100% K.J Chapman

Some ‘Elfing’ About…

Sophie’s letter to Santa clearly worked because Star was returned to us once again. As most people know by now, the concept of having an elf come to visit has really taken off. It requires belief on the child’s part that the elf comes alive at night to get up to fun and mischief, and has the over riding say on whether they have behaved themselves in the run up to Christmas.

Here are some pics of what our elf, Star, has gotten up to:

It’s great fun watching her look for him in the morning, and her little shocked expression at what he has been doing. These are just two pictures from the week, but perhaps I ‘ll post more closer to Christmas, once his shenanigans take on new depths.

 

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100% K.J Chapman

Our Child and Thanatophobia

I wanted to write this post as it’s been the centre of our lives for a few months, and we are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Our five year old daughter has been suffering with thanatophobia- a fear of death and/ or dying. ‘But she’s five,’ I hear you cry, and believe me, we thought it too… at first.

As most mothers would, I hit google. I spent many hours researching every aspect of this phobia in children, and other parents advice, tips, and experiences. Knowing that it is more common than we first thought, and that other people have come out the other side has really helped, hence why I felt the need to write this post on our experience.

How it started:

One night, I was putting Sophie to bed and she suddenly broke down in tears (hysterical crying). When I finally calmed her down enough to understand her, she said, “I don’t want to die and I don’t want you and Daddy to die and leave me all alone.” Millions of questions sprung to mind. How do I answer that without lying? Where has she heard about death? Why does she look so petrified? What should and shouldn’t I say to comfort her? And most importantly, how can I make it better? After an hour she was sleeping and all was well again.

One week later:

It happened again, but her questions were more intense. Why are we born if we die? Do we live for a long time? Will you and Daddy die before me? Nothing I said would appease her and her anxiety grew and grew. I finally got her to sleep again, but the questions and tears started again as soon as she woke up in the morning.

We noticed a connection with her anxieties and starting primary school in September, but it took a sudden turn when I was leaving her at school crying for me, and she’d cry in the mornings expressing concerns that I might die in the day and not come to pick her up.

I spoke to her teacher and she made me feel a bit better. She told me that thanatophobia is common in children between the ages of 4 and 8. Especially in intelligent, sensitive children like Sophie. She has an understanding that death is final and happens to us all eventually, but due to her age, she doesn’t have the mental capacity to process the information emotionally. She told us to tell Sophie that we are all young and healthy and she has nothing to worry about, and then to change the subject. Letting her dwell on information isn’t helpful. She also suggested that it was a control issue which now, looking back, is blatantly obvious. Sophie didn’t like the not knowing of where we were or what we were up to.

We acted on the advice and it worked for a time, but Sophie’s anxieties branched out to worrying if disabled people would die, or if she even thought about us dying that it might come true. We were treading on egg shells with anything from cancer research adverts on the TV, to people absentmindedly mentioning, what we dubbed the ‘D’ word. Friends and family grew accustomed to minding what they said around her. By this time we were worried about her mental health. Is our child ‘normal’? Don’t get me wrong, in between her bouts of anxiety, Sophie was your average, happy, playful child, and although the episodes were more frequent, they were by no means all the time.

Parents Evening:

Parents evening was a day after a particularly difficult day of comforting Sophie, tears, tantrums, and us falling into bed feeling emotionally drained. The first thing Sophie’s teacher asked was if we had any concerns. Uh, yes… I explained the situation in detail.

“I’m glad you said that because we too are concerned with Sophie’s anxieties. It is now affecting her at school.”

My heart is pounding in my ears. Oh my god, is there something really wrong with my child? What have they experienced with her at school?

She told us that Sophie needed constant reassurance from an adult, and if taken out of her comfort zone in regards to different educational activities she’d become very clingy and would constantly express worries about ‘mummy and daddy’. Again, the control issues were the stem of her anxiety.

We agreed to try different techniques with Sophie; getting her to take a deep breath when she felt anxious or scared, and for her to tell herself out loud that she doesn’t need to worry. She had to deal with her anxieties herself, just like we do as adults. When it came to questions of death, we continued with the brief explanation that we are young and healthy, and then would change the subject. But it was agreed that after the school half term holidays, if there was no improvement, she’d get a school nurse referral to get professional tips on how to deal with her anxiety.

My head was swimming, but I felt better knowing that the school believed it to be a phase, and that no other underlying factor was present. Other than those anxieties, she had friends and was a happy, academically bright child. ‘She will work through this’, the teacher said.

Conversations:

Over the week, I had spoken to Sophie’s old nursery teacher who told me that she experienced the same anxiety at Sophie’s age, and that made me feel much better. Speaking with different people was enlightening. Some had experienced it themselves, or their child had a similar phase. Being told that what we were doing was the correct way to handle it was reassuring too.

Religion:

Sophie goes to a Church of England school, so is taught about Christianity, sings hymns, says prayers etc. She was singing ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’ at home and I explained what the hymn meant. She was fascinated. We tell her that her great Grandad and great great Nana are in heaven watching her, and have done since they died when she was 2 years old.

One day, she came home and asked about God and Heaven. She said she didn’t know what Heaven was and that it scared her because it was connected to dying. I explained it to her and this had the best effect on her emotionally. Finally, we had found something to make her feel a little better. The idea that spirits go to heaven and we all get to see each other again was a massive comfort to her. I would say I am a spiritual person, not conformed to organised religion, but I’m happy to comfort her and let her make up her own mind when she’s old enough to.

Half Term:

I was expecting a difficult week, but we were pleasantly surprised. We created a sticker reward chart. If Sophie had what we called ‘silly’ thoughts, (we are aware that her thoughts were valid, but ‘silly’ was a term she understood), but dealt with them using her deep breath techniques, then she’d get a sticker. This worked brilliantly. We’d sometimes see her taking a deep breath, and then getting on with what she was doing. She was learning to deal with her anxieties without our reassurance.  Of course, we had the occasional question, but minus the hysterics.

Back to School:

The Sunday before school resumed, my nerves were a little all over the place with worry and anxiety of my own. We had such an improved week on the previous that I was worried Sophie would regress a bit, knowing that she had to be in school without us. I took her in as usual, reminded her of her breathing exercises, kissed her goodbye… and … she ran off to play without so much as a quivering lip.

The teacher and I gave each other an ‘okay, that just happened’ look, and I ran out before Sophie had a chance to miss me. This happened for a few more days, and although we were ecstatic, we couldn’t help but worry about when her anxiety might get the better of her.

End of the Week:

Sophie was asking less about death, and when she did she was rational and attentive. She was going to school without tears, happy for me to leave, and coming out exuberant. I asked the teacher if they too had noticed a difference… and… yes, “Sophie has really turned a corner, she is nowhere near as clingy, she is getting on with other activities outside of her comfort zone, not expressing concerns about mummy and daddy, and SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESprogress is being made.” *Massive exhale with relief*

Of course, she may still have anxieties and express them to us, but she is dealing with them and they’re not over coming her. If this post reassures just one other parent that there is an end to this emotional, exhausting, worrying phase, then I’m happy to have helped.


All images are the property of K.J.Chapman

 

Books and Me

Summer Reading Challenge Review

My little one has finally completed the Summer Reading Challenge. All six books have been read and reviewed before the holidays are even out. It required a lot of bedtime reading, but we got there.

Review of the overall experience: We loved it. We are already advocates of the library, and as parents we understand the importance of reading to our daughter for her educational, emotional, and developmental growth. This challenge just upped the ante for us. We spent a little longer on bedtime reading than usual to ensure we completed all six books, and it was great fun.

Sophie usually picks the shorter, picture books for bedtime (the read in five minute books), but after taking part in the challenge, she has asked for a longer story book to complete each week. I’m not sure who is more excited at this prospect- me or her. I have so many recommendations for her, not to mention all my childhood books to pass on. I think it is safe to say that we have a little bookworm on our hands, and I’m a little bit chuffed… okay, I’m a lot chuffed.

She has given me reviews for each book, and please bear in mind that she is only four years old. However, she has impressed me with her comments. I have also included my own ‘Mummy review’ to give a parent’s perspective.

To kick off the challenge each child received a f0rtune teller to make and use. All questions and answers related to the theme of this year’s challenge- record breakers.

 

1. Hello Kitty: The Magazine Mix-Up by HarperCollins Books (author not stated)

Sophie: I liked the part where Hello Kitty’s Mummy knocked the water over the magazine they made. Hello Kitty’s friends stayed to help her. Hello Kitty has kind friends.

Mummy: This book had clear moral objectives- work hard and you can achieve what you want to achieve, and always help your friends. I’m glad that Sophie picked up on this. It is a sweet story, and definitely aimed at girls. Sophie was enthralled as we read, and could relay to us what had happened. I would give this book 2 stars. The story and morals were sweet, but the concept was unoriginal.

2. Hello Kitty: The Beach Holiday by HarperCollins Books (author not stated)

Sophie: Timmy was naughty and played tricks on the girls. Then, he got stuck up a cliff, and should have listened to his Daddy. I liked this book more than the magazine book.

Mummy: The idea behind the narrative was to express the need to listen to your parents and to be yourself when trying to make friends. The story was slightly better than the Magazine Mix-Up book, but I would give it the same rating of 2 stars.

After reading two books, each child was given a wall poster- (the stickers received throughout the challenge can be added to the poster ). They also received a set of stickers, one of which is a scratch and sniff.

3. Petal’s Story: A Battersy Dogs and Cats Home Story (author not stated)

Sophie: Gemma got Petal from the dog’s home, and looked after her by herself. Gemma got lost at the funfair and Petal found her family again. I love this book. I want a dog.

Mummy: This story goes into brief details about what happens when you take on a rescue dog, and how much work goes into looking after a dog, without taking away the fun of having one. I give this book 3 stars. And no, we’re not getting a dog!

4. The Railway Rabbits: Wisher and the Runaway Piglet by Georgie Adams

Sophie: Wisher got lost looking for a piglet who was scared and ran away from the farm. She used her friends tunnels to get back… I didn’t like this book very much.

Mummy: Sophie was not as engaged with this book. Sometimes she couldn’t recall the narrative, but whether that was due to the narrative itself or boredom, I’m not sure. Either way, that is not a promising sign for a children’s book. To be honest I find it hard to recall the story. Wisher seemed to get away with a lot of disobedience because she is a ‘special’ rabbit. A mediocre, boring book, hence why I awarded it 1.5 stars.

After reading four books, each child received a key ring and stickers for the wall poster:

My Hamster is a Detective by Dave Lowe

Sophie: It was very funny. I liked Stinky the hamster. He’s a grumpy hamster, and made me laugh. The next door neighbour stole their kitten, but Stinky found out.

Mummy: This book was brilliantly written, and original. There was humour in places, and Sophie was literally rolling with laughter. We would definitely recommend this book. 5 stars for this book.

Whizz Bang Winnie by Laura Owen and Korky Paul

Sophie: Winnie is a silly witch and her cat is called Wilbur. He doesn’t talk, but he is funny. Winnie eats disgusting food, and makes silly spells. She says abracadabra.

Mummy: This book was made up of short stories all about Winnie the witch and Wilbur her cat. The stories are funny, and enjoyable for kids and adults. We finished this book in three nights. It was easy to read two stories a night, and kept Sophie’s attention. I’d give this book 4.5 stars.

The last reward for completing all six books was a wrist band and the final stickers for the wall chart:

We have been informed that one of the librarians will be going to Sophie’s school to award her a medal and certificate in assembly. It’s a lovely touch, and encourages the children in front of their peers, but I’m not sure all libraries are doing this with their local schools.

We shall definitely be partaking in the Summer Reading Challenge next year, and advise all parents of primary school children to do the same.

100% K.J Chapman

A Week In My Shoes

The holidays are much more exciting than school runs and word counts, so I decided to share a glimpse of my life over the course of seven days.

My weekly word count posts are now to become my Sunday feature posts, hence why there is not a single mention of my writing in this post. This is all family fun, and my real life.

Monday:

Today was a family day. The sun came out for us… eventually. We went to Porthleven (Cornwall) to visit family, and took Sophie rock pooling and crabbing. We only caught a shell… but we had fun all the same.

My daughter’s new favourite thing is ‘Pom Pom Wars’. It all started when we were crafting, and she chucked a pom pom at me. Two hundred pom poms later, we were in hysterics, and my house was covered. She requested another pom pom wars game on Monday, and we obliged. I would recommend this game for little kids and big kids. You heard it here first!

Tuesday:

We had our Notice of Marriage appointment at 11.30, and got to look around the wedding venue after. The registrar even put music on, so my daughter could get the feel for walking down the aisle as a bridesmaid. It is all so exciting- eeekkk!

Tuesday was an exciting day in more ways than one. We added two new faces to our little family. Meet Juno and Lavender, our dwarf hamsters-

These miniature sweethearts have a love hate relationship. They sleep entwined with each other, enjoy each other’s company, and then push each other down the tunnels, and the vertical pipes. Definitely siblings!

Date night was on Tuesday this week. We’re saving money for our wedding, so we stayed in, put Sophie to bed, and watched Insurgent. I was, of course, in batman pyjamas.

Wednesday:

Wednesday was another family day. We went to my Nana’s house for tea like we do every Wednesday during the school holidays. It was cloudy, but humid, so we decided to get productive, well, semi-productive. We painted my Nana’s garden furniture, and then realised we used the wrong outside paint…<deep breath>

Thursday:

Cornwall woke up to rain on Thursday, but that didn’t stop us. A soggy outing to our local boating lake kept Sophie entertained for the morning. I think the ducks and swans liked our choice of bread. It was like a scene from ‘The Birds’ at one point.

The afternoon was quiet and lazy as the weather steadily got worse. We watched films, played Lego, and got crafty to pass the day away.

Friday:

Today was mine and Mr O’s fourteen year anniversary. We decided on a trip to Roskillys, Cornwall. It’s a beautiful farm with free petting facilities, a restaurant, homemade Cornish ice cream, bee hives, nature walks, and much more. We spent the whole morning there and spent no more than £6.80! Roskillys is nestled in the Cornish countryside, and is a must- see for visitors to Cornwall.

Friday’s are our library days. Sophie was especially excited this week because she has finished another two books as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. She was particularly happy with this week’s stickers for her wall chart. Only another two books (two weeks) and she’ll have completed this years challenge.

I just have to share a photo of my anniversary treats from Mr O. Check out my new mug. He knows me too well… and of course, there is a massive bar of Galaxy to dip in the tea I shall fill my new mug with. Proper job, Mr O.

Saturday:

Sophie has been desperate to help with the wedding plans, and I gave her her first official bridesmaid duty today. What’s more important than the wedding fund? It definitely deserves a pretty pot of its own. I think she did a brilliant job.

Today we saw family members who have travelled to Cornwall from Kent for a weeks holiday. Of course, the conversation was all about weddings! Fingers crossed that the weather plays ball for them.

Sunday:

Dump day! Not in the bowel movement sense, but in the refuse and recycling centre sense. We have been waiting for ages to clear our garage, and Sunday was the day. I’m not one for waste, but our centre has fantastic recycling facilities… <Happy K.J>

Sophie got to pick the activity for Sunday, and she settled on scooting through the National Trust estate – Penrose.  The weather remained dry for us, and I think everyone had the same idea. There were lots of children on bikes and scooters, lots of dogs, and Sophie even saw an enormous beetle. It was a morning well spent.


Check out similar blog posts, writer’s musings, and a bit of fun at: K.J.Chapman

All images are the property of K.J.Chapman

Weekly Quotes

Quotes of the Week, August 17th 2015

It would be a heinous crime to do quotes of the week every Monday and not dedicate a post to the legend that is Dr Seuss.

‘I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.’ ~ Dr Seuss

As a writer, I particularly like this quote. I sometimes feel like the chaos in my head is a load of nonsensical whimsy, but I agree that fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. Looking at life through a different perspective can be enlightening.

‘Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.’ ~ Dr Seuss

Because I love this quote so much, I made it into a wall hanging for my daughter’s bedroom. It is a positive message for children and teenagers to be themselves and appreciate their individuality.

Weekly Quotes

Quotes of the Week August 10th 2015

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Parenting is the most important, rewarding, seat of my pants, incredible job I will ever have. Here are my parenting quotes of the week.

‘Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do.’ ~ Matt Walsh.

When I first stumbled across this quote I had a little chuckle to myself. Every parent has been in a situation where someone has judged them for whatever reason. If you don’t know the story, if you don’t know the facts, keep your nose out and your mouth shut. Every child is different, and we all parent differently.

I’m reminded of the time when I had taken my daughter to a playgroup session. She asked for a banana, took one bite, and chucked it in the bin. My exact words to her were: ‘That’s wasting. There are children in the world without food in their bellies, and you should be ashamed to waste food like that.’

Another parent looked at me with her mouth agape and said, ‘You can’t tell her things like that! It was just a banana.’

My reply, ‘Why? It’s true. I want my child to grow up grateful for what she has, and empathetic towards those who aren’t as fortunate. It’s about more than just a banana.’

‘One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.’ ~ Forest. E. Witcraft

I hope my daughter grows up to be a responsible, forward- thinking individual. Isn’t that what all parents want? And I hope that I can be her guide, and biggest encourager.

I’m going to get all gushy Mummy now and share a sentence from my daughter’s nursery report she had at Christmas.

‘She is a wonderfully kind little girl.’

There it is. That seven word sentence made me swell with pride. Those seven words meant more to me than any academic achievement. Don’t get me wrong, I am chuffed with how well my daughter is achieving at nursery, and fully understand the importance, but hearing that my child is wonderfully kind just melted my heart.

I hope she takes that kindness into adulthood, and that she will use her kindness for great things. I will be behind her every step of the way.

(The image featured is the property of K.J.Chapman.)


Books and Me

Children’s Summer Reading Challenge 2015 – Record Breakers

summer read blog

Just a quick post this Saturday morning to promote the Children’s Summer Reading Challenge 2015.

Quote taken from The Reading Agency webpage:

‘The Summer Reading Challenge in libraries is the UK’s leading reading for pleasure programme for primary school aged children; it runs in 98% of local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland every summer and in 2014 returned to Northern Ireland. 2014 was a record year involving 839,622 children, with 81,908 children joining the library as new members. The 2015 Summer Reading Challenge is called Record Breakers, delivered in partnership with Guinness World Records.’

This is my daughters first year ‘officially’ partaking in the challenge. The children get little activities/ gifts through out the challenge, and will receive a certificate and medal on completion.

Get your children, nieces, nephews, friend’s children signed up for the summer holidays. Just head to your local library.

My daughter (four years old) has selected her six books to read (for Mummy and Daddy to read to her).

1. Whizz Bang Winnie by Laura Owen & Korky Paul

2. Petal’s Story by Battersea Dogs and Cats home

3. The Railway Rabbits (Wisher and the Runaway Piglet) by Georgie Adams

4. Hello Kitty: The beach Holiday – A HarperCollins Book (author not stated)

5. Hello Kitty:The Magazine Mix- Up- A HarperCollins Book (author not stated)

6. My Hamster is a Detective by Dave Lowe

At the end of her challenge I will do a post of her reviews for each book, and my own ‘Mummy review’. We will also do a review of the challenge as a whole.

Find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge