Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Behaviour charts, for them, me, him and Them.

After trying a variety of behavioural techniques on daughter and son I have settled on the oldest and best: bribery. Here's some I tried earlier.
Naughty Step. Son notably fell asleep on it, daughter would do the naughty thing then take herself off to it, humming. Fail.
  • Sticker chart: son became so focused on gaining stickers he would do something nominally good, for a sticker, then have a paddy if refused, thus losing a sticker. Daughter merely sneaked downstairs and stole stickers for her own chart off of him, or other kids at playgroup. Fail.
  • Removal of favourite toys for a pre-determined period. Son would spend the whole of the pre-determined period weeping, daughter would merely say that something else was her favourite toy, ad infinitum, until there were no toys left. Fail.
  • Time out in room. Son would weep on the bed then fall asleep, waking and forget the naughtiness, or come downstairs immediately, saying sorry for no reason. Daughter  I once caught, through a gap in the door, making crying noises, to earn sympathy, whilst playing quite happily with her dollshouse. Fail.
  • 1,2,3. This is where you are meant to use behavioural management techniques and warn the child before carrying through your punishment. It works with Year 9's. All it did with mine was make them realise they had two attempts to get the naughty thing done before being punished. Fail.
So, onto bribery. I have introduced the concept of pocket money. The alarming amount of 100 new pence a week. Which is like a MILLION when you are 5 and 3. And to earn this goodly amount, they must do the following.
Put dirty washing in the laundry basket.
Tidy their rooms at the end of the day.
Bring plates and cups to the sink.
Put their bikes and scooters in the shed.
AND: the clincher: not get more than 20 "bad" ticks, or they forfeit the pocket money. On the plus side, if they get more than 20 "good" ticks, they can get an extra 10p per 10 ticks.  We have the charts up.
We also have this chart up. As son points out, Daddy isn't particularly good at putting his dirty washing in the basket either.So he drew the chart you see here.

Which leads me to reflect that it is all the more important that the kids get to learn these helpful lifeskills, so that they don't turn into the sort of adult who lives in a cess pit of their own making until a girlfriend/boyfriend/mum comes along to tidy it up for them.

Thus far the bribery is working.

I'm tempted to send a similar chart to my local Council. Only with bigger demands that earn their right to get voted in again. Like, keep a bus service running maybe, or don't give yourself a whacking great payrise while you're cutting the arse off everything else. Unfortunately, bribery works all too well with this lot, and my paltry vote and quid won't go far. If I had a huge plot of land to develop, maybe......

Friday, 24 February 2012

Ill children, ginger biscuits and a moonsand recipe.

I know Madam is ill when she wants cuddles and just lies on me for hours without muttering an insult or asking a why. Now, i'm not saying that I want her to be ill, but once the sweaty fever stage is over and the cuddle stage kicks in, there is a pleasure to be had in sitting on the sofa watching the Wizard Of Oz again (Glinda is a man, I swear, look at her hands).Now madam is 3 (nearly 4, that's very important) and confident enough to take over Greece, it's all "No Mummy, I can do it!" and "Leave me alone, I want to do it!", which is of course, to be lauded and expacted. But a little sad too.

So, once the Calpol has kicked in and things have calmed down enough that i'm no longer worried and she's no longer delirious, we can enjoy a pajama day on the sofa, watching Dorothy be far too big for that frock, really, and the Munchkins smoke enormous cigars. I'm sure they'd not get away with that now. We're too tired for anything else, since the wee hours were spent mopping brows and administering Calpol. Once son has been shifted, grudgingly, to school, wishing he were ill, we can flop out and collapse.  And later on, when she's actually allowed me to prise the lumps from her nose and wipe her face ( a bit), we can bake biscuists (ginger for the cold, naturally), and try out a recipe for homemade knock off moonsand.

First, the worlds easiest ginger biscuit recipe. This recipe makes a LOT of biscuits, about 40 by my sizing, but this is the right amount for this house, wherein they don;t survive long. They are fatter versions of shop biscuits, cracked and crunchy. If you like yours chewy in the middle, swap the golden syrup for black treacle and cook for less time. This recipe is also ultimately child friendly, there's a fair bit for them to do. they can crack and whisk eggs and do the stirring and ball rolling.

You will need (in the dry bowl, sifted)
350g Self-Raising Flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
1 tablespoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 
You will need, in the wet bowl, melted,
115g butter
85g golden syrup
200g sugar

Melt the wet ingredients. Add a beaten egg. Add to the dry bowl, mix until you get a very stiff plaibale dough. Roll into walnut sized balls.
Bake at Gas mark 3 for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool, eat by the handful, saying they are good for a cold.

And now onto mess making toys.Moonsand, as all parents who have thus far managed to avoid playdough know, is even more epxnsive than playdough and probably much more annoying to clean up. However, all messy toys are good toys, and what better to cheer up an ailing child than giving them things they can be messy with on purpose. This recipe is simple enough, and cheap enough to give the makers of Moonsand cause for concern. The texture is exactly the same, silky "sand" that sticks together and makes nifty castles. Madam spent a happy hour burying her Polly Pockets alive.

Take 8 parts flour to one part baby oil. Mix. That's it! The only bugbear is that you can't add food colouring as it is water, not oil based, and will turn the flour into glop. So a nice scented oil, like baby oil is the way to go, or a bright yellow oil, like rapeseed, will give you a pastel yellow shade. How easy is that?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

What price democracy? 1K, apparently.

I live in a town where the local council is above average in age, blueness, and wealth. There are a few LibDems, but I don't count them anymore, as they are now pale blue too. In short, our local town council is generally seen, by anyone under 45 as being non-representative of the majority of the town, as the town also includes lots of young families and "incomers", and the Council is a bastion of "old families" and friends of friends.  We can of course argue that it is the fault of the voters that this lot got in, but many people, like me, were unable to vote last election, as there were no candidates, other than Conservative, for their wards.

We are now in a strange situation, as one councillor has resigned. As it is a LOOOOONG time until the next general election, the current council incumbents are allowed to co-opt a councillor (ie: choose someone themselves) if there are not enough people writing to the Returning Officer to ask for an election. As you can imagine, this has not been widely publicised, aside from the notice pinned to the Council board, not even on Council webpages. Until, that is, an eagle eyed person spotted the notice and flagged it up on Shape Your Place. I have written to the Returning Officer asking for an election, and so have some other people I know. To my mind, this is an opportunity to vote for someone new and inject life into the Council. Maybe someone not-blue would stand, and people would vote for them. And without an election, a co-option would undoubtedly lead to a meeting in the Conservative Club and another identikit councillor being put in place. Now, i'm not so naive as to think that even with an election, this might not happen anyway, and in fact i'm pretty sure that even as I type the Conservative Supporter Association are grinding their gears up a notch. But it's about transparency, and democracy, and the right of people not to be told what is happening, but to choose. I'd have thought that was pretty straightforward.

But apparently, it's not. Apparently, asking for an election is undemocratic, since it will cost the Council money. The LibDems have come out and said they won't be asking for an election, thanks very much (sniffs, retreats to high horse), as they don't want to cost the Council money. By implication, anyone who does ask for an election is a terrible sprendthrift who is probably right this minute snatching bus services from the good people of Chatteris. Oh, no, hang on..... Plus there are some pretty directed remarks about how councillors need to to listen to people and not have ideas. I can't imagine who the remarks are directed at.

Thing is, I was vacillating about whether to stand if there was an election or not. But the reaction from the LibDems so far is nudging me toward doing it. I'm pretty good at playground politics. Yes, 1K is a lot. But on the promise of a secret ballot of a bunch of councillors who basically act as a hive mind most of the time, the prospect of co-option doesn't strike me as being fair or representative of the people of Mills Ward, most of whom, it is fair to say, are probably deeply uninterested in the issue, or haven't yet realised what is happening. I suppose what offeneds me most is that it's just assumed that the good people of Chatteris want this paternalistic attitude of "we know best", and won't object. And that to object is somehow wrong. It's like being told off by your mum. In a blue rinse.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

I'm in proportion.

Bear with me. Direct proportion: where ratios remain constant.  Inverse proportion: the relation between two quantities where one increases as the other decreases.
The proportions in this house are out of control. Some, the nice, clingable onto ones, are direct. They stay the same, they never vary. If something is hideously pink, I know daughter will want to wear it hideously often. If I lack, say 5 hours sleep, I  know the kids will misbehave for 5 hours. If the phone rings and I am on it for 5 minutes, 5 bad things will have been done by the time I get off it. 10 pence gets 10 pic n' mix, and only on the bottom row, kids, from that weird shop where the good people of Chatteris can buy elderly jelly sweets and all the model aircraft they could ever want.  The amount of Tories in the cabinet is directly related to the tax breaks rich people get. The march of time in 2 weekly periods is directly related to the appearance of 14 more grey hairs on my head. For every 5,000 chicken pellets in the bag in the shed, there will be one fat mouse. The amount of bubbles in the bath is directly proportional to the amount of time I can leave the kids in it.The amount of Tories in charge in Fenland is directly proportional to the amount of people who don't vote, and thus leave it up to about 40 old people to elect. The amount of newsprint in the local rag directed at Chatteris is directly proportional to the amount of interest the editor has in it, ie: none.

But many things are inversely proportional. If I make a huge effort and invest hours in cooking a meal, the kids will not eat it and spend 5 minutes decrying it. If, on the other hand, I spend 5 minutes bunging crap under a grill and serving it on a waffle, they'll eat it and ask for more. If they are, perchance, invited to the house of a charming, well behaved child, their behaviour will decrease in inverse proportion to the charm of the other. Hence today, charming child is pleasing and thanking and eating all the prepared lunch, while Inverse Kids, (their new anti-super-hero monikers) , are denying they EVER eat tuna sandwiches and weeping, while I berate them and drag them to a naughty step, which is not covered in snot like ours, and has clean carpet on it. "It's fluffy!" they grin, and don't mind sitting there in the least.  Similarly, as my need for a glass of wine and rest increases, the hereforto complete knackeredness of the children vanishes, and they are up, lark like, with interminable questions about weather systems and how bowels work, hours past bedtime. The amount of people saying  "So! 40!" in a jaunty "life begins" way, directly decreased my enjoyment of turning 40. The increase in damp weather decreases the hens laying me eggs, which is a bugger, as it increases me need for vast amounts of cake. The metabolism required to burn off vast amounts of cake decreases, as my age increases. The huge effort I put into the quilt, the dress, the toy, is vastly underappreciated, while the skirt I made out of a pillowcase in 10 minutes is loved. The attractive, expensive doll is left, the ugly boss eyed, no-legged doll is loved. Really, no legs. She's called Poppy. The increased amount of Tories in the government = less spending on the needy. The more I want the Winter to end, the longer it lasts. The longer a man has man flu, so the sympathy in the spouse wanes. The more I go around switching off lightswitches like my nan used to, the bigger my bills appear. The more time the kids are at school and playgroup, the less time I actually appear to have. The more school runs I do, the chunkier my legs get, and that's NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HAPPEN.

This post is directly proportional to the amount of 40 I am. And it's also a bit cross about this chart, here, which tells me variously that I am a size 10-14, 16 up top in some shops. The Guardian today post a chart that tells you the actual measurements of what size is what in each major lady shop. No wonder I get so mad in Top Shop. Not that I'm allowed in now. I think they laserbeam you if you're 40, a bit Logans' run-ish.