{Five on Friday} Back to school

I feel like I need to say more about going back to school. The last two years have been pretty uneventful in terms of back to school. We have a big year next year though – Cameron goes to high school and Jack to Grade 0, so there shall be lots to share then.

Sharon shared her list of must-haves and so I thought I would share my top 5 must have back to school essentials. (After reading Sharon’s post I developed a severe case of label maker envy – I NEED ONE.)

1. Pens (or pencils of you are still junior primary). My kids need pens constantly. They lose them, they get stolen, lost or eating by the dam cookie monster. I try to keep a stash of blue and black pens in my desk because when they ask me, usually at 19h55, they have NONE.

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2. Plastic! Those of you who are covering books for the first time, don’t fool yourself, it will not end there. They come home throughout the year needing books covered in plastic. Cameron is very good about reusing the ready made covers but often the books aren’t a standard size so keep a roll or two of plastic (and sellotape, washi tape won’t work, it doesn’t stick properly).

3. Rulers! This may just be my kids but they go through rulers at an alarming rate.

4. Pencil crayons. These are like the pens. You can never have enough. Kiara sharpens hers a little compulsively so by June She needs more. Cameron loses particular colours. They use them daily so you need to have some on hand.

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5. Exam pads. If your kids have homework avoidance like mine then the excuse “I don’t have anything to write on” comes up often. So keep exam pads on hand so they have something to write on. Also as they hit Grade 4 they start using these and they go through them super fast!

What are your five must haves? Whats always in your stationery draw for your kids?

Babies – then and now

I was asked recently asked by reader about what it was like having babies 12 years apart, in terms of the types of things we had then versus what we have now.

So much has changed but so much has also stayed the same.

The biggest difference now is that there is a lot more choice. It is not just that there are more bottles and dummies but more everything. There are more nappies. Huggies alone have 4 different types of nappies under the Huggies brand. There are more wet wipes; Cherubs have 3 different types I think. Have you tried buying a baby feeding bowl? Or a baby feeding spoon? The choices will do your head in.  We never had these choices 12 years ago. There were different brands but not as many and within each brand there weren’t as many choices.

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We have been convinced we need gadgets of every kind. There are thermometers in dummies or in plasters. There are attachments for the bath water tap. You can buy whole systems to make homemade baby food. There are singing potties. There are blankets that cool, blankets that warm, blankets that heat, blankets that stretch, don’t stretch. Even something as simple as body wash has become complicated. A lot of these things aren’t necessary; they are simply nice to haves.

The audience is bigger. I joined an online forum when I had Cameron but there was no Facebook, I didn’t know much about blogs back then. The amount of people watching me as a parent was smaller. The amount of people I compared myself to was smaller. My access to information was limited despite having access to the internet, I never googled as much as I do now.

 

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There are few things I remember that we used “back then” that I don’t even think you get anymore.

  • Those green sterilising buckets that you put the red liquid in. You used to get them at Game. I had it for Cameron but stopped using it very quickly because it was such a pain.
  • HUGE prams. I know pram size is still an issue these days but I had this HUGE pram that was too big for my boot.
  • Carry cots. I think you may still get them but does anyone even use them? Why? I had one for Cameron but I think we used it once.
  • Safety pins and cloth nappies. Not the funky cloth nappies we have now but those Glodina “spit cloths” that we used to use with safety pins. You used to be able to buy safety pins in the baby shops – I don’t think you can anymore. (Yes there were disposables when I had Cam but we used cloth for a few weeks for our hip issues).

Those of you with older kids – what did you have back then that you don’t have now?

6 things to do to keep kids happy in the car

I spend a lot of time in the car, in the afternoons the kids spend a lot of time in the car with me. We don’t generally drive far but we spend our annual summer holiday in Cape Town and now that there are 6 of us we drive down. This means a lot of time in the car with four kids and a lot of creative ways to try and keep the children occupied.

It can be the perfect time to combine a educational concepts with fun.

Count the cars. Traffic is a part of life here and it can be frustrating but you can turn it into a fun activity. Ask the children to count the number of red cars or the number of cars next to you, combining both number and colour concepts. For older kids you could ask them to identify the different types of cars. If you are heading out on a longer trip then the Ready Set Count box from Mysmartkid offers a great selection of fun activities that teach number concepts.9780755498451

i-Spy/Alphabet Game. This is always a fun game to play and can be enjoyed by any age, anywhere. As long as you can see things you can play. This helps kids to take note of their surroundings as well as learn sounds of words.

 

Sing. Songs are a great way to make everyone feel happier and they help with memory. You can find kid friendly songs that are also adult friendly and don’t get annoying as soon as they start. Depending how far you are travelling, you could bring out the noisey toys close to your destination/stop and let the children bang on the drums or the accordian.

001928789654120 Questions. This is a really fun game for everyone and isn’t as monotonous as i-Spy can get. This game gets the imagination going because the object doesn’t have to be visible so you can literally think of anything and everything.  All of my kids enjoyed playing this.

Read. Books like Where’s Wally are really great for passing the time. Board books are great for smaller kids, especially the ones with flaps or different textures. Fact Finder books are perfect for older children. Classic books also work well they can be read out aloud to help calm everyone.

Join Mysmartkid. You can also use the Smartbox from Mysmartkid to keep your child busy while you travel. Every Smartbox  is filled with age appropriate toys and activities that combine creativity and learning.

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It can be a challenge keeping children distracted in the car but with enough planning it can be done and the trip can be an adventure more than a nightmare.

 

How to tame a toddler tantrum in 3 easy steps.

This year end has not been easy on us all. I am not really sure why but we are all feeling it. Jack, specifically has been a challenge. There have been tantrums, huge, elaborate, throw himself on the floor, kind of tantrums. It’s mainly about clothes – socks, shorts, jeans, shirts – getting dressed is a fight. If the socks can’t get on right or the jeans have a spot on or the shirt isn’t long sleeve or if Barack Obama wears a black tie then its a huge deal. HUGE. Tears, screaming, whining, shouting, crying.

He is an angel at school, obviously. I think the only reason the teacher actually believes me is because we have, at times, both arrived at school in tears. We are trying to deal with it. We are walking that tight rope between setting boundaries and giving in. We all know that line. It usually happens about 30 minutes into a screaming tantrum, you consider giving in, giving up. You know you shouldn’t, you know why you need to stand firm but its 17h30, dinners about one second away from burning, a child needs to be fetched from swimming in 10 minutes, another child needs to bath. You just don’t have the emotional energy or physical time to get down to his level and try to explain you understand his feelings but he really can’t eat the raw chicken drumstick. So you shout or you smack or you send to the naughty corner or you bribe with some sugar – you do pretty much anything you can to just stop the screaming.

Some days, though, you do get it right. You do stay calm, you explain, he understands and calm is restored. At the moment those days are rare in our house but they do happen. On those days I give us all a gold star.

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There are a few things I have figured out though to make it a little easier for us all. So when your toddler (or even 10 year old for that matter) is mid tantrum try these 3 easy steps.

1. Grab a glass of wine/whisky/coke/SuperM/tea or a slab of chocolate. Whatever is your comfort food – grab it!

2. Lock yourself in the bathroom with your wine/whisky/coke/SuperM/tea or slab of chocolate and enjoy it. Savor each sip/bite. Breathe. Drink/eat!

3. Look in the mirror, high five yourself, put your warrior helmet on and head back out onto the battleground.

Tantrums are not easy. They can be disruptive and exhausting. They are also very different from child to child. Some kids respond to a time out, some to a star chart, others to a warning. There is no one fit solution, the only thing you can do is “just keep swimming” and remind yourself that tomorrow will be better (and that there is wine in the fridge).

Being Safe Online – thinking long term!

I joined Facebook a few years ago. I was newly single and did a fair share of partying. Back then social medial was pretty new, we didn’t think much of the long term impact of what we were doing so we shared a lot more (well I did anyway). There were a large number of pictures of me at parties, having a good time, drink in hand. No big deal right? I mean we all did and we all wanted to share the good time.

I have removed most of those photos, not because I am embarrassed or have regrets but because my children are getting older now and I don’t really want them seeing some of those pictures.

Recently I was scrolling through one of my twitter feed and noticed drunk photos being posted by teenagers. It was done innocently, they weren’t shaming friends, it was nothing sinister BUT there are now drunk pictures with that persons name attached on the world wide web. These kids haven’t started looking for jobs yet or applying to university but they now have drunk pictures as part of their online footprint. Should a potential employer google them, these are the things they will find. Should they one day find themselves in a custody battle, these photos can be used against them.

I check what Cameron shares on his Facebook feed, he s 12, he doesn’t always make smart choices and often doesn’t even fully understand cartoons or jokes and I don’t want one click of a share button to label him something he isn’t. We all know how unforgiving the internet can be, especially when we mess up.

When I was young we had to have our photos developed and you could only make copies if you had the negatives. So one photo couldn’t really travel too far, too fast and you could cut it up and it was gone. Now a photo is on the web forever and always, even when you delete it.

As parents, we need to make sure our children understand that what they post today will effect them later in life. Every day they are online they are adding to their online CV, they need to make sure that they are proud of everything associated with their name.

We can’t stop our children from being online, it is the way the world is going, but we can make sure they are smart about it!

4 Christmas Gifts for Baby Girls

My mom asked me the other day what she can buy Emma for Christmas. I had no idea. She is at that age where she is happy with a toothbrush and box of macaroni but those aren’t exactly nice gifts, especially from a granny for your first Christmas.

So I did what any self respecting person does  – I googled it and obviously found some outrageous things but also found a few really great ideas for babies 0-1 year old.

Sea Stack and Learn  Blocks  – these are always a win and these blocks have letters, shapes and pictures on so they learn more than just stacking.

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Colour Flap Mirror – Emma loves a mirror. She will spend hours playing at the mirror in our lounge. So anything with a mirror is a huge win for her.  This one includes colours so can be used for checking yourself out and learning colours.

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Tea Time Shape Sorter – I had a shape sorted growing up and all the older kids had one. They are such fun ways to learn a host of things – shapes, colours, motor skills. I thought this one was a very cute one for girls.

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Peekaboo Book – We are huge Dorling Kindersley fans and these books are stunning. Both of these are really cute and you can never go wrong with books as gifts, for any age.

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Sensational Kids are having a sale on from the 5 – 7 December! – EVERYTHING on the site will be less 20% and all delivery is free within SA. Book mark it, set reminders because you do not want to miss it!!!!

Currently

This morning I was busy with a few things and had “blog post” on my list. I did everything to avoid it, not because I have nothing to say but because I have so much to say but no time to organise it all.

So I am joining Cindy and Sharon and doing a “currently” post!

Currently…..

I am feeling very overwhelmed with how much needs to get done before we leave for Cape Town in less than a month.

Money is a huge stress. HUGE.

I was very freaked out by the fact that the big kids father is “watching them” via Facebook.

I am loving the rain.

I am really enjoying the new season of Scandal – anyone watching it? And the new season of Homeland s also pretty good.

I am completing a Sensory Profile for the OT at Jack’s school. (My head popped out the sand just long enough to discuss his issues with the teacher).

I am having to mark too many blogs as read because I just don’t have the time to read and leaving them unread stresses me out.

I am avoiding thinking about Christmas presents.

Kiara and Jack are chasing each other so they can basically just beat each other up.

I have discovered brussel sprouts and am in love.

My laptop is dying. It’s not even doing it gracefully or subtly.

My phones charger has broken – I don’t even know how. A new one is nearly R300. I don’t even know what to say about that.

I want to smash all the chocolate in the world in my face and wash it down with all the wine in the world!

How are things currently in your world?

Parenting just got real!

There is nothing more overwhelming that giving birth. That moment you are handed that screaming little person is possibly one of life’s greatest moments. You are overwhelmed by every emotion there is  – fear, love, panic, wonder, admiration – you feel it all at once every few seconds but the love is rather overwhelming. I don’t you realise it until the second day when the sister comes to do those first vaccinations and you hear your baby scream, I remember wanting to punch the nurse with every single baby. You realise in that moment though, that you would lay down your life for your child without even thinking about it.

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With each milestone you feel an immense sense of pride and joy and excitement.

Look she is rolling – so cute.

Look she can stand – isn’t she clever.

Look she can walk – what a big girl.

Listen she can speak – so smart.

Every milestone arrives and we celebrate. We share. We brag. We document.

Then the excitement dies down a little. They can walk and talk and draw and write and add and read. We celebrate but no one really gets excited when you post a picture of your kid doing his math homework.

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Then they start growing up. Really growing up. Not just reaching new levels on the growth chart kind of growing up but a kind of growing up that pulls really hard on your heart strings. The kind of growing up that makes you cry a different, more real kind of tear to the one you cried they day he walked. It is not only a growing up but also a growing away, which is possibly why it is so emotional.

A few weeks ago Cameron put a password on his phone, I didn’t think much about it until I did and then I realised that he was talking to his friends and didn’t want us to see*. His expressions during the conversations he was having also made it clear that he may very well be talking to a girl, which he neither confirmed nor denied when I asked.

I really was not prepared for it. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that hit me harder than a bucket of ice. I shared on twitter the night it happened and the more I put into actual words what was happening, the more emotional I became. I wanted to rip the phone away and see who he was talking to and what they were talking about. I then wanted to smash the phone and tell him to sit down and watch Toy Story and declare it his favourite movie and ask for Buzz Lightyear Pajamas! I was not, and still am not, prepared for him to be experiencing “grown up” things like relationships and wanting privacy and separating himself from the family unit. It feels like they move through milestones at a certain pace and then they hit 11/12 and they leap across this abyss without fear to the other side while we, as parents, are still standing trying to catch hold of their feet as fly across because we aren’t ready because we know whats on the other side and we know that once their feet touch that side, we lose a pretty big part of who we are to them. I have never really been one of those moms who says “I wish I could keep them small” until that moment.

Parenting, for me, just got very real.

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It didn’t end there. As you know Cameron is now swimming. He had his second gala this weekend and I couldn’t be there to watch him. As he got out the car, I wished him luck and said “remember we want a faster time”. There is this amazing app that basically allows you to follow the gala in almost real time. So you can see the times pretty much a few minutes after they have swum. I was sitting at home refreshing every five seconds and then there it was Cameron De Klerk, 1st place with an improvement of over 3 seconds on his time. It may have been my proudest mom moment so far.

Not only because he won but because HE did this. HE did it all on his own. Yes we have given him the opportunity, the support and encouragement but HE did it. HE made the decision this is what he wanted and he is putting the hard work in, he is getting into the pool every day even when he is exhausted and he is training his heart out, he is sacrificing time with his friends and lie ins on a Saturday morning. He has a goal and he has determination. It is an incredible thing to watch and to know that in a small way, David and I, as his parents, played a part in his achievements.

Dealing with the sleepless newborn months was tough. Taming toddler tantrums is challenging. Potty training is vomit inducing. Introducing solids is exhausting. Starting school is eye-opening.

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Parenting a pre-teen will rip your heart right out of your chest. It will make all those early challenges seem like a walk in the park. You will wish for those days where you argued for hours with the toddler over which shoes to wear or how to cut their bread. You will miss the days where the talked non-stop about nothing and everything. You will wish that the next milestone had a start and end date. This stage, for me, is when parenting got real. It is NOW that you start to really be a parent because it is the years that lie ahead of us now that will really determine what he becomes and where he goes.

It has been a very emotional few weeks for me. I suspect it only gets tougher from here on out and I suspect there will be a lot more wine in my future.

This does sound like a very selfish version of things because it is. It is MY story. My emotions. Cameron’s story is now his to tell when and if he wants to one day.

The second photo was taken by Jeanette in I think one of then first family photo shoots she did in 2008.

The last photo was taken by Catherine at our photo shoot in September this year.

*I have no doubt that these are innocent conversations. He is not hiding them because he is selling drugs or having sex or whatever. Its just about him wanting some sort of privacy to be able to talk to his friends and very possibly girls.

Lets talk about the baby – the answers my friends are blowing in the wind

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You know how they say that by the fourth kid it should be easy? Well they lied! Just like pretty much everything else they say. Who are they anyway? The same people who say it gets easier as they grow up or don’t shout, talk to your child (have they ever talked 34680 times and had no one listen) or don’t pick them up too much (have they ever listened to crying for 50 solid minutes) or don’t let them fall asleep on the bottle/boob (have ever not slept for days on end) or just say no (have they ever said no to a 3rd old?). Do they even have kids?

Emma has been a challenge, for me, since she was born. She has seemed determined to break any mould’s her siblings may have set. She has had me questioning myself and my ability as a mother more than the other three ever have (even the tween who now seems to have a girl person he chats to on BBM). Thankfully, and mainly due to David’s persistence, we have managed to get her sleeping better but that really was only one issue. I have mentioned how unhappy she seemed with us. She doesn’t seem to like food that much, which I really find odd. The food gene is strong with both David and I and yet with her, meal times are a challenge, she purses her little lips and you can forget about getting anything in there if she doesn’t want to. She is firmly attached to a dummy, which is very new to me. I did try to get the others to take a dummy but they all refused so eventually I just left it.

It is a lot better now, not just with the sleeping but she seems happier and more content. Maybe I have just accepted that that is the way that she is or maybe she has just accepted we are it. Or maybe both?

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I don’t really know when it changed or what we did, if we even did anything, to make it change but it has and after 8 months it feels like she is part of the family, not just someone visiting, watching the chaos around her. I no longer dread the days the nanny isn’t here, I don’t start getting antsy when David is stuck in traffic (this may be the wine though). For the first time I am enjoying her. We have long chats while I do the shopping, she laughs at me, puts her little arms out for me to pick her up.

I get asked parenting advise a lot, not because I am an expert, but just because I have 12 years on the job training but all I can do is share what I did with my kids. Emma has proved that each child is very different, regardless of how many you have, and what worked for 3 may not work for number 4. This parenting thing really is a guessing game, sometimes you hit the jackpot and sometimes you lose all your money. Sometimes you think you have all the numbers but realise you only have 2, so you have to keep trying. Sometimes you are just too tired to even try and sometimes you just don’t want to because it is too hard.

Sometimes the answers are in the parenting section of Exclusive Books but more often than not the answers really are just blowing in the wind!

PS. I just want to say thank you for all the comments left yesterday. It does mean a lot. I think comment by “flaredmozzie” summed it up. Comments are important to us, not because of the stats but because of the interaction, knowing that we have reached someone or helped someone or just made someone laugh.

PPS. I am going to the physio this afternoon. I have been having these terrible spasms in my shoulder/neck and after a full assessment by my bio she has sent me to the physio to break the knots and then she can work on my posture. If there is no post on Monday, know I was killed by the physio!

{Product Review} Feeding made easy with Nuk

Being the fourth child means Emma gets very little new stuff. From her clothes to her bottles to her cot. It’s not so much a money thing as a practical thing really. We had a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff got handed down.

Recently I was contacted by Nuk to try out their new feeding range. It was perfect timing because Emma is now on solids and has been using all Jacks old bowls. I do realise she is 8 months old and doesn’t care or know what bowl she uses but it is still nice to get new stuff.

We were sent a weaning set with cutlery that including a weaning bowl, weaning plate and cutlery set as well as the snack box.

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The plate has partitions which is nice to keep the food seperate and the bowl is pretty deep which I liked because it is less messy than the thinner bowls. The cutlery set is small, making it easier for little hands to hold and manouver.

My favourite was the snack box though.

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It is small enough for them to hold it and has a soft silicone lid under the main lid that has little flaps so when they tip it, the contents don’t fall out. It really is super cool. You can also remove the handles which make it easier to store and all of the items can go in the dishwasher.

Emma only drinks Nuk bottles so it was actually a natural choice for us to move over to the Nuk feeding set anyway but I can highly recommend all three of these products.