The Hamma Bead Solution.

As you may well know, I’m a big Hamma Bead fan. They keep my eldest daughter occupied for hours which can only be excellent. The only problem with Hamma Beads is that if you have a very prolific Hamma Beader in your family then storage becomes a problem. So thanks to some lovely ladies on Twitter I was inspired to create what’s known in the wider world as a Hamma Bead Wall. Sounds glorious doesn’t it? Well it is glorious because it stops them being chucked into a toy box and being broken into hundreds of pieces. It also gives said prolific child a chance to enjoy the work of their hands every single day.

So without further ado, here is Maisie’s Hamma Bead Wall of Joy! (I added “of joy” to make it sound a bit more fabulous. Hope you don’t mind.)

IMG_3407.JPG

Just to put it in context, we have a lot of work to do…
And er… Please ignore the woodchip. Thank you.

IMG_3408.JPG

Advertisements

6 Serious Childhood Conditions Triggered by Over-use of the iPad.

Ok, perhaps not entirely serious, but it’s as a result of these “conditions”, that things have a’changed in our household recently. Ignoring a fairly major blip over the Christmas period, we have put rules in place regarding screen time for the kids. Most families I know implemented these rules ages ago, but I’m a bit of a hot mess organisationally and it’s taken me until now to sort things out.

I think it’s important to point out that I’m not anti-iPad, I really enjoy my iPad and spend much too much time on it. I also feel that sometimes it’s the most astonishingly useful device when you’re out and about or on a long journey and you need to keep the kids entertained. I just think there need to be boundaries so that it works for the family not to the detriment of it.

For some reason, the iPad or any other gaming device for that matter, has an almost mystical hold over my son. Although my girls quite like to play computer games (joining up in Minecraft is a particular treat for them) they just aren’t as interested as Sam. Maybe this is an age thing, but it seems to me that the sort of games that boys tend to prefer, trigger the following serious conditions.

1. Rage-a-tosis. When my son has been playing on the iPad for a long period of time he turns into a snarling, snappy, rude and aggressive brat. Normally, he’s an incredibly sweet-natured little chap, so this is very out of character. The phrases, “Can I just finish this battle?” Or “But I’m in the middle of a match.” Quickly turn into,”I’m not coming until I’ve finished my match!” “That’s so unfair! You never let me finish anything! You HATE me!!” and then into, “ARGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”, or “GRAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” with a flourished collapse on the floor to full dramatic effect. Most annoying.

2. Zombi-osity This is the scientific word for whenever a kid is in a mid-game mong and turns into a Zombie. They can only see the game, they can only hear the game, they can only feel the game. These senses therefore become null and void for anything other than, the game. The consequence of this is that by the time I’m on my fourth, “Dinner’s ready, can you come and sit at the table please!!” I’m furious and irritable and ready to throttle him. Not a nice compulsion to feel towards the fruit of my womb and not a great starter for ten when it comes to creating a loving family atmosphere.

3. Invisibilityism When my son is on the iPad, he sort of disappears. I don’t see him and I don’t hear him. For all intents and purposes, he’s not with us. He’s in his own, very addictive, very solitary little world. I find this quite disturbing. Well, when I actually stop and think about it I find it disturbing, because what I usually do is just enjoy the silence and the lack of screaming that he inevitably provokes in the girls.

4. Anti-empatica Otherwise known as a total lack of empathy. When I’ve managed to prize my son away from a marathon gaming session, it’s quite clear that he behaves differently towards his sisters. He’s more abrupt, rude and mischievous. Normally I’m a fan of a bit of mischief but I’m not a fan of that strange post-game mischievousness which has an edge of nasty that none of us want in our lives.

5. Nagalotus Where children pester you for what they want until all your defences are worn down and you’d chew your right arm off for a bit of peace and quiet. If kids who like to play computer games feel even a moment of boredom, they ask to play on their device of choice. This doesn’t tend to happen once though. Oh no, me hearties, I’d say parents of a computer addicted child have to bat aside a constant drip of requests throughout the day if the children are not at school. It’s not surprising if we eventually give in, the nagging is non-stop and at the end of the day peace is soooooo lovely.

6. Flopaboutitus The condition that seems to strike after a particularly engrossing gaming session. For some reason when my son has just finished playing and is in the midst of a post-computer game fog, he becomes sort of mopey and sulky. It’s a bit like watching a teenager in love, mooning around and obsessing about the object of their desire. What is it about these games that’s so addictive? I feel the pull myself with Pet Rescue Saga, so odd and so pointless.

So, in response to this I’ve laid down the law and declared that Sam can only play on the iPad for an hour a day when we’re at home. That still seems like quite a lot of time actually but it seems that just having the law in place manages his expectations and therefore his reactions. He knows when time is up and he’s ready for it, so somehow in his brain it’s not so bad.

I have to say, the change to our family life is extraordinary. I actually see Sam now and it makes me realise how distant we had become with each other. The kids also really enjoy playing together. The girls adore their big brother and are delighted when he wants to play with them. The house is certainly noisier and messier, but there’s a feeling of camaraderie that isn’t there when the iPad dominates. It’s also very satisfying when they’re using their imaginations and laughing together and sorting out their own disagreements. It reminds me of watching lion cubs play fighting and rolling about, it seems like their play is teaching them “stuff” that they’ll need later in life. Not sure what that “stuff” is exactly but I’ve got a feeling it must be better than Zombi-osity…

A gently staged picture of Sam doing some maths, which he does almost constantly now that he doesn’t play on the iPad as much. Ok, that’s not true.

IMG_3406-0.JPG

Maisie Draws…

…cat.

Since I’ve removed, “The Many Faces of Maisie Moo”, Maisie has started to enjoy drawing and wanted to put some of her art on my blog. So as of today “Sam Draws”, will become “Kids Art Gallery” and will be a lovely reminder for me of all their drawings. Thankfully this will also mean I don’t have to keep the thousands of art pieces (kids are very prolific aren’t they…?) hanging around the kitchen table.

I love this little cat, I found it crumpled and folded up in her book bag and think it’s a little treasure.

IMG_3211.JPG

How to keep an 8 year old boy occupied – ideas needed!

You’ve gotta love school. Teachers are amazing aren’t they? They get our children to sit down quietly and learn things and craft things and play in the playground. By the end of this first half-term though my two school-goers were completely knackered, they needed a rest at home with mummy and I was really looking forward to it. In fairness, the first three days of half term were lovely, the rest were… challenging.

image
 
 
 
At the beginning of the week we went to see Nana and fed the ducks.
 
 
DSC_0330
 
 

We went to the Botanical gardens for food and a play.

image
 
 
 
 
 
 
…and we wandered around Wandlebury with some friends. The weather was glorious and we all just made the most of being outside.
 
 
 
 

It was soooo freakin dreamy! Then, it got chilly and a bit rainy and quite a lot less fun. Strangely, being stuck inside with an energetic eight year old boy Is not very relaxing.

Something has changed since the summer holidays, Sam has suddenly become a big boy. Playing with his sisters is not as much fun as it used to be, playing on his own with his toy figures just doesn’t hold his interest as it used to do. All he wants to do is do something sporty or spend hours on the iPad. I have to admit it was a relief to get him back to school – at least they know how to keep him occupied!

Although all this growing up stuff is normal and good, it’s a bit of a nightmare from a, mothering during the winter months, point of view. Now he’s back at school, I absolutely don’t want every moment he spends at home glued to a small screen. It’s not just the fact that he’s pretty much absent from us when he’s playing these computer games, it’s the subsequent anger he sometimes flashes when it’s time to finish his game and do something in the real world. Somehow TV seems quite wholesome in comparison to computer game time and it’s a never-ending battle to try to keep him occupied with other stuff. He can’t do a club every night, he’d be exhausted and now it’s getting dark, football after school isn’t really an option, so how do I keep him away from his screen obsession??? Really, how???

Even during Isabelle’s birthday party he (and most of the other kids) retreated into the living room for a mass Minecraft session. For them it was brilliant, the idea of all wandering around the same virtual Minecraft world was about as fabulous as it gets. image What about wandering around the real life garden together? Not a chance! After the treasure hunt and a brief bounce on the trampoline by the smallest ones, the garden became redundant, even though it was gloriously sunny and mild! For us parents it felt as though we’d simply put off the inevitable. It was easier to just let them do that than listen to their relentless, “when can we play Minecraft?” mantra.

When Sam’s not playing on the iPad, he ends up complaining that he’s bored, teasing his sisters and making them scream. When his sisters are screaming, I flip. Something happens in my brain that turns me into a wild-eyed, roaring bear. I don’t like it and neither do my poor, cowering children. What do we gather from this? We gather that he needs to be occupied.

As of Tuesday, he’s only allowed to play on the iPad when I’m putting his sisters to bed. So far so good. This is mainly due to the fact that he did swimming one day and went to a friend’s house today. What the heck do I suggest as an alternative for the rest of his life at home? In reality I don’t have the time to entertain him, I’ve got to sort out dinner, do baths and put two out of three kids to bed. I’m pretty much hoping that without access to the iPad he’ll come up with something else to do himself, I just a have sneaking feeling that even when he does find something else to do he’ll still pester me to let him play on it.

So, someone, anyone, tell me what to do with this lovely bored boy. What did boys do in the olden days? I want him to have downtime after school that doesn’t include technology. Please, parents of boys, any ideas and advice will be gratefully received and promptly passed on!

image

My beloved, yet bored son.

How Time Flies…

IMG_3190.JPG
I came across an old photo album the other day and it only contained pictures of Sam as a baby. These were the days before Maisie and Isabelle, days when Ferg and I looked YOUNG! It was astonishing, I looked enviously at my own skin and my non bag-laden eyes. I wish I knew then that I had nice skin, I’d have enjoyed it a bit more.

Anyway, looking at the album, made me feel all nostalgic and warm, remembering how simple it was with only one child, how happy we were with our little chubby baby. We felt really grown up and even though it was only eight years ago, I looked at us then and thought about all the lessons we’ve learnt and all the things that have happened to us and our families since then. When that photo was taken we didn’t know if we’d have the three kids we wanted, we didn’t know what the future looked like but as a little family we were ready to go through it together.

Parenthood changes you doesn’t it? Not only in terms of looking and feeling older (Darn you to heck, you sleepless nights!) but in terms of priorities. Before kids you can afford to put yourself first, after kids that’s just not an option. One thing I didn’t realise though, was that you also have to make a conscious effort to consider your husband/wife/partner when children come on the scene. I’m not saying that as soon as you have a child you forget about them, I just mean that other things suddenly seem much more important.

I remember quite clearly, how Ferg and I would sometimes play the, “I’m more tired than you game,” when Sammy was small. We would take turns trying to get him off to sleep and Ferg would wander around the spare room for hours trying to comfort him. In the end though, the hours of wandering around would eventually lead back to me for a final feed. I remember nursing him In the dead of night, delirious with tiredness and struggling to ignore the excruciating pain of non-stop breastfeeding. I’d look at my sleeping husband and think, “I’m obviously more tired than you Ferg, I definitely win!” I’d imagine of all the opportunities he would have for a rest, on the train to work, lunchtime… Er… on the train home. In reality, we were both exhausted. Was it Ferg’s fault that he didn’t have breasts to feed the baby? Was it his fault I didn’t want the baby to be fed with formula? No of course not! That was our decision. At the end of the day, whether or not you’re more exhausted than your partner is irrelevant. When you have a baby, you both get really, really tired and struggle to function in the same way as you did before having a baby.

It’s sooo easy when you’re super tired to be snappy and argumentative. Little grievances can turn into big grievances, especially after a day alone in front of Cbeebies, feeling like nothing more than a tiny person’s milk-bitch. If you’ve given up a career or even just put it on hold, then resentment can easily worm it’s way into your relationship if your other half is off at work with their identity firmly still in check. At the end of the day, it’s mentally, physically and emotionally hard work having and looking after a baby. But it doesn’t get any easier by allowing resentment to creep into your relationship.

I remember a woman in my friend’s NCT class who decided to leave her boyfriend when her little boy was just a couple of months old. She had to do everything on her own. She did it brilliantly by the way, but it did make me stop and actively thank God that I had Ferg and that he’s a great dad and a loving husband. I thought then, “This is hard, but I’m really glad I’m doing it with Ferg.”

So eight years down the line, with three children all over two, we feel like we’re coming out of a tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, the tunnel has been great, if a little intense, but, we REALLY enjoy the relative freedom of having slightly older children. We recently celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary by going away for 2 whole nights. Nana and our besties looked after the kids and we wiled away the hours with spa treatments, eating good food, walking and chatting. It was glorious to be alone and not worry about cutting up food, wiping bottoms and defusing tantrums, but it was also just long enough to start missing our little terrors.

These days, my chubby baby Sam is now a lean, sporty big brother who looks after and winds up his sisters in equal measure. Life is more complicated now, but it’s fundamentally good and were still happy. I’m determined to actively treasure it and be thankful for it. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so show your nearest and dearest know how much you love them today.