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.

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.

The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit

**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.

Not That Kind of Mum

There are mums who never raise their voices or lose their temper. They take the time to get their children’s attention instead of yelling, then speak levelly with them and they never, ever resort to threats or bribery. I am NOT such a mum. But I try. Most of the time. Ok probably about 65% of the time. Or 60% depending on what kind of day it is.

Due to the other 35-40%, I feel the need to remind Iris regularly, that I love her no matter what. Even when I’m angry with her or when she’s angry with me. And I often catch myself feeling selfish or thinking selfish thoughts. Especially at bed time when I just want her to GO TO BED so I can do my own thing. She usually does but there’s a lot more whingeing and dawdling than I have the patience for at the end of a long day. This is where I feel I fail her most, that I don’t think of her more, put her needs before mine more. It’s as if even after five years, I still haven’t got the hang of this mum thing, which to the world at large, means sacrificing almost every aspect of your life to your child(ren). I’ve given up getting drunk, locking the bathroom door and dreams of fame and riches (as if they were a real possibility) but I’m sorry I don’t like sharing my food, especially when it’s the best bit I’ve been saving to eat right at the end of the meal.

Then again, sometimes (more than I’d like) Iris behaves in a manner, which I will plainly label – being a brat. This shames me because I feel I may be contributing to that behaviour either by example or by lack of correct parenting. I don’t want my child to be that kind of kid. The one other parents stare at and shake their heads in disgust. I wonder if I am spoiling her. I don’t want her to constantly ask for stuff, to only think of herself and not consider the feelings of those around her. Sure she’s only five, but I don’t think it’s too early to start ingraining that sense of others. Especially in today’s world where we’re bombarded with messages that “we’re worth it” and “we have to look out for ourselves”. It’s too often about me, myself and I. Isn’t that why I’m more selfish than I should be?

 

I guess right from the start, we’ve been struggling to be better human beings and while we should strive to be more selfless, we shouldn’t berate ourselves or our kids when we some times fall short.

This topic has been playing on my mind, particularly in the lead up to Good Friday and Easter.

Very often, a great picture book can illustrate the important lessons in life better than we could ever try to explain.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

There hasn’t been a children’s book, nor, I think will there ever be one, that encapsulates the concept of unconditional love and generosity more than Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. I got a lot more emotional when I first read it than with any other picture book. This is more than a classic and one that every single child needs to read with their parents. In fact, parents probably need to read it more because it’s about accepting our children for who they are, continuing to love them even when they draw away from us, being there for them always and not blaming them for wanting to live their own lives. When the boy in the story grows up, he seems to be a rather selfish man, only ever taking from the tree and never giving anything back. Yet the story is about giving, not receiving. The tree is happy when she can give something, anything to the boy to make him happy. This is not how humans behave but perhaps it’s something we should aspire to. By giving of ourselves, and not material things, we show our children how to love.

Honestly, no summary can portray the utter wonderfulness of this book so just go and read it.

Making Them Feel Special

So about a third of Iris’s library is made up of hand-me-downs from her cousins and among them is Max Lucado’s You Are Special.

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We always say the year has flown by at the end of it but somehow this year really has gone quicker than previous years. This is probably because so much has happened and how busy we’ve all been. For Iris it has been a tremendous year! She’s formed her first girl posse; learned to read; learned to swing herself on the swing; had her first successful ballet concert in front of a big audience on a real stage; AND stopped sucking her finger (this one is huge and I will do another post just on this later). I try to let her know just how proud of her I am but words really cannot express it all. What I fear is for her to lose her sense of self-worth for whatever reason because I know the world, and especially other kids, can be cruel.

This is why a story like this is so important.

In the world of the Wemmicks, small wooden people carved by a woodworker named Eli, they rate each other with dots and stars. Those with lots of stars are admired for their looks or talents. Those with dots are looked down on because they’re not pretty enough or good enough at anything. One Wemmick with lots of dots is Punchinello. No matter how hard he tries, he couldn’t seem to stop getting dots. And he believed he deserved them.

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Then one day, he meets Lucia who has no dots or stars at all. When other Wemmicks tried to give her a star or dot, it would just fall off. Punchinello wanted that too so Lucia told him to go see Eli.

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Filled with self-doubt, Punchinello did.

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There, Eli told him he shouldn’t care what the other Wemmicks thought of him because he thought Punchinello was special.  If Punchinello focused on what Eli thought of him, it wouldn’t matter what anyone else thought.  “Why don’t the stickers stay on her (Lucia)?” “The stickers only stick if they matter to you.” “I’m not sure I understand.” “You will, but it will take time. For now, come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care.” As Punchinello began to believe Eli, a dot fell off.

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It’s not just about God, everyone should feel special because we all are. No matter your race, religion, colour of eyes or whether your hair is straight or curly. Everyone is entitled to feel unique, beautiful and worthwhile as a human being. As a parent, it’s so important that we help our children retain their sense of self-worth and for the most part I think I do okay. There are times when I feel like I don’t deserve to be a mum and that’s why I’m really glad Iris has someone else, far more qualified than me, to fall back on to tell her how wonderful she is. This is my Christmas wish for her and all kids, that they’ll always have someone to tell them they are beautifully and wonderfully made and no one has a right to make them feel bad for being who they are.

XOXO

My Baby Can Read!

This reading mum is so bursting with pride I just had to post this. Iris read her first book on her own!

Now, she has been sounding out words for several months already but it’s never been a sustained length of text, just random words. In the last few months, she’s grown familiar with all the letter sounds and can more easily piece them together. She can recognise many two-letter sounds as well like th and sh. So on Sunday, I took out the stack of classic Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme books that were gifted and have been sitting around thinking she might want to try.

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I started the process with the first one, helping her sound out the words. After that, she took off and read the whole book by herself!

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Then the next morning, I woke up and found her reading the next in the series. I stood outside the door barely able to contain the tears, grinning like a monkey. Then of course I had to grab my phone and take a video. #mybabysnotababyanymore #happyandproudbutsadtoo

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Does this mean an end to my enjoyment of children’s books? Are you kidding me? She can read but can she do the voices?

AND THEN after that uber intellectual start to the day, in the evening, I heard, “Mama, can you help me? I’m stuck.” She had wedged her head, arm and other hand into the little curve at the end of the banister and was balancing precariously on the stair railing. Nice. #monkeyswillbemonkeys

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Guess How Much I Love Winning?

I have never, ever, ever, ever won anything. I’m not talking about for sports, because I had to work, a little, for those. I’m talking about those supermarket lucky draws, travel draws, the hundreds of Frankie magazine giveaways, etc. Zip, nada, zero. This changed in the most appropriate and wonderful way possible last Tuesday.

It was not a great day for me and I was as cheerful as a baby breaking molars. Then I received an email saying I’d won a 20th anniversary edition of Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram’s Guess How Much I Love You from Walker Books Australia.

This was one of those competitions where you have to write something related to the prize. This one was to write 25 words about “Who you love to the moon and back”. Now I’d seen the tweet for this on February 11. I dithered about it until the weekend. Then finally I took about 10 minutes to write: A monkey. A drama queen. A wet kiss. An adorable cackle and guffaw. A marshmallow and chocolate nut. A performer. My four-year-old daughter, Iris.

This is how excited I was. I took a photograph of an envelope.

This is how excited I was. I took a photograph of an envelope.

I absolutely did not expect to win. Particularly not on a day like the 17th of February, which is what made it all the better. I see it now as a special message from the Guy in charge to me.

First published in 1994 and coming it at about 400 words, this timeless story pretty much encapsulates the most important and really the only thing we need to do as parents – let our kids know how much we love them. Jeram’s illustrations are so perfectly matched, they make you feel like you’re reading honey and warm milk. No review necessary. The title says everything, but to fully appreciate this book, you have to read it yourself.

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Much too often these days I notice how much Iris has grown up. I catch my breath and try and take a mental polaroid of each moment. Just like with her clothes, I’ve been passing on some of her baby books and have been trying to expand her listening skills by reading more wordy books. I forget that sometimes, she still needs those books that seem simpler with less words but with such a powerful message. Just as reading it will remind me how much God loves me, enough to send me a message when I’m feeling especially low, I hope that years from now, Iris will read this book and know that I love her right up to the moon and back.