On mums going away for a weekend

I have two weekends away without the family coming up next year. In February, shortly after D turns four, I’m having a weekend away with a close friend who lives in a different city. In March, shortly before B turns two, I’m going to a weekend yoga retreat. These are the only two weekends away from family and husband that I’ll have had since the kids were born.

A mother leaving her family overnight is still looked at sideways by many. Especially a mother who is in paid work (“don’t you want to see them?”, etc). But I think it’s a great thing to do, for a whole heap of reasons. It’s weird that a post setting out those reasons is still necessary in this day and age but hey ho, seems to be so, here we go.

Firstly, for me – it will be a proper break from family responsibilities. A chance for real recuperation that you simply can’t get when kids are around. I’m looking forward to the chance to do even basic things like reading, sleeping, being alone with my thoughts, exercise, and eating without preparing food for two small kids and cleaning up their mess.

I also expect it will be a chance to reflect on my work, my kids, and my husband and appreciate the life we have a bit more – usually a nice spinoff effect of a holiday away from loved ones. I think it’ll be good having a bit of distance from the kids for a change, kids grow so quickly, and when you’re caught up in the day to day it’s often hard to really see them as they are right now, not as they were a month ago.

I’m looking forward to being able to connect with other people without the distractions of the kids, or the pressures of knowing that the socialising time is brief and there are other commitments to get on with.

Finally, I see it as an opportunity to reconnect with the sense of who I was before the kids. Back then, I’d have thought nothing of going away for a weekend without my husband. That person has been put on hold for four years. At times, I’ve felt envious of friends who have had breaks from their kids sooner. I haven’t done that yet because B is still breastfed, and it’s felt like it wouldn’t be worth the stress of weaning him when we’re not really ready. That limitation is fast evaporating, he’s out of babyhood now. For the rest of my parenting life, they’re going to continue to get more independent, which is a strange jolt to my current identity. I think it will suit me more – but it’s a shift that also comes with some sadness. It’ll be nice to get more of a sense of who I am as my own person when I’m not at my desk at work, or with the kids. And then I can bring that person back to the kids, and be more myself as a parent.

Second, for my husband and kids – it will be great for their relationship to see their dad as the main caregiver, even briefly. When we’re both around the kids often prefer me. This kinda sucks for my husband. The kids are too young to realise that he feels slighted when they reach for me or say “no I want MUMMY to put me to bed”, etc. But the preference is clear, and it means the primary caregiver role becomes further entrenched. Just by being here, I feel I get in the way of my husband’s involvement in parenting – even when I want to be sitting on the couch with a book and he wants to be playing with the kids, they drift back to me like I’m a magnet and they’re iron filings. A couple of weekends away will be a good reset of the family dynamic.

It will also be good to have a brief window where my husband sees what it’s like being the household organiser and sole charge adult. On weekends we’re both around, but on Wednesdays and for a while each weeknight I’m sole charge, whereas he almost never gets a big dose of being sole charge with both kids while juggling CEO of chores and life admin. A glimpse of that is better than a million earnest conversations about division of labour and motherhood burnout.

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Incredibly easy vegan fruit cake

When I was a child, my dad brought a recipe book back from a golf tournament. A fundraiser recipe book, with a yellow cover, small and very modest. In the book was a recipe for fruitcake, and that recipe became my signature cake as a young eager baker. It called for a kilo of fruit mix and a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I made it on every occasion. But most of all, we ate it when we went camping. Any leftovers after Christmas were wrapped in tin foil and taken with us, and I’ll always associate fruitcake not with huddling inside while it’s miserable out, but with a dry hot summer sitting under a shady tree near a tent. Some might call it Christmas Cake, but I think of it as Camping Cake.

Several months ago, I saw a tin of sweetened condensed coconut milk in Moore Wilsons. I’ve seen the same brand in several other shops since then, and the link above takes you to an online shop. It’s easy to come by – and it means that the fruitcake I’ve been making for over twenty years can now be your latest dairy-free / vegan baking addition to a festive occasion.

The amazing thing about this cake is that it doesn’t need to age. It’s quick to make and you can make it the day before it needs to be eaten. Nonetheless it keeps well, being a fruitcake.

The recipe is very simple but it’s a slightly unusual method so I suggest reading all the way through before you start.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (apple cider is best but any is fine)
  • 1 cup water (plus slightly more if the fruit mix is very dry)
  • 1 kg fruit mix
  • 2 tsp preferred spices (mixed spice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon, etc)
  • 1 tin (320g) sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp whiskey or brandy
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Meathod

  1. Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (150 degrees if using fan bake)
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and reserve. (NOT the baking soda)
  3. Put the vinegar, water, fruit mix, and spices together in your largest pot. Stir well to combine and gently bring to a simmer on a very low heat.
  4. Once simmering, add the condensed coconut milk, vanilla essence, golden syrup, and whiskey. Stir until it’s all melted and well-mixed, and turn the heat off. The mixture can be left at this stage for a few minutes to cool slightly, but the next steps need to be done rapidly.
  5. Add the baking soda to the mixture and stir quickly. The mixture will bubble up like a potion (kids love this step!), then the bubbles will start to recede. The soda needs to be completely mixed in so there are no horrible little soda lumps when you eat the cake. It helps to sift the soda across the whole mixture, and then quickly stir it through and let the bubbles do part of the mixing job.
  6. As soon as the bubbles from the soda abate, add the pre-sifted flour. The flour needs to be stirred through quickly and thoroughly as well, with a big wooden spoon or a spatula. It will be a fairly think mixture.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Wet your hands and smooth the top over, compressing it slightly in the middle to allow for rising.
  8. Bake for 2 hours, turning half way through. Check with a skewer before removing from the oven – the skewer should be clean.
  9. Allow to cool completely, then wrap it in a teatowel that has been soaked in whiskey, and store in a cake tin until you’re ready to eat it!

I’ve experimented with many other fruitcakes because I love fruitcakes, but I always come back to this cake for everyday occasions because it’s 100% reliable.

Enjoy!

 

When the wind stole the hat

I was walking with the kids down Customhouse Quay on our way to Capital E. It was a windy day, and the wind caught B’s hat. It flew out into the middle of the very busy four lane road. I couldn’t possibly go and get it. But D was really upset – it wasn’t even his hat, but he was really stressed that the hat had blown away, wanted me to go and get it straight away, etc. I explained that looking after our bodies was more important than getting the hat and the traffic was too busy, but he wasn’t buying it, so I said we’d cross at the crossing and see if we could see it – never know, it might blow all the way across by then. We went to the crossing, and walked back along the other side until we spotted it. It was still too far away. We called to the wind to blow it back to us. We followed it as it went further south but no closer to us. D was very anxious this whole time, and railing against the injustice of it all (“oh no, Tāwhirimātea is never going to give it back to us! Naughty Tāwhirimātea! I don’t like you any more!”). The footpath ran out and the hat was not coming towards us. We stood under the pedestrian overbridge, the last viable spot to stand. The hat was only a few metres away and if I hadn’t had the kids with me I could have nipped out when the lights changed – but not with the kids. I was still hoping it might blow back to us, or at least that we’d wait until D came to accept the futility of the mission in his own time. Then this young guy saw us from the bridge, saw the hat, and quickly went and rescued it for us, delivering it back somewhat dustier than it left us but more or less unharmed. We thanked him and continued on to Capital E. As we were walking, I took the opportunity to spin this story as a positive tale of a stranger helping us out. D pipes up “yes, and that’s called tikkun olam, he tikkuned olamed for us when he rescued my brother’s hat!”

 

 

There will come a day

Thinking back on the first year of motherhood I often wonder… if I’d known, would it have been easier? Or less lonely? But I find myself not wanting to burst the bubbles of any of my friends. The anticipation of the first pregnancy is so special and exciting, no-one wants to be the person to take that away.

But maybe one day you’ll be going spare at a baby who is wide awake at 3am and you’ll think why did no-one warn me?! Maybe you’ll be in a maternity ward all alone after visiting hours have ended, your baby asleep in a perspex box, bruised and bloodied and stitched up and and reeling, and have a sudden lurching feeling that you jumped into this without looking too carefully. Maybe you’ll be home alone all week when the baby is sick and the rain is relentless and you’ll be desperate with boredom and loneliness. Maybe you’ll be back at work with kids in childcare constantly getting sick and you’ll wonder when will this ever let up, and you’ll feel a crushing weight of several years of your unmet needs as you start to fray further and further.

That’s when you’ll need to know that other people felt that too.

Oh hun. It can be so so hard.

Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. It just is hard. You could be doing the best damn job anyone has ever done and you might still find yourself missing the life you had before kids.

It gets easier. 

Most parenting advice is snake oil that tells you it’s hard because you’re doing it wrong. That’s not true. It’s hard because you’ve never raised a baby before, and it’s an intense time of life. Of course it’s hard. Trust in the parent you are becoming, trust in the children who you are pouring your love into.

And trust that there will come a day, when you wake up, and it will feel like your proper life.

Looking forward, it could feel far away, looking back it will feel short.

Today was the creche end of year family picnic. It was in a park we visited a lot when my older one was small. One of my first really good days was in that park. It was a sunny day, like today was, and my cheeky talkative big kid was only about eight months old. I took him down to the park to hang out. He had recently started trying to crawl, and that day I sat under a tree and watched him figure out crawling properly. He crawled away from me – twenty metres at least, and it was incredible. My baby could move. My baby could explore.

Today, he went on the epic flying fox by himself. He knows how to hold on tight with his hands and cross his feet at the ankles, he knows to wait at the end for someone to help him off.

Tonight, my younger one pointed at his cot and said “bed” when the milk started running dry, and then lay himself down as I left the room and went to sleep by himself.

This morning, both the children slept in their room past 6.30am.

Today my husband made a frittata with silverbeet from our garden and brought me dinner on the couch.

It’s been a long, hard, winter. Today really was the first day of summer.

There will come a day when you look around at your life and think, yes, this is one I can live in forever.

Tips and tricks for teeth cleaning

Irony: begin writing a post about teeth cleaning tips THE SAME MORNING that your kid smashes his teeth on the monkey bars at creche and chips the two front ones, and pushes them up into the gum impacting the adult ones sitting behind. Oh dear little dude. Anyway, tips below….

Back in March, we took D for his three year old dental check, and received the news that he had several weak spots that were heading towards decay. Right. Damn. We’d been ok-ish with dental hygiene, maybe we were performing at an Achieved level. But this kid inherited my crappy teeth, not my husband’s awesome teeth. I had a root canal when I was five, so pretty shocking genes on my side. My husband has indestructible teeth that never get cavities ever. Our semi-attentive brushing habits would have been ok for a kid with good teeth, but we needed to step it up a few levels for this kid with vulnerable teeth.

Things did not go well to start with. I was a bit panicked that he was only three and they were already talking about future fillings, and remembered the horror of being five with this awful abscessed mouth and the miserable pain that eventually required the root canal, oh hell no, didn’t want him to have to go through that! But D is the sort of child who hates feeling like he’s being made to do something, and has a very very strong sense of his own bodily autonomy… it’s very hard work getting him to do things he doesn’t want to do at the best of times.  He was not keen for this new system of a different toothpaste and a more supervised brushing regime. It was clear after a few nights that he wasn’t going to acquiesce easily. We did three nights of sitting on a parent’s knee, held firmly, while the other parent brushed, but then on night four he was refusing to sit on the knee, insisting that he would never brush his teeth again, declaring that he was going to throw all the toothpaste in the world away, crying, and running off to hide under his bed when we brought the toothpaste out.

So, I took a deep breath and thought about how to avoid making it a battle.

This involved all the tricks below, plus the starting point of building up slowly. Effusive praise for even the slightest hint of cooperation, calling it quits after only five seconds at first – it’s all part of the process, a little bit more the next morning, a little bit more the next night, it doesn’t take very long at all to work up to a decent amount of time. The first sign of protest during brushing would be our warning to very quickly get as much done as possible while reassuring him: “yep, just about done, just a few more teeth, you’re doing so well, thanks so much for cooperating – your teeth are just about clean now, just get these top ones and those back ones and around here, and… all done! Well done, we did a really good job tonight! Yay!”

He’s great with teeth cleaning now [ed: or was, we’ve given it a miss this week and have just done saline rinses while the gums heal from the trauma of the monkey bar collision].

Behold! Our list! [Which will be extra relevant when we rebuild our good habits after this teeth cleaning hiatus.]

1) Tom’s of Maine Strawberry Toothpaste

Most toothpaste tastes quite strong. And D absolutely hates mint. He once had a chocolate covered mint and he cried, spat it out, then tried to wipe his tongue with a cloth (“it’s actually not chocolate! It’s so so so yucky it’s even disgusting!”). Tom’s of Maine is the ONLY fluoride toothpaste we’ve found that he is willing to tolerate. We’ve tried heaps of different kinds. Tom’s of Maine for the win.

(this is not a sponsored post but if Tom wants to sent me free toothpaste, I’m up for that)

2) An electric toothbrush with a sensitive brushing top

The dentist told me this was ok for kids from about 2.5. An electric toothbrush makes it easier for them to do it themselves, they don’t have to figure out the fine motor skills of brushing technique while moving it across different teeth. The vibrations disincentivise gnawing on the brush. And it makes it easier when you’re brushing for them, you can be more thorough without risking poking them in the gum.

3) Wiggles App

This app is fantastic. They get a virtual sticker at the end of two minutes, there’s a cursor that acts as a simple timer, the Wiggles do their thing, and the song instructs on how to brush: “brush up and down, brush round and round, etc”. D watches it during the teeth cleaning.

4) Brush teeth while sitting at the table

This really changed our life! He sits in his normal chair at the table, watching the Wiggles App, and it makes the whole process much more straightforward than trying to get him to stand still on the bathroom step.

5) Warm up videos

A warm up video straight before teeth brushing was a good trick for a while. It helped get past a lot of initial resistance and put him in a better frame of mind to coax him to open his mouth when we were first establishing the routines. The best videos we found are:

Elmo!

Jacus!

Mia!

Blippi!

The Colgate Kid!

6) Explanations

What we’re aiming for here is motivation without fear or stress. A kid predisposed to decay is going to need fillings no matter how careful you are, so I didn’t want to make him scared of fillings to try and get him to clean his teeth. He ended up having his first filling last week, but it was shallow enough for a simple sealant coating, and he was pretty great about it [inadvertent good prep for the x-rays he needed at the dentist after he crashed his mouth this week].

Some useful phrases:

“Sometimes food gets stuck in our teeth and so we need to brush it out to make our teeth clean again”

“Toothpaste makes our teeth strong, and we need strong teeth to chew up all our food”

“I need to help you clean your teeth because I’m your mummy and it’s my job to help you look after your body until you’re big enough to do it by yourself”

7) Sesame Street game

This simple game involves brushing a monster’s teeth until they’re completely clean. (after playing the game, your child can pretend to be a monster while you brush their teeth).

8) Brushing toys’ teeth

A classic. Any toy with an open mouth can be a candidate, but don’t stop there – it’s a game to make brushing less scary, so whatever, brush that fire truck ladder.

9) Sticker charts

Ah, sticker charts. Controversial, apparently. I am sympathetic to the view that we don’t want to reward our kids for every bloody tiny thing, but on the other hand, if you see the sticker chart as a fun reminder while you’re establishing a habit, it’s pretty damn useful. It can be used indefinitely, or dropped when you forget to bother with the stickers, then rekindled if the teeth cleaning starts to slide. I’ve found it can be quite handy to use it as a record of when we skip teeth cleaning too (i.e. running late in the morning, or if he falls asleep in the car on the way home from an evening outing).

10) Brushing teeth in front of them

I realised after that appointment six months ago that my kids don’t see me brushing my teeth very often. Even if it’s a bonus clean that’s just for show, it’s good for them to see that everyone brushes teeth.

11) Build some incentives into the routine

There’s a natural incentive to cooperate for brushing teeth if it comes straight before the bath and your kid loves the bath, or straight before stories and your kid loves stories. Harness that natural incentive! Get them on board with doing it without fuss so they can move on to the thing they want to do.

Other tips:

While we’re here talking about teeth cleaning, I’ll add some accumulated bits and bobs from years of dentists saying “hmmm, something else you might not realise…” when they look at my shoddy teeth:

  • There are three things to look out for when thinking about food that can damage our teeth: sugar, acidity, stickiness. Sugar on it’s own isn’t anywhere near as bad as a sugary treat that is also sticky. This means that even among sweet treats, there’s a hierarchy of things to choose from. Something like a dried apricot which is sour, sticky, and sweet is terrible for teeth even though it’s not highly processed and has no added sugar. Sticky chewy lollies should be completely off limits, the occasional piece of chocolate is a better option because chocolate will dissolve off our teeth more quickly than anything sticky. Sticky biscuits like toffee pops are worse than the same amount of sugar in a cake. Ice cream isn’t as bad as fizzy drinks (carbonated beverages are acidic). It’s a more complicated message, but important for kids with very bad teeth, because when they have treats you should still aim for the less-bad treat options.
  • Timing is also crucial. A sweet thing in the afternoon isn’t as bad as the same thing in the morning, when it’ll be on the teeth for longer.
  • Constant snacking is bad for our teeth, even if the things we’re eating are neutral-ish.
  • Teeth can cope with occasional sugar/sticky/sour binges much better than every day small quantities. (What’s good for your teeth isn’t the same as what’s good for your blood sugar.) For a kid with vulnerable teeth, eating whatever they want on their birthday is ok – but watch carefully what goes in their lunchbox every day.
  • Brushing too much isn’t good either, it can actually damage the enamel.
  • Modern dentistry is pretty great, but sugar is everywhere. There’s only so much you can do to prevent decay in this environment (like there’s only so much you can do to prevent sun damage if you’re a pale-skinned person living in New Zealand). There’s no point making it a big source of anxiety. Minimise sugar and sticky stuff, but accept that regular checkups and dentistry work is also going to be needed – see that as part of the solution, not a sign of failure to keep the teeth free of decay. If decay is caught early, it can be treated much more effectively.

All the things I didn’t find time to write at the writers retreat

I opened my drafts folder, and found this treasure trove:

I’m on a writing retreat with the kids at the moment. I had plans that I’d finish reading and reviewing The New Zealand Project, but I find myself instead wanting to write about kid stuff. A letter of solidarity and support to a friend who’s had a new baby. A post about being the “mummy magnet” – the feeling of the kids always always wanting to be around me, which I’m not entirely comfortable with but kinda also like, sometimes. I want to write about my younger one, how easy and delightful it is being his mum, how simple his needs are at this age, about his charming easy-going personality. I want to write about my older one, the fun we have together when it’s just the two of us, the challenges of a child who wants to be on the go all the time and turns into a whirlwind when he’s cooped up, and the confronting introspection kindled by parenting a child who is a lot like myself. I want to write about the two of them together, how glad I am seeing that brotherliness start to emerge, how proud it makes me.

I want to write about our busy modern lives, and how this makes it so much harder for people to flourish in the variety of ways that might suit them.

I want to take the time the kids are in the childcare to nap, or go on the waterslide, or go for a swim at the beach – to make the most of it because it’s so precious, but I find it harder to make decisions about what to do when time is scarce.

I want to write about the constant recalibration of parenting techniques with a boundary-pushing child, about how strange it is to think his teenage self will be parented by the very same people whose parenting style was forged in the fire of his preschooler self.

I want to curate this blog.

Also, being on holiday, I want to write about the challenges of holidaying with preschoolers. This is a unique holiday because there is childcare and the food is catered, which takes away a lot of the potential stress of being away from home – but also I’m practised at holidays now, which makes it heaps easier.

I want to write a letter of thanks to the at home parents who are the builders of community, who create connections between us, who absorb the stress of the fast-paced world we live in so that our kids can grow up in a slower environment and unfurl into adulthood at a more gentle pace.

I want to write about the middle class values of hard work above all else – and the class myth of doing the hard yards while you’re young and earning your spot in the meritocracy. Upper middle class parents coaching their kids on how to climb the ladder, while blocking other kids from getting on the bottom rung, then cheering “well done, you did it all by yourself!”, when their kid makes it to the top.

I want to write about raising children as a process of slow acculturation, how kids are pure humanity without a cultural gloss. Different kids find different aspects of the culture to be more congruent with their underlying personalities, which is why they might seem to be so mature in one respect and less so in another respect.  

I want to write about the privileged assumptions underlying a lot of gentle/ respectful parenting stuff, how unrealistic some of this type of advice is for many people.  

I want to write about perfectionism in parenting, and in life, and the intersection of individualism and perfectionism, and the horrible pressure this creates, and the way it shifts the focus from the need to find society-wide solutions. I want to write about the corrosive effect of individualistic progressivism on our political conversations, and the importance of collective action in achieving change, and the challenges of communicating this point. 

I want to write about protective factors against the busy buzz of modern life, things that I’m doing with my kids and that I think are useful – focused mostly on things that combine coping mechanisms for the world as it is with motivation to make it better. About how, six years out from converting to Judaism, it’s occurred to me that this is possibly why I found it so appealing. It might be no coincidence that it was while working long hours in corporate law that I found meaning in the idea of an ancient religion that sanctifies time, and teaches that is our collective responsibility to heal the cracks in the world.

I want to write about how to trust in the parent you are becoming – how the early years just are hard, and how most parenting advice is snake oil that tells you it’s hard because you’re doing it wrong – instead of hard because you’re doing something that isn’t meant to be done without support.

I want to write about entering the final scene of the early years, still in the midst of it but can see the other side, about the bittersweet knowledge that it’s edging away, about the smoothing of the memories – like broken glass rubbed and polished by the sea, the memories are dulled into something less sparkling, but more comfortable, pleasanter to look at, sharp edges gone, easier to carry with you.  

 

Kids TV in the age of streaming

I read that piece on the nightmare of kids YouTube . It’s an excellent piece, well recommend a read – whether you have kids or not. Some thoughts:

  • This has gotten worse over the past year. Recently I searched “Peppa Dentist”, before D’s trip to the dentist, remembering the real episode as a good prep for a dentist trip. On the first page of the results were THREE disturbing knock-off versions, and they were clearly meant to be disturbing, going by the still image advertising the video. I never had this issue a year ago when I did the same search. Similarly, around Halloween, D wanted to watch a “Five Little Pumpkins” video a lot, it was on the YouTube home screen, and it’s fine, it’s by Super Simple Songs which are twee but safe. However, the recommended videos that showed up at the end included some which were definitely borderline. Not borderline like “a seven year old would like this but it’s too much for a three year old”, borderline like “the fuck?!”.
  • It’s not just YouTube, search “kids teeth cleaning” in your phone’s app store and you get the very useful Wiggles one, but also a whole lot of weird dentist games that all look pretty creepy.
  • The YouTube kids version is so bad, so so bad, I deleted it the same day I downloaded it. I think maybe it’s worse than the standard YouTube, because it gets less parental input to guide the algorithms?
  • I disabled standard YouTube on my phone too – it is too hard to supervise something on a touch screen. YouTube through the TV is easier to keep under control, but on a touch screen, kids can learn to navigate the controls very easily.
  • There is a whole world of videos that walk that line between pablum and dodgy, especially people opening boxes of kids toys to the soundtrack of nursery rhymes. As soon as the kids are big enough to figure out how to swipe and select videos, they seek out the ones that are designed to be addictive viewing. Algorithms are likely to exacerbate the tendency towards creating addictive content – rewarding things that are watched at length and on repeat, and showing you recommended videos that are popular.
  • YouTube is amazing for accessing videos that otherwise would be hard to come by in New Zealand (like Shalom Sesame), or that are labours of love trying to reach a wide audience (like the fabulous Waiata playlists by Hei Reo Whanau, or the bilingual stories on He Kete Korero). This is why not using it at all would be a shame. Some of the best content is on YouTube.
  • Netflix has its own problems too. It definitely has some brilliant shows – Puffin Rock, Daniel Tiger, Charlie and Lola, the rebooted Magic School Bus (it’s available dubbed in several languages, including Hebrew, which is a double bonus for D!). But it also has a whole heap of really questionable cartoons. The issues here are different to YouTube, the cartoons aren’t deliberately bad, but they’re not exactly high quality entertainment. You have to scroll past them though, which has caused dissatisfaction in our household when I’m trying to chose a video and D is wanting an alternative, crap video. The sheer quantity makes screen time harder to supervise as well.
  • There’s a fine line in this strange YouTube world – like this for example:
  • This video has has 19 million views! It starts off as a teeth cleaning song, a pretty good one, then when the song finishes, it becomes an advert for play dough. That’s the sort of thing I suppose I expect to navigate – but it’s also an example of how there’s basically no line between “videos I’m happy for the kids to watch” and “videos I need to be cautious of”. Something starts as a song and then it’s an advert for a child-appropriate toy, no biggie. But it’s not the same thing you thought they were going to watch, y’know?
  • For all streaming platforms, it would be really easy to have some sort of setting where parents can pre-select a few approved channels or videos, and kids can only watch that content. Especially with YouTube Red and Netflix being a subscription payment model anyway, there’s no need to keep having more and more new videos for more clicks. Screen time is better for kids when there’s less choice  – they can get more out of watching the same few (good) shows frequently than from being hooked into hypnotic toy unwrapping stuff. If providers are saying it’s too hard to check all the content, that’s fine, just create a setting that lets parents do it instead. !

Recipe: Kumara, chickpea and coconut cream curry

Ingredients 

  • 4 cups worth of diced golden or orange kumara – it should be cut fairly small – chunks of just over 1 cm square work best (i.e. slightly bigger than the chickpeas but not by much)
  • 3 tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp of cumin
  • 1 Tbsp of coriander powder
  • 1 Tbsp of grated fresh or frozen ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tin coconut cream (plus optional extra half tin if you prefer it more creamy)
  • Strained juice from a tin of tomatoes
  • 1 cup vege stock
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Water to add

Meathod

  • Gently fry the garlic, then add the grated ginger, spices, and kumera
  • Fry, stirring frequently, until the kumera is well coated and starting to soften
  • Add the chickpeas, tomato juice, vege stock, lemon juice, and enough water to make sure it’s covered
  • Bring to a simmer, and stir frequently while cooking until the kumera is nicely soft
  • Add the coconut cream and stir through, then simmer for another five minutes

Serve on rice with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, and maybe some cashew nuts or fresh coriander on top.

If freezing and reheating, add a bit of extra water to prevent sticking. This will reduce off again during cooking.

Additional veges (fresh or frozen) can be added before serving also – especially good with silverbeet, spinich, cauliflower, broccoli, or peas.

Note this is NOT spicy – it’s designed so that my 18 month old can eat it too. A splash of Kaitaia Fire or Hoot on top is perfect for the grownups.

(makes 8 – 10 servings)

** variation – omit the coconut cream, add more vege stock, and smush some of the kumara against the side of the pot to create a thicker gravy

You’re welcome, the mum edition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79DijItQXMM

Ok, ok, I see what’s happening here

We need to have an attitude change

Just so you know, here’s the deal

Hey, Adorable

Add some gratitude to your range

Open your eyes, let’s begin

Yes, it’s really me, it’s Mummy: breathe it in!

I know it’s a lot to think about

When you’re only just starting out

What can I say except you’re welcome

For the milk, the hugs, the chats

Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay

You’re welcome

I’m just an ordinary Mummy gal!

Hey!

What has two arms to hold you when you cry

Since you were only yay high

That’s right

When the nights got cold

Who turned your heater on to low

You’re lookin’ at her, yo

Oh, also I grew you in my womb

You’re welcome!

Morning sickness was no fun

Also I changed your nappies

You’re welcome!

I’ve handled lots of poos and wees

So what can I say except you’re welcome

Just remember you came out of me

There’s no need to pray, it’s okay

You’re welcome!

Ha, I guess it’s just something you don’t see

You’re welcome!

You’re welcome!

Well, come to think of it

Kid, honestly I can go on and on

Can you come here and please put your trousers on

The chaos, the fuss, the noise, oh

Shitsticks I stepped on your toys

Know how you feel

It’s a kick in the guts

I’m sorry it’s broken but this mess is nuts

What’s the lesson

What is the take-away

If you want them looked after, put the damn things away!

And the stretch marks here on my skin

Is a map of how we begin

Look where I’ve been

I make everything happen

Look, you’re a mini-me, trust me and listen, eh eh eh?

Well, anyway let me say you’re welcome

For the wonderful world you know

Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay

You’re welcome!

Well, come to think of it, I gotta go

Hey, it’s your day to say you’re welcome

‘Cause I’m gonna need that break

I’m going to work today

You’re welcome!

‘Cause Mummy can do anything but flake

You’re welcome!

You’re welcome!

And thank you!

 

Recipe: vegetarian chilli (or as I like to call it, “bean whatevs”)

In my experiments making big batch cooking to freeze, I’ve tried a lot of variations on vegetarian chilli. This has become my favourite.

Ingredients

  • 2 tins of kidney beans
  • 2 tins of black beans
  • 3 tins of tomatoes
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp each paprika, coriander and cumin, or your favourite Mexican spice mix
  • 1 medium sized orange or golden kumera, grated (should be about 1.5 cups grated)
  • 3 tsp molasses
  • 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh in summer, frozen or tinned in winter)

Method

  • Drain the beans, and leave in a large bowl of cold water – this will help get rid of some of the briney taste
  • Fry the onion until soft, then add the spice mix and kumera and a slosh more oil, stir until coated.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and stir some more until all the kumera is off the bottom of the pan and covered in tomatoes.
  • Drain the beans and add, together with vege stock and molasses.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the corn kernals and cook for a further five minutes.

Perfect nacho topping, or served with rice, or in burritos, etc.