Sunday, August 31, 2014

Small World Play

Over a year ago I first made Munchkin a 5 little speckled frogs small world play set up.

I thought I blogged about it, but of course I can't find it!

It was just before we moved, hence why I know it was over a year ago.  It was the only imaginary play thing I could think of doing that didn't involve diggers and trucks, or needing to buy anything.  I got the idea from The Imagination Tree (see the original here). 

He absolutely loved it.

And spent hours playing with it, both with the frogs, and his own variations.

And over a year later, he still asks me to make "five speckled frogs" for him.

I don't quite know what the allure is, but something about it must appeal for him to remember.  We don't have it out often, but every few months the request comes and he spends time playing with his frogs in the little imaginary world we create.  This last time we ended up with a shell in there, from a wedding I attended years ago.  I love how things end up being reused in the strangest ways at times.  This was just recently...

Tomorrow morning he's going to wake up to something new...

I've been hoping to do some other little imaginary play things for him, especially now we have some other plastic animals, but somehow it never seems to end up on my to do list.  So after a weekend of having my dining table commandeered by a wooden ramp (taped to the table) and a car garage (perched precariously on top of the piano stool which was wedged on the other side of the table), together with a makeshift camping tent for several cars (made of some cardboard and containers on the dining table), and two duplo dragons and their friends the duplo robots, I had had enough.  I made him pack it all up.  But I softened the blow by promising to create him something new to play with.  It will be interesting to see what he does with it, considering past variations to the original theme (grin).

A mix of jungle on one side, and snow (with arctic pond and a ah, artic frog??) on the other.  We went to the snow recently which was a big hit.  Don't have any snow animals like polar bears or anything but goats and reindeer is close enough, right?  After all, it's all about using your imagination!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Earning Money When You're 4

I came across this article in our local paper about a month ago.

It really got me thinking.
Firstly, about teaching Munchkin about money (which I'd already been thinking about anyway).  Then secondly, about ways we can help prepare him for the future.
We're not exactly raking in our millions, so finding extra money for him to earn by doing jobs at home isn't particularly feasible.  Plus I want him to learn that doing chores at home is just what you do as part of being in a family and living in a house.  You don't do it because someone's going to pay you for it.  Heck, if I was expecting payment our house would never get vacuumed and we'd never be fed.  But while I want him to grow up with a good strong work ethic, focused on doing what needs to be done for self and community, I also want to train him how to manage money well.

This article gave me some ideas...

If you can't see if clearly, it tells of a young family who help their children earn money each week.  The 3 year old boy walks a neighour's dog for $5 a week.  But he doesn't keep that money.  It's going into a college fund for him.  Sounds a bit mean?  Short term pain for long term gain perhaps?  But the thing is that this boy loves dogs.  He's simply being paid for a hobby.  And his parents are helping instil in him the ability to wait and to plan.  Their daughter has friends over for baking lessons.  Their parents don't mind contributing towards it because their kids get a fun activity that doesn't involve their time or their kitchen getting messy!  I like how this idea is social, as it's time spent with her friends as well as saving money for her University fees.  Now it really is work for the parents as well as work for the child.  The parents have had to initiate this, and keep their children interested and persisting with their money earning.  But I think I could handle walking a dog each week, considering I like to go for regular walks anyway.  And I think I could bake or craft or something with a few children from time to time (perhaps not weekly though, I might lose the plot doing that!).

Imagine if we all took some of this on board as families?  If we saved for our children's Uni fees, or their first home, but in this way that also actively involves the child so they learn to have ownership of it too?  Imagine how much better positioned they'd be financially starting out as adults, but also how much more resourceful, persistent, and money savvy?

Now to think of things Munchkin and I (or his daddy, hehe!) could do to save for his first house....hmmm.  Any suggestions?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Purple is the New White

I am so excited, I just had to share this photo with you!!!

It's the first ever decent cauliflower I remember harvesting from the Big Garden.

Whoop, whoop!

Okay, so it doesn't look exactly like your typical cauli, but I think the colour is rather gorgeous, don't you?  It's a purple variety I happened to get a punnet of that was on special.

We've never managed to grow decent heads on our cauliflowers before.  They'd always have these pathetically tiny heads with funny loose, skinny florets.  Very disappointing.  We stopped trying.  "At least broccoli heads in Tauranga," we thought.  But then I talked to a local nursery man who said to try boron.  Apparently boron deficiency locally can cause brassicas not to head properly.  I duly applied Ocean Solid across the whole garden, and Rok Solid in each planting hole, on the recommendation of the man who designed both (left a message asking if they had boron in them and he personally called and explained that they both do, how best to use them, and what to do if we find it's still not enough boron - buy their specialised boron only fertiliser).

So you can see why I'm so excited to have picked not one, but two cauliflower heads.  The other, slightly smaller on, is waiting in my parent's fridge for them.  I'd also read recently that cauli heads don't tend to get bigger.  We wait and hope, but then they just go to seed.  So I've resolved to stop being greedy.  It's a cauli.  It doesn't have to be huge.  We are gonna eat them whatever their size.  Better that than leaving it too long and missing out!  I'm hoping that the cauli success means there's enough boron in the soil now.  It could just be that this colour does better, of course.  But there's some white ones in the garden still, looking like they are just starting to set heads.  So time will tell.  In the meantime, we're having purple cauliflower in our salads for the next few days.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Life is a bit crazy at the moment.

More than usually so, even for me!

I've pulled out of helping with the 3-5year olds at church.  I'm having to say I can't do a communion message or help with MCing (which I actually really want to do!).

I am eating and sleeping study.  Almost literally.  My dreams are not always of study, but it is certainly affecting the quality of my sleep.

This full time student gig is not for the faint of heart.

Any thoughts I have ever had wondering why I didn't just do 3 years of full time study and get it over with have been hereby banished to the outer regions of space.  This is crazy.  I am crazy.  My life is crazy.  Crazy-overload right here!

I have been studying evenings, which tells you how desperate I am for study time.  And I haven't started two of my paperloads yet.  Ugh.

Of course, part of the reason I'm studying evenings is that if I get up in the morning to study, I risk waking the small boy downstairs who then doesn't go back to sleep and doesn't manage his day so well.  Plus I tend to find it hard to finish the moment he appears in my office space, arms all over me, face as close as he can get to mine (while I am desperately trying to type those last few sentences, or save that draft to my back-up flash drive).  He wants attention, which I find really hard to give him when I'm still in study-land.  And to be honest, he actually NEEDS attention.  I'd thought it would be ok, not having Mummy for a few months.  He gets loads of Daddy, you see.  And in all honesty, Daddy plays way better with Munchy than Mummy does anyway (Mummy's play tends to be very up and down, here and there, as she remembers the crock pot needs stirring, the washing hanging out, a message sent to this person or that person and on it goes).  But no, Daddy is wonderful, but Munchkin is determined that he requires attention from BOTH his parents.  Every day.  All day, if at all possible!  Wink.  Which of course it isn't.  But hey, I can at least try to let him feel like I am present when he wakes up in the mornings.  Hence the evening study.  I can do almost anything in the evenings these days without him waking.  Now if I could just work out how to sleep well afterwards, that would be great...

So if you're wondering why you are not receiving a wonderful plethora of photos, stories, and anecdotes from bloggy-land Amy, well now you know.  I'm swamped, people.  Swamped.  I've signed up for Live Below the Line. And am now wondering what on earth I was thinking.  My desk is piling up with things that I don't have time to sort out.  My husband is being called upon for reassurance.  "I am going to make it through the semester, aren't I, Boyo?  Just say 'Yes!' even if you don't believe it, I just need the reassurance!"

I still have loads of blog ideas, lots and lots of things I want to share.  I take photos of them, honestly I do.  I just haven't got any further than that.  Full time study is just so different than part-time.  There really isn't much free time at all, and most of that is going into the small boy and trying to keep on top of general life (like buying groceries!).  Anyway, I am still here.  I might pop in from time to time when I feel an overwhelming urge to purge myself of emotions, stories, or stress.  I might even manage to post some of those photos I've taken, to tell you about how amazing it is going on family holiday, and how to make delicious brown rice that even brown-rice hating husbands will eat!  But don't count on it.  It might be awhile.

Amy - who now has 45 minutes to dry her hair, eat breakfast (thank God, it's waiting in the fridge!), get boy up, dressed, fed, and get out of the house.  Boyo will (wonderful man that he is) make Munchkin's lunch, put dishes away, make beds, etc.  How hard can it be, right?!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Golden Oldie

I grew up on Sesame Street.  That and Playschool (which, incidentally, is how I learned to tell basic time).

What I didn't realise on becoming a mother myself, is that such great TV programmes still exist.  Munchkin didn't really watch anything till he was over 2 years old, as I've read a few times that there's no known benefits to children under 2 being exposed to digital visual content, but rather it's thought by some to be detrimental.  So he had a Thomas DVD and Wiggles DVD for those nights when he was teething that we couldn't get him to go to sleep (and my own Hairspray DVD which for a time he loved more than either of his, but we won't mention that here as I'm trying to be age appropriate, ya know!).  But since then, DVDs have crept into our lives.  Some of this is because I love movies and naturally I want to share that love with my son.  But in all honesty, mostly it was when he was sick.  We'd borrow a DVD from the library, a friend or family, and it was just so, so, so nice when he was feeling yucky and the weather was terrible and he couldn't go outside without coughing and coughing and coughing.  You get the idea.  Then of course we were in the habit.  Boyo sleeps in often.  Comes with the territory when you work night shifts.  But somewhere there I ended up with Munchking watching a DVD when I showered in a morning, rather than reading books like he used to do.  I guess partly because it's the only sure way I know that he will be still in the same place I left him ten minutes earlier!  Grin.  But I wasn't really comfortable with it.

Well, I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about what they do in their house, and reached some conclusions of my own.

Firstly:  I'm not happy with how much DVD watching my boy is doing.  Especially that he asks so often for it.  The content is above board for the most part.  They are series that we've watched with him so we know the content.  He doesn't own any movies at this stage, although we've watched a few.  I don't mind the occasional rental of a movie that we watch as a family.  That's building family, in my mind, creating memories just as much as the pikelet making or games we play afterwards do.  It's the daily watching.  The reliance by myself and Boyo on our 'babysitting' service.

Secondly:  I don't really LOVE most of the DVDs he watches.  They are okay.  They pretty much all have good moral themes like sharing, telling the truth, etc (some done with more realistic story lines than others!).  But that's pretty much it.  They are essentially, to my mind, entertainment.  And entertainment should be reserved for special occasions, not daily necessity (says she who was watching 3 TV programmes a week earlier this year - but never fear, they all finished their seasons and I now have NO TV to watch to wind down after study, which is what I knew would happen).

Then I realised.  Sesame Street is still around.  My mum HAD told me ages ago.  But of course I kept forgetting.  And at that point I think I didn't really want something that was on TV.  A set time of day you're committed to (or miss out on!!).  I preferred the DVDs that we could choose when to start and finish (the only issue being that instead of watching one or two episodes, my son was gradually watching an entire DVD per sitting).  Hmmm.

Change of routine.

Munchkin no longer has any library DVDs.  We took them all back.  He didn't really fuss much either about not getting any more.

He is watching Sesame Street on TV4 from 2-3pm weekdays.  If we are not home, we don't watch.  Saturday is TV/DVD free.  Sunday he can watch car racing with his daddy in the afternoon, and if Daddy doesn't have any he wants to watch, Munchkin can watch a DVD.  Today it was Auto-Be-Good from our church library.

It's going well.  Munchkin does tend to ask me every hour or so when Sesame Street is on.  I guess he'll learn to tell the time faster this way as we have many, many conversations around where this hand or that hand has to get to before it is time!  He's asked for DVDs but not had any major issues (as I'd feared he might).  He's playing more, reading more, imagining more, going outside more, and generally I'm feeling more content about this.  This morning he played in his room while I showered.  So there were cars all over his bed.  But he played.  And I did shower in peace.  And he (and I!) loved his DVD time this afternoon as it was a real treat.

And on that note, I'd like to say:


Sometimes the oldies really are the goodies!

I'm just amazed every time I watch it.  I remember some of the songs!  Some things just haven't changed.  Like it's educational focus.  Nothing else, NOTHING, that I've seen for this age group of pre-schoolers comes close to Sesame Street for it's literacy and numeracy rich environment. 

There's counting and reading, and a rich rhyming and vocabulary base.  I love how they do things like say "Princess Grouchy's parents were sad." "Sad?  We're more than sad, we're melancholy, forlorn..."

It's about REAL children too.  They often interweave real children narrating, and visits to real places, opening children to the real world around them.

The strong educational focus doesn't end with academics either.  They include so much healthy living information.  Last week Munchkin learned all about teeth.  And in good time too as he's having his first Dental Nurse visit this week. 

It's FUNNY.  Munchkin just loves the antics of the Muppet creations and their friends.

All in all, it is just such a well-presented programme and I'm so grateful that it's still running and I've finally come to my senses so my son can enjoy and benefit from it just like I did all those years ago!