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.)

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

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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.

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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.

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Middle Child Syndrome

I recently read a blog post from a young woman, who, as a middle child, felt less loved than her siblings. This struck a chord with me as my lovely Maisie Moo often feels left out and hard done by. Typically I find this annoying, because I absolutely adore her and the idea that she is loved any less or gets any less attention than the other two seems ridiculous to me.

But reading that young woman’s blog I thought, “It’s irrelevant if I think she’s being ridiculous, if Maisie believes it to be true, then for her it’s fact. ” So what to do? How as parents with middle children can we ensure that they feel as loved, needed and included as the others? At the moment I don’t know, but I’m working on it.

I was talking to my Mum about Maisie and she reminded me that before Izzy came along, Maisie was my tiny partner in crime, my cutie-pie side kick. Then Izzy arrived and that special relationship was put on hold as I tried to feed, comfort and hold a baby who wouldn’t sleep through the night. In the haze of those sleep deprived days, Maisie’s need for me sometimes felt overwhelming and I’m sure there were moments when I pushed her away (not literally!) when what she really needed was a good ol’ love-up.

I’ve spoken to several other parents of three, who all say the same thing, that the middle child has this skewed view of somehow being loved less. Across the board the parents say this isn’t true but there must be something in the dynamic of a family with three kids that makes it feel true for those middle kids.

Maisie is such a “good” girl, obedient, sweet, creative, inquisitive and funny, yet when she’s feeling shut out, she’s a little monster. It’s the little monster tendencies manifesting themselves as jealousy and brattishness, that make it harder for parent to act affectionately. If a child is being unpleasant, then unpleasant responses tend to come back at them. This is a cycle that I can see could form over time for middle children and it’s this cycle I want so badly to avoid/break.

I can certainly see how relationships with middle children and parents can falter. It’s easy to plop all bad behaviour into the same category, instead of taking the time to question whether or not the bad behaviour is caused by something deeper. Over years I can imagine that that anxiety and uncertainty can fester, so that by the time they’re teenagers their relationship with their parents and even siblings is pretty disfunctional.

When I put myself into Maisie’s shoes, I can see how hard it must have been for her. We went from spending all our time together to me giving her much less attention and sending her off to nursery. In reality I’ve had much less time with Maisie than the other two. Sam had me all to himself for nearly three years and Izzy has had a similar amount if not more time, as the other two are at school full time now. I know this is the same for all children who get a sibling but for some reason it’s the middle kids who feel it the most.

The heartbreaking thing is that when I give her one on one attention, she blossoms, she’s delightful and she’s an enormous help. She melts my heart and I think to myself, “I must do this every day. ” But then life happens and I don’t do it every day.

I guess it all comes down to discipline. Maisie needs me to make more of an effort with her so I will, I have to because our relationship is precious and so is she. No one else can do it, no one else has the honour of being her mother, that’s my job and it’s a job that I want to get right. It’s not that she doesn’t need her Dad because she does and she adores him, but she needs my affection and attention more at the moment.

I wish it were as easy as it sounds, I wish I could just tell Maisie how fantastic I think she is and for her to believe me. All I hope it’s that when she’s a young woman, she won’t be writing blogs about how unloved she feels, she’ll be writing blogs about other more exciting things, secure in the knowledge that my unconditional love for her is limitless.

Sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone

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A Gift Idea – The Children’s Picture Dictionary

imageI discovered this gorgeous book whilst reading Fancescas Romana Correal’s post, “Fearless Motherhood Maybe Just Means Love.”

It’s a beautiful, illustrated children’s dictionary, printed in the early 1950’s and after trawling the net it would appear there are still plenty around to buy second hand. This one is going to be a gift for my beautiful Goddaughter’s 3rd birthday, as she loves books and this has wonderful drawings for now as well as lovely descriptions for when she’s a bit older.

What I love about it, is that it contextualises all the words. I always find this to be the best way to describe a word to a child as it brings the word to life and allows you to apply meaning.
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Apart from anything else it’s just a beautiful book, the pictures are really retro and charming and because they are all so old, they are all individually worn. I got this one via Abe Books And this link should offer a selection of sellers who have the book in stock.

So if you fancy bucking the trend and finding something a little bit different and special then this is a great option. Even if the child doesn’t like it, I bet the parents will!

Deep Breath and Relax.

I haven’t written a blog post for ages. The trouble is I had a rather unfortunate epiphany. One day after school, when I was writing a post and all three children were crawling on me and screaming, I realised that I was blogging to escape. By blogging I was actually just avoiding doing actual mothering. The house was a mess, meals were late and I was snapping at the kids when they wanted something (food mainly) because I was in the middle of writing.

It turns out my children expected me to do actual stuff for them. You know, cook, make sure they had clean clothes, get them to school on time, those inconvenient old chestnuts. I found that whenever I sat down to write a blog post or do anything at all on my iPad, the kids would just freak out. If I was standing up and being productive in a way that benefitted them, then they’d play beautifully and crack on with stuff. So, I decided to stop writing for a while and start actually responding to and interacting with my children. Weird huh? I’m very jealous of bloggers who manage to do it all, but in the end I’m not one of them, so there’s no point in sweating it.

So why are you blogging now? I hear you cry in outrage? Well, after 8 years of breeding and having at least one little person at home, Izzy, my smallest and noisiest child, has started nursery! I have real, spare time to do my own thing. Imagine that! So, the other day, I dusted off my laptop and started writing again, I found some old kids poems I wrote ages ago and am thinking of sending them off to some agents. (Please note that I am still only “thinking” about doing this, any actual doing is still a long way off…)

The good thing about my little blogging break was that I had a chance to think about what I want to write and learned some good lessons along the way. I’ve decided not to do product reviews unless I already use and love the product, (N.B. I will of course happily review diamonds, the new Volvo XC90 or any designer handbags) and to stop The Many Faces Of Maisie Moo. It turns out that Maisie became really paranoid about her smile and didn’t want to be in pictures anymore, (Nice, well done me.)

I’ve also had a chance to learn some decent mothering lessons. Here they are in all their glory.
1. Get up earlier. Turns out, it gives you more time in the morning, who knew?
2. Don’t ever sit down or relax when the kids are awake, it unsettles them and makes them wild.
3. Let the children play with play dough whenever they want. It keeps them happy for ages. I know it’s messy, but since I’ve learned how to sweep, mess is not horror it once was.
4. Let them ruin the play dough by mixing it up. (That one still makes me sweat but deep breathing and simply not looking helps enormously.)
5. Shouting doesn’t work. (I still do it, but whilst I’m doing it I’m thinking, “This isn’t working.”) Babysteps.
6. Wine doesn’t help. (Controversial I know, please don’t hit me.)
7. Don’t even try talking to another adult when there are children in the room. You can’t hear what you’re saying and neither can the adult your trying to talk to. I’ve discovered after eight years of tireless research that all children react very badly when they think you’re about to finish a sentence. That’s science.
8. If one of the children hates doing a club you’ve forced them to do then just let them stop doing it. Life’s too short. Having said that I’m sticking with Izzy’s ballet class for a little bit longer, as I’m sure she’s growing to love it.

The long and short of it is, life had been much less stressful and much more streamlined for the past few months. Let’s just hope that now I’ve started blogging again that I can resist the temptation to hide from the children whilst writing about what fun we’re having…

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Review of “Where’s The Scone?” By Beth Dexter-Smith. Illustrated by Calvin Innes

I was recently sent some books to review from the guys at My Little Big Town. One of them was, “Where’s the Scone?” This is a fun little rhyming book, probably best suited to the 18 months to 3yr old age bracket. My Little Big Town specialise in making slightly wacky or gross books that seem to be very appealing (well certainly to my unsophisticated bunch.) to kids. This particular book is a counting book, but the reason it’s rather interesting is that the creatures it uses are not the normal, “cow”, “chicken”, “dog” that you tend to find in most other basic counting books. Instead they use, “Gnu”, “Yeti” and “Llamas” as cheeky alternatives! As far as I’m concerned, any book that uses out of the ordinary language is good. Also the fact that some of the animals eat strange or unexpected meals makes my toddler giggle and ask what the foods were like, again a good thing.

At the back of the book there are some items to search for in the pages of the story. This in itself is fun as it draws the story out (small children books are over so quickly!) without turning it into something that your child will lose interest in.

The illustrations are bright and engaging and really suit the jolly tone of the book. At the end of the day though, the only thing that really matters is that my 2 year old loves it. This was a lovely book to receive and I thoroughly recommend it!

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Tiger Omelette

Tiger Omelette was created by accident when the only cheese I had left in the fridge was the Red Leicester that came with our Christmas Cheese Variety pack. Usually my kids refuse to have cheese omelette but oddly decided it was brilliant when I called it tiger Omelette.

Ingredients
A fifty pence sized blob of oil
One large egg per child
A splash of milk
A pinch of salt
Grated Red Leicester Cheese

Method
imageHeat the oil in the pan. Whilst it’s heating up, mix the eggs milk and salt together and then pour into the pan when it’s heated. Be careful not to let the egg burn by using a silicone spatula to go around the edge of the Omelette and scraping the bottom of the Omelette away to allow the uncooked mixture to heat and harden.

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Once the Omelette is pretty solid but still wet on top just sprinkle on the grated Red Leicester to create the tiger stripes and place under a grill until the top is solid but not brown!

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Once cooked just use the spatula to release the Omelette and serve! This is such a quick recipe and tasty too, we usually serve with fruit and raw veg so that it’s balanced but still really quick.

One last handy tip, we’ve discovered that our kids are more likely to eat raw carrot when it’s still carrot shaped. Kids eh?

Ta da!

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.