The AYSO Soccer Ref

red and yellow card

This is a quick ode to my teenage son, whom I appreciate so much for his resilience and patience with his loving mum.

We are so proud of our boy.  He is going to become a youth soccer ref.  He chooses to take the ref. class out of the goodness of his kind, community minded heart.  I’m glowing with that fleeting moment of a mother with a teen – perhaps we haven’t done such a bad job with our kid after all.  Dash has played soccer since Kindergarten.  He continues to play as a goalkeeper in the AYSO league (American Youth Soccer Organization) and now he is graduating into helping out this wonderful organization and giving back by being a volunteer referee.

The class takes up a good part of the day.  Dash comes home late in the afternoon.  He has his “swag bag” with a whistle, ref. shorts and of course his yellow and black striped ref shirt.

“Mom, Mom” he calls from his room.  “C’m here!”

Oh, how my heart is leaping.  My kid actually wants to talk to me.  He is returning from the dark side of the moon.  I rush… calmly walk… to his room.

“What’s up?  I coolly inquire.

“Have you seen all the stuff I got from ref. class?”  He shows me his whistle, his youth volunteer badge, the flags, the clothes etc…

“But here is the important stuff.”  He grins.  He shows me the yellow card – the warning card.  Then out comes the red card – you’re off the field.

“Now let me explain how this works, mommy.  We now no longer have to actually talk to communicate, when you come into my room and annoy me for the first time, I’ll show you the yellow card.  If you continue to talk and bother me, well, you know what’s coming.”  He flashes the red card.  “Then you are banned from my room.”  He smiles angelically.

I laugh.  I cry a little inside.  I’m glad there’s still humor.  I think?

“You can go now.”  He blows his whistle

The game of parenting, growing up and life continues.



No One Ever Told Me!

Toddler boxersI wasn’t one of those parents who had the easiest of babies.  I loved Dash with a depth of maternal passion from the moment I took that first pregnancy test – protecting my still flat tummy as I dashed around New York City those first few days of realizing that from two people, you really can create a third.  He did not sleep through the night in those first six weeks, as did the babies of some of my friends who would appear bright eyed and bushy tailed – that you just wanted to slap ’em.  His toddler years involved whacking as many of his friends he could get to before I would gently say, “Dash, don’t whack, use your words.”  He was famous in pre-school for uttering these words “When your friends aggravate you, don’t hit ‘em, use your words.”  It all must have worked because his best friends are still from his pre-school days – either that or they’re all masochists.  Then Dash just chilled out.  He was calm as a ship on a quiet ocean, perhaps there was the occasional ripple but generally since those early toddler days, he has been calm, good-natured and lovely to be around.

I had heard about the teenage years, but I firmly believe that your kid is allowed to go through an aggravating phase once in their childhood.  Did you hear that… I firmly believe… and I firmly passed on to Dash that he had been an aggravating toddler and that he had used up his potion of parental provocation in those young years.  The teenage years were to be a doddle of joy, happiness and coming of age.  Now, I know what I’ve built up to here… And then he…..  But no, he’s been great.  Dash does well in school, he is generally respectful, helps around the house, wonderful for the most part with his two sisters, has friends that I adore.  So what is the problem, I hear you wondering.

Overnight, aged 14, Dash discovered independence.  Yes, yes… I know that is healthy and all.  I just wasn’t expecting it to come at me so hard and fast.  I am aware the teenage years are a push and pull toward adulthood for the child and the parent has to let the bird fly free and all that fabulousness.  For me, it happened in a short and sweet three month time period, where I didn’t know what hit me.  My little boy, (okay, my particular boy was never little – he is currently 6’3” and growing) who always used to give me a hug and kiss goodnight was now asking me to pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease leave him alone at bedtime.  My kid who always let me in on what was going on in his life, now told me that I had 5 questions of the day that I might ask and generally asking him how he was and whether he was hungry, had already used up two of those questions.  It’s a little like having that genie give you three wishes and by the time you’ve figured them out, you’ve already wantonly wasted them all.  “Would you like me to proof read your essay?”  “No!”  If I’m lucky, its “No thank you, please close the door.” Believe me I could feel that metaphorical boot in my back.  Apparently, I can’t help with anything anymore.  I hear your judgement… how lucky you are.  Your kid has it together.  Stop helicopter parenting your child.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful.

Independent Teen

I miss him.  I miss him so very very much.  It came as a surprise!  I don’t want to coddle him, but I want to be able to have a conversation that involves more of him than discussing the latest UN resolution.  We discuss the news and philosophy, but we don’t discuss what’s goin’on!  So why did no-one ever tell me?  Am I to expect the same from my daughters, or are boys and girls different that way?  My friends and I talk about it, and many of us are going through the same separation.  We’re so proud of our sons navigating their way through life and its also bitter sweet to release them into the world.  I know that teenage-hood is the next phase of “Leave me alone.  I can do it!” Just no one ever told me whether I could do it!

Ms. Bits N’ Bobs Show – Take #2

Hallo there friends and fan’s of Ms. Bits N’ Bobs.  I got such positive feedback from the first two shows, that we are going to do two more.  Much Thanks to  Manhattan Beach Karate and Yoga for letting me turn their studio into a black box theatre.  In this space, the kids get to come up on into the stage space and help act out the show.
Do your kids enjoy acting?
Do your kids enjoy adventure?
Do your kids enjoy fairytales?
Where do the stories go when they get lost?
Help us solve the mystery!

Bring your cameras!  Bring your imaginations!

Watch your children dress up, act, sing and dance whilst they go on a grand adventure with Ms. Bits N’ Bobs to the Land of Imagination

The Ms. Bits & Bobs Show

A Family Performance Brought to you by

the Land of Imagination.

Interactive Children’s theater

Saturday May 14th & Saturday May 28th

11:00am to Noon

Tickets are $10 per person – cash at the door.

We would love you to join us with your younger kids.  However, should brunch beckon, drop offs welcomed for children 5 and up with contact info.

Reservations  are necessary as the space holds 30 people


310 594 2774 or email


Manhattan Beach Karate and Yoga Studio

3207 Manhattan Avenue @Longfellow

Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

The Journey has Begun…

The Journey has begun…

The premiere Ms. Bits N’ Bobs theatre show has come and gone.

Without a hitch?  Mmmm?  Without any angst?  Nmm?  Fun to perform?  YES! YES! YES!

Blessed art thou, the Karate Sensei who told me that I should just go ahead and do my shows in his Karate Studio. He is also the guy who told me many years ago, “you do the best that you can do, with what you’ve got.”  This was when I was attempting to do karate kicks whilst holding two year old Olivia on one arm.  A crawling 9 month old Tallulah was trying to cling to my leg as I attempted to complete a Karate kick whilst avoiding kicking my son, Dash, with whom I was trying to bond and the only reason I had taken up Karate in the first place.

Ah those halcyon days… why did I ever think that those were the difficult times?  I must have sent out over 300-400 emails advertising these shows.  I approached all the very kind pre-school and elementary school principles and librarians, teachers and friends, who have provided so much encouragement and support over the last few years.  I handed out a few hundred flyers to people around my local school, including the all important local nanny network who hang out on the greenbelt close to my house.  All of this work and anxiety to merely sell 30 tickets per show.

Show #1… I sold 10 tickets!  Now on my behalf, it was the first weekend of baseball season and the St. Patrick’s Day parade.  Still… only ten tickets!

I had known going into that Saturday morning, that perhaps I had some learning to do in the marketing department.  I was  still bummed that so few people were showing up to the premiere show.

Holy Flying Guacamole!  They were the greatest ten people to ever participate in a show.  We took on the challenge of going to the Land of Imagination with verve and vigor.  When we galloped into an alternative universe on our magical horses, we flew there through a splash of color and camaraderie with fairies, dragons, Cinderella and even a cannon that shot out kids.  We met Charlotte, the spider from Charlotte’s Web.  She joined the audience – we needed her, she made 11.  One of our kids could describe Hansel and Gretel’s house so clearly, that we were all salivating to try some of the sparkling gingerbread.  But we knew the witch was really inside waiting for her chance to jump us.  The kids could talk all kinds of animal languages, my favorite being the Human Language where the mom spoke Blah, Blah, Blah all day.

I feel invigorated and joyful that I had the chance to entertain and be entertained by those magical children.  The journey has begun with small but magical steps.  I look forward to Ms. Bits N’ Bobs – Take #2 this weekend.  Naturally, I would love to share the adventure with you.

Ms. Bits N’ Bobs Live Performances Coming to a Theatre Near You!!

Hallo there friends and fan’s of Ms. Bits N’ Bobs.  I am so excited to be able to perform some shows in my own theatre space, thanks to Manhattan Beach Karate and Yoga.  I would love you to come and see the first couple of shows….

The Ms. Bits & Bobs Show

A Family Performance Brought to you by

the Land of Imagination.

Interactive Children’s theater

Saturday March 12th & Saturday March 19th

11:00am to Noon

Tickets are $10 per person – cash at the door.

We would love you to join us with your younger kids.  However, should brunch beckon, drop offs welcomed for children 5 and up with contact info.

Reservations  are necessary as the space holds 30 people


310 594 2774 or email


Manhattan Beach Karate and Yoga Studio

3207 Manhattan Avenue @Longfellow

Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

The Definition of a Winner!

If you have been following my blog, I hope that you have figured out that I believe in a positive attitude when it comes to raising children.  It’s so uplifting  when you see your daughters following a similar philosophy.

I don’t know what bedtime conversation is in your household… The following took place in our home last night.

Olivia:  Do you ever feel like a loser, Tallulah?

Tallulah:  No?

Olivia:  ‘Cos if you do, you’re not you know.

Tallulah:  Really?

Olivia:  Yeah, ‘cos your sperm swam faster than all the other sperms and got to mom’s egg first.  See, no matter how much of a loser you sometimes feel, you’re always a winner!

Tallulah:  Mom?!!!

Now I have to define sperm for my six year old.

Mama Points


My dad had this point system that he used with my younger half-brother and sister.  They lived in the USA.  I lived in London, England with my mom.  I would hear about it every summer when I visited.  You got “goods” for doing well in school, doing chores when asked, generally doin’ good.  Points got taken away for disobedience, naughtiness, whatever-annoyed-dad etc…  These were called “bads“.  You get the idea.  When you got enough points there was a trip to Baskin Robbins, 31 flavors.

I was exempt from this system, being a summer visitor, but still experienced the joy of 31 flavors.  Yay! for Summer visitors.  My younger sister hated the points system and my little brother was ambivalent.  When it came time for me to begin figuring out discipline for my own children, like many of us, I was trying to figure out a system.  I’m a deep believer in positive enforcement.  A kindergarten catch-phrase at my kids school comes to mind…”Catch your children being good“.  Going on my siblings mixed experiences I thought I would try the points system, but you only got points for being good.  When my children were disobedient or “not good” there was not a “punishment”, but I would let them know that if they could change the behavior to a positive one then they would get a Mama Point.  For instance, if there was an issue sharing toys and Dash ripped a toy out of Olivia’s hands…I would normally be brought in as Olivia screamed a five-alarm fire alert just to let me and the neighborhood know that injustice was going on in our household.  First, I never assume that there is just one side to the story.  Then I sit down, hug them both and ask each side to tell me the problem.

Dash:  It’s my toy, I got it for my 4th birthday from Josh.  (note to self…Dash is now 8.)

Olivia:  I was playing with it before Dash.  He only wants it because he doesn’t want me to have it.  (Most insightful)

Tallulah:  They can both have all of my toys.  (Tallulah is my kindest, most altruistic child, who is also the most materialistic.  Her favorite line being…let’s go buy something at Target, Mama.  When I’m done playing with it we can give it to charity.)

Me:  Tallulah, you and I are going to go and play in the other room.  Dash and Olivia…I am going to leave you alone for five minutes on this clock.  If you can figure out this issue by yourselves in the next five minutes, you will both get a Mama Point.  If you cannot, I will take the toy away from both of you until you work it out.

Most of the time, they figure the issue out most effectively between themselves.  Then they each get a Mama Point and they have great pride in their achievement.

Mama Points have now been a staple in our household for years.  They subsequently evolved into “Brother” and “Sister” points.  These were completely initiated by the kids.  As Dash is quite a bit older than the girls, it is the ultimate accolade to receive a Brother Point.

No doubt you are wondering what my children’s favorite Baskin Robbins, 31 flavors treat is?  There is no reward for achieving a certain number of Mama Points.  This was not by any great design on my part.  I loved 31 flavors and when I first thought up the system, I planned on some kind of reward system.  But with three kids, somehow…getting the chart on the wall…counting the Mama Points…getting everyone in the car and to Baskin Robbins…whilst still getting healthy food in them before the trip.  Well, it was too overwhelming.  Besides, I was and still am really, really into giving out many Mama Points.  It would have been ice-cream every day, six times a day.

So what is the reward, you are asking yourselves?  What is the incentive to try to earn a Mama Point?  The reward is the Mama Point.  There is no incentive, because the idea is to catch your child out doing “GOOD” many, many times during the day.  If they wash their hands without you asking, they get a Mama Point…and let them know its because you didn’t have to ask.  If they wash their hands after you asked them, they get a Mama Point…and let them know you appreciate them listening to you.  I get as much out of Mama Points as my kids, because it reminds me how many times a day my children try to do good.

I believe that people, kids and grown-ups like to be appreciated.  More than anything, we like our parents appreciation.  We want our parent’s approval.  Mama Points, for me, are an effective way of letting my children know that I appreciate the effort that they are making.

Mr. Rogers had a song that he used in his shows Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

You are Special

by Fred. M. Rogers

You are my friend
You are special
You are my friend
You’re special to me.
You are the only one like you.
Like you, my friend, I like you.

In the daytime
In the nighttime
Any time that you feel’s the right time
For a friendship with me, you see
F-R-I-E-N-D special
You are my friend
You’re special to me.
There’s only one in this wonderful world
You are special.

My Mama Points are a way of letting my children know, multiple times a day that they are special to me.

All of you who are supporting me by reading this blog are special to me.  Thank you and you all get a Mama Point.

Sunday Morning Moment


We are sitting around on Sunday morning, watching the end of Toy Story 2

Me:  Oh no, is Woody going to die?

Tallulah:  Oh please mom, don’t you know that all stories have a happy ending.

Olivia:  No they don’t.  What about Romeo and Juliet?

Dash:…Romeo and Juliet was written before Jesus was born.

Just Sign ‘Em Up!


Olivia and Tallulah may disown me for writing this particular story. Though sometimes it’s tempting to want to sign your children up for the military at a young age, this isn’t about that.  However, sign-ups are here again for AYSO soccer season.  For those of you in other countries, AYSO is American Youth Soccer Organization.  Soccer is a huge sport for kids in America.  I don’t know what happens when we reach adulthood, ‘cos unlike in England, Spain, Mexico, Italy, South Africa and the rest of the world no-one here really gives soccer the time of day as a grown-up.

Needless to say, I have signed up all three of my children to run around a field and hopefully score a couple goals this coming season.  Dash, now 12, has always scored goals in soccer, before specializing as a goalie and I naively assumed that all children did.  Olivia (8) has gone two seasons without scoring and does not like the game (I wonder why?)  Tallulah (6) who looks tall and athletic, is scared of the soccer ball (mostly ‘cos her sister prepared her with menacing stories of mean running girls at bedtime.)  Both of them have told me in no uncertain terms that they do not want to play soccer.

So why has this crazy mother signed them all up?  Not to mention the fact that my husband or I have to get the kids to three practices and three soccer games every week. Come to think of it…I’m rapidly talking myself out of the entire proposition, which is not the goal of the story.

There are the obvious positives…running around and getting sweaty, working as a group, learning that you are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.  It gives my kids a social outlet that is apart from school. They will meet kids from other elementary schools, so that when they make that transition into middle and high school they’ll already know a whole bunch of kids from the other feeder schools.

But here is the kicker (yes, pun intended) for me…  Dash, even though he sometimes scores, is not the star of his team.  Whilst driving him to a friend’s house recently, I asked him whether I had made the right decision to just “sign him up” each year, when he was 8, 9, 10 years old.  These were the famous “NO” years for Dash.  Vegetables for dinner? NO!  Sports?  NO!  Ice cream?  NO!  I mean YES.  I was more than a little surprised when I received an unflinching, unreserved, in-my-face YES! Absolutely. Mom, you did the right thing.   Just Sign ‘Em Up!

Currently, Dash is a great, well-respected soccer goalie.  He understands and knows that he could never have gotten to this place or figured out his position without the years of practice and of winning and losing games.  He understands that you need to earn the respect of your coaches and your team mates over time.  He understands and values respect – others and his own.   And whilst many American adults may not have a passion for soccer, we do like our self-respect.

So, although I am sure that the concept of dogged determination and constant practice can be learned in other areas of life, group sports infuse this idea at a young age.   AYSO soccer is so well organized that all you have to really do is… just sign ’em up.

Dash is glad I did.

The Bits N’ Bobs of the Week Side Bar:

(AKA compulsory read for desperate parents trying to get their kids of the TV, computer, Wii, XBox, DS screen)

You may have heard through the grapevine about a certain World Cup in a certain country of my birth, South Africa, coming up.  Tallulah is all about the Spectator Sport.  She is the inspiration for this week’s “bit n’ bob of the week”.  For those of you with kids there is an entire section of my website devoted to arts n’ crafts or activities that are linked to the shows and now I guess the blog.  (See top of the menu on the right).  So voila… here goes.

FIFA World Cup Art’s n’ Crafts activity

Choose your country and some countries that your team is playing in the FIFA world cup.  Have your child make flags for each country using regular 81/2″ x11″ paper.  Attach popsicle sticks, garden sticks or kebab sticks on the back and wave to your hearts content.

Tallulah and I are rooting for England, (adopted country #1) vs. USA (adopted country #2) this coming Saturday.  The rest of the family are pulling for the USA.  I know, I know, the TV screen still involved, but I’m weaning slowly.

A Random Walk

Following a great week of Ms. Bits N’ Bobs shows, I was sitting in the office of the Director of one of my favorite pre-schools. It’s a tiny closet of an office and quite a magical place, where many of us have laughed, cried and been inspired. One wall, behind her chair is covered in sayings, one of my favorite quotes being

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Albert Einstein

The Director was finishing up a phone call. I was trying really hard not to eavesdrop on, so I randomly picked out a book on her bookshelf entitled The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents. I randomly plopped open a page to a quote which said something along the lines of…

Take a walk with your child

a random walk

with no particular purpose

On this walk just look

Look around you at everything that you see

The phone call was done and I thought no more about it. Until a few days later, when I was feeling really guilty that my kindergartener, Tallulah was watching too much TV and I decided that we should take a random walk.

How hard could that be? Right? Just try it. Try to go walking with NO PURPOSE.

The first thing I did was take along a coffee mug that I just had to return to a friend who lived at the top of the hill. Well, I thought, a little purpose to get us started, but then ABSOLUTELY NO PURPOSE!!

Tallulah looked at me in confusion, this was not the mother she knew. We always went somewhere with a purpose. Go for a run to get some exercise. Run to the store to purchase dinner. Read to get educated.

“Just a walk mom, for no reason?”

“Yup, just a walk, Tallulah”

“No reason?”

“Just a random walk.”

She got it. It was a little more difficult for goal-oriented moi. A couple minutes of walking passed.

La la la! It’s so lovely to walk randomly with no purpose. What a lovely way for me to bond with my daughter. It’s an education unto itself. Education is a wonderful thing. Education! Tallulah! Must educate Tallulah! Then I heard distinctly, these words float out of my mouth. I didn’t mean for it to happen, they just popped right out.

“Do you see any words, Tallulah? Any numbers?”

So the first thing she sees is a sign that says “Please do not let your dog POOP here.”

Tallulah who is extremely concerned about bathroom language being used anywhere but the bathroom is horrified that someone has had the gall to write this word in public for all to see.

I repeat to myself… I Ching, I Ching I Ching a ling a ling…walk with no particular purpose, just notice what is around you.

Then the joy began. Tallulah is afraid of flowers, who knew! Apparently, bees can fly right out of flowers and sting you. This led to a discussion on whether we need flowers to live and thus do we need bees? So bees actually are important. Then we saw a house being demolished. We saw the rusty old pipes thrown on the ground. We passed a tiny Japanese Sushi house and stopped in to look at the Good Luck Cats. Tallulah really wanted one of those. We passed the Cupcake store. Yes, there are stores that still exist in this economy that just sell cupcakes. I love them. I just can’t believe that they are surviving.   Then again, this was a store with no real purpose, just the joy of the cupcake.  These cupcakes looked exceptionally delicious. There was that one special cupcake with whispery, white icing and ringed in delicate pink and purple colored sugar.

Tallulah passed on the cupcake. Yes, I said it…my child passed on a cupcake.  My sweet, adorable, wise I Ching child decided that it would be far better to get a Good Luck Cat from the Sushi Bar, where, naturally, they were not for sale.

Holy Siamese Simbas! Had she noticed the details on these cats! On the big cat, there were attached all of her little kittens and a red fish. Tallulah had noticed every detail. Her moment had so much more depth than mine.  She had looked at everything there was to see. The random walk had come full circle, the good luck was with us for all of that day.