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Movies and Intolerance and kids

We went to see Zootopia a while back. Great movie. If you haven’t seen it, I’d definitely recommend it for you and your children.

There are a couple of scenes that younger children may find scary, so do check first. I find that Commonsense Media is an excellent source of information if you’re checking out if a movie or book is suitable for your children. Their parent/child reviews on Zootopia are here.

Anyway, back to it. We had a great conversation with the kids after this movie.

Why do you think all the animals told Judy that she couldn’t be a police officer? How did she prove them wrong? What do you think about that?

Why do you think that the mother on the train was worried about sitting near a lion? What did that make you feel?

Their answers were interesting to say the least.

“It was really mean, mummy. Judy is clever and really fast. She’s a great officer.”

“I’d be really upset if I were that lion, just reading a newspaper. He wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Then my five year old said, “But it’s just a movie. It’s not even real life.”

So I explained that actually this sort of thing does happen in real life. I gave examples of gender inequality, or racism.

They were horrified. “That’s ridiculous!”

Yes, I agreed. It is ridiculous and very sad.

…but then…

“That’s a bit like Joan refusing to play with Max because he has red hair,” says Miss 9.

“And some people in my class say that Ella has yucky, crazy hair,” says Miss 6. “But it’s just curly and brown.”

And so the list continues. So-and-so doesn’t talk to this kid, because she wears glasses. Kids make fun of another child because they ‘talk funny’. Being told they can’t like something “because it’s for boys” and that that boy was teased because he said his favourite colour was pink. And so on and so on.

Intolerance over differences is everywhere and at every age. It infuriates and saddens me. I’ve talked to the kids about this before of course, but this time was different. The movie shows the issue through a storyline that even young children can understand and relate to.

I’m grateful that my children can identify intolerant and hateful behaviours and label them as wrong, and speak up. To join with friends who are being victimised and to have friends who will stand up with them when it is their turn…as it inevitably will be.

We discuss this a lot – a news story, an anecdote, an unacceptable ‘joke’ they heard – and try to continually arm our children with the confidence to call out intolerant behaviour when they see or experience it.

I’m immensely grateful that Zootopia gave us such a good point of reference to have this conversation and that it helped the children make links to their own experiences and the hateful behaviour that we see every day.

So watch Zootopia. Discuss it. Listen to your children’s experiences and plan a way forward to deal with those situations.

And then watch Zootopia again, because it’s just plain awesome.



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Technology and Kids

“No, you don’t need one!”

kids sayings 1 copy.jpg

I tweeted this conversation the other day. When Miss 9 asked if she could have a phone, that was my reply: “You don’t need one!”

She doesn’t. Who would she call? She has a tablet now [bring your own device at school saw to that] and she loves it. That’s enough, surely?

We were surprised at how little she actually uses the tablet. I’d been worried that she would turn into a gamer, constantly attached to her device. In fact, she rarely plays and when she does, it tends to be when she’s had enough of her siblings and wants some time out. It’s nice. And a little embarrassing – I have to admit, she shows more self-regulation than I do.

However, it’s the social networking I keep checking in on [yes, yes, terrible. I know.] She hasn’t got to that yet and still plays maths games and chess. And Lego. Oh, and some game where she has to keep a pet alive, which did cause an argument over a recent long weekend until I remembered my own obsession with a Tamagotchi pet in my teens. Feeling like a total hypocrite, I let that one go.

The thing is, I’m not that anti technology for children. I don’t think that anything appalling will happen if Mr 2 plays Lego Duplo games for half an hour while I see the doctor, or if Miss 5 wants to play spelling games while waiting for dinner. This is the world we live in, after all, and I do feel that denying children access to this technology can be putting them at a disadvantage. Part of this is related to their ability to get by in an increasingly digital world, but a larger part of my viewpoint here is life skills.

Don’t go nuts on me here – obviously too much screen time is a bad thing. Too much of anything is a bad thing. However, keeping children safe online has to start with a conversation and that conversation can’t happen if they are restricted from using technology. My daughter understands that she can only have the internet on [as most games require] when she is downstairs with us. I’ve explained that nasty people also use the internet and she is not to message anyone without checking with me first, even if she thinks she knows them. Just like she wouldn’t speak to a ‘real life’ stranger.

My children also know that too much screen time makes them ratty, which is why we limit it. Just like we limit unhealthy foods. We have conversations about healthy food, exercise, using our imaginations and playing together rather than playing with a computer.

Reading that back, I sound like a smug parent. Ugh! Don’t worry – there was screaming yesterday when I confiscated the tablet and ten minutes of tears the day before from Mr 2 when I told him he couldn’t watch Thomas the Tank Engine. It can be quite painful on the ears…but I comfort myself that they are learning to regulate and achieve balance. I might have to assist with that now, but, as is the case with Miss 9 85% of the time, they will learn to do this themselves. I think that is invaluable…and something I need to work on myself as well.






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No time to wash your hair? No worries!

Dry Shampoo!

Let me tell you, this changed my life. I heard about it from a friend when I was complaining about my hair and how I hadn’t had time to wash it [wah,wah]. So I bought some dry shampoo and it worked – although I smelt like old grannie talc.

One day I looked at the chemical list and it was slightly horrifying, so I went onto Pinterest [my go to for any emergency] and stumbled across this recipe from The Thrifty Couple . I mixed up a small amount, being the cautious type. It worked! I smelt a little like a cookie for about 20 minutes and the grease stayed away for an entire work day. It’s a miracle! I now have a pot of ready made DIY dry shampoo sitting on my vanity.

I used their recipe for medium toned hair, but I left out the essential oil as I don’t have any kicking around.

Dry Shampoo for Medium Tone (Dark Blonde or Light Brown Hair)


1/2 C unsweetened cocoa
1/2 C baking soda
1 C corn starch
4 drops of essential oil for a natural fragrance and aromatherapeutic benefits
Container with a lid


-Combine the corn starch, baking soda and unsweetened cocoa in the container.
-Put the lid on and shake well.
-Add the essential oil and shake again.

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Freaking food budget



How do you feed a family of 5 on a tight budget?

I’ve got no idea what is going on, but I am spending more and more on food. I stick to our weekly budget like an assassin on a job, but we always seem to need top ups during the week which take us over budget. So, obviously, instead of sitting down to write this week’s meal plan and shopping list, I’m whinging about it on a blog post. Classy.

The Meal Plan Strategy

I think the most helpful cook book I’ve read recently is Save with Jamie Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less  This was great for showing me how to make meal choices which mean a) good leftover recipes and b) less waste. Oh, and c) really does save money! Always handy when shopping on a budget.

Somethings were totally obvious when I read them. Fresh herbs wilting? Bash them up and freeze them in ice cube trays for cooking. Veggie off cuts? Make a salsa or chutney. Less waste not only means more meals and snacks, but also it’s a better choice for the environment. Boom!

I really enjoyed the TV series too, particularly when he goes into people’s homes and shows them how wasteful they are and what they can do with the bits and pieces left languishing in the fridge. It was oddly satisfying.

Anyway, the woman who hates to cook a roast dinner is now a roast dinner fan, as the leftover meat is used for another meal later that week. In some cases, for another two meals.

So that’s the meals sorted, thank you Jamie.

But kids eat every 2 hours. Sometimes every hour! Snacks, snacks, snacks…

Recently it’s been snacks that have me struggling. I like to bake as it works out cheaper than buying ready made. However, I’m trying not to bake the sweet stuff all the time. It’s a struggle, though, as a lot of recipes for healthy snacks involve ingredients that I just can’t afford. Plus the recipes say they’ll make 12 portions and it never makes more than 9. 9 is not enough to keep my gannets sated for more than a day or two, especially when you add lovely hubby to the equation.

For last week’s snacks, I made:

  • 1 flapjack
  • 1 batch of savoury muffins
  • 1 vanilla spice crazy cake [you know you’re on a budget when you’re making a wartime sponge]
  • Best ever choc chip cookies [with raisins and sliced almonds instead of choc chips] – recipe here at Overtime Cook
  • Chocolate cake [with plain instead of self raising…my daughter thought it was fudge. Nevermind, tasted great]

I also offered fruit [of course], corn on the cob, fish fingers with ketchup, and cheese and crackers [on different days – altogether it sounds a little weird]. I know, I know…veggie sticks and hummus. Sure, if the kids will eat them. Mine won’t. I’ve long since given up the shame over that one.

Baking on an empty pantry

The Overtime Cook’s Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies are bloody gorgeous. I stumbled across the blog when I needed to bake something and had no butter. I had no chocolate chips either, but found some raisins and sliced almonds. Delish!

The crazy cake recipes can be found all over the web – no butter, no milk, no eggs. Sounds weird I know, but when your pantry is empty, you have a go. I tweaked the recipe a bit and will post it shortly. I know it was a winner because the kids asked for a second piece. Unlike some I’ve tried.

I’ve found that the best source of budget snack recipes are the allergy/vegan recipe sites. The elimination of butter and eggs can make a hell of a difference to your budget, as long as the recipes don’t require a replacement, such as vegan butter. That being said, having an egg replacer product in the pantry is a lifesaver when you’re out of eggs and out of cash. The cakes don’t rise quite as well, but they taste the same.

In my panicked, crap-we-have-no-ingredients-and-the-kids-are-hungry-again ‘baking no dairy’ Google searches, I’ve come across some gems. Give it a go and save some cash!




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No use crying over spilt…everything


Mr 2 is a thrower. If he’s annoyed or upset, something gets pushed or thrown to the floor. Sometimes he does this for fun.
My house is a disaster.
At breakfast, he tipped out his cup of water, so I put a lid on the cup. Then I turned around again to see him tip a half bowl of milk and cereal down himself, the chair, the floor… I cleaned him off, told him sternly  “no tipping” and off he went upstairs with a scowl.
Five minutes later, darling husband says, “Why has he got ink on his hands?”
I dart out into the kitchen to see them looking at each other, both frowning as husband wipes off Mr 2’s hands.
I follow the ink trail up the staircase walls, wiping it off as I go and wondering if I’ll be able to actually get dressed this morning.
The trail ends with Miss 5 screeching – her brother has been in her room and played with her new stamp and inkpad set. Only he hasn’t used the stamps.
I try to soak the stains out of the carpet with some success.
Time is running out, so I abandon that task to focus on getting the girls ready for school.
The behaviour is normal. It’s actually a type of play pattern called a schema – in this case, we have trajectory. Basically, everything moves. Tables get swept clean, things are dropped on the floor, items are hurled about the room.
Whatever irritating behaviour your child shows, it’s likely to be a schema. Does your child constantly collect items and hide them in pockets and bags, or wrap everything? Enclosure or enveloping schema. Does your child mix things together a lot? Transformation schema.
Once we understand what it is that the child is actually doing and why, we can take steps to redirect the behaviours to make them less disruptive.
This website explains it all quite nicely:

Obviously, it takes work….
Once the school run is over, Mister 2 and I head home. I make myself a chamomile tea in an effort to relax and keep calm. I’m trying to cut down on coffee, you know, since apparently it’s bad to have more caffeine than blood running through your veins.
We head upstairs to play building blocks. I’m building away while Mr 2 alternatively helps by driving the blocks across the floor  or roots through the toy box. (See? Everything in movement, including himself. No wonder I’m exhausted!)
He has a DVD between his teeth. Miss 9’s fave movie, no less. I take it away, telling him that it will scratch. As I find the case, I hear a thunk.
Mr Grump has retaliated and thrown my relaxing chamomile tea across the floor. Since it’s lukewarm (I make it with half cold water to drink straight away), I only briefly check for harm. The clever sod has thrown it away from himself and is bone dry.
“No tipping!” I tell him crossly.
I am no longer relaxed.
The irony of an irritated toddler throwing my calming tea across the carpet hits me full force.
I laugh, then go put the kettle on.
I’ll give up coffee tomorrow.

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Summer non-bedtime

It was 7 pm and 28 degrees celsius. No breeze, either.
The children were tired, but clearly didn’t want to sleep. I attempted to settle Mr 2, but he got out of bed, scowled at me.
“Go away, mean!”
He left the room, shutting the door behind him.
A pivotal moment, and no doubt my reaction to this will shape the entire evening.
I heard him go into his sister’s room and they started a nonsensical conversation.
I thought to myself, ‘Do I get him back and persist in sleep settling? Do I adapt the Duct Tape philosophy, which is usually only applied to the older two?’
I did neither. Instead, I lay back and closed my eyes. The room was dark and quiet. A longed for breeze fluttered the curtains. Children coloured in pictures quietly in the next room, chatting away.
It was peaceful and I relaxed for the first time that day.
A while later, my little boy came back into the room and climbed onto  the bed beside me. He pulled the sheet over himself and snuggled down.
My heart melted. It worked! He put himself to bed!
He smiled at me and did that adorable whisper toddlers do when they learn to whisper and just make up sounds. He closed his eyes.
I smiled, feeling calm and relaxed and happy.
Then I smelt it.
“Have you pooed?”
His eyes popped open and he grinned. “Poo!”
So, up we get. Nappy changed, lots of wriggling and sleep time is, once again, nowhere in sight.
But I don’t mind.

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The Nag needs Duct Tape




I hate the sound of my own voice.
“Stop that!
“Why don’t you just…?”
“I’ve asked three times!”
Then I have to stop and think about ‘Duct Tape Parenting’. This book changed my life. I slip…a lot… but when I go back to it, my life is easier. Relationships are better.
The basic premise is that children can figure out the consequences themselves. They don’t need a nag, as they learn through experience instead.
Don’t want to go to bed? Okay then. Don’t.
I hear you gasp.
It’s okay; I was pretty taken aback too. I read how Vicki let her kids decide their own bedtime with something akin to horror. Yet she makes it sound so easy: a few nights of crazy, a couple of conversations about why the children felt so tired and they were self regulating their bedtimes within a week.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
In our house we do still have bedtimes, or more accurately, bedroom times. Miss 9 struggles to wind down and Miss 5 is a jack-in-the-box. Giving them free range of the house every evening would drive me nuts.
We have a rule that they can read, colour, or quiet play until they are ready for bed.
Unbelievably, they stay in their own rooms and enjoy the time to do their own thing. They ask us to come and tuck them in when they are ready. For Miss 5, this is at a very reasonable hour 99% of the time. Miss 9 is a lot more variable, but she operates well in the day time, so we’re happy that she is meeting her sleep needs.
Our evenings are less stressful and we were glad to say goodbye to the hour (or more) of putting children back in bed, answering weird questions, fielding bizarre requests…the usual delaying tactics.
Giving the children responsibility is a very successful strategy. We’ve started a job list, where the children can choose any three jobs that week to earn $5. Now our children are small, but the list is adaptable. This has led to no more nagging at them to do chores.

Of course, I still nag. A lot. I’m a natural at that, it seems. But I’m working on it and Vicki’s book is a great practical guide to having a peaceful home and more responsible, independent children.

Sounds like win-win to me!


Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids

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The Dreaded Budget…Risk vs Reward and the Fantastic Plastic

It’s not easy to live on one income. Lucky for us, the internet is full of enticing posts, offering tips to help you pay off your debt in one year and giving us happy examples of people who have achieved their debt-free dream.

Like you, I’ve scoured dozens of these blogs. I want to pay off some of our mortgage and have enough money to stay at home that little bit longer with my children. I want some financial freedom. Don’t we all?!

#1: Groceries

Some budgeting recommendations I came across suggested saving money through cutting my grocery bill. Clearly we are all assumed to be over-eaters and/or spontaneous gourmet chefs, as the main advice here is to plan meals and buy cheaper brands and products. Put back the blue cheese and caviar, people! This doesn’t help me, as we already meal plan and have cut our shopping list down to the bone.

Of course, for our North American friends, the coupon cutting craze seems to help. Families claim to cut their shopping by 50% just by cutting coupons. Not being from the US of A I’m not entirely sure how it all works, but I’m getting pretty jealous about it.

I do have a friend who scours the mailers for her three local stores to see where she can get each item on her list at the best price. She then visits all three stores to complete her weekly shop. I haven’t tried this yet, as it is quite time consuming, but I am determined to give it a go. I’ll let you know how it goes.

#2: Risk and Reward

There are some tips that make me pretty cautious. I once read a book about paying off your mortgage in five years. One of the author’s tips was to cancel your insurance – not everything [although for a moment I actually froze in horror], but your house contents. They also recommended dropping to Third Party insurance on your car. I couldn’t bring myself to do this.

An insurance person once explained that house insurance covers the items that wouldn’t fall out of place if you tipped your house upside down and shook it. Everything that moves is covered by contents. Picture it. That is a lot of stuff to lose in a fire. Or a burglary. Yes, I’m obviously an insurance company’s dream client: paranoid, play-it-safe and pessimistic.

However, it is a concept of risk and reward: you can take the risk and save hundreds of dollars a year. You have to think pretty carefully about it. Would you manage if you couldn’t replace everything that was lost? You decide the risk and the reward and it’s definitely a personal choice.

#3: Cut out luxuries!

Other tips made my eyes roll: make packed lunches instead of buying! Dye your own hair! Go without your weekly manicure! These tips must be helping someone, but I’ve been on a low income for a few years and I haven’t had a manicure in ten years. Lucky I’m not really into the girly stuff, right?

#4: Get real. Get rid of the plastic cards

For us, it’s mostly the little things that add up. Transfer a bit more money for x, another $10 for y. Our biggest success in dealing with this creeping encroachment on our budget has been to use cash only. If there’s no cash in the wallet, we can’t buy it.

Yet I haven’t read this anywhere. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking for something else; a quicker answer. I’ve seen lots of budgeting spreadsheets, snowball debt calculators and tips on making homemade gifts, but no one seems to focus on the big problem: the cards. Debit or credit, it’s an enticing trap of plastic fantastic-ness. After all, it doesn’t matter how many coupons you use to save on your groceries if you then see something gorgeous and unnecessary on sale and think, hmm, oh, go on then.

I’ll be honest: I once spent $20 we couldn’t afford in the dollar store on storage items I’d managed fine without. I knew the money was sitting on the debt card. This had a snowball effect, as two days later I had to transfer more money to top up the milk and bread. And so it goes on. It’s not like that was the only time, much to my shame!

What we needed was a mental shift. The mortgage isn’t a loan to ignore. In fact, if that were an overdraft I’d be busting a gut to pay it off. So that’s how I now look at it: it isn’t a mortgage – it’s an overdraft. A loan. A debt.

The plastic is NOT fantastic – it’s misleading and keeps you in denial. That $20 isn’t ‘sitting’ on the debit card; it’s for food top ups, gas top ups, and other actual necessities.

Cash is visible and tangible. If you can see that you only have $6 left, you’re not going to buy a $4 coffee when you’re on your way home – where you have coffee that has already been paid for.

But…be prepared to eat humble pie

We allocated a ‘spending’ amount of cash for the week and divided it between us. At the first weekend, I was all out and my partner had most of his left. It was so embarrassing, as it’s always me bleating on about keeping to a budget and spending less. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

So our journey goes on, with a mixture of successes and failures. We are making progress and the trick, I suppose, is to keep going and to try to stay on the wagon.

Which is something else the budget advisers rarely mention…the tedium of living on a budget!

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How to get dinner ready with grumpy children in tow

We’ve all been there. It’s dinner time, we’re trying to cook – or just looking in cupbards desperately, because somehow, after all these years, we occasionally still forget to think about dinner until dinnertime.
The children are tired and hungry. Sometimes there is crying. Sometimes there is raging, because no, they can’t have a biscuit right before dinner.

So what to do?
Obviously on our supermum days, it’s all there in the slow cooker just waiting to be served.
But on the other 99% of days….

Option 1: Drag some leftovers out of the freezer and reheat. Ta da!

Option 2: Eggs  and baked beans on toast. This is my personal favourite emergency dinner, as I adore beans on toast. Eggs contain lots of nutrients, beans are healthy too. Because of course you checked the sugar and sodium content while shopping, right??? 😉

Option 3: Brown rice and quinoa, boiled with frozen veg. Poached egg on top optional. I know
…it still amazes me that my children eat this, but they do and all it involves is boiling water, tipping things out of packets and waiting for 20 minutes. Excellent!

Option 4: Pasta and sauce. For my in-a-hurry sauce I open a can of chopped tomatoes, simmer for ten minutes with basil, or whatever herb is on standby, while the pasta cooks. And serve! Cheese on top for extra protein. Weirdly my children won’t eat vegetables with pasta (although there are often veggies blitzed into the sauce on supermum days), so I don’t bother.

Option 5: Canned soup with cheese on toast. This is a rare one, for two reasons:
1. My children refuse to eat my homemade soup and we have high drama over it. This offends me greatly. It’s great soup.
2. Canned soup is often really high in sodium. So that makes me feel guilty.

What are your quick and easy meals for nightmare dinner days?
Share ideas in the comments and share the love for chaotic households at 5pm!