Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Things to love about winter

Today was the coldest June day that Sydney has had in 27 years. To my northern hemispherian friends, that must sound totally bizarre. But, it is well and truly winter here.

That said, Sydney winters aren't exactly arctic. Temperatures will go down to freezing at night, but not much below that. Because of generally mild weather, many houses don't have central air or heat--ours is one of them. So, we feel the cold a lot more here, even though the temperature doesn't dip as much as it does elsewhere. When we get up first thing in the morning, I can see my breath in our kitchen while I'm making breakfast. Once the fire gets going, though, it's quite cozy. Today, though, as I shivered and piled layers on myself and the kids, I needed to be reminded of a few things I like about winter here.

1. Our fireplace. It is seriously indispensable! Ours has a little door and then you switch on a fan which blows warm air into the room. And not only that, who doesn't love a fire? We let the kids roast marshmallows in front of the fire sometimes, and we all sit around it in the evenings. So it's like camping--but I get to sleep in my own bed and flush the potty!

2. Grace's blanket sleeper.
She sleeps in it and then we keep her in it until the house warms up a bit in the morning. It's so funny to watch her crawl around in it--she looks like some kind of baby-mermaid hybrid or something. A snuggly baby-mermaid hybrid. And who wouldn't want that? I defy you to resist a bundled up baby. It cannot be done. Cannot.

3. My new crockpot. Slow cookers, they call 'em here. I got one as a wedding gift when we got married--doesn't everyone? I think it's a requirement in the American South. If you don't get a crockpot at one of your bridal showers, it's really time to question whether this relationship is gonna work out. But I left our crockpot in Dallas when we moved to Oz and never got another.

Once it started to get cold this year, I had a craving for stews and roasts and things made with cream of mushroom soup. So I got me a crockpot, y'all! And I forgot how EASY they are. Plus, you feel all virtuous when you turn it on in the morning for dinner that night. "Look at me--so organized! So prepared!" And you'd have to ask Jason, but I'm pretty sure our marriage has improved some since we got it. So, that's a plus.

4. Ava's winter uniform.
Here she is the other day, all bundled up for school. There is much to be said for school uniforms. It certainly makes our mornings easier! I think I've posted about that before. I just love this little plaid dress and tights. I like when little girls look like little girls, y'know?

5. My bed-warmer. No, that's not my nickname for Jason--and stop being so cheeky! I don't really know what you call this, I guess it's just an electric blanket. BUT, it straps to your mattress, under the fitted sheet. It has two controls, so each person can set the temperature at what they want. If you turn it on a few minutes before you get in bed, it is pure heaven. I do not exaggerate. When your bedroom is officially registered as "freaking cold", a toasty bed is dreamy. And having it under you, and not over you--like the other electric blankets I've used, makes a huge difference. Love!

These are a few of my favorite things...winter edition! Please be sure to attend my upcoming lecture, titled Scarves: So Much More Than An Accessory--The Unsung Hero of Winter.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ava's Note to Me

Delivered to me in secret today:

Is there Passive Aggressive Notes website for kids? Maybe I should send this one in.
What do you think?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Have I mentioned that I'm a little bit dumb?

"Who me?" Yes, you!

Evidence from this week, for your consideration...

1. Grace's latest trick is to take whatever she's holding in her hands: a tube of lip gloss, car keys, a hairbrush, a spoon, a rattle, and wave it wildly in your face. She's like, "Look! Things! That I'm holding!" The problem with this is that she will flap her arms crazily and totally whack you in the face with any and all of the aforementioned objects. She does this every time. I know that she will do this if I hand her something to hold and play with while I'm carrying her. I keep getting pummeled. So, why do I keep giving her things to hold? Have you ever wondered how awesome it feels to get smacked on your collarbone with a mobile phone? I will tell you. It does not feel awesome. Dumb.

2. This week, I was walking into Ava's school to pick her up at the end of the day. I noticed an older lady approaching the school from the opposite direction. We smiled at each other, in that kind of I don't know you but we're here for the same reason kind of way. I walked through the school gate a good ten paces ahead of her. And as I'm walking, I start to think that I know her--that she's this particular grandmother of a student and that we've had a few conversations recently. She's still a little bit behind me, but I didn't want to be rude. So, I stopped, turned around and breezily called out, "How are you today?" She blinked. She said, "Pardon?" And then I realized. Crap. It's not the lady I thought it was.

It was one of those weird moments with a stranger--I don't know if you've ever had one--where you accidentally overstep the we don't know each other boundary. And they're kind of going, "Wow aren't you overly friendly?" And they think you're a little weird. And you know that they think you're a little weird. Because you are. So, after she said "Pardon?", I just decided to play through. I repeated my question and then did my best to make a clean extraction. Am I the only one that sees social interactions as a special forces mission? I sped to Ava's classroom. Embarrassing! I have a tendency sometimes to think people are people that they aren't. And then they sort of think I'm an idiot. You know? Dumb.

3. Last night, I met my friend Rosemary for coffee. We stayed out late chatting and it was about a quarter to 11 when I got in the car to come home. I was tired, it was cold outside, and I was ready to get home. I turned the radio up and sped toward home. About 15 minutes into my drive, I started hearing this high-pitched wailing sound. At first, I thought it was the radio. But I turned the music off, and I could hear it even more. It got louder. I couldn't figure out what it was.

Then, I start feeling and hearing this kind of thumping from under the front of the car. And I got scared. I started to feel panic coming on. Now, don't judge me, okay? It was late, it was dark, and the road was lonely. The wailing sound, coupled with the thumping made me think that I had hit something without realizing it. Like, an animal or something. And that it was still alive, stuck under the car. (Dad--stop laughing at me!)

I remember seeing a preview once for a horror movie where these teenagers accidentally hit a hitchhiker with their car. Remember that movie? I didn't see it, but I remember Jennifer Love Hewitt was in it and wore lots of tank tops. As you would, if you're Jennifer Love Hewitt. And like in "The Princess Bride", the hitchhiker is only mostly dead. Major badness ensues. I thought I was having a similar experience. I start to talk to myself and think, Okay, there's an injured something stuck under my car! It's thumping!! What am I gonna do? Ewwww!

All this transpired over about 45 seconds. About this time, I stopped at a red light. The road was deserted, except for one other car who pulled up beside me. The driver, an older man, rolled his window down. I rolled my passenger window down. "Do you know that your car is smoking?", he said. Well, I do now. Why didn't I look at the temperature gauge and realize what was happening? Instead, I assume that there is an evil, wounded hitchhiker and/or a wailing animal stuck under my car, plotting my demise. Dumb. Really dumb.

My dumbness has already made this a long post, but I will tell you that the nice, older man stopped on the side of the road late at night in the freezing cold and put water back into the radiator. (Or whatever it is you put water in. See? Dumb.) And then, when I got back on the road, the car overheated again. I had to ditch the car at midnight, call Jason, and he called my friend Holly to come pick me up.

By that time, I decided I would not tell anyone that I thought I was about to be killed by a crazed wombat or psychopath under my car. Cause, wouldn't you agree, that's kind of embarrassing?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How I get anything done around here.

Be it breakfast-making, sermon preparing, or blog posting...

Amy's steps to productivity: 1) Open cabinet and set baby in front of cabinet. 2) Tiptoe away. 3) Repeat 3-5 times daily.

Oh, and then there's this:

An added bonus to this is that it also involves a time-saver! Now, whenever I need a tissue, I don't need to waste those precious seconds pulling it from the box. Who has time for that? I'm a busy woman, people! I just walk over to the pile on the floor and grab one! Easy!

Would you lose all respect for me if I told you that I've left piles like that for a couple of days? Yes? Okay, then I better not share that.

In other news, Ava's spelling words this term have centered on homophones. (Ya know, words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things: whether, weather, fore, four, etc.) Last night I was looking over her shoulder and saw that one pair of the words is aunt and aren't. I was stumped, and Ava was too. And then I realized that, pronounced with an Aussie accent, they do sound the same. Isn't that funny?

These Australians are so adorable, with their accents and such!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday morning, 8am

Greetings, all. Welcome to the weekend. You made it--well done.

Jason was out errrr-lay for a men's breakfast. It's cold. I am cold. There is coldness in my life right now. Here's what I've done thus far this morning.

--Fed baby yogurt to a moving target. This takes serious skillz, which I totally have.

--Let Nate eat the rest of last night's popcorn. And a gummy bear. This did not take as many skillz.

--Stared impotently at the fire in the fireplace, willing it to be warmer in the kitchen. (It turns out that desperation does not conduct heat. Bummer.)

--Changed a massive poopy diaper. Epic. Too much baby yogurt, perhaps?

--Drank tea.

--Turned off the "auto complete" for search queries on Google. You know what I mean, right? Where it fills in what you're typing with common search queries? It can actually be helpful, but Ava likes to type in questions to Google ("How do you make pencils?" "What is the biggest house in the world?"), and trust me: you do not want Google to help your 6 year old complete those questions. Typing "How do you..." into Google is asking for an education you didn't ask for. If you know what I mean. Be smart, don't start, y'all.

--Watched the thermometer slowly creep upward. C'mon, baby!

That about covers it so far. It's 8:28am. Time to drink more tea and think warm thoughts. Y'all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

iPhone Angst and Angry Bees

Becky posted yesterday about wanting a new iPhone. And I will admit that I sorta want one too. Mostly for the video calling feature. Webcamming is a big part of our lives here, and it would be amazing to be able to just video call our families from wherever we are.**

However, I am not quite as obsessed with the whole idea as Jason is. A couple of weeks ago, when iPads finally became available in Oz, Jason had to go visit them a few times at the store. I think he went 3 or 4 times that first week.

I think it's love. I took this photo and texted it to my sister. "It's a good thing this iPad doesn't have lady parts," I wrote, "Or I think I'd be in big trouble." He is already scheming ways to justify buying one. "I get that it's really cool," I told him. "What I don't get is that if you have an iPhone, and a laptop, why would you need an iPad as well?" He gets genuinely frustrated with me when I say things like this. Maybe it's how Edison felt when folks were all, "We got kerosene! We got candles! Why do we need light bulbs?" Clearly, I do not understand.

Then, one day last week, I walked into the kitchen and saw this:

He's showing them the promo video for the iPhone 4. Jason is indoctrinating the children, though Grace looks pretty skeptical. Ava loved the video, though, and wanted to watch it twice. Which is hilarious to me. The apple doesn't fall far and all that. Ha ha--get it? Apple? Get it? I am hilarious.

You'll have to excuse my randomness. I'm typing this with the World Cup on in the background and all these people in the crowd have some kind of horn or buzzing thing they're using. Have you heard this? It sounds like a massive swarm of angry bees. Actually, that sounds like the setup to a joke: What do you get when you cross a manic soccer fan with an angry swarm of bees? (Leave your answer in the comments!) It's making me a little mental. I just looked it up and apparently they are African horns called vuvuzelas. Soccer fans, I gotta tell you. If you are looking to interest more people in your sport, this is not the way to do it. It makes me want to hurt someone. Clearly, I do not understand.

I need to go lie down now.

**Jason read my post this morning and his only comment was: "Actually, for video calling to work you have to be calling someone else who also has an iPhone 4." He said this while adjusting his array of ballpoint pens in his pocket protector. Well not really, but practically! And I was like, "This totally proves the point of my post. Nerd."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not everyone could pull this off

This was Ava's ensemble yesterday...

Perfect for a winter's day out to our friendly local fast food emporium. But then, when is a faux fur capelet not appropriate?

Winter is well and truly here! More on that later, but when we woke up this morning, it was 10 degrees (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in our kitchen. We don't have central heat so we are using lots of firewood these days! Maybe I need to go buy a cape for myself...

Enjoy your weekend, y'all!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

One Year Old

In what must be a rift in the space-time continuum, Grace is one year old today. I seriously have not had a year go by faster than this last one!

We'll be having a little party this weekend, but Gracie is making her own entertainment today. As an encouragement to all new mothers of infants: take heart. I know your baby can now barely lift her head and can't see more than a foot or two in front of her. But in just a year's time, why, she'll be playing with the trashcan!

"Garbage is sooo amazing!"

You may feel like your efforts to nurture your newborn and give her a sense of her place in the world are having no effect. Well, don't worry--as you can see, Grace has adjusted well to her life on this planet.

So, hang in there. Today, she's struggling to focus on your face. In just 12 months, she'll be licking the side of your garbage can! Aren't babies just amazing things?

In honor of our Gracie's birthday, I'm reposting my first entry about her, which explains why she got her name. Happy Birthday, Grace!

Grace is here! And all is well. She's just a little over 24 hours old, and the tiniest little thing! Her head fits right in my palm--grapefruit sized. When Jason brought the kids up to meet her yesterday, it struck me anew how huge they are in comparison! I mean, Nate just looked like a Mack truck or something.

I'll post more details and pics later--I just wanted to thank everyone for their emails, blogments (did I make up a word?), calls and most of all, prayers. I don't think childbirth could've gone much more smoothly than this. Thanks also to Becky for her sweet post and all the Suburban Matron readers! It was so sweet to read what y'all wrote. We are off to a pretty good start and I am feeling great. I love this hospital--I gotta tell you. They are really wonderful here. The nurses are all just so friendly and so helpful--it's like having all these moms and big sisters around. They call me "sweetheart" and bring me tea. It feels a little like summer camp. But with stitches, less sleep and no mosquitoes. Can I stay forever?

A few years ago, when Nate was still a baby, I was sitting up in bed one night, and had this thought: Your next child will be a girl, and you should name her Grace Elaine. Another baby wasn't really on the radar yet for us, so I tucked that thought away for later. But when we found out that #3 was a girl, we had our name. Elaine is my amazing mama's middle name, and I can think of no better person to name a child after. And Grace--well, grace is one of my favorite ideas/concepts/truths. Realization of what grace is has changed my life forever. So I love that our new baby daughter will be a reminder of that for me.

I just want to include this little "definition" of grace from a spiritual perspective. I love the way that Frederick Buechner worded this, and it's this amazing truth that comes to mind when I think of why we named our little one Grace.

"After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody's much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.

Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do.

The grace of God means something like: 'Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.'

There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can only be yours if you'll reach out and take it.

Maybe being to reach out and take it is a gift too.”

More later. Love y'all!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Children's Television

Jason and I, along with most of the rest of the country, have gotten really into a TV show here called MasterChef Australia. It's a reality show, and as such, whittles down a group of amateur chefs to one winner, through a series of incredibly difficult/crazy culinary challenges. We never watch cooking shows, and neither of us are all that great at cooking. But this show is super-entertaining to watch. One of the reasons I like it so much is that it doesn't focus on drama between contestants or mean-spiritedness. It's just like, "Y'all here's some sheep's brains, beetroot, and a tub of cream cheese. Make something yummy." It's like MacGyver meets Julia Child.

Right now, it airs almost every night of the week, and Ava has started watching parts of it with us. And inexplicably, she loves it! We don't normally let the kids watch any primetime TV--I'm usually not comfortable with some of the commercials or previews of later shows that come on. I mean, you and your kid can be watching a football game or a kid's show early in the evening, and then an ad for "Criminal Intent" or "Law and Order: SVU" comes on. Yeah, that's what my 6 year old needs to see.

But we've been letting her watch MasterChef with us. And she is cracking us up with her commentary. She's some kind of cooking authority, all of a sudden. Last night, she was watching the contestants in the main challenge. They were all shucking oysters or something. One guy was having a hard time, and Ava turned to us and said, "He's giving it a go, and that's what's important." Recalling that episode later, she told us, "I really thought Joanne would have to go home cause her oysters were gritty."

Someone was rolling out the pastry for a lemon tart, and she mused, "That looks too thick." (This is someone who wouldn't know a lemon tart if it hit her in the head. Or eat anything with identifiable lemon in it, either.)

Tonight, we were watching another two of the chefs try to cook 3 major dishes at once, with the clock counting down. Ava was getting really anxious as their time wound down. As the camera zoomed in on one of the guys slicing mushrooms, Ava heaved a big sigh. "They're not multi-tasking!" she said in exasperation. My jaw just dropped. I have no idea where she heard that word. And what's more--she was right!

It was bedtime before the end of the show, and we promised her she could watch the rest online before school in the morning. It was the only way we could get her into bed without serious drama. We are baffled. But at least now she knows that deef fried silken tofu goes nicely with mushrooms and shitake salt and pepper.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Don't even ask me about the rest of the laundry.

Here is just a little slice of how together I am.

Those are two towels and a crib sheet that I washed several days ago and hung out on the line. Later that day, it rained and I forgot to go grab them. Then it didn't rain for a day or so. They stayed on the line. Then it rained again. On the line. Then they dried a little. Then it really really rained a torrential amount yesterday. And I have never bothered to go out and get those towels and wash them again. Or do you think they still count as "clean"?

Yesterday I stood at my kitchen window and stared at the clothesline as the rain soaked that stuff again. I briefly considered dashing out there and grabbing them off the line. And quickly put that idea to rest.

So that's some of my mad housekeeping skillz for you. Don't be jealous--you're only hurting yourself, you know.

Chances of towels coming down today: not looking so good. It's our eleventh anniversary, we're helping some friends move today, and then picking up some other friends at the airport. At some point, I will also be eating chocolate and drinking hot tea. Then, me and my Mister will be stepping out this evening. So as you can see, I really don't have 45 seconds to spare to walk outside, take my sodden towels and sheet off the line and bring them in.

It's a busy, busy life. Or perhaps disorganized, but whatever. What was I talking about?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Birds, Y'all. Birds!

One of the first things that struck me when we moved to Australia was the incredible array of birds here. The first time I saw a sulphur crested cockatoo fly by, I seriously thought that it had escaped from a pet store or someone's birdcage. It just seemed so odd that such fantastic birds should just be, like, hanging out in your average suburban neighborhood. And their screech! Geez. They sound like little velociraptors or something. (See some of those on our porch here!) There's also a bird here--I think it's a raven--that sounds like a baby crying. It took several weeks of us living here before I didn't go check on Ava when I heard it.

One of the most beautiful birds we see here is the rainbow lorikeet. We usually only catch glimpses of them--they fly very fast and are usually pretty high up in the trees. So I've rarely gotten to see them up close. On our holiday last week, we had a large tree outside our balcony and it was often full of lorikeets. They would land on the railing and hang out there. One morning Jason's dad and the kids got to feed some.

I like this one--the way the lorikeets are all lined up, I expect them to put on top hats and do a little dance or something.

I prefer to watch and photograph rather than participate in the bird feedings. For some reason, birds in groups skeev me out a little. This probably does not surprise you. Given my issues with, like, living things. But aren't they beautiful?

So, rainbow lorikeets. A definite highlight from our week away. So much so that Nate pretended to be one and had to be called "Lorikeet" for the next day and a half.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

If this is wrong I don't wanna be right.

I love this T-shirt for kids. I'm not sure why.

It's got the freaky-but-cute thing happening, I guess. I think the bunny ears on the green baby face are adorable. Is that strange?

And since you were wondering, I also enjoyed this:

But then again, don't we all love Vikings?

And this print is one of my favorites. It's called Ava's Tea Party.

Love. Look at the little bunnies and all the cakes on the table. The cricket bat! It reminds me of how I always wanted my own life to look like when I was a kid. (That sounds like I had a sad life or something--but you know what I mean!) I am trying to talk Jason into letting me get it for Ava's room. We'll see how that goes.

All of this is from Lark, this website that I stumbled upon and am now drooling over. Go there and be crushed by the weight of its whimsy. Protective headgear may be in order.