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!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Tea Party: Mistakes were made but we all got out alive.

Do I keep harping on and on about the heat? Has it become tiresome? Sorry about that. It's just that today, as I prepared for Ava's birthday party and 15 little girls to descend upon the house, the heat played a major role in my life. Today, as temperatures outside soared to about 40 degrees outside (that'd be 104 F), and the heat climbed inside, heat was my constant companion. Picture a big, sweaty guy--like as big as a linebacker following you around all day. Whatever you're doing, he's looking over your shoulder and providing constant commentary. "Hey, what are you doing? Whatcha doing that for? Oh, are you going over there now? Can I come? I think I'll come." The heat is like an annoying, sloppy, lumbering person that you just can't shake. At least, that's how it felt to me.

I told you that it makes me a little crazy. But anyway. The birthday party. All in all, I'd call it a success. But gather with me in the Tea Party Situation Room, where we debrief, discuss unforeseen obstacles, and evaluate to overall success of the mission. Because when a multitude of kids are involved, strategy is vital. If you don't have a plan, you are toast. They can smell fear and indecision. Remember that.

What worked
--Everything looked pretty cute. We had to move the party downstairs to Jason's office cause it was just too hot (there he is again) upstairs. Here's the tables:

Each girl had her own placecard written out for her. I was laughing at myself while trying to figure out where to put everyone--just like they were adults. "Well, Child A and Child B argue sometimes, so I'll separate them. Child C's English isn't so great, so I'll put her next to Child D who will be sweet to her." As Jason points out to me, I put way too much thought into stuff like this!

--The party favors. I showed these to you guys the other day, but I was happy with how it looked. And I have to admit, it was a pretty good idea.

I think the kids liked it, too.

--The cupcake decorating and craft time. I put out little bowls of sprinkles and different things they could put on their cupcakes, and the girls had a lot of fun doing this. I also had them make and decorate little bookmarks with ribbon, glitter, and little plastic jewels. This was a last minute addition, as I'd planned to just let them play in the house. It was too warm for that, though, so I was just trying to keep everyone busy!

What Didn't Work
--I kind of forgot that kids don't care so much about presentation. So I should've spent more time planning games and activities and less time on how it all looked. Cause I hadn't really thought it all through, it was a bit disorganized and they got a little restless and bored at times.
--Things went more quickly than I thought. Like the craft and games I'd planned. I should've planned more stuff to keep them busy. Jason saved the day, though--he broke out the Twister game and they really had fun with that!
--Um, I forgot to bring out Ava's birthday cake. Stellar move on my part. Look, don't judge till you been there. Until you're the one in the room. Stuff is happening, dress-up clothes flying, little girls squealing, candy sprinkles under your fingernails. I think I might've even blacked out for a minute or two. Priorities got skewed, objectives were compromised and I'm not proud of that. But it is what it is. Welcome to the NFL. (I don't really know what that means, but I think it sounds cool to say.)

--Pretty successful. The girls had fun, and there were only a few tears at various times. And Ava said it was "the best birthday ever", so hey, what more can you ask for?

I think though, that I might adopt a "party every second year" policy. On alternating years, we'll do a special outing where they can bring a friend or two, but not a full-on party. Anybody got any thoughts on that? These are things you never think you'll think about till you have kids. But, as Ava starts talking about her birthday 8-9 months before it actually comes, it's an issue in our family!

I am off to take a cool shower and go to bed. Want a cupcake? And, um, we have a lot of birthday cake left over. A lot. Come have some. Please?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not that I'm not thankful. Cause I totally am.

I realized it today in the dairy aisle. I just don't think I have it in me to do Thanksgiving this year. In fact, I only did the math today and realized that Thanksgiving is one week! Yowza. It's not emphasized here, for obvious reasons and we've been so busy with other stuff that I hadn't even thought about it!

The past four Thanksgivings, we've hosted feasts here for an international contingent of guests. It's been really fun! Some memorable moments: trying to make cornbread without corn meal (try polenta!), heating up my kitchen even more on a summer day, by having the oven on for 5 hours straight, putting the laptop right next to a raw turkey in the kitchen so I could Skype my parents and ask them how to cook it. I didn't know which side to put "up" in the pan. And I've never forgotten my dad's answer: Position it missionary style, he said. Yep. Seared in my memory for all time. Thanks, Dad!

So, no turkey this year for us. We are in the midst of a perfect storm of school events, church happenings, meetings, birthday parties, and preparing to leave for the States in less than two weeks. And five months of fragmented sleep due to the cutest baby EVER is starting to catch up with me. It's all great stuff, but I am realizing that I'm going to have to let some things slide. And Turkey Day, you drew the short straw. Sorry about that.

In the Scripture class I teach at a local high school, we talked recently about Soren Kierkegaard's quote: "To be a saint is to will the one thing." (Moody teenagers love it when you say, "Kierkegaard wrote...". It just sounds cool.) I'm thinking he meant the ability to tune out distractions, to hone in, to know what your "yes" is so that you can say "no" to other things. Yeah, yeah Soren. Still working on that, okay? Sheesh. Bet you were a bundle of fun to be around!

One of my "one things" at the moment is a disgruntled five month old. She is presently requesting the pleasure of my company. Better go meet some needs! Y'all have a great day! Any exciting plans for next week?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This week in thrift

We go to a lot of garage sales. Originally born of necessity to help furnish our house, it's become a family bonding thing. The kids love it, and on Saturday mornings often ask, "Aren't there any garage sales going on today?"And since all three are usually wide awake by 7am--no one has told them you're supposed to sleep in on Saturdays--we figure we might as well put that to good use and get out to catch some bargains. We have also been known to go curbside shopping for furniture as well. You can read about a fruitful trip here.

I find that I fixate on looking for certain things for awhile, then move on to something else. Here's some things I've picked up in the last week or two.

Old Board Games. I found this Twister game the other weekend and was so excited! Board games are shockingly expensive here. I mean, it just feels wrong to pay $23 for Chutes and Ladders, y'know? I'd been wanting to buy Twister, but it was like $35 at Target. I am totally like for real not EVEN kidding you. So imagine my excitement when I found it for 3 bucks. Score!

Other old school board games we've acquired: Guess Who, Chutes and Ladders, and Trivial Pursuit. Who doesn't love a good game of Twister, eh? Look how happy and wholesome those kids on the box are! Ah, the memories.

Old Books. I am always beefing up our book collection at garage sales and book fairs. I look for old classics that I want the kids to read, as well as stuff for us, too. We have tons of houseguests, so I like to have a variety of things on hand for people to read. Recently I've bought some of the Anne of Green Gables series for Ava, Huck Finn, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, some John Grisham and Lee Child, Bronte sisters, some Jane Austen. We went to a book fair last weekend that was huge. And crowded. And hot. People were getting a little ugly over at the paperback fiction table, but don't worry, y'all--I held my own. Had to throw a few elbows, but I got some good stuff. People never expect the lady holding a baby to be aggressive at these things. Ha! That's where they're wrong. Grace is the perfect foil.

Vases and Bottles. I don't know why, these have just been catching my eye lately. I think the colors are purty, I guess. And it's an easy way to decorate.

(Dandelions courtesy of Nate.) These are on my kitchen windowsill. The bright colors are nice, I think. The short one is from my beloved Ikea. Oh, and I snagged these for a buck each the other day:

And get this, cause this is what's awesome. These were on a clearance shelf, marked a dollar each. And on a table right next to them, was a boxed version of the same three vases for $15! Woohoo! I grabbed them and then chucked a double back handspring down the aisle. It was just that kind of moment.

Old teacups. For Ava's birthday party this weekend, we're having a tea party. I want each girl to have a teacup that she can take home, so I've been cruising the local thrift shops for them. Here's what I've gotten so far:

I'm only buying the ones I can get for 50 cents or a dollar each, so no fine china. But I think they're pretty. I'll put the party favors in them for the girls to take home.

So that's what I've been on the lookout for. What have you been eyeing? If I find it here, I'll snag it for you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Chair Recognizes...What was your name again?

I am just back from chairing a management committee meeting of Nate's preschool. Remember how I told you that I was crowned queen of the committee, and will continue (I think) next year? My main responsibilities are to lead the meetings and help organize events. I am usually fine at these meetings but there are days like today, where I am pretty scatterbrained. And I kind of forget the precise way to go about chairing a meeting. So I have to fake it a little. If any of you find yourself in a similar position, here are a few tips to get you by:

1. At any lull in the meeting, say: "Someone to move and second?" Then look around expectantly. People will assume they've missed something important, and a couple of them will raise their hands to so move. Then you can move on to the next agenda item. This parliamentary stuff is super cool!

Suuure you do, buddy. Whatever.

2. When someone raises their hand to move or second, you may need to give their name to the secretary, who is busy taking notes and doesn't see. However, you just might not remember their name. But as Queen and Empress of the Committee, you really ought to. To avoid a sticky social situation and a failure in your duties, say in your best game show host voice, "So moved by the lovely lady in the bluuuue jacket!" Smile and gesture her way. Then, everyone chuckles and thinks that though, of course you know her name, you are merely trying to inject some humour into an otherwise humdrum meeting. It's called LEVITY, okay? And it's just saved your bacon, bucko.

3. As others are talking, nod and say, "Hmmm. That's interesting.", or "Great point." Kind of squint your eyes, like you are giving it lots of thought--but don't overdo the squinting or they'll ask you if a migraine is coming on.

4. When going over financial statements and spreadsheets, take your pen and circle random numbers. Make notes to yourself. Look at the last page, at the last number and raise your eyebrows. Nod, in a surprised and pleased sort of way. Ahhh, yes--much better than your own projections. How gratifying. Things are running quite smoothly under your tutelage.

No wonder they've asked me to carry on for next year, right? Motion carried, baby. Motion carried.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Songs and Laughing Kookaburras. And it's hot.

It was a really warm day here today. After we got the kids in bed, with fans aimed right at their little heads, Jason and I retired to the front porch. Just like they used to do in the old South in the summertime. Except, instead of whittling or shelling beans, we ate ice cream and listened to songs on Jason's Iphone. I think times have changed for the better, don't you?

We sat as it got darker out and listened to a few kookaburras going nuts in the bushland across the street. They really do sound like they're laughing hysterically. It's in moments like these that I go, "Oh yeah. We live in Australia." The temperature had gone down to a bearable 29 outside (about 84 F) but it was still hotter in the house. We stared up at the leaves of the gum tree in our front yard, watching for any possibility of a breeze. I was willing those leaves to move. They were totally still. Every now and then, one of us would say, "Look--they're starting to move a little bit!" But the breeze would die away.

So we distracted ourselves from the heat by listening to songs that remind of our college days. I must tell you, if you need to be cheered up at all, listen to "Stickshifts and Safetybelts" by Cake. Do you know this song? We were just listening to it and tapping our propped up feet on the porch railing. I can remember driving around Dallas with my college roommates, listening to this song:
"Stick shifts and safety belts, bucket seats have all got to go
When we're driving in the car, it makes my baby seem so far."

Here's an idea. Think of some chore you need to do that you've been putting off. Maybe you need to unload your dishwasher. I always need to load or unload my dishwasher. It is all that I ever do, actually. Whatever it is for you, click on this link and go do it while the song is playing. I'm totally serious. It will make you smile and you'll get stuff done at the same time. You see how helpful I'm being?

Nate could've used a happy song earlier today. Tomorrow is Ava's birthday and we went out to dinner tonight and let her pick the restaurant. She wanted to go to a local Chinese place so off we went. Nate did not want Chinese food. He did not want to put his shoes on. He did not want to get in the car. He did not want to get out of the car. He declared himself to be "Mad Nate" and wore this exaggerated upset face through dinner. Any question that was addressed to him he answered with a growl, "I'm mad."

Witness his rage. Everyday we ask the kids to tell us their two favorite things about the day. It's just a way to get them to talk a little bit about what's gone on. When we asked Nate he said, "My first favorite thing is bein'mad[one word]. My second favorite thing is bein'mad. And eating." Since I feel exactly that way about 3 days out of 5, I think we can safely say he's a son of mine.

Do you have a song that makes you happy? Or one that makes you forget that it's too hot and the backs of your knees are sweaty and you're a bit irritable. I'm not asking for me. It's for a friend. A friend I know who is hot right now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees, if we were bees.

It's Sunday night, about 9pm here. Jason and I are engaged in our Sunday night ritual. We are sprawled in the living room, watching Australian Idol. It's down to the final two, and you can bet we'll be voting this week! Go, Stan!

We are not good for very much on Sunday nights. Our church service is Sunday evening, and after spending most of the weekend preparing, thinking about it, and then doing it--we are toast by Sunday night. But in a good way. So on Sunday nights, we get KFC and let the kids eat in front of the TV, put 'em to bed, Jason has a glass of wine, I eat chocolate, and we totally veg out.

I was thinking tonight as we were settling in that there are a few random things about the life of a pastor that some people might not know. I certainly didn't until we took this job about 4 years ago!

  • For one thing, in a church our size, the pastor of the church is also usually the janitor of the church! We have a stellar team of volunteers, but tonight like most nights, Jason stayed behind to help them take out the trash, clean up, and make sure everything was locked up. One of Jason's first jobs after we got married was cleaning our church in Dallas. Our pastor at the time told Jason that if he wanted to be a pastor one day, then being a church janitor was great training. And you know what? He was absolutely right. Learning to see the little details no one else notices, understanding how much effort goes into seemingly simple events and tasks, and serving others. Not to mention a heaping helping of humility!

  • The day after preaching or holding a service is usually kind of a down day. I don't know if teachers or others who speak publicly experience this, but there is kind of a let down that happens. You build yourself up for something, and when it's over there's a bit of an emotional and physical lull. When you speak, especially about spiritual things, you put yourself out there. You feel a bit vulnerable. Plus, you're just plain tired. Monday mornings, I have a mother's group that I take the kids to. It's a group a friend and I started a few years ago, and there are some mornings that it is such a challenge just to get up and out the door! I don't mean that I'm depressed or anything, just a little flat, I think. I've heard lots of other pastors say this as well. Ha! Don't I sound like a Garfield cartoon or something?

  • With that in mind, we are usually not ready to hear constructive feedback on the service or the message until at least Tuesday afternoon! When I preach, I ask Jason after how he thought it went, and I always cringe a little bit. It's not that I don't want and need to hear feedback, it's just that whole emotional lull thing happenin'.
So for those who are churchgoers, go easy on your pastor at the beginning of the week! He or she is probably a bit out of it.

We love what we do, and it's a privilege to get to do it full time! But it is a different kind of life, one in which the "professional" and "personal" circles completely overlap. Your good friends are also your congregation. The ones you hang out and go to the movies with are also the ones you counsel. And the work day is definitely not a straightforward 9 to 5.

Tonight, the kids and I were driving home from church and I was telling Ava a story from the Old Testament about a priest. (Yes, all our car conversations are about the Old Testament. That, or trying to guess who would beat who in a fight: a tiger or an alien. But usually we just talk about poo.) I was trying to explain what a priest is, and I told her, "A priest was a man who stayed at the Temple, and taught people about God. Like what Daddy does." And she said, "And like you, Mom. I like that you guys are the pastors." It was so interesting to me that she knew that that's what we do. We've never really explained it to her like that in so many words. I hope that she's able to still say that in ten years' time!

Yeah, well. Fried. Gotta go to bed. Be sweet to each other and keep it chill.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yeasty Drama (with Vitamin B!)

Ask any non-Aussie about Australia and they can almost certainly name at least two things about the country: kangaroos and Vegemite. And while I have disappointed many a person back in the States by telling them that, no, I don't see kangaroos everyday, Vegemite is nearly as ubiquitous here as foreigners think it is.

Every house has a jar or two, schools offer vegemite and cheese sandwiches for lunch, mums bring crackers with Vegemite as snacks to playgroup. As soon as babies can start gumming little bits of bread, they're given some with Vegemite on it. Rare is the person here who doesn't like it or doesn't eat it.

So what is it? Well, basically, it's yeast. And who doesn't enjoy a spoonful of delicious yeast? Come on, who's with me, guys? Vegemite is yeast extract leftover from the beer brewing process, and it's actually really good for you. It's got tons of Vitamin B and other good-for-you type stuff. It has the consistency of butter, but is a dark brown color. And if you've never tried it, it packs a punch! Don't make the mistake I did and put a dollop on your finger, like peanut butter. Yowza! It's a very salty, pungent taste. Since then, I've received several Vegemite tutorials. The overall consensus is to spread it thinly with a little butter.

And then, it's actually not too bad. I can see how people like it. But we don't eat it--I think it's something that you have to be raised with. I volunteer once a month in the canteen at Ava's school--where the lunches are prepared for students who order them. Every time I make a vegemite sandwich, I submit it for approval to one of the other (Aussie) moms. "Yeah, spread it a little thinner," she'll say, or "You need to put more butter." Apparently, I do not have the Vegemite intuition that others do. That's ok--cause in a PB&J-making contest, they are going down! I think we know who would own that situation.

For friends and guests, we keep a jar of Vegemite in our pantry, as well as a jar of Marmite. See, Marmite is also a yeasty spread made in New Zealand. There are Marmite people and there are Vegemite people. And they will passionately argue the merits of their favorite "ite". We are friends with both types. So Jason and I try to remain neutral. We are the Switzerland of the pungent yeasty spread battle.* Both are offered a place in our home. Hey, it's all yeast to me! (Get it? Get it? Never mind.)

Last week, Becky sent me a link to an article in the New York Times: "Vegemite Contest Draws Protests". " Have you heard about this?", she asked me. Kraft, who much to the consternation of many Aussies, owns Vegemite, recently launched a new variation. It's Vegemite mixed with cream cheese. To celebrate they launched a contest to name the new creation. We have a jar of the new stuff in our fridge. (Have I tried it? No.) Well, the winning name was announced with much fanfare: iSnack 2.0. I actually thought it was kinda cute. Kinda.

But no one else did. It unleashed vehement protests. Kraft was barraged with complaints, people called it "un-Australian", and stupid. Facebook groups were started--of course. You don't have a legitimate protest until you start a group on Facebook about it, you know. Someone needs to tell those Tibetan monks.

A few days later, Kraft said, "Um, never mind." And a few days after that, another name was picked: Cheesybite. And the nation was saved.

All this reminded me of the furor when New Coke came out in 1985. Good gosh, remember that? How enraged people were about it? There was, like, hatred. Over soda. My personal theory, since you asked, is that a lot of people are stressed out or anxious and have no outlet to express it. So when something like this comes along, it's like whoosh! Out of nowhere comes all this disproportionate anger. Oh well. These giant, multinational conglomerates can take it, I think. We're still buying their stuff, aren't we?

Well, that's another slice of life down here for you! I will try the Cheesybite and get back to you on how it tastes. It's my hope that our home can be a welcoming place for any spread. Be it peanut butter, Nutella, Vegemite, or Marmite. Even margarine. Because that's the kind of people we are. In the pantry of our hearts. (Note: I will now be ending every post with that sentence.)

*Ew, that sounds a bit like a medical condition.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Here's a few snippets from today...

1. This morning, I helped out in reading groups in Ava's class. At one of the stations, the kids were practicing writing sentences on little whiteboards. One little boy wrote this:
"My dad is big. Why is my mum bigger than my dad?" Hmmm. Some questions are better left unasked, I think.

2. This evening, Nate was going to the bathroom and singing to himself in a cheerful tone, "I not happy! I not happy! I-iiiiii noooooot haaaapppy!!" And Ava, from the other room, shouted to him, "Well do you like puppies? Look in the pantry!"

There are no puppies in the pantry. Or anywhere at our house for that matter. I really have no idea where this conversation came from, but it seemed to make sense to Nate. I think I will use it next time I counsel someone who is feeling down. "Hey friend--do you like puppies? Look in the pantry!" The pantry could be symbolic of something, don't you think? I could work a whole book series out of this!

3. I got some time out to myself this afternoon. So I went to the mall and was trying on bathingsuits. Look, I didn't plan it that way. It just happened. And it didn't turn out to be a good idea. But we're not talking about that right now.

Anyway, in the dressing room right next to me was a woman and, I assume, her adolescent daughter. I couldn't hear anything the daughter was saying--she was whispering, but I could hear the mom's responses. She kept saying things like, "You do not look fat!" and "Well do you want to see how a size 10 feels?" and "Honey, you don't look big in that at all!" It was making me sad. I can remember being that teenage girl.

Then the mom said, in a confiding tone, "White is actually the most slimming color that you can wear." At that point, I wanted to knock on the wall or stick my head under the partition and say to the girl, "I am sure that you look lovely in whatever it is you're wearing, and it is highly improbable that you look fat, but please disregard this last statement of your mother's. White is really not the most slimming color that you can wear."

In my experience, at least. I felt bad for that young girl, though. And for the mom, whom I could tell was desperately trying to reassure her angst-ridden daughter. Don't you sometimes wish you could just tell a younger person, or even your younger self: "Hang in there. You will make it through this and there will come a day that you will like yourself immeasurably more than you do right now." Of course, coming from a strange woman trying on an ill-fitting tankini, this advice might not have hit the mark. Oh well, it's the thought, right?

Have a great day, everyone. And if you have a tough moment or two, look in the pantry! The pantry of your heart. (See? A book deal!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Here is where I start to lose it just a little bit.

It's heating up here!

Today was hot enough that even I got in the pool! Having been raised in Florida and on the Gulf of Mexico, I like my swimmin' holes really warm. I find the ocean here freezing, and our pool is usually too cold for me too. What can I say? I am a delicate flower. A tulip. I never swim at the beach here, and it has to be stinkin' hot outside here for me to get in the pool. And today it was 35 degrees (95 Fahrenheit) outside and 34 degrees (93 Fahrenheit) in our house. That got me into the pool!

Neither of the houses we've lived in here have had air conditioning or heating. Most times of the year, it's not an issue. The weather here is usually pretty divine. But man, oh man, when Sydney decides to heat up, she don't mess around. This requires one to be alot more creative in cooling down or heating up. When we lived in Dallas, it was just a matter of turning up or down the thermostat. I now sigh wistfully when I think of those days.

I have discovered that the answer to cooling down your house doesn't always mean throwing open all the windows. Don't be so cavalier with your window-opening! On hot days, it's best to open them early in the morning, and then close them all by about 9:30 or 10 at the latest. It's a delicate dance, this climate control.

Every year as it starts to get hot, I usually wig out a little. Jason expects it now. Our first really warm day a couple weeks ago, I came to find him as he was working and said in this desperate tone, "I have got to have more fans. And no more of these cheapo ones from the grocery store. They do nothing for me! You must go now and buy me some real fans. Spend some money!" He knows better than to argue with me when I am in this state. So, he went out and bought some new fans and they are keeping my heat-induced craziness at bay. For now.

But you know the fan I would really love to own? My neighbor told me about this and I looked it up on the Internets and it's true. Look at this. And prepare to have your every paradigm of fan-age completely overset.

Dude. Dyson has made a fan. Look at that thing! It has no blades! It defies explanation! All I know is that it took 4 years to design and that it involves Lasers and Science. And it blows out 15 times more air. Fifteen times, y'all. It's retailing right now for about $300 for the 10 inch model, and $330 for the 12 inch.

I'm pretty sure that I would be in a better mood this summer if I had one. Jason says it will be a cold day in hell before he'll spend "300 bones on a fan". I told him that a.) I don't need his sarcasm about fans and their importance, and b.) hell is probably much more likely to have cold days now that DYSON HAS MADE A FAN.

Why does no one respect my need for proper ventilation? I'm just asking.

I'm gonna go have a popsicle now. Maybe I'll have $300 worth of them, JASON.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Yesterday, I went to turn on the TV for the kids to watch a dvd, and it wouldn't come on. So I kept pressing the button on the remote. And then I did that thing that you do when something doesn't work--I shook the remote and tapped it against my hip. I tapped the power button on the TV a few times. I think I even blew on it. Huh? Why do we do that? But it still wouldn't come on. So then I knew that I had to break the news to Jason.

"Honey? You better come in here. The TV won't come on." Jason had wanted a flatscreen TV for ages, and when we finally got one last year, he was so excited. We went to the store on the day after Christmas last year intending to get a new fridge--which we desperately needed, and we walked away with a new TV. Jase is usually pretty even-tempered, but man, was he excited about this TV. Seeing him so happy was worth not getting the fridge--but don't think I didn't play the martyr! That chance was too good to pass up!

So, as of this morning, this is what our living room looks like:

Doesn't that look a bit sad? The little TV is like the big TV's weird and embarassing cousin or something. They share a resemblance, but being around it just makes everyone uncomfortable. It buzzes and has a greenish hue. (Hmmm...I do have some extended family that fit that same description!) It seems to fit with the redneck vibe we have going right now. Although it would fit better with that genre if we had the TV that does work sitting on top of the TV that doesn't work. Oh well--something to work toward.

I didn't include the photo of Jason rending his garments and gnashing his teeth when he realized it wasn't working yesterday. Amazingly, though the TV actually broke while still under warranty. That is a first for us! His Iphone? Stopped working about two days after the warranty was expired. My phone? Started wigging out the month after the warranty was up. So, we're excited that the TV will actually get fixed.

Perhaps it's better this way. Jason is out tonight, and instead of me vegging in front of the TV, our neighbors came over to keep me company. I just love having neighbors that we actually know and like. This is not something to be taken for granted. They are about a week away from having a baby, woohoo! (Hi guys! Throw a rock at the window if you go into labor!)Now, I'm getting ready for a scripture class that I'm teaching at a local high school tomorrow. Few things are more intimidating than a roomful of teenagers--but more about that soon.

In the meantime, I have to go fulfill a promise to Nate. He was upset at bedtime tonight that Jason wasn't here to kiss him goodnight. I told him that Daddy would come in when he got home and check on him. "You're kidding me," Nate said. "No," I said. "We come in every night before we go to bed to kiss you and tuck you in." Nate tilted his head and looked at me. "I never hear the door open," he said, "And I have ears, you know!"

Lord, yes. Believe me, I know.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


My battle to get Ava to eat more fruit and vegetables is ongoing. After a promising start, we've sort of stalled out a little. She will eat grapes, carrots, and corn and that's about it. And when I say "eat", I mean that she will gag and swallow miniscule amounts with much drama, sighing, and hair flipping. I tell you, this girl will make an excellent teenager.

This afternoon she and I were in her room. I was helping her get her swimsuit on. Not to rub it in, but we've had some great weather and the kids wanted to swim after Ava got home from school. As I'm getting her ready, she says, "Mom, I don't think I wanna go to school tomorrow." I ask her why, and she doesn't want to tell me. Oh dear, I'm thinking. We've had such a great transition to kindergarten. All of the little girls in her class are really sweet, there's been no cattiness. Has that come to an end? What's happened? I'm picturing some traumatic event on the playground or something. So I question her a little more and finally, she throws herself down on her bedroom rug, putting her arm over her face. "They're giving away apples at the canteen tomorrow during morning tea. And I don't want one!"

So, let me get this straight. The school is giving away apples. And if anyone wants an apple, they can walk to the canteen during the morning tea break and get one. You don't have to get an apple. There is no jack-booted Apple Gestapo to come force them upon you. They're just available. And this is why you don't want to go to school tomorrow. I confirm all this with her. So I say, "Babe, during morning tea, just go up to the playground with your snack like you usually do. No one is going to force you to eat an apple." I hope you admire my restraint in not saying, "It's an apple, for the love! They're not asking you to handle vipers or anything!!"

Apparently the presence of fruit on her primary school campus is too upsetting to deal with. Fruit and the social pressure to eat it. It's a powerful force. I tried to reassure her that no one is going to be paying attention to whether or not she goes and gets an apple. But she is her mother's daughter: all too consumed with doing the right thing and worried about what others might think.

And speaking of my issues, three times today I freaked myself out when I walked into our backyard and saw this:

It wouldn't be completely unheard of to have a lizard this size in our yard. Or in our house, for that matter. Remember this?

That's why today, every time I went out there, my immediate reaction was that there was a big ol' lizard in our yard. But it isn't. It's Nate's toy crocodile that he has poised on the wall there. I know that, you see. But knowing it doesn't keep me from startling each time I see it.

You might ask why I don't move it out of the way, or chuck it into the bushes or something. It's a perfectly reasonable question. One for which I do not have an answer.

And on a related note, if you're looking at the first photo and wondering if that's a muddy, stained baby bathtub in our backyard, why yes! It is! We feel it is our mission to bring a little more redneck to the Sydney suburbs. Just doing our part. I cropped out the part where you could see Nate's underwear hanging over the back of a chair. We are nothing but klass.

Update: Jason just read this and informed me that there is, in fact, a big ol' lizard living in the bushes back there. He and Nate saw it skittering into the grass yesterday. It's about as long as the toy croc, but not as "husky", he says. Maybe that's why Nate is leaving his crocodile there. I'll let you know if I meet him.