FULL TO THE BRIM

For Henry’s third birthday, we wanted to give him a memorable day full of his favourites; trains and farm animals. I booked an overnight stay in a quaint little cottage on a working farm, about two hours away in the country.

The plan was to explore the farm, have his favourite dinner (spaghetti bolognese with angel hair pasta) and birthday cake (see the photo of Lightning McQueen and Mack Truck – yes, I made them), and then go on a steam engine train ride the next morning.

Naturally, being a chronic over-packer, I tried cramming half the house into our car. We needed raincoats (it’s spring but what if it rains?), two sets of all clothes and underwear (because options are important), a heap of nappies and wipes (you can never have enough!), an assortment of breakfast and hot drink options (I have particular tastes), my kindle (for when I have a millisecond to read)… and the list goes on!

As I stood there, hand on hip, finger on the chin, unwilling to admit Jenga defeat, my husband oh-so-helpfully asked, “Do we really need all the pillows and the kid’s doonas?”

Wha?! Seriously? To me, that was a redundant question. It’s common knowledge that pillows in hotel/motel/inn/B&B/AirBnB are NEVER replaced. Drool is the least of your worries. My toilet seats are probably cleaner than those pillows! And isn’t it nicer to sleep on your own pillow – germ-free?  As for the doonas – well, I’m willing to sacrifice my body to bed mites but not my children’s! Am I a germaphobe? Maybe.

Before we could get on the road, we needed lunch so we stopped at Henry’s favourite eatery, which happened to be in a shopping centre. While there, I reasoned that gumboots were a necessity for all the farm poo that would undoubtedly be present. Knowing my extreme aversion to stepping on any form of faeces (it’s called coprophobia), the family begrudgingly agreed and followed me from store to store looking for them. Given that gumboots are for winter and not spring, there were none to be found. After Henry yelled out, “I told you there weren’t any gumboots in here Mummy, I told you!”, I was adequately chastised for my idiotic request.  

So off we drove, packed like sardines, to our farm stay. I was thankful that the cottage was clean and had minimal carpets. The host was welcoming and gracious, allowing us to see their week old piglets, chickens, sheep and working dogs. 

The only downside – or maybe it was an upside – was the lack of internet reception. I don’t think people truly realise how reliant (addicted) they are to their phones. My husband forgot to bring his charger, so his phone died shortly after reaching our destination. He was desperate enough to ask a waitress about phone charger availability, stating to me that there would be dire consequences if he didn’t find one. I thought he was worrying about work but it turns out he “needed” to log on his Clash of Clan’s account to twiddle with his people. This overnight trip was a good reminder of keeping priorities in check. 

The next morning, we went on the vintage steam engine train ride. We were seated in the Excursion Carriage of a preserved train from the late 1800s (cattle class as Henry didn’t meet the age restrictions for First Class). We got a signed guide book from the train conductor. We watched the townspeople dressed in their olden day clothing do a tap-dancing performance. We had delectable scones in a tea room. It was a fun day exploring small townships and experiencing an authentic steam train ride. 

That night at home, while I was tucking Henry into his bed, he came up with a doozy. 

“Mummy, I had lots of fun on the train today. I think I want to go to space on a rocket for my next birthday.” 

Do you think NASA hosts birthday parties or do you reckon I should get started on that astronaut training?

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

ONE-ACT PLAYWRITING

One-act plays was the topic for this week’s creative writing class. We read works by different playwrights and completed a task where we created an alternate ending to a play called ‘Read About It’ by Jean Blasier. I learnt that one-act plays have one act, have one or two scenes, are typically thirty minutes long, focuses on one main problem or action and generally have less than four characters. 

Prior to this class, I had little understanding or appreciation for the amount of work and creativity that was involved in producing a play. Sure I had been to plays (yawn!) and musicals (snore!) but I’m not really into them (yes, I am an uncultured spud). After attempting it for myself, I realise and respect the skills a playwright must have to create an engaging and creative story. Interesting dialogue is not easy to write!  

Here was my attempt (a tiny fraction of a one-act play).


Setting: Dinner table

Characters: Henry (3yo), Kathy (mum)

Scene: Family dinner

Henry – What’s for dinner Mummy?

Kathy (smiles) – Mini sausages, Mummy’s famous potatoes and veggies.

Henry (frowns) – These aren’t potatoes, they’re chips!

Kathy – Aren’t chips made of potatoes?

Henry – No! You’re so forgetful Mummy.

Kathy – Are they maybe potato chips?

Henry (pauses and nods) – Yes, they are potato chips. These are yummy!

(Henry eats everything except his greens)

Kathy (points at a broccoli) – You want to eat some of your veggies?

Henry (shakes head) – No way man! I’m not eating that.

Kathy – You have to eat your greens.

Henry – Mummy, I can help in emergencies.

Kathy – Okay… eat your greens please.

Henry – Like fire emergencies. To put out fire.

Kathy – Awesome Henry, please eat your broccoli.

Henry – Mummy, I love you.

Kathy – I love you too Henry. Hey, lets eat a broccoli?

Henry (grabs leg) – My leg hurts Mummy!

Kathy (lets out a big gigantic sigh) – Maybe eating a broccoli will fix your leg. Broccoli is a super vegetable.

Henry – I need to go poo!

(Henry goes to the toilet)

Henry – Mummy, I need to take my time.

Kathy – Hurry up Henry! Are you done yet?

Henry – No, I’m taking my time. You can’t rush me Mummy.

(Twenty minutes later, Henry and Kathy return to the dinner table)

Kathy – Ok, your veggies are now cold but you still have to eat them.

Henry – I want apple juice!

Kathy – We don’t have any. Here’s your water.

Henry – But I need juice or I’ll vomit.

Kathy – Henry, I am getting fed up with your procrastinating. Eat your veggies or you can go to bed right this minute!

Henry (reluctantly picks up a broccoli) – How much?

Kathy – All of it.

Henry (whimpers) – I only want the top. And I don’t like carrots or beans.

Kathy – Eat it!

Henry (takes a bite and pretends to dry retch) – It’s yucky. I don’t like it.

Kathy (glares) – One.

Henry (whimpers and puts broccoli to mouth) – You’re not my best friend. You’re rude to me.

Kathy – Two.

Henry (puts into his mouth)

Kathy – Swallow it…

Henry (swallows one bite of broccoli) – Finish! I’m a good boy Mummy.

Kathy (sighs) – Only another three broccoli tops, three carrots and two beans to go.


Links to the previous homework tasks: Week One – A Slice of Life, Week Two – My Faulty Character Descriptions, Week Three – Short Short Stories.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO

It’s a common understanding that part of good parenting involves modelling good behaviours. Children are imitators, so you can’t tell them to do something but not do it yourself. The mentality of “do as I say, not as I do” is simply unacceptable. You have to lead by example because your children look to you as their role models, they learn how to behave, act and deal with life situations by watching you. If you want your kids to have good manners, show them by saying YOUR pleases and thank-yous. If you don’t want your kids swearing, don’t curse in front of them, even if a moron cuts in front of you and nearly side swipes your car. Your children are a reflection of you, in the emotional and behavioural sense. Effectively, you are on public display, open for view and imitation twenty-four-seven.

In writing all that, I can admit that I am not a great role model. I act on whims, with logical and rational reasoning often taking a backseat. I can be a sarcastic, pessimistic, undisciplined, glass-half-empty, stubborn type of person. My epitaph would probably read “Consistent in her inconsistencies”.

So I can’t really complain when my seven-year-old throws her wet towel on the floor or grumble when I have to unravel underwear from her inside out pants while sorting laundry. I can’t call her a slob because I would essentially be calling myself one, seeing I can’t adhere to my own rules.

I’m constantly nagging my kids to drink more water but I happily drink coffee and tea instead. Talk about being a hypocrite!

How can I scold my daughter for being a hoarder, tucking away her possessions and never being able to find anything when she is a by-product of my habits? My father in-law just the other day asked where the old relic of a juicing machine he gave me was, and seriously, it could have been misplaced in the linen closet for all I knew!

And when my toddler started to point his tiny finger at me and say, “I want you to do it right this minute young lady!”, who do I have to blame for that?

Like most parents, I make sure my children feel loved and supported, are well-fed, dressed in clean clothes, help with school readers, try to volunteer where I can, take them to social events and extra-curricula activities.

I know that I’m not a terrible mother, but I struggle to focus and I find it exhausting being mindful as a parent. Despite it all, I continue to try.

This week when I found myself with homework that tested my patience and ability, I was quick to chuck a self-pity party and throw in the towel. I had spat the dummy and thrown an embarrassing toddler tantrum. My daughter started homework that same week and when prompted, her responses fell between “I don’t want to do it” and “it’s too hard”. Coincidence much?

I had to dig deep and do some self-reflection. What was I teaching my kids? What effects were my actions having on them? Am I being the role model that I want to be? How am I shaping my children for the future?

If I want my daughter to face challenges with aplomb, to learn from mistakes and not be afraid of trying, to be resilient and persevere, I had to pull my finger out and set the example.

So I sat down, batted away the self-doubt and attempted to do my homework. I tried and failed multiple times. I practiced and practiced until I produced a piece that I felt content with. I had done my homework to the best of my ability. I gave it a go.

Not surprisingly, my daughter also decided to give her homework a go.

The results got me thinking… maybe I’ll become a vegetarian. Do you reckon my children will want to eat their veggies then?

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

READING BETWEEN THE LINES

Parent teacher interviews are an important time when parents can find out more on their child’s progress at school. It’s a time when parents get an insight from someone with an objective view on their child’s academic, emotional and social development.

Why are parent teacher interviews necessary for me?

I know nothing. My child’s after school conversations starts with a grunt and ends with a monosyllabic word.
Me: “How was your day?”
Mandy: noncommittal grunt
Me: “What did you do?”
Mandy: “Stuff.”
End of conversation.

My child forgets to relay important messages about classroom changes.
Me: (eyeing the tumbleweeds blowing past in the wind) “Mandy, why are you the only kid lining up?”
Mandy: “I don’t know!”
Me: “Are you sure you’re supposed to line up here today?”
Mandy: “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to line up at the gym.”

I’m assuming (and you know what they say about assuming things) that my child hears and conveys messages accurately.
Me: “Where is your school reader?”
Mandy: “We don’t have to do them anymore.”
Me: “Did Ms France say that?”
Mandy: “Not exactly in words.”
Me: “What does that even mean?”
Mandy: “Mum, trust me. I know these things.”

Also, I’m an introvert and uncomfortable with ad hoc meetings unless it’s necessary. Plus, I don’t like discussing awkward or sensitive matters with other parents nearby. So these parent teacher interviews are imperative to finding out what and how my daughter is doing at school and for me to relay any important information to the teacher.

We all know that parents can be sensitive when it comes to any perceived criticisms of their progeny. It’s no surprise that teachers would try to be tactful with their choice of words when describing their pupils. No teacher will say ‘your child is a nightmare to deal with!’ instead they might say ‘your child is full of life, vivacious’. They aren’t going to say ‘your child drives me nuts with their endless stupid questions!’ but they might choose to say ‘your child has a curious mind’. They might really want to say ‘your kid is a chuckle head’ but to limit death threats, they resort to ‘your child has untapped potential’.

As parents we are too close to the subject, too invested, too attached, to see any flaws and might expect to hear positive feedback. I wonder how much of the spiel that teachers give about their students are individualised and not a regurgitation of the same old, just to keep the peace. And if it isn’t a blanket statement that they give all parents, are they really saying what they mean or is it code for something else?


I enter the classroom, excited to hear news of my daughter’s progress. We do the obligatory small talk before delving into proper discussions.

“Is there anything you want to know about Mandy’s progress?” asks Mandy’s grade one teacher, Ms France.

I only have one burning question on my mind, I want to know if my daughter has told porkies about wearing her new glasses for class.

“No. Mandy told me she didn’t have to wear them anymore!” informs Ms France. “Sometimes when I see her sitting at the back of the room with her friends, I’ll ask her if wants to come sit closer but she’ll refuse. She doesn’t seem to want to wear her glasses and sometimes, when I ask about them, she tells me it’s not in her bag.”

Translation: I tried a few times but really, it’s not in my job description.

I should have trusted my gut. My Princess Porkie Lies will be getting a stern talking to tonight.

“Her writing is good. She found a way of finish the tasks quicker by writing lists. So now, I prompt her to do more writing and get her to think of other ways she could write. Last time, she conceded with doing a letter,” says Ms France, hesitating between sentences.

Translation: Your daughter is a Shortcut Sally.

I nod in understanding. This sounds like the Mandy I know.

“Her math is good. They are learning about addition, subtraction, fractions and a bit of division. Maybe you could do additions at home and make it fun with money. Kids love money,” says Ms France.

Translation: She sucks at maths. She needs help otherwise she has no hope with the other concepts.

Again, I nod in understanding. Her dad has some work cut out for him!

“Her reading is good. Just to warn you in the report, her progression isn’t the same as last time as the reading material has gotten harder,”

Translation: I’m telling you this in case you’re a high achieving parent and expect your child’s trajectory to be linear.

“She’s doing well,” says Ms France, leaning back and pushing out her chair.

Translation: Your time allocation is over. Please don’t ask anymore questions. I’d like to finish on time to go home and eat dinner. I’m starving!

Mirroring her body language to leave, because it’s plain as the nose on one’s face, I bid farewell and go pick up my gem. I’ll need to pull up my sleeves, put in some elbow grease, and do a bit of polishing to make my prized treasure shine bright like a diamond!


Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

MY REMEDY FOR SCHOOL HOLIDAY BOREDOM

I promised myself that these school holidays, I would try really hard not to use Uncle TV to babysit my children. As much as the kids love him and I love that he is part of our lives and offers free babysitting at a drop of a hat, I wanted to give them experiences that didn’t involve technology or send me broke.

I had a plan to do loads of arts and crafts; rock painting, slime making, water painting, drawing, craft making with recycled materials. It was supposed to last a week. It kept them occupied for three days. During that time, the squabbling was kept to a minimum but without a backup plan for activities, they were at risk of boredom. We all know bored kids equals broken things, fighting and nagging.

So what did I do?

I took them for a big walk to a nearby oval and let them run off their leashes until they came back panting and tired. They enjoyed the fresh air and freedom. Two weary and satisfied children, one content parent and a good night’s sleep. Nine days left.

I created Project Weed Annihilation. The side court was chock-full of overgrown weeds, so I set them to work weeding. They thought it was fun (suckers!). Two tired and happy children, one grateful parent and a weed-free court. Eight days left.

I persuaded them to role-play ‘Cleaning Crew’. It involved cleaning the entire house and lasted several days. It was epic. They weren’t impressed with that game. Two grumpy children, one ecstatic parent and a cleaned house. Six days left.

I strongly encouraged them to play ‘Shopping at the Supermarket’. It involved making a grocery list and buying said groceries. This got me on the sh*tlist. Two angry children, one tired parent and groceries no one helped me carry. Five days left.

My husband took pity on our situation and suggested we do an overnight stay in a country town a couple of hours away. The catch? We would take public transport and walk EVERYWHERE. Anyone who knows me understands that I am ill-equipped for walking. Something about chaffing thighs, itchy sweating and sore feet just doesn’t appeal to me.

It took four bloody hours, three trains and a bus ride to get to our destination! We walked for hours on end! The only thing I was looking forward to was getting to the hotel and resting my tired feet. It was a pity that when I booked the place, I hadn’t realised it was a drive-in motel inn in the middle of bumfudge nowhere. We had to walk the Great Plains and trek Mount Everest to find solace in a hovel.

My germaphobe alert beacon was in full distress mode. The shower had black mould infestation, there was hair on the bathroom floor, towels had suspect stains, dust infiltrated all living spaces, and the beds left an itchy sensation. There was no way I was even bothering with their complimentary communal gym, sauna and spa. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Highlights were an overpriced tram ride, eating from a kebab food truck for lunch and McDonald’s for dinner, and a walk through a beautiful park. The kids saw many interesting sights like a giant skeleton head, a British tram cafe, and statues. Two exhausted and satisfied children, two wiped out parents and experiences for the memory bank. We’re in the home stretch now.

It’s important to give children valuable experiences to create memories, provide learning experiences and develop an understanding of the world around them.

We asked Henry, the train/tram enthusiast, what his favourite part of the trip was.

His answer? The motel.


Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY REPEATING

What makes a parent embarrassing to a child? How do you know when you’ve entered lame territory? Are there signs, like increased rate of facepalms and eye rolls? Or do you just reach an age where you lose your sensibilities and become an ‘at risk’ embarrassing parent? I’d like to know because if my children requests that I walk three metres behind them, I’ll have failed. So far, I’m still in the ‘cool beans’ category, but only barely. I’m hanging on by a thread, but I have hope because I’m nowhere near as embarrassing as my folks. They have set the example for parental embarrassment.

My mother will:
– shamelessly haggle for a dollar discount (every dollar counts!)
– blatantly inspect and tastes unpaid fruit from stands (how else will she know if the fruit is sweet?)
– brazenly elbow and push to get in front of any line (as she waits for no-one)
– pay with a bag full of small coins, taking time to count each one (because all vendors need small change)
– refuse to put cooked rice or food in the fridge (why wouldn’t you want to save on fridge space and what’s Listeria?)
– show up unannounced and leave us a jug of her unwanted tangelos and oranges (there’s irrefutable evidence left, sticky counters and floors)

My dad will:
– forgo a shower for some wet toweling (you don’t ever want to accidentally use his towel!)
– multitask like a pro with eating and talking (just don’t sit directly in front of him)
– double park (because it’s the council’s fault that there aren’t more car parks)
– shout out ‘Hey’ and do an octopus wave to get a waiter’s attention (imagine how much extra flavouring his meals must get!)
– bring out his karaoke machine with any visitor (because everyone needs to hear those vocals!)
– FaceTime or WhatsApp his family members constantly (because obviously they’re interested in an update every half hour)

So you see, I know embarrassing. I understand what it means to have embarrassing parents. I mean, who else has had their dad talk about his penile problems to their future in-laws on the first meeting? Who’s had to make excuses so friends don’t come over because their dad has six fish tanks and sometimes walks around in his boxers that he mistakes as acceptable summer wear? Even the grandkids are saying how embarrassing they are!

***

Gary is attempting to move my mum’s car from our driveway. The deafening wail of car alarm can be heard.

“Oh that’s your dad’s car alarm. Tell Gary to press the car key button twice,” my mum dismisses.

I go outside to tell Gary her instructions. He looks frustrated and furiously punching both buttons. The alarm is so loud that I have to yell in his ear. The neighbours have started to come out to witness the commotion. We can’t get the alarm to stop. My mum shows up, and she starts pressing the buttons in the same way. Nothing. By now, we’re just standing there covering our ears. Eventually, my dad comes out with the kids. My dad smacks the car key against the door a few times and swears a ton before the alarm cuts off.

“Easy. That’s how you do it,” my dad exclaims with triumph. He leans into the car and rummages around.

“It happens every time I try to get in the car. It’s so annoying!” my mum complains.

I can only stare in wide-eyed amazement. Is he for real? He practically had to kick down the door. This aftermarket car alarm is probably going to explode. I take a step back. I peek around to see the neighbours shaking their heads and returning to their abodes.

My dad pulls out a black foam block and passes it over to me. “Here, I got you a foam cushion for your car seat so you can see over the steering wheel.”

“Dad, I do not need a cushion. My seats can be adjusted,” I tell him, rolling my eyes in the process.

“You want the back massager for your seat?” he offers, pointing to the monstrosity attached to his car seat.

“Uh no.” Seriously?! Who gets a back massage while driving?

“How about next time, we’ll come to visit you?” I mutter. “On second thought, how about we always come to visit you from now on.”

***

I wonder if history will repeat itself. Will I be my own brand of embarrassing to the kids when I’m older? Nah, no one can top my parents in the embarrassing department.
 

 

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

HOW TO SURVIVE TODDLERHOOD

I love my children. LOTS. But sometimes, I wish I could find a really good hidey hole and not come out for a while. Children, especially toddlers are great at testing your limits. They like to push your buttons, incessantly, until your eye starts twitching, your mouth flattens into a hard grimace, and you explode like a nuclear bomb. Every parent or carer will have their own horror stories and tips for how to survive toddlerhood and/or parenthood. I’m no expert, but I have observed some interesting character traits.

They are fickle pickles.
Henry: “Mummy, close the window!”
Me: (closes the window)
Henry: “NO! NO! I said open the window!”
Me: (deep sigh, opens the window)
Henry: “I want it closed!!”
Me: “Make up your mind!” (closes the window)
Henry: (cue meltdown)

They have the memory of an elephant so don’t make promises unless you are going to deliver.
Henry: (pointing at a car ride-on) “Mummy, can I go on that?”
Me: “Sure, maybe on our way home.”
An hour passes.
Me: (arms overloaded with groceries, veering away from promised ride-on)
Henry: (pulling towards ride-on) “Mummy! Mummy, there is the car!”
Me: “Ugh, do you really want to go? How about we go home and do something fun?”
Henry: “NO! NO! You said so!”

They are the world’s best procrastinators.
Henry: (sitting on the toilet at five a.m.) “I have to take my time. I feel a poo in my bottom.”
Me: (every few minutes) “Are you done?”
Henry: “Not yet, I’m just waiting.”
Me: (frozen like a corpse on the cold hard floors after waiting for thirty minutes).

They become extremely thirsty at bedtime.
Henry: “Mummy, I need water!”
Me: “Here, now go to bed.”
Repeat cycle at least thirty times. EVERY NIGHT.

They like to push boundaries and limits, of the sanity kind.
Henry: “Beep, beep, beep!”
Mandy: “Henry, stop saying that. It’s annoying!”
Henry: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!”
Mandy: “Stop it!”
Henry: “BEEEEEEP!!!! BEEEEPP!!!! BEEEEPP!!”
Me: “Just ignore him, Mandy. He will get bored and stop himself.”
Henry: (continues for another ten solid minutes)
Mandy: (breaks down crying)
Me: (whispering) “Soon. It will stop soon.”

What have I learnt so far? Toddlers are unpredictable and volatile. They are prone to indecisiveness and stubbornness. Passing strangers will comment on how angelic they look until they see the switch flipped, and the tantrum-throwing, fist-bashing, leg-thrashing devil in disguise rears its screaming self.

Based on my n=2 parenting experiment, I can offer the below suggestions:

  1. Tea is an old acquaintance but coffee is your best friend. Just don’t expect to drink it hot or warm.
  2. Perfect your eye roll. You’ll need it at all stages of parenthood, so better practice now.
  3. Pretend not to hear the screeching and crying. It will morph into whingeing, bartering and begging later on. If you work on your craft, instead of pretending, you’ll eventually just not hear it.
  4. Ignore that inner voice telling you that people witnessing your child’s meltdown are judging you. Of course, they are. Jeez, that inner voice could be more helpful by telling you something you didn’t already know!
  5. Bribe with TV or snacks if you must but make sure it’s on your terms and used sparingly. Like nasal decongestants overuse can lead to loss in effect and the dreaded rebound. You do not want to invite that misery.
  6. Become a counting expert. It’s not hard. You only need to count to three.
  7. Expect tantrums. They WILL have one, at home and in public. It is NOT a reflection on you or your parenting.
  8. Don’t compare your child to other children. They are all different and special in their own way. You might even get a runner, like mine.
  9. Do what works for you and your child. Remember to laugh. Remind yourself it’s short-lived. Accept that the struggle is real and that you are not alone.
  10. Whatever you do, never ever give in to a toddler tantrum. Once you do, they WILL own your ass. Trust me, my bottom can attest to this.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/