Seconds away…and disaster!

One of the things that continues to amaze me about parenting two preschool girls is how a perfectly calm day can turn into a ridiculously stressful and chaotic situation within seconds. As parents, we’re expected to adjust our reactions and emotions accordingly  – and super fast.  I never knew I was capable of this, but the evidence appears to be that I am.   I don’t know whether I should be alarmed or not.

Check this scenario that happened just the other  day:

We’re having a perfectly nice, calm and orderly tea. Girls ask for a glass of milk with their tea. Two year old accidentally pours all her milk over four-year old’s chair, her clothes and the floor. Four year old is determined that two-year old did it on purpose and promptly picks up her milk and literally throws it all over two-year old, the floor and various toys that are lying around. I’m left with a kitchen literally COVERED in milk and two screaming, fighting preschool girls.

If this was a scene in a comedy film, or more likely a Tom and Jerry cartoon,  it would have been quite funny.  In the moment however I was cursing the day I’d been born as I wiped up milk with one hand and stopped my children trying to kill each other with the other.

I decided they should go straight to bed. They actually accepted this reasonably calmly (result!) but there was another minor incident later involving the scooter, the bathroom and a bright pink soft toy cat called ‘Ellie’ (boo!). Finally all was calm…and I hit the bath and  a nice glass of rosé wine.

mum dealing with preschool girlsThat particular incident ended up ok which, with hindsight, makes me feel like smug-super-mum who can deal with just about anything, anywhere and anytime.  I seem to have turned into a robot with an imaginary push button that says “REACT NOW OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!”

Other recent “push button” incidents:

– ‘Bedtime-gate’ incorporating ‘Hello Kitty Toothbrush Battle’

– ‘Car seat enemy shoot-out’ involving loaded apple juice cartons (still not cleaned my car)

– ‘Pink Blanket Ripping Incident’ which included an intense tug of war

What’s also interesting about the push button effect is that conversely I also seem to have ‘unexpected calm moments’ these days, ever since my girls reached a stage of relative independence. For example, I’ll suddenly realise they’re glued to a film and being quiet. I often don’t know what to do with myself in those moments and spend so long deciding whether to make a cup of coffee or do something useful that before I know it ‘calm moment’ has ended.

So: I never knew I had the ability to adjust at the drop of some milk a hat.  I discover new things about my girls every day – but often new things about myself, too.

Coming soon: ‘broken widescreen very expensive Smart TV incident’ and ‘permanent marker on the brown leather sofa’ meltdown…

Forget-me-not-Friday #69

Forget-me-not-Friday
Another gem of a Forget-me-not-Friday this week, as both my children seem to be saying some exceptionally funny stuff. Well I think so anyway, but then I am their Mother. Maybe this will bore the pants off you. Nevertheless, some examples below.

Warning: this post mentions trumps and wee.

4 year old:

Funny talk #1
To Daddy:
“Girls don’t trump, you know. Only boys trump. Actually, I just tried to squeeze one out but it didn’t happen, so that’s why girls don’t fart.”

Funny talk #2
Also to Daddy, the brunt of much funny banter this week:
“DADDY, IF YOU SAY THAT TO ME AGAIN, I’M GOING TO RUN INTO YOUR BEDROOM AND SHOUT WEE-WEE REALLY LOUD!”

2 year old:
“Mummy, do the bath drink!”

“What do you mean, the bath drink?”

“The bath drink!!”

“Erm…what’s a bath drink?”

*runs into bathroom, points at taps*

“Oh, you mean turn the taps on because you want a bath…I see!”

Looking forward to what next week brings!..

Preschool parenting: has anyone seen my brain?

This morning, in a cafe, I tried to put my 2 year old’s coat on as we were leaving. Upon realising my outrageously stupid error, I hastily looked around to check if anyone had seen.

They had. Oops. The looks on their faces were a interesting study in humanity actually – a mix of “I pity you, poor, tired Mum who doesn’t know what day it is”, “Are you stupid?” And “That coat’s a nice colour. Maybe she prefers it to her own.”

Actually I wasn’t tired at all. It’s ‘Dryanuary’ after all and my husband and I have been sipping herbal tea all week and going to bed shortly after 10pm. I’ve had no problems with the kids, sleep-wise. I should be a shining example of parental liveliness, springing out of bed, making porridge with half a banana on the side and whistling a merry tune as I gently urge my children into the car for the school run.

The reality for me is I have so much to remember and think about that my brain obviously doesn’t have time for simple things like putting the correct coat on. It’s too concerned that I might forget to order that prescription for eczema, put the school library book in the book bag or buy more of those fruit bars they like from Aldi.

The parental challenge of the moment has shifted from coping with lack of sleep to increasing my brain’s capacity to process larger and larger amounts of information and stuff to remember. Something has to give…today the coat, tomorrow could be interesting??

The offending coat. It is a nice colour, actually.
The offending coat. It is a nice colour, actually.

12 favourite blog posts of 2014

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for reflection and New Year’s resolutions usually. I’m not doing any resolutions this year (see point 1, below!) but I did take some time to browse my blog posts over the past year. It was an interesting exercise – I realised I’d written a lot more than I thought this year and also remembered a lot of activities or events I’d already begun to forget.

It’s been one of the best years of my life – the year I married the best guy ever on the planet and father to our two children. It’s also had its ups and downs with childhood (and adult) illnesses causing stresses and strife.

Anyway, here goes with the top 12.

– First up in January, I wrote about New Year being a bad time to make resolutions. There’s so much pressure to stick to them that people rarely do! In general I tend to say I’m going to be healthier in January but that’s mainly due to the Christmas excess – this year it seems to have been copious amounts of Prosecco and chocolate!
– In February I wrote a post on 10 things I do in the first hour after the childrens’ bedtime. A warm bath featured strongly, as it still does.
– In March, I wrote about my Best Mum Moments for Mothers Day. That was really lovely to reflect on. I’m sure I’ve added some more since then, for example my 2 year old telling me she loves me.
– April’s favourite was about keeping sane through childhood illness. I went through one of those periods where one child falls sick, recovers and then the other falls sick. Incredibly stressful for childcare cover and just generally keeping everyone happy.
– In May, I decided to look at 10 ways I know my girls love each other. At the time, my now 2 year old had only just started walking really (what a difference a year makes!) and it was nice to see the beginnings of their pretend play sessions and cuddles. Now they cuddle-fight-play over and over.
– June saw my thoughts on turning 38. Hmmm. Tomorrow sees the beginning of the year in which I turn 39. Argh!! I always like to double my age and see if I could live my whole life again and still be alive. It’s starting to push it a bit!
– In July I reflected on a stage where I felt I was reaching normality again. I used to find it difficult to leave the house on my own without leaving an itinerary for my husband. Suddenly it felt like I could – they were less reliant on me and much more independent.
– In August I was gearing up for our wedding, so I didn’t blog much but I did write this piece on vegetable eating in kids. The best part being cooking up a huge tomato sauce with loads of veggies in it and blitzing it with a blender.
– September’s favourite posts is of course our wedding. I keep meaning to update it with new pics so that’s a potential task for 2015. It was such an amazing day. I really wish I could do it again.
– There was lots going on in the latter half of the year: as well as our wedding, our eldest daughter started preschool shortly afterwards and I wrote about receiving her first learning journey from her school. I loved this – she still never tells me what she gets up to at school so this day by day diary with photos was amazing to read.
– November saw my fledgling action plan for dealing with gyrating females on TV and not wanting my daughters to become infiltrated by the image they’re portraying of women. I stopped short of buying them a biography of Kate Adie, but maybe that’s one for the future.
– December’s favourite was easily our daughter’s first nativity. Absolutely loved it – she was fantastic and it was so special.

I wonder what 2015 will bring? Happy New Year everyone!
IMG_5645.JPG

 

Santa's Grotto - 2 minutes of magic

Santa’s Grotto – 2 minutes of magic

Santa's Grotto - 2 minutes of magic
They’ve been waiting for this all year…

#blogmas day 6 and you’re all getting sick of me and the Christmas ramblings, but I’m enjoying keeping a record of what’s going on for us this year.

Yesterday evening saw the school Christmas Fair and my 4 year old was just so unbelievably excited about it. All afternoon she was asking if it was “time yet”.

It was also my first School Christmas Fair as a parent and I dutifully roped myself in for a stint on the chocolate tombola stand (interesting activity – some children won like 6 boxes of chocolates, others none. It was hectic. I needed wine afterwards). The parents were so heavily involved, manning stalls for booze tombola (didn’t win anything – bugger, had my eye on the prosecco, obviously), handmade jewellery, usborne books, cakes (lots of), tuck shop (with mulled wine and beer for the adults), face painting, some more that escape me and…

…a Santa’s Grotto.

This is what they were waiting for, my two girls! It lasted for 2 minutes, but it was 2 minutes of magic for them. A room decked out in white sparkling sheets and handmade snowflakes, with an elf waiting for them at the door to usher them into Santa. They sat next to him and explained to him that they were ‘being good’ (news to me) and got a present each.

I take my hat off to Santa and his elf helper, who had their work cut out seeing many, many children yesterday evening!

Read #blogmas day 5 here.

Happy christmas children

What do a 4 year old and 2 year old understand about Christmas?

Day 5 of #blogmas and I’m thinking about how different my 2 and 4 year old are in their understanding of Christmas. It’s an interesting one to ponder because I realise that for the first time this year, my 4 year old girl in particular is recognising Christmas as an important tradition in her own right. Even if a lot of that is about chocolate.

For my 2 year old, it’s all about the chocolate.

2 year old

It’s exciting. She senses a general air of excitability, especially from her older sister who just seems to race around the house with seemingly never-ending energy.

It involves chocolate. She gets a chocolate from the Advent Mouse every morning, sometimes even before breakfast. She still looks excitedly puzzled each morning.

Father Christmas is around. She knows there’s a man with a big white beard pictured a lot and that we talk about him.

There’s a pretty tree with lights on in the lounge. She does love the tree. I really don’t think she remembers last year’s, but this year she helped us decorate it by really carefully and thoughtfully placing some baubles and ornaments on.

She knows we’re talking about presents a lot, but probably hasn’t realised she’s going to get some. Which neatly leads me into…

4 year old

There are presents coming. We talk about presents frequently. She’s written her letter to Father Christmas and seems to add to the list of presents she’d like on a daily basis. I also use the anticipation of presents as a neat discipline tool…

She has to be a good girl to get those presents. Understanding this doesn’t always work, I admit. But it often does. She knows Father Christmas is watching and brings more presents to children who are kind and listen the first time and are generally good.

There is a lot of chocolate. Whilst 2 year old is excited by chocolate, 4 year old is OBSESSED. “Can I have another chocolate?” “No! You can eat some fruit for a change!”

Christmas tree with lights
Pretty lights

She gets to help choose and decorate the tree. Now 4 year old remembers this from the previous year and the year before. She now loves to help choose our tree each year and decorate it. She really enjoys seeing the tree lit up with lights in the evening.

She gets to see her relatives and friends more often. 4 year old now understands that Christmas time brings lots of events and with that comes more family time and opportunities to see friends.

There are parties. She’s anticipating the Christmas parties already. Last year I think we went to about 5.

She gets to sing Christmas songs. She arrived home from school yesterday singing Away in a Manger and asked me to buy a CD containing Christmas songs for the car. She’s been practicing her nativity play at school, which brings me onto…

Christmas is when the baby Jesus was born. This year, 4 year old has definitely grasped this. She knows that an angel told Mary that the baby Jesus would be born, that he was born, that Jesus was God’s son and that it involved a stable, three kings and some shepherds and more angels. I’m impressed at how quickly this has sunk in this year compared to the last and I’m obviously pleased she’s beginning to understand it’s not all about the pressies.

Next year, I’m fully expecting that they’ll be so into it, they’ll cook the turkey for me. Maybe.

Read day 4 of #blogmas here.

Primark giraffe onesie

Christmas items I can’t live without

Day 4 of #blogmas and I’m reflecting on those items that are essential for me at Christmas. They are mainly food and drink related, with the odd onesie thrown in.

    • Mulled wine. Warming, comforting…and it contains alcohol! A perfect and most ingenious combination. It also makes your house smell nice if you gently warm some on the hob.
    • Warm mince pies with cream. Another brilliant combination, a warmed mince pie with double cream is sooooo nice. I have this lots at Christmas time. It’s a wonder that I don’t look like, to quote a Lancashire phrase, a ‘house side’.
    • Camembert cheese (a whole one). I’m a vegetarian. Vegetarians are generally a healthy bunch. Which is why at the Christmas dinner table you will find me eating a whole baked Camembert whilst everyone else eats their lean turkey.
    • Limoncello. Curveball. For some reason, I’ve got into the habit of drinking limoncello quite a lot around Christmas time. Maybe it’s because I tend to eat a lot and I believe this is an excellent digestif.
    • Sherry. Just realised the alcoholic theme going on here. I only drink sherry at Christmas but I love it. It’s certainly not a drink just for Grandmas – it’s lovely and we haven’t got any in *writes note in calendar to buy some tomorrow*.
Primark giraffe onesie
I have never looked better
  • Primark onesie. For some reason the cold, dark weeks leading up to Christmas bring out a tremendous urge in me to wear a onesie. It’s not something I’d want to spend a lot of money on, which is just as well as Primark do a surprisingly varied range.
  • Comfortable pair of slippers. I am 38 after all, which means I may as well give in and wear tweed slippers as much as possible. Actually mine are purple and fuzzy and very comfortable to pad around the house in, fetching more mulled wine and ensuring my camembert is in the oven.
  • Naf Christmas films to watch. Christmas is also a time to switch your brain off (once the Christmas shopping is over, that is). A naf film is the ultimate in Christmas meditation. Take ‘Elf’, for example. It didn’t win any oscars, but it’s mindless and Christmassy and a bit funny in parts. Brilliant.
  • Christmas pudding.  Not everyone likes Christmas pudding, but I do and my Christmas dinner wouldn’t be the same without it. In fact I may buy myself a couple of individual ones to have on my own, before the big day.
  • Sprouts. I’m also the humble sprout’s biggest fan. I keep a bag of them in the freezer all year round and have them with cheese on top. Sprouts dipped in baked Camembert for Christmas dinner is amazing.
  • Happy children. Of course the most essential Christmas items for me are my lovely, happy girls, excitedly sprinkling fairy dust on Christmas Eve and rooting through their stockings on Christmas morning.

 

Happy christmas children
What are your favourite Christmas items? I’d love to hear!

Sticker reward charts: parenting hack extraordinaire

Sticker reward charts
Could this be the answer to EVERYTHING?

Sticker reward charts. We parents are often told to give them a go, whether it’s by Supernanny, Three Day Nanny, teachers in school, mum bloggers and so on.

A while back, I bought a sticker chart when my then 2 year old was potty training with the idea that she could have a gold star whenever she went on the potty. That was completely ineffective – she toilet trained anyway but she just didn’t get the chart and completely ignored it.

However, now she’s 4…HELLO STICKER CHART! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE??

I’ll rephrase that, actually: HELLO FROZEN INSPIRED STICKER CHART WITH PRINCESS STICKERS!

Check this:

Me: “Have you tidied all those toys away back in the box like I told you?”

4 year old, carries on watching Topsy and Tim as if I’m invisible “*silence*”

Me: “If you put all of those toys away really nicely, you can have a sticker on your chart for looking after your things.”

4 year old: “Ok Mummy!”…as she instantly springs to attention.

Or this:

Me: “If you get 10 stickers on your chart, you can have a Frozen necklace. Why don’t you start by staying in bed the first time Daddy puts you there, all night?”

4 year old: “And then can I have one sticker?”

Me: “Yes”.

…and she stays in bed all night.

It’s brilliant. It’s not failsafe – there are, of course periods of intense naughtiness that not even a sticker chart could solve in that moment – but on the whole I’ve found it to be a really helpful tool in reinforcing positive behaviour.

We started the chart because upon starting preschool our 4 year old exuberant diva settled so well that she ‘forgot’ to listen to the teacher at times. Of course learning new skills and ways of doing things always starts at home, so we started a chart that simply mirrored the school’s golden rules: be kind and gentle, look after our things and listen the first time.

4 year old could really relate to this and even appreciated it, as she’d heard the rules at school, too. It’s even exciting for her as she loves school and likes to practice what she’s learning at home (we had an interesting chicken dance with accompanying squawks around the bathroom this evening as I lay immersed in what I thought was immeasurably relaxing hot bath water scented with lavender oil – I’m assuming this must have been a dance activity…).

I continue to be impressed with the power of the sticker chart to the parent. Those stickers are like gold dust to kids, or chocolate or cheese strings.

Sticker charts: if you haven’t tried it yet and your child is 4 or above, give it a go.

Forget-me-not-Friday #67

Forget-me-not-Friday It’s not actually Friday, it’s Saturday but I didn’t have the chance to write this yesterday due to being a BUSY MUM. However my 4 year old was demonstrating some remarkable negotiation skills this week which I must share…

It was Thursday or thereabouts and I had bought a Kit Kat – a four-fingered Kit Kat. I gave one finger each to the girls as a treat, then thought we would save the rest for Mr EC when he got home from work.

4 year old and her little sister were busily eating their tea and said Kit Kat was resting on the kitchen worktop, calmly awaiting Mr EC’s arrival. Here’s what transpired…

4 year old: “Is that the Kit Kat, Mummy?”

Me: “Yes, that’s Daddy’s bit for when he gets home isn’t it? It’s his favourite.”

4 year old: “Can I have some?”

Me: “No – you and your sister ate yours earlier. That’s for Daddy. You can tell him as soon as he comes in that he’s got a Kit Kat.”

4 year old: “But I’ve eaten my tea really nicely!”

Me: “Yes you have. You can have a satsuma.”

4 year old, after a short, sullen silence: “But can I just hold it?”

Me: “No, you can’t hold it.”

4 year old: “But I just want to hold it!! Then I can give it to him when he gets home from work!”

Me: “No. You’ll eat it. You won’t be able to help yourself.”

4 year old, indignant: “I will NOT eat it!”

Me: “Well I think it’s best it stays there.”

4 year old: “But it’s lonely, Mummy. And we must always be kind to people and look after things.”

Me, thinking ‘bugger!’, as these are 2 of her school rules and technically she’s right. Although the Kit Kat isn’t a person, surely?! And not a thing that needs looking after as such??: “I still just think it should stay where it is, as I am sure it is quite happy where it is.”

4 year old: “Well you’re MEAN!! You’re being MEAN to the KIT KAT!”

Me: “I am not having this conversation anymore…”

Forget-me-not-Friday #66

Forget-me-not-Friday
Since starting preschool, my 4 year old is asking a lot more questions. It’s great that she’s curious about the world, people and the way everything works, but sometimes it hurts my brain?

We’re just leaving a car park on a VERY rainy day, where a poor car park attendant had the joy of standing for hours on end ushering drivers to the relevant available parking spaces and dealing with many who had ‘car park rage’ (myself not included).

Me: “Poor man, having to stand there in the rain all day dealing with that.”

4 year old, pondering on this: “Does he ever go to sleep?”

Me: “Oh yes, he’ll go home at the end of the day and go to bed.”

4 year old: “But why do we need to go to sleep?”

Me: “Well, so our brains and bodies can rest for the next day.”

4 year old: “But why do they need to rest?”

Me: “Because otherwise they get very tired and can’t play or learn as much at school.”

4 year old: “But why can’t we play as much?”

Me: “Well if we haven’t had enough sleep, our bodies get too tired.”

4 year old: “But why do they get too tired?”

Me, just beginning to tire slightly: “That’s the way our bodies and brains work- they need sleep at night to work.”

4 year old: “But why do they need sleep?”

Me, now performing a silent scream in my head: “Because that’s the way our bodies work- we need to sleep and rest every night.”

4 year old, pondering again: “I get lots of sleep don’t I?”

Me, thinking she could probably get a little more sleep at times, but breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of the conversation drawing to a close: “Yes, you do.”

4 year old: “Shall we watch Frozen when we get in?”

Me: “Certainly!”