Gardening and The (Not So) Big Beet

Scholastic sent me a great book I’d love to share with you called “The Big Beet” by Lynn Ward and Adam Carruthers. It is a progressive story that communicates that if we all pull together we can achieve great things! It’s RRP is $24.99, it was published in Aug 2013 by Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia.

“The Big Beet” is bright with eye-catching artwork. It’s fun to read aloud, my kids loved it and really got entranced in the story, wondering how the beet would finally get pulled out of the garden. They really loved looking at all the little critters living below the ground with the beet. Thelma Magee fancies a burger for tea, so her husband Bert heads out to the veggie patch to pick a juicy beetroot. But no matter how hard he pulls, that beet won’t budge. He might need a hand… It’s a distinctively Aussie version of the Russian traditional tale, “The enormous Turnip.” I love the Aussie characters, especially Shazza and Dazza! You can’t get more Aussie then that!

As soon as I read this, I knew that we just had to plant some beets in our veggie garden! Unfortunately it took quite some time to arrange a trip to buy the seedlings. I’m a little scared at growing vegies from seed in the ground. I need to bite the bullet and do it. I think the last time I did, the ground was too hard, but our veggie garden at our new house has lovely soft soil. Mum arranged for some sample packs of vegetable seeds, so as soon as I weed the garden, (hopefully next week…) I will have to get planting.

Anyway, back to beetroots! Finally Miss Rachael and I went to Masters. The kids loved the twin trolleys, although they were a bit tired, and some were more grumpy then others, (as you can see below, starting from the moment we arrived!) so our trip was a bit shorter than what it could have been. We had never been to Masters before, and we had fun exploring it. The Accountant had a grumble at the money I spent, but it really wasn’t that bad. Accountant’s need to have these type of grumbles from time to time. You learn to ignore it. We still have a handful of paint chips that we are going to do some art with. The most important things was that I bought a variety of vegetable and herb seedlings and took them home to plant.

The garden is my domain. I’m not incredibly good at it, but I do like having a potter around in there. My biggest issue is sticking with it. At the moment it’s become overtaken by weeds. I discovered the programmed timer for the sprinkler, and then abandoned the garden for a few weeks when I hit a busy patch. Whoops. I think the first week of the school holidays we will spend a lot of time there. This time I will use mulch in an effort to have less weeds in the future.

It’s good to teach children about where their food comes from, so the veggie garden is a great opportunity for plenty of lessons. When we planted the beets, I made reference to “The Big Beet” story, wondered what creatures might be crawling around in the dirt, and hoped that none of those pesky rabbits would invade our gardens.

There is a possible visitor to our beets. Recently The Accountant spotted a python in our garden – a very large python. I hope I never see the old fella. I hate snakes.  Even harmless ones, after all, if it bit anyone, it would still hurt!  It was a good reminder to teach our children snake etiquette, which we do frequently, especially now that we live on a farm. I’m fairly confident that a snake wouldn’t bother us while all the kids are in the veggie garden. They are far too noisy.  I rely on the fact that snakes don’t like human contact, but even still, we’ve taught our kids to be very still if there is a snake and then walk in the opposite direction to where the snake is moving and get an adult. At least having a python lurking around will decrease the rodents in the patch. Although I’m not happy that there is something else down there eating my broccoli before it has a chance to grow.

I had meant to check how the beets were progressing, I couldn’t remember how old they should be before they were ready to be picked. It’s been about 8 weeks, so I thought that we might be able to pick at least one medium sized beet and have some burgers just like Thelma and Burt in “The Big Beet”

I needed to take the big boys to their swimming lesson, so I asked Miss Rachael to take the triplets down to the garden to pick a beet. Which she did happily and took photos of the occasion for me. (I told you the garden needs weeding. Please don’t judge me all you dedicated gardeners out there!)

I knew that Miss Rachael doesn’t have a whole heap of gardening experience, but unfortunately I forgot to tell her to check if the beets would be ready to pick if the top of the vegetable was protruding from the dirt. See the tiny little beet that Immy is holding? That was the biggest beet of all. And the triplets picked the whole lot! So unfortunately, all our beets got thrown away and unlike Thelma and Burt we did eat canned beetroot on our burgers!

So during the first week of the school holidays when I attack the garden, I’ll also plant a new crop of beetroot and wait a lot longer before we pick them this time!

In any case, we had a lot of gardening fun inspired by a great children’s book!

Do you have a vegie garden? Do you have snakes in your veggie patch? Or weeds?

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Practical Strategies For Parenting Strong Willed Children

Having a strong willed child requires a lot of strategies to help your darling offspring grow into a valuable member of society. The key is to stay positive and never, ever give up on your child. That is why it is so important to keep on the lookout or be reminded of strategies to help you both along your journey.

On Tuesday I shared a raw and emotional post on my Insecurities while raising a Strong Willed Child. I also promised to share some strategies today to include in your parenting toolbox. This is not an exhaustive list, and these are pre-dominantly strategies, there are a lot more methods for administering discipline and order in your home. I will share the strategies first, because even though a lot of parenting experts believe you need to understand the method first, I know as a parent, I’m always hunger for some ideas, some how-to’s. Even if it’s to give me some temporary respite while I further research the ways to tackle the underlying issues. Having said that, most of these strategies will actually work towards addressing the root behaviour anyway.

Of course these ideas can be applied to your child that is not strong willed also.

So here are 5 strategies to help parent a challenging child.

1. Say, “I’m proud of you.” 

Be on the lookout to praise your child. I will regularly lean across to my kids, whether they are actually doing something really fantastic or even just looking cute and whisper, “I’m so proud of you.” quite often it is in the middle of something, so I don’t even say any more than that. But when I do this, his little face lights up and whatever he is doing, he does with renewed vigour.

I’ve often done this during a church service. When we are shopping I might whisper this in his ear. At home when I see him exhibiting a pleasing behaviour I will tell him I’m proud of him and then tell him exactly why that behaviour is something I’m proud about. This morning I told him I was proud of him sharing a special car with his brother and how important generosity is.

Another little phrase that also makes him lift his shoulders and head higher is, “I missed you.” After we have been apart for some reason. Jonty now often asks if I missed him.

On the beach recently without kids. I made sure I told me kids I missed them when I got home.

2. Follow through the strong willed child’s threats.

When my two eldest are angry, they make all types of threats of things that they want done or are going to do. Of course they don’t want it done most of the time, and are just trying to get their own way, and sometimes it is even their intention to hurt you as much as possible in the process.

I have been trying to teach my kids that they need to “Say what they mean, and mean what they say” (Right Horton?). Following through on their threats is one strategy that they use which has slowed down their use of rash statements.

On my post on Tuesday, I shared how my son went and threw his birthday presents in the bin during a tantrum. (I’m sorry if you are one of the people who gave him a present, it really wasn’t personal or any reflection of the quality of your gift!) Of course he fully intended to retrieve them, but when I went and got them and locked them away in my cupboard. I didn’t just give them back either. I made him earn back presents one at a time, or I have produced a present to do together (like puzzles or activities) as quality time.

Other examples of following through his threat:
I don’t want dessert. He didn’t want to eat his dinner. So I have packed up the dinner he wasn’t eating and sent him to bed. Trent is very slow to make this statement now.

We ALWAYS have dinnertime battles with Trent when pumpkin soup is served. This time he has safety goggles on ready for the occasion.  

I don’t want to go to the park. They didn’t want to do their jobs first. Guess what? They did the jobs. Then found the reward was missing.

I don’t want to share {that toy} So I took the toy away. And then they didn’t have to share it anymore.

Jonty also has made statements insisting he wants to do extra jobs when he is trying to get his own way and not do what I have asked him to. I have then allowed him to do those jobs, and then I still insist on him doing the original job I asked him to.

The thing with strong willed children, is they want to remain the one who is in control. If they learn that their loving parent is truly the one who is in control, they actually respond better in the future knowing the boundaries are secure and unmoving.

3. Go for a walk with your child.

I did this recently with Jonty and it had great results. We had been head butting a lot and Jonty had been losing his cool several times within a short time period. I left the other children with someone else, and drove him to a nearby short nature walk along a tiny little creek.

Jonty loved exploring. We got to talk about nature, such as rings on trees, birds and ecosystems. Towards the end, we sat down. I had brought my Bible and had a list of Bible verses on patience. We actually only read one passage. (The love passage in 1 Corinthians 13 – there’s a lot to discuss there.) Despite wanting to further explore, he did listen and start to ask questions. We then both prayed together. This was a great time to also apologise to Jonty about my own behaviour. Unfortunately, a lot of Jonty’s temper is my genes. So, he regularly sees me lose my temper also in a striking example of “Do what I say, not what I do.” And of course, that approach has very little success. It softens the relationship when you admit, apologise and ask forgiveness for your own inadequacies. It also gives your child the ability to observe how you work on your own issues. If I’m feeling angry, I have said to the kids. “Mummy is feeling really angry now and I’m about to lose my temper. I need to cool down before I speak to you anymore.”

We only have explore to the right of the track. I have promised Jonty to go back (it needs to be soon, because he keeps asking to return) and walk along the left of the track. I’m real

ly looking forward to it. And I still have my list of scriptures to keep sharing together.

4. Physically burn of the negative energy.

This is a great strategy to use when you see a storm brewing. Whenever possible, try to diffuse the situation before it becomes explosive. (While not giving in to their will. Work together if it’s possible, but don’t allow your child to make up the terms and conditions.) Rather then launching into a battle I will often send the agitated child outside with some instructions to do something physical to burn off that negative energy that is starting to surface. I might tell him, (because my girl is too young to use this strategy on yet), to bounce as high as he can 20 times on the trampoline.

Putting shoes on and run around the house, if you have a small yard, you will need to put a number of times to run around it too! I would get older kids to run around the block if necessary. A grandmother shared with me that she used to send her kids to run around the block when they were getting to difficult. This tip stuck with me, and since she has fantastic grown up kids now, I always thought I’d give it a try! She made her four kids run around the block in the rain once! They had been fighting indoors endlessly, and after the rainy block run, they came back best of friends! I have found a simple run around the house helps my little guy calm his emotions a little.

Make an obstacle course or physical challenge stations and tell them to complete the course three times. Record the time each time, and see if they can get quicker. Climb something.

A word of warning. If a strong willed child is dedicated to fighting a battle, this will not always diffuse the situation. But hey, it’s worth a try, because sometimes it does work. And you get to know the signs when distraction is futile.

5. Pray for your children at night.

Well, pray for children when you can and at all points of the day or night! But find a routine where you pause to pray for them regularly. For me it’s at night.

When I am tucking my children in before I go to bed, I will often pause, place my hand on them and pray. I will pray over a specific incident that has occurred during the day and ask God to heal any hurts. I will pray peace over our relationship the next day. I will pray that God gives me the right approach and strategies for dealing with each individual child. I will pray blessing upon their life. Sometimes, it will take awhile to do this, sometimes it will only be very short prayers. Sometimes I will notice a difference the next day if I haven’t prayed, and I stop for a midday prayer session by myself praying for the kids. Often, I don’t know the implications of praying for them, but I do believe with all my heart that holding our kids, and our parenting before God in prayer makes a huge difference in their lives. It also helps me to remember that my children’s lives belong to God. Their lives are his to mold and shape and grow. I am an instrument that He uses to assist this process. But at the end of the day, God is the one in control, and I don’t want it any other way!

I have another five strategies to share with you tomorrow. In the meantime, can you share a strategy you have found effective when dealing with your children’s behaviour? Let’s learn from one another!

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Screen Time Suspension

Don’t you love it? There’s 120 acres of property to roam outside our back door, motorbikes, dogs, swimming pool, etc. yet I constantly have children begging for indoor activities that requires eyes glued to screens. Jonty had some friends around on a weekend, and I walk in and find them like this.

In our house this week, there is a suspension, until further notice, of the children’s screen time activities. So this week, and possibly longer, the TV is not being turned on, DVD’s are not being played, the DS and Leap Pad is out of action, computer games are not allowed and playing games on phones are prohibited.

I am not against any of the above, but there have been addictive behaviours creeping in, and there has been a lot of discontent and unhappiness. It’s crazy that the joy the child gets from playing the safe little games and shows can totally disintegrate and be not so harmless once the device is turned off. Trent particularly has been very cantankerous and is constantly begging to play or watch something on a screen. When the privilege is denied, there is much weeping, wailing and the preschool equivalent of  gnashing teeth – normally in the form of a tantrum or incessant whining.

Already it has been so much calmer since Friday when I pronounced the no screen verdict. There was much mourning on Friday. Happily, Saturday was Trent’s birthday, and except for asking a few times, they had plenty of new toys to play with and a party so the transition was smoother.

The ban was temporarily lifted for half an hour yesterday. The piano tuner arrived and the triplets, who fancy themselves as pianists were fascinated and constantly trying to bash on the keyboard, so I had to take desperate measures to divert their attention. Good old Chuggington saved the day.

Of course, it’s more work for me at times. It’s often so convenient to let the kids watch ABC 2 while I get a few jobs done in the morning, or let Trent play my phone while the triplets sleep in the middle of the day while I answer some emails or do some other little job. We don’t have the TV on all day, so I haven’t found that we have increased the non-TV activities as much, we have always had imaginative play, outdoor time and craft activities during our day. Instead, I’m finding that Trent has got used to the idea and is finding his own way to occupy himself during the times when the grown ups are doing other things. At the moment he is colouring-in and before that he had been vacuuming.

I’ve been suprised that the triplets have happily adjusted to not having their daily fix of television viewing after the bath, as has been their tradition.

Peppa Pig’s assistance with after bath activities. The triplets rather like a spot of ABC 2 while they get their PJ’s on.

It would be tempting to have a complete shutdown and completely ban screens totally. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in anymore. It is important that children learn self control with electronic devices, even if during these early days the self control is imposed. In time, the lesson will be learned. The challenge will be re-introducing the screens into the household, and yet maintaining harmony, contentment and encouraging the children to be motivated to find  off-screen activities on their own.

At the moment I’m considering a chart with time limits attached. Once the time is gone, the children should be able to see that it is over for the day and think of other things to do so that we don’t have the continual begging and negotiation for more electronic time.

So do you have little screen addicts at your home? What are some of your strategies to regulate screen behaviour? I love hearing other peoples strategies.

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Tooth Fairy Fail

Last week Jonty arrived home beside himself with excitement. His first wobbly tooth had fallen out. This event has been much anticipated. In fact about a year ago he declared that he “Wasn’t sure, but I think my tooth might be wobbly.” It certainly wasn’t wobbly, but the amount he played with it, hoping for a wiggle, I though it might become wiggly. He has had friends who have lost teeth for quite some time, but it has taken until the ripe old age of seven before any of his departed his own gums.

Yesterday he came bounding out of the car after school jumping all over the place, excited that his tooth had fallen out! It had been wiggly for a week or so and he had been playing with it endlessly until it finally dropped out and he went and told the teacher who wrapped the precious little toothy in a bundle of tissue and sticky tape.

Of course there was talk of the tooth fairy. Jonty knows that we are the mythical gift/money bearing creatures such as the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny. I just have heard of children being so disappointed when they discovered that it was their parents, so I decided not to conceal it. Nevertheless, thanks to the imagination of childhood, he still gets swept away in the fantasy of the moment. I also find that when they are young, they still think they are real despite being told, but when they are around five, they begin to understand, but don’t mind, so long they still get all the benefits!

“Look Mum – I can poke my tongue through!”

I went and found one of those little momento boxes for a first tooth. Trent was given two when he was a baby – so I just allocated one to Jonty. I don’t know what I’ll do when the triplets start losing teeth!

He then wanted to know what happens to the teeth. I made the mistake of mentioning that I knew some mothers kept every baby tooth of their child’s. Thanks to the hoarding gene that he has inherited, this immediately appealed to him. I then had to negotiate the terms of payment from the tooth fairy. Once he understood that (this) toothfairy buys the teeth – if you want the money, the tooth will have to disappear, he agreed that the moula was better than a boxful of teeth. He still didn’t completely like the thought of departing with the tooth entirely, so he had a photography session taking pictures on his DS of the tooth before he put the lid on the box and went to bed. The ways of the modern child… Oh, and because he is really up with the times, he also blogged about it! Jonty has just sent up a blog to mimic Mummy’s. Check it out at: Jonty’s Happy Heart. (If you could leave a comment for him, I will have one very excited boy!)

The next morning he came into our bedroom with a worried look on his face, as he walked in, I saw him clutching the little blue box and a feeling of deep remorse immediately hit me. I had forgotten about the tooth the previous night! Before he could say anything, I instantly said, “Oh Jonty, the Tooth Fairy forgot!” Instantly you could see the relief flood into his little face. I have never been more relieved that he already knew that I was the tooth fairy. I don’t think he would have handled the tooth rejection nearly as well.

As it was, he was an incredibly good sport about the whole affair. I told him to run back and put the box on the dresser again and I’m sure the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t be far away. He immediately scampered to his bedroom. I made a big to do of trotting down the hall flapping my hands pretending to fly in. Jonty, bless his heart, saw me coming, and darted into another room so ‘he couldn’t see me’, but after I put the money in and grabbed the tooth out, I “accidentally” flew into the room where he was and flew around in circles at the “distress” of being found. (You know, anything for a laugh.)

He then returned to our room holding the five dollar note – looking disappointed! I asked him if he were OK, and he said, “Yes, but I thought I might get $100.” Gulp. The reason I forgot was I was going to give him $5 – a note for his first tooth. After that I’m planning on gold coins. But I hesitated because I wondered if $5 was too much, meant to ask The Accountant, never did and promptly forgot. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to put $5 in the next morning, if it was too much, call it late fees. $100 though? I explained that the tooth fairy is nowhere near that rich, and he’s doing pretty well since the 20c/50c I used to get as a kid!

He recovered pretty quickly and became very proud of his money although he is even more proud of his gappy smile. That gap is going to become bigger very soon as the other front tooth is very wobbly! I was shopping in my local Big W the other day and saw a discounted Scholastic book by Don Gardner.

How could I resist this cute little story about a monkey wanting his two front teeth? Even better the book has a CD, so we are treated to two songs about missing teeth and a monkey’s redition of “All I Want For Christmas”. Don’t you just love it when you find a children’s book that perfectly suits what’s going on in their lives?

Has your child ever experienced Tooth Fairy Fail? What’s the going rate of teeth at your house? Do you tell your children about who the real Tooth Fairy, Santa, Easter Bunny is?

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Maintaining a Child Friendly Lawn

Since moving into our new home, the children have really been enjoying the extra space to run around. In addition to having a lovely large home, we also have inherited a beautiful lawn for the children and dog to play on. Every day you will find them enjoying the great outdoors!

Daddy taking a brief break from setting up the trampoline.

I had the opportunity last week to talk to John Keleher, the President of Turf Australia, about how to maintain our lawn so it remains in a great condition for the children to play on. John shared a wealth of information about lawns, and I have since been giving The Accountant several helpful hints. The Accountant is a bit of a lawn lover, but our lawns are not immaculate, so he’s always keen to learn a few new things. Not being one to keep information to myself, I would love to share some tips on how to Maintain a Child Friendly Lawn.

1. Choose the right turf
Before you think about maintaining your lawn, you must make sure you have chosen the right grass. Our lawn is Kikuyu. John said this is a great choice for our area because it has become a naturalised turf in this region. This makes it very versatile, which makes it a great choice for tolerating a lot of wear and tear that will inevitably happen when one has children, dogs – and in our case – motorbikes! Which actually is a very good shout out for kikuyu, because it has been hardy enough to withstand the children having lots of rides on the new little TTR 50 motorbike! (Alex gives the kids rides around the yard on his bigger bike also.) My advice is that if your lawn is patchy or the grass cannot cope with vigorous use by children, find a turf that will suit your family life. Australian lawn concepts has some useful advice on choosing turf.

2. Soil and Water
Our lawn is looking a bit yellow at the moment thanks to a late frost.

John said that giving it a good soak with water at this time of year will really help spruce it back to lush green. We’re fortunate to live in an area with lovely rich red soil. Soil is the foundation to having a beautiful lawn. If the soil is not good, or the ground is rocky, it is advisable to get at least 150mm of good quality soil before you lay your turf. Once you do have a good soil below your lawn, then watering will be a lot more effective. Of course it will depend on your location as to how much water you can access. A simple way to see if your soil is too dry is the screwdriver test. If you can’t poke a screwdriver into the ground, it’s too dry. We have access to bore water, so we’re going to start giving the lawn a bit more water in preparation to summer. Then it will be a case of making sure the grass does not dry out over summer. The grass often does look stressed in the middle of the hot summer days, there’s not too much you can do about this. However, if first thing in the morning you notice your grass is looking withered and shrinking, this is a good indication that it needs more moisture.

3. Weeds and Fertiliser

We have weeds popping up everywhere in our garden right now. John suggested a trip to Bunnings to get some common weedkillers before it goes to seed. He said there are several good products on the market, just pick one and follow the instructions! Too easy! In future years, make sure you check the same trouble spots, it might take a few years to get on top of it.

I thought it was interesting that John said he wasn’t worried about clover, even though a lot of people hate it. It’s actually a legume, so it can be quite nutritious for the soil and it tends to die away in summer. I was actually quite happy to hear that because I’ve always been a little fond of clover, especially remembering the clover chains and head bands I used to make with my friends when we were girls!

Clover, dog, a lovely lawn to play on in a beautiful garden. The stuff that childhood is made of.

Spring is also a great time to get some fertiliser on the lawn. Then follow up with another dose of fertiliser prior to Christmas. That way it will be nice and green for Santa’s entrance to your home. Tell the kids that Santa loves green grass, and they will keen to have it fertilised! Who knows, maybe it will be nice enough for the reindeer to have a nibble! Also, at the beginning of winter give a little more of a fertiliser so that it has got a reserve to make it through the colder months.

The aim is to have a thick carpet of healthy grass. A thick carpet of grass discourages weeds and leaves a lush play area for the children.

4. Mowing
Regular mowing is critical to train the lawn so it tightens up into a thick mat. Use a sharp mower blade, especially at this time of the year. Don’t cut the grass too low, leave about one third of the grass leaf at this time of year.

There are more tips on caring for your lawn to be found on Turf Australia’s website. ALC also has an informative page on turf and lawn maintenance.

I hope that’s helpful for you. I know lawns can sometimes feel like hard work, but a little bit of care means that it’s so much nicer for the children to get outdoors. And I don’t know about you, but I would prefer my kids running outside on a soft lawn, playing make believe or sport knowing they are getting exercise, fresh air

and sunshine. Much better than being cooped up watching TV and playing electronic games. Plus a nice lawn can add extra value to your home! Turf Australia found 73% of real estate agents say buyers want a safe playing area for their children and Aussie home buyers are prepared to pay up to $75,668 more for a home with a lawn. Wowsers!

Is your home turfed? If it is, what recommendations can you share about maintaining a lovely lawn? What is your favourite outdoor activity to do with the children on the lawn during the warmer months?

This post has been sponsored by Turf Australia.

Linking up with Essentially Jess

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Children's Joke Books

We have received several books from Scholastic recently. Being an avid children’s literature lover, I find it as exciting as the children. Although, I can tell you that when a box arrived from Scholastic during the holidays, it was almost fever pitch excitement here as the box was eagerly opened and the new books examined and read.

A big hit from the selection has been:

My First Book of Jokes

RRP $9.99
Publication Date: July 2013
Source: Scholastic Australia

Joke books are a perennial favourite for kids. I can still remember my first joke book.

My favourite joke by far was:

Q. Ten cats were in a boat. One jumped out. How many were left?
A. None. They were all copy cats.

I think every time I saw my Dad I asked him that joke. Being a great Daddy, he laughed hysterically every time I asked him. (He should have learned from Mum, who stopped laughing, and therefore was no fun to share the joke with.) I don’t know how long I kept asking him, but it was not a short period. More like months rather than days or weeks.

About two years later. My sister discovered the same Dr. Seuss Joke Book on the shelf. Guess what her favourite joke was? Guess who laughed loudest at the joke? Yup, good ol’ Dad.

My brother was never much of a reader. In fact, you could say he despised reading as much as he despised school. However joke books have a magnetic pull. Even for reluctant readers. Especially when you have a hilarious joke about copy cats. Dad laughed long and loud. At 10 years old I really used to wonder how Dad could be so forgetful. After all, it was only lunch time, and he had a good chuckle over that joke at breakfast…

Needless to say, my youngest sister in due time also found the exact same book and without prompting came out to Dad with an extremely funny joke about cats jumping out of a boat. When she asked Dad the joke, there was a belly laugh, not only from Dad but Mum also. Over the next several weeks, the belly laugh might not have been there, but there was laughter everytime an excited little girl came up to her Daddy with shining eyes full of anticipation. By the ripe old age of 12, I could now detect the slight sigh that often proceeded the laughter. But Dad, bless his heart, (it brings tears to my eyes just remembering this) still laughed as heartily as the first little girl who had already asked him that same joke a million times.

Fast forward 20 years. A little granddaughter came out holding a battered and beaten up joke book. “Hey Grandad! 10 Cats were in a Boat…” So far 4 out of the 10 grandkids have discovered the old book. It also seems that there is a genetic predisposition to find the one joke funny. Now we are the parents we all join in the laughter. Although mostly we laugh at Dad’s fake laugh.

Scholastic’s My First Book of Jokes has the same appeal to young children as the tried and tested Dr. Seuss book. It has simple jokes that appeal to a child’s sense of humour, often relying on pun. The illustrations are entertaining, bright and colourful. It’s relatively short, so the kids don’t get overloaded and lose interest. There is a question on one page, and the answer is when you turn the page, so it gives the child a chance to guess for themselves first. I wish I had this book last year when Jonty had to bring a joke to school for Prep show and tell. I think it would have been very much appreciated by the preppies.

3 year old Trent’s favourite joke was:
Where do sick horses go?
To horsepital

7 year old Jonty’s favourite joke:
What do you call criminals robbing a jewellery store?

There is something precious as a parent hearing children laugh at jokes. I think it makes a joke book a pretty precious commodity. Not only are you buying your children literature that they will be motivated to read independently, you are buying their laughter to go along with it. And that is worth far more money then the price of a joke book. Great value I say!

Have you got a much loved family joke? Have your own kids discovered joke books? What are their favourites?

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Carpark Accidents

A few weeks ago I pulled into a car park at Aldi. All of a sudden I heard the heartstopping sound of metal on metal. 
One of the drawbacks of driving a minivan is that the steering is shocking. Car parking is such a trial these days, and normally I go slowly and carefully, take my time and avoid mishaps. I’m sorry if this means you have been one of the poor innocents who is caught behind me in a shopping centre carpark while I do a 50 point turn to get out of an awkward angle. On this particular day, it wasn’t even a difficult park, but for some reason I just completely misjudged the turning circle of the van until I heard it scraping the other car. Such a sickening sound.
I got out and assessed the damage. There was a scrape mark. I desperately hoped it was only paint from my own car that would rub off. I hunted in the van for something to rub the car with. I found a bib (charming, huh?) and rubbed away, and was relieved to see the paint disappear, but as I kept rubbing, there was unmistakably removed paint. And of course, this had to be on two panels of the car. I knew it was going to cost money to get it fixed, and I rummaged in my bag for a piece of paper to write my contact details on. As I was putting it under her windscreen wiper. My stomach sunk again as I noticed a pensioners card on the dashboard. I proceeded to do my shopping, but every old lady or man I saw inside I felt extremely guilty and wondered who owned the little red car I had just bumped into. 
I continued doing my errands until I got the dreaded phone call I was expecting. Sure enough I heard a little old ladies wobbly voice on the other end. She was a very direct old bird, even if she got easily confused. Her opening line was, “Are you the person who crashed into my car?” I accepted responsibility refusing to allow myself to justify that really, it was just an impressive scrape rather than a full on “crash”. She then bluntly asked, “Do you have insurance?” I assented that I did and then on the other end of the phone, there was some shuffling. Then a man started talking to me, he was very warm and compassionate. I assumed her son, and asked as much to which I’m quite sure he quickly agreed to before asking me about insurance and telling me that they would get a quote and get back to me. 15 minutes later I received a phone call back from him telling me that it would cost $792. I thought it was extraordinarily quick timing for a quote, but anyway, the elderly often want these things dealt with immediately, so I just accepted it. I didn’t have my insurance details on me since I was still out of the house, so I said I would ring her back when I got home.
Once home and after talking to The Accountant, who was surprised there was someone else involved, I thought he had taken the news very well when I had rung him earlier in the day, (he thought I had scraped it on a wall). The Accountant said to get the name of her repair shop so we could ring them up and see if we could get the damage fixed for a cash job and avoid using insurance, since this was a bit over our $600 excess. When I rang the number the old lady had given, it was a number which was no longer connected, (she had seemed confused and unsure when giving the number…). I rang the number she had previously contacted me via my mobile. The man I had been talking to answered it. As I started to explain my suggestion, it suddenly was revealed to me that he was a panel beater. It explained the quick quote. He said that the old lady was a good friend of his. He was happy to receive cash, and said he would do it for the same price as my excess, but I said there was a scratch on my bumper as well, so I may as well claim insurance and have this fixed also. He then said to bring the van into his shop and he would see what we could do. The next day Alex and I went in with the kids, and what do you know? Next thing he is saying he will repair the two cars for $500 cash! He was a lovely man to talk to, but I must say, I was astonished and a little suspicious that there would be such a large difference in price. However, I was grateful that it was going to be less then expected. 
He must have forgotten to contact the old lady, like he said he would, because she rang me in her abrupt style one Sunday while I was at church, and of course had forgotten to turn my phone on silent. (Oh the shame) In her directness, she said, “Hello. You crashed into my car and said you would ring me back and you didn’t.” Bless her. She didn’t mince words. I explained the situation to her, and she was astonished to hear she was good friends with the repairman, according to her she and her sister and just used his services before. (We will not make assumptions here. Although, admittedly, The Accountant has.) She was happy with the arrangement, and has since had her car fixed. Mine will be touched up today.
Yesterday, I received this lovely card in the mail.

To be honest, the thought did cross my mind when the incident happened, that it would be very easy to drive away and pretend it never happened. It wasn’t an option for me. My children were not in the car at the time, but even still, what type of mother would I be if I didn’t admit responsibility and make reparations to my own mistakes. How could I truly teach my children important life principles that I was not prepared to follow through personally. The next day when we were driving in, we were honest and explained what had happened to the boys. Even though it is embarrassing to admit that Mummy is really not so wonderful at driving (particularly minivans, worst luck), I hope they learn a great lesson through my mistake about honesty and virtue. I hope one day they will also do the ‘nice’ thing to someone else one day, even if it costs them personally. Because the old lady is right – not many people do it these days. In fact our van already has multiplied in scratches since we have owned it, not caused by me, thankfully. But not once have we ever received a note. Writing a note is just being a decent human really. It shouldn’t be exceptional. It is such a shame that not enough people are considerate enough to consider how their actions can effect others.

Have you been in similar circumstances before? Have you had someone leave a note confessing to damaging your property, or have you been the note writer? Have you encountered large disparities between cash jobs and insurance quotes before?

I’m linking with Essentially Jess’s IBOT

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Moved House

Who has figured out my blog silence has been associated with moving house? We were trying to have a move that was as low stress as possible.  Quite an unlikely scenario when you have three one year olds, a three and a six year old! I wasn’t too stressed until the night before the move when I looked around and realised how much there was to do. I had been taking boxes and baskets over to the house most days and unpacking them right then and there. This had been working really well, except because of a holdup with the cleaning of the new place, I had started later than I wanted to. Then when I was free to start moving in, the Alex, I and four out of five children got sick, so this slowed me down again. The children recovered, then the triplets got sick again. The week and a half before we moved house I was in the doctor’s office three times, on of those times was the day before we moved when Imogen suddenly contracted conjunctivitis.

Moving day at our old house.

For many of us, after you discover that you are going to have triplets, moving house is something that inevitably happens. The fact is, that fast tracking your family by having higher order multiples, requires that instantly, everything needs to be upsized. We now own a van, groceries need to be bought in bulk, kids clothing multiplies. And as for the house, more room is often required.

To be truthful, as I said in my last post, (read here). We didn’t NEED a new house right now, we certainly would have as the bodies got bigger, but we were doing OK in our old place. Having a larger place, certainly does make things a lot more comfortable though. Kind of.

Of course presents are always good! A housewarming gift for the kids from Miss Rachael. She is such a thoughtful and generous soul!

The extra storage is awesome. So many cupboards to spread out and contain things in. I’m looking forward to having a place for everything, and everything in its place.
Having a large playroom is truly one of the best aspects of the new place. In our previous house we used the fourth bedroom as a playroom, but it really wasn’t enough space to fit everything in comfortably. Hence the babies toys were mainly situated in the lounge room, so the children’s stuff would be spread everywhere. I can’t wait to buy more storage and arrange everything so it looks more attractive, but for now, it’s still a great play area and the children utilise it every day. We can also look them into the room, which is BRILLIANT. (Insert evil laughter.)

A little moment in time. I glanced into the playroom and saw the “twins” playing contentendly with one another. Stuff to melt a heart…

The truth is for the first few weeks I struggled bit time with the size of the new house. I was losing children, and when I lost them, they normally would be up to mischief. Which was very easy to do since there were lots of boxes that were needing to be unpacked that they needed to get into. Also, because the routine hadn’t been set for the new house, it was very hard to herd them to where you wanted to go. Yes, I did just use the word herd, but if you are trying to get three 1 1/2 year olds from point A to point B, it really is like herding.

For instance just to get them outside to play in the afternoon, I would have to get them to the door. That would take 10 minutes because while you chased the runaway, the other two would split up and go separate ways. Then I would have to put boots and coats on at the door, and there would be a chance for escaping while they waited, so repeat all over again. Do you get the picture? At one stage I just wanted to give up and return to our own house, except I didn’t want to pack the half moved in stuff again, so obviously I had to grit my teeth and just get on with the job.

Another hurdle has been incredible back pain. I have a significant scoliosis, which means my spine is shaped like an S. Even though I avoid doing as much heavy lifting as possible, it’s really quite unavoidable, especially with my children being the ages they are. The move particularly aggravated it, just all the bending over and chasing children meant that I was wiped out by the end of the day, so the unpacking is still incomplete. Last week I was in so much pain that I found it difficult to walk. A doctor had prescribed some serious painkillers for me, but they hardly helped. Luckily my chiropractor has been helping although it has been a very slow process. On the upside, I can walk. Which is really useful.

We are gradually getting there. We feel very at home in this house. Jonty is a child who finds change difficult, which normally results in misbehaviour, so it’s been a tough time for us all, but it seems like he really turned the corner in the last week of our three week school holidays. Trent has also found the move difficult. He was a little insecure at first, and then started copying his big brother. They have both needed some firm boundaries, understanding and love to make the transition. This week, Trent exuberantly declared that he loves the new home, so that was a really good sign. I’ll just be happy when all the last boxes and bags that are stashed throughout the house is unpacked. And then I will partay! (Literally, this is an awesome house for entertaining.)

The Accountant with four out of the five kids in our new kitchen. (If you are looking closely, no, the triplets feet are not that big, Jonty has been finding it funny to dress them in the big boys shoes lately. Given the triplets shoe obsession, they gladly go along with the game.)

Today I am linking with Essentially Jess

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Moving House

I shouldn’t really be writing this. I ought to be packing. And packing. And packing! But I thought I would briefly update you on what’s happening in the Happy Heart Household.

We’re moving! It was inevitable that we would eventually need to upgrade our home to something bigger. We have a lovely home, and we do all fit in comfortably, but just a little more space would just make things that little bit more easier.

As it turns out, we have a lot more space! My parents recently moved out of their very large home, so we are moving into their old place. I lived there for five years after finishing school. It’s where Alex courted me before I moved out when we were married. It’s a bit surreal moving back into the family home, and rearranging my stuff into the spaces that I have seen Mum’s stuff for the past 20 years! It’s all familiar and lovely, and we will fit in so well in “Grandma’s Old House”. (Grandad owns the shed, not the house, according to the kids.)

For now, I’m packing all our life and ferrying it over in boxes, suitcases and washing baskets, little by little. It’s nice that the house has been empty, so I have been able to unpack things straight into the cupboards.I hate moving and packing. But Alex and I are determined that this move will be as low stress as possible. So far we’ve been doing OK. The big move is Saturday, where we will move all our furniture and start sleeping at the new place.

Right now, I’m thinking of things we will miss living at our current place. Being close to the shops, having footpaths to walk around the neighbourhood and have the kids ride their bikes to nearby parks or to Saturday soccer. We have wonderful neighbours who will keep in contact with, but it’s not the same that we won’t be able to wander over when we see each other out on the driveway, knock on the door to borrow an egg or hang out together on a Saturday night having a wine for the girls and beers for the boys, and not have to worry about who has to drive home.

While I’ll love the extra space, I’ll miss living in a place that is compact enough for me to hear most of what goes on, whichever part of the house I’m in, and can see the children play easily. I’ll miss our small yard where I know the kids can’t get into too much mischief and I don’t need to worry about a pool currently. (But, oh how we will enjoy having a pool in the summer!)

There will always be happy memories of this house. We moved here when Jonty was five months old. Who would have known that in the next 6 years we would bring home four more babies! Who could have predicted that three of those babies were to arrive home on the same day! It has been a true family home, and I don’t underestimate the incredible blessing and privilege to own a wonderful place to raise our family.

Shortly after moving in. January 2007

Yesterday, 2013. 

What do you love about the place you live? Do you love or hate packing?

PS. Don’t forget to enter the Fiddlesticks Competition!

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Road Trip! With 1 Year Old Triplets, 3 year old Boy and 6 Year Old Boy

Sometimes, when you have a lot of children, especially at such young ages, it’s tempting to crawl up in a hole and stay in safe places and wait it out before entering the big wide world until they are more responsible and less inclined to run away and in need of a parent in eternal pursuit of mischievous bodies. Being a homebody, it hasn’t bothered me all that much that we have spent a lot of time at home in the past year. However, in December, we choose to venture out into the big wide world in spectacular fashion.

A good old fashioned road trip. Only with air conditioning included. Oh, and DVD’s and Nintendo DS. No sense losing some sanity to go completely vintage. Except for our youngest passengers. Poor kids had a brand new DVD player to watch and it stopped working by the 2nd day. They travelled 5 other days keeping themselves entertained with toys. Bravo babies, bravo.

The journey was a December trip from our home in South East Queensland to have Christmas with family at Cairns in Far North Queensland. We drove an impressive 4,405 kilometres (2737 Miles) from start to finish. One van, (our Kia, Grand Carnival), and seven people packed into it. Three 14 month old babies, a 3 year old, a 6 year old and a very brave Daddy and Mummy.

Our trusty Kia Grand Carnival. We borrowed the pod, and it was fantastic! Exactly what we needed for this trip.

It was actually so much easier than I had thought it would be. I had imagined a lot of screaming and crying, getting into places late at night because of so many stops to let children stretch their legs and having to provide endless in-car entertainment.

Our children, as it turns out, are awesome travelers  Unlike a memorable road trip to Sydney and Canberra when Trent was a three month old baby and had cried/screamed the majority of the drive time, and I came back needing chiropractic assistance to the damage done by twisting my arm back to hold a dummy in for hours. This time, all five children were content to travel the long distances with minimal fuss.

Our strategy was to get in the car and drive. (Profound, huh?) Minimal stops. It became apparent that our kids would just get in the ‘travel zone’ and we knew that it would start getting tricky getting them back into the car if we started letting them out too often. Mainly our only stops were to get petrol. Most toilet stops were on the roadside. (So easy with boys… and nappies for the babies) Our goal then was to let them have a swim in the morning before we left, so we didn’t leave ultra early. This made them nice and tired to start with. Then we would go hard during the day driving virtually non-stop in between 6-8 hours during a day and mostly arrive in time to have a swim in the late afternoon as a reward for getting there.

The Christmas mobile all packed and ready to go!

Our travel itinerary. The time is the estimated time to travel without stopping, so of course it took us a bit longer. It was pretty well a good break up of time for the age group we were travelling with. Next time, we will probably take two days (one night) to get there if we drive again.
1. Toowoomba – Rockhampton (6.4hrs)
2. Rockhampton – Ayr (6.4hrs) – Took a lot longer this day to get there because we stopped to visit my Uncle and his family in Mackay.
3. Ayr – Trinity Beach (Outside of Cairns)(5.13hrs)

On the way home:
1. Trinity Beach – Townsville (4.17hrs)
2. Townsville – Yeppoon (7.55hrs) This was the biggest travel day we did – no time for swimming that evening!
3. Yeppoon – Bundaberg (3.6 hours) We stayed in Bundaberg simply because there is a barber who has become a family friend there. The little boys were getting scruffy and I simply wouldn’t let anyone else to give Jayden and Toby their first haircuts!
4. Bundaberg – Toowoomba (4.19 hrs)

OK. So even with an ultra nice barber, first hair cuts can still be very scary. I love it that Matt cut the two boys hair at once. He was literally snipping a bit from one head and then going back and doing the other!

If you are interested in the details of how we travelled with the five kids, I’ve put it under headings below.

A common sight travelling with kids!


We would get takeaway and keep driving for lunch. I know it’s not fashionable to admit that, (espcially on blogs, which you are more likely to hear the virtues of organic homemade meals!) but I have an everything in moderation policy. Plus, it was a treat for the kids and it made the trip more exciting. (As well as being great for bribery during the day!) Because my children don’t get junk regularly, it really did make the trip more of an event.

I packed an insulated lunchbox full of snacks for the big boys each day. They also had water handy to sip on throughout the day. That way they could just nibble away when they were peckish or bored. I packed packets of several sized zip lock bags, this way I could pull them out each morning and fill them. I had a rule that fruit always needed to be eaten first.

Travel snacks suggestions are:
GRAPES! (By far the babies favourite!)
Cut up fruit, (that wouldn’t mush) for the babies and Jonty. Trent prefers to eat his uncut. I wish Jonty did also, it would save so much time. 😉
Yoghurt Buttons
Dried fruit
Tiny Teddies
Muesli Bars
Cut up sandwiches. (I also brought a jar of peanut butter with me.)
Fruit nuggets
The packaged lunch box items are great, because they are easy to store, especially in the heat, with minimal preparation.

I had bought the triplet’s “gyro bowls” for the trip. They turned out to be the best thing ever for travelling. Basically the bowl is designed to minimize food being tipped out by having two bowls that swivel, encased in a larger easy to hold casing  They look like a little alien spaceship, and I was worried they would just be a gimmick, but turned out to be spill proof for big brothers to pass around the car. I had an insulated bag of triplet snacks near my seat, so at regular intervals I would fill a bowl up and pass it to Jonty, who would give it to the two babies sitting next to him. Then the third one would get passed back to Trent who would lean across and give it to the baby who was relegated to the back seat. (The babies don’t have set seats, so we always made sure they had turns at sitting in the different postions.) Any bowl that can be passed by a six year old and a just turned 3 year old and still make into a 1 year olds hands with the food still within, really does deserve to be applauded. And I have spoken the gyro bowls praises loudly to all who care to listen.

This picture was obviously the first day – the only day the triplets had working DVD players. We’ve since solved the problem (why couldn’t we figure it out en route?) and they are now developing a set of square eyes during trips. But anyway, check out their groovy gyro bowls! Perfect for containing special travel treats!


 To be truthful, I had organised a whole lot of activities to keep the children busy, but we didn’t do most of them. The two older boys were more than content playing their DS, Leap Pad and watching DVD’s. Of course we didn’t let them do this all the time, and controlled their screen time, breaking it up into chunks throughout the day. In between using the screens, they were more than happy to talk and look out the window. It’s quite boring to report about really. Except the boys didn’t think so, and that’s the main thing.

Another favourite past time for Jonty was posing for photos!

The triplets were pretty much legends. They were so patient. I did have a bag of toys always in the front with me. When they started to grizzle, I would pass them back a new toy. Whenever we stopped, I would retrieve all the dropped toys and then rotate them to a different baby. Because there was a baby in the very back seat, I got an expert at throwing soft toys so they would land in the car seat in the back right hand corner! We did get Trent to hand toys to the baby also, but the toys would often not make it.

The baby in the back. This time it’s Toby.

Some ‘old fashioned’ things I did prepare in advance. (As in they didn’t require a screen!)

1. I loved this Travel Bingo from The Organised Housewife. We printed them out and laminated them so they could be used with whiteboard markers.Unfortunately Jonty’s headspace was firmly entrenched in Super Mario when I pulled this out. So I had to threaten there would be no DS until the bingo was complete. At all. Zilch. No more arguing. At all. I mean it. (etc. etc.) Eventually he begrudgingly played a game. For awhile there, he was enjoying it. Until we were stuck with bland scenery and couldn’t find a dog to cross off the list anywhere. The atmosphere in the car got tense. Eventually he was able to shout a triumphant bingo and in two seconds flat the car was filled once again to the tunes of Mario jumping and catching coins.

2. Towns and Cities Lucky Dip.

I spent so much time before hand searching out little knick knacks. I then divided them into paper bags that had names of some of the towns or cities that we were travelling through. I gave Jonty a map, which he marked our route as we progressed. I was also going to give him laminated cards with various place names on. When he saw we were travelling through that place, he could trade the card in for a prize for him and Trent.

Except, I left the bag full of prizes at home. I cried when I realised. I had stayed up really late the night before getting all the last minute things in order, so I was ultra tired. So when I realised that all my carefully prepared goodies were sitting on the dining room table at home, I pretty well bawled. Which rather alarmed the boys, and they talked about Mummy crying the rest of the trip.  But anyway, if you are looking at things to do on a road trip, I’m sure it would be a great activity to fill in the time!

Some of the bags which are leftover. The others have been used for bribery..

There is no doubt that road tripping is a fantastic opportunity for hours of family time. Even if the kids are playing electronic games or watching DVD’s, there is still a sense of community. We are all locked into a confined space, and we make the time pass together. (Plus, while the kids play, it’s an excellent time for Mum and Dad to chatter away about grown up things.) The moments that the devices were turned off, gave us unique opportunities for in depth discussions on life. We discussed death as we passed cemeteries, the upcoming fears and expectations of the upcoming school year as we passed rural school houses, the environment as we drove through our vast country, natural disasters as we drove through communities recovering from major cyclones. We discussed our expectations of behaviour at the various places that we were visiting, we talked about how our family works and the different personalities. Road trips certainly offer a wealth of opportunities. It’s a reminder that it’s not just the destination, it’s also the journey that will last in our memories.

Today I’m linking up with Essentially Jess

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