play area alone etc.

Fast forward. Scenario: there are a few kids playing on the climbing structure, lots of laughter lots of yelling. Dan and I and the kids are taking a break from the climbing, S just discovered Dan's hotcakes, L just discovered my hash brown...
Then cheeky L stands up and starts walking up and down the bench, because you know, he's 19 months and he's intrepid... So I stand up, ready to catch him if he falls. Because you know, I'm that sort of parent who doesn't stop exploration unless it's downright dangerous.

And from there, this is what I see:
Said mother is dragging her son by the arm towards her seat. Not in a "I'm going to beat the crap out of you way", but more in a "I am so sick and tired of this crap". I assume he did something to displease her. Then the two of them leave the area (Friend is looking after Baby Girl). I see them walk towards her car.

Because I was paying attention to L's antics, I didn't really notice whether they were merely holding hands towards the car or if she was dragging him.

Then I see Mother come back inside without Boy. So this is when I did a double-take and got really attentive. I look around. I can't see Boy anywhere. I'm shaking a little because I can't believe what I think has happened. Has she really left her son in the car and calmly walked back inside Maccas?

I look around. I look at the Mother and she appears very calm and relaxed. I can't see Boy. Mother starts chatting and laughing with her friend and sipping her coffee. I still can't see Boy. From where I am I have a clear view of the car outside but I can't see anybody in it. I tell Dan. I don't know what to do. See, to me that is outrageous: it seems so cruel locking a kid in a car alone.

I keep an eye on the time, keep an eye on the woman, have a look around for Boy, the woman doesn't seem to even throw a glance at the car, I'm already thinking about a course of action. Do I call the cops? Do I say something to her? Isn't this child abuse or at least child endangerment? I'm seeing the car wondering whether I'm wrong, maybe Boy is in another area of the restaurant with another adult? Maybe I should go check, it feels like it's been 10 minutes and this woman is acting like she only has eyes for her Baby Girl and has forgotten about Boy.

L is bored with his bench adventures and wants to be picked up, I take it as an excuse for a little walk outdoors... So L and I walk towards the footpath and "casually" glance in the said car.

And Boy is there. In his seat. In his mother's car. All alone. Quietly staring.

I don't know if Mother realised I went out to check or if it was a coincidence, but she went to go get him very shortly after I'd returned inside to tell Dan "yep the boy is there".

This is where the Facts end and my Opinion starts.

I truly am flabbergasted.

Many thoughts cross my mind.

I know that sometimes you've just had it, you've had a crappy day, a crappy night, a crappy week, a crappy month, the house is a mess, the kids are feral and you feel like you've got no support, something's gotta give, and you might say or do something out of character, just because you need 2 quiet minutes to calm down and find your inner balance. But see, the Boy was sitting quietly in there, like someone who is used to it. Like someone who is used to being locked in a car alone when he's being "naughty". If I locked any of my kids in the car alone "until you calm down and start behaving", they would FREAK OUT, because they're not used to it. This boy must've been used to it. He was so calm in that car, all alone.

So this is what my concern is: am I so upset just because that sort of disciplining is so far removed from our style of gentle discipline? I do get upset when I see kids spanked, told off, belittled when more respectful methods could've been used. Am I seeing too much into it? Does anyone of you use Time Out as a disciplining technique? Isn't it supposed to be done when safe for the child? Does the end of having a more subdued child justify the means of having to leave him unattended in a car for 10 minutes? Isn't that dangerous? Or was he really safe and I'm not seeing the forest for the trees?

Or are my concerns justified? If this is that Mother's disciplining technique when the son misbehaves in public, does she lock him in the car every time he misbehaves? Even on a hot day? Even when she can't see the car? That boy was in the car for a long time, as long as 10 MINUTES. I think we all know how hot a car can get in 10 minutes in this country. Hell, it gets hot and stuffy after 5 minutes.

I would've preferred seeing the Boy beside himself, screaming and crying. That would've meant that the Mother just had one of those days, just a lapse, just a momentary breakdown. It would've broken my heart seeing him in tears, but I wouldn't have been scared for him. I've been very disturbed by this episode.

Am I too paranoid? Or are my concerns justified? Is this just a case of a very different parenting style from mine that seems so abhorrent to me but is actually common in mainstream culture? Or is this a woman who regularly uses a cruel technique that could one day seriously endanger her child's life?

I presented you with the facts and my opinion. Jury's out.

What do you fellow bloggers think? Please share your wisdom.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Things I know - post birthday edition

So, what do I know this week?
  • I know my 35th birthday was 7 days ago 
  • I know in my head I'm still 24 years old or so
  • I know that had I known that Dan was going to work the day after my birthday, I wouldn't have thrown a party, I had so many dishes to wash after...
  • I know that as much as some family members drive me nuts, I am really fortunate to be surrounded by so many loving people
  • my birthday is the 5th of June, World Environment Day. To me this is very important, every year it is a reminder to do a check of what I'm doing environmentally and what I could be improving on. I know I'm not as green as I'd like to be, but I'm getting there, and I'm definitely greener than many people I know 
  • I know most people didn't take me seriously when I sent this message with the bday invite:
This has been a year of clarity for me, of a deeper understanding of life. And wanting to reconnect with people and gain a greater understanding of my friends and family.
It has also been a year of de-cluttering, of letting go of the past and keeping what's important for the future.

In this spirit, I had a thought about presents. I already have all that I need in my life, and though a present is always extremely appreciated, how about instead of buying something you think I might like, you give me something that tells me more about YOU?

Is there something I should know about you to get to know you better? A song, a book, a poem, an object, a flower? Whatever you can think of that made you the person you are, or something you love, or something that inspires you, or something that had a great impact in your life. I would be extremely grateful if you could share a bit of you so I can get to know you better.
  • I know 3 really special people did take me seriously, and I really thank them dearly for it
  • I know that we are fortunate, because we have so much: by Western standards, we are probably just "comfortable"; by Rest of the World standards, we are extremely rich. I know that when the kids are old enough to understand, I am going to make sure they see poverty and understand just how lucky they are to have been born in this country in this time in this family
  • I know it'll sound cheesy if you don't have kids, but truly the best bday present I received was waking up near my kids and being hugged and being told "happy birthday Mama" and "I love you thiiiiis much!" 
  • I know I've been a bit depressed. This too shall pass
and the last thing I know this week...
  • this is what happens if I give Sofia access to the first aid kit: she covers her brother in bandaids...

Playing along with the lovely Shae from Yay For Home

Activity cards

Prompted by the realisation that there's some sort of ESP going on with another fellow blogger, I'm putting my laziness to the side and writing about this week's new thing: activity cards.

I got the inspiration some time ago by the Workbox System devised by Sue Patrick which is apparently being used by many a homeschooler in the US. Now, because I'm a bit lazy tonight (too much housework in the morning...) and because others have explained it much better than I could (since I just stole a couple of ideas without fully using the system), check out how Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations uses them to organise the work of her 4 homeschooled kids.

I really like some of the ideas I read. I like the idea of having one specific box for each activity (a bit Montessori actually), and that the kids have cards that tell them what to do. Now, this is of course very not-unschooling, so as I said I'm just stealing a couple of ideas without using the whole system.
Also because it doesn't make a lot of sense with little kids, forcing them into many activities they don't feel like doing is not fair on them or their individual interests and is not age appropriate.

The other reason that got me interested, is that I'm blessed with a smart kid who procrastinates bedtime "but I really really need to do this before I go to bed Mama"... so I thought: what if I get her to choose in the morning what activities she wants to do during the day, so at night she can't come up with the excuses? So far putting her in charge of her own "to do things" has been working a treat!

So this is how we do it: an ideal day is us going out in the morning then play at home in the afternoon. Sofia likes knowing in the morning what the plan for the day is. It gives her security knowing that there is one, that I know what I'm doing as a parent ;)
Of course the kids have a say in what we/they do, after all it is their life and they are the ones choosing what they're interested in.
So I made some cards for Places we go to (green) and other cards for Activities we do (yellow). I also made weekday cards (she started asking me to write the name of the day for her just like they do on Play School...). I'll eventually make more or diversify them and choose other colours, will keep you posted.
Then I laminated them and stuck a magnet behind each, so we can either put them on the fridge or on the small magnetic whiteboard that I bought with this purpose.

Before I forget: the laminator and laminating sheets were approx $25 from Woolworths. The magnets were these from Officeworks: I can highly recommend them because they are pliable and can be cut in smaller parts, they're now a staple of our craft supplies, you can stick them on foam, paper, cardboard, pegs and voila'! instant fridge magnets! Big hit in this household :)

This is what the first "batch" looked like":

I tried to make simple drawings (used stickers and cuttings too) that would be quite immediate for her to understand and memorise, and as you can see on the bottom right, she drew on it too (those are a bottle of glue and a collage with lots of things stuck on it, in case you can't understand the drawings of a 3 year old...)

These are most of them stuck on the fridge:

So this is how I envisaged it to work: each day I stick a Name of the day card, a Place card and a couple of Activity cards for the day. I like suggesting something because we have so many toys, games, stuff, that we might forget some, so this way I can suggest something that hasn't been played with in a while.

But somedays you make plans and everyone is tired and not in the mood. I can't even remember what the plan was for Thursday, we forgot about it pretty fast and decided to stick on the fridge the things we actually did, S really enjoys seeing all the cards, it helps to jog her memory of the day and she's also been impressed by the amount of things that she can do during a day.
So this is what we ended up doing:

After which, we went to Ikea to buy a Trofast to store our activities a bit better... Ok, I might have a little Ikea addiction developing...

Thanks for reading :)


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Mini fashionista

One of the best parts about being 3 and a half is the ability to dress yourself. It is so lovely looking different at least 3 times a day...

I love seeing what S will choose to wear every morning. It just tells me so much about her.
The kids have a chest of Malm drawers from Ikea each, so they can open up the drawers and choose by themselves what to wear (S also puts her clean clothes away, L is still learning...).
Essentially I never tell her what to wear. If we are going somewhere, I usually give her some guidelines or recommendations (like "you might want to wear pants, it'll be more practical to climb" or "if you want to wear that dress you'll need a jumper as well because it's cold out there", you know, the usual motherly things...) and then leave it up to her, she can choose whatever she wants.
I have more input with L (being that he's still only 18 months), some days he couldn't care less, but I always make sure I give him a choice, and most days he gets quite happy choosing his own outfit for the day.

I really enjoyed a few weeks ago reading this post by Owlet Mama, and decided I'd join in, it is nice having a record of the kids' sense of style...

Have been a little slack with photos recently, but here are a couple to start me off:

this is why you shouldn't ask kids to pose:
ready for a line up ;)

both kids chose their own outfits

S chose her dress and leggings,
then chose L's fairy outfit,
she seems very pleased with the result
 I'll start taking better photos of the combinations, some are very fashionable, some are doozies...

Playing along with Owlet

Morning Activities 30 May-5 June

During the week I felt like I wasn't trying hard enough to come up with good strewing ideas, but when I look back at photos and my diary notes I realise there were actually some nice ideas. Some weren't received as well as hoped, possibly also because D was working a later shift (did I mention I hate his boss?) and was still home at that time, so most mornings S was much more keen to play with her father than with my activities...

In that regard keeping a blog is really useful: you get so caught up with your day that you often don't think you've done enough for the kids, but if you actually start writing down what you've done, you really feel like patting yourself on your shoulder :)

So here's last week:

  • Monday: wooden blocks.
  • Tuesday: rice play. In hindsight, not a good idea as a first activity. S lost interest, then L went nuts and started throwing rice everywhere. No comment.

  • Wednesday: poking board! I've already discussed it in my Ikea love post, here's another photo

  • Thursday: drawing. Hey, you can't be doing fancy things every day ;)
  • Friday: swinging monkeys. I simply constructed two Duplo towers and stuck some wool between them and left the monkeys for the kids to hang up. I think I need more of these barrel monkeys, 12 don't seem enough to keep both kids happy at the same time :( 

you can see L wanting to grab the monkeys but
very cautious with big crazy sister over there
  • Saturday: aka no idea morning. Just gave the kids some popsticks and cups and little boxes to sort them, I suggested they could colour them? L happy to sort and transfer etc, S only for 1 minute... Not sure how we got onto the idea, but the pipecleaners came out and S was much happier. 

unsure of her expression... but she's wearing a pipecleaner necklace
  • Sunday: it was my birthday! And since I've been DUMB enough to throw a little lunch party AT OUR HOUSE I had to start cooking early. So our Morning Activity was scrubbing mushrooms ;) No photos there as I ended up being so busy because, for the first time in weeks, my little helpers decided they didn't feel like cooking!!!
Now let's go set the table for tomorrow morning :)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Being a perfectionist means I have 10 posts still in draft status...

So I decided this: I'm going to write a few posts just for the sake of it, just to get back in the habit of writing (almost) daily. Like I used to when I had time and a journal.

So today I'm going to start writing about things I love.

One of them is Ikea.

This is why I love Ikea:
  • imaginative play and little world and so many interesting things to look at and explore for the kids

  •  the Ikea restaurant actually has food my kids will eat, not just junk!
  • the Ikea restaurant has a play area so I can finish my meal without having to chase the kids around!
  • all of the pieces of furniture I have bought so far make the house look better. Here's a before and after:

you have to look behind
the kid striking a silly pose
still working on it, but so far the Expedit
pigeonholes have been a success,
with all family members tidying up their own things

  • I LOVE assembling furniture, I really mean it: except for the big bookcases in the lounge (at 2 metres tall I needed D's help to lift them up etc), anything in the house that required assembly has been put together by me alone, including our queen size bed which I assembled when 6 months pregnant with S. Yes, I am crazy about it... 
  • the kids can help assemble the furniture, nothing better than promoting a sense of "I can do it myself" (ok I know, there's a proper word for it, I have a toddler calling out for me and have to rush this post...) 
  • and finally, oh so many uses for the packaging!

big drawings on the big paper

oh look, a frog jumping on lilypads

free-range painting on the top of the big box

a train for the toys with the bottom of the big box
(now cut up in smaller pieces for general art & craft)

and the un-recyclable polystyrene is now our Poking Board:
lots and lots of toothpicks to poke in, we even poked
some holes with pencils but the little toothpicks get in more easily
and feel more satisfying!
Thank you for reading :)