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Children may not obey, but children will listen

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen — Into The Woods [Tweet]

There’s a video doing the rounds again that always makes me worry a little. It’s this video I think of when I fret about whether my husband and I are good role models for our kids. Obviously, we are kind to each other and would hate to see bad things happen to the kids, So, with a bit of thought we will avoid being like the worst of these examples, but still. We’re not perfect.

As may be expected, we are failing. Oh yes, some things are going okay, but in other ways we have completely and utterly failed.

When our kids play picnics, they down their “coffee” and give a very satisfied “Aaaah!” before refilling immediately with more “coffee” and continuing to be just like maman and papa. I’m actually glad that they’re not play-drinking other beverages, but I guess that’s because we only drink those ones in the evenings. It would be horrifying to see a two-year old having a “whisky” with such enthusiasm. It almost makes me glad I’m addicted to coffee.

Next case in point: I never wanted us to be a “Yelling Family”. Somehow, we have totally failed in this department, and not just when Gwen yells “Papa, Dinner is ready!” at full volume. (I don’t know where she picked that one up. I’ve never heard that comment before. Don’t ask me any more questions.)

An example of a typical evening scenario involves me in the kitchen getting dinner ready while the kids play or watch a bit of TV. Yes, TV. Shut up.

Cook, cook, cook… clean, clean, clean… tidy, tidy, tidy… dishes, dishes, dishes… *Crashing sound of cutlery hitting the sink*
Gwen: ARE YOU OKAY?!?!?!

So, it seems Papa’s mock over-protective yell-questioning has been picked up too. And because it’s sweet, I can live with that. But I’ve definitely failed in the non-yelling family department. Woe.

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I Wish Someone Would…

Do you get big ideas in your head, and wish you could do them all, then realise that you’re unable to actually do it? I do. Then I just wish someone would do it instead.

There are so many causes I believe in, yet don’t have time to do anything about. It’s disappointing, but true. I get overwhelmed and I just know I can’t do it justice. I have too much else on my plate.

I don’t always mean that in a bad way, either. For instance, I’m always coming up with business ideas that would be great, but I’m never going to have the time to do it. I may as well throw the idea out there for other people, right?

So, rather than just wallowing in my inability to do EVERYTHING, I decided to start an idea generator of sorts. You’re welcome to help me fill it up, too! If you have any strong desires to do something good in the world, or a fantastic idea of some sort, feel free to add it to the collection. I’ll be curating behind the scenes, then maybe anyone with a bit of free time or a bee in their bonnet can take an idea and run with it. Wouldn’t that be great?

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If you’re an ideas person, I Wish Someone Would needs you! You don’t need to sign up as an author as the blog is using the P2 Theme. This means it has an option to let any WordPress.com user contribute. I figure I’ll be weeding out lots of spam, but the positive side might be worth it.

I’m thinking these sorts of ideas:

  • How do we stop awful things from happening?
  • How do we preserve our world?
  • How do we start a movement to do something great?
  • What organisations are already in place to do these things?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice if a business started to fix my problem?

Once the ideas are in, we can chat about how to make the ideas work – maybe some of them will turn into something fantastic. We’ll see!

Play, brainstorm, have fun!

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House Canon: Hattie’s Secret Past

If you’re a CBeebies fan, this post will hit home. If you’ve never heard of CBeebies, well, at least you might consider making up some backstories for characters in stuff you watch.

We’re going to chat about Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures and what’s really going on behind the scenes. You see, After Andy got fired from the wildlife reserve (when Mr Pickles finally realised what he was doing on his tea breaks), Andy found a menial job at the National History Museum.

(And yes, I’d like to see a two-minute YouTube clip of Andy getting fired by Mr Pickles. There should definitely be some mini-spinoff CBeebies side stories for adults on YouTube.)

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Despite his job description being to stand around and make sure the kids don’t break anything, Andy always manages to break stuff. Stuff that Hattie has been working on for ages. But that’s okay, because the clutz has found a time machine, and so he goes back in time and replaces these fine replicas with the real thing, which no doubt decays pretty quickly, stinks and ruins more of Hattie’s displays. Does he think of this? No. He thinks it’s awesome to replace a beautifully painted rubber fish with a real, prehistoric one. Of course. He also manages to steal Hattie’s backpack and leave her stuff with the dinosaurs on a regular basis.

Now, with Andy being the genius he is, you have to wonder how he even knows how to recognise a time machine, let alone work one. He definitely didn’t build it. So where did the time machine come from? Well, Hattie built it, of course. She’s the smart one. How else do you think she got to know so much about dinosaurs? She even knows what colour to paint things and exactly what the patterns on the skin look like. She has insider knowledge, that’s for sure. It’s perfectly clear, when you think about it, that Hattie spends a lot of time studying the dinosaurs in person.

So, when you watch Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, you’ll see a slightly different story now. One of Hattie painstakingly building perfect models of prehistoric things she’s studied in real life, only to have Andy break them when she puts them on display. She then sees him looking dishevelled just in time for the kids to turn up and never quite gets a chance to ask him whether he stole her backpack, broke her models, borrowed her time machine and stuck a dead fish in her display. I mean, where do you even start with that line of questioning?

All in all, this house canon makes Hattie the hero and makes her quizzical looks so much more interesting. And I’m sure that she has met Doctor Who at some point. Maybe even Rincewind. But that’s a story for another day.

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What’s The Secret Sauce Ingredient?

Here’s a roundabout tale about how I came to have a secret sauce ingredient.

You have a baby and you can’t wait for it to wean. What do you do? Offer a huge variety of mushy foods. We did baby-led weaning mainly, but it can’t hurt to offer some mushy stuff too. Except that it didn’t work. He still hasn’t weaned. And he HATES all savoury mushy stuff: homemade and store-bought. All of it. He does not like it, Sam-I-Am.

So, here’s me thinking that if he likes fruit, maybe I can convince him to try savoury stuff via a gateway vegetable like carrot. Sweet vegetable, right? I spied this pureed carrot bag in the freezer section of the supermarket and figured this was the perfect way to experiment. That way, I’d only be creating baby-sized portions for him to not eat. Well, I was right about that bit. He didn’t eat it.

I’m left with a huge bag of frozen carrot puree. It’s weird stuff. They freeze it to look like carrot sticks again. But convenient. What to do? Don’t like wastage.

I don’t know about your habits, but when I cook it seems to be either a really meaty dish or a veg-heavy one. Things like bolognaise and curry I like to keep as-is – not at all a fan of adding veg to them, as I’d prefer to do a separate veggie curry or side dish instead. I don’t like adding things to mashed potato either (I’ve always thought it was better plain). But pureed carrot, that’s not really going to alter the dish much and it adds vitamins. It just adds to the sauce. So, with this in mind I have since gone a little crazy adding pureed carrot to every dish that might take it. I add whole cups full to bolognaise, Indian curries, Thai red curries, soups, other meatball and pasta sauces. You can’t taste it and it just makes it a little redder. I’m actually going to buy more of this stuff.

Seriously. Frozen pureed carrot. An unlikely hero.

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Fragments Of Me

It’s been more than seven years since I started using the alias of Smange as a vaguely professional branding tool. At first it was a silly nickname given to me as a teenager (Small Ange), but as it was my favourite handle just about everywhere I officially adopted it as a professional branding thing. It worked to keep me separate from all the other Ange’s, which was its original purpose as a nickname. But now, things are changing.

Chiquitita-LindyBop1For starters, after a long bout of weighing pros and cons, I decided to give my singing persona a stage name: Chiquitita. There are many reasons, but mainly I thought it would help to distinguish the part of me that is a professional singer from the part of me that is a professional writer. Online, that means a whole new ecosystem of social media profiles, etc. Except that it is still me, so sometimes Chiquitita will point to a Smange profile if I don’t think it warrants something new.

Ange GreenSmange is everywhere. Smange represents both my professional writing and casual chatting. Smange is where everything that is me happens. Smange is a traveller, Smange is a mum, Smange is a singer, Smange is a geek, Smange is an event manager, Smange loves festivals, Smange occasionally gets a little political or funny, Smange is professionally interested in social media (and therefore uses a number of services in the way they are meant to be used), Smange has a lot of photos, and Smange shares reading habits, TV and movie viewing to the world. This picture, although primarily professional, has drifted into the personal. In the end, it wasn’t professional enough for what I had planned.

Ange Purple SquareThankfully, I’ve been sitting on AngelaAlcorn.com and a bunch of more professional handles, like @AngelaAlcorn. These have been gathering dust, the site being previously a professional-works only portfolio and, in the case of Twitter, automatically sharing the more professional articles I’ve written. But even that’s not enough. I’ve had to re-think everything.

You see, in the past month (days for one) I’ve created both Write Revolution, a blog to help people make a living writing, and Vocal Content, my social media management business (neither of these have quite launched yet). In both of these ventures, I’m not just a writer. I’m the driving force behind it. I’m the founder. The CEO. I’m the boss.

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So, AngelaAlcorn.com, @AngelaAlcorn, and anything else that uses the handle AngelaAlcorn will from now on be business-focused. They’re “Ange the CEO”. Ange the CEO doesn’t draw attention to the fact that she’s also Smange the everything else. Ange the CEO doesn’t even admit to most of the writing she does elsewhere other than as an explanation of how she got to where she is. And Ange the CEO is going to start blogging her own business-like content, instead of pointing to Smange.

Smange.com and anything else with the handle @Smange is just me. It’s Smange the freelancer, Smange the writer, Smange the editor, Smange the mummy blogger (I never meant to be this — it just happens when I sit down to write without a plan), Smange the recipe-collector, Smange who likes pretty clothes and Pinterest-y stuff, Smange who writes about France, Smange who chats in forums, Smange the singer with the alter-ego of @Chiquitita. Smange who is also Angela Alcorn, the CEO (for instance, the mailing list mentioned by Smange is actually by Angela Alcorn — the intention is to add a little bit of personality, but stick to top-level stuff). Smange is where everything vaguely professional comes together. Smange, however, doesn’t draw too much attention to the family blog and the like (though there are links). Most people who follow Smange don’t care for that stuff.

This means that recently I’ve re-worked my websites to reflect this new dichotomy (well, trichotomy — or more). Yeah, there’s an ecosystem of social media profiles for each of my niche blogs too. Plus, I’ll be adding more social profiles with the new business names and CEO profile if I think it will work. If you thought I was fragmented before, then you had no idea just how fragmented I could become!

It also means there’s a bunch of new places you can follow me online. If that’s your thing.

Does that all make sense? Do you think I’m mad? How do you separate your online personas?

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My Eight-Year Birthday With WordPress.com!

I got a random surprise update from the WordPress app this morning: It’s my WordPress birthday. Eight years ago, I signed up for my very first WordPress blog.

This has kind of blown me away a little. I recall signing up but I’ve been so busy since that I hadn’t realised I was such a long-term user. The thing is, though, I’ve really grown to love WordPress. And not just self-hosted WordPress, I actually really love WordPress.com. So much so that I recommend it to all bloggers, especially groups of people wanting to manage a blog together, and even to people with slightly more commercial interests (as long as they remember to stick to the rules).

There are so many reasons for this evangelism, but it all comes down to stability. When I originally signed up, I’d just been burned by a web host. I’d been self-hosting a couple of sites with them, one Joomla and one WordPress. I’d been hacked a few times, had issues with their server going down, and the final straw was when I paid for a new year of hosting only to find that that didn’t include the domain registration (as it had when I signed up). I lost my domain to someone who also had a legitimate claim to it and decided that the troubles of self-hosting just weren’t worth it. I found a reliable domain registrar and from then on mapped all of my domains to WordPress.com blogs.

There’s also the timeless factor of WordPress.com blogs. I recommend it for clubs as you can always add new members to run it as long as there are admins who are contactable. And if no-one runs it, the content is still there. In the same vein, if I die and stop paying for my domains, the content I wrote will still be on WordPress. That’s something to consider, too.

Yes, with self-hosting you can run awesome plugins. Yes, on a self-hosted WordPress blog you can make any customisation you like without paying. Yes, you can run whatever adverts you like. These are all very tempting tools.

However, I don’t want my blogs to look like spammy adverts, even though I do want to make money from them. There are other ways to make money from a blog, and the limits WordPress restrict you to actually help you to make better decisions about how to monetise your blog. I know WordPress could shut down my blogs at any time if I make a mistake, but I have had dealings with support before and they’re an entirely reasonable bunch of actual human beings. Meanwhile, I try not to make mistakes.

As for the plugins and customisation, most of this can be fixed by paying for the custom code option. Also, some plugins make a blog vulnerable to exploits or just spammy-looking. Oh okay, I do lament not being able to use some of the plugins, but most of the better stuff gets introduced to WordPress.com eventually.

I recently undertook an experiment to see if I could run a large, profitable blog from a WordPress.com blog. It’s still early days yet and profits are still a long way away, but I’ve managed to set it up to my liking without needing to move to self-hosting. A Mailchimp shortcode would have made me very happy, but I found a way around it. As you can see on Write Revolution, I have paid for domain mapping and a kick-arse theme (The Broadsheet Theme), but haven’t even felt the need to pay for customising the code yet.

I figure the WordPress.com ecosystem with people searching tags for new content to read (and following blogs they like) will actually help me get new readers, and so far it’s working. I recommend it for new blogs, certainly. You can always migrate off WordPress.com if you need to later.

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Essentially, I am paying for a lot of stuff, just to WordPress.com instead of to a hosting provider and to graphic designers or theme sites like ThemeForest directly. Sometimes people still notice that it is a WordPress.com blog and think it’s somehow less professional this way, but I disagree. It’s a sensible choice. WordPress.com hosting is also starting to look a bit more respectable with the VIP hosting and WordPress Business accounts.

Anyway, I am pleased with my decision to use WordPress for pretty much everything I do. Whenever I have special needs I can usually tweak a solution. Things are great here. Thanks WordPress!

And… Wow. Eight years! Happy birthday to me!

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Calling All Writers: New Site To Help You Earn Money Writing!

This last month I’ve been really busy working on a number of new projects. But there’s one that’s pretty much ready to show you now (since most people reading this are friends or fans). It’s a new blog on how to earn a living with your writing. Basically, as a writer with an Internet connection these days, there are many different ways you can earn money. So, I thought I’d help to showcase all of these different types of jobs you can do, and mix it up with writing tips, blogging tips, marketing advice and ideas on publishing books. In short, this is a site for any writer who wants to write for money.

I also decided that I wasn’t going to start as a solo venture. The site is my idea and essentially my problem, but from day one I’ve had Mark O’Neill, the former Managing Editor of MakeUseOf.com, on board. For now it’s just us two, but I hope to grow the team in the future. I’m, also working on another project with Mark, but it’s not ready to show you just yet. Stay tuned!

Allow me to introduce: WriteRevolution.net

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If you’re a writer, come and check it out. Hopefully you’ll learn some useful tips you can use to make a bit of money. If you’re not a writer, send it on to a friend who might like it. It’s still very early days yet, so we could use a bit of promotion. :)

Unequal Childhoods - Annette Lareau

Concerted Cultivation Approach To Parenting

I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and have just been blown away by the chapter that discusses concerted cultivation as being more useful to children than any form of innate genius (this article explains concerted cultivation better than Wikipedia). I have read about similar approaches to concerted cultivation in parenting, but never before has the results of this approach been made so clear to me. I am convinced it is worthwhile and I really must try to keep this in mind as I bring up my kids.

Outliers

Now, the concerted cultivation idea is not just about kids doing lots of extra-curricular activities, although that has its place. I do believe kids also need to have time to just muck about and be kids, getting bored and seeing what they do with that. The activities are only a part of the concerted cultivation idea, and ultimately help the kids by letting them specialise, excel at things, see their needs as important, socialise broadly and see different aspects of society. All important, yes. The rest of the concerted cultivation approach is about the way you speak to your child, and the way you teach them to value themselves, value their opinion, and most importantly to assert their wishes and feel valued and entitled to respect. The most important aspect, I feel, is in teaching kids to see adults as their equals, offering explanations and teaching them to negotiate.

In particular, I noted from Annette Lareau’s study that one child was coached by his mother before a doctor’s appointment. She asked him if he had any questions for the doctor and making it clear that he should be assertively asking the doctor questions while he was there. Another result of this grooming is that the kids grow up to believe that interactions with adults and institutions can be tailored for their needs – ultimately, that there is a point to negotiation and discussing issues. They become their own advocate.

They could also become whiny, and unable to think of anything to do when they get a spare moment (as Linda Quirkle has written about). I guess there’s a middle ground between this and the Slow Parenting/Forest Kindergarten approach, which are also very promising ideas. However, even Linda Quirkle seems to see that being confident with authority and verbally accomplished is a better advantage for the child’s future than being able to entertain themselves easily.

I have previously thought similar things myself on occasion: the kids whose parents were always looking for scholarships got scholarships, unsurprisingly compared to the parents who didn’t look, even if the latter parents/kids could have used the money. But now I see it’s more than that. It’s also that these children know that the scholarships exist and that they may possibly be eligible. That they may actually be entitled to it if they ask for it.


Outliers: The Story of SuccessOutliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Halfway through reading this, I was struck by the importance of concerted cultivation in parenting and went on a bit of a rant on my blog. I may soon need to read Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life.

Also, this book features in Marc & Angel’s 40 modern non-fiction books everyone should read, which is a really good list. I made the list in Goodreads here: Marc & Angel 40 NonFiction.

View all my reviews


 

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The WAHM Life: It’s Bipolar

I have two kids now, and I’ve been meaning to get back into a more regular blogging habit for my own blogs. It’s difficult. Right now I have a toddler in my lap. Earlier I started writing on the couch and the baby kept slapping my laptop screen (touchscreen – I knew that was a bad idea). Let’s face it: I live in a zoo and I’m housed with the monkeys.

My life these days is always-on, yet so fragmented. Sleep is something that happens in 10-min to 3 hour stretches between 10pm and 8am. If I am sufficiently rested I drag my butt out of bed at 6am and start working (my best work time for the day). When the kids are up they take up 99% of my time and energy, with me being the entertainment master, bum cleaner, food-giver and comforter. Sometimes I can sneak a moment while they’re awake to get some work done. I check work email on my phone while feeding and try to do as much as possible like that.

I try to do as much housework as I can while the kids are up and about, even if it means putting the TV on so I can do dishes. When the kids are asleep or at creche I get my work done. I can’t stop to rest. Sometimes when I have just the baby I can read or watch a bit of TV while I’m nursing. That’s my chill time.

My relaxing time away from work and housework is always spent with the kids. My break from the kids is while I’m cleaning or working. And when the kids fall asleep or get preoccupied with some toys I need to change gears and get on with the most appropriate task ASAP.

The baby hasn’t really spent much time away from me, either, as he hasn’t taken well to milk from a bottle. He’s just started creche, which means the amount of times he’s spent 3 hours away from me in his 13 months of life is steadily increasing from its previous high of 3 times. Tomorrow I’ll be away for 7 hours – let’s hope he’s okay!

Anyway, you can see why I haven’t felt blogging really featured in my life much lately. Apart from blogging for work, that is. So blogging for myself? Uh, it took a backseat. Sorry. :)

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Lately though I have made a few posts here and there. On Vegemite Croissant I ranted about the hilariously NSFW things English people say in French accidentally. On Smange Cuisine I have finally started to document the food I make, starting with an awesome hot chocolate and the easiest pulled pork recipe you’ll ever read.

That’s all I’ve got time for. My life is fragmented. My blogs are fragmented. Keep up if you like. :)

Book-Collection

Finished Cataloguing Our Book Collection Online!

I’ve finally finished cataloguing our books in Goodreads (here’s me). Apparently, we have over 4000 books! Woo!

So, that’s not a huge number by some people’s standards, but if you consider that we transported them from Australia to France and that I’ve now familiarised myself with every single ISBN… I think it’s plenty (for now). Cataloguing these books has been a side project of mine for most of the past year, so I’m very happy to have reached the end of it. We also went so far as to scan the covers for about 1000 books which were old or rare enough to not have covers online already.

The reasons behind cataloging all our books are many and varied, but the important ones are:

  • Now we know exactly what we own, we won’t (often) accidentally buy books we already have. This is a big problem when we’re shopping in Australia or England  – or even in online sales. You need to be able to check quickly!
  • If we ever lose our collection in a fire or some other disaster, we know what we used to own and can work on buying the good books again.
  • We can work on building the collection and buying missing books in series.
  • We can keep our wishlists alongside what we own, so when we buy things they’re automatically removed from the wishlist.
  • Because Goodreads lets us view intersections of “shelves”, we can cross-reference our wishlist and books we own with best-of lists in order to work out what we should buy next or read next.

I’ve already added some excellent best-of book lists to Goodreads, so our cross-referencing lists are very useful. For instance:

Because of the sort options available on Goodreads, we can sort according to best ratings or the number of people who have read it. So, we can get a community feel for how popular the book is as well as the best-of book list’s idea of what is a good book. Also, when you finally click on the book, you can check out what everyone actually says about the book.

And yes, being in France means that most of the books we read will be books we own and if we want to read something new, we’ll probably have to buy it. Yes, we might read some French books from the library or borrow something from an English-speaking friend. But that’s occasional compared to most of our reading.

Ultimately, finishing the cataloguing means my free time can be spent READING the books, which I’m pretty darn excited about. So, this is the list of books I’ll be ultimately focusing on reading this year. Plus, I’ll read whatever interesting books cross my path in the meantime. I’m looking forward to a great year of reading.

Some vaguely interesting stats on our books:

Anyway, I’m excited about it — it was a really big project and took up a lot of my time and now it’s DONE. Yay!