Saturday, December 26, 2009

Festive, festive, festive.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you're having a great day with the people you lurve.

We are counting our blessings to be with our family this year. It's so much fun for the cousins to play together, to catch up with old friends, or listen to Hank and Nate argue over who is more awesome.

That's a tough call.

The past 24 hours have been spent thusly:

--Keeping Nate from pouring hot wax on himself at a Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
--Keeping Nate from setting a woman's hair on fire at a Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
--Convincing Ava that Santa would eat a blueberry muffin when we realized we had no cookies.
--Wrapping, wrapping, and surprisingly, rapping.
--Being sleepy.
--Talking with Dave and the fam about the benefits of Krav Maga versus Muay Thai, with a few exciting demonstrations.

Feats of Strength
Nothing says "Christmas" like self defense.

--Welcoming the Christ child. (No, really. Thank God for God!)

Merry Christmas! Check out Becky's for more pics, if you like.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm Paul. She's John.

Yesterday, we took to the air again to fly to Becky's place in Atlanta. The whole family was there to greet us and feed us and love on the kids. You gotta love family! Today we drove to mom and dad's house in Florida, where we'll spend Christmas.

You know you've been flying a lot when you embark upon a four hour flight with the attitude, "No big deal--this will be a quick flight." Ha! I can tell you, this did NOT used to be my viewpoint. The kids did well and we made it all in one piece.

And we were rewarded for our efforts by a rousing game of Lego Rock Band and Beatles Rock Band when we arrived at Becky's house. This was actually my first exposure to either game--and, wow. We had such a great time! And may I say? Becky and I seriously rocked the vocals on"Day Tripper". My brother Dave schooled us all on the drums, and his wife Katie mastered the guitar. And Jason is pretty dang good on bass. We are totally the Partridges. If the Partridges only pretended to play instruments and had Lego avatars.

More pictures and stories to come! And a helpful suggestion for the airlines. Not that they asked, but ya know. Just popping in to say hi.

Have you started traveling for Christmas yet? Are the stockings all hung by the chimney with care? Hope all is well at your place.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You see, I am learning and growing all the time.

I try to be well-rounded, you know. Why, just today I have learned about two new things.

Were you aware of this? I saw it at CVS the other day. I go to CVS when we're in the States, just to stroll and look at the cheap hair styling products. To see that what costs $24 in Australia is $8 here is a fun pastime for me. I am fully aware that this is pathetic. But anyway. The nose pot. So I saw it at CVS the other day, and briefly wondered what it was. Then I noticed that Jason's parents have one at their house. I asked Jason's mom about it and she very obligingly gave me a demonstration. It's supposed to be great for, well, cleansing your nasal passages. And I guess they need that from time to time.

(This is not Jason's mom, by the way.) But doesn't this young lady look so invigorated by the nasal cleansing pot? She is having a great time, y'all! Nothing says "fun" like waterlogged sinuses. I think we should all break it out at our Christmas parties. Forget Rock Band! Let's cleanse! In all seriousness, I'm sure it is helpful. But I hate the sensation of water up my nose. So I'm not sure that I would try it. It also reminds me of waterboarding a little bit. But that is probably just me. Have you done this? How'd that go?

2. The Peepee Teepee.

Jason's brother and his wife arrived yesterday with their delectable newborn twins--a girl and a boy. Today I noticed this little cone-shaped cloth thingy on the changing table. "What is this?" I asked Damon. "It's the peepee teepee," he said, and demonstrated its usage on the baby. Somehow, Jason and I managed to escape ever getting peed on by the newborn Nate, but I know that most parents of baby boys are dodging incoming fire whenever they change diapers. Some enterprising parent seems to have tackled the problem. Pretty nifty. And the fact that the name rhymes? Even better.

Now, someone needs to invent something that will deal with what happens when those baby boys get to be about 3 or 4 and start peeing standing up. Cause dang. There is an industry waiting to happen.

Think of this as a mini-holiday gift guide, like all them fancy bloggers are doing! After all, nothing says "Jesus is born" like nose pots and peepee covers. Am I right? No?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the Season

Yesterday we went to Legoland. If you don't know what Legoland is, well the name pretty much says it all. It's an amusement park with all kinds of games and rides centered around Lego-ish type vehicles and there are sculptures and figures made of Lego pieces everywhere. Pretty impressive, actually. We saw one replica of a Volvo SUV made entirely from Legos that the sign said took 5 "Lego engineers" to build. I saw that phrase and thought, Wow. They've just described pretty much every kid's dream job.

Here,for instance, is the Capitol building made entirely from Lego bricks. Check it:

Apparently there are more than 3 billion Lego pieces used in the park. Wow.

This is the first time we've taken the kids to this kind of place where they've both been old enough to really enjoy it and go on all the rides. It was really fun.

We thought it was really funny when Ava got in this little car and promptly took off, driving on the left side of the road. You can see her here, driving in the wrong lane and passing the other kid by. Eat my dust, sucker! She instinctively goes to the left lane, like a good little Aussie.

Nate enjoyed lengthy conversations with all the Lego people. There was a tableau of "talking" Lego pirates that he hurled abuse at for quite some time. Chilling on park benches and holding hands with plastic people. It's what dudes do.

And not to be left out, here's our Grace. She wasn't much into the rides, but enjoyed crying whenever we put her in the stroller, chewing on straws, and grabbing fistfuls of my hair. She's a cheap date.

I got a glimpse yesterday of some of the benefits of having kids who are a bit older. They played hard all day with barely any meltdowns, had a great time, and went on a roller coaster with us. This was a big deal.

We went on it a couple times, and the kids had a ball. When I saw this picture I realized that we are entering a season with our kids. A comparatively brief season of time where they will want to do things with us (rather than being too little to do them or us doing for them)and before they are big enough to do them on their own. Yesterday I thought, Remember these days. It's a season where we are their chosen companions and who they want to sit next to. In a few more years, when they've gained more independence (and inches to go on those rides alone) things may change a bit.

This is a season, I've been telling myself when it comes to Grace. A season where she is waking up a lot at night and jet lagged. This is a season and it will pass. People used to tell me that when Ava was a baby. There were nights that she'd wake up every 45 minutes, all night long. I thought life would never feel "normal" again. It will pass, people would say. It will get better. How do you know that? I'd think. Maybe it got better with your baby, but what if it doesn't with this one? But it did, of course.

I think a key to enjoying life is choosing to embrace the season you find yourself in. Don't you? I guess some things (like roller coasters) are easier to enjoy than other things (like sleep deprivation). But this is where I find myself, and I hope I don't let any season pass by without enjoying the good things that are in it.

And with that in mind,I'll close with a particular component of our season right now. Nate's "booty dance", wherein he turns and shakes his bottom in your face.

He says, "Wanna see mah BOOTY? Booty-booty-booty!" The booty dance is hard to stop once it gets started. Usually only threats of time-out or promises of ice cream will do the trick. It's especially pleasant when you're trying to take a picture. No, Nate. I don't particularly want to see your booty. But I see you've left me with no choice.

It's a season. Right?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I flew 7000 miles to America and all I got was this lousy stomach bug.

So I've been a little out of commission lately, and that's why. A few of us have been laid flat over the last couple of days. Mostly me, Ava, and Jason's parents. We rallied today and went out for lunch. An admirable attempt was made to feel like normal humans and eat, but mostly we leaned our heads against the back of the booth and looked pale. And then Nate stuck his finger the wrong way through the straw hole in the lid of his drink. Do you know what I mean? So that the little plastic points were digging into his finger when he tried to pull it out. Much freaking out ensued, until the waitress brought us some scissors and Jason cut him free. That was after he got a bunch of soap in his eye in the bathroom.

"Aren't you glad we sat in your section?" I asked our waitress after she brought the scissors. We are the ones asking if the blandest food on the menu could be made more bland and also injuring ourselves in obscure ways. Good times.

Being sick enabled me to reacquaint myself with American cable TV. Let's just say there was a lot of Home and Garden Television watched. I also realized anew how at any hour of the day, somewhere on some channel, there is an episode of "Law and Order" being shown. It's uncanny! I think if extraterrestrials were observing our culture, they would draw the conclusion that "Law and Order" is what holds our society together. Like if an hour goes by that it is not playing somewhere, the stock markets will crash, cows will stop producing milk, and we'll all start driving into ditches. I'm all for law and order as an aspect of daily life, but the TV show? Meh.

Tonight Jason and I have a meeting and then we will hopefully all decorate the Christmas tree. Should be fun! If we can all remain vertical for that long. Fingers crossed!

Monday, December 7, 2009

24 hours in America: Essentials

We are here! Grace, Ava and I arrived at LAX yesterday. All things considered, the flight went very smoothly. Grace slept reasonably well, Ava didn't but was happy to watch "Barbie and the Three Musketeers" over and over, and I got to sit down some. So I count that as a success. One of the many situations as a parent where revised expectations are vital. I should write a book about revised expectations. Very important, I think. But instead, I'll tell you two things we've done so far.


Why, Jason and I went to Super Target, of course! This was last night after we'd gotten the kids to bed, and as the jet lag was starting to really hit me. I was a bit woozy, but that actually enhanced my shopping experience. It's funny, I don't know why the choir of angels didn't show up in the photo, cause I totally saw them when I first walked in. That's weird. It was a short trip, but I did score some zebra striped ballet flats. Jason thought they were ugly.

Hello! He is so wrong.

No, and I say again, no visit to California is complete without a trip to In-n-Out Burger! I love going here. Not only are the burgers the best, the service is so fast, and everyone that works there exudes this fresh-faced exuberance. They are all so earnest--you can just imagine them cheerfully doing their Algebra homework or picking up litter in their spare time.

So, when we left for In-n-Out, I didn't bring a diaper bag for Grace cause I thought Jason had a spare diaper in his man bag. (I'll have to tell you about the man bag another time.) I was so distracted by the thought of a Double Double and fries that I was thinking of little else. And the jet lag!! Yes, don't forget the jet lag! As we're driving, the car fills with a certain aroma. And we all knew what was happening:

Yeah. Jason was amazed at my skilled mothering in not bringing a diaper or wipes, and neither of the nearby gas stations sold any. "It's okay," I told him. "As long as it doesn't leak, she can sit it in for awhile." My mom is reading this and she is appalled right now. So after eating we went into Nordstrom Rack that was nearby. Poor Gracie. She dealt with the indignity of it all with such, well, grace. As I carried her around, though, I realized that her diaper had in fact leaked. And that was such great news. We had a containment breach.

Armed with a packet of Wet Wipes (from aforementioned man bag) and my wits alone, I ducked into the restroom. I thought maybe they'd have diapers in those little vending machines. They didn't. Oh well, I thought. I'll just clean her up and we'll race home with her diaper-less.

That's when I noticed that the bathroom did have a vending machine with maxi pads for sale. Oh no you didn't. Oh yes. I. did. I took off her diaper, cleaned her up, and stuck one of those pads to the inside of her onesie. I was chuckling to myself the whole time. I'm sure the lady in the next stall was wondering.

And now you see how I am the Richard Dean Anderson of mothers. (In fact, can that now be my title? Please?) I felt like MacGyver in there. Flying by the seat of my pants, using my intuition. And a quarter to buy the pad. I exited the bathroom in triumph.

And even though I am a bit of a loser to leave the house without provision for such an incident, I can now tell you that maxi pads will work on babies. For the short term at least. In case you ever need to know that.

And that is the story of our first 24 hours in America. Shopping, eating, and absorbent materials. And MacGyver--remember that part.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pretty much everything you might need

I am in a mad rush to finish packing before we leave tomorrow, but I had to come and tell you about this. This afternoon, I asked Ava to get together some things for her carry-on bag. I suggested some books, some things to draw on, and maybe a toy or two. It is so nice to have her at an age where she can do some of these things for herself, especially as I have a 6 month old to think about too!

Just a little while ago, I opened her backpack to see what she'd packed. So, here's what you apparently need on a 14 hour flight:
  • A Barbie
  • A little girl Barbie
  • A Barbie dressed like a princess
  • A pair of yellow plastic binoculars
  • A miniature silver handbag with a clasp top
But here's what really got me.

A sparkly fairy wand. You never know when the need might arise. And what I really love about this is that she put it in the side pouch, so that it's right there for easy access. There's nothing I hate more than rummaging around in my bag on a dark plane looking for my wand. I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner!

It reminded me of a story that has now achieved legendary status in our family. One day last year I was getting the kids ready for church. Ava was all dressed and I asked her, "Babe, do you wanna wear a headband to church?" And she answered nonchalantly, "That's okay, Mom. I have a crown in my bag."

Lord bless her. I just love six year old girls. Especially this one.

(Prayers appreciated for a safe, baby-sleep-filled flight! Check ya later.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

That's a whole lotta cream cheese: A study in contrasts

One thing I didn't tell y'all is that Jason and Nate left for California on Monday. The girls and I will follow tomorrow--we stayed behind to give Ava one more week at school. So it's been a lot quieter around here. This morning Ava said, "Mom, I miss all the noise." Me too!

I didn't mention it sooner cause I didn't want any of you guys to try to stalk us. C'mon--you know you would have! But I should mention that our house is surrounded by a moat of poisonous funnel web spiders and rabid koalas. And my neighbor Andy is a kung fu master. Mean as a snake. So watch your backs, would-be stalkers.

Anyway, Tuesday morning my mobile phone rang. It was a number I didn't recognize and when I answered it, there was a several second delay. Then the connection kicked in and I heard a voice exclaim mid-sentence, "...a three pound tub of cream cheese for 8 bucks!!" "Who is this?", I said.

It was Jason of course, and as soon as I realized that, I knew right where he was calling from.

Costco! Whenever we go home, Jase loves to visit Costco and wander the aisles. He looks at cheap DVDs and electronics and zones out for awhile. His relationship with Costco is similar to mine with Super Target. We each have our happy place.

I think we've been in Australia long enough, though, that some of the stuff at Costco--and the sheer volume of it--strikes us as extreme. The cream cheese being a prime example. Three pounds? Of cream cheese? O-kaaay. Maybe if you're opening a bagel shop.

This morning, I checked my email and found that he'd emailed me pictures he'd taken there. Neither of us could get over the ginormous containers of food that are sold at Costco. I mean, we knew it was like this, but it was a bit of reverse culture shock going on, I think. Where you "re-enter" your home country and it is the place that seems strange and foreign to you.

I thought it'd be interesting to do a price/size comparison to what we'd pay for that stuff here. So for starters. The 3 pounds of cream cheese for 8 dollars. (Jase didn't get a picture of that one.) Here at our local grocery store, I would pay just under $8 for 500g of cream cheese. (500 grams is about 1 pound.) So one-third of the amount costs the same.

Okay, so this is 3 44oz bottles of Heinz ketchup for $6.49. That's nearly 3 liters total of ketchup. Here, the biggest bottle of Heinz I can get at Woolworths is 1 liter. It sells for $4.95. Contrast that with 3 liters of the stuff for $1.50 more. Um, dang.

Are y'all Americans filling your swimming pools with this stuff? Is ketchup the new bath water?

Here's a 20 pound (nearly) box of Tide Detergent for 30 bucks.

I found a special at my local grocery store: a 5 kilo box of detergent (that's about 11 pounds) for 30 bucks. Again, at Costco you can get almost twice the amount for the same price. And the price at my store is the sale price--normally that detergent is $38.

Sorry--this is probably not interesting to anyone but me and Jason. It's just that, when we lived in the States, we didn't really think twice about the sheer volume of stuff you could get for a comparatively low price. And now, it is just funny to us to see things like this:

My peoples, that there is a gallon of mayonnaise. I am agog. A gallon (almost 4 liters). I honestly did not know you could buy a whole gallon of mayonnaise. That's kind of amazing. This picture makes me giggle, truly. I can also feel my arteries clogging just by looking at it. And I like mayo! So it's $9.50. Here, I pay about 6 bucks for a jar of Best Foods Mayo that is about a tenth the size of that monstrosity. So by paying about 50% more at Costco you can get almost ten times as much. (Not that I'm saying you should unless you want to mayonnaise yourself into an early grave.)

Okay, just one more. Now, we can all laugh about a gallon jar of mayonnaise. Cause who really needs that unless you're hosting a potato salad symposium? ( I would totally go to that.) But this is the sight that I'm pretty sure made Jason lay down on the aisle floor in Costco and weep softly.
A 40 inch Sony HD LCD TV for $849. I looked it up at the place we got our TV in Sydney and the same Sony TV sells here for $1699. My poor husband. That is a bitter pill for him to swallow, I know. Be strong, honey. You are doing good work here. And doesn't the Eric Clapton song say, "And I know, there'll be more...TV's in heaven." Something like that.

Let me be clear. I am neither scolding Americans (of which I are one!) for having too much stuff nor berating Aussies for charging too much for food (even though they do!). It's just that seeing these pictures made me realize how used to that kind of stuff I once was. And how when we first came to Oz, I was just flabbergasted at the cost of food. And now, well, I guess I'm used to it. And we do okay without 3 liters of ketchup.

But I'm not so sure I can be so noble when it comes to Super Target. Then it will be my turn to handcuff myself to the homewares aisle and vow to live there forever. That's okay. Jason will have the light of his giant TV to keep him warm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Job Description

Jason and I have noticed that Ava is really starting to show a deeper interest in spiritual things and God. We've always prayed with her and tried to make talking about God a part of our daily life. For all that though, we are a very normal family and some days are better than others. We're still working on the whole "do unto others" thing! But lately her questions have gotten more thoughtful. Man, I'd love to see inside that little mind of hers! I think there is a lot going on in there. It's awesome to see her faith take shape.

She also grasps what we do more and more. We've never really made a big deal out of explaining what it means to be ministers or pastors. It's not that we conceal it or anything--it's just never occurred to us to sit down and go, "Ava this is what we do and this is what it's called." I guess she's just spent several years now watching us and figuring it out.

The other day she and I were talking about our upcoming trip to the States. She started asking me what would happen with the church while we were away. I was explaining that we'd arranged for others to come and speak and that there were people who would make sure everything ran smoothly. "But Mom," she said, "Who's gonna stand up and talk about love? Who's gonna tell everyone?"

It made me smile to know that that is how she would summarize what we do. That in her years of sitting in services, Sunday after Sunday, that's what she's picked up on. I'm hoping it's a definition of "church" that she carries her whole life. And maybe one day she, and Nate, and Grace will be the ones standing up and talking about love.

Amen. (So be it.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

While I am flattered at your invitation, I believe that I will decline.

Is it kind of a thing to do posts complaining about Facebook these days? I think it's become kind of water cooler small talk: talk about the weather, last night's So You Think You Can Dance, and Facebook. Well, this isn't so much a complaint about Facebook as a social networking site, as it is an observation of how it can mirror your social circles in real life. Do you have someone you know, that upon seeing them, you look the other way? Or you pretend to be on your phone so you don't have to talk? Or you feign death?

(That has got to be the best Far Side cartoon ever.)

Several months ago, I got a friend request from a woman I didn't know, but who shared my maiden name. I assumed she was in some way related to me--she looked to be about the same age as my parents and is from the same region. I thought that maybe I'd even met her before at some long since passed family reunion and that it would be rude to ignore her. You might be wondering why I was worried about being rude to someone who I didn't know and have never actually seen or had a conversation with. Hi. I'm Amy. Have we met?

So I accepted the friend request only to find out as my dad later told me, that he doesn't know her and that we are in no way related to her. No big deal, though, right? Ever since, though, I have been getting approximately umpteen thousand invitations from her on Facebook. At least 2 a week. Sometimes several in one day. I pretty much ignore all of those types of things on Facebook anyway. Except when they're for the purpose of organizing an event or rallying behind something, you know, important, it just seems silly to me. (Well, okay. I did join the "Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too". But honestly, who wouldn't?)

So I don't wanna post her real name, as that's not very nice and as Becky pointed out, what if she googles herself? But her first name is kind of different. It's something like "Dippy". So let's just call her that. In the past two weeks, I have received at least 8 different invitations from Dippy. Here's some samples of the group names:

  • Almost Kinfolks (uh, wouldn't that be, like, everyone in the world?)
  • Signs of Our Times (I really don't want to know what those might be.)
  • _______ High School: Alumnus, Faculty, Friends and Supporters (Didn't go there, don't know anyone who did, never been there.)
  • When Mama said "Let's Eat!": Mama is Bobbie Lee ______ ______ (Who I also am not related to. Plus, what does this even mean?)
  • _______ -_______ School: Best Little Schoolhouse in Alabama, Maybe America (Well, I have to admire her love of education. Or at least her love of obscure schools.)
  • I've Lived in a Trailer and I've Lived in a Trailer Park But I am Not Trash (Whoa! I never said you were, Dippy. And I don't really see how this applies to me...?)
There is more. So much more. And tomorrow when I check my email? There will be still more. I don't want to burden you with my pain. This just makes me think of the people in real life who you know, but you don't know how or why you know them. And you don't really want to know them. So you do your best to kind of politely ignore them.

Yes, I could unfriend her. And I maybe eventually will. But for now, it is a kind of comic relief to see what ol' Dippy is up to on the Facebook. What causes is she championing? What stereotype is she railing against? I've started forwarding all the invitation emails to my sister Becky. Just like in real life when you share a "No. she. didn't" glance with a friend. Becky somehow missed the sweeping surname dragnet that Dippy did on Facebook and she isn't friends with Dippy. But I am.

And that is one of many, many reasons that I am special. Very special indeed.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Making Merry

Last night was our church's Christmas party. We find that we have to do them earlier in the season before everyone leaves on vacation! In Australia, everyone goes on holiday over December or has conflicting plans, so we squeezed it in early! It was a great time with some really fun people. We are lucky to be where we are!

I never know how to fix my hair, so I stuck some frangipani in it and hoped for the best!

Some of our folks during dinner...

Here we are, honoring some people who have worked tirelessly in the church.

After years of working in ministry together, we have perfected our stage act. He does back flips, I tap dance. He is the straight man, I throw the creamed pies. I have also been known to juggle. Ok, not really, but Jason actually can juggle and did during a sermon last year. I didn't know he could juggle until he started doing it in front of the church. I was like, "We have been together since we were 19 years old and I never knew you could do this." Sigh. Do we ever really know each other?

Here's Nate after a long night and lots of chocolate cake. He was so proud of his shirt and kept calling the tie his "ribbon". This is as dressed up as Nate gets.

(Ava had a great time too but I can't seem to really find a picture of her. She is elusive, like the wind.) After working all day yesterday to set up the party and then having the party, we had about 15 people over this afternoon for a barbecue. We are both a little zombieish at the moment. We are not the party people we once were, apparently. One late night and we have both been moving in slow motion all day. Of course, a baby waking in the night and a Nate waking up at 6:30am will do that to ya.

The countdown is on for our trip to America! It's like that Eddie Murphy movie.

Except I am not an African prince looking for a wife. And Jason is not Arsenio Hall. Okay, I guess if you wanna be picky it isn't really like that at all. Except that we're coming. To America? Never mind.

You guys have a lovely day. Keep it merry and bright. And let your soul glo!

(Anyone? Coming to America? Remember?)

I'll go now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's the little things.

Seriously, can you believe I've actually been blogging everyday? This NaBloPoMo thing--I tell ya, it's been fun! But I'm surprised y'all keep coming back here everyday. Cause I feel like I'm just going, "Yup. Still hot here. Mmm-hmmm."

It's been a busy couple weeks in these here parts. School is wrapping up, we are getting ready to leave any day now for the States, meetings aboundeth, church life is busy, and I have been busy maintaining my stature as a completely together, organized domestic engineer. Except not really on that last one.

Do you find that it's the little things that can mess with your day? For me, it's often the small, piddly things that go wrong that you're too busy to actually fix but they still trip you up. Here is what is blockin' mah flow.

1. Socks. Yes. More specifically, Ava's school socks. I have about three pairs of identical green socks that she has to wear with her uniform everyday. I just keep them all in rotation, so that there is always a clean pair for her to wear. Ahem. Usually. But somehow, one pair got separated in the loads of laundry and it has totally thrown my sock schedule off. I mean, one load will have one clean sock in it, but its mate is still dirty in the hamper. So I am faced with a dilemma. A sock dilemma. Do I let her wear one clean and one dirty just to reunite the pair? Or do I pair the one clean with one from another pair and wash the one dirty? But then I still end up with the same problem.

So you see, I am trapped in a vicious sock cycle. And there is no way out. Or there totally is, but I always move on to something else and forget about it till, here we go again, Ava needs to leave in five minutes and where are her flippin' socks?

2. Pasta. I am locked in a pasta buying rut. Everytime I go to the store, I forget if we have any. And I always buy some. And then I come home and realize that, oh wait, we in fact have about eleventy hundred bags of the stuff. I got penne. I got spirals. I got angel hair. I got shells. I got orecchiette, whatever that even IS. Italy is calling and wants some of its pasta back, I have so much. Why, oh why, can't my brain retain this simple scrap of information? Can't I re-task some brain cells that are unfortunately occupied with retaining the lyrics to the Wiggles' Fruit Salad song?

Of course I could make a list! And I have. But even then, I get to the store and go, "Pasta isn't on this list. Did I forget to put it on there? Cause I think we might need some." This is all possibly due to a little known fact about me: I am a little bit dumb. Sometimes more than a little bit.

3. Ventilation maintenance. We've discussed my feelings about fans. I spend a significant portion of the day right now trying to decide if we should open the windows or not. Is it hotter inside or outside? Is there a breeze? If I open the windows, will it make it hotter inside? Cause when it does, then I spend the rest of the day mumbling, "Shouldn't have opened the windows. Shouldn't have opened the windows." Like that little "Time to make the donuts" man from the old Dunkin Donuts commercials.

You now see how busy and complicated my life is. What pressing issues I have to deal with! It's no wonder I need to write everyday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kid's Eye View

The other night Ava and Nate took turns taking pictures while we were all hanging out outside. It makes me laugh to see what they took pictures of. And also, to see ourselves from the vantage point that they usually have of us.

It's easy to forget what it's like being a little person.

They love taking pictures of themselves. Especially Ava. She loves having her picture taken. She gets that from me, I admit. My parents have always said, "Amy always knows where the camera is!" That, even as a little girl--in group photos and solitary shots, I would always look straight into the lens and smile. All the other kids in the photo would be doing something else, looking elsewhere but me. So I guess Ava comes by it honestly. And don't tell anyone, but I still take photos of myself from time to time. What?

Ava took this next one of Nate when he wanted her to give him the camera. She was refusing in that infuriating way that only older siblings can do. Jason and I saw this picture afterward and just died laughing.

Bless him--look how frustrated he is! Do you remember that kind of impotent rage you'd feel as a kid sometimes? Like, this is so unfair!! And instead of being sensitive to his needs she does what any big sister would--she takes a picture of him. Mocking his pain! Like, "Who's got the camera now, huh?"

Of course, Nate responded in kind by taking a picture of Ava getting in trouble after said incident. Justice is served, eh, Nate? In your face, Ava!

Dads--if they're not protecting us from spiders, then they're bringin' the smackdown. It's a busy job.

Just another peaceful, harmonious evening on the homefront. We all roasted marshmallows and sang after these were taken.

Or maybe Nate just sneered at Ava a little more. Either way, it was a good evening.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nature, I take back everything I ever said about you.

Because when a girl is on day 26 of a 30 day blogfest and needs a topic, you step into the breach. You represent. And for that, I salute you.

Last night, we decided to have dinner outside, as it was a lovely evening. Anytime we eat in our courtyard, Jason always checks for spiders underneath our chairs. The little ones love to hide under there, and several times Jason has found Red Back spiders there. It's kind of like that Oprah show where she told everyone to look under their seat, cause there was key to a new car under one of them. Except, remember? Everyone had a key under their seat. And she was all pointing and yelling, "Yougetacar! Yougetacar! You! You!" It's a little bit like that.

Except this time with spiders. And Oprah isn't here. I guess it's here that the analogy really starts to fall apart, huh?

So Jason looks for spiders.

See? There he is back there, doing his job and making sure no one dies. Thanks, babe. You're good like that.

And it was there, under that chair, that he found this:

We think it's a Red Back, cause it's about the same size and has the red marking, but it has all these white markings too. It could be something else I guess. What? I'm not a spiderologist, y'all. But isn't it kind of pretty?

Of course, I can say that because we killed it shortly after checking it out and I don't have to worry about it, like, crawling on me while I sleep.
Now it would've been really awesome if the spider woulda had the key to a new car tied around his little abdomen. Hey, Oprah can do anything.

In other news, there is a seriously huge iceberg afloat off the coast of Australia.

The article said it's the length of 7 football fields! It's actually floating about halfway between here and Antarctica. But dang! That's not something you see everyday. And with the weather we've been having, I wish it would float a little closer. Think of all the snow cones! See? Maybe global warming isn't so bad after all. (Thanks to my friend Amy for sending me the link to this story!)

And that is all I have to say about those things. All this talk of snow cones has made me want a popsicle. To my American peeps, Happy Thanksgiving! Wish I was there! When you eat cornbread and mashed potatoes, think of me, will you? I hope you have a great day surrounded by people you love and who love you, too! (Well, actually I hope that for everyone.)

P.S. Wanna see more creepy spiders? You can read about our latest encounter here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

And now for something completely different

I've been thinking a lot lately about my friends Bill and Cheryl Darnell. Jason and I went to college with them, Cheryl and I were roommates, we were in each other's weddings. We go way back and have lots of silly stories. The kind you acquire in your university days. Like the time Cheryl, me, and our other roomies systematically stole a complete set of silverware from the campus cafeteria. As you do. There was a good reason for that at the time, I'm sure! Or how we tried to begin a new jogging regimen but would collapse in exhaustion after a few blocks and decide to go get Slurpees instead. Those were good days.

After Jase and I moved to Sydney, Cheryl and I still kept in touch sporadically, and I kept up via email as she and Bill moved to Colorado and had two beautiful children. They were living where they'd always wanted to live and doing great. Then, in March 2008 I got a voicemail that Cheryl and Bill's 5 month old son, Billy Jr., had gone to sleep one night and not awakened in the morning. Of course, it came as a terrible, terrible shock to them and was classified as a SIDS death. Any parent thinks of this as a remote possibility, but now my close friends were actually living through it. I ached for them.

Over the past year and a half, Cheryl and I have talked on the phone quite a bit. She has shared with such transparency how tough it's been at times. I have listened as she has shared their journey through that initial, crushing grief and I've been amazed to see the resolve, strength, and grace with which they've lived. And I, along with all their friends and family, was overjoyed to hear when they unexpectedly got pregnant again last year. Their son, Nathan Ryan was born within days of the first anniversary of little Billy's death.

As amazing as their story is, why am I telling you about it? Through their own experience with SIDS and the emotional, financial and relational fallout it brings, they have started a new foundation: SIDS America. The mission is actually to provide financial and emotional assistance to families who have lost children to SIDS.

Here's Cheryl, Bill and Avery with Billy Jr.

Before talking with Bill and Cheryl, I'd never thought about the fact that these parents often are still paying for the birth of their child when they tragically have to also be paying funeral expenses. For many families, the financial burden is crushing, and can be a great strain in what is already an incredibly trying time. In less than a year, after starting with almost nothing at all, they have been able to financially assist 15 families and have launched a fundraising initiative to do much more.

I'm telling you, I just admire and love these guys so much. At a time when no one would think less of them for turning inward and just taking care of themselves, they are reaching out to help others. I am trying to make others aware of their efforts because they are currently trying to get 500 online donations during the month of November. If they can do this, some donors have pledged to give $2500 toward their cause. Even a donation of $1 counts.

SIDS is a hard thing to talk about. It may not be something you wanted to read about today. As a mother of a five month old baby, you better believe there are things I'd rather be thinking about! In reality though, I have been so enriched to hear the hope and strength that exudes from my friends, and how it is now spilling over into the lives of others. And I really believe in honoring those who take what is in their hand and use it to bless people.

I know this is a busy, busy time but if you have a chance before the end of November, please check out the SIDS America site, and read more about what Bill and Cheryl are about. You can also read a story about them from the Dallas NBC affiliate here. Bill and Cheryl, y'all are my heroes!

Thanks for reading this! Now, come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about a ginormous iceberg and a tiny, freaky-looking spider.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Exercises in Futility

Here are some of mine from today:

--Explaining to a four year old why he can't go swimming.

Reasons like, "It's raining." and "It's time for dinner" and "It is lightning outside" simply don't cut it. Nate's response to all these? "But I don't mind!" I finally talked him out of it by letting him take a bubble bath with food coloring in the water. (Insert cliche about desperate times here.)

--Trying to finish all the laundry at once. I am certain that this will never actually happen. There is a story in the Bible about a widow who was nearly out of oil and flour to make bread. She decided to make one more loaf of bread, knowing that after it was gone that she would starve. Then, the prophet Elijah comes and stays at her home and miraculously, there is always a little more oil and a little more flour left in the jars. I seem to have the same thing happening in my laundry room. Perhaps Elijah is buried in there somewhere, hidden under the pile of damp towels or Nate's mismatched socks.

--Trying to figure out what someone wants or thinks when they won't just tell you. This is actually an issue in a few areas of my life right now! One in particular is another mom at the school. She is from another country and I have tried to befriend her. Her communication style, though, is so stilted and abrupt that I can't ever really tell what she wants: if she wants her daughter to come play at our house, if she's inviting me for coffee because it's expected or because she wants me to come over, if she's saying no to my offer of something to eat at my house because she's not hungry or if I'm supposed to ask a few more times before she'll say yes. I'm usually pretty good at this whole relational, cross-cultural kind of thing, but man! This woman is wearing me out. She called three times during the chaos of Ava's birthday party to sort of kind of but not really ask if I would bring her daughter home from the party. I didn't mind doing that, which I told her. However, we ended one conversation with her saying she would come get her daughter. Ok, I said, with 15 screaming girls in the background. Then she called back an hour later and asked if I could bring her home. Yes, fine, no problem! Then she called again to make sure it was okay and that she could come if I needed her to. I'm exhausted all over again just recounting it! This surface-level casual relationship is requiring more maintenance than my marriage. I think she and I should agree to see other people.

--Playing Jenga with previously mentioned four year old.Let's just say that the finesse required to ease out those little blocks from the bottom of the stack isn't one of Nate's many talents. Though I admire Jason for trying. However, Nate is much more interested in "accidentally" bumping the tower. It was fun to watch, though!

--Trying to figure out why your baby is crying. I mean, when there are no obvious reasons. Is she overtired? Is she not tired enough? Is she hot? Is she cold? Is it the Chicken Pad Thai I had for lunch? (I hope not, cause I was kinda wanting to have it again for dinner.) I have been known to construct elaborate theories around these types of baby-related issues. And they usually turn out wrong. Some things are just mysteries, I guess. Like Stonehenge. And crop circles. Grace crying for an hour and a half tonight after I put her to bed is up there with Easter Island.

Any futile efforts in your life lately?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The beginning of a beautiful relationship

Tonight I gave Grace some rice cereal for the first time. She's really been watching us eat lately, and is starting to try and grab at things that we're eating. To be honest, I'm never eager to start doing the whole baby food thing. Mostly cause I'm kind of lazy. And when you're breastfeeding, that means the food is always on hand and ready to go with no preparation! But at five and a half months, I thought, maybe she's ready to try food. Well, I think it was less than what she'd hoped for.

She's looking at me like, "Umm, and we're doing this because...?". Poor thing. I mean, this stuff is blander than bland. Like cotton balls but with less interesting texture. She spit most of it out, but it was fun to watch her face. Yes, we all laughed at her expense.

Hang in there, sweetie. It will get better, I promise. There's always Spam.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's a very fine mist. More like a sheen.

What I need to tell you about today is that I have started spritzing Grace before every sleeptime. I have a little spray bottle in her room, and before I lay her down, I turn on a fan and mist her with water. She looks at me with surprise, but she doesn't seem to mind. My hope is that it's cooling her down enough so that she can sleep more comfortably. You know how, in the produce section, they spray the fruits and veggies down with little hoses? It's kinda like that. She's my little cantaloupe.

I am so like a pioneer woman. Relying on my wits and God-given resources to survive. Before you know it, I will be, like, shooting bears and stuff. If we had bears here. We don't really. Koalas aren't bears, did you know that? It's a common misconception. They're marsupials. Not that I would shoot one if they were bears. They're kind of small anyway and probably not worth the effort.

I am going to go and spritz myself now. Seems like I need it. Any other baby misters out there? Or baby spritzers? Which sounds better?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Potted Meat and Mysterious Pellets, It's Not You. It's Us.

As I stood in the pantry tonight looking for the last serving of Easy Mac, I realized that we have a lot of stuff in there that will never, no never be eaten. Not by us, anyway. I decided it's time to begin liberating that stuff. Cause, some of it, I honestly have no idea where it came from.

One reason for that may be because we have lots and lots of houseguests. A good amount of people are in and out of here, and some of them leave their food with us! Another reason is that we have a massive pantry. The kids play in there, it's so big. So there's room for alot of stuff we never use to sit there unnoticed for a long time. I am embarrassed to admit this, as it sounds so decadent. I know this is one of those "first world problems". But some of this stuff, I honestly can't see being much use to anyone.

Isn't the Internet a beautiful thing? Where else could I show you the contents of my pantry and assume that anyone would care? Here's few things I dug out:

Okay, so starting on the left. Marmite, which I told you about before. I opened it and smelled it just now, and wow. Let's just say it must be an acquired taste. But we have to keep this around for our friends that like it. So it stays. Then we have Cornflour. I bought this almost exactly four years ago, while preparing for our first Thanksgiving dinner here. I was searching in vain for corn meal. If you ever try to make cornbread in Australia, let me save you some time and tell you that you can't get corn meal here. The bewildered shelf stocker at the grocery store handed me the cornflour instead, saying maybe it was what I needed. It wasn't. Incidentally, that's where culture shock really gets you: the little moments. The times that you expect something to be there, or think it will just be a certain way and it just isn't. And no one seems to be bothered by that but you. I remember being disproportionately bothered by that little bag of cornflour. And don't even get me started on the time I was looking for plastic Easter eggs. I almost flew home.

Next, a can of Malaysian Laksa soup. No idea where this came from. Malaysia, I have no issue with you, but I will not eat your soup. I will not eat it in a boat. I will not eat it with a goat. I don't know how many laksas were killed to go into that can, but it is wasted on me. Then, we have a jar of Cranberry Sauce. I also bought this at Thanksgiving one year, thinking it would be analogous to, you know, cranberries. It really isn't. Carrying on with our fruit theme is a ginormous jar of Morello cherries. I bought this cause I was making an ill-fated pineapple upside down cake and they don't have maraschino cherries here. Go here to read that tragic tale. They kind of have a sharp taste and I don't really know what to do with them now.

Finally, a bottle of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Jason's mom bought this once when she was here, cause it's 'sposed to be really good for you. She even had a little book about it. I'm sure it is good for me, but I don't know what to do with it, and honestly, it will probably continue to sit on the shelf. I will add, though, that on the jar it says: "An important feature is that the 'MOTHER' has not been killed by pasteurization." No clue what this means. But I guess it's good that no mothers were killed. That is a cause I can get behind. Well done, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Keep fighting the good fight. But fight it somewhere else.

Okay, I'll come back to that first one. Cause it ain't yogurt, that much I do know. Next, this can of creamed corn will not get eaten. I have a recipe for creamed corn from Jason's mom that is to die for, but I can't abide the canned stuff. The best part of corn is it crunchiness! Why mess with that, I ask you? Also I noticed that we have two boxes of Turkish Delight. I'm not sure why we have this, someone must have given it to us. (If it was you, thanks! You are the sweetest.) I feel the need, though, to burst the bubble of anyone who has read "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe". Edmund betrays Aslan and his siblings for Turkish Delight, right? So when I had the chance to have some I thought, Dang this stuff is gonna be so good. Um, not so much. It's this chewy gel type stuff covered in chocolate. But the taste of the two mixed together is not a happy taste. There was not a party in my mouth.

Now, the Spam. I have a pretty good idea who brought this. I'm looking at you, Mom. I know how you feel about Spam and other potted meat products. But to me, it just looks and smells like cat food. But if you like, I'll save it for when you come visit next year. We all know it will be in the exact condition it is now. This can of Light Coconut Cream is for folks who make curry, I think. I am just not a curry maker and not usually a curry eater, either. Rosemary, say the word and it's yours!

Finally, the mysterious Yoplait container that contains something that is Not Yogurt. Here's a picture of what's inside:

Mmmmm. As I always say, nothing says "Eat me" like little dusty gray pellets. Whoever left this at our house has graciously left the label from its original bag behind as well. I haven't googled it yet, but I think these are those little balls that people put in those tea-type drinks. Y'all know what I'm talking about? I think the balls are made of tapioca or something. I had one a few years ago and all I know is those little balls had the texture and consistency of snot. Sorry, there's just no delicate way to say that. I get the shivers just thinking about it. In Dallas, there were stores that sold all kinds of different flavored drinks with these ball thingys in them. People love 'em--I know that, but we do not. To me, it's like, "Hmmm, would I like my snot ball drink to have a lemony flavour or a hint of passionfruit?" It just ain't happening. So these dried-out phlegm pellets are getting chucked. (Do you think that sentence has ever been written before?)

Thus ends the first installment of Stuff We Have But Won't Eat. I feel so much lighter now. Hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have!