The Help – starting the conversations with your children

I’m pretty sure I’m one of the last people on the planet to have read the book The Help.  I avoided the movie until I’d finished the book because the book is usually better in my opinion.  I’m not so sure in this case.

I loved the book.  Loved it: until the last chapter.  What a disappointing ending.  It reminded me of ‘personal writing’ in grade four when you couldn’t think of a way to finish so you just did the old: “…and then she woke up”.  If you haven’t read the book, I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend it.  As I said, it kept me captivated right the way through, but the conclusion was just so dull it left a bit of a sour taste on my reading palette. But I digress…

What this book has done is open up the lines of communication with my eight year old daughter.  She came into the study last night while I was watching the movie and she asked what it was all about. I explained it as best I could, but she looked utterly confused. “What do you mean there were different toilets and libraries for people?” she asked.  Thankfully, she lives in a community where it is completely nonsensical to separate people based on the colour of their skin.  In her little bubble, we’re all created equal; and for that, I’m grateful.  In her class there are children of many different ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.  They are all on an equal playing field.  Perhaps that is partly because we live in such a small community, it may or may not be different in larger city schools, but I think as a whole society is changing.

My son wears nail polish, he pushes a pink pram around and loves to carry a handbag.  If my brothers had dared to do any of those things, my parents would have been mortified.  I’m not guessing this, I know it.  We live in different times.

Sadly though, the world is not perfect.  There are still people who look at my son in the supermarket with his fake Prada bag and his sparkly nail polish and scoff.  There are people who will judge others on their skin colour and their religion.  I can’t change everyone’s opinion.  I can’t right the wrongs of the past when people were automatically considered a sub-class because of the colour of their skin.  However, I can shape my children’s beliefs and morals.  I can teach them to treat everyone as equal despite any perceived differences and I can open their minds to the amazingly diverse world we live in.

I’ve started the conversation. That’s all I can do for now.

The simple things in life

Easter is a special weekend for our little family.  More so than Christmas in my opinion because it is our Easter traditions that brought us to our tree-change location.  We used to spend the chocolate-themed weekend here in Bright well before we ever lived here.  We’d sit around a campfire, sing songs and play games with friends.  There is always a group of around 30-40 people camping at a friend’s property surrounded by the pine forests and river.  Days are simple and fun; talking, laughing and without electronics.  Evenings are filled with toasted marshmallows, camp songs and a few red wines.

I relish these simple times.  The kids ride their bikes, wear themselves out and sleep soundly.  The adults chat and solve the problems of the world.  It reminds me what ‘it’s’ all about.  Friendships and memories created to last a lifetime.

Happy Easter everyone.  I hope you’ve all had a lovely, relaxing weekend.

What are your Easter traditions?

Letting go

This morning I was woken by two eager little eyes, peering at me through the pre-dawn darkness with excitement and a little bit of trepidation.  Miss8 is off on her first school camp today.

We spent the weekend getting her bags packed and labelling everything that could possibly be labelled.  I also added a little packet of snakes to her bag for those fun, school camp midnight feasts that always end up in a fit of giggles.

She’s ready.  There’s no doubt about it.  Me, not so much.

It’s time to let go.  It’s time I let go.

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is let them go; just a little.  Until a time when they’re spreading their wings and soaring on their own.  This is the first step.

I know as she grows up, I need to have confidence in our ability to parent her to that point when she is able to make the right decisions on her own.  We need to think that all the steps we’ve taken along this journey of life have settled themselves somewhere at the back of her brain and when she needs to draw on them, our voices will be there in the deep recesses of her mind guiding her just a little.

I dropped her off at the bus less than an hour ago.  I miss her already.  But I know she’s going to have the time of her life and this is just the first step in letting go.  Tell me it gets easier…

 

Before I had children…

Before I had children, I had such a rigid idea about how things would be.  I ‘knew’ how I would behave, and how my children would behave (HAH!).  I was very black and white – there was no room for grey.  Oh how things have changed!

Before I had children I thought my children would adapt to my lifestyle and we would dictate their routine.
Now I know that I would give my right eyeball for a full night sleep and routine can go out the window in a second when there is a fever involved.

Before I had children I thought pulling an all nighter involved either text books or a game of centurions.
Now I know it relates to sick children and teething.  It’s also not as much fun as centurions although there may be the same amount of vomit.

Before I had children I thought cold coffee was sacrilege.
Now I know that coffee can be consumed within 18 hours of being made.  24 at a pinch.

Before I had children I thought that going to the toilet by myself was a given.
Now I know that going to the toilet by myself is a present from the Gods.

Before I had children I thought that guilt was to do with forgetting to call your best friend on their birthday.
Now I really know what guilt is.  I’m pretty sure my Dr injected me with a dose when he was testing my HCG levels,

Before I had children I thought I was born to be a mother.
Now I know that it’s something I’m going to have to work very hard at for the rest of my life.

Before I had children I thought I knew what love was.
Now I realise I had no idea about my ability to love someone unconditionally who vomits and poos on you.

I’ve learnt so much about myself in the last 8 years of being a parent.  More than anything I’ve learnt that I had NO IDEA about who I would be as a parent.  I’m learning to like this person though…slowly.

 

What were some of the things that you thought you would do as a parent?

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The importance of quality childcare

I’ll never forget the day Mr Handyman walked through the front door, our daughter on his hip (aged about 15 months) and a look of horror on his face.  I had recently returned to work outside of the home and had made all of Stinky’s childcare arrangements.  That afternoon, he’d turned up to the centre for the first time, the code lock on the front gate was broken so he just walked straight in.  He didn’t come across anyone so followed the sound of children playing and the delighted squeals of Stinky as she saw him through a window.  One of the carers looked at him and smiled (presumably at the reaction of a child seeing her parent).  He picked her up, found her bag and walked out of the centre.  No one asked a single question about who he was or why he hadn’t signed her out.  He literally picked her up and walked out!

Stinky never returned to that centre.

As a working parent, I’ve zoomed away from childcare to the office with tears streaming down my face as my child has cried and the guilt has enveloped me.  It hangs around all day and I’m sure on those days, I’ve been less productive and more distracted thinking about my little cherubs.  Most of the time, I know my kids have stopped crying the second I’ve walked out of the room. I’ve often waited until I could hear them calm down, then left with a little less weight on my shoulders.  Sometimes I’ve had to leave and phoned once I arrived at the office only to find they’re just fine.

Thankfully, we’ve now found a BRILLIANT childcare centre where I would love to stay and play.  The staff are so loving and warm; handing out hugs and laughs at the drop of a hat.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had quite a journey to reach this point.  This is the third centre we’ve been involved with as well as one family day care.

I know how important it is to find the right carer for your little ones.  I also know there isn’t always a lot of choice.  With waiting lists and limited places, sometimes we need to take what we can get.  I live in a town with one childcare centre.  One!  If it was substandard, what would I do?  I am lucky it’s so wonderful.

Here is a list of things to look out for when selecting a childcare centre:

  1. Spend some time in the room your child will be attending.  Go for a play 2-3 times if you have the opportunity.  Most centres will allow this and it’s a great opportunity to see how the carers interact with the children.
  2. Check out the menu.  This is such an important part of your child’s day.  Make sure there is variety and healthy food on offer.  You’d be surprised what some centres still feed children, despite what we now know about the effects of food on behaviour.
  3. Drop by out of the blue.  If you’re on the verge of selecting a centre, drop by unannounced and gauge the reaction of the staff.  If they’re accommodating, that’s great.  If they’re horrified and unwelcoming, the red flag starts waving.
  4. Take a look at their programming.  All accredited centres (and Family Day Care providers in Victoria) have a documented program for education and activities.  It will tell you what they plan to do and what areas of your child’s development it relates to .
  5. Ask other parents for recommendations.  I was really surprised how many parents told me their horror stories of the ‘bad’ childcare once I started talking to them.
  6. Do a quick search online.  You never know what parents have been saying online about centres and carers.  Beware, this information is highly subjective and could be the result of a disgruntled employee.
  7. Ask the centre about staff turnover.  This was a major issue in Stinky’s second centre.  There was ridiculously high staff turnover.  This indicated to us that there is an underlying issue.  If management can’t keep staff happy, how can we expect them to keep our precious little people content and safe?
  8. Be present.  Once you have selected to type of care and the centre, make sure you are present and ask questions.  This travels right through schooling in my opinion.  Make sure the teacher/carer is aware that you’re interested and engaged and open to discussions.  As working mothers we can’t always cut fruit or volunteer, but you can linger a little longer at pickup time.
  9. Think outside the box.  The centre closest to home is not always the best fit for your work and family situation.  We chose a centre that was close to my work so that if anything happened, I was closer and able to get there quickly.
  10. Trust your gut instinct.  If you walk into a centre and something doesn’t feel quite right, listen to that inner voice.  Spend a little longer researching and make sure you’re 100% happy with the centre.  If you’re uneasy, chances are your child will be too.

I hope some of these things will help you when looking at your childcare options.  I know it’s hard, trust me; I know!  We all need to find the best fit for our family and that isn’t always the same as the person next door.  Just make sure you’re comfortable with your choices and your child is happy.  That’s all we really want, isn’t it?

 

Image source #1 Image source #2

Mobile technology is not always a good thing

Last week the kids and I went to the movies to see the “Chickmunks” as Lucky calls them lol.  We settled into a packed cinema (school holidays *rolls eyes*) and the kids were mesmerised.  I love watching their cherub faces tilted up toward the big screen and their animated reactions.  Priceless.

I was really disheartened to see three women walk out at various times during the movie to take phone calls!  It’s a two-hour period, can people seriously NOT survive for two hours without their mobile?  Has society really come to this?  One person actually answered IN the cinema and only finished the call after a few loud “Shhhhhs” from the crowd.

To say I’m beholden to my phone is an understatement.  My husband thinks I will have to have it surgically removed one day.  I justify it by saying it’s for work…that’s BS.  Even I know it!

Society has become so addicted to being constantly available, we’ve forgotten how to switch off.  Checking emails on the run, updating our facebook status at every new location, tweeting about anything and everything, instagramming moments in time, stumbling  upon new stuff (I still don’t get that one lol) and phoning people no matter where they are – even in the cinema!

This year I haven’t made any resolutions (they never work out anyway) but I’ve made a single promise to myself: I’m going to be more present in 2012.  I’ll be more present at home, at work, in love and friendships.  It’s so easy to sit with a phone in hand and sms someone while you have a real, live friend sitting just inches away… No more!

 

I’m going to focus on the moment, switch off and allow my emails to sit for more than 30 seconds before checking them.  I’m going to embrace moments and enjoy them,  In 2012 I’m going to build lasting memories with my family.  Twitter/Facebook/Emails can wait.  They really can.

Project Backpack

Living in a tourist town means that we get to live in an idyllic little bubble with beautiful surrounds and amazing people watching.  It also means that for a lot of people the work is seasonal…they need to make hay while the sun shines.  If there’s a flood (like in 2010) or fires (in 2009) the tourists season is cut short and a lot of people simply don’t get the work they need to make ends meet in leaner months.

After reading about Operation Backpack over at Katrina’s blog, I was inspired to start something here in our tiny town.  Following a few phone calls with Vinnies and some help from Katrina (thanks xx) Project Backpack was launched today!

The premise is simple: when you purchase your back-to-school items, simply add something  extra like pencils, textas, a ruler or a notebook to your basket.  Put your donation in the collection bin, and after three weeks, the items will be given to the school to be distributed to those who may not have been able to otherwise afford them.

The local Shire was kind enough to loan us this awesome recycling bin to collect donations.  She’s sitting out the front of the local newsagent and I watched with glee as people slowed to read the posters and find out why she was there!  The big red lips catch people’s attention every time lol

If you’re interested in making a small donation to Project Backpack but don’t live locally, please contact me and I’ll happily give you an address where you can send items.

 

Give a little to make a BIG difference

A simple gift

It’s that time of year again, and we’re all searching for the perfect for gift for the eleventy billion important people in our lives.  Or so it seems…

On our holiday to the beach, I saw a perfect photo opportunity but was stumped on the best way to display it.  A frame just didn’t cut it, then I stumbled on the fad of printing images onto canvas.  I know, I’m way behind the eight ball, and everyone else has been doing this for aaaaages.  I’m always a little slow on the design uptake!

So this photo of my squishy baby’s butt was printed onto canvas and gifted to Mr Handyman.  He loves it and I think it makes a much greater statement than it would if it was framed.

Here are some other things I’ve bought as presents this year:

  • Children’s chopsticks (joined at the top for little people learning how to use them) From House
  • Babushcups (Babushka dolls that are measuring cups – so cute!) From House
  • A handstamped necklace pendant. From Ulli Hanstamped Jewellery
  • A bug catcher for my little explorer. From Lime Tree Kids
  • Manifesto for Kids. This is so lovely for a playroom or bedroom. From The Smile Collective
  • A Glasshouse candle.  The scent is subtle but lasting. From Gallery 90

What are some gift ideas you’re considering this Christmas?  Share for those of us with little (or no) idea.

Am I the anti-mum?

Growing up in a large family, I always ‘knew’ I wanted to have children some day.  I knew which aspects of my parent’s techniques I wanted to mimic, and I certainly knew which parenting mistakes I would not make!  I grew up in a happy, albeit dysfunctional home.  There was always enough love for all of  us and we knew that we were supported.

When I had my first child in my late twenties, I had very clear ideas about who I would be as a parent.  Bwahahaha!  What did I know?  I thought I would build train sets and bake cookies, create crafting sensations and fill our home with kiddy love.

Then reality set in.

I’m not a mumsy type.  I love to work and relish in deadlines and career pressure.  If I spend a day ‘putting out fires’ in the workplace, my evenings with my family are blissful.  There’s an intrinsic need that I can only fulfill with the pressures of work.

Chatting to a friend today, I realised I’m not alone.  She too uses ABC Kids as a break to have a hot coffee.  We both struggle to sit and play incy-wincy-spider for hours on end and sometimes it’s ok to feed the kids pesto pasta (it consists of pesto and pasta.  That’s it).

I remember a White Wings advert many moons ago that showed some kids eating their ‘little lunch’.  They were sitting under a tree and one child says to the other “My mum baked this from scratch”.  The other child says “My mum used a White Wings packet cake because she has a life”.  Or words to that effect.  Even now that makes me giggle.  Not because I think I have a life and the other mother doesn’t, but because I secretly hide the empty packet mix at the bottom of the recycling in case anyone discovers it!

It’s not that I begrudge anyone else their choices in life.  In fact this piece highlights the fact that I second guess my own failings as a working mum.  The truth is that I’m simply not that person.  I would love to enjoy sitting and making salt dough into shapes, baking then painting them.  The thought makes me want to stick chopsticks through my eyeballs.

So instead I do what works for us.  Sometimes I google a salt dough recipe and we make those dastardly creations because it makes my children happy.  But more often than not, I don’t.

What I’ve realised is that that’s ok.  My children thrive and flourish even though I’m the anti-mum.

I know, I know. It’s too early! Ho ho ho

Yesterday, Lucky and I pulled out the tree and decorations and spent a fabulous morning decorating the house – Mr Handyman says “there’s shit everywhere.  It looks like Christmas vomited on our house”.  Eloquent, hey?

Growing up we celebrated the European Christmas which means the tree doesn’t go up until Christmas eve – I’m making up for lost time you see?  All those childhood memories of visiting friends who had their tree up from the 1st of December, and we had to wait…and wait…and wait!  Not any more.

In hindsight, it was a lovely tradition.  The ‘Angels’ would come and set up our tree on Christmas eve, while we were all banished from the living room and kitchen.  These ‘Angels’ would also cook the food and set the table.  ‘Jezuska’ (Jesus in Hungarian) would put the presents under the tree and when it was all set up, the ‘Angels’ would ring a bell and we could go in.  I still remember the excitement; wondering what our tree would look like.  Then we’d all pretend we knew the words to the Hungarian Christmas carols while dad belted them out on his electric keyboard and my sister cried.  Sentimental sod, she is.

The one saving grace was the fact that WE were allowed to open all our presents on Christmas Eve.  My friends, the same ones I envied for having their tree set up for so long, they had to wait another 12 hours.

So these days I put it up as early as is humanly possible.  We started our cards last night and next week I’ll make the teachers their Bailey’s Fudge *drool*.  Then on the 6th of December, Mikolas Baci (St Nicholas) will come to our house while we sleep.  We have to put our shoes by the fireplace and if we’ve been good he will fill them with treats.  Whoever has been naughty will receive a wooden spoon and a potato (pointing madly at Mr Handyman).

The season has begun – woohoo!  What are your family traditions?

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