Drastic Measures

Every single mother has had and will continue to have those moments. Those times when banging your head on the wall is highly preferable to parenting your child at that particular moment. If you even try to deny it, you’re an alien. So it was with a slightly unhealthy glee that I read a short story by Enid Blyton in her Bedtime Stories.


Right from childhood, I’ve never been a fan of Ms Blyton. I always found her prose unimaginative and her plots boring, preferring the naughty wickedness of Roald Dahl. However, I do recognise that Blyton’s stories are easier to digest for younger children. Or at least those that didn’t watch Rambo at the age of seven (I made full use of my dad’s penchant for falling asleep in front of the tv). So I have a few of her books, mostly from op-shops for Iris’s benefit.

I love that Iris is old enough now for proper books and we’ve been going through different ones for the past year. We started with The BFG, which was so warmly nostalgic.  Then we read George’s Marvellous Medicine and I realised that a lot of Dahl’s work seems to be him having a go at people he doesn’t like – the rancid grandmother in George’s Marvellous Medicine, the disgusting couple in The Twits, the mean farmer in The Fantastic Mr Fox, the list goes on. “The Other Little Boy”, which is about Ronnie, who is particularly naughty to his mother, also seems to be in this vein with Blyton taking a jab at horrible little brats. At the height of one of those head-banging moments, Ronnie’s mum threatens that she might just get “another little boy” because Ronnie is so rotten to her. Ronnie takes this as an empty threat, which you would think it was.

However, lo and behold, another little boy appears. It is vaguely implied that this boy, Dan, is an orphan. However, Blyton glosses over the logistics of how he came to be there. Anyway, Dan turns out to be the perfect child, of course.


Ronnie first tries to bully Dan into leaving. However, Dan stands up to Ronnie’s rubbish. Then he tries to bully his mother into getting rid of Dan. This is what she says: “Certainly not, Dan has no mother at all. He has never had all the things you have had – the joy of helping his mother, having her kiss him good night, telling her his troubles, looking after her when she is tired, sharing everything with her. You don’t want those things, Ronnie, and you said you wouldn’t mind if I got another little boy.”

So his usual bratty behaviour failing to get his desired results, he tries guilt. He goes to his father and asks, “Don’t you like me, Daddy? Don’t you love me?” To which his father replies, “I love you, because you are my son, but I can’t say I like you very much, Ronnie. Why should I? You are rude and selfish and unkind. I shall always love you and back you up, but whether I like you or not depends on yourself and your own behaviour.”

Ouch.

So Ronnie sees the error of his ways and promises Dan he’ll be good to his mother. Dan agrees to leave only if Ronnie does what he says, which he does of course and everybody lives happily ever after.

Obviously, this is never going to happen and I’d never go so far because, thankfully, Iris is mostly a wonderful child. I mean if your kid is that bad, it does say something about your parenting as well. The mum in this story is clearly a pushover who does no disciplining whatsoever. BUT, it’s a great one to mildly, with one eyebrow raised, threaten waywardness with. Or just to chuckle over as your child(ren) give(s) you horrified looks of indignation. Heh.

Growing Up Subtly

So I had a minor-major mum moment on Sunday where I realised, slightly tearfully, that my baby is well and truly growing up.

Horns Tails Spikes and Claws by J. Elizabeth Mills and Jef Czekaj was one of my opshop finds a few years ago. It’s one of those mix-and-match books you can flip different parts of it to make strange and funny combinations of stuff. I got it in the hopes that Iris would entertain herself with it. She never really got into it so a month ago just before my last blog post, I decided it could go in the giveaway pile  along with another similar book.

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Last week, I took the pile out ready to give away to friends and family. This particular one was going to a friend with boys who might appreciate such humour more. From about Thursday she started flipping through the book and had a bit of fun with it, which I thought was just her usual reluctance to give her stuff away thing.

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On Sunday morning she comes over while I’m having my morning cuppa to ask me to pick a favourite combination. When I looked at it I saw this:

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On. Every. Single. Page. IN INK.

Now anybody who loves books will surely understand my abject horror when I saw a previously perfect book being desecrated. I was livid but in a moment of supreme control, which still amazes me, I did not immediately yell but told her that she’d have to be punished by not getting her allowance the following week (more on financial matters later). I then said I was so angry I couldn’t even talk to her anymore and went upstairs to get ready for church.

Not sure if it’s a good or bad sign but it seemed that my not yelling indicated to Iris that it wasn’t a big deal, because 15 minutes later she seemed to have forgot the whole thing. So, still not quite yelling but perhaps a bit more hysterical, particularly with crazy eyes, I asked her, knowing that she should not have done it, to think about and tell me why she did what she did.

She went to her room to change and came back five minutes later to say: “I like the book and I didn’t want to give it away.”

It hit me like being bowled over by a 20-kilo six-year-old that not only had she grasped the true intent of her feelings, which to my mind is pretty mature for a kid, but she admitted it to me and expressed it like such a big girl that I started tearing up immediately.

I gave her a big hug and told her how proud and grateful I was that she was being so honest.

This is why husband and I still steal into her room every night to look at her sleeping because it is only then that she still looks and behaves like our little baby. It’s utterly hilarious that despite knowing (and often wanting) that our children will grow up, just like how we know we’re all going to die, we still react with such shock when we see it happening. So please excuse me while I go sniff and cuddle Iris’s baby clothes.

Mama Humour

So I just realised I forgot to post the pics of my library in my last post. Here it is!

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Admittedly, we don’t spend a huge amount of time reading here. However, I’m guessing this will change once we get the custom seat cushion for the bench put in.

To combat the hypocrisy of berating my husband for keeping 30-year-old text books, I have decided to reread at least three books a year to validate their shelf space. In particular, my last book of the year will be a reread. My inaugural read for the year was Raymond Chandler’s High Window. Yet again I was struck by his smooth prose. He epitomises the film noir genre and his dialogue is pure gold. Highly recommended.

I also viciously attacked Iris’s book hoard and managed to whittle it down by EIGHT books! Out of like two hundred but hey, to a book addict this is still pretty big.

Anyway with that massive effort, I thought I could afford to get Iris a new book.

So you know how sometimes when your kid has asked you about a million on five questions? So at a million and six you decide to give them the most ridiculous answer you can think of just to see if they buy it? This book is all about that. It allows us to talk rubbish and allows our kids to TRY and correct us. Furthermore, because I love using that word, we get to argue with our kids exactly like how they argue with us over every. single. thing.

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Much like The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak, This is a ball by Beck and Matt Stanton gives the kind of dry humour that both children and adults would understand.

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As you can see, it’s the kind of book that would make people go -_-. This is my kind of humour.

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And it continues on in this vein.

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Right up to the not-ending.

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Hopefully, she’ll be chuckling along with me to Blackadder in no time!

Facing Fear with Fear

We are two weeks away from moving into our brand new house. Those in the know will be aware of the arduous nature of this particular journey. From the moment we chose a builder, it has been THREE years in the making. Rather than go into vent-mode, I have chosen to look forward and am allowing excitement to overtake my bitterness at the wait. So while we are in the throes of packing and readying ourselves for the move, I have had to pack away most of Iris’ books. The library has therefore become even more invaluable than before.

In fact, we’ve joined another council’s library, giving us access to four other libraries. Since Iris started full-time school, we’ve been going to the library a lot less so it’s been really lovely rediscovering the joys of borrowing books. We’ve also, thanks to a friend’s tip, started borrowing jigsaw puzzles and Iris is now able to listen to audio books. She is currently enjoying The Enchanted Tree, which is brilliant for us when she wakes up at 6am. More on that in another post.

In our last library haul was this absolute gem. I was, of course, drawn to the amazing painting-style illustrations but reading it has been equally enjoyable. In The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger, Timothy Basil Ering, uses imagination to combat the greatest enemy of childhood sleep – the imagination. Squidlegger_cover

Hamilton is a frog who loves pretend play, especially of the swashbuckling bent. However, this causes problems at bedtime when his overactive imagination makes him run to his parents’.

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We all know co-sleeping is really no-sleeping for parents.

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So his father employs two methods of dispensing of these nighttime terrors – reward and psychology.

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The casual way he planted that nugget of inception was utterly brilliant and inspirational. So young Hamilton’s fears are turned on their head and he learns that the monsters he fights in the day and that terrify him at night can also be playmates. Well done Dad.

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I also love Ering’s classic adventure-style prose.

 

The Case of the Mysterious Poo

The subject of poo for a parent can be distressing (lack of it), irksome (too much of it) or, if you’re lucky, nothing to worry about at all. Potty training in our house was the one developmental thing I can honestly say I barely passed. Firstly, the timing was ALL off. First time around, she wasn’t ready. Second time, we had moved to Perth a few months ago and she had transitioned to a kid bed. Oh boy. The first day she had a 67% success rate with pees so I thought it’d be a home run. With pees, it certainly was. With poos, absolutely not. She just REFUSED to poo in the potty. She would tell us exactly after doing one. The only time she would do it on the potty was if she was buck naked, which was hard in winter. Yup, it was one of my lowest parenting points. However, three months later, 06*ding* she just got it and went to do a poo all by herself. Kids are so wonderful and so strange.

So my relationship with poo has been complicated. Yes, I’m very happy it happens regularly (sometimes I bit too regularly). However, when I think of those three months of cleaning it off knickers and shorts and the floor, I still cringe.

However, I think we can all agree that the subject of poo to a child is one of enormous hilarity. When it is in a book and in drawing form, adults find it pretty funny too. So it was with great pleasure that I read The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch. Obviously a book about poo would be written by men. By the way, this was a comprehension reader, which for some reason made my giggle even more.

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**SPOILER ALERT**

So, I’m going to just let the pictures do the talking. However, if you want to experience the poo humour for yourself, it’s a brilliant little introduction to the mystery genre for pre-schoolers with the added bonus of teaching them about different types of animal poo and comeuppance.

Home Alone

Now that Iris is in full time school, six hours a day, five days a week, I thought I’d have free time coming out my ears. Nope. In fact, I feel more busy than I was last year when she was in school a lot less. So let me just say for the record, especially to everyone who has ever even insinuated that stay-at-home-mums sit around on our arses all day long, WE DO NOT. In fact, speaking as a mum who has both worked full time with a child and is now staying at home, I am FAR busier now than I was when I was working. I do not want to go into a long argument but because I’m at home and I don’t feel entitled to pamper myself since we only have one income, I end up doing a lot more STUFF for the family and the house. Just look at how long it’s taken me to find time to write a blog since my last post. As a result, I am actually trying to find a job so I can, perhaps, actually sit on my arse for half a day.

So anyway, Iris is in pre-primary now. She really enjoys school and has all her bffs in her class again. Sometimes I look at her and think how big she’s grown and how much more independent she is. Then I’ll look at her and think, no she’s still so tiny and I just want to smother her with protectiveness. Yet I have to remind myself that she needs to be allowed to grow and do her own thing. I am reminded of this particularly when I notice her try and boss her father around. She even tried bossing me around but that didn’t last very long. Heh.

Ingenious Jean by Susan Chandler and Kate Leake was another op-shop find th    at I’ve grown to love. It encourages creativity, perseverance, resilience (to sarcasm) and individuality.

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While her brother and sister engage in common kid behaviour, Ingenious Jean loves inventing stuff from things she already has on hand (recycling!). The first three goes are not quite successful as she seems to have invented things that already exist.

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This is very politely and considerately pointed out by her siblings, which is a great lesson for us adults on how to handle our children’s creative output.

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Yet Jean doesn’t give up and is finally awarded inventive success.

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Ingenious Jean

Iris often surprises me with her intelligence and creativity and I give appropriately excited praise. However, I do need to remember to encourage her even when it’s a horse made of corks that has three legs and no head. I don’t believe in indiscriminate praise because I think kids need to know when something is not up to par, particularly when I know she hasn’t put in much effort. So encouragement refers to acknowledging their effort, however small, finding the positive and helping them to see how it could be better. Believe me, this is very hard for me as my default is sarcasm so this is what I’m aiming for, not what I actually do all the time.

Embracing Everything

I knew Iris would be an active child because of her constant movement in utero. However, I never expected her to be so, super, duper, ridiculously, chatty. Ever since she was about 10 months, it has been relentless. That’s what I called her then and it hasn’t changed. Except that before it was cute baby babbling, easily ignored if necessary. Now she actually expects a response, especially when I’m driving. If she’s not singing, making up stories, playing pretend with a piece of fluff and stray raisin, she’s arguing with me, over everything. Argh does not begin to describe how I feel. I admit, this results in a lot of yelling, particularly in the car when I’m trying to navigate roundabouts.

Yet I also love watching and listening to her. She’s so creative and happy. It’s amazing how two people so reserved and the exact opposite of exuberant could produce something so bubbly and full of life. I love her to bits, even when she asks me what the weather’s like while sitting outside. Then argues with me that it is NOT sunny because there is a puff of cloud in the sky.

The old man who love to sing by award winning artist John Winch was another brilliant op shop find. Yes it was FIFTY CENTS.

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It’s about embracing nature and not being afraid to sing aloud. It’s about getting old and being loved.

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A nameless old man left the noise and smog of the city to live gloriously in nature, singing his heart out whenever he felt like it.

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His musical zest  grew on the animals around him and they came to accept him and love him for it.

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So when the time comes and the old man’s oldness catches up with him, they help him to remember.

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Iris helps me remember to find joy in the littlest things and not be afraid to be myself or dance in the middle of the street. If everyone was as unselfconscious and non-judgemental, it’d be a much happier world. Nosier, yes, but infinitely more joyous.