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.)