Monday, May 31, 2010

Well that was unexpected.

I'll be back soon to show you a few fun pictures from our week away, but first I need to tell you about our trip home.

We were due to drive home on Saturday--a 5 hour drive in total--and stop in at a friend's 40th birthday party on the way home. Our good friends have recently bought a farm about an hour out of Sydney and they were having the party out there. Roasted lamb on a spit, bonfires, barbecue under the stars, cattle lowing in the get the picture. It's a lovely idea and we were excited to be at the farm and check it all out.

Except it was pouring rain on Saturday. So, we weren't sure what would happen with the bonfires and the stars, but we found our way off the freeway, through some lovely, sodden countryside to their mailbox, at the end of a long, muddy driveway. We parked the cars in a grassy field and walked up the driveway to the property, where a tent was set up and the party was in full swing.

I am so glad we went. Really, I am. I love these friends of ours. But this whole evening was a comedy of errors--the kind that is really only funny when it's all over. We traipsed up the driveway and with each step I realized how inappropriately attired we were. I don't mean there was a dress code. I mean that my New Balance-d feet were not equipped to deal with the mud, the puddles and the tall grass. I mean, serious mud. This mud would kick your mud around the block and then eat it for breakfast. Or something. I think by the time we took two steps Nate was wet and muddy up to his knees.

A lot of the other women there had the quintessential Aussie gear on to keep the rain and mud at bay. These hats:

And of course, gum boots:
It was very ranch-hand chic. And here I was in my muddy tennis shoes, missing out on a chance to rock one of those hats. My head is abnormally large though, so I'm not sure if I could pull it off. But I digress.

Once we were under the tent and had greeted our friends, Jason came up to me. "Hey--can I get the keys to the van from you?" (I had been driving, you see.) And guess what I said? "Um, I don't have the keys. I left my purse in the car." He looked at me. He looked at me some more. "You didn't bring your purse?" "No," I said getting a wee bit defensive, "You were rushing me out of the car!" It was one of those marriage moments.

So, yes. We were out in the country, in the rain, with no way to get into our car. Incidentally, the kids' heavier jackets and all the food and diapers I had for Grace were in the car also. So, that was awesome. Amazingly though, when Jason called the auto club people, they had a guy who was just 20 minutes away. That was seriously a miracle. Like a magical mud elf, he found his way through those windy roads and unlocked our car. Marriage saved.

A few hours later it was time to go. We tiptoed down the muddy driveway in the dark, squishing merrily all the way. Both cars were full of our holiday luggage, it had been a long day of driving and we were all ready to be home and dry. We got everyone strapped in and then spent a few fun moments freeing the van from the mud. It was pretty dicey there for a bit.

On the road now, driving back towards the highway, I said to Jason, "Well, it's been an adventurous day." As I said that, I felt something a little ticklish on my ankle. I reached down and (am I making you nervous?) felt a squishy, soft blob on my ankle.

"Stopthecar! Stopthecar!" Have I mentioned that I am not a hardy, outdoorsy type? "What is it?" Jason asked, pulling off to the side. "I---have a leech. I have a leech on me. There is a leech on my ankle." Jason put the car in park. "Seriously?" "YES!", I said. "And I am freaking out a little bit and I need you to come get it off. Now. Right now get it off right now." I'd given it a little pull and it hadn't moved and then I just couldn't do it again. Have I mentioned that I can be squeamish?

Jason opened the door and came around to my side of the car. His dad, driving our other car, pulled up alongside. "Amy's got a leech!", Jason sang out into the night. "Check the kids!" So, that was also awesome. He grabbed a baby wipe (is there anything you can't use baby wipes for?) and pulled the leech off my ankle. It stuck to his hand for a moment and then came off. A heebie-jeebie shudder went through my body and then I was okay. I gave Nate, who was riding in the other car a thumbs-up. He was worried.

The next day Nate and I were at the store and he said in a loud voice, "Mom, I'm sorry you had to get that worm." "It's okay, buddy," I said, looking around. "Mom, why did you have that worm?", he said at full volume. Then, I disappeared through a hole in the ground.

I am going to buy some gum boots this week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Out of the mouths of little dudes

Hands down, the highlight of this holiday for Nate has been the discovery of how to burp on command. We're not sure how, but all of a sudden, he sure can let 'em rip. In all sorts of locations, in all sorts of company. Charming, truly. Immediately after, he grins cheekily and says, “ 'Scuse meeee.”

Our kids think that saying “excuse me” or “sorry” is like a get-out-of-jail-free card. It doesn't matter what action preceded those magic words, if you purposely pinched your sister or belched like a longshoreman,“excuse me” gives you instant immunity from all consequences. In their minds, anyway. “Ava,” I'll say, “Why did you just shove Nate to the ground?” She'll look at me like I'm speaking Mandarin, “I said I was sorry.”

So yeah, we're working on that. But the burping. Oh my, the burping. These are not little ones that just slip out. They are great, joyous, cavernous belches. They are repeated. I can tell that Jason is at war with himself when it happens. Part of him feels the need to rise to the occasion as a parent and manage the situation and the other half (the half that usually wins out) is all, “Wow, Nate—nice one!” Like one dude admiring another dude's riding lawnmower or something.

Two nights ago at dinner, Nate opened his mouth and let fly a terrific belch. I think he is some kind of prodigy or something. We're very proud. Jason told him that burping at the dinner table is rude. “I said 'scuse me',” Nate said. “That's good”, Jason said. “But it's better to not do it at all, especially when you're sitting and eating with other people.”

“Dad,” Nate said, “When a burp come, it come.” The whole table erupted in laughter and Nate, clearly delighted with himself, carried the day. It's hard to argue with that logic.

These wacky kids. I tell ya.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

First Night Away

We're all away from Sydney for a few days on a little holiday with Jason's parents. We're in lovely Port Macquarie, which is about 5 hours north of Sydney on the coast. It's real purty. See?

Last night was our first here, and if you've travelled with small children, you know that the first night anywhere usually turns out to be interesting. Here's a brief run-down of our night.

6:30pm: After a hearty cry, Grace falls into exhausted sleep.
8pm: Ava and Nate in their room reading stories. (They each have a twin bed in the room across from Jason, Grace and I.)
8:15pm: Ava is dosed up with cold medicine, kids are tucked in, and it's lights out. (By lights out, I mean that I have to find a way to put the bedside lamp between them on the floor so that it's enough light for Nate, not too much for Ava and not a fire hazard. This takes about 5 minutes.)
8:22pm: Nate says he's "not comfy".
8:30pm: Ava is still coughing
8:40pm: Asleep!
9:30pm Grace wakes up, re-insert paci.
(Allow me to write a brief note to the inventors of the Nuk: Dear brilliant pacifier technicians: I love you. I always have. Please, please don't ever change. I never believed all that stuff the others said about you, anyway. You have been my near-constant companion these 6 years. Thank you--God bless you and the work you do.)
10:45pm Jason and I creep stealthily into our room where Grace sleeps in the corner and try to go to sleep. "Sleep quieter!" I say to him, but only in my mind. Because I don't want to make any noise.
11:30pm Grace wakes up, re-insert paci (We ask ourselves: Is she hot? Cold? Is she "not comfy"?)
1:44am Ava wakes up with a stuffy nose, says she can't go back to sleep. I tell her to try. (Isn't that helpful advice?
2:12am Ava still can't go back to sleep. Jason goes in there and tells her to try. Inexplicably, this seems to work.
Half-past I've Stopped Looking at the Clock: Grace cries out, Jason does the paci thing.
Quarter till Really? You're Waking Up Again?: Nate calls out, has to be readjusted.
Five minutes after I Hate My Life and Everyone In It: Nate gets up to go potty, runs into the wall and gets a bloody nose. Jason crams tissues up his little nostrils and we put him back to bed.
I think I'm leaving out a few Grace wake-ups, but you get the point.

Finally at about 6am, Nate is up for good. Jason gets up with him. Grace is up at 6:30 and Ava shortly thereafter. And here we are! It's a beautiful morning on our holiday and Jason and I feel like we got run over by a truck. A truck filled with snotty, bloody, peeing children. (Who, of course, we love dearly.)

There's something about being up in the night with kids. At some point, you don't really care if you go back to sleep, you just want it to be morning. You long for the daylight. Because the night seems to go on forever and everything that happens in it seems so surreal. It's always a relief when daylight starts peeking around those hotel curtains. At least with three kids now, I don't freak out about it like I used to. I can almost be amused about it at 3am. Almost.

Well, we have approximately ten hours to re-group and strategize for tonight. Part of our plan is to run the kids up and down the beach until they are too exhausted to move. That usually helps.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

People actin' like they got no mama

Jason and I've gotten to go out quite a bit lately. His parents are in town and we have been making full use of their babysitting capabilities. It's like I always say, there's no one you can impose on like family. And so when they're on this side of the planet, we do!

Friday night, we went out to dinner and to see Robin Hood. Unlike most movies, this one had the same release date in Australia as it did in the States. Most of the movies here are released a month or so after their US release date. So I'll hear of my family or friends going to movies that I haven't even heard of yet. And then, if I mention to an American friend or someone in my family that we're going to a movie, they're all, "Oh, how cute that you're so excited to see that movie. It's not even in theaters anymore here." And then I'm all, "Oh, really? Huh. I must've been too busy enjoying my free health care to notice." And then I stick my tongue out.

That last part about what they say and what I say and then me sticking out my tongue may mostly be in my head. But anyway, am I still talking?

Your local shopping mall on a Friday night exhibits a rich tapestry of humanity. Regardless of what country you live in, mall culture has some universal qualities. Dontcha think? There was the Couple With Too-Young Children in the theater. They had two boys with them, probably 4 and 6. They were noisy and climbing over the seats. Let's ask ourselves, is it a good idea to bring really young kids to a 2 1/2 hour movie that isn't kid-friendly? I'll answer that for you. No, it probably isn't. It's annoying to the other people and a little unfair to expect little kids to sit still for that long. Late at night. Just sayin'.

There were the Row of Unruly Teenagers Near the Front. They were young enough to have been dropped off at the mall by their parents and, as the movie started, appeared to have no actual interest in it. That was awesome. Then, the Single Dudes Travelling as a Pack walked in. They were in their late 20s and it seemed important to them that everyone in their vicinity knew that they were funny--yes, funny but not in the common way!--and smart. How fortunate we were that they wanted to share their extensive knowledge and witticisms with us! And as we watched this unfold around us, waiting for the movie to start, Jason and I had the "What is it with people?" conversation. Do you ever have that conversation? Not so much about the teenagers. I mean, who hasn't acted stupidly when you were 14 and got to be out on your own? But yeah, kind of about everybody else. We didn't really harp on it--the movie started and although the teenagers at the front left in a herd about halfway through, everyone else pretty much settled down.

When the previews started though, something was "off" with the screen. The projector was shifted, so that only half the picture was showing. We waited a few minutes to see if it would right itself. It didn't. We all did that, again, universal look back at the projector thing. The Single Dudes starting yelling about it. Someone else in the theater yelled back, "There's no one up there!" The Too Young Kids were tossing popcorn and being ineffectively shushed by their parents. But no one got up to go tell anyone about the screen. Jason looked around and said, "Nobody else is gonna go tell them, are they?" "No, they're not, I said. "But they will keep yelling." "Yeah," he said. "It's diffusion of responsibility," I said. "Yeah. What is it with people?" he said, sighing and getting up to inch his way past about a dozen people to the aisle.

But other than that, we had a very nice time. And we felt a little smug. But only for a minute.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I accidentally made a big boy.

Yesterday I took Nate to get a haircut. He loves to get his haircut and was begging me to take him all through lunch. We whipped in there and I plopped him down in the big chair.

I don't want it very short, I told the young miss who would do the job. I like it longish, I just want a little length taken off and his bangs trimmed so he can see. (However, instead of "bangs" I said "fringe". Because I am culturally relevant.)

I said all that and then stood back. She started cutting, I was busy doing a few other things (cough, texting, cough) and then she was done. And Nate's hair was not very "longish" anymore.

Gone are the little curls at the back of his neck. Gone is the classic Nate shagginess. And in its place is a big boy haircut. What happened?

I fell asleep at the switch is what happened. Nate loves it, though. He grinned and strutted through the grocery store when we were finished. But I was a bit sad. He seems like such an older boy all of a sudden. (Until he shakes his bare bottom in my face--then I remember that he is indeed still a little boy.) And I have become the cliche of a mom who mourns every haircut and too-small shoe. Given Becky's recent hair dramas, I am keeping it in perspective. I know this is indeed No Big Deal. I know that It Grows Back. But I miss that little dude haircut.

I am totally letting it grow back.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What Not To Watch While on the Treadmill

Artistic representation only

Please, glean from my experience and avoid these types of TV shows...

1. An ankle being dislocated. (YIKES, you guys. In fact, try to avoid watching this in general. I will say again, YIKES.)

2. A detailed demonstration of how to de-bone a duck. (Though it was informative.)

3. An Enya music video (Remember--the idea is to keep your heart rate accelerated.)

4. Your own feet. Yes, that isn't a TV show, but it makes me dizzy. But maybe that's a personal problem.

5. Infomercials for other exercise equipment. Cause then you start to wonder why you aren't having as much fun as they seem to be having. Plus, the whole idea of watching TV while running is to distract yourself from the fact that you are running. Sheesh!

That's what I got. Any other no-go's?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I admit nothing.

(It hurts to be misunderstood, doesn't it?)

Me: Aren't you glad I'm home? I feel like I need to sense some more gladness right now.

Jason: I'm definitely glad! ...It's just that you've been a bit bossy lately.

Me: (Agog.)

Jason: (Smirking.)

Me: Bossy? Excuse me? I have not been bossy! I have just been resuming my role--hello! Bossy?

Jason: (Smirking, but smirkier this time.)

Me: Well hello, Pot! I'm Kettle! You are like the bossiest person EVER. Ask anybody. I am not.

Jason: Oh, no. I'm not bossy. I always say "Please" and "Thank you".

Me: (Sputtering.)

Me: What do you-- But I always-- Never mind. (Big sigh)

Jason: (Mentally high fiving self)

Post edit: Jason would like me to tell you that, in order for me to write this post, he had to go get the cord for the laptop from the other room. I maintain that I asked very nicely and that he was the one who ran down the battery in the first place.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Back with my peeps

Well, I made it back down under! It takes awhile to get used to walking around upside down again. But other than that, it is good to be home.

It was sad to say goodbye to Becky and my mom and dad, it always is. But I am so grateful that I had the chance to make the trip in the first place, and in that case, it was hard to be too wretched about the whole thing. (By the way, thanks Beck, for being a guest blogger. And thanks for your encouraging email this morning: Okay, I mean, you need to blog. Like, I can't keep doing it for you. I have my own blog to attend to you know.) Don't mind me. I'm just recovering from a nine thousand mile trip. I flew all that way, and boy are my arms tired. (Hilarious. I know.)

The flights home were uneventful. And now, given the chance of flying solo, I have discovered that I can't really sleep on planes anymore. Jason and I used to stay up all night before our international flights and then just pass out once we boarded the plane. We'd crack an eyeball open for meals, but that was about it. Yeah, well. I can't do that anymore. But the good thing is that now, when I'm flying with the kids and not sleeping 'cause I'm walking up and down the aisle with a baby, I won't be as bitter thinking, "I could be asleep right now."

It was great to get home and see the kids! Ava and Nate came with Jason to the airport and we were thrilled to see each other. In the car on the way home, Nate said, "Mom, I missed you 200 meters!" For you Americans, that is about 656 feet. I'm thinking that's a lot of missing.

Grace was a little more ambivalent. When she saw me, the most perplexed look came across her face. I've never seen a baby look perplexed, but there you have it. She let me hold her and warmed up to me as the day went on, but at that first meeting, I could tell she was trying to work out what was going on.

I think I'll eventually be forgiven. I let her play with my phone yesterday so she'd stay on my lap and now it's wigging out. The screen is going all wonky. Oh well. That's the price of motherhood, I suppose.

Happy mother's day, everyone! I am glad to be with my family today, and I hope you can be with the folks you love, too.

Friday, May 7, 2010

There's an Amy-Shaped Hole in My Afternoon

Becky here, sister of Amy. This is my first ever guest post on Matron Down Under. I wonder why I've never posted on here before. Hmmm? Maybe because I've NEVER BEEN INVITED. But now I'm here and there's nothing Amy can do about it, because she's on a plane back to Sydney. Or first to LA and then to Sydney. She left in a flurry of Target bags. I am trying to be brave about it.
What you see in this picture is only a fraction of the stuff she managed to pack. That's the second of two bags. I think she brought one suitcase entirely empty, and then filled it with:

  • Liberty of London for Target dress, girl's dress, man's shirt and boxers, and two pillows
  • Two yards of Ikea fabric
  • Two jars of tomato basil soup from La Madeleine
  • Tons of baby clothes from Gymboree and Kohl's
  • Stuff she took from me while cleaning out my closet
  • Crest Vivid White Toothpaste
  • Antique milk glass vase from a store in North Carolina
  • New exercise clothes bought at TJ Maxx
  • Girl hand-me-downs from Laura
  • KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauce
I said, "I thought y'all had a lifetime supply of barbecue sauce from your last trip home." She said that they'd used it all. I said, "You guys really like to barbecue," and she was all, "It's Australia!"

Another Amy anecdote: Last night we all went to eat at a pizza place, and as the hostess seated us, we were all kind of complaining about how cold it was in there. The hostess said she'd see what she could do, and Amy said, as the hostess left, "I promise you, we aren't really this annoying." I said, "Well we weren't until you said that." She whipped around and hissed, "It's disarming." I started laughing, which ticked her off more, but I just thought it was funny that she had that specific defense ready. People almost never describe themselves as "disarming." That is some heads-up baseball.

And she was right of course. You know, sisters.

I didn't boohoo after she left, because as I told her, I was just so glad she got to come and stay as long as she did. And I am so filled with appreciation for Jason and his mom, who handled the kids all this time. We had a great visit. In addition to cooking, child care, and seeing me through the first two weeks of my chemotherapy (which went really well), she also cleaned and organized my two linen closets, cleaned out Matt's and my closet, did several craft projects, and painted a table.

She also shopped a prodigious amount. I miss her so much already!

I just wanted to pop in and say that she'll be back in the blogging saddle soon, after she flies over all those thousands of miles of ocean. XOXOXO--Becky

Saturday, May 1, 2010

And then, during the cuticle trim, it happened.

Well I, personally, am proud of our accomplishments today.

First, Becky and I got pedicures--courtesy of my mother-in-law. (Thanks, Jan!)

Yes, I thought you might be interested in viewing our freshly painted toes. Mine are the ones in the green flip flops. My dad always makes fun of what he calls my "freakish looking" pinky toes. But I am not ashamed. After all, I can blame genetics for those gimpy toes--I'm sure he's in some way responsible for it.

Becky and I were picking out magazines to read during our pedicures, and in a moment of sisterly synchronicity, chose copies of the same People magazine. And that's when we had a genius idea.

The magazine had two separate snippets: one about teenage mother/minor celebrity Jamie Lynn Spears and one about teenage mother/minor celebrity Bristol Palin. When we saw that, true inspiration hit. We felt a little like Edison must have, when he was all, "Hey--what if I made some light bulb thingys?" Or like when Einstein was like, "Hey--E equals MC or whatever." What if, Becky and I mused, the next big reality TV show followed Bristol and Jamie Lynn getting an apartment together in insert name of big city here and raising their babies together?

Oh, the zany teen misadventures that show would feature! Oh, the crazy misunderstandings! Oh, the fodder for our reality TV driven culture! How has no one thought of this before?

So, when you see it advertised on E! or MTV, remember--you read it here first. Maybe my freaky little toes have are indicative of a good idea gene or something.