The Magic Schoolbus – When Netflix Reads My Mind

When you love Netflix, you really love Netflix.  It might happen gradually, it might happen overnight but it will happen and when it does it’s easy to appreciate the amazing learning potential that exists in the combination of a medium that’s often relegated to the ‘mindless entertainment’ category, with the tangible, precious experience of books and the modern luxury of the world at our fingertips à la Google.

It’s enough to blow little (and big!) minds in a quiet way that sneaks up on you and creates educational experiences in your living room when all you’re looking for is 5 minutes of peace and some downtime for your overtired little ones after school.

And that is the Netflix Effect.

The Magic Schoolbus series of books were handed down to Ethan by one of my cousins many years ago.  He never even looked at them, to be honest, but we kept them and they were eventually relocated to Nixie’s bookshelf.  He discovered them earlier this year and they’ve since become a bedtime staple.  Mrs Frizzle and the class have introduced Nix to phytoplankton and zooplankton, the water cycle and decomposition, the concepts of water pressure and air pressure – these are my least faves to be honest!  I used to groan when these (l o n g) books would be chosen night after night, and I do have to skim read a little here and there, but, like Nixon, I’m now a fan of the Magic Schoolbus.

I’ve written before about his peculiar viewing habits; the thought of watching a movie sends him running for the hills, and trying to introduce new shows is like pulling teeth.  He simply likes what he likes.  Luckily, he LOVES watching The Magic School Bus on Netflix.  I say ‘luckily’ because there are four seasons of the early series as well as the first season of the Netflix Original, The Magic School Bus Rides Again, streaming now.  Dave, Ethan and I have been desperate for some new ‘Nixon approved’ content to beef up his current obsession, the single series of the fishing show, Chasing Monsters.  If you need to know what ‘noodling for catfish’ means, I’d recommend you watch this lol.

The combination of mixing our quiet, bedtime reading routine with the Magic School Bus content on Netflix has seen Nixon’s interest in the world around him multiply so quickly, it’s hard to keep up.  A conversation about volcanoes over the weekend quickly moved to windows.  We finally caught up with his busy little brain and realised the connection he was making between rock and sand being heated by lava and the manufacture of glass from silica.

Mental. 

TV, (or should I say, the ability to watch digital content on a television or device) is so much more than the Saturday morning cartoons and Coronation St we grew up with.  Moving away from the negative screen-time paradigm and making choices around the content your kids are watching can provide some awesome and very entertaining educational opportunities for the entire family.

If you’ve made any kid-friendly discoveries on Netflix lately, let me know in the comments below, especially if you’ve been integrating them into a wider learning experience!New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Netflix

Remote negotiations – The Battle of the Box

Like many Mum’s I can often catch myself discussing the very different natures of my two boys.  Polar opposites, chalk and cheese………..you name it I’ve said it.  Their uniqueness translates across every moment of our day from Nixon’s need for control over what he’s wearing, to Ethan’s general compliance and respect for authority.  Everything one boy is, the other isn’t.

This can make family time quite a struggle as deciding on mutually agreeable activities that cater to a 4-year-old, an almost 13-year-old and two parents, can be an exercise in diplomacy akin to USA v North Korea negotiations.

Ethan just craves information.  He has a voracious appetite for visual media and will essentially watch anything at any time.  Great content can be rewatched over and over if it’s of particular interest – I can’t count how many times we’ve all seen Walking with Dinosaurs, The Blue Planet or Changing Seas.  What’s great about Ethan’s viewing habits is that despite his faves, he’s always keen to branch out and discover new shows, docos and movies.  His attitude is definitely ‘The More the Merrier!” 

Nixon, on the other hand, hates change.  He has around 5 shows he likes to watch over and o v e r  again on Netflix; Wild Kratts, My Big Friend, Justin Time, Oscar’s Oasis and Mouk.  That’s all we’re allowed to work with.  Settling in for some couch time and snuggles with my little guy can be a tad painful.  Did I mention he has an aversion to movies?  Asking Nix to watch a full-length feature is like asking an 11-year-old boy to pick just one ice-cream flavour to eat for the rest of his life.  My four-year-old has commitment issues obviously, a movie is just waaayyy to long to be a viable entertainment option – at least in his mind lol.

What to do, what to do?………………

Don’t ask, Don’t Tell

Honestly, when it’s time for a group consensus, sometimes the only way to reach one in my family is to ignore the ‘consensus’ part, or even the very notion that I was hoping for some family time.

Mum’s and Dad’s everywhere know that the sure-fire way to get your children’s attention is to sit down on the couch and at the very least create an illusion of relaxation.  They’ll come running within minutes and be all up in your business.  The secret to introducing a new show, movie or genre is simply this – have it playing before they realise what’s going on.  Set the stage for Family Movie Night or a rainy arvo snuggling on the couch without the public service announcement, “Kids we’re going to watch something new!”.

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Try it, it works.  

So far I’ve successfully introduced Nixon to Puss in Book (which is super-fun as you can control the action),  he’s been snookered into watching The Land Before Time (a beautiful dinosaur movie I remember seeing in the theatre with my little brother) and the Netflix Original, Troll Hunters has been accepted as the new go-to by both boys if they’re in that (very) rare, couch-cohabitation mood which all parents dream off.

Don’t settle for watching the same shows guys, just employ your grown-up smarts, get creative and discover some new content to enjoy with your family next time the couch is calling.

PS, this also works on your significant other.  Dave wasn’t convinced my new obsession, Ozark, was for him, but he walked in after I’d already begun an episode and was very quickly converted!

Back to School! How were the holidays……really?

The first Monday back to school after the holidays has come and gone and I’m reflecting a little on what we did, and didn’t do over the past two weeks.

Nix was sick for 10 days prior to the holidays so we were all out of whack after that and to be honest, the constant rain of the first week combined with both boys at home left me feeling less-than optimistic that we could steer the holiday ship in the right direction.

I had surprised myself (and Ethan!) with a teeny bit of forward-planning that saw E enrolled in a 2-day basketball camp each week.  He was stoked.  He was active, playing sport, socialising with other kids out of the house, learning and progressing and not sitting in front of a device, which is every parent’s nightmare right?

Right?

Ethan is a 12.5-year-old, hormone fuelled, sports-mad, go-go-go kid that desperately needed a break these holidays.  2 days each week of organized activity was all he needed as he recovered from another term that involved school days stretching from 7am-4.15, a basketball game, basketball training, two rugby practices and a rugby game each week.  As far as I was concerned, some screen time over the holidays was not going to cause him any irreparable damage.  I may have even encouraged a little bit of couch time if I’m honest.  I needed to give my kid a break and give myself a break from the ‘Mum guilt’ we are supposed to feel if we actively permit our children to relax by using their devices.

I’ve kissed that shit goodbye.

Our two boys are happy, healthy and active members of their respective sports-teams.  Motivation to participate, get moving and get outside is rife in our household – maybe somewhat lacking in my department right now but we’re not talking about ME lol!  As such, removing the negative shade I was throwing at Ethan every time he picked up his phone or iPad did not propel him into a square-eyed bender, all it did was simply improve communication between us and eliminate MUCH frustrated sighing and eye-rolling.

So, I gave my big boy a break.  He played some xBox, watched some Netflix, did whatever it is he does on his phone and when he wasn’t at basketball camp we had a pretty harmonious school holiday.  

Family activities aren’t always easy with an 8.5 year age gap between the boys, an impulsive, almost-made-it-to-the-ticket-counter movie visit didn’t work out as E was desperate to go, yet the thought of sitting in a loud, dark cinema immediately melted Nix into a puddle of tears.  In the middle of the mall.  Cue family breakdown and that terrible situation where you are torn between wanting to make both of your children happy and the inability to do so simultaneously ALL of the time.

The boys needed some time apart so Dave took Ethan and they headed off into the bush for a big walk and Nix and I collected rocks, dirt, leaves and sticks and headed down to the river to throw all the rocks, dirt, leaves and sticks into it.

Later that day the boys got their movie fix, but together-apart.  By that I mean, Nixon watched Charlotte’s Web on the Netflix app on our TV while Ethan snuggled with him on the couch, watching Okja (watch this Netflix Original guys!  It’s freaking amazing, topical and incredibly relevant) on his iPad with headphones.

Peace was restored and with zero guilt factor from me.

How did your school holidays play out guys?  Did you give your kids a break and let them self-regulate their device usage or did you keep them on a schedule?  

And, this question is pretty important, did you give yourself a break over the holidays?  Check out the image below for some innovative ways mums are managing to sneak in some ‘ME Time’ with their faves on Netflix – my new fave is Ozark, I’m calling it right here, this is the new Breaking Bad!

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If you’d like to get Netflix ready before the next school holidays, head over to FB and I’ll gift one of you a 3 month Netflix subscription!  Too easy xx

Competition Terms and Conditions here

Me and #MeTime

After a gorgeous, wonderful, fabulous, first-time-I’ve-ever-had-a-girls-trip, trip to Melbourne, I’ve been thinking a lot about this ‘me time’ business, as after four days without kids in tow, my cup was certainly running over with Me-time.

But what I’ve discovered is that ‘me time’ for one Mum is certainly not a one size fits all experience.  Time out from your daily routine, or simply modifying it in a way that revitalises us is undeniably important but, this can take an infinite number of forms.

For me, I have realised that ‘me time’ is not necessarily spent out of the house.  It’s not at a yoga or pilates class, it’s not getting a facial or massage (although believe me I wouldn’t say no to either lol) and it’s not having coffee or wine with girlfriends.

Though I may work from home, my job, my volunteer work at our rugby club, raising two really active, busy boys, maintaining a marriage and some semblance of order in our home means that I’m in and out, bustling all over Auckland each week.  My four days in Melbourne helped me realise that scheduling Me-time is actually as simple as just giving myself permission to simply be at home.

I’m a real homebody by nature so after six weeks of travelling on and off, all I want to do right now is stay at home and catch up on my laundry, life, housework, (maybe some actual paid work lol), some Netflix and get back into some kind of ‘predictable’ routine.  Being at home with my people makes me happy, but also being home without my people is nice, ie “Dave get the kids out of here puhleeeease”.  Why?  Because I need to tidy the house and as yawny as that sounds, a tidy home allows me to relax, it reduces my stress and anxiety levels and allows me to be a better mum, wife and general good human.

And that’s the whole point of Me-time right?

Like everyone else in the world (ok maybe just everyone else I know!) I’m a Netflix junkie.  So over the past 10 days I’ve been combining ME-time with chore-time and have caught up on some of my fave shows – how good is it not to have to be chained to your TV to get a good binge-watch going on right?

Check out my favourite Me-time shows below and keep your eyes on  Netflix because the mid-year new releases are looking insane!

Riverdale

I lOVE that Riverdale episodes are released weekly, I’d only missed a couple of shows whilst we were in Bali so getting caught up on the Archie-action wasn’t too overwhelming – those crazy Blossoms, my gosh!  This show is getting more and more twisted and it’s soooo good!

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House of Cards

Season 5 premieres on May 30 and I’ve got a LOT of catching up to do.  Kevin Spacey is a genius.  That’s all that needs to be said about HOC and why you need to keep watching.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Netflix StreamTeam House of Cards

Orange is the New Black

My ride-or-die.  OITNB I have been waiting……..

The Season 4 finale was an absolute cliffhanger!  I’ve been hanging out for Season 5 and it’s coming in June!

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The Barkley Marathons

If you’re looking for something different and a one-off watch, check out this doco, especially if you have an interest in running or eventing.  The most extreme, crazy ultra-marathon in the world, entry costs a mere $1.60 but don’t be fooled, there have only been 15 finishers in its 25 year + history.

This is an amazing watch that will both make you laugh and blow your mind at the extremes of human endurance and tenacity.  Totally engrossing.

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DIY – Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Wreath

Nightmare before Christmas Halloween Wreath

In hindsight it was a totally ‘oddball’ purchase, but the first animated/family DVD we purchased when Dave and I found out we were pregnant 12.5 years ago was Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – how can that movie have come out in 1993?!

the_nightmare_before_christmas_posterAnyway, I freaking LOVE this movie, it’s a stop-motion masterpiece and thank goodness it’s on Netflix as there is literally nothing I despise more than DVDs………….except CDs lol.

We also LOVE Halloween.  You guys already know (I’m sure) that Dave is American and I lived there for 6 years so we bring our A-Game at the end of every October.  New Zealand is slowly starting to embrace the spooky season and we are super lucky to live in an amazingly Halloween Friendly neighborhood which has become a bit of a ‘destination’ for Trick or Treaters over the past few years.

So, decorating for Halloween is one of my favourite themes to work with as it doesn’t matter if it’s *less than perfect*, which to be honest, is how I roll 24-7.

So, If you’re hosting a Halloween Party or welcoming Trick or Treaters, a wreath is an easy way to set the mood and create a great focal point – it doesn’t have to hang on the front door, this one will probably go on our mantlepiece with some other spooky decorations.

I’m creating a Jack Skellington themed wreath this year because my kids NEED more Nightmare Before Christmas in their lives, I’m a bit worried I’ve been failing them on the Tim Burton front – Ethan hasn’t even seen Beetlejuice ::::::gasp!:::::

How to Make a Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Wreath

You will need:

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

1 x foam decor ring, 1 x foam decor ball for Jack’s head, wool/fabric strips in your choice of colours, artificial flowers, craft glue, a black permanent marker or black paint, scissors, pins, artificial spiderweb, ribbon for hanging.

Step 1: Cover your foam ring

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

I used a mix of cheap acrylic yarn, fabric from my stash cut into long strips and spotted crepe paper streamers.  I tied the wool off then applied craft glue to the inside of the ring.  Holding the ring between your knees as you wrap it will help things move along quite quickly!  Wrap the ring in whatever pattern/configuration you like – Jack’s colours are traditionally black and white but I wanted to add a pop of colour so used orange for contrast.  Leave a section unwrapped to save time as this will be covered with flowers. 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Step 2:  Attach flowers

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before ChristmasI used dressmaking pins but you could also affix the flowers with craft glue.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Step 3: Draw Jack Skellington’s Face

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Find an image online to work from – I used this one.  Sketch the features on in pencil, It’s pretty simple just watch the proportions.  When you’re satisfied, trace over the pencil with black permanent marker and colour in the eye sockets.  I went over the eye sockets a couple of times to get a good black finish.

Step 4:  Suspend Jack in the wreath

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Pin (or glue) ribbon to the back of Jack’s head, make sure it’s angled so his face is square.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Pin (or glue) the other end of the ribbon to the back-top of the wreath.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

I used a large needle to hold Jack’s head in place, glue would also work fine.

Step 5: Wrap wreath with artificial spiderwebs

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Step 6: Attach ribbon for hanging wreath

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Fold ribbon into a loop and staple or glue.  Fix to the back of your wreath using glue or pins.

Step 7: Marvel at your creative genius!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before ChristmasHappy Halloween!

Positive Screen Time – Nixon and Dinosaur Train

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Screen Time

Screen time, device time, iPad use, tablet time, TV time – whatever you call it,  letting your kids use a screen, be it large or small immediately places a target on your back and immediately opens you up to judgement by Sancti-Mummy’s everywhere.  Screen time gets such a bad rap these days, it’s almost as high up the parental hit-list as sugar and processed cheese ::::  heavens-to-betsy! ::::

But you guys know me right?  You know I love sugar (in moderation of course!), I adore processed cheese (actually ALL cheese) and I absolutely LOVE me some screen time – what blogger doesn’t?  It seems to me that the use of devices or amount of time spent in front of a screen by kids is like anything else, when used with moderation and discretion there are no problems.  

But let’s be honest, sometimes I use screen time with reckless abandon!  There are days when I have more than one deadline, the kids are exhausted by 4.30pm and will actually disembowel each other if forced to play together and I just don’t have time to deal with that mess.  So I let them have at it.  Play Xbox!  Watch weirdos unwrap shit on YouTube, catch Pokemon, I DON’T CARE, just enjoy it mmmmkay boys?

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Screen TimeI’m joking of course, that pretty much happens everyday (!), but there is a shining light in the dark, dark tunnel of screen time, and that light, dear readers, belongs to Dinosaur Train.

Not just his favourite show, Dinosaur Train is Nixon’s obsession, fuelling an insatiable need for more and more knowledge, more facts, more polysyllabic names down-pat, more very expensive Schleich dinos and more and more dinosaur books.

It’s freaking awesome!  Ethan went through the same ‘phase’ that lasted 9 years (!!), but his energy was focussed on sharks and whales and we struggled to find age appropriate shows that kept up with his vast knowledge.  Dinosaur Train is ticking all the boxes for us and Nix;

  • Catchy theme song – check
  • Science based – check
  • Historically accurate – check
  • Factual – check
  • There’s a REAL paleontologist that recaps the archaeological evidence at the end of each show
  • Produced by The Jim Henson Company = awesome – check
  • Engaging and non-mum-guilt inducing – check check CHECK!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Screen Time

In a nutshell, a Pteranodon family and their adopted T Rex son Buddy explore the Mesozoic aboard the Dinosaur Train, meeting and learning (in great detail!) about other dinosaurs.  The show is an educational coup for parents and kids alike and it’s single-handedly fostered a passion in Nixon that we are all loving.  Dave and I are now Parental Grade Experts in dinosaurs (as well as sharks and whales) and Ethan and Nixon have something in common that they both love despite their 8.5 year age gap.

We watch Dinosaur Train (every day!) on Netflix and have no trouble with internet lag now that we’ve upgraded to Slingshot’s unlimited VDSL – I have zero time/tolerance for monitoring how much bandwidth we have left!   Nixie’s other dino faves available on Netflix are; Gon, Dinosaur King, Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Monsters and DinoTrux.

Happy Netflix-ing!

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Valentines Day Movies – Staying In is the new Going Out

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Blog Valentine's Day Movie

Look, I’m turning 36 37 this year.  I haven’t measured my own self-worth or the status of a relationship by how red, pink and chocolatey a Valentine’s Day is for a very long, long time.

That’s not to say I’m completely opposed to celebrating it however.  For me the appeal of Valentine’s Day is that you can make it as ostentatious or as subtle an occasion as you choose.  Ham it up or go balls to the wall class act, the choice is yours and your plan of attack probably varies from year to year.

One of the pleasures of being an old married couple is that expectations are out the window at this point and Dave and I totally appreciate small gestures and time spent together.  As the Big Day is on a Sunday this year, we will be celebrating the way that 66% of those surveyed agreed was the perfect casual date night – staying in and watching Netflix together.

Let’s emphasise the together ok.  Because that’s the really important bit.  Dave and I are totally invested in a growing number of series – shows we totally love so we only watch them together.  That means no (ok, minimal) devices and uninterrupted watching.  This is not as easy as one would think, um, kids, life, vacuuming………………SLEEP!

So, to make your Valentine’s Day a massive Staying In hit this year, I’ve got some surefire rom-coms and enough sappy love scenes to get all systems firing.  Stay in and snuggle down with Netflix and the one you love this Valentine’s Day.

10 Valentine’s Day Movie Ideas

  • Crazy Stupid Love
  • 50 First Dates
  • New York, I Love You
  • Ted Talks: Sex, Secrets and Love
  • Love and Other Disasters
  • Manhattan Romance
  • Mr and Mrs Smith
  • The Notebook
  • Words and Pictures
  • Love – Netflix Original, launching globally 19th Feb!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Blog Valentine's Day Movie