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I vaguely remember my post-birth days. I mean, how much detail would you expect a stitched up (perineal stitches are evil), overly exhausted, hormone-wrecked new mother to remember? Those days are a blur. If I were to remember anything, it would be how instant the falling inlove with my kids were. Like, immediate. The only other thing I remember, though, was a comment someone made after seeing me (and my glorious, unbrushed hair, teeth, pretty much everything), after a particularly grueling birth. It had been day two or three post birth and I was frazzled and in pain. Our visitors arrived with supper (praise the good Lord) and quietly had a peek at baby, before heading home (and again I say, praise the Lord). But not before I hear one innocently whisper to the other “yoh, motherhood strips you!” At the time I remember thinking, gosh are these people really going to comment on my underwhelming appearance right now?!  I mean, I was both mortified and uncaring about the whole situation. It didn’t bug me enough to want to, you know, block people on Facebook. But it did make me want to contour my face into perfection and put on a push up bra, like, immediately. (I did neither, btw.) Looking back now, as I sit in pain with baby number five in my belly, I’m reminded of that comment. Motherhood strips you. How true those words are! A close friend of mine shared that she learnt a lesson in being undignified the day she birthed her kids. There is nothing quite like the raw abandonment a mother feels, as she births her child. At that moment, you literally don’t care who sees your what. Your well thought out brazillian wax and tanned calf muscles are unimportant, as you thrust your legs up, on either side, to pretty much whoever wants to hold them, so that you can get the kid out asap. Your pretty Woolies bra and face beat really not that impressive, as you clutch your newborn tightly while they latch onto your raw nipple, drawing blood. Those first few days of motherhood strips you and you become someone else – well, still you, I guess, but like, the undiluted version. You’re overly aware of your body and your child’s needs and, honestly, making sure that both are okay becomes the primary concern. All the other frills and bows are just… well, froth. You know, froth: the top part of a cup of really good coffee that gives it that pretty aesthetic but doesn’t determine how great the java is. And as for the rest of Motherhood… yep, pretty much the same thing! Your children take priority – numero uno (have you seen Kari and I dress for church? She’s model chic and I’m “can someone tell Luchae that her top is on inside out”). Your priorities are never the same again! This week, as I battled through some pregnancy pain and discomfort, I was reminded of this journey and just how much we go through to successfully carry, birth and raise our children. And I was reminded of the stripping… the vulnerability of the human body and how a mother abandons her own dignity, to ensure that her child is safe, alive and healthy. I’m not saying that there is ugly in the birthing process. No matter how you’ve come to meet your child – whether it be on a hospital table or through a tear-streaked filling out of forms – it is beautiful… satisfying… a hot mess of emotions… but so fulfilling. And if you think about it, a stripping HAS to take place. Because you’re pretty much never the same again.

The post Motherhood: a stripping appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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Well, I’m more than half way into cooking a whole baby in my belly and we have yet to reveal the gender to anyone. More so because we don’t know our little youngling’s gender either. And guess what you guys, we don’t plan to find out anytime soon. Our big gender reveal will most likely only take place when baby Williams is actually here. Yep – we’re going ‘royal family’ and will only find out baby’s gender once he/she is born. As you can imagine, this was totally and completely Hubstopher’s idea (because I have a super intense spreadsheet brain and I need to know everything all the time). I had, in fact, planned many an elaborate gender reveal parties in my head (Imagine us skydiving out of an aeroplane and when our parachute opens up, it reveals either pink or blue! Genius, right?!) But alas, I will not be having my Youtube moment. Current mood: Aaaaaack! For the most part I’ve managed to keep my emotions in check and even though I try to read my ultra sound scans with a doctor’s eye (hey, I watch Grey’s Anatomy, I’m practically a doctor anyways), I’ve still not been able to decipher whether our little one has a winky or a wonky. I mean, okay, you’ve got to give it to Hubstopher… not finding out the gender is pretty quirky and cool. But it DOES hold serious implications. I mean, for starters, (and most importantly) do I buy pink or blue clothing? Fair enough, I have spotted really pretty baby wear in greys and tans and muted yellows and mint greens. But that’s not the point. Do I get pink or blue?! Huh?! The other thing is that our sissie is convinced that it’s a sister. We’ve been trying to prepare our smallies for the impending birth of baby Williams, and we refer to it as “the baby” or as “baby brother or sister” but, you guys, she’s so convinced that it’s a sister that she’s actually convinced me too. (I do realize that it’s probably a boy, just because I think it’s a girl. Such is my life.) Not knowing the gender kinda deters us from deciding on a name. I mean, I’ve already decided on a name that is unisex (much to Hubstopher’s disdain). And when I say “decided” I mean, I’ve pretty much personalised items with the name on it. He says I’m rude for not waiting for his approval. I say “How many of our children have you birthed from your actual body? Exactly.” And back and forth we go. So we’re currently sans name. I guess other cons to not knowing the gender is that it might be a bit harder to bond with baby… well, that’s what the internet says. I haven’t had that problem though (praise God) and to be honest, I’m actually a lot more excited about the birth than I thought I would be (natural birth yo, without any pain relief at all… it’s a trip!) I guess finding out the gender at birth will be the cherry on the cake, after giving birth to three kids in a span of five years. If you’ve held off finding out what your baby’s gender is, until birth, please drop me a message in the comments section below and let me know how it all went down! By the way, current mood is still aaaack!

The post The big gender reveal appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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Stepparenting is not for sissies. Yes, that’s my opening line. Whaaat? It’s the truth you guys. A recent conversation with a very emotional friend made me realize that the average stepparent has to deal with a lot more junk than they actually deserve. Now, allow me to add a little disclaimer: it is possible to have a healthy blended family dynamic. So the thoughts in this post may not be for you (you go girl, keep up the great work!) but I’m sure it will speak to the hearts of those who are experiencing challenges on the stepparenting front. We all know that parenting is super hard at times. And stepparenting is next level, yo! It’s not always easy and it doesn’t always have great rewards. But for those of you who are in that position, I’m sure you’re not just sticking it out for the half-hearted Happy Mother’s Day mumble. We do it because we actually care for the kid and we want to create a healthy and happy family environment. But based on the amount of messages I’ve received and the type of situations I’ve experienced, I’ve gathered that trying to be a good stepparent is not the easiest thing in the world. Why? Well, because ultimately you’re a bonus… an add on … you’re not really needed but you’re not going anywhere. You do the work, you put in the time, you make the commitment. Sometimes it appears to not be enough (because, you know, you could do better, get off your phone Cathy!) but then other times, you give off the impression that you’re doing too much (because, you’re not the kid’s real parent so can you just put your emotions aside, gosh!) It’s a thankless job and you’re kinda dealt with a whole bunch of different blows that you literally just have to take, for the sake of keeping the peace. (No one wants to be the stepparent who throws a hissyfit every time they feel disrespected… it’s ugly Jane, we don’t roll like that.) Your every decision and movement is often scrutinised (how dare you give the child chores to do, you monster!) and more often than not, you’re the bad guy before the movie even started, because that’s the way Holywood writes these scripts. Besides for being the unspoken bad guy, you’re also the person whose opinion and feelings don’t really matter as much. I mean, duh, it can’t matter because you’re not the parent (add on/bonus, remember?)… you’re just there for show. So what you have to say and how you feel doesn’t really count. Stepparent’s get alot of flack. I can say this because I’ve given the flack, I’ve received the flack and I’ve helped to evenly distribute the flack, many times. Guilty as charged… there are no pretenses here. I’ve had conversations with friends about their kid’s stepparents (tssk tsssk, who does she think she is?!) and I’ve been part of conspiracies to not include stepparent’s at certain events because “he needs to learn”. It’s ugly. Who made this universal rule that stepparents are not important? Who decided that the stepfather’s intention is not always good? Who told you that the stepmother can’t possibly love the child as much as she says she does? It’s a silly stereotype, honestly Jackie. Cut it out. I mean, sure, the bonus parent happens to be there because of marriage and all that, and sure we don’t really need them, but guess what we do want them to love our children and treat them well. Oh the irony. And then we laugh at them behind their backs, at gatherings, exchanging stories and rolling our eyes because, you know, they are only the stepparent and more importantly, we need the entertainment. (Brown people, where you at.) I guess what I’m trying to do, with this post, is to stick up for bonus parents all around the world who are trying really hard but can’t seem to break out of that evil stepparent stereotype. You guys don’t have to love the kid and you probably don’t have to put up with the back biting and snarky comments and, you know, being treated like a hobo at the beach trying to direct traffic for a few coins. You’re there because you want to be there and you love the child because you want to. And even though others may not see your heart, I do. I get it. I see you. And I want you to know that you’re doing a great job. Disclaimer: Thank you for your blog post suggestions. I love hearing from you guys. If you have any other topics that you’d like to me/us to chat about, hollar at your girl! To my friend who is experiencing this very real heartbreak right now: sending thoughts and prayers your way. 

The post All stepparents are monsters, right? appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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So I’m sure you guys have learnt about the freaky YouTube hacks that have been found peppered throughout some of our kid’s favorite YouTube and YouTube Kids videos. Yep, I’m talking KIDS videos… you know, the ones that are seemingly safe and harmless. The ones our children are glued to, when they are enjoying their screen time, each day. Malicious people are hacking dem videos, you guys, and adding content that basically encourages your little one to self harm, or even worse, end their lives or that of their families. Shocked yet? I know, right. Pediatrician, Free Hess, found a bunch of YouTube and YouTube Kids videos that included tips on how to commit suicide… and they’ve been around for as long as a year, you guys! A mom friend of hers made her aware of the epidemic when the friend’s son discovered an eerie edit in one of the YouTube videos he was watching. Basically, in the middle of the footage, a guy appears, instructing kids to slit their wrists. “Side ways for attention, long ways for results.” (You can watch the video here.) To date, Hess has reported numerous dodgey YouTube videos. Some contain content that promotes suicide, sexual exploitation and abuse, gun violence, human trafficking and domestic violence. All cleverly hidden in seemingly innocent videos that our kids are consuming! The most recent disturbing YouTube content that I’ve stumbled on is the Momo Challenge. So basically Momo is a freaky looking character that targets young kids, by encouraging them to text a number on Whatsapp. This person then sends them disturbing challenges – instructions that they need to complete – ranging from performing daring acts, to engaging in self-harm and even taking their own lives. These Momo challenges appear midway through Peppa Pig, Fortnight and other Kids YouTube videos. Momo also freaks kids out by telling them that “everyone will die” and “I am coming for you”. Children are left traumatised and some are afraid to sleep alone. A three-year old, who had been exposed to Momo, while watching Peppa Pig, on YouTube Kids, told his mom ‘they’re going to kill everyone!’ I don’t know about you guys, but I am completely freaked out by this! My children will not be seeing YouTube anytime soon! But hey, I often relied on the safety of YouTube Kids, when my 4-year old wanted some screen time (and I wanted some, you know, adult time). But surely there are safer alternatives to YouTube… right? Well yes, yes there are. Here are few alternatives I found online: 1. Download your own videos, maaan! Instead of feeding YouTube content to your kid, find safe videos online (you might want to screen each video first), and save them to the device, so that your kid can view offline. You can actually buy a subscription to YouTube Red, that allows you to curate your own videos and save them to offline. Same thing. Tip: Always make sure the device is not connected to the internet. 2. Subscribe to Netflix, you guys. Netflix has a host of safe kiddies programs that are better alternatives than simply letting them go rogue on YouTube Kids. I love that Netflix has a developed a login that ensures your children are viewing kid-friendly content. Read more about those kid-friendly controls here. 3. Curated apps, like DisneyNOW, and PBS Kids are a great alternative. I mean, they produce their own content, so you won’t find Freaky Fred popping up on the screen anytime soon. But either way, you guys, we need to be chatting to our small kids about online stranger danger. My 4-year old needs to know that there are bad people out there who may try to influence and scare her. Having these types of conversations are important. Let your children know that they must not be afraid to tell an adult, if they come across anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Do you allow your kids to watch YouTube? What are some of the ways you safeguard them against the creepy content creators of this world? 

The post ‘YouTube for kids’ is freaking me out! appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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If you’re the parent of a small kid, or, in my case, a gang of small kids, and you’re thinking that your life is “woes” right now, allow me to bring some clarity to the situation. This level of “woesness” is nothing compared to when your tiny angels are full grown adults, who have opinions of their own. (Disclaimer, if you’ve come here for advice, move along Jackie. But if you’re looking for a kindred heart who has had to stop herself from, you know, throwing shoes and cutlery at her grown son, then welcome friend! This post is for us.) No one makes me as angry as my 17 year old son does. His newly developed sense of self annoys me. There, I said it. And the thing is this parents, I shouldn’t be annoyed. I should be nurturing, supportive, helpful. But nope, I find myself super annoyed every single day. And hey, I own it. I’m the one being annoyed. He’s the one simply being a teenage boy. So I’m not saying I’m right. But I am saying that… heck yeah, I’m annoyed! Well, for starters, I’m annoyed at his decision making skills (or lack thereof), at his endless “Mom, can I” requests, at his demanding nature when he feels that he is entitled to something. I’m annoyed at how opinionated he is… teenagers believe that they are experts in every field. They are also not open to reason or new ideas. My son, in particular, believes that he knows it all! He loves a good debate and I can flip my biscuit lid when he tries to get into it with me! He has no filter and will say exactly what he is feeling/thinking, which irks me! And guys, be warned: this new generation of teen knows about freedom of speech and believe that they can practice this in the comfort of their homes! I’m super annoyed when he does his own thing, even after I have given instruction offered advice. Worse than that is when he disagrees with me silently, but then goes along with what I’ve asked him to do, with a grudge on his shoulder, mumbling his discontentment under his breath. Or when he responds to my requests with a question, as if we’re on Felicia Mabuza-Suttle and he’s interviewing me. “Are we seriously going to do this right now?” and “So you really want me to do this now?” The typical teenage lack of urgency and consideration annoys me like nobody’s business! We can be running late for work/school, and the kid will continue to move at snail pace, as if nothing in the world matters except how he perfectly executes the application of his school shoe. Like, seriously, catch a wake up! But more than all of this, I’m annoyed that he is growing up and becoming his own person. I don’t like this… not one bit! I guess a lot of the annoyance comes from the fact that I can’t “control” him anymore… well, not like you would a younger child who still relies on you for everything. He doesn’t rely on me for everything. And soon (once he’s out of the house, with a fam of his own) he might not rely on me for anything, at all! And that annoys the living daylights out of me and I don’t know how to make it stop. The truth is, I love this annoying teenage child of mine so much. He’s the one who graduated me into mommydom when I was still a teen myself. He was my “ride or die” when I was a single mother, trying to make ends meet (like a Julia Roberts movie). He’s the one I first dreamed big dreams for and the kid that I put my whole life aside for, as I tried to navigate the choppy waters of young adulthood. And now he is almost an adult too. And I’m annoyed. Is it irrational? Probably. Should I know better? Yep. Can I be a better parent? Always. Reminding myself that I’m actually raising someones dad, husband, boss, friend, helps me to remember how important this season is and how much influence I have, even though he pretends that he doesn’t care what I have to say. So for now, I say a prayer, swallow my annoyance and try to be the adult that I want him to grow into. And yes, I guess that means no throwing shoes at him. Dammit.

The post Living with teenagers can be annoying! appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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I grew up in a very “colored” part of Port Elizabeth. You know, the type of suburb where all the kids in the neighborhood would play with each other in the street (literally, because we didn’t have big yards or grassy side walks) and anyone’s parent was allowed to give you a group spanking if you misbehaved. Back then, there kinda was an unspoken rule: when your time for schooling came, you would attend one of the public schools in the area. Sure, some of our more fancier friends were carted to and from the “white areas”, attending posh schools with exorbitant school fees that our parents could not afford. They wore blazers and hats and sometimes spoke in accents and had derby days and cool extra mural activities. The rest of us would walk to and from our public school (mostly in groups), stopping to buy 20 cent packets of “samoosa leaves”, “bompies” and “wind chips” along the way.  My parents probably knew exactly which primary school and high school I would attend, before I hit five years old. I mean, there were only so many to choose from in our neighborhood. My years, at public school, were pretty legit. I made great friends, had excellent teachers, participated in all the activities (seriously… ALL) and even entered my high school’s beauty pageant (no jokes). I would say that I had a well-rounded schooling experience. This week, while Hubstopher and I were chatting about finding the right school for our little girl, all of these thoughts popped into my head, you guys. Well that and the fact that parenting is one big head ache. And I say this with all the love in the world. Seriously, I’m not bitter about it. It’s a good kind of headache… if you get such a thing. It’s a headache because you want to give your child the best life possible. You want them to have the best birthday parties, and get them the best equipment for that hobby that they love. You want them to make really good friends who will stick with them through the bad stuff. You want your kid to find the job of their dreams and hey, eventually meet the one who will want to make them happy for life. And, as we were chatting about all of this, I realized that schooling plays a big role in how it all turns out. I wanted my kids to have the same amazing experiences I had, when I was at school. And hey, I’m not naive, I know that we can’t control everything and that a lot of it depends on the child’s attitude. And anyways, sometimes you have a really stinky schooling experience, but still end up with a great life. I know. But still. If the little bit that I can do includes finding the right school for her, then I will darn well make sure I do the best job doing so. And so the investigation starts, as I hop from one school website to another, trying to find the school that will fit our needs. Things that come into play are: 1. Location – Is the school in close vicinity to our jobs or home? What will transportation needs be like? 2. Aftercare facility – Are there aftercare facilities close by, that won’t cost, you know, the same price as your mortgage per month. 3. Affordability – This is a big one. I often talk about how school fees x 4 is the mood kill in our marriage. Okay, that’s me being dramatic. But seriously guys, if we’re wanting to add one more kid to the mix, we need to consider how much we’re willing to spend on school fees and aftercare fees. Also, some schools have really unnecessary extra expenses that I just can do without, thanks. 4. Extra-murals – My girl child is going to be a total replica of me… I can feel it! Kyle isn’t really one for extra murals, but this girl of mine will probably do as much as possible, and I love that! So we’re also looking for a school that is rich in extra-murals, artsy and cultural activities. 5. Values and school culture– Since we are Christian, our first prize would be a school with strong Christian values and beliefs. 6. Academics – Besides for having great teachers, the ideal school will also have a lot of support structures in place. Class size is also important and would play a big role in whether we sign up or not. 7. The fluffy stuff – Other little things that I would look out for is to find out which school her friends are going to. I mean, it wouldn’t entirely change my mind, but it is an important factor, in my opinion. I love chatting to other moms, with kids in grade 1, to find out what their experience has been like at the school that their kid attends. We’ve narrowed it down to 3 schools and will be applying to all of them. But boy, has it been a trip! I’m telling you guys, parenting is a headache. The best kind! What time of factors did you consider, when you were choosing a primary school for your little one?  

The post Choosing the right school for your child and other parenting headaches appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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My bully beef baby boy is growing so well, you guys! His budding personality and infectious giggles are the highlight of our day (Kari included!) and we love watching him grow into a real little boy. On his first birthday, I had begun to wean him off formula, introducing a growth milk slowly. My wallet enjoyed the relief! My Hubstopher appreciated the efficiency behind simply pouring, versus the mind-numbing time suck that comes preparing formula bottles in the middle of the night. And then, the unthinkable happened. It was 11pm, on a Sunday night, and we had run out of growth milk. I don’t know, somewhere along the line, my spreadsheet brain forgot that we needed to stock up! Aaack! The shock! The horror! I knew that baby boy would be waking up soon, for his feed, and I had to make a plan quick! Enter: cow’s milk. I must admit, I was going against what I thought was my better judgement. But I had no other choice. I decided to give the kid cow’s milk, hoping that his digestive tract wouldn’t, you know, explode on me. And guess what, you guys, he loved it. Granted, I had to mix a little bit of his growth milk with the cow’s milk (for the taste). But ever since that day, he exclusively drinks cow’s milk and his tummy has yet to show me the middle finger. So, in true spreadsheet style, I decided to Google cow’s milk and whether I’m being the worst parent in the world, for giving a 14 month old milk from the udder of an animal. (So dramatic). Here’s what I found, you guys: 1. It’s high in protein and salt  Cow’s milk has a high content of protein and salt, making it unsafe for infants under the 12 month mark to consume. It’s just not as easy for them to digest. But once your kid has had that first birthday, their digestive systems are mature enough to digest animal milk proteins. 2. Milk allergy is a real thing  Food allergy’s occur when your immune system tries to protect you against something that you may have eaten. Because your body is trying to work this foreign matter out, you are left with symptoms, which we would then recognize to be an allergy. Introducing your baby, too early, to cow’s milk could cause damage to the digestive system, resulting in milk allergy. Should you introduce cow’s milk to your toddler, and it doesn’t agree with them, the following are symptoms of a milk allergy: wind, bloating, diarrhea, stomach rumblings and aches, rashes around the mouth and chin, itchiness and swelling, vomiting and nausea. 3. Cow’s milk is amazing Cow’s milk is a rich source of calcium and vitamin D, which helps to build strong teeth and bones, and is crucial for bone growth. Milk also provides protein and carbohydrates, giving your toddler all the energy he needs (you know, to jump on your couches and write on your walls with permanent marker…kidding!) Introducing cow’s milk to your child’s diet, as early as 12 months old is a great idea! This will set him up for a lower risk of stroke, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and hip fractures later in life. 4. What about fat-free and low-fat milk? Whole milks are preferred, when it comes to your toddler, unless a doctor has recommended a low-fat milk due to high risk for obesity. Kids need a higher fat content of whole milk, anyways, to help them maintain their normal weight gain. Whole milks also assist the body in the absorption of vitamins A and D. 5. Is there such a thing as “too much milk”? Yes, yes there is. Giving your child more than 4 cups of milk a day may affect their diet, since the milk will keep them full. If your toddler is thirsty, offer water, but since your toddler should be eating soft foods by now, try not to offer a milk bottle too often.   References:  Parent 24 Babycentre

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What if I told you that “no gift parties” are the new in thing? Yes, I’m being serious. Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Hands up, if you’ve been to more kid’s parties in one year, than you’ve been to actual, grown up parties. In fact, taking your children to birthday parties is high up on the list of standard “things to do when you’re a parent”. But the thing is this, guys, it can get quite pricey if you’re attending copious amounts of birthday parties on the regular! Well, one genius mom came up with the “Fiver Party” concept and it’s now trending in America and Canada. A Fiver Party is basically a birthday party where all guests are encouraged to bring money ($5) towards a big ticket present that the birthday boy/girl’s parents would buy. Yes, you heard me Margaret. Instead of trekking to the shops to find that reasonably priced (but it doesn’t look too cheap, ya know?) gift, you can literally chuck some cash into a cute birthday card and take that along with you to the party. Moms, all around the world, have expressed mixed emotions with regards to this concept. I mean, think about it. How would you feel about taking a R50 note to a birthday party, instead of a gift? Some are calling it tacky. Other’s say that it just doesn’t feel right to go with nothing but the cash. Other moms include cute stickers or a sweet treat, with the moola…. just so that it doesn’t feel empty. But the vast majority love the idea! In fact, many of them are choosing to have Fiver Parties for their own kids! They say that their children have way too many toys already and it’s a brilliant idea to be able to put all the cash together to buy one big ticket item that the child really wants. I have mixed emotions about it though. I mean, for starters, some moms just feel awkward about asking guests to bring money to their kid’s birthday party. But also, I really love the intention that goes behind every little birthday gift. My one friend made the cutest little bow-bedecked socks for Kari’s birthday last year. Another friend knew that she loves tutu skirts, and that’s what they got her. Kari was over the moon! Another friend gifted her with awesome reading books, that we’re still using today. I’m a sentimental at heart and I love that we can use these things and know that they were gifted with love. BUT I’m not totally opposed to a Fiver Party. I love the convenience. It’s money smart (especially if the child is a bit older and is willing to save or invest the cash into something worthwhile). It’s also a great way to ensure that your kid isn’t focused on getting as much as possible… nipping that materialistic spirit in the bud. Besides who wants piles and piles of unused toys in their house, right? Your Fiver Party can even fund an experience (a trip to a cool destination or maybe an adventure that your child has always wanted to try). Anyways, here’s where you come in, friends. What do you think about the Fiver Party concept? Let me know in the comments section below.  If you’re keen to host a Fiver Party, but not sure how to ask your guests for cash instead of a gift, you can use one of the samples below: Sample 1 This is a NO GIFTS party, since we’re trying to help (NAME) focus on the joy of spending time with friends, rather than on receiving gifts. For those who would still like to bless (NAME) you’re welcome to gift him with no more than R50 that he can put towards something special he’s saving for.  Sample 2 Please note that gifts are not required. If you would like to give one, you are welcome to help (NAME) buy that big gift that he has his eye on. You can pop your card and cash gift into the gift box at the party.  Sample 3 This is a NO GIFTS party. Instead, (NAME) is proud to be able to raise money for his favorite charity.  (NAME) will use half of the money collected to buy a small gift for himself and then donate the rest to (CHARITY NAME).  Sample 4 (NAME) is having a fiver party! She is saving for a (BIG TICKET GIFT) so if you choose to bring a gift, she would appreciate a R50 in a card.

The post Moms, have you heard about the ‘Fiver Party’ trend? appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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Ever wonder what your kids see when they witness how you handle things at home? I mean, sure, sometimes your hubby annoys you and you have your moments of frustration. But you keep it together, right? I mean, your home is totally not a war zone, right? But what do your kids see? And, are they seeing what you would like them to see? Your children are watching you. Yes, that sounds like  the synopsis of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. My cryptic opening paragraph may have you scratching your head and reaching for your phone to scroll through Instagram. Sorry, Candice. I was having a moment. But now that I’ve pulled myself towards myself, allow me to explain. One of my kids let slip that they could see how annoyed I was “the other day”. I literally did a double take, because, dude, I wasn’t annoyed on that day. Maybe it’s just my face. Seriously. But then it got me thinking: maybe my spreadsheet brain (aka the militant way I run my household) comes across as being annoyed or angry all the time. When, in retrospect, I’m just trying to get chores done so that we can all chill! But what am I teaching my kids. What are my children seeing? I had this revelation a few years ago (and it’s great to be reminded of it, like I was last night) that as wives and women in our homes, we set the tone and the atmosphere, to a large extent. I guess this varies from home to home, so I can only speak for myself and the type of home I grew up in. I do believe that as a mom and wife, you have the power to manipulate the energy in your house. And your response to a situation is the best teaching tool for your kid. Last night, for example, “someone” (okay, fine, it was me) had forgotten to buy electricity (we have one of those box things). So we sat in the dark for like an hour. When the power shot off, I could feel that anger bubbling. Man, I was so pissed off at myself AND my Hubstopher, because he was meant to remind me to get the electricity token. It was one of those moments of anger where I didn’t feel like caring what everyone else was going through. I just wanted to bathe in my anger, as if it were a bed of roses, and pretend I was Madonna. But the atmosphere at home was already pretty somber, since we had to sit around and wait while Hubstopher drove around trying to find an outlet that was “online” to get the electricity token. And that’s when I had one of those “a-ha” moments where I remembered that I have the power to change the atmosphere, in my home. This was a teaching moment. So instead of acting cray (and let me tell you, Sandra, that cray cray was ready to be unleashed) I lay on my bed with my kids and we sang songs… literally in the dark… it was the best time! Once Hubstopher came home with the token and the lights were back on, I cooked a meal and we sat around laughing at Jonah who has a new found passion of playing drums… on literally anything… and anyone. The night could have turned out so differently and I probably would have gone to bed hating on my hubby and knowing that my kids are walking on eggshells because mom is angry again. Instead, they (hopefully) learnt a lesson in “taking da lemons and making da lemonade.” (Totally said that with a Jamaican accent). Anyways, what’s my point? Well, I guess my point is that sometimes all we need to do is take a breath and ask ourselves: “how do I want this to turn out?” and, more importantly: “what do I want my kids to see?” Have you had any teaching moments, with your kids?

The post Your children are watching you appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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The child abduction scare has literally left our parenting community reeling and, to be honest, the frantic (false) voice notes and Facebook shares are not really helping us at all. As I’ve said before, I’m all for REAL news and information, but when you start spreading mass hysteria, you’re kinda not allowing people to make informed decisions. As a blogger I’ve been so aware recently with regards to the type of information I share about my kids online. Should I be sharing my kid’s photos on social media? It is with these questions in mind that I contacted three legit organizations – namely A21, STOP Human Trafficking and Missing Children SA – to find out what I should be doing to safeguard my children, online, against child abduction. They’ve given me some really great information with regards to human trafficking and social media. Missing Children SA Missing Children SA assists our SA Police Service in finding people that have been snatched, and strives to create a national awareness around abduction. One of the things I learnt through the org is that the first 24 hours after a person goes missing, is the most crucial. There is NO TIME to sit around and hope that they’ll pop up somewhere! Bianca of Missing Children SA agrees that Facebook is a dangerous platform since predators use these social sites to follow your routine. When posting to social media, avoid tagging your location or even where you’re going to, with your child. She says that posting photos of children could potentially put your child in danger, so make sure that your privacy settings are set in a way that only friends and family can see your posts. Make sure that you know everyone on your friend list! This includes Instagram! Block the weirdos. Having a great Insta following is not as important as potentially having a perv oogle at pics of your family. Bianca also recommends that you keep your under 18 away from social media. They don’t understand the potential dangers of it yet. A21 A21 is probably one of the most well known nonprofit organizations fighting against human trafficking. The organization has one mandate: to free slaves and those kept in captivity, from bondage. I chatted with a representative from the org who explained that perpetrators sell online social media images online or use it to recruit children. She stressed, however, that abduction does not necessarily lead to human trafficking – children can be abducted for other crimes. “We have seen the past two years, through the Resource Line, that with the recruitment method, abduction was only 2% and false job opportunities stood at 62%. We are not ignoring the fact that children are being abducted, but we need to public to report it to the correct departments in order to take action,” she explained. A21 hosts the National Human Trafficking Resource Line (0800 222 777) but you’re also able to contact the following organizations who assist with missing children, should you have a query or question: Childline, Missing Persons, Pink Ladies. STOP (Stop Trafficking Of People) Another non-profit, aimed at combatting all aspects of human trafficking within South Africa and Africa, is STOP (Stop Trafficking of People). The org aims to combat abduction and human trafficking through advocacy, raising awareness and victim support. Bertha Bresler of STOP shared such good information with me and really helped me to put things into perspective, when it comes to my child and social media. For starters, she reiterated what the rest of the ladies shared: it can be dangerous to upload pics of your child onto social media. Bertha says: “The thing is when someone is looking to exploit another human being they would look for different things that a normal person might not notice. So to me a picture of a baby is a picture of a baby it’s cute and that’s that. But to someone with ulterior motives, it becomes a “treasure hunt”. They would look at the background for clues, like landmarks. They look for logos that would give away where the child goes to school or where they play sport, even the malls they hang out at.” Bertha mentioned the growing trend where parents hashtag their child’s whole name (freaky guys, I did this!) So basically we’re giving a stranger your child’s face and complete name, thus creating a false sense of familiarity, should the person meet your child in public. “Putting your kids name on the outside of their backpack is also a no-no,” says Bertha. “When you put a picture of yourself, or your child on the internet you don’t really know what happens to it after that. And even if you do delete it it’s still on the internet, it’s basically impossible to erase something from the internet. People can save it or screenshot it and they can do with it whatever they want. There have also been cases that we have heard of where pedophiles have taken pictures that people have posted of their babies and/or kids and photoshopped it – turning it into a pornographic image.” Some more tips from STOP: 1. Consider replacing any personalized items like rucksacks, lunch boxes and other items that visibly show off your child’s name to people they don’t know. 2. Make up a family code word. If you’ve sent someone to pick up your child – they should be aware of what the code word is so they’ll know not to leave with anyone else. Or if your child is at a friend’s house and somebody or something is making them feel unsafe, they can call you and say the code word to you over the phone so you’ll know to get them out of the situation. 3. Say no to body secrets. When a child is sexually abused, they can often be told not to tell their parents about what has happened to them, and to keep it a secret between them and the abuser. Teaching your children to never keep ‘body secrets’ is important and they should know to tell you immediately if somebody has touched a part of their body and asked them to hide it from you. 4. Tell your child that if they are being followed or chased by somebody, to start running in the opposite direction to the car. This will buy them a few crucial moments as the car turns around. 5. If your child is feeling lost or unsafe, there is no guarantee that there will be a friendly shop owner or police officer around to help. Tell them to find a mother with kids if they are in danger or alone. 6. We often pass children having tantrums in adult’s arms. In fact, we’ve seen it so many times, a lot of us have become immune to it. Teach your child to scream out words that would alarm others can be very useful if they ever end up in a dangerous situation. Phrases such as ‘Who are you?’, ‘Help!’, ‘Leave me alone, I don’t know you!’ and ‘Where’s my mom and dad?’ will all arouse suspicion and alert others to the danger. 7. If a stranger tries to take them, tell them that all manners are out of the window – and they are allowed to hit, scream and make a scene in order to attract attention. If you’d like to read more, Bertha recommends the following articles: Pedophile Warns Parents Protect Your Family From Abduction Right… so that was a lot of information to take in. I know that moms everywhere have formulated their own opinion about this topic, and hey, it’s your kid, do what you feel is best. But I sure am planning to take extra steps towards making sure I’m not putting my kids in a compromised position, on social media. How this will affect my blog… not sure yet! Will I find a way to still share about them, who knows. I don’t have all the answers yet, you guys. But I do know that my babies lives are way more important than a social media following.

The post Human trafficking: Should I be sharing my kid’s photos on social media appeared first on My Spreadsheet Brain.

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