Our new rules at home... breaking the smartphone obsession

No matter where you are these days (in the shop, gym, or office) you can see almost everybody has their smartphone in their hand. And most are browsing it. Sometimes it's to respond to an email, but often it's a quick glance at Twitter or Facebook. We've become obsessed and I'm probably the most guilty.

I hate being chained to my phone, yet it's an addiction. At home in the evening my daughter could be asking me a question, but I prioritise a quick tweet over answering her. Sometimes I'll be chatting to my wife and she doesn't respond. She'll be looking at her phone, smirking at some photo meme that's doing the rounds on Facebook.

The time has come to break the habit... and as a family we're starting right now.

The Phone Box

There's only one way to not look at your phone and that's to not have it on you. Nicole has implemented the "phone box". Come 5.30pm every evening we place our iPhones in the box (that's left upstairs so we don't dip our hands into it like a cookie jar). 

iPhone obsession

I've got to be honest, when I put the phone in I can almost hear it whispering in my ear to be picked up again, but moments later I feel quite chuffed I broke the spell and wasn't sucked back into the vortex. 

We're not suddenly becoming Amish. If a phone rings, we can hear it downstairs and will answer it. The box just stops us from being unsocial as a family.

Dinner is at the table

Our kids (4 and 6 years old) have been raised eating dinner in the playroom while watching TV. It wasn't a conscious parental decision. It just landed up being that way. Not only has it created a war zone as the girls fight over what should be watched on the screen, but they become sullen at the end of the evening when it's time to go up and bath. That came to an immediate stop as of yesterday.

Now, Nicole sets the dinner table and we all eat dinner together at the same time. Nobody leaves the table until all of us are done eating. The girls still have ants in their pants and ask about watching TV, but already after 2 days I can see them accepting the situation and becoming more engaging and chatty at the table. Nicole is giving them roles such as laying out the place mats. Also, they each get a candle they can light when they sit down to eat, and get to blow it out when dinner is over (oh, the small things kids love doing).

After dinner, if they have some spare time between bathing and bedtime, they've traditionally watched more TV. Now, no more. They're allowed to play for a bit, and already they're being nicer to each other and playing with their dolls etc. 

Morning school bell

This one we've had for a while, but are being quite disciplined with it again. At 7.30am each morning the kitchen computer sounds a "school bell" alarm. This means the playroom TV goes off (no moaning allowed) and it's time to make their way to the car for school.
School clock

It might sound like we're being militant, but it's about just wanting to be a traditional family that engages with each other, laughing and crying together.

I'll keep you posted how it goes! If you have any other suggestions, pop a message at the bottom of the blog.

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The fairy is not long in the tooth

There's something magical about the mind of a child. Not cynical at all. Simply believing.

It's a time where Santa really exists and there's excitement on Christmas morning when you realise that the cookies have been eaten by the fat guy and he left some presents as he climbed back up the non-existent chimney.

It's a time where your favourite pooch doesn't die, Fluffy simply goes to live on the farm with his mum and dad.

And it's a time where money has never been so easy to make. Simply leave a tooth under a pillow and the tooth fairy comes in the night and exchanges it for money. There were times as a teenager I wish I could have taken my step dad's false teeth and left them under the pillow to make myself a quick buck.

My oldest daughter has just lost another tooth, and this is one of the big front ones. When it popped out yesterday we were all jubilant. My daughter was happy because she knew the fairy was coming, and mum and dad relieved because we haven't been able to brush the tooth for days as it dangled precariously like a floppy stalactite from a bat cave.

It's also one of those moments as a parent when you realise your child is growing up. It's bittersweet. You want them to see them blossom and hit those milestones, yet you also want them to stay small and innocent forever.

I've learnt my lesson from a cash flow point of view though. When Tayla-Jean lost her first tooth we were all so excited the "tooth fairy" left her R100! What the hell was the fairy thinking? Setting that kind of precedent is ludicrous considering there are 19 more baby teeth to fall out. Now the fairy only leaves R20. If my daughter ever asks why the remuneration has gone down I'll try and explain as simply as I can about how our president fired Mr Nene the finance minister and it caused a rapid depreciation in the value of our currency, resulting in everyone feeling the pinch...even the tooth fairy.

That's me just being cynical. Let's get back to the innocence of a child. Tayla-Jean got a tooth fairy depository upgrade a few months ago and she no longer leaves the tooth in a little box under her pillow. She has a tooth fairy front door on her wall. The fluttering dentist opens it to get the tooth and leave the money.


Watching the glee on her face this morning as she saw the glitter on the floor as well as the written note and money behind the door was worth more money than the tooth fairy could ever leave behind.

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Kids and iPads. Draining more than just batteries.

Holy crap, parenting can be tough. You love your kids so much, yet at the same time they can drive you dilly. Someone once said (figuratively of course) that all parents want to murder their kids as some stage. The difference with good parents is... they hold back and don't.

I'm quite the disciplinarian. My oldest daughter HATES being told what to do. She's so strong willed that if I had to describe her in one word, it would be "defiant". This doesn't make for a continually smooth running household and having a headache by 8am is not uncommon in the Pilgrim household. I should try and get Panado to endorse my house. I'll even let them put a flag up on my roof as a means of me admitting defeat!

I've mentioned this a few times before and I still think there is something to it. The moment my girls spend more than about 20 minutes on their iPads, it's as if they struggle to re-focus on what's around them and that "tunnel-vision" puts them in a bad mood. I say "they", but it's amazing how angelic the other daughter is once dad has blown a gasket and sent the naughty one to her room (I'm referring to myself in the third person here because I'm generally a very calm person and don't like being a screaming banshee).

At least by sending my daughter to her room she actually does calm down and comes out when she's ready to acclimatise herself back into normal society. I only started sending her to her room once she was able to open the door herself (didn't want her to feel locked in). So when she was smaller she would have to stand in the naughty corner under the stairs like a free-range version of Harry Potter who was placed in a cupboard under the stairs. The problem was she would just stroll out a moment later, so being able to now send her to her room is much better. She spends an hour or so playing with her "My little Pony" figurines and comes out a happy person again.

So once again, the iPad is on rations. No iPad on school mornings, at a meal table or in the evenings close to bed time.

Apples are not always good for you.

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Losing the nu-nu is a no-no

Here's another one of those "parenting" blogs. If you're not into kids, you might want to skip this one and come back tomorrow! :)

My girls are growing up so fast.


No matter how much a child grows up though, there's so often one item they like holding onto. It's their comfort "thing", their 'nu-nu".

For my girls, it's always been little blankets. My 2 year old still goes EVERYWHERE with hers:


My 4 year old Tayla-Jean has pretty much grown out of it, and it never normally leaves her room (in fact, trying to find a photo of her blanket I had to go back to when she was 2 years old as well):


But even now, when she goes to sleep, she still likes having it in her bed. So when we went on holiday it made sense that we took it with to Mauritius. What was the ONE THING we left behind in the hotel room when we checked out? Yep, the friggin' blanket! How to feel shitty as parents! :)

Despite contacting the hotel, it was never handed in to lost property, so we've had a rough few evenings putting Tayla-Jean to sleep.

One day we'll look back at this and laugh, but for now we've placed an urgent order with our neighbour to please crochet another nu-nu blanket ASAP!

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What to do with your kids this holiday

Reader warning! Today's blog is for parents of young kids! If you were hoping for a gadget review, you might want to come back tomorrow!

It's school holidays. One of the most pressing questions most parents ask is:" How the hell are we going to keep the kids entertained until school reopens next year!?".

Each morning when we wake up, we try and think of something that will keep them busy for just 2 or 3 hours to break the routine of always doing the SAME thing at home (or at the local coffee shop that has a jungle gym).

Well here's a suggestion for you: Build-a-Bear.

We took Tayla-Jean and Alyssa to the store in Sandton City on Sunday morning and it landed up being lots of fun... and killed 1.5 hours of the morning!

The whole premise is the experience of creating and making your own bear so that it "comes to life". It starts with choosing the bear body. My girls are into Frozen, so they chose the Elsa and Arna bear.


Then, you choose what the bear should say (it's speech box).


After that, you need to fill the bear with stuffing. The kids push a pedal to get the machine to shoot the foam inside as if it's the ultimate enema:


Then a little bit of magic happens. As it's all about the experience, each child is given a small foam heart, and there's a little ritual the kids have to do to bring it to life, before placing it inside the bear.

Off to the bear parlour for a little bit of grooming (considering the critter has just had a major operation):


From there, it's clothing the bear. And there's a LOT to chose from!


My girls stuck with the Frozen theme, picked the clothes, and dressed their bears:


The end result: a lot of time keeping the kids entertained. In fact, the parents get quite involved too. I never thought it would be such a tough decision choosing which knickers the bears should wear.

And then my girls had 2 new friends they got to take home:


Even the bear's "box house" is quite clever. Tayla-Jean spent most of Sunday afternoon colouring it in:


All in all, a great opportunity for mums and dads to spend a bit of quality play time with their kids. Well worth doing if you have a Build a Bear near you.

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Happy birthday to my little angel Alyssa!

I get very emotional when it comes to my kids birthdays. I think back to the day they were born. To all the times they made me laugh and cry. You see, as a testicular cancer survivor, my prognosis of having children was slim to non-existent.

Well, Nicole and I beat those odds naturally... twice! Two years ago my second bundle of joy came into the world. Today is Alyssa's birthday!  To my little Chicken Sausage...

From the moment you were born you stole my heart...

Even as a baby your smile made the day's frustrations melt away...

We play silly buggers and laugh at ourselves...

Right now in your life, you're fixated with Barney. You love having long showers with your sister. You get upset if you can't feed the chihuahuas.  And you draw me pictures everyday...sometimes on the wooden floor.


When you read this in cyberspace in 15 years time, just know that Dad loves you so much. Thank you for being in our lives. Happy birthday!!!
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Something fishy about my daughter

It's one of those moments where, for someone else it means nothing, but for me it means the world. My 3 year old daughter has taken to swimming like a fish in water and got her first swimming trophy yesterday... I'm a proud dad!

Whilst Tayla-Jean puts her swimming goggles on all the time, Alyssa (my 1 year old) has developed a shoe fetish and won't even go to sleep now unless she has chosen a pair of shoes to accompany her pyjamas. it also means mum and dad can no longer walk around the house barefoot, because she selects shoes from our cupboards and insists we wear them. Wearing formal Italian shoes with shorts has become the norm for me at home!

Despite what I wear, the biggest thing making me look like an idiot is STILL the moustache.

It's now Day 27 of Movember... the final home stretch. I get to shave it off on Saturday night! As the Movember ambassador I was a guest on e-TV's Sunrise this morning chatting about the campaign and mens health in general.