Piranha Panic: a review.

DH and I seem to have raised a brood of terrible losers in this house, so in an effort to install some good sportsmanship into the kids, I’ve decided 2011 is going to be Year Of The Board Game ( Among other things).

We all know that board games develop skills such as sharing and turn-taking ( qualities sadly lacking in my offspring) and are a good way to spend quality time with our children, right?

One of DD3’s birthday presents yesterday was a new Piranha Panic game. We used to have a copy ( is that the right word for a game?) about a year ago, but someone broke the frame by using it as a footstool. It was still usable until the puppy started teething and ate 3 of the piranhas – after that they no longer swung around freely and the set languished on a shelf, unplayed, until I threw it out when I went on a decluttering jag some months later.

I was happy to replace it, as I remembered it as a fast moving game that should require very little supervision for all 4 children to play it together nicely.

Of course the reality was nothing like my deluded imaginings. DD1 took on the role as dictatorial keeper of the rules, DD2 sulked because she wanted the green fish not the orange, DD3 threw a tantrum every time she threw a blue fish and had to miss a turn, and DS was only interested in pushing the lever that released the piranhas and did so at every opportunity.  It was complete chaos and the game has now been confiscated and placed on the top shelf for a few days.

But please don’t let my feral children put you off,  it’s a good family game; look at all those positive amazon reviews.  It states it’s for children 5+ but I think a  sensible 4 year old would enjoy it if playing with older kids. It’s too exciting for our 3 year; all he wants to do is push that lever!

The game is not hard to put together, although the back board needs strong hands to snap it on and the tray becomes detached a little too easily. There are a number of small parts, so it’s not really safe for young children who like to shove things in their mouths. The balls and the playing pieces also need a small container to keep them in as well, as they tend to go astray otherwise.

At the  start of the game, the 4 piranha balls are placed at the top of the rack, and the fish marbles are placed in the bottom tray; the object is to try and get your fish safely to the top of the stream. The youngest player throws the dice and may throw a 1 or a 2, a blue fish ( lose a turn) or a piranha. If they throw a number, they move one of their fish marbles the corresponding number of places up the slope, but if they throw an orange piranha, they pull the lever and the larger ‘piranha’ balls come rolling down the slope and may, or may not, displace your game pieces.

If you have partially civilised children who enjoy playing games with others, then Piranha Panic is a good choice.  And as a bonus, you will probably enjoy playing it with them.

For My Littlest Big Girl.

DD3 turns 5 this evening. I can’t remember the exact time but the girls were all born in the evening, so it’s either 5-something, 6-something or 7-something. Next time I find her birth certificate, I must check. She was the biggest of my babies at 11 lbs 10 oz.  (No, that’s not a typo and yes, I had her ‘naturally’).

DD3 grew from an unsettled baby into a busily cheerful toddler, and then into a clever, funny but extremely stubborn girl. Her older sisters are 4 and 2.5 years older than her so she sees the advantages of being a ‘big girl’ but sometimes she wants to be fussed over like her little brother. She started school last September,  settled into the routine well and has begun learning.

She’s not a very girly girl and prefers dogs and ponies to pink sparkly things.  Her favourite Disney movie is Bolt and she’s been fixated on the little white dog since she first saw the film. She has a Bolt costume that she loves to wear,  so her party this year has a fancy dress theme to accommodate this.

She had some presents to open before school this morning and here she is with one of them; A Zhu Zhu pet called Zu Zu. She insists it’s a dog but Google informs me it’s a hedgehog. The pink thing is her Birthday Badge and the brown and yellow outfit she has on is her school uniform, just in case you think I choose to dress my kids like that.  Her ‘best present’ was a Maxi Micro scooter; these are all the rage in our school playground at the moment and it was christened on the school run this morning. It seems to be a lot faster than her old one which may present me with a challenge.

When I started this blog, I promised the kids I would write about them on their birthdays to make up for telling the world about their lives every other day.

So here you go DD3, Happy Birthday- this entry is all yours. Love you lots, Mummy. xxx

When Alarm Clocks Fail.

When you have 4 kids, it helps if you are organised. That explains why I’m a complete underachiever  when it comes to most aspects of running a household. Housework, cooking, laundry, remembering appointments and keeping the equipment associated with relevant activities together, are all things I struggle with.

However, what I can do, is get 4 children out of bed and dressed, have them brush their teeth and hair, give them breakfast, make their lunches and have their shoes and coats on them, ready for the school run and whatever the day might bring. And I can usually do this without too many tears or a thermonuclear meltdown from anyone.

Oh, there is usually a bit of protesting ( No, I WON’T get out of bed), some pleading (PLEASE will you put your socks on), some whinging (I don’t waaaaant to get up), followed by some yelling (PLEASE WILL YOU PUT YOUR SOCKS ON!). But they are normally up at 7am, dressed with teeth/hair brushed by 7:30, eating breakfast while I make lunches by 8 and then have half an hour to get their school bits together before we leave at 8:30.  But it’s honestly relatively chilled. They even get to watch a bit of TV.

The secret is in the timing; we have to adhere to it exactly. If we are even 5 mins late, then we never quite catch up. I get louder and more frantic, they get slower and less co-operative and eventually it all goes pear-shaped.

This military-style schedule has always worked well for us but I’ve managed to make a couple of improvements over the years. Recently I decided it was a Very Good Idea to have the kids get their uniform together the night before, and trial and error has proved that 10 past 6 is the best time for me to get up so I don’t need to rush in the bathroom. For a time I forced the older two girls to take turns putting the toothpaste on everyone’s toothbrushes, but I could never remember whose turn it was. In the end I found it was less trouble to do it myself.

And this morning, I discovered the most important rule of all: Make sure you set your alarm clock.

Because, although we have 5 alarm clocks scattered through the various bedrooms in this house, not one of them went off this morning. And so DH and I were woken at 20 past 7 by the girls having a conflab on the landing.

OMG! Panic Stations! There was Rushing in The Bathroom resulting in a Very Quick Shower. There was bellowing from me and wailing from the children.  Despite my increased vocal output, we didn’t get downstairs until just before 8, and I was still making lunches at 8.25. The morning did not run smoothly.

All 5 clocks have been set tonight. Including the one in our room that goes BEEP really loudly, and the one that crows like a rooster  in the room that DDs 2 & 3 share . The screaming  after that one goes off is slightly traumatic for all of us, but I figure it’ll wake us if the alarm doesn’t.

And it’s got to be less excruciating than running late again.

The ATF saves the Day!

Quick update on yesterday’s Tooth Fairy situation…

The missing tooth was last spotted in the morning under DD1’s pillow. A thorough, but fruitless search of her bed while she was at school suggested it had been moved to a location safe from prying parents.

When DD returned from school she announced that she might want to keep the tooth and not have the TF take it ( cue sigh of relief). Or maybe she’d hide it and see if the fairy *could* find it ( cue panic). Or maybe she’d decide what she wanted just as she fell asleep; if the TF really exists she’d know what to do, wouldn’t she? ( cue phone call to DH).

The day was saved by a FB friend who lives in Australia. In response to a link to yesterday’s blog entry, and a status update from a mutual friend about her youngest losing a first tooth, Mrs G told us about the modus operandi  of the Australian Tooth Fairy ( or at least the one that operates in Mebourne).

According to her daughter, *everyone* at school leaves the tooth in a container of water somewhere easily accessible. The ATF then takes the tooth, drops the coin in and dips her wing in the water to make it change colour ( cue the food colouring).

What a brilliant idea! But how to sell it to DD?

It was easy enough to tell her younger sisters about The Amazing Australian Tooth Fairy and suggest that the British version might do the same if provided with the opportunity. DDs 2 & 3 were only too happy to relay this information to their older sibling and the job was done. Simples!

All it took was a nice glass of water in the bathroom (the TF can check the toothpaste and toothbrushes at the same time), a slight fuss when we realised we had no food colouring but remembered that a disemboweled felt-tip works just as well  (Tip: don’t use red, it looks a bit gory) and both DD , and her father, were happy bunnies.

Isn’t Facebook wonderful?

The Tooth Fairy’s Swan Song.

DD1 is 9 and lost her 16th tooth last night. It was a big old, wobbly bottom molar that has been making a horrid sucky noise when wobbled for a week or two.  She has spent hours moving it around with her tongue, trying to loosen the thing, but it was obviously in no hurry to make a grand exit.

DD went to bed with her molar still attached, but at 3am she appeared on my DH’s side of the bed.

‘Daddy, I’ve lost my tooth’, she squeaked, ‘Do you think it’s too late for the Tooth Fairy to come tonight?’.

I love that my children still use my husband as first point of contact when they wake in the night. He used to go and get them when they were babies, and cried for a feed. It’s a tradition that has just carried on as they’ve got older and long may it continue.

DH mumbled something that sounded like ‘No’, but could have been ‘Yes’, then something that was definitely ‘ Go to bed, it’s 3am’. There was more squeaking and some more mumbling but I fell asleep in the middle of it.

I woke again at 6am to find myself alone in the bed. My husband is not a morning person, so this was highly unusual, and  I was sure I’d been woken by a scream. So I stuck my head around the door  in time to see DH backing out of DDs room.  She was asking him why he had had his hand under her pillow and I didn’t stick around to hear his answer, as he was looking sheepish and doing some pretty fast talking.

DH has always been keener to keep the kids believing in the Tooth Fairy, than I am. I feel there is a point where you are going to have to admit the truth, and when your DD catches you in the act of tooth-snatching, it’s probably pretty close.

So I was expecting a few awkward questions from our eldest at breakfast but nope, nothing . Finally I could bear it no longer and asked her if the Tooth Fairy had come in the night.

‘Oh no’, came the answer. ‘She’s coming tonight’.

‘Really? What was Daddy doing in your room then?’. ( I know, I know. I’m so mean aren’t I?)

‘He said was just checking to see if the tooth was there, because he wasn’t sure if the Tooth Fairy would have come!’

He’s quick on his feet, I’ll give him that. Must remember that the  next time he’s looking me in the eye and giving me a plausible answer.

So tonight we will have a highly suspicious 9 year old girl sleeping with one ear open, expecting her tooth to be removed from an unspecified location in her room and replaced with a pound coin by a mythical creature. It’s a tough job but someone is going to have to do it.

That someone won’t be me.

Introducing The Gallery: Children.

This is our youngest child, DS. He’s just turned 3 and is full of the joys of life. In this photo he’s bouncing madly on our bed.

I get a lot of comments about how ‘lucky’  we are to have a boy after 3 girls but to be honest, I wasn’t that bothered about having a boy. In fact, I was quite upset when I found out we weren’t going to have 4 girls but he has completed our family and brought another dimension to it. The ‘other dimension’  mainly involves Thomas the Tank Engine but it makes a nice change from Disney Princesses.

DS also has mild special needs; he has Verbal Dyspraxia and doesn’t speak. His understanding is good and he signs to communicate,  so he’s normally able to tell us what he wants or needs, but the potential for severe frustration is there.  He’s a pretty normal ‘threenager’ so he has some pretty spectacular meltdowns when we don’t understand him, but we are hopeful that he will be able to speak sometime in the future.

So that’s my boy, happy, active and wordless. We love him.

Introducing Otis Spunkmeyer.

We are lucky enough to have a wonderful neighbour. Actually she lives across-the-road, rather than next-door but she’s still a neighbour, right? Anyhow, she’s wonderful.

First,  she’s a little bit older than me, with slightly older children,  so she’s a fount of wisdom about turning 40 and beyond. And if I phone to tell her about something dreadful my children have done, she can always tell me about the time her boys did something worse. She holds a spare set of keys for me and takes in packages for us when I’m not home. She doesn’t mind when I ring her to ask if she’s got an egg or a couple of slices of bread I could borrow.  And she’s American, which means she introduces us to all sorts of delights from across the pond.

I’ll never forget the day I first set eyes on her ‘4th of July’ cake; a recreation of the American flag using only sponge cake, strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. My children had never imagined such a thing existed and were hugely disappointed when I explained it was something very special, that could only be made by Americans. Life is full of disappointments.

Anyhow, this paragon of a woman belongs to Costco and a couple of months ago she introduced us to these pre-formed, ready to bake, chocolate-chip biscuits that come in a frozen pack of 72. They go straight into the oven from the freezer and 16 mins later you have warm biscuits to feed your little darlings after school. They are absolutely gorgeous straight out of the oven, but I’m told if you leave them to cool for 5 mins or so they go all chewy.

I’m sure someone out there will tell me that they make fabulous chocolate chip cookies from scratch, on a daily basis, but I’m an extraordinarily bad cook and so far these have proved to be foolproof. And best of all, there is no washing up.

Do You Pyjama?

In our house, Saturdays have recently become pyjama days.

The kids do get dressed, just in case,  but they do nothing but lounge around on the sofa, squabbling over the remote and DS games. DH and I take turns to ‘supervise’ them, only interfering if more than 2 start screaming at the same time or there is actual bloodshed. The non supervisory parental unit often takes the opportunity to slink upstairs and have a wee nap.

Any tale telling is dealt with by suggesting that the DS’s are the root of the trouble and need to go away. We don’t neglect them entirely; we feed them, turn off the TV now and again, get drinks, suggest activites for any bored children, empty pottys and wipe bums, make sure they don’t watch anything too scary and stop any games that could cause loss of life or a limb.

After about 6 weeks of allowing these weekly days of sloth, we’ve come to the conclusion that pyjama days don’t really suit our children. At the end of them they are high on too much media and too little exercise, and their behaviour is abyssal.  Pyjama days  end in more-than-usual amounts of name calling, arguing and tears. Getting them upstairs for a bath, and then to bed is always more of a challenge.

So, from now on, we will be making sure the kids get out of the house on Saturdays, even if it’s just for a run around the block.

By a happy not-much-of a-coincidence, all 3 girls have been invited to a birthday party this afternoon. So that’s  them sorted for today without any effort on my behalf. But all they have done today is watch TV, play on their DS’s and squabble, so they are completely over excited about the prospect of sweets and games.

I better make sure I apologise in advance to the party girl’s mother when I drop them off.

‘Twas Different in My Day.

The other night, DH and I were collapsed on our bed, with DD3 (5 next week!)  blethering away beside us.

We were exhausted from having already forced 3 unwilling children into their respective beds, and were gathering our energy for the final hurdle. DD3  sensed our weakness and was taking advantage of it.  She started telling us about all the boys in her class that she liked; with 4 children it’s hard to give them attention as individuals and DH and I were enjoying listening to her.

It turns out there are three boys that DD3 considers might make decent husbands. Two of them, M and S, are definite possibilities, the third she wasn’t so sure about. The problem with K seemed to be his hair and you can’t argue that it’s not wonderfully wild. But why, we asked, could she not marry a boy with such lively hair? Because their children might have weird hair, came the answer. Apparently when you are 5, you believe the secret of a successful marriage is to marry someone as similar to you as possible.

They should have  same coloured eyes, the same coloured skin and of course the same coloured hair. And if you have straight hair, as DD3 does, then you absolutely, definitely, uttely cannot marry a boy with hair like a cumulus cloud.  DH and I had  a little laugh about this innocent misunderstanding, and reassured her that it’s not necessary for the person you marry to look like you. We also reminded her that you don’t have get married at all, it’s not compulsory. And then the questions started…

What do you do if you don’t get married? Um, well sometimes you just live with another person.

Can you have babies if you don’t get married? Yes, of course you can.

How old do you have to be to have babies? 30, you have to be 30;  28 at the earliest-DH and I both answered this one at the same time.

Can two girls get married? Well, this is the one that threw us a little.  The older DDs have already asked the same question but they were, well, older. When I was a child the answer to this question was NO and now, in the UK at least, it’s yes. Which is good, obviously; it’s just tricky explaining it to a 5 year old. I did start to say something about it being easier to have a baby if  you marry a boy. And at that point DD3 just smiled and said No, if  a girl married a girl they could have loads of children as they could BOTH have babies.

At that point we roused ourselves from our torpor, swiftly got her into bed and kissed her goodnight.