Friday, December 31, 2010

Busy doing nothing

It's been a lovely week. Seems that doing nothing takes up a lot of time.

We went to the beach yesterday morning. On the way there, I texted my parents, who are in the mountains: "It's December 30th--time to go to the beach!", knowing that it was far from beach weather where they are. Mom texted back that they'd had 10 inches of snow and no water for most of the day. Dad had to thaw out the pipe leading from the well with a hairdryer. I still don't really understand that, but you don't get a lot of details via text message, ya know?

After the hectic pace of the last few months, we have loved doing nothing this week. That nothing includes:

--eating Jason's homemade salsa and Mexican chicken (Yum. Seriously.)
--baking and eating strawberry pie
--going to the beach
--baking and eating cinnamon bread
--thinking about doing laundry
--baking and eating peach crumble
--not doing laundry
--chatting with friends
--watching Anchorman, which I got for Christmas. Truly hilarious movie. Will Ferrell is the gift that keeps on giving.
--and finally, showing Nate's new remote controlled dinosaur to our families on the webcam

Y'all. This remote controlled dinosaur is worth all the angst and heartache I suffered to get him. Santa came through, and thank goodness he did. It's nearly as big as Grace and roars, stomps, growls, belches, lights up, cranes its neck every which way--pretty much everything a 5 year old boy could hope for. And Santa got a pretty good deal on it, too. Woohoo!

In other Christmas news, I surprised Jase with a free 2 hour class at Sydney Trapeze School. No, I'm not kidding. Jason was a diver for many years, and as a result loves spinning through the air, taking death defying leaps, and other generally unwise things. I remember once when we were dating, we were walking through downtown Dallas. He looked up at one of the skyscrapers and mused to me, "Sometimes I wish I could jump off one of those and see how many flips I could do before I blacked out." He seemed surprised to learn that, no, I never wished the same thing. Swimmers and divers are a little nuts, in my experience.

So, I know it seems like a very random gift to give, but he's excited to go learn how to be a Flying Wallenda or whatever. And you can bet your sweet bippy that I will post photos when that day comes.

In the meantime, Happy New Year!! This year, we're going to some friends' house for a BBQ and pool party, and Ava and Nate are begging to stay up till midnight. Do you think it would be totally evil to let them think 10pm was midnight? We could do a countdown and everything: "Happy New Year! Now go to bed!!" As I told Jason, it would be midnight in New Zealand at that point. That's close enough, right?

Enjoy the weekend! I'll catch you on the other side.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Baby.

"Christmas began in the heart of God. It is only complete when it reaches the heart of man."--Unknown

It's been a wonderful Christmas day. I hope yours is too, wherever you may find yourself. Christmas can be a tough time for many people--I'm praying that joy and peace win the day.

Also, I'm sorry if you're out of AA batteries...I think we have all of them at our house.

Merry Christmas, y'all! Thank you for stopping by this little corner of the world wide interwebs. I think you're sweet.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sydney, December 23rd

Like I said, Christmas in summertime has its advantages.

(Ava and Nate relaxing on the driveway after washing the car.)

And after you get over not having hot chocolate to drink and fires in the fireplace, you can appreciate the laziness of a summer day combined with the fun and anticipation of Christmastime. It's different, you know? But a good kind of different. And you can in fact celebrate the birth of Jesus in hot weather. I've tried it--it's true.

The other night we took the kids to look at Christmas lights. We didn't go too far, just drove around our local neighborhood. And saw this, which was my favorite. Nothing says Christmas in Australia like this:

I had Jason pull over so I could hop out (Heh--hop!) and get a picture. As I stood in these people's grass, I heard a rustling in the flowerbed at my feet. It was dark and I am skittish. I jumped, much like a kangaroo actually, and ran back to the car. So like Australia to have a big lizard or whatever lying in wait as I try to enjoy my Christmas down under. I get it, okay Australia? You have critters! Lots of them! Thank you for the reminder!

Oh, and speaking of reptilian things, we managed to get Nate's dinosaur from the seller on eBay! Phew--Christmas is saved, everybody! Feel free to go about your business.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Nice Surprise and a Minor Freak Out

If you've ever lived far from home, you probably know how nice it is to get packages in the mail. Packages!! Squeee!!! Usually, if my mom or Jason's mom is sending us something we ask them to throw in some of our favorite things. Crest Vivid White toothpaste, for one--I've rhapsodized about it and other stuff we miss here. It's just nice to get a little slice of home in a box, and lovely to know someone is thinking of you.

A couple of weeks ago Beth, who blogs at Remarkably Domestic, sent me some little barrettes that she'd made for the girls. Cute, cute, and more cute.
They're little felt barrettes, and Beth made a beaded butterfly on this one. Ava loves it! Beth made two for Grace: one with a little ice cream cone:
If she would've held still--I don't think Gracie has a future in catalog modeling--you could see that there are little beaded "sprinkles" on the ice cream. And here's the other--it's a red balloon. Sorry for this weird photo. I was holding her still with one hand and snapping the pic with the other. She was a hostile witness.Since Gracie loves to thwart my grooming attempts, she promptly pulled it out, so I can attest to their durability! Thanks, Beth! If you need a little stocking stuffer for a little girl in your world, check out Beth's website here.

Speaking of stocking stuffers, I have feverishly been trying to score some stuff on eBay for Nate. Auctions stress me out. Jason laughs at me, I'm sure you're surprised to read that. Why won't these people just sense how much I need this thing and let me buy it? Is that too much to ask? One night last week I was out shopping and Jason texted me to let me know we'd lost an auction at the last minute. We were bidding on a toy that Nate really, REALLY wants. In fact, he told us if Santa doesn't bring it, he'll be mad. Not sad, not disappointed. But mad. Watch your back, Santa.

About the auction. It was locked up, baby. That things was ours. Until it wasn't, with 4 seconds to go. Four seconds! Who does that!! That was my introduction to eBay sniping. It's a fast world out there, folks. A fast, cold world filled with sniping, toy stealing, snipe-faced snipers. I was pretty bummed that we lost and moped around the store. Until I remembered that I was out at that moment buying toys for two children in our community whose parents are unable to afford Christmas presents this year. And then I realized it wasn't that bad. Okay fine, Perspective. You win this round.

So cross your fingers. We found the same toy on eBay again and won the auction yesterday. Ha! The sniped becomes the sniper, y'all. But I emailed the seller and haven't heard back yet. It's been, like, 28 hours. This makes me nervous. Do you think he'll call? I hope he calls. What does it all mean? WHAT IF HE DOESN'T CALL?

If he doesn't, I'm totally sending Nate to find him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fairy Bread

It's party time here...Ava's end-of-school class party was today. She was so excited that she got to have Coke: "But I only had one glass, Mom, cause I knew you wouldn't want me to have more." It got me thinking about a staple of children's parties here in Australia, one that I had never heard of before we came to live here: fairy bread.

Ava, Nate, and now Grace, love fairy bread. They always want me to make it for their birthdays and it's the first thing they go for at their friends' parties. What is this divine confection, you ask? It's white bread cut diagonally, spread liberally with margarine or butter and sprinkled generously with candy sprinkles (often called "hundreds and thousands" here). And it is an Aussie tradition. No kid's party is complete without it. I love that it's so simple. You can just imagine some Aussie mum coming up with it 30 years ago. Maybe she forgot to bake cookies for her kid's party. Maybe she opened her pantry and tried to come up with something exciting and out of desperation grabbed the bread and sprinkles. Candy sprinkles will sell anything, I guess.

Now, just like I'm still not good at proper Vegemite spreadage, I don't think my fairy bread is up to scratch just yet. I'm probably too stingy with the sprinkles. It's one of those things that, if you didn't grow up with it, it's hard to get just right. But here's some I made for Ava's last birthday:

By the time I set the tray down and got the camera to take a picture, half of them were gone. So, as you can see, fairy bread is a big winner. Even my scantly sprinkled ones! To me, it seems like this ought to be an American invention. It seems that Americans are usually the ones to invent the sugary, fatty snacks with zero nutritional value. Twinkies, anyone? Ho Ho's? Deep-Fried Snickers Bars? But the Aussies beat us to the punch on this one. Nicely played, guys.

Nate has his preschool party on Thursday, where he gets to bring his own "party lunch". You can bet that fairy bread will be on the menu. Or else.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dead Again. Until Popsicles.

We went to the park this morning. I love overhearing Ava and Nate playing together...everything they say sounds like a question.

"Ava--pretend we were poor? And we didn't have a house?"

"And all we had was this sandpit?"

"But we were happy? Cause we played?"

"Pretend we had to build a dam?"

"I'm 15 and you're 10. And our parents are dead."

One thing I've noticed. In all these pretend-play scenarios, Jason and I get rubbed out pretty quickly. They are always scrappy orphans with absent and/or dead parents. Seriously, every time.

"Pretend our dad is at work and our mom died."
"Our parents died when we were babies and we have a puppy."
"We went to look for our mom but she had to go on a trip?"

I guess that gets us out of the way, right? Parents are boring.

I think they're happy to resurrect us, though, when we offer popsicles.
(Don't worry. The latest research indicates that 18 month olds benefit from ginormous raspberry lemon popsicles. It's hydrating. Can't you see Grace radiate health and vitality?)

Despite our demise, it was a nice morning.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So that's your opinion of me, is it?

Today Nate was playing at a friend's house, so Grace and I went out to the mall to do some Christmas shopping, or as I like to call it: feeding Grace raisins to contain her rage while I look for things that aren't actually in the stores. After we came home, Jason was there working, so I put Grace down for her nap and then went out again on my own.

The malls are already packed with people here, and there is that frenetic, half-crazed, forced-cheerfulness feeling already in the air. Driving home, I realized that I was feeling really stressed, as if it was the day before Christmas and I hadn't gotten anything done. It's a busy time of year here: combine the holidays approaching with school ending for the summer and all the stuff that goes with that. I had to remind myself that I had a couple of weeks still, that everything was fine, and basically to just chill the heck out.

When I got home, I told Jason how I'd been feeling over the course of the day. He asked me why I was stressed. I didn't know, I told him. Maybe I needed something to distract me from mom and dad leaving, I mused. "Well," he said casually,"You do like to have something to be stressed about sometimes."

What? I just love when he throws stuff like that out there. I think he does it just to mess with me, cause he knows I'll sputter and object and argue. It's the adult version of poking sticks at an anthill. And then he just smiles and goes back to emailing or sermonizing or whatever it is he's doing over there.

First off, I am not that person. Internet, I am not! I've had friends in the past who needed to have a crisis or an "issue" in their lives at all times, to provide a soundtrack to their existence. I don't seek stress out, that's for sure. Second off, (hee--anyone remember that line from Napoleon Dynamite?) maybe he can be all relaxed about Christmas shopping and kids and planning and school scheduling cause I'm stressing about it!!


Huh? Huh? What do you say to that, Calmy McCalmerstein?

Remember in A Few Good Men, when Jack Nicholson's character is all, "You enjoy the freedom I provide, and then question the manner in which I provide it? Whatever!" Or something.

You can't handle the truth, Jason. That's all it is. You're Tom Cruise and I'm Jack Nicholson. It's that simple.

I'm really feeling much better now.

In other, less-silly news, it's my sister Becky's birthday today! It's been a year that none of us could have expected, yet she's come through it all with such grace, strength and humor. I'm so proud and inspired. Oh--and she finished her PhD, while fighting cancer. No big whoop. Go say hi and happy birthday, if you get a minute.

Happy Birthday, Beck! xoxo

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Well, okay then.

Early this morning Nate, Grace and I were sitting around admiring the Christmas tree. (Actually, I was admiring. Grace was trying her best to smear her peanut butter toast on the couch and Nate was playing motorcycles.)

Nate started telling me that he didn't want any more baby siblings. "Why?" I asked. "It's a lot of work," he told me, frankly. "Yeah, it is," I said. "But if we had another baby, Grace would be older by then. She wouldn't be a baby anymore." Then he said, "I think there should just be three of us." I told him that would be fine, and that he was my favorite boy. "You're my baby, anyway," I said.

"I'm not a baby anymore," he said, leaning against me while Grace tried to shove his feet off the couch. "One day I'll grow up and move to another house." "Nope!" I said, "I'll handcuff you to the kitchen chair." He looked at me, his eyebrows raised. This was a possibility he hadn't considered. "Just kidding," I said. "You'll move away one day, but I'll come visit you a lot."

"No," he said, thinking it over. "I'll write on my phone and say, "Don't come visit me--I'll come visit you."

I think I just got dissed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I didn't mean this to sound quite so melancholy.

Mom and Dad headed back to the States on Tuesday morning. I am trying to be a grownup about it. This means that on Monday night I chose not to take their passports, shred them into tiny pieces and bury the bits of paper in the backyard.

Adulthood is full of hard choices.

We had a great time! In spite of the stomach virus that eventually found its way to all 7 of us, we managed to do a lot together. I am so thankful they made the trip! Hugging them goodbye at the airport, I uttered my customary farewell: "I'm sorry we live 9,000 miles away." "Yeah," my dad replied, "Four or five thousand would've been bad enough."

Since then, it's been raining, and even though the weather is miserable, the first day of summer (!) was yesterday. I've set myself to decorating our house for Christmas. Even after nearly 6 years here, it is strange to get used to having Christmas in the summertime, so I like to really decorate to remind myself what time of year it is. This will actually be only the 3rd Christmas we've spent in Oz, the other times we've made the great trek across the Pacific. But this year is different. This year we have:
Grace, Lord love her, is in a trying phase at the moment. As in, she is trying to break local noise ordnance laws with her high pitched screaming and the rest of us are just trying to survive. Hopefully, she will have mercy and choose to let us live. I am not a wimp about traveling with children, but even I have my limits, and this is it. Look, I know it's a cliche to bemusedly complain about your crazy toddler. But if you had to chase her, as I did, through Target yesterday--losing your place in line and wresting a tin of breath mints from her claw-like grasp while she screamed the shriek of death, you'd be busting out the cliches too.

So, for that reason, and a few others, it's an Aussie Christmas for us! Should be fun! Christmas in summer has its should try it sometime. Wanna come see us? We supply earplugs to all houseguests, and Grace only bites if you don't offer her the food you're eating and/or your iPhone.

Christmas down under?? Think it over.