Friday, August 22, 2008

My Daughter's Preschool Teacher is Psychic

A photocopied sheet Miss E took home from Preschool today was one of the most reassuring, and yet scary pieces of parenting targeted information I've read in a long time!

That Miss E's teacher sent this home this week in particular is such a coincidence, and one for which I'm very grateful.

For fear of contravening any copyright laws, I can't reproduce the text here, however much I wish I could because I know there are readers who would benefit from it. The only reference to a publisher I can find is 'Totline Fun Just for Threes' - you may turn something up via Google if you're interested in exploring more.

Basically, the information outlines typical three-and-a-half-year-old behaviour and highlighted that this is often a repeat of what parents see in the 'Terrible Two' stage.


That's exactly what we've experienced here, and has been the major source of my frustration because I kept saying to myself - 'we've been through this -we've made progress - why is it happening again?!'

[Such a misnomer anyway. 'Terrible Twos'. In this house it started WAY before two, and we're still waiting for it to end!]

So this information is reassuring because it tells me that the challenges we have felt with Miss E of late are not particular to her, or to us, they're typical. It's not that I never expected to deal with challenging behaviour once we'd got a grip on the tantrums and moved away from them, I just never expected that it was normal for the full blown, scream your head off, throw yourself down wherever you may be, hissy fit, to come back.

This information sheet has highlighted a couple of other behaviours that Miss E has that we've noticed, such as nail biting, and stuttering, or really just taking a long time to say what she has to say because she's starting the same sentence multiple times. While these didn't concern us too much, it's reassuring all the same to understand that these are not unusual for this age.

The sheet also gives advice on how to help your child in this phase, and it focuses on the parents' attitude rather than on techniques specifically - but parental attitude could probably be the answer to a whole heap of child rearing challenges I suspect.

Reading this piece also gave me affirmation again that we haven't caused or contributed to these challenges through ineffective parenting. Aside from comments and emails from readers, and one local friend - I have to tell you not one other parent I know has admitted to me that they went through the same thing. Anytime I'd talk about how frustrating things can be here, I'd get sympathetic looks, and 'gosh, I don't know what to tell you, we never had to deal with that', or I'd only hear reports of how fantastic their kids were, never any of the negative stuff. Now I wonder, are their kids really as angelic as they lead me to believe? Or is it they chose not to talk about the more challenging aspects in parenting their preschooler for fear that I would then learn that they aren't the perfect parents they project themselves to be? Maybe they just chose to highlight their kids' good aspects because that's the more positive thing to do? The latter is something I vow to do myself, and it is much easier to commit to this in the context of understanding that we're doing okay on the parenting front and that we have a perfectly normal three year old. (No doubt you'd all be glad not to read about me bitching about having a hard time managing my kids, right?)

I'm scared though, because nowhere on the sheet does it say when it will end! You know, you hear a lot of 'this too shall pass' in relation to this kind of stuff, but that doesn't cut it when you want to know when? Will it end when she's four? (by which time her brother will be hitting two, Lord help me!), will it end when she's four and half, or will I have a whole new set of issues then? - (don't answer that!!)

I know, I know, I'm hard to please and always looking for the impossible answers. What can I say? I'm goal oriented - I can work better when I know there's a definite end in sight and I develop my coping strategies accordingly. Funny how kids don't make it easy to have things so clean cut, huh?

Back to the Psychic Preschool Teacher - She's great!

I have blogged before about my concerns with Miss E's previous Preschool experience and was anxious that she'd have a better year this year. With no disrespect to her previous teacher, I can say that I am very impressed with Miss E's new teacher, who is also new to the school this year. She is very organized and focused and her classroom is so well set up and geared towards three year olds having fun. I think this bodes well for the year ahead and I couldn't be happier.

Between the responses I got to my recent posts, and the information sheet that came home today, I have to tell you I'm breathing a big old sigh of relief here, and am a WHOLE lot less anxious about how Miss E will behave. If she misbehaves? I won't sweat it - I will learn all I can about handling it, and about helping her handle things - but I won't be embarrassed or harassed about it anymore. I am much more relaxed about the whole thing, and without the aid of alcohol or pills (okay, I might have lied about the alcohol.)

This first week back at Preschool has also brought much calmer days in our household. Back to a structured routine and a bit of a break for all of us means a much better mood all around. Again, I trust that this is a sign that all will go well for the year ahead.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I can be a Good Mother Without Reality TV

Blooming Marvelous Reality TV Star?

No thanks!

Nothing brings into sharper focus your perspective on your life as a sometimes frazzled Stay at Home Mother, than an invitation to apply to appear on a Reality TV show.

'Supernanny' to be precise.

Yep - that's what I got for my whiney post on Monday - an email from the casting producer of the ABC Show Supernanny that basically said 'You don't like Supernanny's book? Well, then come on our show'.

Yeah right!

In asking if Supernanny offered refunds, I was kidding. I have had success with Supernanny techniques. They're simple, and they work. We're just having a bumpy patch right now and I was facetiously looking for someone to blame, you know, because that's a better option than having to admit that it might be my fault!

Despite my apparent frustrations in parenting a spirited child, I know we do a lot of things right. Lately my mommy ego took a bit of a bashing, and I was reaching out for tips, advice, and solidarity and I got all three. Thanks to all of you who responded in comments, and via email. It is so reassuring to know I'm not the only basket case challenged parent out there!

Vanity had me bashing on my keyboard demanding to know how I could get this right, and pride drove me to seek the magic answer that would suddenly turn me into a perfect mom.

Reflecting about this whole issue, and reading your responses two things are crystal clear:

  1. There is no magic wand that I can wave, and make things better in an instant (damn!)

  2. I don't have to be a perfect mom.

I'm willing to bet that the Supernanny producer didn't read beyond the first paragraph of my last post, nor did he read any of the other posts in my blog. But, I have to admit, after initially laughing about receiving the email, I did feel a little defensive.

We are not a train wreck family - our kids are by no means out of control. They are completely normal. Miss E in particular is testing boundaries lately, in other words, she's doing her job and she does it well.

What she also does well however, are things I have blogged about before, and feel the need to do so again in the interests of balance, is show us love unfaltering. She makes us laugh, makes us proud, and makes us unbelievably happy that she's in our lives.

Miss E is most definitely a feisty child. She has been this way since the instant she was born, announcing her arrival with lusty cries, letting us know she was not happy to be so unceremoniously evicted from her cosy cocoon. Who could blame her? (I on the other hand was mighty relieved ha ha!)

In her infancy and toddlerhood, Miss E commanded attention from all around her. She is a thoroughly engaging child who regularly amazes all who meet her with her articulate conversation and the depth of her feelings. She has always been extremely affectionate, and repeatedly tells me 'You are the best Mommy in the whole wide world' and 'Mommy, I love you all the way to the moon'.

As a big preschooler, Miss E is now exercising her independence, which is thrilling and sad all at the same time, but it's wonderful to see. She is teaching her baby brother so much, is so playful with him and is undoubtedly his protector. She has come a long way since for the first months of his life, she was the one he needed protection from!

Miss E is creative and a very fast learner - she can pick up concepts in a heartbeat and has a memory for facts and conversations that blows me away. This of course means that we can't pull the wool over her eyes on any matter. She keeps us on our toes.

This is Miss E's first day back at preschool. I am excited for her that she has a wonderful new teacher. That she will make new friends, and catch up with some old ones. I am happy that she's in a loving and supportive environment where her little sponge like mind is going to learn even more. Despite all of this, and even though we've had our challenges lately and will be glad of the break some days, today, I miss her.

Being a stay at home mom in general, and a former career woman specifically, I think I have made the mistake of setting the expectation that I need to get everything right. I excelled in my job and my achievements there were a direct reflection of my skill. It's hard then for me not to take the challenges that we're not doing well with here, as a reflection on my skill as a mother.

I know now that this is wrong. Trying to get everything right is going to cause more problems than it solves, and so my motto from this day forward is in the words of Jill Churchill:

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Does Supernanny do Refunds?

Does Supernanny, or the authors of my other go to parenting book "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" offer any kind of satisfaction or your money back guarantee?

I think I'm due one.

We're struggling here, big time. I should rephrase that, since I am at home with the kids all day, it's me, ME.

I'm struggling, big time.

I need help - otherwise in years to come Miss E is going to stumble across this blog, and if between now and then I haven't broken her spirit with ineffective parenting, reading about the trials I felt in her young years just might.

Almost four years into this parenting gig - and I feel like I have no more of a clue now than I did when Miss E was an infant. Is this the norm? Is this what parenting feels like always, as each new phase arrives, and each new challenge faced? Or, do we ever get to say 'yeah, I think I know what I'm doing?' Even for a short time?

Maybe I have too high expectations of myself, or of Miss E? A good friend called me the other day after reading an email I'd sent her whining about not being able to manage my child and said 'don't be so stinking hard on yourself'. She knows Miss E well, and has seen many a full blown strop from her. She assures me that other kids do it, including hers.

The thing is - I rarely, if ever, see a child Miss E's age act out in public as much as she has done lately.

My feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and in truth, frustration of the tear your hair out variety, comes from the fact that we had conquered the tantrums and were successfully dealing with behaviour through lovingly, and consistently applied discipline. I told everyone who would listen, 'All Hail Supernanny', seriously!

So why then, now, when we apply the same techniques, consistently, the only consistent result is utter rebellion?

In "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" the authors recommend a series of steps to bring about better behaviour (in five weeks they say, ha ha ha ha ha ha!) and they focus on giving your child undivided attention for specific periods. To engage in play with them and let them direct the play - allowing them to instruct you in their imaginary sessions.

I get the premise behind this, but I hold my hands up and admit - that I am not good at it. I tend to give half hearted attention - while I'm doing something else - it's bad, I know it is, and I've been doing better in this regard. That's not to say I think I'm a complete failure as a mom, I don't. And it's not that I never give my kids undivided attention - of course I do - but I do have my fair share of times when I'm playing Candyland and trying to take in an episode of Divine Design at the same time.

In an attempt to have time with just her and I, lately Miss E and I have baked, we've coloured, painted, played outside together in the kiddie pool, in our neighbour's pool, and on the swingset. And, today we made homemade playdough. However, rather than giving Miss E a boost and then buying myself time where she will play independently, all these activities seem to do is create the expectation that I will be there, at her side, in her face, every waking minute. With another child, a house to keep up with and ,a blogging addiction,this isn't realistic.

Miss E was spoiled with lots of attention for five weeks at home in Ireland, and I accepted that there would be an unsettled period when we got back. It's been seven weeks since we returned to Florida - and all the challenges we faced and overcame before, are right back with us. The not listening, the tantrums when she doesn't get her own way, the demands for things NOW, from snacks, ice cream (over and over and over again!), to 'prizes' from every shop we go into. We have enforced all the tried and trusted Supernanny rules, and we've tried reasoning with her - to no avail. We're not making progress here, at all.

To use that all American phrase, 'Miss E! Get with the program already!'

I am now at the point where I am on edge any time we have to be in a situation where other kids and their parents are. Now that school is back this week - you can imagine how that goes for my stress levels. And there I go feeding into the whole situation - I know this, yet I feel powerless to change it because I feel like I don't have the tools to help me. I seriously need someone to tell me what to do (or what not to do). I feel like managing this effectively should be instinctive, and so I feel like my instincts are failing me.

I talked to my family and a friend last week about feeling guilty that I sometimes talk down about Miss E. In my efforts to forewarn people about my child's feisty personality I fear I am giving a completely negative impression of her. I did this at parent's orientation for preschool last week. I told the teacher that Miss E is 'stubborn and has a tendency to be bossy'. I told the other moms that she was a 'firey redhead'. What I didn't tell anyone was that she is beautiful, articulate, smart, funny, happy, compassionate, and very, very loving. And so, that mommy guilt that I'm so familiar with, plagues me once more.

This is why Jennifer's post at Playgroups are no Place for Children struck such a chord with me this morning. That, and the fact that the meltdown her son had, is one we managed to avoid at Miss E's preschool orientation this morning but only because by this stage, I can sense it coming, and we said our 'goodbyes' before the fuse was lit, so to speak.

I didn't entirely escape the terror of my almost four year old's tyranny however, she unleashed it in Target on the way home, throwing herself down on the floor for good measure, twice. I don't know how I did it, but I did not raise my voice and I remained completely calm as I steered her (firmly) out of the store. Sweat may have been involved however, along with a voice a few octaves and decibels higher as I reigned her in after she dashed out from behind our car into the parking lot. Thankfully there was no traffic coming, but neither Miss E nor I knew that. Another source of frustration, because no matter how many times we've had the conversation about roads, driveways, parking lots and DANGEROUS cars, it's not even close to sinking in.

I realise this is the second post that I've made a short period of time about my frustrations in parenting Miss E. I know that part of this stems from my innate dislike for doing anything that I'm not good at. I don't feel like I'm good at being a good parent, and I hate that! My standard routine when I don't know how to do something is read up about it, educate myself, find out what's worked for others and go from there.

So, once again I'm asking - what works for you? I know I have more experienced readers with older kids who've survived the preschool stage. Tell me where to go to find help! Tell me I don't just have to resign myself to 'that's just the way it is' - there has to be a way to make this better.

We are now getting the outer rain bands of Tropical Storm Fay - she may strenghten to a hurricane and is forecast to go right over our area. Schools are closed tomorrow and Wednesday. For those of you inexperienced in storms like this - this means we ain't goin' nowhere for the next few days. We'll be stuck inside - so hopefully this makes you appreciate that I need your help and answers, STAT!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dear Fay

I don't know what kind of funny business you have planned for Florida for next week, but I'm writing to tell you to just put it out of your mind, right now!

This is a big week coming up for many mothers in this lovely state. It is the week that we send our little darlings off to school so we can get some peace so they can receive wonderful educational enrichment.

We have spent the last weeks reading newsletters, buying school supplies, and generally psyching our kids up for this overwhelmingly exciting event in the hopes that the transition back to school will be a smooth one - don't you dare cause a mandatory closing of all schools in the area!

Furthermore, only today at Casa Blooming, we've been congratulating ourselves on our ability to stay way within budget this month - no small task given the current economic climate (and the fact that this is a five week month). We've enjoyed the slightly lower gas prices recently, but don't you MAKE me bust this budget by having the unplanned expense of having to fill up our two vehicles as part of the routine run on gas that comes with storm preps. Don't you dare have me running around hedging my bets while you fickle meteorological systems figure out if you're going to take aim at us or not!

You need to understand that part of our budgetary success in this latter part of the month has been achieved through using up small stockpiles in the pantry. I don't plan on replenishing these items until the end of this month. You shimmying up the West Coast of Florida, with all your fancy lightning fireworks, and breezy buddies, would be inconvenient to say the least.

Truth be told - I dread the thought of the grocery store at the best of times, I'm not sure I can handle it out there - me and all the rest of the last minute merchants scurrying to get supplies in and loading my cart up with a billion cartons of water. So please, bear my brittle mental state in mind when weighing up your route options, pretty please? Surely it wouldn't make much difference to you to take a sharp right turn now that you're finished with Hispaniola? Why don't you just head off out into the Atlantic and fizzle out into the blue beyond?

If you absolutely insist on paying us a visit, please obey our rules. Play nice, don't make too much of a mess, and don't bring any uninvited guests, oh say, like power cuts or flooding, okay?

Yours ever hopefully,

Blooming Marvelous.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Heartache and Healing

This week marks a sombre anniversary for Northern Ireland, my home.

Many readers will know and understand that Northern Ireland has a deeply troubled past. Troubles borne of sectarian hatred, distrust, unease, and intolerance. The province has endured over three decades of bombing and shooting campaigns. Physical destruction, economic decline and human loss.

Some of you will not understand, because more than thirty years of mindless violence, countless deaths of, for the most part, innocent people, is absolutely incomprehensible.

I have lived there for most of my life, and have yet to understand any of it completely.

At the risk of producing a history lesson, let me briefly explain that Northern Ireland is geographically part of the island of Ireland, but is politically part of the United Kingdom. In its simplest form, the root of the conflict played out in Northern Ireland stems from the fact that certain, extreme, factions staunchly protect their British identity (Loyalists), and other equally extreme groups work by whatever means they consider necessary to bring about a United Ireland (Republicans), free from British involvement. Each side claims their version of history as the reason their position should prevail.

I use the present tense because, although peace has been achieved to a large extent in Northern Ireland right now, it is uneasy and delicate at times.

A mistake often made by outsiders is to equate Republicanism with Catholics, and Loyalism with Protestants. To do so is naive and ignores the position of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, more moderate in their views and whose priority above all others is peace and an end to violence and suffering.

The political environment in Northern Ireland is extremely polarized, and the vocal minorities on both sides historically impeded progressive compromise attempted at many junctures by more moderate politicians.

In 1994 a ceasefire was called by the Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) – followed not long thereafter by a ceasefire proclaimed by Loyalist paramilitary groups. Hope abounded and a collective sigh of relief was released by those of us in the North as we watched political talks actually produce results, accompanied by the promise of a departure from the bomb and the bullet, a brighter future ahead. This political process attempted to put into action the will of the moderate majority in Northern Ireland, those of us who wanted to co-exist with our neighbours – whatever their creed, or political affiliation, in peace. To live normal lives, without fear.

The peace process gained impetus through hard work and negotiations between local politicians, assisted in no small part by the Irish and British governments, and by George Mitchell, sent to mediate the negotiations by President Bill Clinton. There was a palpable excitement among the ordinary people of Northern Ireland that we would emerge from the dark days of violence, and we would do it soon. President and Mrs. Clinton’s visit to Northern Ireland in November 1995 was further proof that we were leaving the sorry past behind, and that Northern Ireland was somewhere worthy of international focus.

In the background however, dissidents, unhappy with what they saw as the ‘sellout’ by Republican politicians plotted and attempted further attacks. Calling themselves ‘The Real IRA’ and ‘The Continuity IRA’, they pushed to carry on the paramilitary bombing campaigns in their pursuit of a United Ireland. They bombed town centres, injuring many and damaging property and local economies. Security forces were successful in thwarting some attacks.

I, like many others, did not consider the Real IRA to be a credible threat. I believed that the Provisional IRA, who by this time were supporting the political process, would keep them in check and that the security forces would have the intelligence and resources to prevent them gaining enough traction to become a credible threat.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

On Saturday August 15th 1998, the Real IRA succeeded in perpetrating the single most horrific atrocity in the history of the troubles. In the process, 29 vibrant, happy, oblivious and some of them tiny, lives – as hopeful as the rest of us for a better future, were obliterated.

Evil, cowardly people without the vision nor the respect for humanity to engage with the people they claimed to represent and work for the greater good, rose once more and attempted to force ‘British withdrawal’ from Northern Ireland. They wreaked havoc in a busy town centre, Omagh, Co.Tyrone. They achieved nothing, except mass destruction and widespread human devastation.

During the troubles, the ‘normal’ protocol for a terrorist attack was a warning to the police, a radio or TV station. You should also know that over the course of the troubles, many hoax bomb threats were also made. People have been evacuated from public buildings and streets - only to learn later that it was a hoax. I've been through it several times myself.

Warnings were called in for the Omagh bomb but the message was either deliberately misleading, or it was misunderstood – I’m not sure it’s ever been determined which. The target mentioned was the courthouse at the top of a hill in the main shopping street in Omagh – [so chosen because it was a building representative of the British Establishment]. In a frantic attempt to usher the public away from the courthouse and evacuate the area – police directed people down the hill, away from the courthouse as fast as they could.

A car packed with 500lbs of home-made explosives awaited them at the bottom of the hill. Unknowingly, in attempting to shield the public, police instead shepherded people toward certain death.

Fourteen women, six men and nine children, two of them babies of 20 and 18 months old, were killed. Not included in the numbers reported, but two little lives I always remember when I think of the Omagh bombing were the twins that Avril Monaghan, one of the women killed, and mother of the 18 month old, was carrying. She was seven months pregnant. All told, 31 lives lost. Catholics, Protestants, a Mormon schoolboy, and visitors from Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, and Spanish exchange students perished.

Hundreds of people were left with horrific injuries, their lives changed forever, along with the lives of those who lost their loved ones. Broken families – their existence left in the same tatters as the buildings of that busy Omagh street.

I was on the first of many return visits to Florida just after this bomb happened, and I brought with me the newspapers to share the story with those whom I was visiting. I shed many tears looking at the 29 faces in those news reports, and I shed them now as I look at them once more. Each one someone’s mother, son, father, brother, sister, daughter, baby… How many more tears have been shed in homes in Omagh, Donegal, and Spain over the last ten years? And for what?

Although the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack, no group or individual has been successfully prosecuted for this crime. Families of the victims have fought tirelessly to have the perpetrators brought to justice, but thus far the campaign has been fruitless.

Civil actions have also been brought but no satisfying result has given these families the sense of closure that one would imagine necessary to help process what has happened to them. I think this adds to the enormity of the tragedy.

The wider implication of the Omagh bombing coming four years after the paramilitary ceasefires was fear once more. The province as a whole was worried that this tragedy would bring more pain and destruction in the form of retaliatory attacks, which was the normal modus operandi of paramilitaries on both sides following such attacks in the past. Mercifully, this did not happen. The Omagh Bomb did not derail the peace process – something which had it happened would have made all the more pointless the lives lost that day.

While there is no doubt that the outrage felt by so many at the scale of the Omagh tragedy accelerated the journey towards lasting peace, ironically, the families of those who died, and those injured are somewhat victimized once more by the peace process. By virtue of the fact that politicians are focused on the future, and leaving the legacy of violence behind, the support from the police, elected officials and government agencies that these families need to secure justice, isn't there. They are pretty much left to push for justice on their own.

This week, ten years on, my thoughts are with the families of the 31 people lost in Omagh on August 15th 1998. I pray for them, and for those so severely injured, physically, and emotionally. I draw inspiration from those who have triumphed over their injuries and loss, and trust that those who still struggle will find the help and healing they need.

I continue to pray for healing in Northern Ireland, where just today three firebombs have been made safe by Army Bomb experts , like I said, peace is uneasy, and delicate.

I pray for the rest of us – that in this age where bombings in foreign lands are reported with alarming frequency, and sadly often as a side story to the ‘main event’ of a sordid Politician’s affair, I pray that we never become blasé about such stories and that we never fail to be outraged by them. To maintain our sense of justice and protest to those whom will listen and take action…

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ten Lessons from a Day at the Beach

1. Assuming the camera is where you *thought* you last saw it in the car is a big mistake. Always double check before you leave that you actually have the camera and can take photos of your sticky, sandy kids and don't have to rely on a measly blog post to preserve the memories!

2. Shaving your legs an hour before you spray on sun protection and get into salt water is a BAD idea - of gargantuan proportions.

3. While taking meticulous care to spray on sun protection all over your arms and legs, and asking your spouse to ensure that your back is adequately covered - it is always good to remember that your neck and the top of your chest area could also benefit from said spray. Otherwise you may spend the rest of the day cursing and dousing yourself in aloe.

4. Maybe you need to go to the beach more often so that your three year old kid can correctly identify the dusty, granular substance on her hands and doesn't have to tell you 'Mommy, my hands are covered in sea dirt'.

5. Don't assume that your normally quiet younger child is the shy timid type. Revel in his willingness to be knocked over by waves, laugh and pick himself up and brace himself for the next round. Enjoy his socializing with neighbouring beach goers, and his loud enthusiastic 'BYE's to them as they leave.

6. A navy one piece bathing costume is totally unflattering - time to buy a new one Annie (preferably one that you didn't last wear when you were six months pregnant!).

7. If you're squeamish about swimming in seaweed littered ocean - don't stand like an eejit trying to throw eleventy billion little pieces of it back towards the shore (only for the retracting waves to pull it right back at you), or certain Irish ladies standing at the water's edge with her kids might just split her sides laughing at you.

8. Don't expect that there are working toilets in the beach bathrooms, or that there will be a clean square inch of floor on which to stand and change out of your wet, sandy bathing costume. Although contorting yourself in all manner of positions to do so, while holding on to your clothes and towel - without bare feet or garments touching this floor could earn you a spot on the US Olympic Gymnastics team.

9. One plastic trash bag is never enough when you have two adults, two kids, diapers, wipes, and lunch leftovers.

10. Count down the minutes until next week when you plan to do this all over again. (Packing the camera, now!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Too good not to share!

I made this luscious lemon and lime confection yesterday and had to share the recipe.

I have [at last] joined Twitter (late to every fad, I figured why break the habit of a lifetime and that's why I'm only getting around to it now.) and, having chatted a little on Twitter with Deborah, of and Spicendipity fame I got a baking bug and poked around in my recipe books and found this simple recipe and gave it a try.

This is the lightest, tangiest, most delicious cake I have ever made. It's super easy to do, too - so go get the stuff and make it, today, k? I PROMISE you'll be glad you did.


This tangy loaf is known by lots of different names, but Love Cake is particularly appropriate since everyone who tries it finds it impossible to resist.

Makes 1 Loaf

6 tbsp butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
Grated peel of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
Grated peel and juice of one lime

Preheat oven to 325oF. Grease and flour a 9x5in loaf pan. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Put the butter in another bowl and add 3/4 cup of the sugar. Beat until pale and creamy, then gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little flour if the mixture shows any sign of curdling. Gradually add the remaining four, alternating with the milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon and lime peel.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and level the surface. Bake 40-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Invert the loaf onto a wire rack, then turn it right way up.

Mix the citrus juices with the remaining sugar*. Put a tray underneath the rack and spoon the sugar mixture over the top of the loaf, letting it run down the sides slightly. Allow to cool before slicing.

Taken from 'Pig Out: 60 fab recipes for sweet indulgence'.

*(next time I'll use powdered sugar instead of regular sugar for this as my glaze was slightly gritty and I would prefer it more smooth in texture.)

This one's definitely going into my regular baking repertoire.

Friday, August 8, 2008

What am I doing wrong?

Miss E is testing every last ounce of patience I have these days.

She will be four years old in October, and yet we are seeing hissy fits and temper tantrums that would make any two year old proud.

We had turned a major corner in this regard months and months ago and I credited Supernanny with saving our sanity. Alas, my trusty Supernanny techniques are failing me now and I've got no idea what to do now!

Is it her age? Is it that it's summer and she's antsy and bored with just me to entertain her?

She's set to go back to Preschool on August 18th and while one might say 'great - she's going to school, a nice break for me, and some stimulation for her', I have to admit I'm scared! I'm afraid she'll give her teacher a hard time.

Miss E shows no discrimination in terms of where she throws a tantrum and it MORTIFIES me!

Last week I had great chats with her about how to make her feelings known without stomping, whining, crying, screaming or shouting - I had thought we were making progress. We discussed consequences if she behaved poorly or didn't listen to mommy - and last week I followed through with the consequences and she had no tv for a whole day, and no swim class the following day.

This bought us a week's worth of good behaviour and once again I was sure we'd turned a corner and that this regression to tantrumhood was a temporary glitch.

Ach - SO not the case. Yesterday she was the last kid in the pool at swim class for a good 5 minutes - she was huffing because she wasn't 'first' to do whatever task they were working on. In the end the teacher had to physically drag her out of the pool, and once she set her down on the deck she took off, having me run after her like a lunatic to catch her. Of course all the other kids and their moms are watching this spectacle.

It's all I can do to stop myself screaming back at this kid these days.

I feel completely helpless and inadequate.

I rarely see kids acting up as much as Miss E does in public, rarely. And if I do, it's generally a child much younger than she. This leads me to the conclusion that it's me - I'm doing something wrong.

So, mighty internets - tell me PLEASE how to fix this!