Friday, December 31, 2010

Busy doing nothing

It's been a lovely week. Seems that doing nothing takes up a lot of time.

We went to the beach yesterday morning. On the way there, I texted my parents, who are in the mountains: "It's December 30th--time to go to the beach!", knowing that it was far from beach weather where they are. Mom texted back that they'd had 10 inches of snow and no water for most of the day. Dad had to thaw out the pipe leading from the well with a hairdryer. I still don't really understand that, but you don't get a lot of details via text message, ya know?

After the hectic pace of the last few months, we have loved doing nothing this week. That nothing includes:

--eating Jason's homemade salsa and Mexican chicken (Yum. Seriously.)
--baking and eating strawberry pie
--going to the beach
--baking and eating cinnamon bread
--thinking about doing laundry
--baking and eating peach crumble
--not doing laundry
--chatting with friends
--watching Anchorman, which I got for Christmas. Truly hilarious movie. Will Ferrell is the gift that keeps on giving.
--and finally, showing Nate's new remote controlled dinosaur to our families on the webcam

Y'all. This remote controlled dinosaur is worth all the angst and heartache I suffered to get him. Santa came through, and thank goodness he did. It's nearly as big as Grace and roars, stomps, growls, belches, lights up, cranes its neck every which way--pretty much everything a 5 year old boy could hope for. And Santa got a pretty good deal on it, too. Woohoo!

In other Christmas news, I surprised Jase with a free 2 hour class at Sydney Trapeze School. No, I'm not kidding. Jason was a diver for many years, and as a result loves spinning through the air, taking death defying leaps, and other generally unwise things. I remember once when we were dating, we were walking through downtown Dallas. He looked up at one of the skyscrapers and mused to me, "Sometimes I wish I could jump off one of those and see how many flips I could do before I blacked out." He seemed surprised to learn that, no, I never wished the same thing. Swimmers and divers are a little nuts, in my experience.

So, I know it seems like a very random gift to give, but he's excited to go learn how to be a Flying Wallenda or whatever. And you can bet your sweet bippy that I will post photos when that day comes.

In the meantime, Happy New Year!! This year, we're going to some friends' house for a BBQ and pool party, and Ava and Nate are begging to stay up till midnight. Do you think it would be totally evil to let them think 10pm was midnight? We could do a countdown and everything: "Happy New Year! Now go to bed!!" As I told Jason, it would be midnight in New Zealand at that point. That's close enough, right?

Enjoy the weekend! I'll catch you on the other side.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Baby.

"Christmas began in the heart of God. It is only complete when it reaches the heart of man."--Unknown

It's been a wonderful Christmas day. I hope yours is too, wherever you may find yourself. Christmas can be a tough time for many people--I'm praying that joy and peace win the day.

Also, I'm sorry if you're out of AA batteries...I think we have all of them at our house.

Merry Christmas, y'all! Thank you for stopping by this little corner of the world wide interwebs. I think you're sweet.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sydney, December 23rd

Like I said, Christmas in summertime has its advantages.

(Ava and Nate relaxing on the driveway after washing the car.)

And after you get over not having hot chocolate to drink and fires in the fireplace, you can appreciate the laziness of a summer day combined with the fun and anticipation of Christmastime. It's different, you know? But a good kind of different. And you can in fact celebrate the birth of Jesus in hot weather. I've tried it--it's true.

The other night we took the kids to look at Christmas lights. We didn't go too far, just drove around our local neighborhood. And saw this, which was my favorite. Nothing says Christmas in Australia like this:

I had Jason pull over so I could hop out (Heh--hop!) and get a picture. As I stood in these people's grass, I heard a rustling in the flowerbed at my feet. It was dark and I am skittish. I jumped, much like a kangaroo actually, and ran back to the car. So like Australia to have a big lizard or whatever lying in wait as I try to enjoy my Christmas down under. I get it, okay Australia? You have critters! Lots of them! Thank you for the reminder!

Oh, and speaking of reptilian things, we managed to get Nate's dinosaur from the seller on eBay! Phew--Christmas is saved, everybody! Feel free to go about your business.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Nice Surprise and a Minor Freak Out

If you've ever lived far from home, you probably know how nice it is to get packages in the mail. Packages!! Squeee!!! Usually, if my mom or Jason's mom is sending us something we ask them to throw in some of our favorite things. Crest Vivid White toothpaste, for one--I've rhapsodized about it and other stuff we miss here. It's just nice to get a little slice of home in a box, and lovely to know someone is thinking of you.

A couple of weeks ago Beth, who blogs at Remarkably Domestic, sent me some little barrettes that she'd made for the girls. Cute, cute, and more cute.
They're little felt barrettes, and Beth made a beaded butterfly on this one. Ava loves it! Beth made two for Grace: one with a little ice cream cone:
If she would've held still--I don't think Gracie has a future in catalog modeling--you could see that there are little beaded "sprinkles" on the ice cream. And here's the other--it's a red balloon. Sorry for this weird photo. I was holding her still with one hand and snapping the pic with the other. She was a hostile witness.Since Gracie loves to thwart my grooming attempts, she promptly pulled it out, so I can attest to their durability! Thanks, Beth! If you need a little stocking stuffer for a little girl in your world, check out Beth's website here.

Speaking of stocking stuffers, I have feverishly been trying to score some stuff on eBay for Nate. Auctions stress me out. Jason laughs at me, I'm sure you're surprised to read that. Why won't these people just sense how much I need this thing and let me buy it? Is that too much to ask? One night last week I was out shopping and Jason texted me to let me know we'd lost an auction at the last minute. We were bidding on a toy that Nate really, REALLY wants. In fact, he told us if Santa doesn't bring it, he'll be mad. Not sad, not disappointed. But mad. Watch your back, Santa.

About the auction. It was locked up, baby. That things was ours. Until it wasn't, with 4 seconds to go. Four seconds! Who does that!! That was my introduction to eBay sniping. It's a fast world out there, folks. A fast, cold world filled with sniping, toy stealing, snipe-faced snipers. I was pretty bummed that we lost and moped around the store. Until I remembered that I was out at that moment buying toys for two children in our community whose parents are unable to afford Christmas presents this year. And then I realized it wasn't that bad. Okay fine, Perspective. You win this round.

So cross your fingers. We found the same toy on eBay again and won the auction yesterday. Ha! The sniped becomes the sniper, y'all. But I emailed the seller and haven't heard back yet. It's been, like, 28 hours. This makes me nervous. Do you think he'll call? I hope he calls. What does it all mean? WHAT IF HE DOESN'T CALL?

If he doesn't, I'm totally sending Nate to find him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fairy Bread

It's party time here...Ava's end-of-school class party was today. She was so excited that she got to have Coke: "But I only had one glass, Mom, cause I knew you wouldn't want me to have more." It got me thinking about a staple of children's parties here in Australia, one that I had never heard of before we came to live here: fairy bread.

Ava, Nate, and now Grace, love fairy bread. They always want me to make it for their birthdays and it's the first thing they go for at their friends' parties. What is this divine confection, you ask? It's white bread cut diagonally, spread liberally with margarine or butter and sprinkled generously with candy sprinkles (often called "hundreds and thousands" here). And it is an Aussie tradition. No kid's party is complete without it. I love that it's so simple. You can just imagine some Aussie mum coming up with it 30 years ago. Maybe she forgot to bake cookies for her kid's party. Maybe she opened her pantry and tried to come up with something exciting and out of desperation grabbed the bread and sprinkles. Candy sprinkles will sell anything, I guess.

Now, just like I'm still not good at proper Vegemite spreadage, I don't think my fairy bread is up to scratch just yet. I'm probably too stingy with the sprinkles. It's one of those things that, if you didn't grow up with it, it's hard to get just right. But here's some I made for Ava's last birthday:

By the time I set the tray down and got the camera to take a picture, half of them were gone. So, as you can see, fairy bread is a big winner. Even my scantly sprinkled ones! To me, it seems like this ought to be an American invention. It seems that Americans are usually the ones to invent the sugary, fatty snacks with zero nutritional value. Twinkies, anyone? Ho Ho's? Deep-Fried Snickers Bars? But the Aussies beat us to the punch on this one. Nicely played, guys.

Nate has his preschool party on Thursday, where he gets to bring his own "party lunch". You can bet that fairy bread will be on the menu. Or else.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dead Again. Until Popsicles.

We went to the park this morning. I love overhearing Ava and Nate playing together...everything they say sounds like a question.

"Ava--pretend we were poor? And we didn't have a house?"

"And all we had was this sandpit?"

"But we were happy? Cause we played?"

"Pretend we had to build a dam?"

"I'm 15 and you're 10. And our parents are dead."

One thing I've noticed. In all these pretend-play scenarios, Jason and I get rubbed out pretty quickly. They are always scrappy orphans with absent and/or dead parents. Seriously, every time.

"Pretend our dad is at work and our mom died."
"Our parents died when we were babies and we have a puppy."
"We went to look for our mom but she had to go on a trip?"

I guess that gets us out of the way, right? Parents are boring.

I think they're happy to resurrect us, though, when we offer popsicles.
(Don't worry. The latest research indicates that 18 month olds benefit from ginormous raspberry lemon popsicles. It's hydrating. Can't you see Grace radiate health and vitality?)

Despite our demise, it was a nice morning.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So that's your opinion of me, is it?

Today Nate was playing at a friend's house, so Grace and I went out to the mall to do some Christmas shopping, or as I like to call it: feeding Grace raisins to contain her rage while I look for things that aren't actually in the stores. After we came home, Jason was there working, so I put Grace down for her nap and then went out again on my own.

The malls are already packed with people here, and there is that frenetic, half-crazed, forced-cheerfulness feeling already in the air. Driving home, I realized that I was feeling really stressed, as if it was the day before Christmas and I hadn't gotten anything done. It's a busy time of year here: combine the holidays approaching with school ending for the summer and all the stuff that goes with that. I had to remind myself that I had a couple of weeks still, that everything was fine, and basically to just chill the heck out.

When I got home, I told Jason how I'd been feeling over the course of the day. He asked me why I was stressed. I didn't know, I told him. Maybe I needed something to distract me from mom and dad leaving, I mused. "Well," he said casually,"You do like to have something to be stressed about sometimes."

What? I just love when he throws stuff like that out there. I think he does it just to mess with me, cause he knows I'll sputter and object and argue. It's the adult version of poking sticks at an anthill. And then he just smiles and goes back to emailing or sermonizing or whatever it is he's doing over there.

First off, I am not that person. Internet, I am not! I've had friends in the past who needed to have a crisis or an "issue" in their lives at all times, to provide a soundtrack to their existence. I don't seek stress out, that's for sure. Second off, (hee--anyone remember that line from Napoleon Dynamite?) maybe he can be all relaxed about Christmas shopping and kids and planning and school scheduling cause I'm stressing about it!!


Huh? Huh? What do you say to that, Calmy McCalmerstein?

Remember in A Few Good Men, when Jack Nicholson's character is all, "You enjoy the freedom I provide, and then question the manner in which I provide it? Whatever!" Or something.

You can't handle the truth, Jason. That's all it is. You're Tom Cruise and I'm Jack Nicholson. It's that simple.

I'm really feeling much better now.

In other, less-silly news, it's my sister Becky's birthday today! It's been a year that none of us could have expected, yet she's come through it all with such grace, strength and humor. I'm so proud and inspired. Oh--and she finished her PhD, while fighting cancer. No big whoop. Go say hi and happy birthday, if you get a minute.

Happy Birthday, Beck! xoxo

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Well, okay then.

Early this morning Nate, Grace and I were sitting around admiring the Christmas tree. (Actually, I was admiring. Grace was trying her best to smear her peanut butter toast on the couch and Nate was playing motorcycles.)

Nate started telling me that he didn't want any more baby siblings. "Why?" I asked. "It's a lot of work," he told me, frankly. "Yeah, it is," I said. "But if we had another baby, Grace would be older by then. She wouldn't be a baby anymore." Then he said, "I think there should just be three of us." I told him that would be fine, and that he was my favorite boy. "You're my baby, anyway," I said.

"I'm not a baby anymore," he said, leaning against me while Grace tried to shove his feet off the couch. "One day I'll grow up and move to another house." "Nope!" I said, "I'll handcuff you to the kitchen chair." He looked at me, his eyebrows raised. This was a possibility he hadn't considered. "Just kidding," I said. "You'll move away one day, but I'll come visit you a lot."

"No," he said, thinking it over. "I'll write on my phone and say, "Don't come visit me--I'll come visit you."

I think I just got dissed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I didn't mean this to sound quite so melancholy.

Mom and Dad headed back to the States on Tuesday morning. I am trying to be a grownup about it. This means that on Monday night I chose not to take their passports, shred them into tiny pieces and bury the bits of paper in the backyard.

Adulthood is full of hard choices.

We had a great time! In spite of the stomach virus that eventually found its way to all 7 of us, we managed to do a lot together. I am so thankful they made the trip! Hugging them goodbye at the airport, I uttered my customary farewell: "I'm sorry we live 9,000 miles away." "Yeah," my dad replied, "Four or five thousand would've been bad enough."

Since then, it's been raining, and even though the weather is miserable, the first day of summer (!) was yesterday. I've set myself to decorating our house for Christmas. Even after nearly 6 years here, it is strange to get used to having Christmas in the summertime, so I like to really decorate to remind myself what time of year it is. This will actually be only the 3rd Christmas we've spent in Oz, the other times we've made the great trek across the Pacific. But this year is different. This year we have:
Grace, Lord love her, is in a trying phase at the moment. As in, she is trying to break local noise ordnance laws with her high pitched screaming and the rest of us are just trying to survive. Hopefully, she will have mercy and choose to let us live. I am not a wimp about traveling with children, but even I have my limits, and this is it. Look, I know it's a cliche to bemusedly complain about your crazy toddler. But if you had to chase her, as I did, through Target yesterday--losing your place in line and wresting a tin of breath mints from her claw-like grasp while she screamed the shriek of death, you'd be busting out the cliches too.

So, for that reason, and a few others, it's an Aussie Christmas for us! Should be fun! Christmas in summer has its should try it sometime. Wanna come see us? We supply earplugs to all houseguests, and Grace only bites if you don't offer her the food you're eating and/or your iPhone.

Christmas down under?? Think it over.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Next to "futile" in the dictionary

Today, Mom and I took the kids to the park. Mom has a nice camera and I wanted to try and get some good photos of the kids together.
Please notice that I said, "try".
It was crazy-making, to say the least.
Can you get a sheep dog for children? I have seriously wondered about this.
Someone who may or may not have been me may or may not have gotten a little Mommy Dearest with them. I threatened, I bribed, I threatened to retract my bribe. I reinstated my bribe.

"Act happy, kids, or we'll move in the middle of the night and Santa won't know where to find us!"

I'm sorry you had to witness that, Mom.

I figured I'd gone too far when Nate told me at one point, "I'm not gonna be your friend, Mom!" That was a high point.

And then it started raining. Here's what Grace thought about that: "Fiery darts are falling from the sky. Why does everyone hate me?"

So we went to the bakery.
The End.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm no chicken

When I was about 12 or 13, my dad made a wager with my sister and me. Trivial Pursuit was big in our family, and he bet us that he could answer every question correctly on a predetermined number of cards. I think it was 10 or 15 cards--I can't remember the exact number, but it was enough to seem impossible. We thought he could never do it! Over 50 questions! All those Sports and Leisure ones--obscure golf questions and the like! No chance, we told him. You're going down, we said.

We were so young. As Don Henley sang, This is the end of the innocence.

Cause you see, we didn't realize then that Dad doesn't make a wager unless he's certain he's right. He's not so much a gambling man as a give-you-enough-rope-to-hang-yourself man.

And when he answered the last question correctly on that last card, Becky and I shrieked in horror. Cause the agreed-upon outcome of the wager was that if Dad won, we had to go outside in the freezing January night and plunge our arms into the pool. We had an above-ground pool, and it was cold enough that there was a thin sheet of ice covering the water.

Did Dad have mercy at the last minute? Was the wager merely an exercise to teach us a lesson? Nope. He led us outside by our wrists, Becky and I half laughing, half screaming, and plunged our arms through the ice into the water. You know how freezing water just takes your breath away, makes you ache, how ten seconds feels like minutes? I still remember that vividly. Lesson learned: don't make wagers with Dad.

Which is why I don't know what came over me the other day. Mom, Dad and I were having lunch at a shady outdoor cafe and chatting. Now, can you pardon me if I get all Bible Geek on you for a moment? It's an occupational hazard. Dad brought up a quote from the Bible--when a character in the Old Testament dies, the Bible says that despite his old age, his "natural forces were unabated". We've always snickered a bit at that line--like, "Oh yeah, you the man!" The Bible is a bit cheeky at times, you know. Anyway, Dad said it was Moses that the Bible was talking about and I, for some reason, was sure it was Caleb.

I was so sure! And his confidence irked me. Pushing my sunglasses on top of my head, I said, "You're wrong." Dad threw down the gauntlet: "Shall we make a wager?" And it was on.

And, Reader-- I was wrong! Dang it, he was right. Moses--you manly man! The agreed upon consequences were that the loser had to fully impersonate a chicken in a public place for 30 seconds. That was Dad's idea, by the way.

So here's me, clucking like a chicken at Bondi Beach, one of Sydney's most crowded beaches.

And here I am afterward. Ava and Nate weren't sure how to take it all. I think Ava was more embarrassed than I was.
Full Disclosure statement: Dad would like me to tell you that, although we were at Bondi, on a path with literally hundreds of people strolling back and forth, he let me go down a little side path, where only a few people were around. And he also maintains that I flaked out halfway through, and only gave about 15 seconds of good, quality chicken. I say why take 30 seconds to do what you can get done in 15? I was clucking, I was bobbing, I was scratching. What more can one girl-chicken do?

I would like to add that I do not know why I am poking myself in the boobs in that first picture. I clearly did not think that through. Posting these photos is slightly more embarrassing than the original event. But my family tells me that I'd be a chicken if I don't.

Speaking of poultry, happy Thanksgiving! I won't be eating turkey this year, but I'll be counting my blessings for sure.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A little getaway

Mom and Dad agreed to watch the kids for us last night so that Jase and I could stay in the city for a night. Actually, I think they agreed. It was hard to hear their voices over the roar of the engine as we reversed out of the driveway.

We got a last minute deal and stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel. It was soooo lovely. But then, I am a sucker for anyplace with white terrycloth bathrobes and turndown service. Here was the view from our window.

Oh, Sydney. Sydney, Sydney, Sydney. I get all annoyed at you for your lack of free refills, high cost of living, and poor excuse for salsa, and then you go and do a thing like this. Look at you, all stunning and stuff. I can't quit you.

It's a funny thing, when you have 24 hours with no agenda but relaxation. There are so many things you could do, that you try to do all of them, but in shorter duration. So, it's like relaxing on speed. Lay in your bathrobe and watch part of a movie, sit in the hottub for 15 minutes, take a power nap, go to dinner...let's keep this moving along, shall we? We're burning daylight! There are opportunities to chill that we are not utilizing!! What's wrong with you? Pick up the pace!!

No, we really did have a lovely time. And came home this afternoon to discover that Grace has an ear infection, Dad got the stomach virus that's been plaguing the rest of us, and no one got much sleep. So, all in all, a good night to be away!

Ha--just kidding! Sort of.

Chicken pics coming soon!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good times (mostly)

Oh, hi. Was I saying something?

Sorry for the delay. We've been a bit busy. There have been sightseeing and grandparents and reading books and gameplaying and now, stomach viruses.

Both Grace and I got sick at the same time last night, on the heels of Ava and Nate being sick last week. Poor Jason had to get up with her every time she got sick last night cause I was not up to the task of, like, walking and stuff. One of those nights where the fuzzy bath mat looks like a perfectly good place to lie down.

But tomorrow is a new day! I need to come back and tell y'all how my Dad made me cluck like a chicken in a public place. There are pictures.

Don't you just love family?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Operational Shorthand

When the kids were diagnosed with whooping cough last month, the doctor told us that, post-treatment, they would likely have a cough for up to 90 days.

She wasn't kidding about that. Although not as often anymore, Ava and Grace continue to have dramatic, "whoop-y" coughs going on, especially at night. It sounds awful, but they're mostly undisturbed by it. And I will add, that "whooping" cough sounds a lot more cheerful than it really is. Whoop sounds too much like "yippee" to me. And trust me, there are no balloons or parties involved here. Just phlegm, mostly. Sorry--there, I've said it. Should I have said sputum instead? No, definitely not, that's way worse.

Anyway, we've gotten used to hearing them cough in the night, and sometimes one of us has to go and hold Grace for a minute so she'll calm down. But this week, Nate got a stomach bug, followed a few days later by Ava getting it. And now the countdown is on to see if Gracie gets it too. You know how some workplaces will have an "84 days without an accident" sign posted? And then, when someone gets hurt, the sign goes back to zero? That's a little how this feels. We'd been doing so well! But now our sign is back to zero. Someone's gonna get canned.

So this week, in the night, when one of them coughs, we sort of lift our heads off the pillow. We're thinking, Is that a normal whoop-y cough? Or is it an I am about to throw up cough? Then one of us, whomever got up the time before, will nudge the other and say, "Nate--threw up" or "Grace--just coughing." It's one of the many, many things in life that you don't think you'll have to think about. Until you have to think about it. Yes, my life right now is about discerning whether my child is blowing chunks in the next room or just merely hacking up a lung. And then, half asleep, trying to decide which child it was.

It's interesting to me, from a communication perspective, the way we handle these types of things in the middle of the night. Our neighbors, Jules and Andy, used to crew a yacht in the Virgin Islands. They were the only crew on a 60 foot boat, and they were telling us tonight about how they had to develop a kind of sign language to use with each other, when Andy was driving at the back and Jules was at the front. It wouldn't do, you see, to be yelling over the heads of the passengers. Later as I was getting ready for bed, I thought of that and how it's kind of like what Jason and I are doing. Well, except for the part about being responsible for a 60 foot, multimillion dollar luxury yacht. And except for the part about being in the Caribbean. Oh, and also the part about knowing how to do stuff.

When you're working with someone you have to figure out the most efficient way to get your message across and the goal met. And at 2am with a sick kid, Jason and I are not exactly verbose. It becomes all about meeting the immediate need so we can all go back to sleep. You figure out a kind of shorthand communication to use with each other. And you try to do it in such a way that you carry your share of the load. There is a lot of give-and-take, even when you're half asleep. I think part of parenting together is figuring out how to do that without anyone being ticked off the next morning.

By the way, remember when I sent Jason down the hall to check on Grace in the middle of the night and caused major blood loss? Click here to read that story. Clearly, our shorthand communication is a work in progress.

Monday, November 8, 2010

21 (brief) things

1. My parents have come to visit!

2. Yay!

3. They came last Thursday, and they brought candy corn!!

4. It's the "Indian corn" variety. But as I told them, I hope my home is always a place where any ethnicity of candied corn would feel welcome.

5. Ava's ballet concert was this past Saturday.

6. If you were reading this time last year, you'll remember my travails with making the perfect bun.

7. This year? Nailed it!

8. The concert was 4 hours long.

9. The concert was 4 hours long.

10. Did I mention that it was 4 hours long?

11. It was.

12. Do you know how many more times I want to see 15 year olds dancing in silver hot pants?

13. None more times.

14. After Ava danced towards the end of the first half, we tiptoed out and went to dinner. We had a nice, leisurely time. Then we came back to the theatre and the concert was still going.

15. Going to dinner was a very, very wise decision.

16. I think we're going to take a break from ballet for awhile.

17. Today we went to a pretty riverside town called Brooklyn. After lunch we took Nate to play at a park near the water.

18. Nate was playing pirates. While we played, a man wandered by with a dog on a leash. The man was enraged about something or other, and kept yelling obscenities, to no one in particular. Lots of creative F-word usage.

19. I was a little concerned about what Nate would think. "Don't worry about him, Natey," I said. "He's angry, but he's going away." Nate looked at him and whispered to me, "He looks like a bad pirate."

20. He kind of did.

21. You know what I love? Being with my family, and picking up right where we left off.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Treat yourself

I say, throw caution to the wind!!

Don't just sit on the monster truck! Next time, plug some coins in that baby and take her for a whirl. You deserve the thrill!

Life's short, you know? We all need a treat every now and then. That photo depicts pure, cackling glee. I'll take some of that, please--right over here!

Now here's the part where I say we could all learn so much from children. Teach them well and let them lead the way, blah blah.

Have a great day. Put the pedal to the metal, baby!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What I miss

We did our version of Halloween Lite this year. The kids had a ball--"Mom! I have 17 pieces of candy!!" Ava crowed on our walk home. Lord bless her, I used to think that if you still didn't have Halloween candy at Easter, you needed to add more houses next year. But this version of trick-or-treating works for me!

This house (pictured) was the only one we went to with carved jack-o-lanterns. As my neighbors and I stood on the driveway watching the kids, I chuckled. "That's 50 bucks worth of pumpkin right there." Maybe they'll find a way to work it into their everyday decor.

So that's that! It was nice. But I was reminded of what I always miss this time of year: candy corn.
How I love candy corn. Like regular corn, but awesomer. As a kid, and then for more years than I'd like to admit beyond, I'd eat it by the handful(s). Candy corn is pure in its mind-numbing, tooth-endangering sweetness. It's simple and unpretentious. Take all your high falutin', uppity candies and give me candy corn any day.

You can't get it here...but I have hopes!

Did you get candy corn this year? Would you tell me about it? Was it the traditional corn style or the tiny pumpkin variety? Was it wonderful?

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We're heading out today for the weekend. We're having a weekend away with our church in Wollongong. Church camp, everybody! Woohoo! Like band camp, but no tubas. Here's Wollongong:

It's a beach town just an hour or so south of Sydney. Lovely. But please don't make the mistake I did when we first moved here and say, "Wall-un-gong". Even though that's what it looks like. Cause people will snicker at you, like they did at me. It's "Woo-lohn-gong". These wacky Australians. Also, Cairns is pronounced "Cans". What gives?

Anyway, Jason left last night with Ava and Nate--they were gonna camp out. Grace and I don't camp. So we stayed home and we're joining them this afternoon, after I teach my scripture class at the high school. It rained in Wollongong last night, so camping out didn't happen. This did instead:

Ha! Love that.

It's always crazy trying to get out of town, and Jason keeps texting me more stuff to bring. Bike Helmets, swim goggles, extension cords. I need to get out of here before he comes up with more stuff.

But this, my friends, I will be packing for sure:

The new Lee Child book is out! And just in time. I've blogged about Jack Reacher and his wild, justice-seeking ways before. They involve: stopping at nothing, broad shoulders, striding purposefully, and percolated coffee. Oh, and pure awesomeness. Becky has a great post up today about the books. Why haven't you been reading these? Your life is surely lacking as a result. I say this as your friend. Anyway, I'll try not to neglect the kids or our friends this weekend as I devour the book.

Enjoy the rest of your week! xoxo

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween in Oz...or not.

When we moved here 5 1/2 years ago, Halloween was not a big deal at all. The stores didn't have decorations, and at least in our part of Sydney, no one dressed up or trick-or-treated. I remember our first Halloween here--I had a two year old and a two week old, and I was perfectly happy to not have to do it all!

Over the last few years, though, I've noticed that more people and more of our grocery stores and shops are getting into Halloween. I've heard about some neighborhoods that go all out, with every house decorated. And though it's nothing like what it is in the States, there's a lot more Halloween chatter and activities going on. It's been interesting to watch it gradually catch on here.

Yesterday, Grace and I were at Woolworth's (our local grocery store) and I saw this:
Good news is, you can get a Halloween pumpkin for your very own self. Bad news is, you gotta pay 25 bucks for it. I stood there and laughed to myself in the produce section. Because there is no way, noooooo way, that I am paying $25 for a pumpkin. Not gonna happen.

Thankfully, our kids don't know what they're missing. They don't know that their cousins in America will go out trick-or-treating and come home with 8 pounds of candy. Last year, we visited about 4 houses--all friends of ours--and came home. Ava and Nate were happy, and so was I. Easy peasy.

A few nights ago, I was at a preschool committee meeting and the subject turned to Halloween. Most of the moms there were ambivalent about it, but a few were adamant. They didn't like Halloween and didn't see the point of it. It wasn't really because of their religious views, as is often the case in the States with people who don't participate in Halloween. It was more like, why do people do this? What's the point? Plus,isn't this an American thing? You can imagine that, if you didn't grow up doing it yourself, the idea of dressing your children up and sending them out to countless houses asking for candy is a little bizarre. One lady said her husband was caught unaware by some hopeful trick-or-treaters last year and all he had to give them was dried figs. Ha! Awesome.

Because we're pastors, people sometimes ask us what we think about Halloween. Jason's birthday is on October 31st, so you can imagine how great Halloween was for him as a kid. I think he was probably 12 before he realized that all the costumes and candy weren't just for him. We both grew up dressing up and going trick-or-treating and it was lots of fun. I am reasonably certain that I didn't accidentally worship the devil in the process. But I get why people are concerned. I understand that it's disturbing for some. So when people ask my opinion about Halloween--which doesn't happen so often over here--I usually say that if it bothers them or violates their conscience in any way, don't do it.

For us, we allow our kids to trick-or-treat. But I don't like making a huge deal of Halloween. Mostly cause I don't want Christmas to just seem like that other thing we decorate the house for. Know what I mean? And also, cause I ain't paying $25 for a pumpkin.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not *strictly* an emergency

Oh my, waking up in a house with no peanut butter.

It is unpleasantness that I would not wish on anyone. Need I say, toast with jam Does Not Cut It.

There ought to be a red phone for situations like this. "It's 7:30 in the morning and I have no peanut butter. Send in the helicopters!"

I hope that you have a great weekend, enriched with peanutty goodness. Unless you are allergic. In that case, I hear that almond butter is nice.

Edited to add: I have been sitting here thinking of all the other areas of life that should have red phones. Like, "I'm too tired to get off the couch and go to bed!", or "This tupperware container is full of 2 week old leftovers!", or "I have to act like I know what this meeting is about!" What are some of yours?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Getting ready

This morning I took Nate to kindergarten orientation. For those of you in other parts of the world, our school year begins at the end of January. So, about this time, schools hold events for the next year's kindergarten students to come check it out. The kids play while the teachers observe, and the principal talks to the parents.

Nate kept telling me he was "embarrassed to go", but I think he meant "nervous". Sometimes there's not much difference between the two, I guess. Once we entered the classroom though, he pointed at some construction toys and said, "Look! We have those at preschool! Bye, Mom."

Well, okay then. It's bittersweet, but also an extraordinary relief when your kid can separate from you without too much stress or anxiety. Makes me feel like we've done something right. Of course, earlier that morning while Nate and I were dropping Ava off at her class, he found a rock the size of his head, picked it up, and was poised to throw it. So, maybe a need for improvement there.

After the program, there were cupcakes with each child's name on them, balloons in the school colors, and rainbow popcorn. Maybe kindergarten won't be so bad after all.

This is one of those moments in parenting where you marvel: how do the years speed by when many of the days seem so long? Speaking of bittersweet.

I think I need a cupcake.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stuff to do when you're quarantined. (If you're 5.)

It's been a quiet few days around here. And though I would've never wished for it, it's actually been nice to be at home and catch up on some things I've been neglecting. Usually, our week is full of kid activities, church activities and meetings, and school stuff that many days, I just do the basics around the house. But the past few days, I've been catching up on laundry! And mopping! And organizing! It feels good. Nate's last day of quarantine is tomorrow, and Ava was back to school yesterday.

The kids have done pretty well with being home so much, although I know they miss their friends. Here are some things we've done to keep them entertained over the past few days...

1. Kids' Songs on You Tube.
Grace doesn't sit still long to watch TV, but she loves watching stuff on our laptop! All three kids sat the other morning and watched--in perfect, descending height order too! (Told you I've been organizing!) Here's some cute ones I'd recommend to entertain your young child:
--The Elephant Song, by Eric Herman. Very cute little song with illustrations.
--Little Red. This is a song/cartoon about a race horse. Ava loves this one.
--The Duck Song(s). Here's Part One, Part Two, Part Three. These are silly songs about a duck looking for grapes. I know that sounds weird, but you just have to see it for yourself.

2. Enjoying Nature/Screaming at Birds

Our once-neglected bird feeder is now the hottest spot in town. Yeah baby, cockatoos flying in from all over town to hit that. Nate can't help himself...when he sees one outside at the feeder, he creeps outside and gets as close as he can. Then he yells at the top of his lungs. Then he laughs while the bird flies away, screeching. I told him that cockatoos are pretty big and that he better be careful. He might make them mad. Yet, he is undeterred.

3. Staying in your jammies

The kids have really enjoyed the laid back life of quarantine. When no one wants to come over to your house and people run screaming from your wheezing cough, why get dressed? Ava was pretty bummed to have to put on her uniform and go back to school yesterday. We've enjoyed relaxing a little more. Hey, ya gotta make the most of these situations.

4. Water balloons.
My friends, because I love you, I have just given you a piece of childcare GOLD. Why hadn't I thought of this sooner? Water balloons are the answer! The answer!! We'd bought these for Nate's ill-fated birthday party and got them out yesterday. The kids had so much fun throwing them off our balcony to the driveway below. After dinner, we went in the backyard and threw them at each other. Then this morning, Nate was throwing more onto the driveway. This, combined with a few cans of silly string from the dollar store have been the highlights of the week.

And it reminded me of how fun that stuff is. When was the last time you used up a whole can of silly string or chucked a water balloon? It was liberating.

And that is how we're surviving around here, along with the usual suspects: Lego tower building, DVD watching, and mess making. You know you've been home a long time when the kids fight over who "gets to" go get the mail. Wild times over here.

So after tomorrow, we're back in the swing of things. That's good news. Even better news? The doctor informs me that all three kids will likely have this cough for three months. That just made my day. Cause I was really hoping to get more dirty looks at the grocery store.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hey, guys! Party at my house--BYO hacking cough!

So, like I told ya, I took Ava and Grace on Tuesday morning to be swabbed for whooping cough. Then, which I didn't tell ya, I got up at 4:30 on Wednesday morning and caught a flight to see my good friend Olivia. She lives in a small town right over the state line in Victoria. Olivia has 5 kids and is pregnant with her 6th. And yet, she still finds time to iron. I wanted to go sit at her feet and beg for wisdom. I'd been planning to go see her, sans kids, for awhile and had already booked this trip. Tuesday night, I told Jason that I'd cancel and stay with the kids, but he encouraged me to go. It was just for 48 hours anyway, and he could manage. The kids probably didn't have whooping cough and Ava would be at school most of that time.

Except they do. I left to see my friend, and then on Wednesday afternoon our GP called me. "You've got a fun week ahead!" she told me, adding that I could come pick up the prescriptions. The girls would need to be quarantined for 5 days, and if any of us started coughing too we'd need to get on the antibiotics. Of course, I'm getting this call 6 hours away from Sydney, so I called Jason, and he picked up the medicine and got the partay started.

So, in our case at least, here's what quarantine means. The kids are on antibiotics for 7 days. For 5 of those days, they can't really be around anyone outside of our family. Definitely no school, no public play areas where other kids are playing, etc. If we have to run to the grocery store or something, we can take them--well, I'm not sure if that's official, but we've had to--we just make sure that they don't touch anything. We're in and out of there, like Navy SEALs or something. After 5 days, they can re-enter society.

Later on Wednesday, a nurse from the Public Health Service called me to make sure we'd gotten the antibiotics and to find out if the kids had been around any infants or pregnant women since they'd been sick. I asked her why they got sick since they'd been vaccinated. It seems, she told me, that vaccines don't necessarily keep you from getting sick if the illness is in the population. But they make it much, much less worse. I guess whooping cough sticks around from people who don't get vaccinated? All those crunchy, granola types who don't believe in vaccines? That's fine for them, but I didn't realize it would make my kid sick! (I'm kidding, crunchy no-vaccine people! I like granola, too.) Anyhoo.

I've been away on a trip without my kids 3-4 times in their little lives. And it amazes me, but each time, they manage to get sick. And these are remarkably healthy children who rarely get sick. My standings in the Mother of the Year contest fall a little lower each time. Jason handled it all beautifully--I offered to change my flight and fly home Thursday, but he said fuhgeddaboutit. He didn't even subtly try to make me feel guilty! Yet more proof that he is a better person than I am.

But I'm back in the saddle now! I flew home Friday morning and resumed my post. Nate was able to go to preschool Thursday and Friday, as he hadn't been coughing. We were assured that until the cough begins, a person isn't contagious. Friday afternoon, I went to pick him up. "Hi, Mom!" he called out, with the voice of a 60 year old chain smoker. Uh-oh. He had gotten a cold over the course of the day, with the inevitable cough creeping in last night.

So, Nate started on the antibiotics, too! His 5 days begins today, and ends Wednesday. I have a prescription for myself, but haven't needed to fill it yet. Are you confused yet? My GP laughed at me when I called her. And, bless Nate, I'm going to cancel his birthday party again, cause we'll still be on quarantine. There's always next year! I think we'll be eating frozen monster truck cake for a few weeks, though. You want some? Come stand in my driveway, and I'll drop some down from the balcony. It's safe, I swear.

All in all, it's not so bad. Quarantine while you have DVD's, high speed internet, and spring weather is definitely bearable. Ava will be able to go back to school on Monday and I will dip our entire house in hand sanitizer. That's the plan.

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Birthday, a Frozen Cake, and an Epidemic: Just a Regular ol' Tuesday!

Today our Nate is five!

Somehow, someone replaced my little baby with a big boy who has, like, opinions and stuff. This is what he wanted to wear for church on Sunday. Nate is equal parts barbarian, comedian, nudist, and sweetie pie. Little boys are just about the best thing ever.

Nate was born just three months after we moved here. When I look at him it's hard for me to believe--both that he is turning 5 and that we have been here more than 5 years! I posted some about his birth here, and here is how I know he is our first true-blue Aussie: he hates wearing shoes, he loves hot chips, and he likes to party. (See first paragraph re: nudity.)

Speaking of parties, we've had to postpone Nate's birthday party for a week. I wasn't planning a big bash, just a few friends to come over and eat cake and shoot silly string at each other. But Ava developed a wicked cough over the weekend, which may or may not be whooping cough. There's something of an epidemic in Northern Sydney, so I took her to be tested today. The doctor advised, and I agreed, that we probably shouldn't have 7 kids over when whooping cough might be present. Like, "Hey kids! Forget candy--for your party favors this year, you get an infectious disease!"

Don't worry...for a healthy child Ava's age, whooping cough isn't dangerous--just very contagious. If she has it at all, she'll need to be kept away from other kids till she's been on the antibiotics a few days. Grace is also coughing a bit so we had her tested as well, just as a precaution. But we are all fine.

My main concern at this particular moment is how to freeze a frosted sheet cake. I'd already baked and decorated Nate's cake last night, and there's no way I'm baking another for next week! Here's my plan: put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes to harden the icing, wrap it in something (foil?), put it in a covered metal tin, then stick it in the freezer. What do you think? Anyone tried this?

So wish me luck y'all. I'll let you know how all that works out. And prayers, crossed fingers, and pixie dust, please--that Ava and Grace are free from whooping cough. Thanks! xoxo

Friday, October 8, 2010


Here are a few living things that visited us in the last two days! What am I, Snow White or something? I will add, however, that none of them helped with any housework. Maybe I should sing more?

Lovely Rainbow Lorikeets. We had probably half a dozen perched on our balcony. Nate and Ava were so excited. You can see the bread there that they put out to try and keep them there longer. Can you believe how intensely colored they are? So pretty.

This one seemed a little mad at me. This was taken without a zoom lens, so I was just standing there right in front of him. He was kinda rocking back and forth and clicking his tongue. Is that lorikeet for "Step off, human!"? Who knows?

Okay, now for the slightly creepy ones.

Sorry for the picture quality! I wasn't quite as willing to get close to this one. This is a green snake that Jason spotted on our driveway day before yesterday. We have a garage that we use for storage (as in, it doesn't lead directly to the house and we don't park the car in it) and Jason saw it about to go in there. Yikes! He caught it, being the mensch that he is. I looked it up on my phone and we determined that it was probably a Green Tree Snake. (It's hard to tell from the photo, but the snake was a pretty vivid green color.) This snake, the internets assured us, was non-venomous. So, Jason took it to the bushland across the street and let it go. If you love something let it go, and all that.

Have I mentioned that Australia is home to more venomous snakes than any other place in the world? That was the first thing my Dad said to me when I told him we were moving to Sydney. Well, actually the first thing he said was, "Damn!" But then he told me about the snakes. I've been told they're pretty nice once you get to know them.

And ya know, this is the first snake we've seen near our house in over 5 years of living here. My neighbor came out on her balcony while all this snake catching was going on. We grimaced a little at the snake, and she asked me, "So, would you be more upset to find a snake or a rat in your house?" "A rat," I answered with no hesitation. Don't get me wrong--a snake would freak me out to no end, but y'all know how I am about rats. I know that's irrational. Aren't we humans mixed-up creatures? I like to think it's charming. (Is it?)

And then yesterday, we spotted this guy on the driveway.

I know! What's with all the animals? I think the warmer weather is causing everyone to come out. I'm not sure what kind of lizard this is, but I do know they're pretty common. I see them skittering around from time to time. They keep to themselves though, which is fine by me. They're a bit skittish, but I wanted to get you a better shot. Do you see how I have your best interests at heart? Here's a shot Jason took of me trying to get a closeup:
Grace insisted on coming along. As bait. Oh come on, I'm kidding. And yes, Jason took a picture of me taking a picture of something. Internet, we only thought of you. But here's the money shot, yo:
He's probably about a foot long, from head to tail. He skittered off right after I took this, I think cause Grace growled at him. No, really. She growls at any animal she sees right now--birds, cats, dogs. And now lizards. Really knowing Grace, are we surprised? She'll cut you.

So that's what's been happening here. Jason and I defending our home and children from all manner of critters. Ah, the wilds of suburban Sydney.