Monthly Archives: May 2016

Too many kids, too little time!

Before we were married, my husband used to joke with me that we were going to raise a football team – eleven babies. Little did I know that, while we wouldn’t quite make the numbers for a football team, we’d have no problem fielding our own hockey team – with three sets of twins, we suddenly had our hands very full!

Having a large family with kids at various stages in their development presents all kinds of challenges that are difficult to relate to for most people from smaller families. If you struggle getting one or two kids ready and off to school in the morning, how would you cope with six?

One of the first things that you need to do is to enlist the kids’ help with any task that they can safely do with little supervision. This means things like teaching them to wash and get dressed as early as possible. I have been amazed to see kids as old as eight who are still being dressed by their parents. There’s no way that could happen in our house. In fact, these days the kids will get themselves up on time, shower, get dressed, make and eat their own breakfasts, clean their teeth and get themselves off to school all by themselves. There are various ways to motivate them to do this, but the most effective that we have found is by using collective responsibility. As we need to encourage the older ones to be role models for the younger ones and to get them all to help each other out when necessary we’ll reward the whole group for the good behaviour of one child and also punish the whole group for the misdemeanour of one. This way the children police their own behaviour and only egg each other on to do things they know will bring rewards. Whereas a parent will usually have to break up a squabble between two children in most houses, in our house they are broken up quickly by their siblings.

Nevertheless, there are still very many household jobs which children can’t and shouldn’t do. As I mentioned earlier, they can make their own breakfast – usually cereal and fruit but occasionally a toasted waffle and a warm drink. They’re not quite old enough to be dealing with the oven or pan of boiling oil yet, however. In fact, I myself only tend to use the oven and the hobs on a Sunday when I cook up a traditional family dinner. During the week I save time by chopping vegetables and preparing meat and seasonings which will cook throughout the day in the slow cooker. Once your ingredients are in and you’ve switched it on – that’s pretty much dinner sorted. It’s still healthy and delicious, tender food, just prepared in a few minutes and cooked by itself throughout the day.

When it comes to washing, the children sort their own washing into two baskets – one for lights and one for coloureds. When the baskets are full I’ll put the washer on overnight (that’s when our water rates are cheaper). Of course, there is too much for just one load so the washer is usually on three or four nights a week. The kids will get a reward for hanging out the washing if they get to it before I do. Ironing takes quite some time but I don’t think my children are quite ready to do it for themselves, although this is definitely a skill I will teach them when they are ready. More rewards are available if the kids fold their own clothes and put them away.

I suppose when it comes to hobbies and extra-curricular activities, we are quite lucky that we have three sets of twins. It means that there are always at least two of our children taking part in any one activity, thus reducing any transport or conflicting schedule issues. Organisations like the cub scouts and brownies are great as they not only have their usual meetings and activities but they have their own sports teams and trips with transport covered. Our two oldest are looking forward to joining the Sea Cadets next year which will hopefully be great for building their skill sets, resilience, maturity and self-discipline.

Things like homework are done as a group at a set time. Invariably, the older two have more to do and find it more difficult. Things like this, plus the other responsibilities they have to shoulder make it important to that you show your appreciation for their efforts. This can be done with rewards but I think the best way is to reward responsibility with a degree of independence. For example, our eldest have more freedom than their siblings when it comes to choosing what they do with their free time.

It takes a lot of discipline at first but you really have to think of your parental responsibilities also including being a general manager of the household and the team. Look to responsibly delegate what you can in order to maximise the effective use of your available time. Your reward will be a close-knit and loving, large family.

Taste Tests

There is no doubt that nowadays food and drinks have a lot of hidden sugar in them. If they don’t have sugar in them, they have to put something else in to take its place.

A lot of people do not know this and the lower calorie, lower fat variations of food and drink could be as bad for you as the higher sugar, additive laden versions.  Education is the key to knowing exactly what you should be ingesting and how to keep your body at maximum efficiency and optimum health.

The best way to ensure what is going into your drinks and food is to make your own.  A juicer is a great place to start and there is an amazing website called: http://www.houseofjuicers.org/that will help you to get started.

My Job

My official title is a taste tester but I do not taste the food myself. I go out and test certain food and drink on the public.

How I usually do it is going into a town or city centre and give away free samples.  The food and drink is not marked up in anyway, I give the samples away to members of the public in return for some feedback in the way of carefully constructed questions. 

The Public

Getting the public to try the samples, no matter what they are, is really not a hard sell. We all love receiving something for nothing and we are always inundated with people wanting to try out our samples.

The samples can be anything, soft drinks and juices, candy, any type of food and it doesn’t stop there, I have tasted deodorants, toothpastes, it really could be anything.

The Challenge 

The challenge for this particular test was, can you tell the difference between low sugar and high sugar juices and soda and low fat and high fat puddings. Can you really tell the difference?  Testing the public without telling them the specifics was a perfect way to get real results.

The Testing 

The fun bit is the tests themselves.  I always really enjoy going out and speaking to the public and asking them to taste things when they don’t really know what it is is always fun.  A bit of humor and charm is always the way to go. 

The Results

The results are used in a variety of ways and extrapolated by experts. The findings can be used for marketing, helping companies to work out what consumers want.  The medical world, doctors and nutritionists usually use our findings for research papers ie: studies have shown that…and sometimes they the results are used to improve and enhance.  We do not judge, the company I work for is independent, we just carry out the tests.  What they are used for is up to our clients.

Observation

Over the course of the 10 years I have worked for the company on average, 70% of people cannot tell the difference between full fat and low fat and high sugar and low sugar.  I guess over the years our taste buds have become uneducated and sadly, this gives way to manufacturers trading on that ignorance and giving us things that taste good, but are not necessarily good for us.

Ignorance

It has never been my intention to vilify manufacturers because the ignorance is our own and it is our responsibility to educate ourselves.  We are so used to things tasting artificial products that we now cannot tell the difference between the real flavour of say, an orange and the manufactured flavour of orange. Manufacturers are there to sell a product, so the more educated they are about what we know, what we like etc. the better they can tailor those products to us and ultimately, the more they sell. I collect the findings, collate them and hand them to my boss who then reports up the chain.

I like meeting the public and I enjoy my job and I use the knowledge to educate my friends and family and in some small way help to change their worlds for the better.

Helping to Maintain Grandpa’s Farm

There were thousands of things that had to be done each and every day after school. Many of these things were written down on a list and attached to the refrigerator with a magnet. I was one of the only grand kids that liked visiting our grandparents and I did so every day after school. I would get off the bus and go straight to their house, as they lived right next door to us in our old neighborhood.

Some days I would walk in the door to find that no one was in the house. Instead they were somewhere on the farm doing something that needed to be done. My grandmother would write up a list and have it pinned to the fridge for me to begin. It mainly consisted of things such as cleaning out an animal pen, or bringing in the eggs from the hen house. There were times where I had to do something challenging such as chop down tall grass by the rabbit pen or go into the woods to dump debris after a storm.

Maintaining the Outdoors

As I became older, I started doing things that were a little more difficult for someone who was only eleven or twelve. I began to drive the tractor around the farm and help feed and water the animals in all locations. My grandparents were very worried when I would go out of site or not be where they expected me to be. Because the farm was very large, they were worried that I would get lost or end up in the woods.

My grandmother would love for me to help in her flower beds because that was the only thing that we seemed to share or have in common. I loved the animals and anything that had to do with outside. She loved her pretty flowers and her house, which was always spotless. The yard looked just as good as the inside of the house and she made sure of that. She loved to decorate with lawn ornaments, especially butterfly related. She had a few gnomes and a small villa type place for dwarf statues that she had purchased at a recent yard sale.

They had the best lawn mower for cutting their grass. It was a zero turn and would cover the entire yard in less than a few hours, including the backyard which was about two acres. Of course I was not allowed to use that until I was much older. At fifteen I was still pushing around an old gas hog of a lawn mower. I was allowed to use the weed eater, only because it was a cheap one and my grandfather had two or three others that he could use in case I was to mess one up. As a child, I would mess up a lot of things because I didn’t know exactly how it worked and was too proud to ask someone.

What I Learned

My grandparents taught me a lot, even if they said very little. They taught me how to care for the farm and for myself. They also taught me how to turn over a profit with selling at the local flea market, which they had done for nineteen years. I learned a lot from my parents, but the knowledge that I learned from my grandparents was to survive with a farm and to learn how to grow vegetables and other foods. This is valuable information and can come in handy in the future.

I am grown now with children, or little helpers, of my own. There are several things that I learned that I would love to pass down to my children, even if it’s just a small garden in the back yard. Teaching the kids how to farm and how to properly manage animals, especially those that produce eggs and milk, is very important. I feel confident that I can pass on the information that was shared with me to my children. Unfortunately my grandfather has passed before they could truly meet and get to know him, but my grandmother is still the sweet lady that I knew her to be years ago to the child version of me and she adores my children.

Everyday tips for living in a high-crime neighborhood

Nobody wants to live in a crime-ridden area. People often live there out of necessity – for ease of getting to work, low rent, proximity to family and so on. Some people live in neighborhoods that begin to go through tough times; perhaps a major factory closes and suddenly crime starts to increase. Others move into the area, perhaps hoping to get in at the start of gentrification, or simply because they can’t go anywhere else. Whatever the reasons, living in a high-crime area can be a stressful and risky experience and there are definitely things you need to take into consideration that you wouldn’t otherwise need to do elsewhere.

The first thing is to realize that the crime is being perpetrated by a minority of people. Most of your neighbors are just like you, law abiding individuals who are looking out for themselves and each other. That’s why it’s important to get to know your neighbors. They’ll want to know who is living next door to them. These are the guys who can clue you up on the neighborhood – people and areas to avoid, safety tips, what to look out for and how to act. Good neighbors look out for one another, watch each other’s property and so on. If you live on a particularly tough street, you might want to buddy up with your neighbor when walking around. Whatever you do, don’t walk around intoxicated.

High crime areas are usually poor areas and showing off any wealth you might have is asking to be targeted. You should carry a phone with its battery charged, but it should be out of sight. Dress down and wear baggy clothes that can conceal anything of value you might have in hidden pockets. By sticking to well-lit areas and avoiding gang hotspots, especially at night, you reduce the risk of walking into trouble. When driving, never drive with the window down and always leave a car-length gap either side of your car to avoid opportunistic carjackings. Be especially wary at red lights. If your area is associated with a particular gang, find out who their rivals are and don’t be seen wearing anything with that rival’s colors. Plenty of people have been shot for simply wearing the wrong color t-shirt or baseball cap.

If you like to exercise, do it at the gym or drive to a safer area if you like running in parks or at the beach. Running in a dangerous neighborhood can cause all kinds of confusion. Get yourself a good quality treadmill, something like this: http://www.treadmilltrends.com/schwinn-830/. It will help you keep fit and the comfort and quality of the machine will make up for the lack of fresh air.

At home, get a dog if possible. The more ferocious it sounds, the better. Dogs can be a nightmare for intruders, so 99% will move on and try to find an easier place to break into. Put up blinds so that nobody can see into your home and make sure the exterior is well-lit. Hoodlums don’t congregate in well-lit areas. If you own a gun, don’t advertise the fact. Some home invasions take place with the specific intention of stealing a firearm. As with anywhere, don’t reach for your gun unless you fully intend to use it. You may think you’re just sending a warning message, but another person will think you intend to fire and you could end up getting shot.

Secure your windows and doors. Deadbolts are the way to go as other types of locks are easy to kick in. A peephole is a good idea, a chain isn’t. Even better is a security camera with an intercom and an internal monitor to show you who is at the door.Doors and windows that are hidden from your neighbor’s view and the street are going to be the most likely places an intruder will try to enter. Block them off entirely if it’s feasible, but don’t compromise your emergency exit.

If you have a mail box or a bell, don’t put your name on it. If you must put your name on it, for whatever reason, try to get away with a slight alteration, a nickname, a spelling mistake or even a blatant lie (such as putting “Sgt.” before a civilian’s name).

Don’t allow yourself to be pushed around. If you have to, stick up for yourself. People pick up on weakness. If you get singled out as weak, you become a target for all the lowlifes in your area.