Baby Talk

moo

No, I do not mean the nauseating practice of calling a cow a moo-moo.

In my line of work I am used to unreasonable requests. I know all about the relativity of time when it comes to meeting impossible deadlines. I have met every stereotype of crazy client out there.

But I have never had a request like the one I had today.

It was for a gift tag. Nothing unusual there.

Except that the client requested that I write the message to be read by a newborn baby.

baby books053Not read by the parent but addressed to the baby.

Read by the baby.

I do not know about you but unless these are going to genius savant babies who emerge from the womb speaking seven languages and able to do complex mathematics, I do not know of a newborn who can read from birth.

I wrote one back addressed to the infant but in fairly simple terms for the blissful new parent to read.

I was shot down with…

“A baby can’t read this.”

No, a baby can’t read period.

Babies are little prohibited when it comes to communication.

gerbers baby foodThey understand hot, cold, hungry, tired and in need of a new nappy.

Pretty much everything else falls outside their realm of understanding despite what their mommies and daddies might believe.

They have one form of communication, actually two, no three – crying, regurgitating and peeing on you.

I do not speak baby.

I know this because I have had three of my own and spent most of the time trying to figure out if they were hot, cold, hungry, tired or needed a new nappy all in rapid succession.

No sooner had I found the reason for the cry and attended to it then another would pop up.

Such is motherhood.

The sweet-tempered account manager tried to soothe me.

I looked at her reply to the client’s email and asked, “If you knew this was well-nigh impossible, why did you right ‘will do’ in red after the comment?”

She replied, “Well, what else could I do?”

I hastened to suggest WTF might have been more applicable.

Perception in the Advertising World

L is for Little Finger Twisting

brother 1

As a small girl all I ever wanted for Christmas was a big brother. Needless to mention the impossibility of this task never occurred to me as a child. I assumed my parents could make this happen and was brutally disappointed that they failed in this simplest of tasks.

Watching sibling dynamics is an entirely new world for me. At turns it fascinates, amuses and downright irritates the living daylights out of me.

My husband, thank heaven for small mercies, has an older sister. So, he has some idea of what this involves.

When scooping out ice-cream into bowls he actually uses my kitchen scales to make certain each child has the exact same amount.

17453377-bohemian-crystal-glasses-filled-with-water-aligned-backlitWhen pouring drinks he measures the liquid in a measuring cup so that down to the last millilitre everyone is satisfied.

Each day we have this mad race for food at dinnertime, as if I would starve the last person in the queue.

God forbid someone get one extra pea. I actually have to count them out.

And it doesn’t extend to them, it extends to me too. So much so that I have taken to locking myself in the bathroom to eat a chocolate bar and then hiding the wrapper in the neighbour’s trash bin.

Miss Diva is 6 years old. Young Padawan is 8. The Ninja is 10. They outnumber me and the combined force of their discontent is too much to bear.

I digress.

Last night Miss Diva wanted to watch Barbie in Rapunzel, a movie the rest of us have some to hate with unequalled passion.

However, it was her choice with the caveat that we all have to be able to watch the chosen movie and Barbie renders most of us gibbering.

weeping_angelThe Ninja tried to push Doctor Who or Zathura.

“But,” sniffed Miss Diva tears welling up in her eyes, “If I watch Doctor Who I’ll be scared of the Weeping Angels and I’ll have to sleep in your bed!”

The Ninja has the coveted Top Bunk. His siblings will go to astounding lengths for a night spent at its dizzying height.

Miss Diva knew it was win-win situation for her. Either she got Rapunzel or the Top Bunk.

The Ninja caved. Miss Diva smiled the sweet smile of a girl who got her own way.

The Puppet from Deviant Art
The Puppet from Deviant Art

I laughed.

“What Mummy?” she asked.

Taking hold of a lock of her hair I said, “Pretend this lock of hair was on your brother’s head.” Then I wound the hair around her little finger and pulled it.

“You see,” I said, this is what you did to The Ninja the day you were born and just by pulling slightly you can make him do whatever you want.”

“Oh, yes!” she said, “I think it must be my talent. I do it to you and Daddy as well sometimes.”

Truer words were never spoken.

I can also ascertain exactly who is to blame for whatever disaster has befallen by checking who is not blamed by the other two. The odd one out is always the villain, because they others would never rat out the culprit. This is invariably Miss Diva.

The Young Padawan uses the power of his huge blue eyes and “I love you’s” to render any infuriation I might be suffering completely powerless.

Then they gang up on us.

Young Padawan suddenly needed urgent engineering expertise on a complicated structure in the back yard necessitating his father’s attention.

Miss Diva required my immediate presence in her Wendy House to attend a tea party.

On some secret cue both said, “Don’t worry, you can go now.” And we stumbled off feeling slightly bewildered.

During that time The Ninja built a tower of chairs to the secret snack cupboard and removed its entire contents to the space under Miss Diva’s bed.

That is where I found them when the eerie silence alerted my maternal instinct to misdoings and misadventures.

I wonder how often my parent’s let me get away with thinking they didn’t know about what I was doing?

Like putting the thermometer against the light bulb so I didn’t have to go to school. I didn’t realise that if actually had a fever that high I would have been dead.

I know I let my children manipulate me.

Sometimes I let them, because I appreciate the effort.

Sometimes, I don’t.

I like to mix things up and keep them guessing.

 

Attack of the Ninja

 

Ninja are a vital ingredient for success. Just look at the movies – even Jane Austin has some ninja moves. Alright, I may be stretching the truth a bit there, but even then, Ninjas are everywhere.

In their efforts to become Ninja, my children attend karate twice a week, led by a Sensei who rates shortly below God in their esteem. Only too often I have been threatened with the wrath of Sensei should I not provide ice-cream after dinner.

Arriving for collection I noticed the Sensei had his arm in a sling. Asking the eager young Senpeis what was the cause, I was told the following:

Small boy 1: “It was amazing! He took on 10 Ninja who crawled out from under his bed!”

Small boy 2: “No, it wasn’t, 23 Ninja attacked him in the bathroom!”

Small boy 3: “That’s not true. It was 36 Ninja and he defeated every single one!”

That sounded pretty cool. The unadorned truth wasn’t nearly so interesting. He had an operation on a tendon in his shoulder.

I looked at him in piteous contempt.

“Sensei,” I said, “I think you should stick to the boys’ story instead.”

He replied ruefully, “It is no good telling them the truth, you know, they don’t think it is interesting enough”.

Point taken, although he was absurdly flattered that they believe absolutely he could take on an army of Ninja and remain standing. As would I.

Which brings me to question: What is the plural of Ninja? I have assumed they are like sheep only in black and slightly more vicious.

Coulrophobia – The fear of clowns

All you need to know about organising your child’s birthday party, but were too afraid to ask.

I love my children, but I react to the coming of their birthdays with a deep dread. The hours of labour to bring them into the world were nothing compared to the arrangement of the Birthday Party.

The Birthday Party is my personal parental hell.

First off, I always leave it too late.

Secondly, the cost of catering for 25 small children and their 50 associated parents costs more than my wedding 12 years ago.

Luckily, it turns out that Small Boy Aged 7 has made friends with the daughter of a kids’ Party Planner extraordinaire.

She thinks nothing of organising a cordon bleu cake, arranging entertainment and catering for thousands. She loves it.

She is my hero and I am in awe.

Not only does she organise her own parties, but she does other people’s!

The Party ProsAdi was in the film industry, so she understands how to get a vast array of largely emotionally immature people to do stuff.

After her daughter was born, she decided to give Professional Momhood a shot and decided, as many do, that her creative brain was slowly atrophying under a pile of disposable diapers.

Adi loves kids. Kids love Adi. So, it made sense to start a new business for them. And the Party Pros was born.

The Party ProsMums have enough to do whether they work or not. Adi can take all the pressure off you and handle your party from start to finish.

I kid you not.

She will sort out your cake, your venue, your entertainment, your party packs, your decorations and your set-up.

All you have to do is provide the birthday person.

She is the Fairy Godmother of Parties.

As someone who loathes parties – giving them and going to them, I was at a loss as to how she could find this avenue at all enjoyable.

I would have thought it a one-way trip into a mental institution.

She laughed at me and explained that she loves creating a magic wonderland and seeing a child’s face transform with joy.

Ideally, she says, you should start organising your party three to four weeks in advance, however, some venues book up months ahead, so if there is somewhere or something you really want to do, book it now.

Fret not, if the time has passed, Adi has sorted out moms in under three days.

Back in the far depths of time when I was kid, before jumping castles and baby discos, birthday parties consisted of a cake, a clown and some games.

In some circles children’s parties have now taken on a status worthy of the Beckhams.

That leaves most of us out the ballpark.

The Party ProsWe’re lucky if we can conjure up a Ninja Turtle. Not that the kids care. They just want to run riot and eat cake.

Adi can’t hook you up with Angelina Jolie or Bono (who is, right now, caring deeply about something), but she can help you create the perfect party for your child.

What should you be prepared to spend on a party for your beloved offspring?

You don’t actually have to kill yourself. Adi is pretty sanguine about creating a party to fit your budget.

The truth is kids will have fun with a jumping castle or a jungle gym as much as they will with a fire-eater, a trick pony or a rock and roll band.

The Party ProsDespite a trend towards bringing up gender neutral children, it seems the old favourite themes are still the best one.

Little girls love princesses, fairies and my favourite, Hello Kitty (we share a birthday!).

Little boys love pirates, I have hosted two pirate parties myself, Disney Cars and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Entertainment options at parties are dependent on age groups.

The Party ProsToddlers need a sandpit and a couple of spades.

Face painting and crafts are a hit with the over 3’s and balloon sculptors and jumping castles are a staple hit.

From 4 to 7 magic shows, puppets and the animal petting zoo (or the snakes and spiders one) are popular choices.

Of course, the water slide is a hit with all ages – even the parents! Old fashioned party games also work well, so don’t discount musical chairs, pass the parcel or a good old treasure hunt.

The Party ProsAs they get older the entertainment becomes a bit more of a challenges, so Adi can hook you up with Survivor, Amazing Race and Fear Factor parties.

One memorable party incident was sparked by my husband stealing a chip from the kids’ party table.

The Mom, who was edge as it was, because the kids didn’t want to play Pin the tail on the Donkey, collapsed in a fit of hysteria and had to be sedated.

Adi’s words of advice to us parents are to just relax, sit back and let the kids do what kids do. Take everything out beforehand and then just let it go.

Like many people, I live in a smallish house. Not one designed to host 25 kids and their caretakers. Hence, I tend to fall back on venues.

The city is full of excellent places to host a party. Adi recommends Marmalade in Fourways. It is parent friendly and has an indoor area if the weather turns nasty.

She also rates Kinglets and Queenies, Farmyard Friendz and the River Cafe in Sandton.

Presents. You have to take one to a party, but what, and how much should you spend?

Adi’s rule of thumb is to spend between R70 and R120 on a user-friendly gift.

Kids don’t know how much things cost, they only care how much fun they have with them. Recently a number of my son’s peers have chosen to collect for charities instead – collecting dog food or asking for donations to the SPCA or a children’s home.

The Party ProsAside from the all important cake, there’s always the question of what else to feed the horde of children descending upon you.

Adi recommends a mix of healthy and sweet. Stick with finger foods, she says, as the kids will be too busy racing around to sit down and eat.

Her most important tip: Avoid allergy foods like nuts and small sweets that could lead to you performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on a 5-year-old.

Key to every party I seem to go to these days is the Party Pack.

The Party ProsNo Party Pack equals very unhappy small children coming down from a sugar high.

Adi offers very good value for money in Party Pack stakes with 2 or 3 little toys and some sweets.

So, your little guests go home happy clutching their packs and you can breathe a deep sigh that they didn’t bankrupt you.

Adi doesn’t only do kids. She can help you out with your party or a company bash. Let’s face it, we’d all like to be a kid again, even if only for a day!

The Party ProsI have always wanted an ice-cream cake for my birthday. Sadly, it is in the middle of winter and almost 40 years down the line, not an ice-cream cake is in sight.

You can have stock standard sponge or you could, like a local radio station did, opt for piñata covered with icing and indulge in some confectionary violence before gorging yourself on sugar.

Whether you need to organise a party for your child or for your inner child, Adi can help you create one to remember for all the best reasons.

The Party ProsYou can contact Adi at the Party Pros:

Telephone: +27 (0) 83 486 6781

Email: info@thepartypros.co.za

URL: www.thepartypros.co.za

Or follow them in Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Party-Pros/113449048741627

Say Cheese

On 20 February 2006 the world changed forever.
Maybe you didn’t notice, but the world as I knew it shifted slightly to the right.
Alexandra Isabella was born at 06:50 and promptly altered the state of the universe to suit herself.
Today is her sixth birthday and like most mothers, I suffer from party panic.
You may scoff, but I have been to parties where the mother has broken down into hot tears of hysteria because the kids didn’t want to pin the tail on the donkey.
I have spent sleepless nights baking elaborate birthday cakes in the shape of the Sword of Omens and a robot.
I have iced 100 small pink cupcakes and stuffed party packs full of toys and candy from China Mall.
Each year there is a not-so-subtle parental competition – one that usually ends with you substantially poorer. You can easily end up spending as much on a birthday party than you did on your own wedding – only Daddy doesn’t pick up this bill.
I have been to a party where one of South Africa’s premier soccer teams played ball with a bunch of 7 year olds. Former State President Nelson Mandela made an appearance at one.
I don’t bother even trying. I sent the boys to bootcamp to wallow in the mud and be yelled at by ex-Navy Seals. They go hone happy,exhausted and covered in mud. Most the time they are happy with a water pistol and a jumping castle.
Girls are harder.
This year as I was lamenting the impending day with gloom, the power of social networking led me to a review by Shelli Nurcombe-Thorne who knows more about Johannesburg than anyone I have ever met.
Largely because she writes a Joburg blog about it. She had just reviewed a kids’ photo studio and promptly sent me the details of Nina Say Cheese.
Lexi and her best friend were duly collected on Saturday afternoon and chauffeur driven (by me) to the studio of Nina Say Cheese in Fourways.
Vanessa Lewis is a professional food photographer, but was inspired to start a children’s studio after the birth of her daughter, Nina.
She offers four magical sets, an aeroplane hanger, a circus, a forest and a tea party.
She also provides delicious cookies and macaroons from a real pastry-chef.
The girls put on identical pink ruffled skirts, pretty tops and sparkly shoes. Suddenly these two scruffy little tomboys blossomed into the most beautiful and ladylike little girls. They posed, they played and they laughed and laughed and laughed.
I haven’t got the pictures yet, but I know they will be beautiful.
So all-in-all it was a good way to celebrate without having to entertain 25 small girls and their 50 associated parents.
Social networking again helped me out on the birthday present front. Having expressed interest in a Barbie Bride at a friend’s house,her mom called to tell me about the best place to buy Barbie clothing.
Hint: It is not Toys R Us.
The Rosebank Market on a Sunday is home to a remarkable stall. An elderly man painstakingly designs and makes exquisite furniture for baby dolls and Barbie Dolls. His wife equally painstakingly designs and sews tiny clothes, sleeping bags, duvets and other necessities for small girls and their dolls.
For R300 I bought a wardrobe and 6 perfectly made little outfits, including a wedding dress. Unlike the cheap and nasty Toys R Us clothes, they don’t fall apart as soon as Barbie is dressed up and they cost a damn sight less.
I highly recommend him to every mother of a small child who balks at the idea of buying yet another Barbie. Lexi unwrapped her gifts this morning in total rapture.
I also got out of baking a million cupcakes by strolling into Mother Hubbard’s in the mall and purchasing for R70 a Happy Birthday cake for her school birthday ring.
Far less stressful.
This afternoon I will pick up little karate kid and take her out for ice-cream with sprinkles on.
Heaven.
And when we get home Lexi can model the pretty clothes purchased on her shopping experience with my  mom – from Zara no less!

Mums and Dads

 

I had one of those illuminating discussions with my 5-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son this afternoon.
The topic – What do mums and dads do?
MUMS
       1.    Mums go to work
       2.    Mums take kids to school
       3.    Mums help clean the house
       4.    Mums put on movies for kids
       5.    Mums read stories
       6.    Mums give good cuddles
       7.    Mums help when you get hurt
       8.    Mums take you to the doctor
       9.    Mums make hot chocolate
       10. Mums make ponytails for little girls
       11. Mums put on makeup
       12. Mums make kids have baths
       13. Mums buy stuff for you
       14. Mums take care of people who are scared
       15. Mums are nice and not mean
       16. Mums can kill monsters and trap bad guys
DADS
  1. Dads build Wendy houses for their daughters
  2. Dads fix cars
  3. Dads go to Builders Warehouse
  4. Dads buys tattoos
  5. Dads make swings
  6. Dads fix stuff
  7. Dads hold you upside down and tickle you
  8. Dads play with you
  9. Dads help you with homework
  10. Dads go to work
  11. Dads help you with computer games and the Wii
  12. Dads buy stuff for you on your birthday
  13. Dads take you sailing
  14. Dads ride bikes with you
  15. Dads make ice-cream and hot chocolate sauce
  16. Dads make midnight snacks
Dads sound like way more fun than Mums.