Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Old Dog : New Tricks

Some people teach their dogs 'tricks'- we teach ours 'chores'.
He will sit, stay, drop, come, drink from a sport bottle and snatch a Frizbee out of the air, over 2 meters high, with all the grace of a ballet dancer.
He can also spell the following words:

I just had to write a little post on our wonder-dog, who, with a little encouragement, has discovered the delights of pushing a broom around the yard.
While I'm stuck in bed with the flu, unable to sit in front of the computer for any lenghth of time, or finish any of my projects, it's just so nice to have a little extra help around the house. However, I cannot trust him to sort the washing (dogs are said to be colour-blind) and he's completely rubbish at stacking the dishwasher (something to do with a lack of opposable thumbs). 

I am still working out a way I can get him to push the wheelie bins out on Monday nights.

Have a great day & if someone's coughing nearby; turn the other way!

Friday, July 26, 2013



She-Who-Worships-Pink had been galloping around the house with a broom calling giddy-up for weeks and though I’d seen various hobby horses in the toy stores at very reasonable prices, nothing really inspired me. Until I came upon this feller.

Now I have to warn you this is an easy project but it’s not a money saver if you do what I did and buy a beautiful big glove puppet imported from
The Puppet Company in the UK.   

In saying that, Uncle Pete's stores have them at around $25 so with the cost of a broom handle thrown in – it will cost about the same as your run-of-the-mill-boring-everyone’s-got-the-same-retail hobby-horse.

OK so here's what do you need:

  • a gimlet - for goodness sake get yourself one of these ASAP! Can’t live without one myself! It looks like an old fashioned corkscrew (fig. 1) and you can find them in any hardware store or $2 Shop. They are great for starting holes, (known to Tradies as "pilot' holes) or making screw holes  if you can’t be arsed messing about with the big drill.  Perfect for all kinds of little jobs.
What else:
  • a screw driver
  • one long thin screw about 3cms long
  • and you will need a hand saw.
  • One long sleeved hand puppet (fig.2)
  • A small dog leash – the sort you see on teeny tiny fluffy dogs – hit the $2 shops for that too.
  • An old cushion insert – past it’s prime recycling stuffing is way preferable to landfill and it saves you a trip to your local fabric or craft store to buy the stuff
  • A broom handle
  • A needle and good strong thread
Step 1 – cut your broom handle down to a comfortable length for your small-person to ride on. Then cut another small piece of the left over no more than 4cms long.

Step 2 - using your gimlet, make a screw hole sideways through the smaller piece, then another hole in the top of the sawn end of the cut down broom handle. (fig. 3) Depending on how hard the timber is you may find the gimlet isn’t enough and you have to resort to the big brother drill.

Step 3 - screw the smaller piece of wood to the broom handle to make a T-bar (fig.4 ) – once the puppet is stuffed, this will act as a stopper so that the broom handle can’t easily be pulled out of the puppet and used as a weapon on smaller siblings or family pets.

Step 4 – firmly stuff the puppet head around the mussel, ears and head leaving room for the T-bar. Then push the T-bar into the head till it reaches the highest point of the head and pack stuffing firmly around that too. Pay particular attention to pack a good amount of stuffing around the back of the head behind the T-bar so that the head is well balanced on the broom handle.

Step 5 - Keep packing stuffing into the puppet turning it regularly so that it’s evenly around the broom handle. Do this until the puppet is firm and there is only about 3cms remaining till the bottom hem.

Step 6- cut a piece of the cushion outer fabric about the size of a mans handkerchief (fig. 5) and make a small hole in the centre. Push this onto the broom handle, and work it up the handle until it reaches the puppet hem. (fig. 6)Tuck this inside the puppet making sure all the stuffing is captured by the fabric.
Step 7. finishing: You need good strong thread here or to use four threads together like I have her (fig. 7). Use the thread to tack inside the hem creating a drawstring effect. 

Leaving about 4 cms of thread outside at the start, push the needle through inside the hem as far as you can, (fig. 8,9) then outside and back into the hem. Continue along until you get full circle. Take the two ends of thread and pull tight before tying off
(fig 10). Then stitch the ends into the hem and cut off the excess.

Step 8. Put the hand loop of the dog leash over the nose of the animal and feed the end of the leash over the head behind the ears returning under the chin. Use the clip to secure the other end place under the chin.

As I mentioned, the beautiful giraffe I used was a ‘long-sleeved glove puppet’ from The Puppet Company. I swear looking at their range, i'm tempted to make another, you know, just for guests ;0) If I had a boy I would make him a hobby-Rhino.

 You can buy these and many, many more gorgeous animals on line.:

puppetsbypost.com or directly from the link above they both deliver world wide.  Or get to your nearest Uncle Pete’s store and save a bundle on shipping.  I must say it was a real toss-up between the giraffe and the elephant I have to tell you. I may have to make another, you know, for guests...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

MacGuilt Attack

Just when you think you've got a handle on this kid wrangling gig, along come the school holiday play-dates. That's where we sort  the green-horns from the lambs for slaughter..

In a fantastically (fanatically?) motivated and happy state of mind, that came from nowhere considering the awful night’s sleep I’d had, I decided to offer to take The little Pinkster’s friend Borrowed-Child for a playdate after Tennis-camp.

While they were ensconced in adult supervision, I flew off to pick up some groceries and run a few errands.  On the way home I started to fret because it is a well known fact that I am culinarily challenged and that Borrowed-Child is a VERY fussy eater. He has told on more than one occasion; "I don’t like that, I want something else."

I exhausted myself trying to run several errands in 90 minutes with sleep deprivation beginning to kick in. So my thinking was along these lines; do I really want to go home and start trying to find something to feed them he will eat, or do I drive through for some Happy Meals as a treat? No brainer huh?

Ominous music began playing in the background as we worked through the queue to the drive-through window.

Borrowed-Child asked, "What's a Happy Meal?" 

I was incredulous; “You know MacDonalds' right?" 

"Chicken  nuggets?" 

"Oh, I like chicken nuggets." he says. 

My Pinkster piped up: "I want a hamburger with NO pickles pleeease," by this stage she's bouncing  with delight in her booster seat.
As we ooze into the tunnel lit up with glowing menus, Borrowed Child asks many questions - It's like he's never been to MacDonald’s before.
And there can only be one reason for a 6-year-old having never EVER been to MacDonald’s. 

I am a BAD child minder - have just sabotaged someone else's good parenting.
Too late now.

Biting my nails, I ask Borrowed-Child what he'd like to drink. Pinkster only likes water (never could stand apple juice) and even I wouldn't give them Coke.

After a long "ahhhhhhmmm" Borrowed-Child opts for the juice and I pay at the first window before we start moving again.

Borrowed-Child asks, "where are we going now?"

"To the next window to pick up our lunch"

"Why do you call it a  Happy Meal?" he asks.

"Well," I say, "because it's a special lunch box for kids with a toy inside"

(Ominous music playing away in my head just gets louder)

In the rear view mirror I see his stunned expression;

"A real  toy! To keep!"


As soon as the food starts being passed through the window, Borrowed-Child is jumping in his seat chanting, "I want my toy, I want my toy, hurry up, hurry up"

We are jammed with five other cars from Macker’s two exit lanes trying to make it onto the highway to immediately cross a bus lane and two other lanes of speeding traffic into the turning ahead that I need to take for home. All of this achieved, hopefully without being cleaned up by the oncoming traffic. 

The 'hurry up - I want my toy' chant coming from the back seat is relentless and loud. My brain feels French-fried as I try to avoid us being obliterated by an articulated bus hurtling in our direction.

At the next traffic light I peep into the first box and see Pink's burger, so I pass the kids their respective lunchboxes, and Pinkster passes her little bag forward for me to open. It's a Despicable Me2 minion and she's delighted. Phew. Sometimes they do crap stuff like hairbrushes and cardboard puzzles as you know.

Borrowed-Child complains; "I got the wrong toy, this isn’t a good one, I want a minion". 

..and this is my facial expression..
It's looks like a fighting nija-dinosaur thing, obviously a left-over from a previous campaign, and I silently curse the Mackers people who, though asked, didn’t give me the same toy in both meals.

Sitting at the next traffic light I point out the button moves its arm up and down and the other marvelous features (it has a weapon!) as opposed to the very boring static minion. He's not having any of it and the moaning and complaining continues from Borrowed-Child as we snake our way through the traffic.

Then the cunning kicks in and our borrowed friend gets all Machiavellian, in various attempts to trick, coerce and guilt-trip, my little girl into giving up her bit of plastic joy.

I’m tired, I’m cranky and  my growing pissed-offedness begins to come out of my mouth (where's my thank you for the Happy Meal  here?) But he's a very bright boy - he knows just how far to push and just when to quit - I'll give him that.

At home I set the kids up at the table and give them their drinks.

Borrowed-Child says "I don’t want the apple juice, Pinkster wanted that. The water is for me."

Sighing, I give them both water. In identical cups.

I realise now, this was soooo not a good day for me to look after someone else's kid. But just when you think all is lost, they head off to her room and play nicely and neatly with her Leggo; for two whole hours during which, I managed a little nanna-nap. So maybe all that fussing was just a case of the ‘Hangrys’?

The next child we borrow, became, (as child's parent was considerably, unavoidably, delayed) a play date turned into long-day-care. 

I felt every minute of the endless squabbling over; glue sticks versus the pot of Clag, Real-Life baby doll versus Ugly Baby doll (whose cry sounds like a blocked drain). The latter being the most desirable for some odd reason.
They fought tooth and nail over who would have the pink stroller and who would get the less than fabulous identical, (except red), stroller. (NO people, DO NOT imagine for a minute that having two of everything will keep you out of trouble - every item must be IDENTICAL in every way!).

My girl was cranky and intolerant and Borrowed Child was high maintenance with an activity changing, two- minute attention span. And definitely of the opinion that I was the play-date partner rather than my child. As I said, it was a loooong day.

But  just when I tell myself "NEVER AGAIN!', we do have another little friend over and the girls and their Barbie dolls stay in Pinkster's bedroom for three hours without a peep. Go figure.

You know, I can't help but wonder, if there's a way I can somehow conduct interviews for play-date partners. 
"OK Kid, let's see your CV," And they would hand me a report card with photo's of tidy bedrooms, toys in good condition, and a long list of foods eaten without fussing. 

Sounds extreme I know, but dealing with kids who seemed more mild-mannered than Clark Kent himself, turning into petulant little Dictators and our Pinkster drowning in tears is seriously un-fun. As are toys broken for the sheer entertainment value, there's bullying and bedrooms are trashed almost beyond repair.. 

And feeding time.. well. I never get that one right:
Kids who wont eat a thing, all day long, because it wasn't made by 'their mama' (not even fruit).  Ravenous visitors pacing in the kitchen asking if the Macaroni cheese is ready yet (every 30 seconds) only to have it pushed away after two whole bites. I know I'm no Gordon Ramsay - but even I can't balls-up melting grated cheese over macaroni.
This borrowing of other peoples' children thing takes guts, and stamina, and I am riddled with guilt just admitting to my discomfort and my failures.

I just hope that She-Who-Worship's-Pink is well behaved when she's in other peoples custody...but you never really know do you?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Divine Intervention.

I had an email in first term from a friend who's child started kindergarten this year too. It was short and sweet, it said "Kindy SUCKS".

Then after school drop off that same morning, one of the other mums told me that the teacher suggested occupational therapy for her child because of untidy hand writing. Um, this is still Kindergarten right? And only beginning second term?  Sorry I just needed to check.

I told her "next time you go to the doctor, check out doc's handwriting; If you can - there's a reason they started typing prescriptions onto computerized forms and printing them out." 

Kindy-SUCKS mum's kid doesn't use scissors as well as her peers apparently. (OH MY GOD, call an ambulance!) This kid is a lefty and the scissors are made for right-handed kids. Could that be a factor? Does it necessitate a bunch of sessions with an occupational therapist? Who knows, but I don't know how efficiently or neatly Doctors worked with scissors in Kindy, however, most of them got pretty nifty with scalpels later in life.

Now until very recently, She-Who-Worships-Pink often said AeropRane and sometimes even Lellow, instead of yellow. A visiting speech therapist in pre-school flagged this as 'abnormal' and "needing attention", potentially with said, same speech therapist. (hmmm..).

So in comparing stories, I say this to the mum who's kid apparently has a mild dose of Doctors' Handwriting and she laughs. She tells me; "I said the same thing when I was a kid - my family still teases me, but I can actually say yellow now and no-one sent me to see anyone. I just worked it out eventually."

See there you go. Are we over being a tad interventionist?

I think it's great that pre-school and big school, teachers flag up things that may hold back our kids learning, emotional and social development. It was our little blossom's pre-school teachers that suggested speech therapy for her at three-years-old. She was frustrated and tantrumming, sometimes lashing out at other kids over her difficulty in finding her words. It turned out to be a good thing.

We did take her to have her lellow fever checked out too before the start of Big-School, and the speech pathologist got her to break down the word and sound out each syllable separately. (uh huh, genius!) After one session we didn't take her back - we practice difficult words at home now and we're doing fine. She says yellow just fine but occasionally still 'revy' instead of 'very' and still notices the odd aeroPrane. I admit, that I don't always correct her though, it's just so damned cute.

I know several kids her age with very pronounced (and very cute) lisps and they don't seem to have the professionals crawling all over them crying 'intervention!"  But Ita Butrose and Drew Barrymore both lisped their way to the top of their respective careers didn't they?

Well I've trawled the internet and library looking for answers and found none. I don't have any answers, I'm just trying to listen to the experts' advice when it's given and then use my own common sense.

So maybe this is just a topic for discussion?  

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences too. 

Any Professionals out there willing to chip in?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Before and After...

...Portrait of a DIY-blocked writer.

These school holidays, I had big ambitions to turn into a Tiger-Mummy. I spent a small fortune stocking up on early readers and math books, got my little girl a library card, borrowed her some books and loaded up an ABC Reading Eggs subscription on the laptop.

What actually happened these holidays is that mother and daughter turned into a busy little home-maker team and found our happy holiday sweet-spot.

I am no stranger to writers’ block and my usual response to this is to resort to manual labour until I can tease my brain back online.  I loose my mental internet connection with scary regularly. In fact I suspect I'm on dial-up rather than wireless broadband..

So I do little sewing or DIY renovation projects where I need only think mechanically rather than solely creatively.

So what do I do when I get DIY block?  I end up with unpainted doors, trellis, bags of fabric and old bits of furniture lying about the house making me feel worse. And that's where the clutter we were tripping over in our daily lives had come from.

But with the enthusiastic encouragement of She-Who-Worships-Pink, we spent our time together, crafting, getting jobs done and a little spontaneous Play-doh making. Potting plants and making our Balcony habitable for alfresco drawing and colouring.

I have a very co-operative and autonomous child and I am grateful every day for that aspect of her personality. She plays while I paint and takes her little watering can to the pot plants while I hang trellis. OK so the wet watering can put down on the fresh coat of stain was a wee set-back, but she was “very, very sorry” and after re-sanding and another coat of stain you can hardly see the ring. :0) Shabby chic perhaps? Or a little sentimental reminder of a good days work.

Far from being Tiger mum, I was on another mission; a 'clean-out-a-cupboard-or-drawer-a-day' mission. I fear that some other drawers may be fuller with stuff from the cleaned out drawers, but the big clear out was She-Who-Worships-Pink’s artistic prolificacy.  The culling took some time, then photographing the finer pieces, that made the cut, took more time. Performing CPR on this death-row Laptop to download the photos took waaaaaaaay too long. But the result was worth it.

So our household clear up began by turning a wall of falling down dog-eared murals into a more stylish and discrete photo montage. Everyone is happy with the result and I have one more larger multi-frame to fill.

These small improvements motivated me to finish my chair project and it sure is nice to be able to sit on it instead of scraping skin off stepping over the pieces of it. (See the project here.)
Although the before and after shots are strangely, and humorously show no difference at all. But WE know it looks better..

I pulled apart some folding woven boxes to make into swinging doors to tidy up the look of our messy lounge-room shelves. They also help stop the cascade of games and puzzle boxes to the floor following the slightest vibration (as in someone walking through the room - sigh - old houses)

I even put a new number on our front fence. (you don't need a photo of that, it's just not that exciting)

We bought new mini- garbage bin style tubs for our new home made play-doh. Throwing out the old stuff was disgusting - I had no idea it could grow so much fur or even tentacles! 
As a bonus, we now have space in the cupboard to store them.

Our next project is to make a new light pink daisy light fitting out of our inherited hideously ugly original. My new renovation co-pilot came up with that idea, when, after changing the globe in her room, I forgot to put back the shade - and my Lord did we have more light to see by!

all it needs are petals?....hmmm

So this break has been a nice one. Mother and daughter have found a sweet-spot in coordinating projects together that. "..make our home more lovelier.."

It has been two weeks of 'Before and After's' and I must say it's very liberating to tackle a bunch of projects that have been put off for ages.