Not everyone is in love with Valentine’s Day, but you can safely say that most kids are. That’s because what Valentine’s Day means to kids may be a little different to us adults… I’m pretty sure it’s not all fancy date nights, or feeling depressed about their single status on Facebook. As soon as the buzz of Christmas had passed, Elsie – aged six and three quarters – was pumped about the next holiday on the calendar. For her, Valentine’s starts Feb 1st, so yesterday she insisted we get on with it and make heart cookies. “It’s February 1st today Mommy, we need to hurry, there is so much to do!” I’m not entirely sure what she has planned for the rest of the month but apparently we’d better get started.
Apart from wanting to buy everything pink in the vicinity of the store, while proudly wearing her heart jumper dress, Elsie seems genuinely excited. But why? It is the brain-washing of shameful consumerism? I thought I’d better find out by asking her what Valentine’s Day was all about:
“You get to make new friends. Because Valentine’s Day is all about love and friendship.”
When I asked what people do on Valentine’s Day she briefly talked of Cupid shooting at people with arrows to make them fall in love (why aren’t kids more scared of Cupid? It sounds terrifying). But she then went on to talk about making things to give to friends and making new friendships in the process. She’s a wise girl that Elsie.
So before you go boycotting it, think about what Valentine’s Day means to kids, and how we can all learn from it. It shouldn’t be about couples, sex and Instagraming the expensive gift your boyfriend gave you; it should be about love and friendship. Take your friends out, ring someone you’ve lost touch with, leave a little something on the doorstep of someone you care about. We all need a little more kindness in the World of today.
And in case you’re wondering what cookie delight’s we came up with last night, here’s the recipe…
Strawberry Swirl Heart Cookies
Traditional sugar cookies with a hint of natural strawberry flavor and a pink hue for Valentine's Day.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3mins).
Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.
Mix 2½ cups of flour (keep ½ cup aside), salt and baking powder in a separate bowl and then add to the batter. Once a ball of dough is created, remove half of it from the mixer.
On parchment paper, roll the dough into a flat disc around 1 inch thick.
Blend the strawberries into a puree and add to the mixer along with the remaining half of the dough and the extra ½ cup of flour. Mix into a light pink dough.
On parchment paper, roll the pink dough into a flat disc around 1 inch thick.
Sandwich the two doughs together and fold over a couple of times. Knead the dough a little, just enough to get a swirled effect. Split into two balls, flatten to make two marbled discs and refrigerate for around an hour.
Roll out the dough to around ⅛ inch and cut out your heart cookies. Place on a lined baking tray.
Bake at 325°F for 12-15mins, until edges just start to get color.
Once cooled, decorate as you wish. We just whipped up some confectioners sugar with water and dotted the perimeter. For frosting larger areas of the cookie you'll want to make proper royal icing, I've added a link below this recipe card.
Refrigerating the dough hardens it a little and therefore helps the cut out shapes stay crisp. It is not necessary if you're in a hurry (as kids always are).
Giving you exact measurements for flour is tough because it will depend on the size of your egg and strawberries. Use your judgement to create a dough that is easy to work with.
By Katherine of Twin Pickle
Twin Pickle http://twinpickle.com/
If your kiddo is wanting to decorate a masterpiece on their cookies, you’ll want some royal icing. Here a recipe and even a video on how to decorate cookies!
Hurry now… Elsie says there’s only twelve more days to go.
As a child fashionista myself, I distinctly remember picking out a pair of leggings from C&A in the late eighties. THEY WERE AWESOME. White with multicolored swirls on them, a bit like lollipops melting in a tornado. Sky blue, red, yellow, no color was excluded, I was equal rights right from the start. To go with, C&A were offering a bright blue t-shirt with one giant lollipop tornado in the center, perfect. I looked at my Mom with puppy dog eyes, my Mom looked at my sister, 7 years my senior, and the coolest person I knew at that point. And there it was… cringe and smile.
At the time I thought they had no idea… This outfit was The Bomb, and I was going to be rocking it at the roller disco that very evening. Unfortunately, while waiting for my pick-up a few hours later a bunch of horrible older boys walked past, laughing and pointing at my outfit. I wanted the world to open a hole right there and swallow me up. My sister and Mom were right… the t-shirt was too much. I wore the leggings many times after that, but convinced the t-shirt had pushed the assemble over the edge, I never wore it again.
My husband and I have since quoined the phrase – “I love a bit of wacky.” This is nothing to do with wacky-backy or unusual bedroom preferences, simply that although my fashion tastes are fairly mainstream and filled with monochrome, jeans and cardigans; I like to throw in a bit of flare every now and again. A wacky color pair of shoes, a crazy print here and there, and his personal favorite ‘the yellow blazer’. If I am asked my opinion on something that he is considering a little too crazy, my response is and will always be ‘I love a bit of wacky.’ Because I do.
Despite leaving my child fashionista behind, it was only inevitable that my daughter would end up the same way. She is six and three quarters (you all know the quarters are important) and has been dressing herself for a while. A couple of years ago I would pick her clothes out for her but she’s old enough to know what to do… or so you’d think. If you’ve read ‘Why are you still naked?‘ you’ll know some days I’m lucky if she puts on any clothes at all.
What amazes me is that Elsie has quite the selection of nice clothes. Some bought my myself, some lovingly sent over from Grannies in France and England. Yet, why does she always pick the washed out psychedelic zebra print running shorts I bought from Walmart last year, as ‘a little bit of wacky’ to wear under a skirt and stop the constant knicker flashing. No more knicker flashing occurs because we don’t wear skirts anymore, just the tiny psychedelic shorts instead… I tried to sneak them into the recycling pile a few months ago. Totally busted and they are now back in her drawers. Tops – she has numerous fancy numbers from Jacardi, Paris – beautiful and expensive. But no… always the M&M t-shirt we brought her back from Vegas.
So, should I just leave her – cringe and smile? Or do I intervene when it’s just so awful I can’t bear it? My parenting guru tells me to allow her to pick her own outfits, gain independence, and confidence in her own style and identity. My public mom-shame streak wants everyone to see my family with rose-tinted glasses. Those families you see at Church with coordinated outfits, collared shirts that remain tucked in at all costs, and perfect Lego hair doesn’t seem to move at all.
My parenting guru got a boost when Elsie started a new Montessori School last August. In the welcome handbook it asked that during out-of-school hours we allow our children to pick their own clothes and dress themselves, for the very reasons I mentioned above. Guru wins, down with the Lego hair. But recently I’ve been struggling, we’ve had some child fashionista corkers, so I decided to share. We did a little fashion show, Elsie picks three outfits from her wardrobe and Mom does the same. Here’s the difference:
First up we have leggings bought for Christmas 2015 which came with a navy reindeer top. The top was outgrown this year but the leggings unfortunately still have plenty of give, meaning they need a new companion. Cue the hideous fleece top bought from Walmart in an emergency ‘I had no idea how cold Flagstaff was’ situation. It is literally all they had in her size and we had 20mins to get to the North Pole. Of course, it is now a favorite…
Those shorts… they are literally the stuff of parent nightmares but she loves them. They either get worn with this t-shirt, or something so long it looks like she’s not wearing any pants at all.
I love this dress, she looks adorable in it, the boots too. But somehow with these two comes her ‘little bit of wacky’ in the striped socks that I literally bought for wacky sock day at school. But you know what, I’ll let her off this one, the splash of flare is tickling my wacky streak.
Forgotten Child Fashionista – aka Boring Mom
This was a recent purchase and sparked this blog post. As Elsie seems determined to stick with elasticated waists I thought this tunic sweater from J Crew was the perfect replacement for the Walmart hearts above.
She was actually pretty happy I picked this t-shirt. “I love this cat, I had totally forgotten about it!” Win for Mom as long as it doesn’t end up on top of the psychedelic running shorts.
You just can’t go wrong with blue stripes, can you?
But hang on a minute…
I carried out this exercise to have a play around with my new photography equipment, have fun with Elsie and blog about kids picking wacky clothes. What came next was totally unexpected. Take a look at the two photographs, what do you see?
In the top picture I see and six-year-old. In the bottom photo I see a nine-year old. I do prefer the clothes, don’t get me wrong, but am I dressing a kid or am I dressing myself? In my post ‘Totally Impractical Baby Clothes we all Love to Buy‘ I talk of the urge to dress your baby like Justin Bieber. Why are we insistent on dressing our children like grown ups? Do I want my 9-year-old dressing like a 16-year-old? No. Do I want my 12-year-old dressing like an 18-year-old… definitely not. So what kind of example am I setting when I’m making her dress older now? Hmm… food for thought.
What does Montessori teaching have to say about it?
“When your child is old enough to dress him or herself, it may be time to teach them that polka dots and stripes don’t match.”
Oh… unexpected. So I am allowed to give fashion advice? It seems offering limited choices is a reasonable method in teaching a child to dress themselves. To be honest, the reason Elsie forgot about the cat t-shirt is because too many clothes float around in her drawers. The classic Montessori classroom is filled with neutral colors and natural tones. Montessori by Mom suggests a similar approach to clothing:
“If you are concerned about colors and patterns clashing, it’s easy to control for this by sticking to neutrals or mix-and-match styles.”
So it’s not out of question to expect your child to conform to certain fashions; you give them the choice but limited with a mom fashion-filter. But is it really giving your child the freedom to express themselves? Isn’t it like saying you can eat anything you want… as long as it’s a cheese sandwich because that’s all I’ve got? A sneaky method of control when you’re promoting freedom of speech. Am I a communist? I feel confused I know that much.
” When she picks out her own clothes and walks down the stairs saying, “Look at what I picked out?!” It’s important to give her the satisfaction of saying she did a good job. If a child makes a fashion faux pas, it’s not the end of the world.”(Apple Montessori Schools)
That much I can agree with.
What am I going to do about it?
Sort through Elsie’s clothes and purge. Her personal favorites that I want to get rid of (aka psychedelic running shorts) will be put to one side and a conversation will be had. They are too small, they are worn out, they have to go.
Pack away clothes that don’t fit the season. We had a tiny summer romper on at the weekend in early Jan. We might live in Arizona but she was still freezing at lunch – don’t worry I did make her wear a token cardigan.
Organize clothes so that the newly reduced selection is fully visible. Although I’ve thrown out some of her favorites, there are gems lurking at the bottom of the drawers.
Cringe and smile. Let her wear wacky socks and mis-match a little. Try to give advice if you think she’ll end up on the wrong side of a roller-disco bully, but let her be her.
How do you feel about parents helping with homework? We’re into our second year of school, and I’ve got to say it generally sucks. Considering I am someone with experience in setting and marking homework, I’m surprised what a torment it has become. I really had no idea how much parental involvement was… involved. This has thrown up many questions:
What is the purpose of homework?
Does parents helping with homework contribute to positive parenting?
Does parents helping with homework support successful teaching?
How much help are other kids are getting at home?
Is parents helping with homework even fair?
Whatever your thoughts, there is no doubt that to do it properly you need some serious mom skills.
The tale of a diorama:
Elsie is on Winter Break, and I was thrilled to receive an email last week that read “no new homework going home this week”. Brilliant, I thought, Winter Break can actually be a break. But them I remembered the hedgehog diorama project… yes that’s actually a thing.
If you don’t know what a diorama is (I had to google it), it’s a model scene of something, usually housed in a box. A quick browse of google brought to my attention that there are two types of diorama. The ones your kid makes, and the ones parents helping with homework ‘contribute’ to. And dioramas aren’t just for kids you know, it gets quite serious. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London featured an exhibition of them back in 2014. They were all lovingly built by local designers, actual grown-up ones. Here’s my favorite – check out more at ELLE Decor:
Is this homework for me or her?
My daughter’s six, and is a pretty talented First-Grader. But she has the attention span of one of the paper fish featured in the above diorama, so there’s going to need to be some parental input to get beyond an up-cycled Pampers box decorated with a Sharpied hedgehog.
A couple of days ago I’m staring at the empty box, thinking “how involved do I get here?” A few considerations came to mind:
Do I want my daughter to have the coolest diorama that ever lived to show off to her friends?
Should I take this an an opportunity to get stuck into a one on one activity with my daughter over the holiday?
Do I want teachers and parents to be impressed with our mother daughter team work?
Am I secretly excited about making cardboard models, years after graduating from Architecture school? Yes… making models was the best bit.
Should I be concerned that most of my reasons for wanting to help are shamefully selfish, morally questionable, and have very little to do with my daughter’s education?
I decide to put my her creation on hold and really think about the purpose of this exercise.
What the experts say about the purpose of homework:
“Homework can help establish communication between parents and children; it can be used as a form of discipline; and it can inform parents about school topics and activities.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I stay informed of what Elsie’s learning about, while improving our relationship and bringing general structure to home life. Unfortunately, if you’ve read ‘Organizational Skills: A Tale of Two Ninjas‘ you’ll know that I am currently failing at the latter, and if we had nothing else going on in our lives, homework would be just great. In reality, outside of school Elsie has dance class, cooking club and swim club. We like to have the occasional play date, visit the library, and walk the dog in the park. We often do chores after school like visiting the grocery store, shopping for endless birthday party presents, and the weekly Target run. Elsie is learning the piano and the recorder, both of which require practice. She also needs to eat and wash but I hope that’s not too much to ask.
The truth is, although homework may be useful for supporting school work and enhancing parenting relationships, children do not have time to do it properly without side effects.
“Assigning excessive amounts of homework may result in unneeded stress and pressure on the child, which affects the student’s emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health.” (dataworks-ed.com)
What’s more, I’m dealing with a major case of disinterest in school work, and homework is not helping:
“It can lead to boredom if the student has already mastered the skills, and it can lead to loss of interest in school due to burnout.” (dataworks-ed.com)
I would really rather avoid burnout, especially before we hit the Second Grade.
What experts say about parents helping with homework:
Harvard Family Research Project published a review of current research on ‘Parental Involvement in Homework‘ and reading between a lot of waffle I can summarize the advantages of parents helping with homework as:
Helping to structure time, space, and materials;
Supporting challenges in ability, effort and motivation;
Rewarding effort, completion, correctness;
Encouraging kids to break tasks into discrete, manageable parts;
Modelling appropriate learning processes and problem solving strategies;
Checking for understanding;
Encouraging kids to self-monitor and self-motivate;
All positive contributions parents can make to a child’s learning. Where the Family Research Project goes all kinds of wrong is when they include statements like:
‘Structure homework within the flow of family life; ensure parental “availability on demand”’
Oh come on Harvard… ‘availability on demand’? Do you have any children? If so, I’m presuming you only have one. Elsie has two younger brothers, are they expected to have ‘availability on demand’ too? You’ve got to be joking.
My thoughts on helping with homework
If you haven’t seen the movie ‘Bad Mums’, before everything goes horribly wrong, she is living the perfected life of the ‘super mom’. In amongst soccer practice, PTA meetings, her job and making dinner, she’s also ‘helping’ with homework. Here’s a picture of her son’s history project, a huge paper mache bust of Richard Nixon:
As you can see, it’s expected that parents helping with homework not only have the time to do so, but also graduated from Art school… no pressure. I do think it’s a little unfair on kids with busier parents, I can see it getting competitive and no-one wants to be the kid with the crappy diorama. At the same time, as much we try to avoid it, school is a competitive environment and always will be.
Despite my general loathing for State standardized homework (the crappy timed Math worksheets in particular grind my gears), I do see the purpose of project work. It’s also particularly suited to parents helping with homework. It helps us organize appropriate timings, discuss, inspire, demonstrate and check for understanding in the process.
Back to the hedgehog diorama…
Elsie’s been super pumped about it, research has been integrated into our library visits and we plan to find some extra materials while out on a dog walk (twigs, leaves etc). I can honestly say, the project homework has encouraged motivation for school work and created opportunities for positive parenting. So… how much did I help?
After considering the positive and negative impact of parents helping with homework, I came up with a strategy:
Discuss the project and share ideas;
Encourage making an ‘ideas board’. ie draw the diorama and what she wants it to look like;
Create the bits she won’t be able to, while explaining what I’m doing at all times;
Support her in making the bits that she can;
Reward her efforts and correct where appropriate;
So, that’s what we did. And I know you are just desperate to see the hedgehog diorama itself…
What can I say… I was born for this stuff.
How much do you help your kids with their homework?
Have you ever wondered where we get our phobias from? If you were mauled by a giant poodle as a child I can understand your fear of dogs; but where do kids with phobias get them from?
Yesterday at breakfast, my six year old daughter, Elsie, was sniffling with yet another cold she’s brought back from school. I decided to have a chat about hygiene and check that she was washing her hands at least when she uses the bathroom and has lunch.
“Oh I don’t go to the bathroom at school. It’s too scary so I hold on until I get back.” She said.
We leave for school at 7.15am and get back at 3.30pm… That’s a serious hold. I ask more about this fear of the bathroom and it turns out sometime back in October the fire alarm went off mid-pee. It gave her such a shock she’s been unable to enter the bathroom since. She was even quite upset that the alarm had gone off just as she sat down so she “didn’t even get anything out.” We had a little pep talk and she promised me she was going to use the bathroom the following school day. The trouble is, knowing my daughter, she will go first thing so that she can say she’s done it, while knowing the alarm is unlikely to go off as everyone is bumbling in from the car park. She’s a sneaky little thing.
Unlike Elsie, I am a fairly fearless person… here’s me age 18 jumping out of a plane at 15,000ft…
As a kid I was into horse riding, rock climbing and roller-coasters. I am still yet to find a roller-coaster that makes me want to walk the other way. I just love them, the bigger the better. Elsie was carried kicking and screaming out of the Minions ride at Universal Studios because she didn’t like the look of the ‘scary’ entrance and got fixated on it.
So why does my daughter have a fantastic fear of everything? Is it from her father? Is it something I’ve done or not done? I question this all the time – multiple time a day in fact, because that’s how many times I’m dealing with a total FREAK OUT. Yesterday again, on the way to ballet, I’m driving along a fairly main road when my eardrums nearly explode from the screech coming the back row of the minivan.
“Aaghhhebarhaaaaeeeegglllle…” She screams.
“What is it?” I say in mild panic. Has she lost a limb? Gone blind? Just discovered Donald Trump is President?
“Spiiiideeerrrr…” She wails.
I continue to drive until I can pull over, by which point her twin brothers are also screaming because when she crys, they cry. That’s a lot of crying. She leaps to the front of the wagon in tears and I climb past her to assess the scale of the beast. A little black spider scurried across the window, soon to be squashed by a Mom finger and a Walmart receipt… sorry buddy, your time is up.
You would think that was the end of it, but we had floods of tears all the way to ballet, wailing about how she can feel it crawling all over her and how she’s going to have nightmares tonight. It was beyond being a little jumpy, she is genuinely one of those kids with phobias.
I tried to talk her down, but she was so focused on the spider I couldn’t divert too much or I wouldn’t have been able to keep her attention. So I asked her what three things in the world she was most scared of.
“Being alone in the dark.”
Why do kids have phobias?
Elsie has many phobias and her chosen top three are some of the most commom. ‘Child Therapist’s List of Top Worries by Age’ includes fear of the dark, loud noises and bugs as classics for ages 5-7, so it seems Elsie is not alone. Even I remember being pretty terrified of Daddy-Long-Legs when I was her age. So why are we so scared of certain things as children?
‘Fears develop when a child is old enough to have an imagination, but is not yet old enough to distinguish fantasy from reality.’ says Dr. Sue Hubbard in the Chicago Tribune.
As we all know, toddlers and young children can have a very active imagination; and it seems their brains go up a gear when they are plunged into darkness. There are less distractions, leaving their minds to run wild, and then of course the monsters come out to play. This is why so many of our little ones suffer from a fear of the dark.
So if imagination is to blame for the fear of the dark, what about the fear of bugs. This is a tricky one to tackle and can often lead to the phobia continuing into adulthood. It seems as humans were are inherently uncomfortable around insects. In fact, In Chapman University’s 2016 Survey on American Fears, 25 percent of respondents said they were afraid of insects and/or spiders. I am the spider removal service in our house, but if one crawled up my leg I’ll jump as much as the next person. There are some theories behind why this phobia is so common:
The fear is justified by some insects actually being harmful;
Insects, unlike bears and lions, trigger a ‘rejection response’ (the need to instantly ‘get it away from me’). This response is linked to disgust which is a built-in mechanism, designed to keep us safe.
Their physical form is unlike ours, ie they look weird (unlike most mammals).
They are often found in ‘armies’, something we find inherently threatening.
So it seems there are slightly different reasons behind different fears and they may all need to a slightly different approach.
So, what can we do as parents for our kids with phobias?
Discuss your child’s phobias with them – acknowledge it and help them see you take it seriously.
Help your child draw pictures of their fears and ceremoniously throw them away;
Teach your children positive self-talk e.g. “I’m not afraid of the dark.” “That spider is not going to hurt me.”
Empower your child with tools and special powers e.g. an emergency flashlight nearby, ‘monster spray’ or a ‘lucky charm’ to keep them safe when they visit the dentist.
Arm them with knowledge – help kids with phobias learn to identify which spiders are dangerous so they understand the others are not.
Transform the negative into a positive – get them interested in what it is they are scared of e.g. get a book on snakes and find out some cool facts about them.
Share you own fears with your child and how you deal with them.
Exposure therapy… don’t force it, but try to encourage them to face their fears while in a safe environment.
Some phobias are easier to tackle that others. I’m not suggesting torturing your child by repeatedly exposing them to sudden loud noises. However, you can sit with your child in the dark for a while to show them it’s OK. You can give them something to say and focus on when they feel scared.
A success story:
When my daughter was 18months old a very large fighter plane flew overhead when we were on holiday in France. She was so traumatized by this experience that she would get upset every time we went outside. When we made her join us in the back yard at home, she would spend the entire time staring up at the sky, waiting for a plane to come. This went on for over a year, and when a small plane would go overhead, she would go into total melt down. It was a nightmare for all.
We tackled this fear by talking about how cool airplanes were, a lot. We gave her a Duplo airplane for Xmas, and I would encourage her to draw them when she was in an artsy mood. When we did go outside and a plane came overhead we would wave to it…
“Have a nice holiday!” we would say together while waving.
And slowly, it worked. To begin with it was more of a panicked broken record, “have a nice holiday…” said over and over again as quickly as she could until the plane passed. But it was definitely helping her get through it, and she learnt that the plane would pass and nothing bad would happen.
Kids with phobias: Last words of wisdom…
You are not alone. My kid has a fantastic fear of everything, from cutting fingernails and hand-stands, to owls. It is challenging and slightly traumatic for all of us on a daily basis. So if you’re a Mom of kids with phobias, try not to blame yourself, and take time to process the fact you may not to be riding roller-coasters together… ever. Sob.
In case you haven’t seen the movie, here’s the trailer. It’s fantastic!
I found these articles super interesting when researching kids with phobias:
Banned Google interview questions… how difficult were they really? If you don’t remember the story, a few years ago Google had to take action to overhaul it’s interview process. They had acquired a reputation for harassing prospective employees with a gruelling line of ridiculous questions. The type of questions no one can be prepared for, with the aim to catch interviewees off guard and see how they react under pressure. These ‘brain teasers’ upset more than a few people, and as the news spread Google decided to call it a day on the rogue technique.
This week, I decided to put these questions to the test. They may be too much for an Ivy League graduate, but my six year old has a reading age of nine, so she’s totally got this. Before we started I told her the story of the banned google interview questions and she was totally on board to give it a go. I see the advantage of being six already, because she’s not even phased by the idea of unanswerable questions. In fact she’s pretty pumped that this will be her first ever interview.
So here we go…
Banned Google Interview Questions: Interview with a Six Year Old
It’s only fair to start with an easy one…
Q1: How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
She’s so fast and confident in her answer I’m almost convinced… Afterall, 100 golf balls can fit in a school bus. She looks at me eagerly for the next question.
Q2: How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
I realise at this point I may need to encourage the interviewee to elaborate on her answers. “Can you give some explanation?”
After a couple of warm up questions, I decide to delve more deeply into the inner workings of the interviewee’s mind…
Q3: Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco
“The Golden Gate Bridge?”
Good answer but I figure I should check she knows what the word evacuation means… which she doesn’t. Once brought up to speed on the vocabulary, we continue:
“So how are you going to get everybody out of San Francisco as quickly as you can?”
“Umm… take a short cut?”
Q4: How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?
“10,000. I think there’s going to be 10 in Washington DC. I think the other 9000 are all in Russia and England. Because Russia is a big one and you could fit 8000 in there.”
Q5: A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
“So… I know what’s in a fortune cookie so I might know this one. So a fortune is something that tells you something in the future, right?”
I explain to the interviewee the alternative use of the word fortune.
“Like… it can cost a fortune?”
“So what type of fortune is this?”
“It’s up to you, that’s the question.”
“Umm… so I think he lost his fortune in the future to get gas but there was no gas station, so he had to push his car, and so he lost his fortune when he was pushing his car.”
“And what kind of fortune is he losing?”
“The type you get in a fortune cookie.”
Q6: “You need to check that your friend, Bob, has your correct phone number,”
“I don’t have a friend called Bob!”
“You have to pretend you do have a friend called Bob.”
“You have to check that Bob has your correct phone number, but you cannot ask him directly. You must write the question on a card and give it to Eve, who will take the card to Bob and return the answer to you. What must you write on the card, besides the question, to ensure Bob can encode the message so that Eve cannot read your phone number?”
“But Eve’s not allowed to see the answer and you’ve got to give her the note first.”
“Oh… You cover it up with glitter? Eve’s a girl so she must really like the glitter so she won’t take it off. And Bob won’t like the Glitter so he’ll just rip it off.”
My husband and I spent A LOT of time discussing the answer to this question and neither of us could work it out. We ended up googling it to find the clever answer is to write ‘call me’. I however much prefer the glitter plan… it’s genius.
Q7: You’re the captain of a pirate ship, and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty, but still survive?
“You just use a pickaxe to cut in into 4 or 3, or as many pirates as you have. So you can share it like a tangerine, one part of it for each pirate… to share. So you survive!”
Kids, eh… trained to share.
Q8: You are given 2 eggs. You have access to a 100-story building. Eggs can be very hard or very fragile, meaning it may break if dropped from the first floor, or may not even break if dropped from 100th floor. Both eggs are identical. You need to figure out the highest floor of a 100-story building an egg can be dropped without breaking. The question is how many drops do you need to make. You are allowed to break 2 eggs in the process.
“I think the fragile one is going to break at the first floor and the hard one is going to break at the 100th floor.”
“But you’ve got to work out the highest floor you can go to without an egg breaking, so you don’t want to go straight to the 100th floor do you?”
“So… the 58th floor will be the fragile egg and the 67th floor will be the hard one. Because the hard one is a little less fragile than the fragile one.”
Despite having identical twin brothers, we may need to work on the meaning of the word identical.
Q9: Explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew.
“I don’t have a nephew.”
“No you don’t, but we’re pretending.”
“So, what do you think a database is?”
“Something that you write dates on?”
“And what does it look like?”
“It’s a piece of paper you write the date on and then you write stuff on it?”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Like, stuff for grown ups?”
Q10: You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
“You try and hop out as high as you can.”
“But you’re the size of a nickel, do you think you’ll be able to jump out?”
“So I just like flip myself like a penny, and then I just land on the floor with two feet. There. Because I don’t have that much mass so that will help me.”
And there we have it. Interview complete. No trauma or tears over the ridicule of the interview… She’s ready when you are Google. Although she did have one thing to add…
“Those questions were so silly. Because I’m not a pirate and I don’t have a friend called Bob OR Eve.” You’ve been told google.
I’ve been getting into Pinterest this week, and just can’t resist all those adorable toddler outfits that makes 2yr olds look like the’re a mini Justin Beiber. They look great in pictures and maybe Victoria Beckham’s kids can pull it off, but for the rest of us they tend to get worn once for a photo and never again. Because the Beiber look is ridiculous for a baby or toddler. Here is my shortlist for totally impractical baby clothes we just love to buy.
1. Skinny Jeans
I was given my first pair of baby skinnies by a friend when my daughter was born. They were heart-meltingly cute and I couldn’t wait to get them on her. But when I did I soon realised you can’t fold a baby in skinny jeans. So unless you plan on confining your child to stretched out horizontal configurations, I highly advise against skinny jeans for babies.
This guy has made the semi sitting position but may lose sensation to his toes at any moment.
2. Collared Shirts
As my Mother-in-Law once pointed out, newborn babies do not have necks. It suddenly became clear in that moment… this is why young babies look totally hilarious and uncomfortable in collared shirts. I also have a problem with the ironing… come on people, be honest – how often do you iron your baby clothes? So the shirt ends up crinkled, awaiting ironing, which never happens.
And don’t even get me started on the cap in this photo…
I’m not talking about those tinted goggles with the elastic head band to fix them on, I’m talking sunglasses with swag… the type Bieber babies are wearing all over Pinterest. Maybe it’s just my kids, but I can’t even wear sunglasses in close proximity to the twins, let alone keep something on their heads for more than 7 seconds. If Babiators want to send me a pair (better make that two), I’ll put them to the test, but it seems so ridiculous to me I’ve never even tried.
Don’t they just make your heart want to explode? There is nothing better than the tiniest of tiny baby shoes to give you case of the fuzzies. But I quickly learnt with my first born there is absolutely no point in trying to keep shoes on an infant. It will take them literal seconds to pull them off, and if not they will just drop off while you’re out in the stroller. The only shoes that stay on babies are the ones with the elastic around the ankle, and I’m pretty shoes you won’t be seeing Beiber in a pair of those anytime soon.
5. Puffer Jackets
I know I live in the desert, but I haven’t always. When my daughter was new, we lived in wet and windy England… perfect for totally impractical baby clothes like puffer jackets. When it’s cold and miserable outside, you usually want to drive instead of walk, and can you fit your marshmellow baby in the car seat? No. Cue awkward scrambling to take jacket off while cold rain runs down your back… ugh.
So… if you just love impractical baby clothes (who doesn’t), go for it and buy these wardrobe staples. However, if you want to save your pennies and keep Baby comfortable, keep them in a one piece until they can walk. Come on twinnies… hurry up so Mama can get shopping.
I am a Mom of three and I can honestly say I haven’t read any parenting books. I’m six years deep and I’ve survived so far without a single case of spontaneous human combustion, despite the lack of parenting books.
Reasons I don’t do parenting books:
Who has time to read when TV offers shows like The Walking Dead?
I don’t like being told what to do.
I get enough unwanted advice from strangers and family, why would I want more?
If I don’t make plans, I can’t gauge failure.
Google and I are friends.
Having lived by this mantra for over six years, I have this month finally cheated on Google, sorry buddy. I was offered the opportunity to review a new parenting book and I figured hey, how bad can it be? Think how awesome it will be to be able to binge The Walking Dead on catch up… yes. Hand it over, pour the tea and let’s get started.
A little background here… there was a genuine reason I thought this book may float my parenting boat. If you’ve read previous posts such as ‘Poopcrastination‘ and ‘Whiplash‘ you may have gathered that not only is my six year old daughter a bit of a drama queen, she can at times lack self confidence be very emotional. The trouble is that I am none of the above. I am more of the Robot Mom, full of love but in an awkward non-hugging kind of a way. So there’s a clash of personalities… and I’m just about ready to put my hands up and saying “help!”.
What happened when I did the deed:
I’m all ready to skip to Chapter 1 but I figure I should probably do this properly and start with the introduction. I draw the line at the acknowledgements though… not happening. Does anyone read those?
I settle into the introduction feeling all ready to get fixing up my parenting…
‘We tend to judge the success of our parenting by how much our children cry.’ (Kate Orson)
Shit… my kid cries all the time, total parenting fail. But as the title suggests, Kate’s all up for crying and being all emotional, so surely that means I’m totally bossing it? I figure I had better read further than the introduction to find out whether I’m actually failing or bossing it.
In the chapters that follow, Kate talks a lot about understanding our own childhood and putting together a ‘coherent story’. She suggests setting up a ‘listening partnership’ with a friend you can talk to in confidence. The Book then guides you through a number of exercises to bring you in better touch with your emotions (and therefore your child’s):
‘When listening, try not to interrupt, give advice or tell your own stories while the other person is talking.’ (Kate Orson)
Well my listening partnership is stuffed right there. I am one of those awful people that interrupts and talks about themselves when someone’s mid-story (sorry friends). I continue…
‘Scientific research has shown that the brain is not really a solitary organ, but works in a system with the brains of other people around us, sending out and picking up subtle, non verbal cues.’ (Kate Orson)
Yes… now we’re talking. I love a good telepathic mind control sci-fi movie. The freaky subliminal stuff is right up my ally. What Kate goes on to say is that just being present and having kind, supportive thoughts while your child goes into melt-down is more productive than intervening. Let them melt down, just be present.
‘It’s a powerful boost to our child’s self-esteem to sense that we still think they are a good person, even when they’re having an emotional upset.’ (Kate Orson).
So there it was. I had learnt something useful, something I can actually use, from a parenting book. It made total sense. How many times had I shouted over my daughter’s hysteria to try and calm her down, only to find it made things worse? How many times had I walked away from a tantrum because it was just too overwhelming for both of us? I realised in reading Tears Heal that just my presence and mind vibes could make my daughter feel more secure, loved and supported than any interventions. Thanks Kate, your book help is much appreciated.
Kate comes up with lots of other useful nuggets such as why using food to distract from an emotional situation is not wise…whoops. There’s even strategies to help getting your kids to sleep that don’t involve the age old tradition of dunking the pacifier in Granny’s sherry.
So if you’re into parenting books (or not), and want to improve a case of the Robot Mom, get yourself a copy of Tears Heal, even if it’s just for the reflection exercises such as:
‘Rent a few tearjerkers, and put on some sad music. Let the tears flow without holding back.’ (Kate Orson)
Oh Gawd… I’m really no good at all this emotional stuff. Does it count if I’m watching The Walking Dead?
We have a daydreamer of a six year old. She can be mid sentence and suddenly drift off into her own thoughts of unicorns and rainbows. We also share a sensitivity to the stair mind block – you know, the invisible force field that engulfs all stairways, erasing your memory of what is was you went upstairs for. The difference is, I’ll come back downstairs so that I remember what I need to do. She’ll just start building a Lego dog salon instead.
At the weekend we were browsing the shelves of Crate and Barrel’s kitchen department and I spotted a stopwatch on sale for less than $5. I had remembered a suggestion from my sister the previous week about timing Elsie getting ready for school in the morning. She had to “beat Mummy,” while I had a shower and it seemed to work wonders. For $5 is was worth a try…
She was crazy exited about the purchase, to the extent that a couple of shops later after playing with it she said:
“I’ve always wanted a stopwatch Mommy, now all my dreams have come true…”
Talk about dramatic… I wish all my wildest dreams could be fulfilled by a $5 stopwatch. But still, I was pleased to see her excited about it, even if it did mean I was only given 6 minutes to browse clothes… I could see this was going to get old fast, with Mommy at least.
On the way home I dropped Daddy at the supermarket and circled the parking lot to avoid unpacking the family of five. 2 minutes to park. Timer set to countdown as we sat in the 15mins only space. Despite the short shopping list, she was very concerned about overstaying our slot. To distract her from panic I asked her what useful things she could time with the stopwatch.
Elsie’s stopwatch checklist:
“My 3minute Math fact practice tests,” (she has four a week for homework)
“Tidying my play area,”(a constant battle)
“Timing Daddy in Total Wine to make sure he doesn’t take an hour,”
Later that day she provided much entertainment to fellow wine shoppers as she gave Daddy regular updates of his time allocation for browsing. She runs a tight ship that girl.
So, is the stopwatch phenomenon a good method to help your kids focus? I did a little snooping because as regular readers know, I love an expert opinion.
What the experts say:
“Have a stopwatch handy to reinforce behaviours such as putting shoes away, cleaning off the kitchen table, or taking toys out of the bath tub.The stopwatch gives your child the visual reminder that reinforces your request.”(Richard A. Lougy, David K. Rosenthal, ADHD: A Survival Guide for Parents and Teachers)
Now, Elsie has not been diagnoses with ADHD, but I quickly learnt from teaching, that applying methods designed for my ADHD and ASD kids to the whole classroom helped all my kids, not just the ‘affected’ ones. Therefore, I would say Dick and Dave are underselling themselves a little here with the title of their book.
Oh good, going by the title of this book Elsie’s just bright, not ADHD, I much prefer that diagnosis. As you can see, these methods for helping special needs are just good practise for all. I like the idea of increasing the timed periods, there’s no way if I said “you have an hour to tidy your play area and do your homework,” that anything would get done. Small short tasks to start with and we’ll go from there.
What’s the verdict?
The timer has successfully completed homework tests and hurried Daddy up in Total Wine. And the fact that she can operate it herself seems to make all the difference over me using my phone. It is her stopwatch, and because she has ownership she is more motivated. It has however been banished to the fridge because baby brother decided the mini battery on the back looked tasty… eek.
So go… get your little ones a stopwatch for Christmas, and make all their dreams come true.
My boys are about to turn one, hooray! Like all parents at this stage, we will be celebrating their first year, but also our own survival. We made it… high five, cake and champagne all round (don’t worry, I know I’m European but I won’t be giving the babies champagne).
Twin or singleton, Baby’s first year is something special. I chose that word carefully because there’s lots of joy but plenty of trouble. With every problem you solve, another emerges and those little ones never fail to catch you by suprize. Here’s my month by month guide to first year challenges.
0 Months Old: Feeding
I really did intend to breastfeed my twins… I bought the giant pillow and everything. But despite hospital boob boot-camp I still struggled to master the ‘double football hold’. Partly because I’m not wonder woman, and partly because how the hell do you pick up a floppy newborn with one hand?
Then there’s the fact the boys were born at 36wks. Little did I know that preemie babies aren’t the best feeders, so despite trying boobs, pumping, formula and general desperation, I couldn’t get my boys to stop losing weight. It took each baby an hour to feed, and I couldn’t get more than a few drops in for the first week… so tough! Of course once they got going they became chunky monkeys, but even by the end of the first month it took me a whole episode of Midsummer Murders to feed them both. What do new Moms do without Netflix?
But it’s not all bad:
I have two gorgeous happy healthy babies and I can breathe again… no more sleeping upright!
1 Month Old: Sleep
Sleep deprivation is by far the most challenging and cruel affliction a baby brings to their parents in the first year. Although you get less sleep in the first month, it’s during month two you convince yourself you can function as a normal human being… you are wrong. It’s during month two you will invite family and friends to visit and gaze through sunken eyes past them into space as they ask you irritating questions like “Are they sleeping through the night?”.
So was sleep deprivation worse with two? Honestly, I believe there is a limit to what sleep deprivation you are even aware of… once you’re at bat-shit crazy it really makes no difference.
It’s not all bad:
They’re gaining weight and look totally cute when they snuggle up to each other.
2 Months Old: Crying
By this point those little tikes are alert, have found their voice and know how to use it. Now you’re beyond basic survival it’s time to start making some actual parenting decisions. Should we let them cry it out? Should we let them sleep in the bed (again)? Maybe try rocking them to sleep? Let them sleep in their swing chair until they’re 18 years old? Pacifier? Comfort blanket? Someone help… Google?
It’s not all bad:
Between the crying spells, the twins smiled for the first time…such a magic moment!
3 Months Old: Sickness
You know that at some point during the first year big sister is going to bring back the playground plague and infect the rest of the family. With twins you have two choices on how to approach sickness:
When one gets sick make sure they dribble all over the other one as quickly and thoroughly as possible just to get it all over and done with.
Separate them, sterilize everything and hope for the best.
We went with option 2 and failed. Sure enough, just as one got better, the other one got sick and so did I, so it felt like an endless battle.
It’s not all bad:
They are laughing, playing with toys and have become so much fun!
4 Months Old: Routine
At this point the boys were sleeping well and I started to feel like I could take on the world. However, in order to do that I would need a solid routine. I spent a lot of time and energy freaking out about regimented nap times and trying to keep the boys in sync. Of course most days they would start together at 6am like clockwork, but by the end of the day one’s had three naps, the other’s had four and you can’t remember which one you need to put to bed first.
It’s not all bad:
They’re starting to interact… gah, I can’t handle the cuteness!
5 Months Old: Sleep Regression
At some point during month five, the boys both decided they preferred sleeping on their tummies. Fine with me… except they would roll over, get stuck and cry for help because they hadn’t quite worked out how to roll back the other way. Once manually flipped, I had about 5minutes before the process started all over again. This was fairly shorted lived, but unfortunately the twins’ new skills weren’t quite coordinated, so once Arthur had stopped being a pain in the butt, George started doing it. Boys – Mama’s glad you’re learning, but I’ve only just remembered what 6hrs sleep feels like.
It’s not all bad:
Rolling is the first real baby trick isn’t it? They’re full of new skills and so pleased about it too!
6 Months Old: Solids
Just when you thought it was safe to leave the house… your babies need to start ‘solids’. I say the term loosely because there is nothing solid about what goes in… or comes out. We were fairly traditional with our approach, pureed bananas, avocado, sweet potato and pears, all resulting in a lot more washing. Washing of clothes, washing of furniture, washing of yourself. I soon learnt to do the mirror check before I went out. Do I have green slop on my breasts? Will anyone mistake my suspicious hair crust for a ‘Something About Mary’ moment?
It’s not all bad:
I love watching them try new foods and they look totally adorable with slop all over their face!
7 Months Old: Early Mornings
Although the tummy sleeping had been mastered some time ago, by this point the twins had decided 4.15am was official morning time. We were in the middle of summer, which didn’t help, but despite black-out blinds, the classy towel-nailed-over-the-window method and a third layer of curtains, those boys would not sleep past 4.15am. Were they too hot? Were they too cold? Did they need more dinner? Did they need to go to bed later? Would they go back to sleep if I just rolled over and turned off the monitor? Nothing made any difference… 4.15am. This went on for 3 months and soon I realised the only solution was just put myself to bed at 8pm.
Arthur gained himself a new first year skill – screeching to such a volume and pitch that it made his brother cry. George was not a fan of the screaming and neither was I. His favourite time to do this would begin during dinner and onwards towards bedtime. I often ended up separating them, having one downstairs and one up, just to stop the carnage. But don’t worry, eventually George learnt to give as good as he gets and then they were the best of buds again.
It’s not all bad:
The babies had their first swim and first trip to the beach!
9 Months Old: Teething
So much drool. Bibs help a little but it was still a month of 6-8 outfits a day between them… how do they even produce that much drool? And the trouble with identical twins is they get their teeth at the exact same time… so two dribbly upset babies is it. Thank goodness for drugs.
It’s not all bad:
They’re finally starting to crawl! Development freak out no. 395 over.
10 Months Old: Crawling
We call their crawl ‘the-wounded-soldier’ because it’s a commando crawl using only one leg. The other leg drags behind, so the whole movement suggests they are pulling themselves to safety with a bullet in the leg. Crawling is a first year mega milestone, but it brings with it baby-proofing. The dog water bowl and the wine rack are their new favourite toys and they are naturally magnetized to anything sharp and pointy. Yep, they’re mobile – this shit just got real.
It’s not all bad:
They’re pulling themselves up! Development freak out no. 482 over.
11 Months Old: Climbing
Once I had worked out the danger zones in the house, mainly by trial and error which I wouldn’t recommend, things took as sudden turn. I was busy in the kitchen, listening to them giggle to each other suspiciously. Sure enough when I turned the corner they were both half way up the stairs… out of nowhere, they could climb. My personal favourite is when they try to climb your leg, if both of them do it at the same time it creates an overwhelming sense of love claustrophobia, and extraction can be surprisingly difficult.
It’s not all bad:
They absolutely love each other’s company which is not only heart melting but also very useful when you want a cup of tea in peace.
12 Months Old: ?
This first year really has been crazy, but everyday it blows my mind how amazing all three of my children are. Who knows what challenges and milestones this next month and year will bring… but I can not wait to find out.
Earlier this year, my daughter Elsie started playing video games. I don’t mean one of those free fairy makeover apps, I mean a proper games console. My husband had been waiting for this moment for six years, she was finally old enough to start basic training. Fast forward six months and she’s pretty hooked… but have we started her on it too young? Let’s look at the evidence – As usual, I will be researching important parenting decisions after I’ve already accidently made them.
What the headlines say about video games:
So… gaming is addictive, but will create an improved ‘nice but dim’ version of your child. Doesn’t sound too bad to me, my daughter already out-wits me and she’s only six. However, I suspect these headlines are not suggesting making your kid dumber is an improvement, so lets delve into the nitty gritty…
What the experts say about video games:
“If you watch kids on a computer, most of them are just hitting keys or moving the mouse as fast as they can. It reminds me of rats running in a maze.” (Educational psychologist Jane Healy)
Does this only apply to kids? That’s pretty much how I still play games and I don’t always lose. Jane Healy suggest waiting until seven to allow children to play video games, to ‘allow their brains to develop normally’. I’m pretty sure being better at angry birds than Mom by age 4 means Elsie’s brain is already mush, whoops. However, I’m certainly not the only parent guilty of using IPhone’s babysitting services while on a long journey and in a waiting room.
“I think what we’re seeing here is the evolution of gaming in modern society. Video games are now a part of a normal childhood,” (Katherine Keyes, Columbia University)
Ms Keyes believes gaming has become “pro-social” and a child excluded from an activity that has become so normal is more likely to develop social problems with their peers. I can’t see Elsie being shunned in the playground for not keeping up with the latest gaming news just yet, but I get her point.
‘In 2012, researchers at Iowa State University found that “prosocial games” – titles that encouraged players to co-operate and help each other – increased helpful behaviour.’ (Keith Stuart, The Guardian)
In my recent post about Elsie’s competitive streak, I wrote about collaboration and cooperation as part of competition. This is totally the same thing… I would even suggest that her competitive streak has been fuelled by her love for Mario Cart. It’s a great multi-player game and can be fun to play as a family, but let’s be honest there’s only ever one winner… no collaborative play.
“often parents don’t understand that many video games are meant to be shared and can teach young people about science, literacy and problem solving. Gaming with their children also offers parents countless ways to insert their own ‘teaching moment.’” (Elizabeth Hayes, ASU)
Angry birds is basically a physics lesson on projectiles… Maybe Elsie’s brain hasn’t gone 100% mush just yet.
What I say after doing a lot of googling:
As far as I can see, the press is quick to make sweeping statements but the ‘experts’ are a little less dramatic. Like all things fun… moderation is key. Katherine Keyes suggests restricting screen time to 20mins a day after homework, very sensible.
Most ‘experts’ say screens should be avoided before 2yrs and games should be avoided before 7yrs. I personally think it depends on the child. Elsie has never had the best fine motor skills and I have noticed a massive improvement in that since she started gaming. Also, although she may have become more competitive, games such as Mario Cart have helped her cope with losing. She used to be the worst sore loser but she has slowly learnt that it doesn’t matter if she comes last, next time she will do better. She quite often makes the analogy when working on something tough… “I used to be bad at Mario, but now I’m really good.” This is definitely positive.
Despite this, I also understand that some games are more appropriate than others. I’m not talking about six-year-olds playing Grand Theft Auto… obviously that’s a no-no, sorry Daddy. But some games such as Mario Maker for example, are creative, problem solving, collaborative and are not at all violent. So my ‘expert’ advice would be: Let them play, but play with them and problem solve together. Limit gaming time to prevent brain mush, and choose their games carefully.
If you would like to read some of the articles I managed to procrastinate a whole morning’s chores with, here you go: