Jul 30, 2014

Why I bribe my kids

My favorite podcast is Freakonomics ("the hidden side of everything"). They cover topics like "Does religion make you happy?" (yes), "What do King Solomon and David Lee Roth have in common?" (use of game theory), and my personal favorite, "The upside of quitting" (let it go, let it go..!)

Last week their topic was "Why you should bribe your kids". (transcript here).

This was timely because I have just recently started paying my kids to eat vegetables.

I tend to think like an economist, so I have no problem with this. That is, I believe that (a) people respond to incentives, and (b) it is very, very difficult to get people to do things that they don't want to do, without them.

Of course, I am slightly uncomfortable with it. I would prefer to have my kids eat vegetables because I have modelled healthy eating, because I am a tough parent ("eat it or starve"), and because I have structured our lives and our menus in a way that the kids have learned naturally to enjoy their vegetables. But I have tried all of these things - some of them even consistently - and I know only that they involve a constant uphill battle for correspondingly little payoff. (See? economic thinking).

Bribery is not my only MO.

I hide vegies too. My kids love mashed potato. They only recently found out that I have always made it with half potato, half cauliflower.  I have chopped up green and orange vegetables so tiny you can barely see them, and mashed them into mincemeat burgers, only to have eagle-eyed seven-year-olds screech "What's that?" after taking one bite. I have mixed too many pureed vegies into bolognaise sauce and made an unappetizing grey gloop that even I didn't want to eat.

I heard a CSIRO scientist on the radio a couple of years ago say he lets his kids pour chocolate sauce on their vegetables, because eating vegetables is that important. I've never done that (my kids have enough chocolate in their lives), but I have simmered green beans in butter and honey (delicious!) and served broccoli with honey drizzled over the top (meh).

I've coated Brussels sprouts in breadcrumbs and toasted them - or fried them. I've made fritters out of flour, vegetables and cheese that are goddamn delicious - all to fairly unenthusiastic reception.

I have kept up serving vegetables, and tried to keep them varied, and I've tried to keep mealtimes light-hearted and natural (don't want to create an eating disorder!)  I've put various vegies on the table and said "You just have to eat one green thing and one yellow thing."

I've taught them how vegetables make them strong, and keep their innards working, and help them go to the toilet. I've told them stories about people who didn't eat vegies and got sick, or didn't grow. I've waxed lyrical on the satisfying crunch of a lettuce slice in a burger, or the tangy sweetness of red capsicum in a taco.

I've served up something I know they won't want, but might actually like, and said "You just have to have one bite. But if you like it, you can eat more, if you want."

And all of these things work a bit, and so I keep going with them all.

But I've had the most success yet the times when I've piled up their plates and announced: "I'm paying 50c per vegetable today", or "Three bucks to whoever eats ALL their vegetables tonight."

I am quite sure that many people will think - or comment - "Wow, when I was a kid we just ate what we were given", or "I don't offer my kids any alternative" or "If they don't eat it for dinner I give them the leftovers for breakfast". All that is great, and if these are your methods and they work, then that's great.

I too, as a kid, ate what I was given for dinner, and I didn't always like it.  I can't remember if I ate all my vegetables. I probably did, or at least ate most of them. I don't remember complaining.

But times have changed and the way we run our lives and food has changed. Kids get more to eat now, and more variety, and yes, that makes healthy dinners harder.

So I'll stick to my mix of tricks: all the things mentioned above, plus bribery a couple of times a week, until the healthy habits stick.

Do you / did you bribe your kids?

Mmmmmm, vegetables...

Jul 22, 2014


Flu, flu, I hate you
I'm all laid up, what can I do?
Very little, and I feel crap too
The house looks like an unkempt zoo
As for dinner, baked beans will do
And the kids will buy lunch tomorrow too.

Flu, flu, I hate you
And I used to scoff at flu shots too
Next winter I'll know what to do
I'll get the shot and love it too.
Next winter I'll be good as new
Without the burden of the flu.

Flu, flu, I hate you
I've missed loads of work and parenting too
I've passed through days without a clue
My legs are sore and my head pounds too
I'm living between the bed and the loo
Darn you to heck, you rotten flu.

Flu, flu, I hate you
The doctor says there's nothing to do
The dog is neglected and feeling blue
The cat doesn't care but that's nothing new
I can't read to the kids without coughing anew
So now they play Minecraft in bed, boo-hoo

Flu, flu, I hate you
My head is fuzzy and hurting too
Moving feels like walking through glue
I don't even know if you ARE the flu
'Flu-like virus' is probably true
'Ebola' feels apt but I can't overdo

Flu, flu, I hate you
The office is hit and school is too
So many sick or struggling through
Projects on hold, no one will sue.
My boss says stay home, don't spread it anew
As people are catching it a second time too.

Flu, flu, I hate you
I'm out of clean clothes and my sheets stink too
And do I really need my period too?
Thanks body, what did I do to you?
My nose is swollen and just bled too
My face is spotty, my memory is too *

At home there are some saving graces
My husband's tea, my kids' kind faces
But the best thing of all that I can see:
So far the only one sick is me.

* I am blaming my illness for the standard of rhyming in this passage.

Jul 12, 2014

If I could

Time for a questionnaire blog perhaps?

I've lifted this one from Sunday Stealing by way of Princess Pandora Queen of Denial and The Plastic Mancunian, both of whose regular questionnaire blog posts I enjoy reading.


Travel anywhere, where would it be?

Egypt, or Tanzania. Two places I've always wanted to see. 

Meet anyone, who would it be? 

Vincent Van Gogh.  

 Bring anyone dead back to life, who would it be? 

I'd bring back my aunt who died too young, two years ago. She was a good person and she helped a lot of people, and her death was of course a trauma to her family.

 Be anyone for a day, who would it be? 

Angelina Jolie maybe, or Bill Gates.
It would be cool to be living your dream. 

 Get anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be? 

Utilities! (gas, electricity, phone, water).
Our house!
But actually: clothes. I love beautiful clothes and would love to be able to buy them more often. 

 Change one thing about your life what would it be? 

More money and flexibility for travelling and holidays. 

 Have any superpower what would it be? 


 Be any animal for a day which would you be? 

A seagull. 

 Date anyone who would it be? 

I'll take Clive Owen, on a night Pandora's not seeing him.  

 Change one thing about the world what would it be? 

Humans' incapacity to learn from disasters. 

 Live in any fictional universe which would you choose? 

None in which I am my adult self. As a child, life in Enid Blyton's England traipsing around with the Famous Five would have been my pick.  

 Eliminate one of your human needs which would you get rid of? 

This one:



 Change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be? 

My weight.  

 Change one of your personality traits which would you choose? 

My disinclination to socialise. I enjoy it when I do it. 

 Be talented at anything instantly what would you choose? 


 Forget one event in your life which would you choose? 

My flippant answer: The time I tripped while carrying a full tray of food while waitressing in Santorini, sending four bowls of spaghetti bolognaise flying over four horrified customers, my skirt flying over my head, and people from nearby restaurants still laughing about it a year later. 

My honest answer: toss-up between two. An incident in high school where I made fun of a friend I was fighting with, mocking her on her appearance. I was immediately, and still am, deeply ashamed of it.  And a couple of years ago, when I went up to NSW with my dad to pick up my grandfather to bring him to Melbourne to see his daughter before she passed away: we had to tell him the bad news and he sobbed; and the next day while we were walking I should have taken his arm to go up a step and I didn't, and he had a horrible fall and dislocated an arm. It was an awful couple of days.

 Erase an event from history (make it so it never happened) which would you choose? 

How to choose. The Holocaust? The world wars? (any war?) The genocide in Rwanda? The civil war in Syria? The invasion of Iraq? 9/11? The 2004 tsunami? Or a precursor event, such as the birth of Hitler?  I wouldn't know how to choose, quite honestly. What would you choose? 

 Have any hair/eye/skin color, which would you choose? 

Olive skin, very dark brown hair, and green eyes. 

 Be any weight/body type, which would you choose? 

It's hard to explain, but I'd like to be slim but not thin, slightly curvy but not too much, and moderately toned. In other words, a body that would look good in anything but doesn't stand out. Like most women I spent all my younger years being defined by my body, and am now invisible in it. I would like a neutral body, please. 

 Live in any country/city, where would you choose? 

I don't want to live anywhere other than Melbourne anymore. But in pure fantasyland, I'll live on Santorini or Naxos, or maybe some quieter island in Greece, like Amorgos. 

 Change one law in your country, which would you change? 

Well I'd like to say the way asylum seekers are being processed, but that is not even lawful.

In my state (Victoria), this one, passed just this year:

From 28 May 2014,under the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)police and protective services officers (in designated areas) will have more powers to move people on. These include if they are concerned that someone is: •doing something that makes another person afraid of potential violence •blocking another person or traffic (or likely to do so) •stopping someone from entering or leaving a building •unlawfully buying or selling a drug of dependence (or intending to). Also, police can direct multiple people to move on, and can require names and addresses of people who they intend to ask to move on.
Source: http://www.lawhandbook.org.au/handbook/ch11s02s04.php#

I'm against this even though the government is able to use it for something good: to move the horrid people picketing abortion clinics.

 Be any height, which would you choose?  

I'm happy with my height. I'm 167cm which is about 5ft7 I think. 

Have any job in the world, which would you choose? 

An extremely well-paid animal keeper at a really good zoo. 


 Have anything appear in your pocket right now, what would it be? 

A winning lottery ticket. Not sure how it would get there as I don't play lotto, but still. 

 Have anyone beside you right now, who would it be?

My husband, in bed, watching a movie on TV together. 

Jul 11, 2014

This arrangement is working purrrfectly

We're halfway through winter in Melbourne and most of us in the family are afflicted with a cough-cold-headachey thingy that's been with us a week.  Today I cut myself (and my colleagues) a break and worked from home.

It's Y's day to look after the kids, but he didn't even need to take them out - all three of them spent most of the day in bed. (And Y is the one who is NOT sick....)

So the kids were no hindrance to working.

The dog, bless him, is no hindrance to working.

So that leaves Ms Tia.

Who spent most of the day about this far away from my face:

On such a cold day, even with the heater on, the laptop was clearly the warmest seat in the house. Every time I got up for a coffee I came back to this:

But it was fine. I did get quite a lot of work done, once I accepted the fact I had to work like this:

OK, maybe now it's getting to be a bit much

Jul 8, 2014

Trickle-Down Economics

The trickle-down theory, also known as supply-side theory, is the idea - largely hated but still beloved by policy makers - that wealth 'trickles down' from the top to other levels of society.

The theory goes that if you provide tax cuts and investment incentives to business and the wealthy, business and investment increase and thereby provide economic benefit to everyone else.

There has always been opposition to this theory, and it has always been up for parody. Since the GFC, dissent has grown with the Occupy Wall Street movement and its powerful theme: "We are the 99%" . Current bestseller 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' posits that instead of trickling down, wealth tends to accumulate at the top and stay there, forcing an ever-growing gap between rich and poor that threatens political and social stability.

Policy makers have a hard job these days. The world is more difficult to run because we all know now how complex it is. The digital world (24-hour news, social media, democratised commentary) doesn't give politicians a break. The Great Recession continues and shows no real sign of ending. And following the ambiguous results of stimulus programs since 2008, stimulus is out and economic tough love is back in.

We know we can't go back to high levels of taxation and over-regulated economies. Having lived in a stagnant, isolated economy (New Zealand pre-deregulation) I remember it doesn't work. But I also lived in an economy going through the throes of deregulation (New Zealand under 'Rogernomics') and it was painful to see the impacts: people suffering the blows of sudden, wrenching change and the government seemingly heartless in response.

So the market can't be left to run unfettered. Some level of 'tax-and-spend' is necessary to regulate, ensure a modicum of fairness, and pay for necessary infrastructure and services.

The trickle-down effect may work a little, but it's not very effective and it's not a solution in itself for managing an economy.

Here's my view of the trickle-down effect:

Jul 7, 2014

12 Resolutions: July (and June recap)

This year I'm playing along with #12Resolutions on Twitter and Facebook. The idea is to set yourself short-term, achievable goals, one each month. 

For June my goal was to save money by taking the train to work 3 days a week, and bringing a packed lunch at least 3 days. (I work 4 days a week).

Well, I'm chalking this one up as a success. I didn't take the train 3 days - more like an average of 1.5 days out of 4. But that's 1.5 days more than I had been taking it before.  And lunch...well, I brought in a packed lunch EVERY DAY! How's that!

The benefits were as I expected: I did save a bit of money, and my days were moderately more active for the extra walking and standing that public transport forces on you.

The disadvantage of making and bringing lunch: virtually none. I had had cynical thoughts that it wouldn't be much cheaper by the time I bought extra sandwich stuff and snacks at the supermarket (not true - it's still cheaper) and I thought packing a lunch every night would be a major drag, based on the fact that I find making my kids' lunchboxes a drag. Not true - making my own lunch is much more interesting than making my kids', because as I do it I'm thinking "ooh yummy" and looking forward to each bit. 

The disadvantage of public transport is just as I remember it: the commute takes longer, and is more tiring. But hey, that's life. I can't afford to drive into work every day, so it's back to the rat race for me.


So, on to July.

This month I am concentrating on my emotions and reactions. 

Sometimes, I feel a bit like this:

And when I am overly-stretched, or tired, or I haven't been taking care of myself, my emotions can get the better of me and I can react badly - the whole time scratching my head and wondering why.

'Exploding Harbor' by Justin Gaurav Murgai /Flickr

At my age my  emotional states should not be a mystery to me. And when I slow down and really listen to myself and pay attention to what's going on, I can usually figure myself out. 

So this month I'm resolving to pay attention to my moods and feelings, and to take a moment to consider them, before I react.  I will keep my commitments manageable, know my limits and my needs, and NOTICE my feelings before they get to the stage where I am going to explode with rage or get all weepy and want to retire to a dark room and feel sorry for myself.

I don't do either of those things all the time, by the way. But I can get frustrated/angry/anxious too easily and can get better at managing myself, keeping things on an even keel so that stress, anxiety and over-reactions are at bay.

I think I know what I need to get this done. And I anticipate, as I go through this month and do all my noticing and listening to myself, that maybe other things will come up too.

So, this month should be interesting. I'm pretty psyched for this resolution. It's not as concrete or measurable as the others, so it doesn't let me slide in on statistics. This one is going to take some real work.

Oh, and I have a mini goal to add as well: Pandora has challenged me to complete a unit in my course, and she'll do the same. So, I'll work on that as well.

Here's to July (even if I'm a week late). Have a great month!


January: walk 5 times a week (done - I now walk daily)
February: write 2 short stories (failed - wrote none!)
March: write 1 short story, and start Project Management course (done)
April: visit GP and complete or schedule the follow-ups (done)

May: complete one module of Project Management course (failed)

June: working day money savers: public transport and packed lunch (done)

July: pay attention to needs, moods and emotions to manage reactions 

Jul 4, 2014


I'm still here!

I've been a bit busy of late - just work, school holidays and such, nothing out of the ordinary, but life is suddenly very busy. It's a good kind of busy; I'm feeling happy and satisfied at the end of each day, so I'm just going to enjoy THAT while it lasts.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you, yes YOU, for continuing to read my little blog as it goes up and down in its frequency of posts. I LOVE reading your blogs too, and I feel a bit embarrassed that I don't get to everyone's posts as often as I would like, or don't always comment, or don't join in writing prompts or linkys as I intend to... the list goes on.

So thank you.

Coming soon: 12 resolutions; my thoughts on the trickle-down theory; lessons I've learned at work; parenting styles; elevator etiquette; hopefully a writing prompt exercise or two; and of course, Sunday Selections.

Meantime: here are some photos of my kids on holiday hen-house duty at school.



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