Save the Drama for your Mama

Ever heard a teacher rave about how well-behaved your child is and thought in disbelief “You can’t possibly mean my kid”. Let’s explore why kids save their worst behavior for their Moms.

Having a child behave like an angel for others can be frustrating and confusing for us moms when we seem to always be at the receiving end of bad behaviour. It’s hard not to take it personally when it seems like the tantrums are saved especially for us, and it’s easy to fall into a way of thinking where we blame yourself and question our every parenting decision.

This is really something I have been struggling with for the past few months, and set about doing some research into the “Save the Drama for your Mama” phenomenon.

Almost all behavioral psychologists agree: it isn’t intentional. Your child isn’t spending her days at school counting the minutes until they can get home to scream at you. At the core it boils down to the fact that home is a ‘safe zone’. The child is able act their ugliest, be their most vulnerable, because they feel safe. And a vast majority of the time, being vulnerable looks and smells very much like a tantrum.

The number one thing to remember is to avoid getting angry yourself at your child’s outbursts. Your attention is the fuel to the fire and the minute you participate in the outburst, you reinforce the negative behaviour. Pretty soon your child knows exactly how to get Mom’s attention, regardless of whether it’s negative attention or not.

Be consistent in your method of discipline and carry out consequences as promised. There is no easier way to lose credibility with your child than to not carry out the promised consequence for bad behaviour. The punishment should be age/time-length appropriate (rule of thumb = a minute for each year), and parents need to follow through with threats of discipline.

It’s important to remember that kids cannot be well-behaved 100% of the time. They too need a way to vent and to let off frustrations about their day or feelings, which very often, is what a tantrum boils down to – a way to cope with emotions that are too overwhelming.

Help your child develop problem-solving techniques that are relevant to his/her age. Validate their feelings of anger or frustration (dismissing them makes matters worse), then offer them an alternative way to cope: “I see you’re feeling angry, and that’s ok. But would you like to play on the swings outside until you feel better?”

Dealing with the split personality ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ kid might seem challenging and deeply daunting, but I try to remember, even on the worst days, that while I may get the brunt of my child’s poorest behaviour, I also get the best of it too. I get to see her at her most real, so I get to experience her highs and lows at close range. And I wouldn’t change that for anything!

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Drop the Ball: Embracing Imperfection as a Mom

I recently read a book by Tiffany Dudu called ‘Drop the Ball’. When I was done, I gently put it down, let out a long, slow sigh and thought “Wow, so there is a cure for my overwhelming life”

And I’m certainly not a minority for feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. As moms we are constantly juggling a million things on an ever-growing ‘To-Do” list. Waking up at the crack of dawn, packing lunch boxes, managing the kids routines and extra murals, keeping the house tidy, ensuring everyone is fed, bills are paid, groceries are bought, dogs are walked, trash is emptied etc etc etc… And that’s on top of working a full-time job for many women.

But this book is here to show us exactly how much value we as women attach to being “good” at all our roles. We cant just be a mother. We have to be good mothers. We cant just be wives, or friends, or daughters. We have to be good ones. And according to the author, its just not humanly possible to be good at every, single thing. It’s far too much work. Far too much stress.

Women feel that they will be judged as less than if their house is not sparkling or their children haven’t brushed their hair. We assign a value to ourselves based on our management of things we control. What is this obsession with perfection?!

It is this stress of getting everything just right, all the time,  that leads us to burn out and run through life without stopping to smell the roses. Why is it that a man can take the time to relax and zone-out after work, but as women, and particularly as mothers, we go non-stop until the last child is asleep, the last plate washed and the last towel folded? Why do we underestimate the importance of ‘me time’ for our well-being?

As a mom, the best thing we can do for our kids, is to be the best versions of ourselves. That is; a mom who is happy and (mostly) relaxed, who has the time to get down on he floor with them and build puzzles. The mom who laughs out loud at silly jokes because she’s not busy plotting a mental grocery list in her head. The mom who initiates tickle fights and reads the bedtime story for a second time.  The mom who pours a glass of wine and puts her feet up for a few minutes when she gets home from work. The mom whose soul is fed from being able to spend time with her friends over a cup of coffee once a week.

We need to let go of our ideas of perfection. The chores can wait a little. The to-do list isn’t going anywhere. Take a moment. Take a moment to be in the now. To be imperfect. To be happy.

Sleep Training 101: Finding a qualified sleep consultant

Lets take it back to September 2015…

I was a new mom, with 6 month old twin girls. Having twins in itself will normally present some newborn sleep challenges … one waking the other being the most common. But I found myself exhausted and frustrated with TWO newborns that just. wouldn’t. sleep.

We had seen a specialist pediatrician to rule out the common causes: silent re-flux, prolonged colic (yes, that’s a thing), throat and ear infections, or any other medical condition that could be hampering their sleep.

We had established a solid bed time routine, we ensured they were not overstimulated, overtired, overfed or hungry at the time of going to bed.

We ensured the room  temperature was optimal and we made sure the crib was comfortable and safe. So why were our girls not sleeping?!

After one particularly harrowing night of being up literally every 30 minutes between the two of them, I got on the phone to a sleep consultant who had been recommended by a friend.

I have no idea what I was expecting from that call…but I’m SO GLAD I called!

Our sleep consultant made an Skype appointment with myself and my husband (we were both in this together!). Be wary of those that work with one parent individually, as sleep training really needs a collaborative effort from all those involved with the child’s sleeping schedule to ensure consistency.

Before that appointment, I needed to fill out a detailed questionnaire with information regarding each of the girls. A separate one for each twin as the approach would be tailored for them specifically.  The questionnaire covered everything from day and night routines, eating habits, family dynamics,  medical background, growth and development milestones,  environmental factors, and sensory environment. The questionnaire also covered the child’s specific personality traits and temperament. There was some miscellaneous information I had to provide regarding favorite toys and foods, and our methods of play etc…

I also had to include some information on what sleep training methods (if any) I had tried before, and what I expected from our forthcoming consultation. (“To sleep, duh” – was apparently not an appropriate answer)

The questionnaire was very, very detailed to the point of exhaustive! But I truly do believe that a great sleep consultant will ensure she gathers the utmost information she can about your particular child to ensure that the approach she uses is tailored to your child. Sleep training is definitely not a one-size-fits-all technique.

One particularly important piece of information I also had to provide prior to our actual consultation was the level of Cry It Out (CIO) I would be comfortable with. On a sliding scale, I chose ‘minimum crying without intervention” (the lowest level of CIO acceptance).

I think what scares many moms away from sleep training is the fear of CIO. And rightly so. It is gut-wrenching to imagine leaving your child to scream in distress for extended periods of time without intervening. I truly believe that a qualified sleep consultant will recognize a parent’s aversion to extended CIO and will be willing and able to work within your comfort levels to achieve a successful result in your quest to get your child to sleep better.

With all the information we provided in the questionnaires, our sleep consultant came up with a detailed and specific plan for each twin which we then discussed in our Skype call consultation. We used a holistic approach, taking into account all factors contributing to poor sleep and looking to alleviate them without too much disruption of her current routine.

She established a sensory profile for each of our children as well as an in-depth sleep prognosis. She gave us a plan which we were to implement that same night, and the take home message of the entire meetings was: CONSISTENCY.

She stressed how important consistency was in getting a child to sleep well, and how any lack of consistently on our part would cause setbacks for our goal of getting the twins to sleep well.

One of the very best advantages to having a sleep consultant working with us directly, was the benefit of having someone available on the phone when things got tough. She may not have been available 24/7, but there wasn’t a single text or Whatsapp message that went more than a few hours without being answered. And perhaps most crucially, on those first few nights, when I felt like giving up…she was on the phone with me, talking me through the plan and helping me brave it out.

I’m happy to say that we learnt SO much about healthy infant and toddler sleep from our consultant. We know now just how important a sound night’s sleep is for their development and growth, and I know the basic concepts of ensuring a good night’s sleep. I understand the do’s and dont’s of getting a feisty toddler to bed each night and that consistency is key.

I know that many families are struggling with sleepless nights, but are totally against the idea of sleep training due to the misconception that sleep training automatically means extended CIO.

However, a good sleep consultant will and should be able to work within the framework of what you find comfortable in regards to CIO. After all, there isn’t anyone who knows your child better than you, so you’d be in the best position to determine this.

A good sleep consultant will ensure she has all the relevant background information prior to formulating a sleep plan for your child.

A good sleep consultant will develop a sleep plan that is tailor made specifically to your little one, taking into account the child’s routine, personality and family dynamics, among other things.

A good sleep consultant will ensure that anyone and everyone who is involved with the child’s sleep routine, participates in the sleep training consult…to ensure consistency for the child.

A good sleep consultant will provide step by step support through the implementation of the sleep training plan.

Going the sleep training route was the best decision we made for our family. Giving our children the gift of sleep, has done wonders for the entire family’s well being.

The basic principles we learnt during the training process will stay with us for life and help us through all the little sleep regressions we encounter along the way.

Easy Peasy Dinner Cups

The Twincesses aren’t the easiest when it comes to mealtimes. They could have a favorite this week which they hate the next. And very frequently, one of them will like something while the other loathes it.

So as you can imagine dinner times are normally fraught with stress. I try to come up with imaginative ideas that encompass relatively healthy ingredients. Not as easy as it sounds when you work full time and have twins who could happily eat dry pasta all day, everyday.

I remember my mom used to make us scrambled egg cups when we were little. I loved it!!! So I tried a variation of it one day, and it was a hit!

So I’d like to share with you the quick and easy recipe for dinner cups with my secret ingredient!

What’s great about this dish (apart from the fact that its easy and quick to make), is that you can use any combination of ingredients you have in the fridge. Great to use up leftovers and super easy to hide veggies inside.

To make these easy dinner cups you’ll need:

– sliced bread (1 slice for each ‘cup’)

– eggs (roughly 1 egg for every 2 cups)

– any other ingredients your child fancies

(I normally use bacon or ham, cheese and sweet corn). Tuna, peppers, chopped tomatoes, chicken cubes or feta also work well.

Method:

-Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease a muffin pan for the required number of cups.

– Cut off the crusts on a slice of bread and use a rolling pin to flatten it.

– Fold the flattened bread into the muffin pan so that it forms a sort of ‘bowl’ for your fillings.

– Beat the eggs and add the desired precooked ingredients.

– Spoon egg mixture into cups and bake for approx 10 Minutes until eggs are cooked through.

I always add a few spoons of Woolies butternut mash. I have written a separate post about the sheer versatility of the Woolies mashed veggie range… it’s just brilliant to add a healthy dose of the good stuff to your kids meals with them being none the wiser! I add a few spoons to pasta, pies, stews, eggs… just about anything really.

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The Twincesses love their dinner cups, and I try to mix it up with different fillings every now and then to ensure they don’t get bored.

Hopefully if you try it, it will be just as big a hit in your household!

Why I chose to raise my kids in South Africa

Why on earth would you leave France to come back to SA?

Its a question I get asked so often – and my response always varies.I lived in Paris, France for 7 years, but as soon as we found out we were expecting the Twincesses, we started planning to relocate to South Africa.

Part of that decision was due to the fact that I wanted my children to have a childhood similar to mine. A childhood of sunny days at the beach, surrounded by family. Days of playing with their friends outside and riding their bikes up and down the neighborhood streets.

I know that SO MUCH has changed in South Africa since I was a child though. Crime has escalated exponentially, and the days of playing in the streets are well and truly over for most kids in South Africa. Yet, I don’t see our decision to relocate to SA as a gamble… I see it as a leap of faith.IMG_1822

My kids will only have one childhood. And my intention is to fill that childhood with wonderful memories for them to cherish when they are older. Part of those memories will be having their extended family around them. The biggest motivating factor for me to make the move back was my family. They are all in South Africa, and I did not want my kids growing up to feel like strangers around them. Watching them with their grandma … my heart melts. I wouldn’t trade it for a million euros!

Space was another deciding factor for us. We lived in the heart of Paris, a stone’s throw from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. But our apartment was a mere 45m2. That’s pretty average by city-dwelling standards…but i could NOT imagine raising TWO children in that cramped space. Yes, there was the option to move – buy a bigger place, but that would have meant a mortgage or rental, and most definitely a place OUTSIDE of the city, as real estate prices in Paris are through the roof!

While in SA, we reside in a four bedroom house with a large backyard, large, open spaces to have the extended family over for braais and sleepovers, and our very own pool which the kids just adore. We could never have had this in France. And don’t get me started on the weather!

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We did not make the decision to relocate to South Africa lightly. We had 2 stable, well-paying jobs and left it all for a step into the unknown. We considered various factors such as the cost of living, healthcare, quality of life and safety. We thought about it long and hard, and changed our minds at least twice before finally deciding to take the leap of faith.

There are some days when I question my decision (opening a newspaper normally does that)…but do I regret my choice to raise my children in South Africa? A resounding NO.

THIS is where we are meant to be right now. The option to go back to France will always be there as dual nationality makes it relatively simple to reconsider….and it may very well be something we do in the future when the girls are older (as the thought of them being teenagers in SA sometimes scares me)… but for now, right here is where we belong.

And I intend to live our lives to the fullest, and enjoy every moment in our sunny, vibrant country that has SO MUCH going for it, in spite of all the negativity.

Fun Day at Flag Animal Farm

Flag animal farm is located in the Dolphin Coast less than an hour from central Durban.  I cannot fully convey just how much the Twincesses love the farm!

But let me start by saying this: This is NOT A ZOO. I find zoos reprehensible, so I absolutely LOVE the fact that more than 80% of the animals at Flag Animal Farm have been rescued from cruel fates and are provided with a safe, loving home. In fact the farm has saved close to 11000 lives since they opened 13 years ago.

Flag Animal Farm offers a fun day out for the whole family. There are playgrounds and jumping castles, indoor soft play for the littles, tractor and pony rides, educational shows and exhibits and braai and picnic facilities. Families can pack a lunch and can easily spend an entire day at the farm without the kids getting bored.

The Twincesses insist I buy the animal feed so they get to hand-feed the naughty goats, whilst I never get over the exhilaration of having the horses grab a carrot from my outstretched palm!

The girls flutter between the jungle gym and the pony rides, whilst I stay cool close to the ice cream stand.

They insist on having their faces painted, and aren’t afraid to touch the snakes or the wolves (much to my horror)!

Parents are welcome to host their kids’ birthday parties at the farm, which takes the guesswork out of entertainment planning.Whilst Flag Animal Farm provides the perfect day out for the whole family, the kids especially love it, and you have been warned: there WILL BE tears when its time to leave.

A memorable train trip on The Holiday Express

These past holidays we took the Twincesses on their very first train ride.

The Holiday Express is in the business of creating memorable train trips for families to some awesome sites in KZN.

They operate all year round, and offer trips to Shongweni (with a visit to the famed Shongweni Farmers Market included), and Scottburgh.

Special festive train rides also included trips to Sugar Rush Park on the north coast and a trip to Pietermaritzburg.

Trips for special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are also in the pipeline and I’m sure spaces will fill up quickly.

Our trip began with a 7am registration at the comfort of the Premier Lounge in Durban Station. There was safe, secure parking located right at the entrance to the Lounge for a mere R10 per day.

The Twincess were thoroughly excited about their first train ride, so everything felt like a big adventure.

Angela and her team greet you warmly at the registration desk and we were soon led by the enthusiastic team to the train platform. The train was comfortable with leather seats and we secured a family table which allowed us to fully relax. We packed some snacks and breakfast items for the girls although light refreshments and drinks are available to purchase on the train.

The train took off promptly at 8am much to the delight of the girls… and we had so much fun on board!

I packed some colour-in books and puzzles for the journey to keep the girls from getting bored… although they didn’t seem to tire of looking out the huge windows at the scenery whizzing past

The highlight for me was definitely the Shongweni market! It was full of amazing crafts and delicious food stalls! I could have happily spent all day walking amongst the diverse displays, and letting the Twincesses play with the giant soap bubbles.

We left the market for the short bus ride back to the train and the girls promptly fell asleep in their seats, exhausted from excitement and play.

We reached Durban around 1pm, giving us plenty of time to enjoy a relaxing afternoon at home.

All in all: I would highly recommend the Holiday Express train trips for families, young and old! It’s something different, it’s safe, clean and thoroughly enjoyable.

Tickets are R200 for children and R250 for adults. But we purchased a family combo ticket at R800 for 2 adults and 2 children.

Find info and upcoming dates here: http://www.theholidayexpress.co.za