Anita's Haven

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Parents’ Alert

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Not so long ago, a friend of mine found her son in front of his laptop, in bitter tears and literally afraid for his life. An older boy from his school was sending him threatening and hurtful messages over a social network, on behalf of himself and a bunch of his bullying buddies. Her son was not only afraid to leave the house, but sat there as if paralysed in front of the screen, his fists clenched so firmly that his knuckles were white. No amount of consoling, coaxing or even threatening helped my friend – her son would simply not reveal the real name of his abuser, masked behind a clipart avatar and a fashionably misspelled username. But most mothers whose children are attacked don’t just back out, and very few obstacles manage to slow them down. Single mothers even more so, and my friend is one.

Like a proper lioness, she gave her son a chocolate bar, some cocoa and a pep talk, gently stroked his hair and put him in bed, playing his favourite music really low till he fell asleep. She acted calm before the storm. Then she sat at the desk and opened her son’s profile. A couple of hours later, having done some online detective work she had never deemed herself capable of, she had the bully’s full name and surname, his home address and his private cellphone number. And she hadn’t even broken any laws. The problem with bullies and all criminals is their ego; they are never really ashamed of their actions and always secretly want the whole world to know them for their deeds. So they leave a trail of breadcrumbs one only has to follow. She did exactly that. Looking at her son twitch and sweat in sleep, mumble defensive phrases in his nightmare, and unconsciously cry despite his early teenage years and strong body, she grabbed her cellphone and typed in the bully’s number. Before tapping the call button, she left her son’s room and closed the door behind her.

She phoned the bully. He answered. She introduced herself and then, with all the raging storm she had in her, she spoke her mind, letting the bully know she knew who he was and where he lived, ordering him to stop contacting her son, and threatening what she would do if he didn’t stop. I don’t know exactly what she said, and I guess neither does she any more. Protecting loved ones, especially children, brings out the best and worst in us, and controlling that is usually impossible. The point is – she succeeded. She never spoke to the boy’s parents about this. It turns out she knows from the neighbourhood; they are exactly the behavioural matrix their son so loyally copies. She never told her son what she did. But he is not bullied any more, sleeps well and goes out with his friends, like all happy children should. She is not happy. She is alert.

What would you do? There are so many options for parents in this case, some depending on the laws of your country, some on the culture and tradition you come from, but what it all comes down to is your definitive parental decision. You are the one who chooses to act and faces the results.

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Would you tell your son to ‘take it like a man’ and fight back? Battle a group of bullies, bigger and older than him, all alone and empty-handed? Would you resort to violence yourself, get a gang of thugs and beat the boys’ senseless and their parents as well? Would you go to the press or the Internet and make the story go viral, dragging you and your son through the merciless scrutiny of the public eye, which only seems to feed on the negative and rarely offers any real help or solution? Would you tell your child to talk to friends or call a helpline, washing your hands of the responsibility?

You could choose not to act. Just sit tight, waiting for the whole thing to pass on its own. It seems easier to do anyway. But it isn’t easy, and it won’t pass. Dirt piled up under a rug doesn’t go away, it doesn’t dissolve, and nobody else comes to clean house. Sooner or later, you or your loved ones stumble over it and fall flat on your face. Unresolved bullying only gets worse, spreads to more people, leaves your child out there like an open target, a sitting duck, with an invisible ‘open season’ sign hanging over his head. And your child remains a victim. Or, for better or worse(which do you think?), becomes a bully himself, vindicating his own suffering by tormenting others.

You could do exactly what my friend did – go directly to the source and deal with the bully. You could get lucky, exactly like she did, the word ‘lucky’ used very loosely here, because there is no win-win situation where violence is concerned. She could have been in trouble though. The bully could have told his parents, they could have attacked her, they could have sewed her for contacting their underage son without their knowledge and threatening him. They could even have won in court, depending on who had the money for a slicker lawyer. Her son could have been badly hurt by the bullies for having his mummy come to the rescue. But if you weigh all those options before your parental instinct kicks in, you are probably late already.

You could contact the school authorities. It is their duty, after all, to handle such issues on school premises. They have trained professionals for such situations. It would take time, you would drag your son and his friends through questioning, the bully’s parents would be contacted, and then it would be just like a trial all over again. Or maybe not. Maybe the whole team of adults involved int he problem really would work together in the best interest of all the children, and the bully would get help and stop being a bully, whereas the bullied would relax and heal, and future similar situations would be prevented or, at least, reduced. Well, you never know until you try, right?

What would you do? What do you do?

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Learn back from your children

Parenting

Plant a kiss on your daughter’s forehead
One that says all is well
Even when it’s not
Even when she sees it’s not
But make her believe it
It’s your job
You are her home
Her safe haven
Her parent.

Stroke your son’s hair in passing
A touch that encourages
Even when you have no courage
Even when you feel so weak
But make him believe it
It’s your job
You are his home
His safe haven
His parent.

And when she chirps around happily
With the smile of a thousand suns
Confident beyond any borders
And as tireless as spring
Be proud of your achievement
Don’t be shocked
Don’t be surprised
You’ve taught her life’s joy
Now it’s time to learn back from your daughter.

And when he dares to do the stuff he fears
And when he persists after defeat
Stubborn and brave and happy
And eager to make you proud
Be proud of your achievement
Don’t be tired
Don’t feel drained
You’ve taught him life’s battles
Now it’s time for you to learn back from your son.

Believe it
It’s your job
They are your home
Your safe haven
Your children.

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Happy Mother’s Day! Take a nap!

For all the parents out there, especially those who, like my hubbie and me have children who considered sleeping a waste of time, so much so that we dreaded the process of putting them to bed – a comical motherly approach:).

By the way, didn’t you just hate those smug parents who claimed they had so much free time while their kid slept like a log? Free time? Really? What on earth is that?

Free Time

I finally have
A day off from work,
So it’s just the daily routine,
No one goes berserk.

But my heart is pounding
And she feels my fear.
Both she and I know
That nap-time is near.

We’ve done the yummy,
She’s had her bath,
The massage, the cuddling,
The story book path.

Changed the bedsheets this morning,
The music is low.
It’s time to relax
And to dreamland go.

Let’s kiss her cheek
And in her crib she can lie.
I’ll give her the Bambi
And say bye-bye.

She looks at me sternly,
With wide open eyes.
I just know in a second
I’ll be hearing her cries.

So I sit and pretend
I am reading a book,
But I just can’t resist
Taking a look.

She’s quietly hugging
Her bottle of milk
And curling softly
Her fair hair of silk.

And I feel such relief
As I sit in my chair.
Let’s just have some coffee
And breathe some calm air.

She should nap for an hour,
Or more if I’m blessed,
Let’s see what I can do
In that time – unstressed.

I could dust the whole house,
Or at least one room
For you can see my dust for miles
Without any zoom.

But wait! What’s that?
Is she sleeping or not?
Is that moaning I hear?
Is that a problem she’s got?

‘Oh mommy, come back,
You can’t leave me here.
I’m so little, come hug me,
Chase away every fear.’

My drama queen starts
Her anti-nap show.
It will last and last,
This I just know.

‘Mommy is here,
Go back to sleep.
And Bambi is here,
And his dreams are deep.

Here’s a big, big hug
And another kiss, too.
Don’t worry, dear, mommy
Is looking after you.’

A sob and a blink,
And she’s lying again.
Perhaps this time it works
And she reaches her zen.

I’m back in my plan-mode,
Stitching a sock.
The laundry is on now,
And I glance at the clock.

If she sleeps now,
I can just finish lunch,
And some work brought home,
As there’s always a crunch.

And minutes like hours
To me they can seem.
There’s so much to do,
But she just won’t dream.

For she’s back on her feet now
With a loud complaint.
She bangs on her crib fence.
(She might hit her head and faint!)

‘Oh mommy, you’re here!
What’s that over there?’
As her chubby fingers follow
Her smiling stare.

‘It’s a photo of your brother,
Just like every other day.
Now lie down and sleep,
And please, just – stay!’

‘Oh mom, before you go,
Can I just have a hug,
And I promise I’ll sleep
As snug as a bug.’

Her smile is like honey
So I quickly fly back,
And I hug her and kiss her,
And touch the curl on her neck.

And I lay her back gently.
She closes her eyes.
And I go back to work some,
But she soon screams and cries.

‘Bad dream, bad dream!
Hold me some more.
Take me in your arms
And close that door.’

And I curl up with her
On our big family bed,
And I sing to her and pat
Her warm little head.

I almost fall asleep,
Waiting for her to relax,
When she chuckles and wakes
And once again asks:

‘Oh mommy, please tell me,
what’s that in your nose?
And when I poke your eye,
Why’s it red like a rose?

Oh and, by the way, mommy,
Can’t we just read and play?
It’s so boring to lie down
And do nothing all day!’

‘But you must sleep, dear,
so your body can grow.
You’re just a baby,
You need sleep, you know.’

‘But what if I miss stuff
While I’m taking a nap?
Plane sounds or a phone call,
A fly buzz or jingle rap?

It’s so dull here in bed-
Nothing to smash, chew or push!
And you’re no fun either.
And you keep saying shush.’

‘Come to the kitchen with me
and let’s check on our meal!
But then – it IS bedtime!’
‘OK, mum, it’s a deal!’

My back is so sore,
But I carry her there,
Lunch is ready, work can wait,
She’s the one who needs care.

We go back to her crib,
She lies smiling and content,
And she closes her eyes.
(Will I regret and repent?)

I’m almost at the door,
But it’s ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy!’
‘What now???’ ‘A bellybutton –
right here on my tummy!’

After finding mine,
She’s out like a light,
But if I want it to last,
I’ll keep my fingers crossed tight.

Quick! Do I still have time?
Wash my hair, legs need wax,
For when hubbie gets home
He’ll be wanting some sex.

Boy, she’s sleeping – a wonder!!!
Can I still fix son’s shoes?
He messed up the bottoms
When he fell and got bruised.

He’ll be back in ten minutes
From his playtime with a pal!
Hope he doesn’t come screaming
And wakes up my sweet gal!

‘Hey, mom, I am home!
What’s for lunch? Starving here!’
There he is, and so is she-
Wide awake with a sneer!

But OK, I’ve done stuff!
One leg waxed, and hair wet,
Laundry done, work delayed,
But a simple lunch is set.

Kids are chatting and smiling,
Even hubbie is home.
As for me, well, at least-
I made this li’l old poem!

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Life’s lesson learned?

This week life tried to teach me another one of its lessons. Actually, two.

1. You can’t control everything!
2. Trust people!

Sounds simple enough, right? A preschooler should get it. I guess I learn slow. Hubbie and I had been preparing our kid’s 6th birthday party, and I fussed over so many details, having just as many detailed and intricate plans at work at the same time. Workaholic control-freak mum? Ya think?

And then I went and caught a cold, the one that knocks you down with a really high fever and pain all over. No amount of guilt-tripping over my motherly and teacherly duties helped. Sick I was and it wasn’t going to vanish.

Work colleagues did everything above and beyond the call if duty. Hubbie, family and friends made the birthday magical.

Lesson learned? Well I still have some homework, revisions and tea to go through, but getting there.

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I THINK MY MOM’S A SUPERHERO by Bolaji O. – my review no.34

Fun, funny and educational

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Let’s face it – I picked this book because of pure vanity! I mean, which mother wouldn’t want to be a superhero? This book works well as a family reading, or in school on Mother’s Day. (Possibly also Father’s Day with the other book.) Or any day you need some positivity and laughter. It is the first book for me to read in this series, and I am quite positive it is not the last.

The story and illustrations are blended into a fun and funny comic book, with lots of humour.  As soon as I realized I had to tap twice on each page to enlarge it in my tablet reader, I started to enjoy it. Once you recognize yourself in certain situations, and trust me – you will, you will get the true gift of a good book – the chance to laugh and giggle at yourself, by yourself or with your entire family. It is wonderfully inviting to be read by a parent with kids, and can be used as a teaching tool when talking about family life. The gender roles are assigned in a traditional way, and the story is followed with simple follow-up questions. There is even a lovely additional surprise for parents at the end. Some pages will make you giggle, some will make you say ‘oh yes, I do’, and some will make you smile, say ‘awwww’ and make you hug your kids or partner even more gently.

See yourself and your everyday family life with some humour, and even the difficult moments will be easier to go through. This is a book you can give to your child, teenagers can give to their mothers, husbands can give to their wives, even you can give to your mother, although she is a grandma already. Enjoy your family – it is a treasure to cherish!

PS: I couldn’t resist taking a screenshot! Oh and btw, the book is free.

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This book on amazon

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PARENTING

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Plant a kiss on your daughter’s forehead
One that says all is well
Even when it’s not
Even when she sees it’s not
But make her believe it
It’s your job
You are her home
Her safe haven
Her parent.

Stroke your son’s hair in passing
A touch that encourages
Even when you have no courage
Even when you feel so weak
But make him believe it
It’s your job
You are his home
His safe haven
His parent.

And when she chirps around happily
With the smile of a thousand suns
Confident beyond any borders
And as tireless as spring
Be proud of your achievement
Don’t be shocked
Don’t be surprised
You’ve taught her life’s joy
Now it’s time to learn back from your daughter.

And when he dares to do the stuff he fears
And when he persists after defeat
Stubborn and brave and happy
And eager to make you proud
Be proud of your achievement
Don’t be tired
Don’t feel drained
You’ve taught him life’s battles
Now it’s time for you to learn back from your son.

Believe it
It’s your job
They are your home
Your safe haven
Your children.

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(Written on November 1, 2012)

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Spring magic and miracles

Dawn and my characters woke me up at five again. As my husband would say: ‘Oh, she’s writing at five again. Means spring is definitely coming.’ And I welcome this love-hate relationship with my characters, now that my health has improved a bit and is allowing me to write. Pretty soon I will be back at work (finally;), balancing business-family-writing in that busy, spring, hyperactive rhythm I love so much.

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It is truly amazing how one season can bring you energy to do everything and more, and another just seems to suck the life out of you. Spring is my dawn, autumn is my dusk. I think it has probably been like that my whole life. The stuff I find so hard to do in autumn come naturally and problem-free in springtime. New ideas, new lesson plans, new story plots, new activities, and the day somehow manages to squeeze all those things into a timespan of 24 hours, which in autumn seems unbelievably brief.

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Another spring wonder is the fact that I do not feel as tired at all. All the creative juices, which wake me up so early, don’t make me crash and fall asleep in the middle of the day!  Truth be told, the character who woke me up today is an amazing little girl who still thinks by feeling, expresses herself without hesitation and never dwells on the negative, always finding a fresh, new perspective on things. She fights for herself and her loved ones, and is completely unafraid to speak her mind. She is just the perfect balance of angel and demon, and sometimes I just want to be her, you know?

So I am writing her scene, surrounded by her energy and that pure, childish vibe, and, naturally, my daughter wakes up. She sneaks next to me in bed, ever so careful not to wake up her dad, and lets me finish writing the scene. Not that she was very patient; the scene was almost over. But this morning I realized just how fascinating the magic of writing really is! I have been writing this book for a long time now, at night, early in the morning, on holiday, whenever they characters visited me, and not all scenes are lively and not all characters so vibrant and positive. (In fact, I like to avoid some of my characters, because they enfuriate or sadden me so much!)

But my daughter, my inspiration for Dot, always wakes up when I write about Dot. It’s almost as if it’s actually her waking me up and tellling me what to write about Dot, and when I am just about done, she wakes up and comes to check up on my progress. Mind you, she doesn’t read yet, nor does she speak English (she would disagree – she knows numbers and colours and animals, so of course she speaks English;)!). And she never asks me what I am doing. It’s as if she knows. She just comes to feel my energy and cuddle. And she is satisfied. So am I.

And I am so happy when the energy I have to share with my loved ones is positive. So overall, quite a wonderful dawn! The perfect sign of the coming spring!

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Just sharing part of chapter 33 – Broken, from my current work-in-progress novel The Forest of Trees, (part of Dot’s afternoon kindergarten scene, after a morning filled with dangerous events)

Miss Fiona’s eyebrows clouded her face as she watched little Dorothy toss and turn, unable to sleep. The events of the day had been too much for her busy little mind and she simply couldn’t calm her thoughts and feelings.
‘Clever girl, that one. No wonder she can’t quiet her mind,’ Miss Fiona thought as she glanced at the other kids, all safely nested in their beds, hugging their toys and pillows, mumbling in sleep and occasionally scratching their noses while dreaming.
Dot’s exhaustion was broken up by briefly dozing off in Sam’s car on the way back to school from the hospital, and now she had so much to say and do that sleep just seemed like a waste of time. Miss Fiona smiled as she listened to Dot share her problems with her fluffy sheep, and decided to let Dot play in the quiet corner, because she knew forcing her to lie down wouldn’t work today. The teacher had tried stroking her hair, holding her hand, shushing Dot to sleep, but all in vain. Miss Fiona’s blue slippers, soft and soundless, glided on the floor and carried her off to Dot. She knelt beside the girl, touched her gently on the shoulder and almost chuckled as Dot immediately lay still, closed her eyes firmly and pretended to sleep.
‘Come, Dot, but shhhhh… keep quiet so you don’t wake the rest of the kids up, O. K.?’
Dot’s face beamed up at hers with gratitude and the little toddler crept out of bed and trodded behind her teacher, her sheep tucked safely under her arm. Miss Fiona sat with her in the quiet corner of the room, on the soft colourful island-like carpet and chose a picture book to read to her in whisper. As soon as she began, Dot cradled closer, leaning her body onto her teacher’s for support. She wasn’t really listening to the story, but the soothing voice. It helped her mind focus and stilled her heart.
‘I want to make something, Miss!’
Dot’s whisper was low, but adamant and she even grabbed her teacher’s underarm to get her attention.
‘Make what?’
‘Build something!’
‘O.K., dear, but quietly, right?’
‘I pwomise!’
Miss Fiona left Dot to play with soft building blocks and walked over to the other kids to check up on them. Little Peter’s teddy had fallen out of the bed, so she went to put it back before the boy reached for it and cause havoc and mayhem if it wasn’t there. When she returned, she sat in her chair close to Dot, and observed.
Dot was grumpy. She wasn’t happy with the blocks at all, but she never asked for help when she thought she could handle things on her own.
‘Don’t like city! So square… so cold… so sad…’
Broken pieces of the story came out in Dot’s voice  as she kept demolishing her edifice. She frowned and looked around, searching for something else. She noticed some modelling clay on the little, round, red table. She got up, slowly and quietly and walked over to it with a plotting smile.
Her hands reached for the clay and started making shapes, turning the material into something that resembled a house, mixing colours together without any plan, just enjoying the clay in her hands, her eyes and hands focused on creating an image.
‘There… Stone cottage… home…’
She was smiling now, and Miss Fiona pulled up closer to watch and listen.
‘Mummy happy there… daddy happy there…. Jemmy happy… Dot happy…’
Dot chirped under breath, almost humming now, and started rolling the rest of the clay into colourful snake-like lines, without changing her expression. Her tiny fingers applied themselves to work like a serious artist would, driven by a vision she had in her head, and Miss Fiona witnessed sculptural expression quite advanced for Dot’s age, in awe and bewilderment, but completely silent, not to break the moment.
‘Must make Fowest now… twees all twisty… all magic…’
Dot’s broken tale continued as she turned each snake into a tree trunk, pulling out the top ends into winding branches, then placing each tree trunk near the house, creating a forest. One tree, round the middle of the forest, seemed quite special, as Dot took the little plastic modelling blade and cut the trunk from top to near bottom, splitting it almost in half, and leaned it onto the adjacent one.
‘There…. Jemmy’s fwends. And now – my fwend!’
Dot announced with a chuckle, reaching for green clay and taking in her fingers just a tiny ball of it, pressing it gently with her fingertips to create a little squashed figurine.
Then she played with it, made it fly around the forest and then right up to the house.
‘Biwdie come and make mummy’s boo-boo go away. Just a bit of magic and… poof, all is well!’
Miss Fiona smiled, envying the children for their believing in magic, which made everything right.
‘Although,’ she thought to herself, ‘ we could all use a bit of magic today.’

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