Friday, May 31, 2013

All aboard

There may have been times in life when we have been guilty of thinking that we have been born beneath our station. 

Admittedly, there have been times though when I couldn't work out if it was St Pancras, Flinders Street or just the one harbouring Platform 9 3/4. 

I have always fancied myself as some highly successful author, commanding huge readerships, all while beating back frenetic literary fans. 

Undoubtedly, I would be holed up in some quaint stone cottage, in the foothills of some romantic village in Provence, hunched over some vintage typewriter banging out some classic literature.

The reality however, is far removed. 

Instead, I am vaguely situated at my computer, in my suburban home office, with a child draped over of my shoulders like some possessed scarf.  My swivelling office chair taking on a life of its own as the legs entwine and I am thrust from side to side. 

Amazingly, all the while, I am still focused enough to keep typing away. The accuracy rates may have diminished somewhat, but all in all, a committed effort I thought.

This writing gig is a lot harder than it looks. Especially considering in this fantasy I have decided that writing a picture book entirely in verse is the way to go. Herein lies my first mistake. I am not known for my rhythm. 

Not one to let obstacles get in my way...I remain undeterred. 

Even with 18kgs hanging off my back...and front...and side...

Stay tuned for the swivelling chairs of literary journeys to begin.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Food for thought

I was amazed last night to find myself watching an ad on TV for a kids’ vitamin supplement that helps make them smarter!

Double take…sorry…what was that?

Apparently, ‘this is the solution that parents have been waiting for’…aside from ending in a preposition, this is an outlandish statement.

As a parent, I can quite confidently say I have been waiting for many things…eight consecutive hours of sleep; manners without prompting; a large windfall; a supermodel makeover, all a definite maybe; but a chewable pill that purports to make my daughter smarter at an exorbitant price, not really.

But what got me was the tagline right at the very end…NAPLAN starts 14th May.

What the?

For those blissfully unaware, NAPLAN is Australia’s annual national literacy and numeracy testing regime for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. NAPLAN does not come without its own controversy and critics.

But this all pales into insignificance now.

No longer will we need to wave the big stick at teachers who have underperforming students in their class and it is clearly their fault.

No longer will we need to bribe, I mean support and encourage, teachers with bonus pay schemes.

No longer will we need to get parents and students to rate their teachers in an open and honest fashion...

But I digress…apparently, research shows that these supplements may help with brain function, learning and behaviour*, all according to this product’s website. I also believe there may be research, somewhere, by someone, that says that it may help with naiveté as well.

May…note the modality used here. They are only saying it may help…not that it will…maybe if you were standing on your head (to assist with greater blood flow to the cranium) in an oxygen bar (to assist with richer blood flow to the cranium) with stimulating electrodes placed around the skull at various intervals whilst chewing these chewable supplements…you too may be able to assist your brain function.

But what I truly loved was the ever-present asterisk leading to the small print.

*Galaxy Research sponsored by Pharmacare

Pharmacare laboratories’ – sounds impressively reputable. Sounds like a scientific based organisation who cares. But wait there’s more…a little further investigation reveals that Pharmacare labs are actually the producers of a plethora of health care products including, no less, than this very same Kids Smart vitamin supplement range.

Hmmm, you have to wonder about that, don’t you?

A little further research and I discovered that the Kids Smart range is actually an awarded range of products. Choice awarded the range a Shonky Award in 2012. Well done, guys!

You've got to give them 10 points for trying I suppose, but how stupid do they honestly think parents are? Maybe they are in need of some of their own medicine!

Friday, April 12, 2013

To vax or not to vax - there is no question

I’m not normally a bandwagon type of person – but recent press has made me want to leap on it and anything else passing by.

I was really alarmed to see the front page of the Courier Mail yesterday (Rates lower than needed to stop spread of disease).

Being one of those ‘inner Brisbane residents’ to which they refer, I have to admit I was horrified – on two fronts.
  1. That someone would think I was one of those inner Brisbane ‘Baby Einstein’ demographic, or even worse
  2. That I would come in contact with one of those 'Baby Einstein' demographic, with my daughter in tow.

How can anyone, in all consciousness,(with an iota of intelligence) claim to have happy, healthy kids as a direct correlation to the fact that they weren’t immunised? What has that got to do with it? I, too, have a very happy, healthy yet fully immunised daughter.

But what got me was to go on and say, “I’m not worried about chicken pox, measles or mumps.” 

So...knowingly putting your child at risk of having these illnesses is OK then? But giving them an excellent chance in preventing them in the first place is not. I'm ever so glad that she's not worried about them. Did she ask her kids at any point if they would be happy to be as sick as a dog?

Severe side effects from these so called ‘childhood illnesses’ may be rare and are probably the preferred preventable diseases to catch. But having said that, I lost my dearest friend at school - to a bout of chicken pox.

I also find it interesting that she didn’t say, “I’m not worried about whooping cough or polio.”

All I ask of this mum and others like her –
  • Did you consider, at any stage, that perhaps you have just been lucky so far?
  • Did you consider, at any stage, that despite having healthy kids yourself, you are effectively saying – bugger everyone else’s? and
  • Did you ever, at any point, consider the ‘herd’ effect? 

I would hazard a guess and answer ‘no’ on all fronts.

The reason vaccinations work so incredibly well is because of the herd effect. Diminish the herd size and you compromise the effect.

It’s not rocket science.

(But this is – the Australian Academy of Science ‘The science of immunisation’  Please read and be armed with current science and robust research.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sing like no one's listening

Growing up in our family, we would often hear the expression, 'What did you do with the money?'

'What money?' One would naturally ask.

'The money your mother gave you for singing lessons.' 

This unkind expression invariably followed any impromptu vocal performance, be it in the shower, while vacuuming or just while shooting the breeze.

OK, I admit, as a family we are not known for our crooning capabilities. As performers, we were all great cooks.

Which is why it is only biological that the short one carries on in this fine familial fashion.

Let's be honest here.

She can't sing her way out of a wet paper bag. She couldn't carry a tune even if it was handed to her in a Louis Vuitton. This child's vocal range scares small children.

Which is exactly why I was quite surprised yesterday with her genuine lack of empathy. 

Loudly singing her way around the aisles of the local grocery store, unaware of the pained expressions of everyone within earshot, she leaned over to me and whispered...quite audibly, 'Do you think everyone is enjoying my singing?'


I mean, it's such an arbitrary expression, isn't it? How does one quantify enjoyment? How does one extract enjoyment from pain? 

Without a doubt, these innocent bystanders, upon whom suffering was unwittingly meted, may at the very least reconsider their shopping routines from now on...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Going viral

I think I'd rather like to be able to say… ‘I’ve gone viral.’

Not in the ‘I have a disease and I’d like to share it with you’ kind of way.

More in the ‘twitter hashtag trending, facebook sharing, google plus-ing, linkedin connecting’ sort of way.

You could actually help out in this rapid spread of infection. 

Put your antibacterial hand wash down for a minute and try clicking on this enticing ‘Vote for me now’ People’s Choice button to the right of your screen. Navigate your way to Page 5 with a few effortless scrolls and clicks and then vote away for the Team O’Connor blog. 

We thought we would try a simple case of contagion to get us started, and as with any half decent virus worth its weight, we’re hoping it will reach plague proportions before voting closes on Tuesday 30th April.

Thanks for spreading the love!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Verbal diarrhoea

Bath time in the O'Connor household and I hear an excited exclamation coming from the watery depths...

'Mummy, quick, come here! I can talk underwater!'

Whilst not a particularly unknown phenomena with four year olds, an apparent discovery on her behalf, nonetheless.

And sure enough, following a somewhat waterlogged if not articulate demonstration, she can indeed talk underwater.

It made me think of other potential talents that she may have hidden away...talking under wet cement or perhaps talking the hind legs off a donkey. Neither of which I would recommend as something you should try at home.

The use of these colloquial expressions reminds me of her latest phrase that she has adopted: her penchant for describing her rear end as 'clean as a whistle'. I mean, what's a whistle got to do with it and why is it noted for its particular level of purity? 

Don't get me wrong, the ability to wipe one's rear effectively is a required life skill and one of which to be enormously proud. However, likening it to a small object complete with hole that makes a loud annoying sound could indeed draw its own parallels!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Love is a battlefield

Parenting can be likened to a battle ground at the best of times.

There is usually an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.
You usually have an allegiance with one side or the other.
You usually go into battle having a strategy or five up your sleeve.
And when it just gets all too hard, you want to lie down and play dead.

I have long lived by the creed, ‘Pick your battles.’ Salient advice for anyone, particularly parents, I think.

Take the time and consider, in the big scheme of things…
  • Does it really matter?
  • Is anyone at risk of any harm?
  • Are my loved ones going to think any less of me?
  • Am I inadvertently reinforcing the values and ethics that I don't want to espouse?

If you can honestly say ‘no’ to all or any of the above…then refer to creed number 1…Pick your battles.

Inherently, I do believe that kids want to please and do the right thing. They do need the security of firm boundaries and limits, however. They need consistency. They need this and more to be confident beings, so that they are empowered to take risks.

But most of all, they need to know that significant others will go into battle with them.

I recently read an article that made me think long after reading it. I don’t think it was meant to be provocative, but it became an interesting discussion point nonetheless. Written by a parent, it posed the argument that compliant, law abiding, ‘good’ kids were not risk takers. I actually disagree. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. Quite often ‘good’ kids have the self-confidence and resilience required to take educated risks. And herein lies the difference.

Many kids can and do take risks.

Some risks are educated, others are not.

Some risk taking behaviours are provocative, others are not.

Some risk taking is purely about learning and exploring beyond the normal range.

There is healthy risk taking and there is unhealthy risk taking.

Perhaps it is more of a question of the motivation behind the risk taking that needs exploring in the first place. Don’t immediately assume the behaviour needs a counter attack.

Pick your battles…because parents are weary enough at the best of times.