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Thursday, June 02, 2011
Grace has been hard work the last week or so – lots of tantrums, head
banging and naughty behaviour. She seems to be out of sorts – teething,
or growing pains, or just not feeling well. In amongst the bedlam, she
is making an extra point of coming and giving us long hugs. Sort of
like, sorry Mum / Dad, I am just not feeling the best.
Even though we are now in June, I still haven’t gotten used to the fact
Jack goes to school every week day. I am sort of expecting him to be
home more often. He stopped taking his basketball to school this week,
as he has been focused on playing with his Gogos. I asked him today was
he sure he wanted to leave the ball behind – just in case no one else
wanted to play Gogos. He just shrugged, and said he would just find
something else to do, or play Gogos by himself. He just doesn’t seem
that concerned or fussed about school. He must play with 20 different
kids, we have had nothing but positive feedback from the teachers about
his in class efforts, he is obviously learning lots and developing, and
he goes off and comes home without complaint.
We need to take lessons from him.
Posted by Doug at 10:13 AM
Friday, June 10, 2011
The end of duck season - washing of the decoys
Posted by Doug at 6:37 PM
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Today while chilling in her cot, Grace pulled apart the stitching on one
of her toy bears. Inside, along with stuffing, she found a packet of
tiny plastic beads. (Obviously to give the bear some rigidness and a
certain noise when hugged.) She then opened the packet and spread the
beads all around her cot. We were horrified that a children's toy would
have something in it so clearly not suitable for kids. We asked some
leading questions, and were told by Grace that the beads tasted yucky.
I think it is fair to say that for many years Australia’s manufacturing
industry has been in decline, replaced by the importation of cheap mass
produced items from overseas. I just keep seeing examples of where those
items are not manufactured with the care and consideration for their end
consumers that you might have expected from a local factory.
I finished my day by reading this article:
Article on Jetstar Cabin Crew Salaries
Jetstar pays its Australian cabin crew up to $50,000 plus allowances. If
a flight terminates at an international destination (even if it has
several stops within Australia) they can use Thai or Singapore cabin
crew. The Thai crew are only paid $5,160 a year (plus allowances), the
Singapore based crew $20,000 a year plus allowances. Those sorts of
differences just astound me.
I understand the economics of globalisation, and certainly have
benefited from the wider range of cheaper products available to me. I
do wonder however what sort of world it will have morphed into by the
time Jack and Grace are trying to enter the work force. What sort of
jobs will they be able to find? Will they have the same sort of
opportunities that Al and I have to earn a good living?
Posted by Doug at 11:45 PM
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Grace - home sick
Posted by Doug at 6:44 PM
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Jack and his cousin Jackson - at Cousin Xander's 1st birthday party
Posted by Doug at 6:56 PM
Friday, June 17, 2011
I remember commenting a while ago on a bad night where Grace threw an
extended and ferocious tantrum that Al and I struggled to deal with. At
the time I remarked that I hoped that sort of behaviour wasn’t a sign of
things to come.
Unfortunately the last few weeks Grace has repeated that behaviour
multiple times, and ramped it up even further. Frankly she had our
individual measure for a couple of weeks, with both of us having a
string of bad parenting moments that left us flustered, frustrated and
disappointed in ourselves.
For me I was seeing red when Grace was trying to hit me, or was kicking
the walls so hard that she could damage them. For Al it was Grace’s
disgusting habit of constantly spitting to show she wasn’t happy. I
ended up bellowing into Graces face a couple times – a failing that
elicited a short look of fear in Grace’s eyes, followed moments later by
a ramped up fury thrown right back at you.
We know that in the simplest of terms Grace is both testing her
boundaries and looking for attention. Al and I are usually pretty good
at not backing down or giving in, so in that regard Grace is coming up
against a brick wall and not pushing the boundaries past where we want
them. She was however winning in the second respect – if she wasn’t
getting positive attention in short order, she was ensuring she was
getting lots of negative attention instead.
We don’t have much of an arsenal to combat the behaviour at the moment.
There is basically naughty corner, her cot, or taking her dummy away
from her. (Us yelling and screaming isn’t one of our official
responses.) The problem is you need to supervise the naughty corner and
cot else she just leaves – so she is able push your buttons by swinging
punches at you, screaming blue murder, spitting at you, on the floor, on
the walls, on herself, or head butting and kicking the hell out of
Al reviewed her various parenting books for ideas and we had a long
debrief session (which have been fairly rare for Grace.) We worked out
some strategies to reduce the triggers for the tantrums. A key one was
to identify that one of the common times Grace threw tantrums was when
Al was trying to prepare dinner. At the same time Jack would normally
be chilling out watching his shows on the TV, and would cop some of
Grace’s anger. To his annoyance we now move him upstairs to watch TV,
or to play on Al’s computer before meal time. Without Jack there, and
with something on TV more to her interest, Grace is less disruptive. We
also reinforced that if things are difficult, Al should just turn off
the stove and come back to the meal later.
We also saw an improvement by ignoring Grace’s behaviour such as
spitting. When she is in the naughty corner, we don’t’ look at her or
talk to her, we just turn out head. This has helped cut back the
intensity of some of her tantrums, and the approach puts us under less
stress. She still gets punished for the worst of her behaviour, but
going into the naughty corner means she still does not get that full and
direct attention she is looking for.
Even being a half decent parent takes a lot of work.
Posted by Doug at 1:33 PM
Monday, June 20, 2011
One of Grace's favourite sayings at the moment is "Gracie's turn". It is
a concept that she hasn't quite grasped fully though, since it seems to
always be her turn, and never anyone elses.
Two of Grace's favourite past times at the moment are looking at photos
of the family on mum's computer (yelling out the names of people she
recognises), and riding her toy car up and down the hallway following
First thing in the morning Grace will often greet you and ask if you had
a good sleep. When you enter or leave the room she will commonly yell a
greeting, and add "see you soon" if you are departing. If I go upstairs
she will often say "Bye Dad, have a good shower." Any time you sneeze or
cough she will yell out "bless you". At childcare she loudly calls out
"Hello Lady" or "Bye Lady" to the carers. She normally expects a
response, and will repeat whatever she is saying over and over again
until she gets it. We sometimes have to prompt Jack to tear his eyes
away from the TV to respond to her to give us some quiet.
We assume the ladies in the room at childcare call her Gracie - as that
is what she generally refers to herself as. (We don't.)
While she remains somewhat hard work at the moment, she has one trait
Jack has never really shown. On occasion - such as tonight, she will
start to throw a tantrum and either be reasoned out of it, or pulls
herself up quickly, and then says "Sorry, sorry, sorry Dad", as apparent
acknowledgment that the tantrum wasn't justified.
Posted by Doug at 11:00 PM
Jack got an award in front of his school assembly today - for his "keen
interest in class reading activities". He went up and received it
without apparent concern, and was very pleased with himself. So were we.
Posted by Doug at 11:09 PM
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Grace has recently started a habit I consider somewhat worse than her
spitting. For some unknown reason (I suspect coaching from her Mum)
Grace has started to demand on occasion that I change her nappy instead
of her Mum.
Posted by Doug at 9:20 AM
Monday, June 27, 2011
Jack got his first school report last week. He rated the expected
standard in Physical Education and Interpersonal development, and above
the expected standard in Arts, English and Mathematics. Even more
pleasing was that his effort and class behaviour were both rated as
excellent. We didn’t make a great deal of the report since we didn’t
want it to be something he was concerned about at this age, but we were
both pleased with how he went.
While waiting outside Jack’s class today for pick up, I overheard two
mothers discussing their own children’s reports. It was apparent that
they were scoping each other out to see if their reports were normal or
not. They both mentioned their children were reading at around level 4
or 5 (Jack is at 18-20), and had neutral or lack luster comments in the
report to indicate they were doing ok, applied themselves sometimes, and
needed to work on various areas.
I wasn’t asked or involved in the conversation – while individuals can
be friendly, as a group the main mother fraternity camped outside Jack’s
classroom is generally unfriendly towards any male interlopers. The
positive aspect on this however was that it saved me from having to give
guarded and non-committal responses to any questions about Jack’s
If he is anything like either of his parents, we are likely to continue
to get good reports for Jack through his school life. It certainly
reduces at least one area of stress for us as parents.
Posted by Doug at 5:54 PM
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I had an interview with Jack’s teacher this afternoon. While we had no
issues with the report, Al wanted just to check up on how he was going
socially in class, and to ask after how his spelling was going.
The teacher is quite taken with Jack, and always very positive about
him. It sounds like he is getting more robust socially, and has never
been seen by the teachers as being alone or sad in the playground (which
they actively look for). While they don’t do spelling tests in Prep, now
that she was aware Jack had gone through all his spelling words she
would give him a test. Sorry Jack.
In amongst her praises for Jack she said a number of things worth
noting. The first was that Jack is unusually empathetic for his age, and
unlike most 5 year olds, is aware of the feelings and emotions of the
kids around him. The second was that while Jack was very bright and in
the very top group of his year level, he was not aware of it. Some of
the kids at his level know they are bright and act accordingly, but Jack
was just enthusiastic about learning and understanding things.
She then remarked on the fact Jack had a younger sister, and remarked
“…as bright as Jack? Probably not. She is an intelligent little girl,
but hasn’t shown the same level of interest in learning as Jack did at
the same age. She is however far more resilient than Jack was.”
“Oh well, never mind. I’m sure she is bright, but it is rare to have two
kids as bright as Jack in the one family.”
Now I wasn’t sure if I should have noted the above. First, what if Grace
read this later in life and responded poorly to the fact we though Jack
was probably more intelligent. I can respond by saying I think Grace is
actually the smarter of the two, so they even out. (Not all intelligent
people are smart.) Second, what if this was being seen as overly proud
parents or worse – bragging? I want Jack to know what his first school
teacher thought of him, and where he did well (and no so well) at
school. I don’t want to censor that information just because of
perceptions. Anyway – we can’t claim Jack’s success as our own. We have
certainly helped him develop into a polite and friendly kid, and he is
given plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. It has never been
forced on him however – it has been his own volition to run with and
expand on those educational opportunities. He got such great feedback
not because we are his parents, but because of his own hard work and
approach to learning.
While I suspect Jack will probably always do well at school, I do not
plan to measure his success by his grades. Someone who cruises through
school getting A’s with minimal effort rates lower to me than someone
who gets D’s, but always works at his very best of ability to get them.
So what I am most proud of with this report is the fact it showed Jack
always tried his hardest over the first two terms of Prep.
Posted by Doug at 10:52 PM
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
When Jack threw a tantrum he would often hit his head against the floor
or wall. To do so he would carefully brace himself with his hands and
then – generally, fairly lightly tap his head. Grace on the other hand
literally launches herself into the floor or wall with scary force, and
then will often repeat it several times in quick succession, getting
harder each time. As I have remarked before, during one tantrum she
threw herself head first into the side of her cot and literally stunned
herself. Tonight as I watched her throw her head backwards into the
wall because she wasn’t getting her way, I had the depressing thought
she could give herself a subdural hematoma and end up dead. She can’t
be doing her brain or neck much good.
Posted by Doug at 5:05 PM
Once again time has gotten away from me between
posts. When I last wrote back in March we were still worrying a lot
about how Jack was settling into school. As we now approach the end of
the second term, Jack has settled in really well. He has around a dozen
kids he plays with at various times and has nominated 10 kids from
school to invite to his party (along with 9 friends from outside school
from his previous childcare and family friends). Doing Auskick and
soccer have helped him with socialising with a number of other prep kids
outside of the class which has led to some of them playing together on
the playground. The groupings for numeracy and literacy have helped
further bonds to be created with other kids. He also has a weekly play
session with William (son of a friend of ours from Uni who is in Grade
1) and they seemed to have bonded well and play together regularly at
school. He has had a couple of other play dates which has further
Up until the past month Jack took his basketball
to school most days and this also gave him something to do when by
himself, and something to draw other kids to play with him.
Unfortunately it also led to one kid in particular trying to get it off
him regularly which led to a few upsets. Overall it gave him a sense of
security and helped him settle in. Some older kids also noticed when he
was having trouble with other child taking his ball and they have looked
out for him and helped him which is a lovely sign of the overall
attitude at the school. In the past month while the weather has been too
cold or wet for basketball, Jack has started collecting little toys
called 'go gos' and taking some in his pocket each day. He plays these
with some of the other kids and has also done some trading with
duplicates. He has also enjoyed drawing pretend maps and engaging in
pretend play (by himself or with others) in following the map around the
playground. He also spends time playing in the sandpit, playground and
courtyard so has found plenty of places and ways to entertain himself
during the breaks at school.
We don't get a lot of feedback from Jack about his
day, but occasionally he will come out with details of specific points
of interest. We have had regular positive feedback from his teacher
including through his first report and parent/teacher interview. I have
also enjoyed helping out in his numeracy class (and made it along to a
couple of literacy and one PMP sessions also). It gives good insight
into how Jack is reacting in the classroom, what he is learning and a
chance to observe him with his peers. One thing I had noticed is his
perfectionist nature. He is trying to do everything perfectly so is slow
and careful, and can then get stressed if he does not finish his work on
time. His most recent numeracy and literature teacher has picked up on
this issue with him (noting that she is a perfectionist herself so
understands) and is encouraging him to literally cut corners. We have
been very happy with the school overall, and his teachers. His prep
teacher has been part-time in past few months as she has been job
sharing the assistant principal role but thankfully should be fully back
in his room next term. However all this changing of teachers does not
seem to have phased Jack and we believe it has helped build his
resilience by not being reliant on one particular teacher.
My plans for last school holidays were quickly
interrupted when Grace managed to inadvertently scratch me on the eye
(directly over the pupil). It was extremely painful but thankfully with
medication from the doctor and advice from the specialist it quickly
repaired itself with no lasting damage. It did leave me wearing an eye
patch for a few days and unable to drive and having to call on Grandma Q
to help out for the start of the school holidays putting aside our plans
for the first week. However it did give us some nice quiet time at home.
This term Jack has enjoyed his first school
excursion (to Chesterfield Farm), grandparent’s day, and multi age day
(where they mix kids from all different age groups into combined classes
for the day doing fun activities). Jack and I also enjoyed attending the
family disco. Jack has been enthused about taking lots of 5c pieces
along (for the school's fundraiser for the term) and particularly
excited to have his class win a couple weeks so far (where all kids in
the class then receive a small prize). All the other kids have been
excited to win also and have credited Jack for it. Jack has also had fun
attending his cousin Xander's first birthday party at a playcentre in
Ballarat (particularly playing with cousin Jackson). Both Jack and Grace
also had fun at Kiara's party (Grace enjoyed doing bike laps with Jack).
Doug and I enjoyed our first night away since
having kids (so over 6 years now). We stayed at a B&B in Yarra Glenn and
enjoyed a nice slow cooked meal and a chance for some quiet R&R. I also
had a reiki session which was an interesting experience.
Grace at 27.5 months:
. Enjoying doing lots of drawings, and starting to
tell us what she is drawing (even though it is still not quite yet
discernible to us). Likes us to sit and draw specific things for her
also (eg moon, stars, sun, sky, bed).
. Has started enjoying doing stickers
. Is chewing holes in her dummies, so will need to
soon wean her off the dummies (we are making her put it in bin each time
she chews a hole in one)
. Loves riding up and down the house on her car or
bike while Jack scoots along (can be overly insistent on Jack
participating and throws tantrums when Jack has had enough and doesn't
want to continue)
. She likes to use the toilet and potty – although
initiates it after she has wet her nappy, not before.
. Had croup, so was coughing a lot overnight for a
week. This meant I gave her more assistance with settling and now she is
demanding it every night and is getting upset as I try to get her back
to her normal routine of her self-settling at night.
. She is getting better at dressing and undressing
herself. Still gets frustrated if I help her more than she wants me to.
. Her favourite phrase is 'Gracie's turn'
. Is currently enthusiastic about being asked to
point out numbers and letters. She knows her numbers to 10 quite well
(and can count to 12) and so far knows 'm for mum', 'd for dad', 'g for
grace', 'j for Jack', 'p for pop', as well as o, w, and x
. Has developed the frustrating habit of spitting
constantly. I was taking her to the naughty corner for it (where she
would continue to spit on the floor and walls and to her cot with
continued spitting;) and was finding the behaviour escalating and time
consuming (particularly as she would do it looking for negative
attention when she wasn't getting positive attention). So I have changed
tack and now trying to ignore the behaviour and after a few minutes she
tends to stop herself.
. Her tantrum levels have escalated in the past
couple months (the terrible 2s have hit!)
. She is playing more and talking and interacting
more with Jack over time which is lovely to observe. On the flip side
she can still hit him regularly when she isn't happy with him (we are
trying to encourage her to 'use her words' and say no if Jack does
something she doesn't want him to be doing). Poor Jack does at times cop
it for doing nothing wrong (such as just sitting on the couch when she
decides she doesn't want him there).
Jack at almost 6 years
. Well settled into his school routine
. Has particularly enjoyed soccer this term (I
think partly due to having his friend William playing also)
. Still loves doing lots of drawings and craft
work. He has also enjoyed writing stories with mum at home (with both of
us taking turns to write and illustrate pages).
. Loves playing PS2 games (although has quickly
become obsessive about wanting to play it each day - he is only allowed
to play it when Grace is not around which limits how many times and how
long he can play each session)
. He is mostly a very good boy. The main thing he
gets in trouble for is excessive crying over minor incidents
. Is constantly reading things on signs and
thinking about how to spell words
Posted by Al at 5:52 PM
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Jack has been more fragile and emotional than normal the last couple
weeks. I had assumed it related to him being tired towards the end of
the school term. I noticed this morning Al giving Jack one of his
vitamin tablets. I asked how long she had been doing that for – and she
said since his last cold a couple of weeks ago.
I have mentioned this before - but we have identified that if Jack is
taking his vitamin supplements for more than a couple of days that his
personality changes for the worst. He becomes more highly strung and
less resilent - traits that wouldn't help him at school! Al will stop
giving them to him again, so hopefully he'll calm down over the next
couple of days.
Jack was on these types of supplements constantly for the first few
years of life. We will never know, but I wonder at how things might have
been different if he wasn't. Based on our current experiences, Jack
would probably have been less emotional - the aspect of his personality
that we struggled with at times. Against that, did they help wire his
brain the way it is now in regards learning and memory?
Grace has generally not been on these suppliments except maybe for a
boost when she is unwell. We identified their impact on Jack before she
was of the age to take them daily.
Posted by Doug at 11:20 AM