Thursday, October 28, 2010


We're heading out today for the weekend. We're having a weekend away with our church in Wollongong. Church camp, everybody! Woohoo! Like band camp, but no tubas. Here's Wollongong:

It's a beach town just an hour or so south of Sydney. Lovely. But please don't make the mistake I did when we first moved here and say, "Wall-un-gong". Even though that's what it looks like. Cause people will snicker at you, like they did at me. It's "Woo-lohn-gong". These wacky Australians. Also, Cairns is pronounced "Cans". What gives?

Anyway, Jason left last night with Ava and Nate--they were gonna camp out. Grace and I don't camp. So we stayed home and we're joining them this afternoon, after I teach my scripture class at the high school. It rained in Wollongong last night, so camping out didn't happen. This did instead:

Ha! Love that.

It's always crazy trying to get out of town, and Jason keeps texting me more stuff to bring. Bike Helmets, swim goggles, extension cords. I need to get out of here before he comes up with more stuff.

But this, my friends, I will be packing for sure:

The new Lee Child book is out! And just in time. I've blogged about Jack Reacher and his wild, justice-seeking ways before. They involve: stopping at nothing, broad shoulders, striding purposefully, and percolated coffee. Oh, and pure awesomeness. Becky has a great post up today about the books. Why haven't you been reading these? Your life is surely lacking as a result. I say this as your friend. Anyway, I'll try not to neglect the kids or our friends this weekend as I devour the book.

Enjoy the rest of your week! xoxo

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween in Oz...or not.

When we moved here 5 1/2 years ago, Halloween was not a big deal at all. The stores didn't have decorations, and at least in our part of Sydney, no one dressed up or trick-or-treated. I remember our first Halloween here--I had a two year old and a two week old, and I was perfectly happy to not have to do it all!

Over the last few years, though, I've noticed that more people and more of our grocery stores and shops are getting into Halloween. I've heard about some neighborhoods that go all out, with every house decorated. And though it's nothing like what it is in the States, there's a lot more Halloween chatter and activities going on. It's been interesting to watch it gradually catch on here.

Yesterday, Grace and I were at Woolworth's (our local grocery store) and I saw this:
Good news is, you can get a Halloween pumpkin for your very own self. Bad news is, you gotta pay 25 bucks for it. I stood there and laughed to myself in the produce section. Because there is no way, noooooo way, that I am paying $25 for a pumpkin. Not gonna happen.

Thankfully, our kids don't know what they're missing. They don't know that their cousins in America will go out trick-or-treating and come home with 8 pounds of candy. Last year, we visited about 4 houses--all friends of ours--and came home. Ava and Nate were happy, and so was I. Easy peasy.

A few nights ago, I was at a preschool committee meeting and the subject turned to Halloween. Most of the moms there were ambivalent about it, but a few were adamant. They didn't like Halloween and didn't see the point of it. It wasn't really because of their religious views, as is often the case in the States with people who don't participate in Halloween. It was more like, why do people do this? What's the point? Plus,isn't this an American thing? You can imagine that, if you didn't grow up doing it yourself, the idea of dressing your children up and sending them out to countless houses asking for candy is a little bizarre. One lady said her husband was caught unaware by some hopeful trick-or-treaters last year and all he had to give them was dried figs. Ha! Awesome.

Because we're pastors, people sometimes ask us what we think about Halloween. Jason's birthday is on October 31st, so you can imagine how great Halloween was for him as a kid. I think he was probably 12 before he realized that all the costumes and candy weren't just for him. We both grew up dressing up and going trick-or-treating and it was lots of fun. I am reasonably certain that I didn't accidentally worship the devil in the process. But I get why people are concerned. I understand that it's disturbing for some. So when people ask my opinion about Halloween--which doesn't happen so often over here--I usually say that if it bothers them or violates their conscience in any way, don't do it.

For us, we allow our kids to trick-or-treat. But I don't like making a huge deal of Halloween. Mostly cause I don't want Christmas to just seem like that other thing we decorate the house for. Know what I mean? And also, cause I ain't paying $25 for a pumpkin.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not *strictly* an emergency

Oh my, waking up in a house with no peanut butter.

It is unpleasantness that I would not wish on anyone. Need I say, toast with jam Does Not Cut It.

There ought to be a red phone for situations like this. "It's 7:30 in the morning and I have no peanut butter. Send in the helicopters!"

I hope that you have a great weekend, enriched with peanutty goodness. Unless you are allergic. In that case, I hear that almond butter is nice.

Edited to add: I have been sitting here thinking of all the other areas of life that should have red phones. Like, "I'm too tired to get off the couch and go to bed!", or "This tupperware container is full of 2 week old leftovers!", or "I have to act like I know what this meeting is about!" What are some of yours?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Getting ready

This morning I took Nate to kindergarten orientation. For those of you in other parts of the world, our school year begins at the end of January. So, about this time, schools hold events for the next year's kindergarten students to come check it out. The kids play while the teachers observe, and the principal talks to the parents.

Nate kept telling me he was "embarrassed to go", but I think he meant "nervous". Sometimes there's not much difference between the two, I guess. Once we entered the classroom though, he pointed at some construction toys and said, "Look! We have those at preschool! Bye, Mom."

Well, okay then. It's bittersweet, but also an extraordinary relief when your kid can separate from you without too much stress or anxiety. Makes me feel like we've done something right. Of course, earlier that morning while Nate and I were dropping Ava off at her class, he found a rock the size of his head, picked it up, and was poised to throw it. So, maybe a need for improvement there.

After the program, there were cupcakes with each child's name on them, balloons in the school colors, and rainbow popcorn. Maybe kindergarten won't be so bad after all.

This is one of those moments in parenting where you marvel: how do the years speed by when many of the days seem so long? Speaking of bittersweet.

I think I need a cupcake.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stuff to do when you're quarantined. (If you're 5.)

It's been a quiet few days around here. And though I would've never wished for it, it's actually been nice to be at home and catch up on some things I've been neglecting. Usually, our week is full of kid activities, church activities and meetings, and school stuff that many days, I just do the basics around the house. But the past few days, I've been catching up on laundry! And mopping! And organizing! It feels good. Nate's last day of quarantine is tomorrow, and Ava was back to school yesterday.

The kids have done pretty well with being home so much, although I know they miss their friends. Here are some things we've done to keep them entertained over the past few days...

1. Kids' Songs on You Tube.
Grace doesn't sit still long to watch TV, but she loves watching stuff on our laptop! All three kids sat the other morning and watched--in perfect, descending height order too! (Told you I've been organizing!) Here's some cute ones I'd recommend to entertain your young child:
--The Elephant Song, by Eric Herman. Very cute little song with illustrations.
--Little Red. This is a song/cartoon about a race horse. Ava loves this one.
--The Duck Song(s). Here's Part One, Part Two, Part Three. These are silly songs about a duck looking for grapes. I know that sounds weird, but you just have to see it for yourself.

2. Enjoying Nature/Screaming at Birds

Our once-neglected bird feeder is now the hottest spot in town. Yeah baby, cockatoos flying in from all over town to hit that. Nate can't help himself...when he sees one outside at the feeder, he creeps outside and gets as close as he can. Then he yells at the top of his lungs. Then he laughs while the bird flies away, screeching. I told him that cockatoos are pretty big and that he better be careful. He might make them mad. Yet, he is undeterred.

3. Staying in your jammies

The kids have really enjoyed the laid back life of quarantine. When no one wants to come over to your house and people run screaming from your wheezing cough, why get dressed? Ava was pretty bummed to have to put on her uniform and go back to school yesterday. We've enjoyed relaxing a little more. Hey, ya gotta make the most of these situations.

4. Water balloons.
My friends, because I love you, I have just given you a piece of childcare GOLD. Why hadn't I thought of this sooner? Water balloons are the answer! The answer!! We'd bought these for Nate's ill-fated birthday party and got them out yesterday. The kids had so much fun throwing them off our balcony to the driveway below. After dinner, we went in the backyard and threw them at each other. Then this morning, Nate was throwing more onto the driveway. This, combined with a few cans of silly string from the dollar store have been the highlights of the week.

And it reminded me of how fun that stuff is. When was the last time you used up a whole can of silly string or chucked a water balloon? It was liberating.

And that is how we're surviving around here, along with the usual suspects: Lego tower building, DVD watching, and mess making. You know you've been home a long time when the kids fight over who "gets to" go get the mail. Wild times over here.

So after tomorrow, we're back in the swing of things. That's good news. Even better news? The doctor informs me that all three kids will likely have this cough for three months. That just made my day. Cause I was really hoping to get more dirty looks at the grocery store.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hey, guys! Party at my house--BYO hacking cough!

So, like I told ya, I took Ava and Grace on Tuesday morning to be swabbed for whooping cough. Then, which I didn't tell ya, I got up at 4:30 on Wednesday morning and caught a flight to see my good friend Olivia. She lives in a small town right over the state line in Victoria. Olivia has 5 kids and is pregnant with her 6th. And yet, she still finds time to iron. I wanted to go sit at her feet and beg for wisdom. I'd been planning to go see her, sans kids, for awhile and had already booked this trip. Tuesday night, I told Jason that I'd cancel and stay with the kids, but he encouraged me to go. It was just for 48 hours anyway, and he could manage. The kids probably didn't have whooping cough and Ava would be at school most of that time.

Except they do. I left to see my friend, and then on Wednesday afternoon our GP called me. "You've got a fun week ahead!" she told me, adding that I could come pick up the prescriptions. The girls would need to be quarantined for 5 days, and if any of us started coughing too we'd need to get on the antibiotics. Of course, I'm getting this call 6 hours away from Sydney, so I called Jason, and he picked up the medicine and got the partay started.

So, in our case at least, here's what quarantine means. The kids are on antibiotics for 7 days. For 5 of those days, they can't really be around anyone outside of our family. Definitely no school, no public play areas where other kids are playing, etc. If we have to run to the grocery store or something, we can take them--well, I'm not sure if that's official, but we've had to--we just make sure that they don't touch anything. We're in and out of there, like Navy SEALs or something. After 5 days, they can re-enter society.

Later on Wednesday, a nurse from the Public Health Service called me to make sure we'd gotten the antibiotics and to find out if the kids had been around any infants or pregnant women since they'd been sick. I asked her why they got sick since they'd been vaccinated. It seems, she told me, that vaccines don't necessarily keep you from getting sick if the illness is in the population. But they make it much, much less worse. I guess whooping cough sticks around from people who don't get vaccinated? All those crunchy, granola types who don't believe in vaccines? That's fine for them, but I didn't realize it would make my kid sick! (I'm kidding, crunchy no-vaccine people! I like granola, too.) Anyhoo.

I've been away on a trip without my kids 3-4 times in their little lives. And it amazes me, but each time, they manage to get sick. And these are remarkably healthy children who rarely get sick. My standings in the Mother of the Year contest fall a little lower each time. Jason handled it all beautifully--I offered to change my flight and fly home Thursday, but he said fuhgeddaboutit. He didn't even subtly try to make me feel guilty! Yet more proof that he is a better person than I am.

But I'm back in the saddle now! I flew home Friday morning and resumed my post. Nate was able to go to preschool Thursday and Friday, as he hadn't been coughing. We were assured that until the cough begins, a person isn't contagious. Friday afternoon, I went to pick him up. "Hi, Mom!" he called out, with the voice of a 60 year old chain smoker. Uh-oh. He had gotten a cold over the course of the day, with the inevitable cough creeping in last night.

So, Nate started on the antibiotics, too! His 5 days begins today, and ends Wednesday. I have a prescription for myself, but haven't needed to fill it yet. Are you confused yet? My GP laughed at me when I called her. And, bless Nate, I'm going to cancel his birthday party again, cause we'll still be on quarantine. There's always next year! I think we'll be eating frozen monster truck cake for a few weeks, though. You want some? Come stand in my driveway, and I'll drop some down from the balcony. It's safe, I swear.

All in all, it's not so bad. Quarantine while you have DVD's, high speed internet, and spring weather is definitely bearable. Ava will be able to go back to school on Monday and I will dip our entire house in hand sanitizer. That's the plan.

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Birthday, a Frozen Cake, and an Epidemic: Just a Regular ol' Tuesday!

Today our Nate is five!

Somehow, someone replaced my little baby with a big boy who has, like, opinions and stuff. This is what he wanted to wear for church on Sunday. Nate is equal parts barbarian, comedian, nudist, and sweetie pie. Little boys are just about the best thing ever.

Nate was born just three months after we moved here. When I look at him it's hard for me to believe--both that he is turning 5 and that we have been here more than 5 years! I posted some about his birth here, and here is how I know he is our first true-blue Aussie: he hates wearing shoes, he loves hot chips, and he likes to party. (See first paragraph re: nudity.)

Speaking of parties, we've had to postpone Nate's birthday party for a week. I wasn't planning a big bash, just a few friends to come over and eat cake and shoot silly string at each other. But Ava developed a wicked cough over the weekend, which may or may not be whooping cough. There's something of an epidemic in Northern Sydney, so I took her to be tested today. The doctor advised, and I agreed, that we probably shouldn't have 7 kids over when whooping cough might be present. Like, "Hey kids! Forget candy--for your party favors this year, you get an infectious disease!"

Don't worry...for a healthy child Ava's age, whooping cough isn't dangerous--just very contagious. If she has it at all, she'll need to be kept away from other kids till she's been on the antibiotics a few days. Grace is also coughing a bit so we had her tested as well, just as a precaution. But we are all fine.

My main concern at this particular moment is how to freeze a frosted sheet cake. I'd already baked and decorated Nate's cake last night, and there's no way I'm baking another for next week! Here's my plan: put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes to harden the icing, wrap it in something (foil?), put it in a covered metal tin, then stick it in the freezer. What do you think? Anyone tried this?

So wish me luck y'all. I'll let you know how all that works out. And prayers, crossed fingers, and pixie dust, please--that Ava and Grace are free from whooping cough. Thanks! xoxo

Friday, October 8, 2010


Here are a few living things that visited us in the last two days! What am I, Snow White or something? I will add, however, that none of them helped with any housework. Maybe I should sing more?

Lovely Rainbow Lorikeets. We had probably half a dozen perched on our balcony. Nate and Ava were so excited. You can see the bread there that they put out to try and keep them there longer. Can you believe how intensely colored they are? So pretty.

This one seemed a little mad at me. This was taken without a zoom lens, so I was just standing there right in front of him. He was kinda rocking back and forth and clicking his tongue. Is that lorikeet for "Step off, human!"? Who knows?

Okay, now for the slightly creepy ones.

Sorry for the picture quality! I wasn't quite as willing to get close to this one. This is a green snake that Jason spotted on our driveway day before yesterday. We have a garage that we use for storage (as in, it doesn't lead directly to the house and we don't park the car in it) and Jason saw it about to go in there. Yikes! He caught it, being the mensch that he is. I looked it up on my phone and we determined that it was probably a Green Tree Snake. (It's hard to tell from the photo, but the snake was a pretty vivid green color.) This snake, the internets assured us, was non-venomous. So, Jason took it to the bushland across the street and let it go. If you love something let it go, and all that.

Have I mentioned that Australia is home to more venomous snakes than any other place in the world? That was the first thing my Dad said to me when I told him we were moving to Sydney. Well, actually the first thing he said was, "Damn!" But then he told me about the snakes. I've been told they're pretty nice once you get to know them.

And ya know, this is the first snake we've seen near our house in over 5 years of living here. My neighbor came out on her balcony while all this snake catching was going on. We grimaced a little at the snake, and she asked me, "So, would you be more upset to find a snake or a rat in your house?" "A rat," I answered with no hesitation. Don't get me wrong--a snake would freak me out to no end, but y'all know how I am about rats. I know that's irrational. Aren't we humans mixed-up creatures? I like to think it's charming. (Is it?)

And then yesterday, we spotted this guy on the driveway.

I know! What's with all the animals? I think the warmer weather is causing everyone to come out. I'm not sure what kind of lizard this is, but I do know they're pretty common. I see them skittering around from time to time. They keep to themselves though, which is fine by me. They're a bit skittish, but I wanted to get you a better shot. Do you see how I have your best interests at heart? Here's a shot Jason took of me trying to get a closeup:
Grace insisted on coming along. As bait. Oh come on, I'm kidding. And yes, Jason took a picture of me taking a picture of something. Internet, we only thought of you. But here's the money shot, yo:
He's probably about a foot long, from head to tail. He skittered off right after I took this, I think cause Grace growled at him. No, really. She growls at any animal she sees right now--birds, cats, dogs. And now lizards. Really knowing Grace, are we surprised? She'll cut you.

So that's what's been happening here. Jason and I defending our home and children from all manner of critters. Ah, the wilds of suburban Sydney.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This means trouble

I'm down in Darling Harbour with the kids today. It's school holidays right now, so there are lots of extra activities going on for kids.

Grace has, true to form, stolen my ice cream cone. She wasn't content to let me spoon feed little bits to her. And then, when I put my hand out and asked to have it for a bite, she looked at me. Then she threw it at me. Seriously--she hurled it from the stroller and it landed on my jeans. Then she screamed for me to give it back.

Clearly, I'm doing something wrong here. I thought I'd met my match when Ava was a toddler. But Grace has a few tricks up her sleeve, I think.

Send help.

Monday, October 4, 2010


This is but a small portion of my current domestic state.
The kids wrought havoc on our Guess Who Game. So, now Bernhard and Maria and Philip are strewn all over the carpet. And poor Alfred--God only knows where he is by now. Grace likes pulling books off our shelves. A spiky dinosaur waits there for me to step on him in my bare feet. That sensation is only slightly less worse than the pinnacle of toy-related foot injuries: the midnight Lego crossing. Oh, the agony.

And, moving into the kitchen, my crumb-encrusted table.

The kitchen table seems to be the perfect place for Nate's swimming goggles and broken sword. And left over foil from Ava's fairy tiara.

This is the definition of a mommyblog, isn't it? Talking about how the house is a mess? I am the stereotype, aren't I? I texted Becky the other day after my shoe post--something like, "I can't believe I just posted about shoes." And she wrote back, "A momblogger saying that is like Paul saying, 'I can't believe I just wrote about Jesus!'" Well, there is that.

I am not sure that any of it is getting cleaned up today! Remember that Monday Malaise that I told you about before? The kind of emotional and physical tiredness that sets in for pastors after a weekend? Well, I'm feeling it today. It's all good, nothing is wrong or anything. I'm just so very not motivated to organize, clean or straighten.

Plus, I felt kind of sick all weekend--there's a tummybug going around. I woke up very early Saturday morning with Grace. As I was making her bottle, my stomach started to cramp. Then it got worse as I gave her her bottle. Then it got worse. And by "worse", I mean worse. I stumbled with her into our playroom and lay on the floor. And you know how pain can make you irrational? The cramping felt enough like labor pains that I actually thought to myself, "Wait--I can't be in labor right now...can I?" Like I wasn't sure! I actually had to tell myself that no, there was no way I could have been pregnant for the previous 9 months and not known it. (Y'know, ya hear those stories!) I went back to bed for a few hours and really feel fine now. So yeah, that probably contributes to me not wanting to clean today. But at least for now I know right where Nate's swimming goggles are!

I'm thinking about chocolate cake, though, as a healthy alternative to housework. That could be just the ticket. This is a really nice recipe. To have in moderation of course. Ahem.

Hope y'all had a great, less-weird weekend!

P.S. I know what you're thinking, especially cause I mentioned chocolate cake cravings. No, I'm not pregnant. Really. Yes, I'm sure.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"What Springtime Means to Me", by Amy

Well for one thing, it means that I finally get to wear these shoes!
Peeptoe+Bright Plaid+Rope Wedges=Instant Glee

I bought these at Target when I was in Atlanta last April. Of course, when I returned to Sydney winter was just beginning. So my new shoes had no choice but to languish in my closet, still tied together with that little elastic band. (Klassy, I know.)

And whenever I'd go to get my Uggs out, or my boots, or my running shoes, these new shoes would look hopefully up at me. Sort of like this:
"Not much longer now, my darlings," I'd whisper to them.

Last Sunday, I decided that The Time Had Come. I wore them to church and felt very sassy. After the service, one of the girls came up to me and exclaimed, "I couldn't stop staring at your shoes!" And I was like, "I know! Aren't they adorable??" And then we brushed each other's hair.

I'm sure some of you are chuckling at me just a little bit. Maybe you're not a shoe person? But I'm sure you have something that gives you a little dose of joy when you use it, cook with it, read it, or drive it. It's the little things, you know?

And that's what springtime means to me. Thank you for listening.