Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mucho, of everything.

We wish you a merry Christmas!

(Please don't be disturbed by the Crazy Eyes from Nate.)

We are knee deep in wrapping paper at the moment, and realizing that too many gifts we have require parental construction.

We also sat with the kids this morning, and talked about what Christmas means, and how our giving gifts is reflective of God's greatest Gift to us. Which I have a feeling they mostly endured so they could go on and open presents. But I'm *sure* it's sinking in. Right?

Later today and tomorrow, we'll be enjoying a Mexican feast. Our own Feliz Navidad! ¡Olé! We decided that when we're in Australia for the holidays, we wanted to start our own tradition--why not eat the food we like the most, instead of slaving over a turkey or ham? So we'll have shredded beef tacos, cheesy chicken, enchiladas, homemade salsa, spicy rice, and whatever else we can slather with cheese, sour cream, and salsa. ¡Muy bién!

Wherever you are and whatever you eat, I hope you have a wonderful day. May God bless you and yours. I'm sending you a big, cheese and sour cream infused smooch!

¡Feliz Navidad! (Can you tell I'm excited I figured out how to ¡ on my phone? ¡Wheeeeee!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease

Last Christmas, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to get Jason. He loves tech-y stuff, but whenever I go that route, I always get the wrong thing. He's gracious in receiving it of course, but then he inevitably returns it for the "right" thing. He has a 3 foot high pile of T-shirts and a lot of clothes, so I didn't want to give him more clothes either.

Then I remembered that a friend passing through Sydney had taken a class at Sydney Trapeze School. I checked, and you could buy a voucher for a single, 2 hour class that would teach you the basics of trapezing. (Let's just say that's a word.) As I've mentioned before, Jason was a springboard and platform diver for about 10 years.(Click the link to see some great photos!) And even though he doesn't dive anymore, he still has a love for heights, doing flips, and all-around general craziness. Here's the story I always tell to illustrate this: Once when we were still dating, he told me that when he saw a skyscraper, he'd daydream about how many flips he'd be able to do off the top before he blacked out and fell to his death. Yeah. Should that have been a red flag? Opposites attract, I guess.

So, obviously, a voucher to the Sydney Trapeze School was a no-brainer! And he was excited when he opened the envelope on Christmas morning last year. But you know how it is. The year got busy, the weekends filled up, we traveled--life ensued. Finally, last week I reminded him that the voucher was only good for a year and that it's now or never. So, he got online and booked a spot for that coming Saturday. We decided to make it a family affair--it's not everyday your husband/dad swings on the trapeze. Unless you're a Wallenda.

The school is on the complete other end of the city from our house--it took us over an hour to get there, with traffic. With Grace asking every 45 seconds where we were going. But once we got there, Jason dove right in. There were about 5-6 others in his class, and the instructors had them up there pretty quickly, with very little preamble.

And away he went! It looked like fun. I mean, for him. I was quite happy on the ground, even though he was cabled in and there was a huge net underneath.

Look at his expression! Loving it. So, the instructors have everyone practice going up, swinging from their hands, and then pulling their knees up and hooking over the bar. Then, you unhook your knees and swing till they tell you to drop. Jase did this 3 times maybe? Then the male instructor came over and explained to the group how to swing from their knees and then let him catch them from another trapeze bar. As he grabbed their hands they were to let go of the bar with their knees and swing to victory. I eyed the instructor with doubt. He was strong, but lean. Jason is not a small guy. In fact, Jason wandered over and mentioned that he was on the upper end of what the instructor could catch! Hmmm. Good thing for those cables, right?

Okay, so then the instructor goes over to the other side of the net, and grabs hold of this thick rope that's suspended from the ceiling. He then proceeds to climb up the rope, hand over hand, his legs held outward in a perfect split. All the way up to the second trapeze bar, where he lets go of the rope and climbs on. It was amazing, watching him just climb up that rope like it was nothing. I'm going to let you in on a well-known but seldom discussed fact. When you see a display like that, you can't help but develop a small, temporary crush on whoever is doing it. Look--it's like, a law of nature or something. I didn't write the law, okay? Yet like all other humans on this planet, I am subject to its dictates. So there it is.

Most of the students weren't able to get the timing right on the catch part. I can imagine it would be pretty nerve-wracking up there. Even if your mind knows you're hooked in and there's a net underneath you, your body doesn't always respond to that. The first go, Jason didn't hear the instructor's command at the right time, so he missed the cue. But the second time, he got it! Duh, of course. (I have a secret belief that he can pretty much do anything. Except spell, which is why I'm here.)

Here's my first attempt to embed a video. This column is too narrow on the blog to show the whole width of the picture, but it gives you a good idea.

Yay! (Did you catch Ava calling me "Mum"? Such a little Aussie.) By then, our 2 hours were up and the class was over. He had a great time, but I could tell he really wanted to get up there again and try multiple flips off the bar. I asked him if he'd wanna give it another go, take another class--but he said no. It's just too far away from our house, and it would get pricy. Ah, the realities of life settling in as you return to earth. But it was fun while it lasted!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

21st Century Issues: Holiday Edition

--When you find yourself rummaging around your sleeping 8 year old's room at 11:30 pm, looking for her iPod Touch. Why? Well, after returning home from late night Christmas shopping, you realize with a gasp that your Christmas list, which you've been updating on your iPhone, might be syncing itself to her iPod. Cause of the iCloud. And she could find it and read it and that would be iBad. iSheesh!

--When your 8 year old already has an iPod Touch. Yes, you are those parents.

Friday, December 9, 2011

In the meadow, we can build a snowman.

Maybe you've been listening to too much Christmas music when you start to analyze the lyrics.

"To face unafraid, the plans that we've made..."

Isn't that a bit foreshadowing? I mean, "Winter Wonderland" is such a cheerful, whimsical song, until you get to this line. What plans have they made that could be so full of uncertainty? What troubles are they facing, that may be heading their way after New Year's? Here they are, roaming the frigid countryside, steeling themselves for what's to come.

I've been thinking about this. No really, I have! I think it could be in reference to the fact that they want to get married. "In the meadow we can build a snowman. And pretend that he is Parson Brown. He'll say, 'Are you married?' We'll say, 'No, man, but you can do the job when you're in town."

Here's this young couple, hiding on the outskirts of town. They've resorted to roaming through a snow-covered meadow, for the chance to be alone. Who knows, maybe they're being pursued. They build a snowman to act out their own wedding, because maybe it falls outside of the plans their parents have for them. Forbidden love? Oh, I think so.

This song is clearly fraught with suspense, fear, and uncertainty. Even the title "Winter Wonderland" is this couple's attempt at irony. Here they are, in their own icy prison, kept from being together by societal pressures and expectations. "A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight"--but in the morning we go home to the awful fate that awaits us. Chilling.

Your thoughts? I really think there is a lot to work with here. And don't even get me STARTED on the implications of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". ("He sees you when you're sleeping..."). And "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is one of the more tragic songs of our era.
Aaaaannnd, I think I've just found a thesis topic.

Merry Christmas, everybody! Be of good cheer!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The other night, Jason and I were watching an episode of 30 Rock. We are just now getting into this show and loving it! Yes, we are like 5 years behind. Ever since Jason used his voodoo magic skills to get us Netflix instant streaming, we've been catching up on all the American shows we've missed.

In the episode the other night, there's a scene where Will Arnett's character is eating a hot dog. "Oh man, that makes me want a hot dog--a really good American style one," I said to Jase. Australia has many, many merits: gorgeous scenery and outdoor life, free quality healthcare, and friendly locals, to name a few. But they have not quite mastered the hot dog.

However, I knew where I could get one. You see, back in April, Costco opened here in Sydney. That was arguably the best day of Jason's life, as Costco is his happy place. (More about that here.) I mean, he'd say that marrying me and the births of our three children were his best days...but I mean, he has to say that, doesn't he?

So, the next day I texted Jason. "Can you take a lunch break and go to Costco with me? I WANT A HOT DOG." And off we went.

See? It doesn't take much to make me happy. Just a 30 minute drive through traffic for a $1.49 hot dog. WHICH WAS AWESOME.

But then, as I finished my hot dog and the crazed look died out of my eyes, I realized. We'd been taken in. Hoodwinked. Hornswoggled. Bamboozled. By Costco and Will Arnett and his hot dog eating ways. "You realize what's about to happen, don't you?" I asked Jason. "We're about to go in there," I said, pointing behind me, "And spend a lot of money." Because--hello!--it's Costco. And there are buffalo wings in there. And 50 yards of Christmas ribbon for only $9. And mud cake. And exercise balls that come with the DVD! And are we really gonna drive across town and fight for a parking space and not go in? Ohhhh no.

And so we did. And so we spent. And that is the story of how a $1.49 hot dog cost me $200.

These advertising people are genius. Genius, I say! It's not even advertising, though, cause the show that showed the hot dog has nothing to do with Costco!



Monday, December 5, 2011

Special Snowflakes

Today, Jason accompanied Ava on her class' excursion to a local environmental centre. They had a great time going out into the bush, catching bugs in the swamp, and then looking at them under magnifiers and stuff. But don't worry; no bugs were harmed in the making of this field trip. Here she is with a praying mantis on her shirt:
She said its eyes "looked evil". Wow.

I was asking Jason about how the day went and he said it was a fun day, and that the kids really enjoyed themselves. He mentioned that there was one boy in Ava's class who was pretty unruly. He described him to me, and I knew who he was.

This boy's mom once spent 10 minutes explaining to me that her son acts up in class so much because he's really smart and gets bored easily. She went on and on and on about how intelligent her son is, and that he needs to be challenged more, and that this is why he has behavioral problems. Mmmm Hmmm. Oh good grief. Do moms still do this to other moms? I guess we do. I mean, I'm sure this kid is very smart. In fact, he could possibly be bored in class. That's not even the point. But really, other mom who I barely know? This is our first conversation? In which you humblebrag about your own child while making my child and her other classmates sound dumb by comparison?

It's like, that's not how we play the game. Step one is establish rapport. Step two is take an interest in the other person. Step three is brag on your own kid if you feel the need. That's in my handbook, isn't it in yours?

I'm sure I've done things like this too, without realizing it. I guess every parent wants reassurance that their child is special. I think sometimes our insecurities find their way into conversations--even with strangers. Thank goodness that my children actually are special and amazing! Phew! That's a relief. I can't imagine what it must be like to be all those other parents, with boring, average children.

Anyway! Today I was cleaning up the kitchen from Hurricane Weekend, and I found this note on our kitchen table:

It reads: "Stop touching EVERYTHING YOU SEE!" Oh man, I really laughed when I saw this. I think Ava must've written it awhile back--it was in a pile of craft stuff the kids had pulled out. So I don't know what it's really in reference to. I'm sure it had something to do with her brother. I love that it has the feel of someone just really needing to vent. Like how the last half of the sentence is in all-caps? Bless her. It's like the note-version of screaming into your pillow or something. Actually, maybe she was taking dictation, cause I'm pretty sure I've said that to Grace before, especially in public restrooms. Never mind.

But really, it's pretty good advice. I don't have to touch everything I see. Deep. I tried to take it to heart today. But I wasn't so successful with the dark chocolate and hazelnut bar after dinner tonight. Sorry, Ava. I'll try harder.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I'm sitting here at the window, blogging by the light of our LED icicle lights. Nothing says "Christ is born" like dangly lights you can see from space! Jason put them up yesterday, and they are so bright. I'm worried we're going to accidentally divert air traffic to our balcony. Last night, I sat up way too late watching TV, cause I didn't realize how late it was...the Christmas lights were so bright outside that it made it seem much earlier in the evening. Ha. They are probably a bit much, but our neighbors have them too, so I figure we can look crazy and over the top together.

That got me thinking today about Christmas mishaps...hey, this'll be fun--let's call them "Chrishaps!" Where's that little "TM" symbol when you need it? Whether through excitement, mistake, or zeal; weird stuff goes down during the holidays.

Today, Grace and I went to the shopping centre. I was trying to distract her from crying and being grumpy. It didn't really work, if you're keeping score at home. Her rough night last night may have actually been due to something, as she's been pulling at her ear this afternoon. But anyway! There are these nativity scenes that are everywhere right now--in most shopping centers that you go to. They're all exactly the same. They must be made by the same people and then perhaps donated out? Cause I see them everywhere. I'll never forget, one year when Nate was small he saw one and ran to it shouting, "Look! It's baby Moses!"

Of course, I was impressed by the fact that, even at 3, he understood that Moses was a biblical "type", a foreshadowing of Jesus. Most preschoolers don't have that depth of biblical interpretation. We are very proud.

So today, Grace and I walked up to look at the nativity scene. Anything strike you as odd? Well, aside from the fact that Mary and Joseph are dressed like a wealthy folks from the Renaissance era? As far as I know, Palestinian teenagers didn't really wear velvet. The dry cleaning bills were too expensive. No, to me it's the sheep! That's like the hugest, puffiest sheep I've ever seen! I don't know if it seems this way in the photo, but it looks like the birth of the Christ child is being invaded by livestock with glandular problems. It's kind of distracting.
Look at that! Those sheep are about to knock Joseph over and make off with the myrrh! I stood there today, taking a few photos and remarking on the size of the sheep till Grace started pulling on my dress, going, "Mama--home. Home!" I guess I got a little carried away.

Speaking of carried away, I thought of another chrishap (y'all wait--it's gonna catch on!) today. A few years ago, Becky and I were shopping in TJ Maxx right before Christmas. When I visit the States, we take several late night trips there to caress the handbags and such. Anyway, we were in the back of the store, and started looking at this rack of very festive Christmas shawls. Actually, they were more like capes. They were really elaborate! Some were velvet or satin, many were even edged with faux fur. All these rich, jewel tones. We were holding a couple, looking through the racks. A little mystified at how fancy they were--like, where would you wear these? A holiday opera, perhaps?

And then we realized.

They weren't capes. They were Christmas tree skirts. Can you imagine if we'd bought one to wear? Scarlett O'Hara wearing the drapes comes to mind! Or even better, Carol Burnett as Scarlett wearing the drapes.
Ha! Hilarious. We felt a little sheepish. Chrishaps!

And let's not forget, my brother Dave's HOLIDAYS! sweatshirt from years ago. If you haven't before, please give yourself an early Christmas pressie and go read Becky's post about how and why my brother made this sweatshirt back in college. Keep in mind, he and his friends did this before those "ugly Christmas sweater parties" were popular. Just gluing and cutting felt, like college dudes do. Festive for the holidays! That has to be one of my all-time favorite chrishaps.

So go on, then! Any favorite chrishaps to share? Any ill-advised house decorations, gifts, or crazy stuff you've seen while about? Tell all.

--You guys! I made it! I blogged every darn day in November. It's been fun chatting with y'all. Thanks for indulging me. Tomorrow is December 1st--the first day of summer in this part of the world. School is out in about 2 weeks, Christmas is coming, good things are on the horizon! I'll be back real soon. Now, please return your tray tables to their upright positions and turn off your electronic devices.

xoxo, Amy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reasons your 2 year old is waking up at night

1. She's mulling over your earlier conversation about playing with scissors. She feels misunderstood.

2. You didn't shell out the big bucks for one of those fancy organic crib mattresses. And now she's dealing with all those synthetic fibers. Why are you so cheap and selfish?

3. She can't get over it: Why doesn't Big Nutbrown Hare just give up, and allow Little Nutbrown Hare to say he loves Big Nutbrown Hare the most? Why this constant one-upmanship? Is this some sort of love competition? It just feels wrong, that's all.
4. It's hot, could you turn the fan on? Oh, now it's too windy--could you angle it a little bit? Wait, you angled it too much. Could it be aimed from my toes to my stomach, but not above? I'm sorry...this really isn't going to work.

5. Well, you didn't really meet her needs all that well today, did you? And now she's waking up in that darkened room and feeling lonely. That's probably because of some way that you messed up. Maybe you could've hugged her a little more, and prevented that. Nice work, You.

6. She knows you're trying to finish that episode of 30 Rock.

7. She refused to eat her dinner...and then you were tyrannical and didn't let her have a brownie. She might be hungry and it's your fault. Maybe you should drag her out of bed and feed her.

8. There is an international sleep strike planned among 2 year olds, and she is the union vice president. It's amazing that you haven't figured that out by now. All those back room planning meetings and such. Sucker.

9. Let's be honest, it's kind of fun to watch you grope around in the dark for her pacifier. She hides it before you get in there.

10. She's messing with your head.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wow. Well, that was very healing.

Last week I took Grace to our local garden centre, which has a cafe and indoor playground. Just outside the cafe is a pond with ducks in it. Grace loves to go out there and I always resist it. Why? Cause that pond has koi fish in it.

I can't stand koi fish. They totally gross me out. This is my confession.

Are you repelled by something for no real reason? For me, it's koi fish. At this particular little pond, the fish are used to getting fed, so they swarm at this one area. Grace always goes and stands there. She bends down against the railing, talking to them, and wants me to bend down too. "Ugh, Grace--I am so grossed out right now. Can we just go back to the playground? Please?" (Sometimes I find myself talking to her like she's an adult.) "No!" she says, pointing at the water, "Stay fish!" She is only satisfied if I squat down next to her, down near the surface of the water. And those fish, so big and squirmy and orange...their mouths gape open and rise above the surface of the water. Open and close, open and close. Their big black eyes stare at me vacantly. Stop staring at me, freaky fish! Ugh, it skeeves me out all over again just writing about it.
Okay, seriously--those gaping mouths, and how they just swarm around each other! And they look at you all askance like that? Gross, right? It gives me the shivers. Never trust a koi fish.

For years now, whenever I'd be around one of those decorative pond things that had koi in them, I'd feel this vague uneasy feeling. I just didn't like them, and they creeped me out. But I didn't know why. Oh, the unsearchable depths of the human heart. Am I right, guys?

Then one day, I remembered. As a kid, my pediatrician's office was in a medical centre. The grounds outside it were landscaped quite nicely, with a garden and little waterways. There were little wooden footbridges over the water that you'd take to get into the building. And, I hope you don't mind taking this painful journey with me, but you know where this is going don't you?

In these little ponds outside the doctor's office were koi fish. Those squirmy, wormy, gape-mouthed fish. And we'd always stop and watch them swim around. As a kid, I don't remember being bugged by them. But I think, that over the course of years I must've associated seeing them with feeling crappy. Every time I had an ear infection, a sore throat, a stomach bug, or needed immunizations, I saw koi fish. Just there, swimming and looking at me while I felt so yuck.

Those stupid, stupid, ugly, stupid head fish.

LOL, guys! I'm kidding. A little. Except for the part about koi fish being totally disgusting. That's no joke. The human brain is a strange thing...I actually feel physically uncomfortable when Grace and I are there at that little pond, watching the fish. It's like this visceral reaction that I have to being around them. And I'm always relieved when I can finally convince her to go elsewhere.

What about you? What grosses you out that everyone else is cool with? Is it feet? Black olives? Soggy cereal? Dental floss? This is a safe place. Let's just get the feelings and emotions flowing up in here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Just Some Facts

Things I Will Do Until The Sun Burns Down to a Tiny, Crispy Nugget:

1. Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
2. Sweep. Oh my gosh with the sweeping. Sweeping up crap, all the day.
3. Pick up lego pieces.
4. Okay, I lied about number 3. How about: sweep lego pieces out of the way with the side of my foot, so that no one steps on them and teaches Grace new words to say.
5. Look for my glasses.
6. Watch Jane Austen film adaptations on YouTube.
7. Match up renegade socks.

Scientific Facts I Have Learned:

1. If your children are screaming, yet the door is closed between you and them, it's like the screaming isn't happening.
2. The kind of snacks you have in your diaper bag at any given moment will, by virtue of their existence in space and time, be the absolute wrong snacks to have at that time. You should have brought the other ones. And now, everything is so awful and it's your fault. How does that feel?
3. Steve from Blue's Clues is only cute because you've been watching him for 4 episodes straight. No, Jason would not look good in a green striped rugby shirt. Take it out of your online shopping cart.

4. Okay, fine. Steve from Blue's Clues is kind of cute in a nerdy, earnest kind of way. On the purely objective Kids' TV Host Attractiveness Scale (KTVHAS), he skews slightly higher than DJ Lance but doesn't rate as high as Matt from Play School. Oh, hi Matt. Didn't realize you were here.
Science, you guys. It's science, okay?

5. Okay, this is called logic. Are you ready? Thinking about doing something around the house is basically the same thing as doing it. Cause it's, like, rehearsal. Sometimes rehearsals are more laid back and fun, cause people are more relaxed in them. Therefore, ergo, and in summation, thinking about doing something around the house is better than actually doing it.

6. The amount of fun being had between siblings is directly proportional to the amount of tears and tattletaling that is about to happen in the immediate future.

These are definitely things we can know for sure.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I really don't even know.

Tonight was our belated Thanksgiving celebration at our friends Holly and Jeremy's place. Holly is from Huntsville, Alabama and Jeremy is from New Zealand. She's an amazing cook and, on her last trip to the US, filled her suitcase with everything needed for a full-on Southern American feast. French fried onions, pie crusts, Caro syrup, cornmeal, even Thanksgiving-themed plates and napkins! Impressive, indeed. It was delicious, made even more so by the fact that we knew were getting to do something out of the ordinary. Though, since Costco has opened here, some brands we miss are a little easier to come by. And at the party tonight, rumors spread like wildfire that Dr. Pepper is now available in the International section at one of the major supermarkets here! Not that I really like Dr. Pepper! But still! I could drink it if I wanted to!

Jason was out all day for a men's retreat at church, so the kids and I mostly stayed home and I cooked. Nate had two back-to-back birthday parties, and I babysat my friend's two kids. It was slightly nuts but not too bad. Oh--and apparently Grace is auditioning for the sequel of Black Swan, cause she came downstairs like this:

Yeah, she found my mascara--my good one, too. I still don't know where it is.
Just do what she wants and no one gets hurt. Yikes, that photo does look a little bad seed-ish, doesn't it? I say that in love.

And in conclusion, I will now tell you that my abdominal muscles are still sore from a Sh'Bam class that I took on Monday. Remember Sh'Bam? It's the dance aerobics class where the instructor told us to stir the pot with the spoon up our rears? Yeah, you should go read that.

Anyway, I really threw myself into this one move (Not the spoon one! Yikes!) and I'm still paying for it, 5 days later. What can I say? I'm committed to my art. Oh! There is this one guy in there though, who is selling it, y'all! I mean, he really loves this class! He's the only dude in there, but is very flamboyantly into it. Both times I've been there, he ends up next to me, and the whole time, makes these little "whoosh" sounds through his teeth. Like sound effects for the dance moves. I know! And he does jazz hands, too. He also wears white knee socks. the ones with the colored stripes at the top. I'm not making this up. It is kind of awesome to see.

The world really is full of interesting people. I would just like him to give me a little more dance space, is all. I know this is all off-topic, but I have really needed to talk about this to someone.

Well, this is less like a blog post and more like a brain dump. It must be the effect of the sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, and creamed corn that I ate tonight as if the world were ending tomorrow. It's like I don't even know what I'm going to say next. Are you doing okay? Anyone dancing all up in your area? Yeah, that can be rough.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Somebody else's photos

When we moved here in 2005, we didn't bring much with us. We gave away or sold most of our furniture, stored some things in our parents' garages, and packed 10 big boxes of stuff to bring over. Most of that was clothes and books. The only furniture we brought with us was Ava's crib and a big comfy rocking chair that I loved. Over the years, we've furnished our house with Ikea purchases, garage sale finds and even a little curbside shopping. (Read about some great finds here.) And although I miss my big comfy armchair that I had back in Dallas, and our dining room table, I haven't really thought about it much.

One thing that we don't have much of here is photos from our childhoods. Most of those are still with our parents, and every now and then it strikes me that I really need to get them to send me some. Take photos of the photos or something. Hmmm, I probably should've thought of that when we were there...oh, 6 weeks ago. Sheesh. I need a personal assistant or something. I do have a few of my childhood. I had my mom send me this one when I realized how much I looked like Grace as a baby:Nakey baby alert! Anyway, I was pleased to see that Jason brought back a stack of photos from his parents with him when he arrived a couple of weeks ago. I think one of my projects for next year (ha! as if I'm that organized!) is gonna be to get some of our photos together. The kids love to see them, and so do we.

I hope you'll indulge me in posting some of these...but hey, it is a personal blog, right? And what could be more personal? Plus, hey! I'm blogging everyday--yay! Here's a great one of Jason's parents at their wedding: Love it! Look at that veil--so pretty, I think. And her hair! How did she get it to go so high without the benefit of a bumpit?? There must be some sort of canned good hiding in there or something.

I loved this one of Jason, too...I see him still make this intent, determined expression all the time.Of course, now expressions like this are not usually directed at sand castles, but at Grace when she is screaming and pounding her tiny fists into the floor. Or when he is on the phone with our internet service provider, trying to get a better deal. Nate makes this face, too.

Jason and I met because he transferred to our university to be a part of the swimming and diving team. He began diving when he was 12 (I think?). It was such a central aspect of his life when we met, and long before. (By the way, he's asleep right now...I hope he doesn't mind me posting these. "Hey babe, I put your speedo-ed butt on the interwebs!")

Boring! Like, I can totally do that. No really, photos from my life at this stage wouldn't be nearly as interesting. "Um, here I am at the school spelling bee. Here's me at the spelling bee the following year." "Here I am, about to finish a Star Trek: The Next Generation novel." I mean, I did just didn't photograph as well.

I need to do a better job of keeping up with old photos of us. I remember as a child, looking at my parent's pictures. It's probably time we had some of ours as well. This probably sounds my mind, that's one of the things that signifies you're a grownup big person--that your parents don't hang on to all that stuff for you anymore. I mean of course they have it too, but at some stage it needs to be yours, too. Mom, that does not mean I want you to send me all my high school essays. Or that cat lifestyle magazine Betsy and I made that one time. Some things are better left hidden away forever.

What signifies "grownupness" to you? Please, I could use the help.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Merry, Merry King of the Bush is He

Do you know that song? "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..."? I don't know how we knew it, but we sang it in my little Florida elementary school, along with reading the book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". You know, the one where Alexander goes on and on about what a terrible day he's had, and the refrain is, "I think I'll move to Australia." Because to him--and to us at that time, I guess--Australia seemed about the farthest place in the world from where we were. A place to get away from everybody who was bugging you.

It's funny how life sends you little previews of what's to come sometimes. Like in 1999, a few months before we got married, Jason remarked to me, "I wouldn't mind ending up in Australia someday." This because he'd met some really cool Aussies while backpacking in Europe. (Note: Aussies are probably the most fun travel-buddies ever. Plus, they're everywhere in Europe: fact.)
And when he said that, it just seemed like the most far-fetched thing ever. I dismissed it without another thought. Hah!

Anyway--the kookaburra! Today, Grace and I were sitting out on our balcony when one landed on the railing. This isn't all that uncommon really, but I pointed him out to her. We see them regularly, but not always up close like this. And this guy was less shy than most, he hung around for awhile.
Grace decided to walk down to that end of the balcony and say hello. Literally; "Hi, bird."
As Jason was taking this photo, I realized that kookaburra was really eyeing the bread she had in her hand. And I remembered a couple years ago when we went to the zoo, a kookaburra had swooped down at the food court and stolen a chicken nugget right out of Nate's hand. The ethics of a kookaburra eating chicken notwithstanding, Nate had been pretty startled that day! And the way this one was eyeing her snack, I thought he was about to do the same. See? I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but he was totally zoning in on it. So I went over and grabbed it from her and took it inside.

About an hour later, Grace was inside, sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch. I wasn't in the room, but Jase said the kookaburra came back and landed on the railing again--right outside the (closed) sliding glass door. He said the bird just sat there, looking in while she ate. Hmmm, can birds be wistful?
Sorry, mate. No PB&J for you. Just a few dozen more of you and we'll have an Alfred Hitchcock movie on our hands.

--Hey! Are you Thanksgiving-ing? If so, happy day to you! Ingest large amounts of casserole, cornbread and turkey on my behalf. And tell someone you're thankful for them. Just like I am for you. Awwww. xoxo

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Life's rich tapestry

Oh, Nablopomo, you are a harsh master sometimes! Here I am again, blogging via iPhone on a wee little 3G signal.

I told y'all yesterday that our Internet is way slow for a couple more this is where we find ourselves. But don't worry--we've got each other! (Isn't that in the Growing Pains theme song? Or is it Family Ties? "Rain or shine--all the time!")

Anyway. I haven't's been raining. Today it was more rain. With the rainy raining of the rain, not to mention the general raininess off the last 3 days, we haven't gotten out much. I'm starting to get how I get when we don't go out much. Here are some things that happened. Please skim for your enjoyment and information:

--Grace and I went to the gym. Well, she went to childcare there and I tried the step aerobics class for the 2nd time. I told my sister, and she was all, "Oh, is it 1993?" LOL, Beck. L. O. L. I thought that maybe this time I would find all the combinations and steps easier to follow. Um, no. The instructor was very sympathetic, though.

--I made 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Grace. Four. She calls them "jellies", as in: "Mom--jelly!" like a surgeon asking for the next instrument. She asked for one about 9 times, so I figure I did okay in only making 4.

--I made 2 quesadillas for Grace and 1 for Nate. My life involves a lot of tortillas. Have I ever told you that before? It's true. Tortillas and peanut butter, all the live-long day.

--I nearly cleaned all the bathrooms 2 times. Wait, that sounds misleading. I don't mean that I cleaned all the bathrooms 2 times, I mean that I almost *started* to do it 2 separate times, and then didn't. I blame the rain. Sometimes it's disheartening to do chores you just did a few days before. Like when you shave your legs, and then a month later? You gotta do it again.

--That is an old joke I stole from Bette Midler.

--I built about 6 Lego towers today "with" Grace. She knocked them all down. It's like she doesn't appreciate my work, you know? I also built an awesome Lego throne for Barbie. You shoulda seen it, it was sweet. Grace? Knocked it down.

--Nate went on a school excursion today to a farm. He says he milked a cow. I didn't believe him at first, but his hand motions looked pretty darn accurate.

--Ava is auditioning with a friend tomorrow for the school talent show. She and her friend are singing and dancing to that Katy Perry song, "Firework". Hmmm. I'm not sure if they've really practiced much, but I'm trying not to be a helicopter parent and am just letting them go for it. I'm impressed too...there is NO WAY I would've done something like that in 2nd grade!

--Tonight I went back to the gym for Pilates. (Twice in one day is rare for me.) The instructor had us doing all kinds of exercises with those giant bouncy balls. Are you good at those? What's the secret? Please tell me.

--I have very poor balance. I almost rolled right off that ball about 6 times. I was grunting, a little. This instructor was also very sympathetic. I was trying very hard just to balance on my hands and knees, much less do all the stuff she was asking!

--After a few grueling (for me) sets of pushups on the ball, she said: "If you're finding these increasingly impossible to do, that's good. It means you've performed to failure, and you've pushed yourself further for next time."

--Or something like that. My arms were shaking so badly on the pushups that I was having trouble focusing. But I thought that phrase, "performed to failure" was really interesting. At least, it gives me a new perspective on my workouts. "Oh no, I'm not asphyxiating back here and tripping over my feet. I'm performing to failure--it's all good."

It's 'sposed to rain the rest of the week. Perhaps you'd like to stop by for a jelly? Or could I interest you in a Lego Barbie throne? You don't find those everywhere, you know.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I probably need to get a bunch of cats.

Today, we made the sad realization that we've exceeded our internet download usage for the month. While Jason was away, I rented a few movies on iTunes, and then we rented a few when he got back, and the kids watched a couple...and it just got out of hand, you know? Nobody means for these things to happen! But sometimes you just get carried away.

So, we still have internet but it just slooooowwwwws waaaaaaaayyy doooooooowwwwwwwwwn till the new billing cycle begins. Which--thank you, sweet Lord above--is in 2 days. I know, right? First world problems. But I would appreciate your prayers for my family and me as we navigate this challenging time.

All this watching movies at home has got me thinking, though. I think I'm more suited to it than going to the theatre. I mean, I really enjoy the experience of going out to a movie. But I much prefer the ability to pause and discuss. Whether I didn't understand the legal nuances of Matthew McConaughey's strategy in The Lincoln Lawyer... (What? I never said I was smart. But I confess I never thought I'd write "didn't understand" and "Matthew McConaughey" in the same sentence.)...Or I feel a really strong need to tell Jason right now that that's Josh Groban in Crazy, Stupid Love, I think my movie watching persona is truly given wings with at-home viewing.

Okay, for serious. I really don't think I'm an annoying movie talker. But I do talk during movies. A little. Do you? I don't talk over dialogue, though. I have very strong feelings about that. I wait until the music plays or until lighthearted falling-in-love and/or makeover montage. But I just feel that sometimes colorful commentary is needed in a movie! You know? And I can provide that colorful commentary. Perhaps I needed to tell someone during The King's Speech that Lionel Logue's wife is Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, even though she looks so different! Really! Can you believe! It's her, do you see? These types of things cannot wait till the end of the movie! And your viewing is enhanced by knowing these things in the moment, don't you see?

I've noticed lately, since living here and going to the movies with girlfriends, that not everyone does this like I'd previously thought. So I don't know if it's partially cultural? I mean, we Americans are known to be blabbermouths, right? I have an American friend here, Holly, and when we go to the movies, we both chat back and forth a little. But when I saw the last Harry Potter movie with my friend Jules, I noticed that she was very quiet. Like, she didn't say a word the whole movie! Who does that? I felt a little self-conscious. Then one time, I went to see a movie with my friend Di. I'd whispered to her a few times--all very interesting tidbits, mind you!--and then realized that she hadn't been reciprocating. Maybe she doesn't like the movie, I thought. During a pause in dialogue I whispered, "Hey are you ok?" "Yeah," she whispered back. "Well," I said, "It's just that you're awfully quiet." She looked at me like I was nuts. "I'm watching. A movie," she said. "Oh yeah," I said. She had a point.

And even though I realized (after the fact) how redonk I sounded in asking her that, it really did feel strange to me that we weren't conversing more. I think part of it is that, to me, going to the movies with someone is a shared experience. And I feel the need to, I don't know, check in with the other person during the movie? Is that weird? I mean, part of the joy of seeing a movie is looking at the person next to you after something crazy or funny or shocking happens and going, "Girl, no. Did you see that??" Sometimes you just need to debrief, right there and then. But now I see that I am probably in the minority here. What about you? Do you talk during movies? Or do you want to dump your $8 Coke over the heads of people like me?

Perhaps I'm better off at home, with my pause button. Sniff.

Monday, November 21, 2011

State of Grace. And Ava. And Nate.

Jason and I had a pow wow about the kids the other morning. We sat out on our balcony and did the whole "State of the Kids" discussion. It was kind of impromptu actually, but since all 5 of us have been back together again, it had become apparent that we needed to regroup a little. We talked about how they're doing and how we're doing in parenting them. We're kind of at a stage with all three where we need to tweak our approach. With Ava and Nate, cause they're getting older--and the "currency" that mattered to them before doesn't anymore. Plus, like I've mentioned, they are maturing and asking more questions and able to "handle" more. Which necessitates that we change, too. (We're really making this up as we go!) And we have to adjust our strategies with Grace, cause she's entering that stage--you know the one--and because we've been a little lax with her. She's just too darn cute!

Now, I know the 2 year olds in your life are adorable, too. Ha--it's like that joke: "You are a unique and special snowflake in the universe...just like everybody else." But we sure like our little snowflake. Even if she demands her way--no really, she will stand up to complete strangers and tell them to move if they're occupying a spot she wants. Even if she is now refusing to eat any and all fruit. Even if she has started wanting to wipe her own bottom during diaper changes...the horror!

Sometimes it's easier to talk about Grace on the blog, cause the silly stuff she does is more universal 2 year old behavior. I've found that I'm starting to be more careful with what I share about Ava and Nate...they're older of course, and I'd never want them to be embarrassed by what they might read here. So, though I might mention that Nate dancing around with his undies on his head, I won't specify if it was boxer briefs or Spiderman tighty whities. That kind of thing. Very circumspect.

Although Grace is in a "challenging" phase at the moment, she's also pretty stinking hilarious to us, too. Today I called my parents on FaceTime, so that Grace could see them. It was evening in Florida, and my mom was already wearing her nightgown. The nightgown is probably not normally featured on a live trans-oceanic transmission. It's usually reserved for at-home events only--picture something you might find in the "mature woman" section at Wal-Mart. (Mom, I say this in love.) Anyway, the instant Mom and Dad come up on the screen, Grace exclaims: "Grandma!! Pretty dress!" It made us laugh, but obviously I need to do some work with Grace on fashion and textiles. What do you think--flashcards, maybe? Then, later my dad was teasing her and put his bearded face up close to the camera, acting like he was trying scratch her with it. "No!" she called out, "Wipe!" And she ran and got a baby wipe and started trying to clean my iPhone screen.

I can remember, as a very little girl, watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and imagining that if I could just break through the glass, I could step through the frame of the TV and be in that world. It struck me today, that for Grace, FaceTime and webcams are the equivalent. It's a crazy, amazing thing.

For me so far, the challenge of parenting is knowing what to let slide, and what to address, deal with, work on. This could very well just be me and my personality! But I guess we all bring that into the mix, don't we? I'm reminding myself to relax and enjoy the kids, but also to try to help them be the people they're meant to be. So, I guess it's good that they make me laugh so much.

It was the Spiderman undies, by the way. Oh, but I've said too much.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Summertime means...

...Checking our outdoor furniture for spiders! It's a holiday--like Christmas! There are special songs we sing, and decorations. The kids get a day off school. It's quite festive, actually.

Okay, none of that is true. Well, except the part about checking for spiders. I mean, we don't have to do it everyday, but if we haven't been out there for a week or so, it's always best to check. Gotta look under the chairs, in those little crevices, cause you just never know!

Yesterday after Ava's party, some friends of ours stayed to hang out and eat pizza. It was way too hot to sit indoors, so we had to de-spider the undersides of our outdoor chairs. That may sound like we never use them--but we do. It's just that spiders seem to move fast around here.

The other day, Grace wanted to ride this old 3-wheeled scooter that we have on our back patio. It's been sitting outside for ages and is all rusted. And look what Jason found underneath it when he was cleaning it up for her.

A redback spider! Poisonous and such. But I mean, I guess you'd have to try pretty hard to get bitten right? It was on the underside of the scooter, nestled around that little bolt thingy. It's not like they show up in your breakfast cereal or anything. Unless you eat breakfast on the underside of your porch swing. Then you might have a problem.

I can be cavalier about spiders, you see. There have only been a handful of recorded deaths from redbacks in Australian history. For some reason, spiders don't freak me out too much. If it was a rodent...well, I think we all know how that would go. By now, we'd be living two states over with assumed names.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

All-in-all, a success.

Ava's birthday party was today! And yet, we live.

No really, it was a lot of fun and probably one of the least stressful times I've had putting together and hosting a kid's party. I don't usually stress cause I want things to be perfect, but because I don't always plan enough to keep all those kids busy. Things I think will take 20 minutes take 5 and then they're sooooo booorrreedddd. But my friends, I have the answer that you seek. Pool Party. That is all.

I bought water guns for everyone, we blew up some rafts and beach balls, we turned a sprinkler on too. The kids had a blast with very little effort and intervention on my part. Beyond, you know, feeding them and making sure no one drowned.

We did one craft--we decorated some flip flops that I'd bought in advance for each girl. Yesterday afternoon, as I pondered the best way to go about it, I posted a question on Facebook. You guys. It was like a crafting meetup right there on the Interwebs. Within an hour, I had something like 28 comments, with suggestions ranging from super gluing or hot gluing decorations, to tying balloons, to knotting fabric on them, to rivets. Rivets! Though I think he was joking. It was somewhere between a friendly debate and a virtual quilting bee happening up in there. I have some very resourceful and quick-responding FB friends. And they are all quite passionate about different types of adhesives, I will also say that.

In the end, though, I opted for no glue. I bought a bunch of colorful fabric, and the girls knotted them around the straps. I thought it was very cute! I think I thought it was cuter than they most of them tied a few pieces on and then wanted to get back in the pool. I was probably over-invested in this project. Maybe sitting there tying fabric on rubber shoes was therapeutic in some way? I really wanted them to see how cute these flip flops could be. I'd call to each girl as they jumped back in the water, "Hey--you mind if I finish this for you?" (She couldn't hear me, too busy playing.) "No? Okay, great--I'll just add a few more, you'll love it!"
Here's Ava's pair:

Okay, I know they look a little nuts. Don't you think I know that? But I promise you, they're super cute in person. You guuuyyysss!! Really!!! I was gonna show you a photo with my foot in them, just to give some perspective, but then I decided you don't need to see my gargantuan foot shoved in a kid's shoe. Maybe I need a little more emotional distance from this project. But for reals, I think they're fun. Colorful, kinda messy, funny, and cute--just like an 8 year old girl.

So as you can see, we all enjoyed ourselves. The girls by swimming and playing, me by hijacking an 8 year old's craft project. We all have our areas.

Oh, but here's the cake!
A friend made it. Isn't it beautiful? Ava wanted blue and white, to go with the pool party theme, natch. My friend made all those chocolate shavings to look like a huge rose. And the chocolate was melt-in-your-mouth yum. And I remembered to bring it out this year! That alone is a big improvement on our last big party!

Now. Here is the part where, because I'm worried what you might think about me for having an elaborate cake made for my kid's party, like I'm all hoity-toity, instead of doing it is the part where I go, "I usually make the kids' cakes on my own. Remember Nate's monster truck cake last year? But this year, I decided to treat Ava to something special." Here is also the part where I worry that you'll think I didn't make anything for her myself, so I say, "I made and iced cupcakes for her to take to school on her actual birthday." There. That part's done. Being a socially anxious mom is so exhausting sometimes, y'all!

That ends my tale of birthday party happenings and shoes for today. I do indeed hope you are well. It's hot here...are you proud of me for not whining about it before now. But it is. Oh, it is.

Off to bed. Sunday's comin'!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Words to live by.

I mentioned yesterday that I had some pictures of Grace being, well, being Grace at the restaurant last night. She is not one of those children who colors with the grubby crayons and color-in kids' menu that they bring out at the restaurant.
She turns somersaults instead, kicking the window in the process.

And then checks to see how we feel about that. As you can see, though, the restaurant was completely empty, except for us. We got there early, before they even opened for dinner. And just as the lights flicked on and the sign on the door flipped to "Open", we were in there, baby. Get in, get out, nobody gets hurt.

When it comes to eating out, our motto is Go Early or Go Home. Especially if the establishment in question is one in which you do not get your food on a plastic tray at the front counter. Early dinners mean less fellow patrons to disturb, less hungry, cranky kids, and less late bedtimes. Works for us!

We have somehow managed to get Ava and Nate to behave in public, so we do have hopes for Grace in the future.

See how Jason is holding her here, in what appears to be an affectionate embrace? Well, it is that, but it's also a desperate, clinging attempt to keep her from beating her chopsticks on the ceramic plant stand by the front door. That was musical.

Lest you think it was all Grace-wrangling and no eating, we did manage to have a lovely dinner. We've started a new birthday tradition, where each person shares a few things about the birthday boy/girl that they love and appreciate. It was really sweet to watch Nate share with Ava while trying not to be embarassed. And then, because we didn't get to do it for Nate's birthday last month, we all went around the table and encouraged him, too. You could see Ava and Nate just soaking up what we had to say to them. Little affirmation sponges. But aren't we all? "Oh, enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do you think about me?"

Recently, some friends did this for me on my birthday, and I have a feeling I probably looked just like the kids--still and calm and super-attentive, while trying to appear casual. Everybody likes to be encouraged, you know. For instance, I'd like to tell you that you did a really great job on that one thing you were stressing out about, and that one guy who said that mean thing about you to that other person? Well, he's full of it and everyone knows it, so don't worry. You're nicer anyway and you have better hair. See? Doesn't that feel good?

Then we noticed that Grace had rice all down her dress, stuck to her as if she were a Chinese food mosaic. And we knew it was time to go home. I don't even think it was 6pm yet.

Go Early or Go Home. Words to live by. I'm telling ya.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Looking Back: A post I didn't realize I was going to write

Today is Ava's 8th birthday. She's been a little under the weather lately, but rallied nicely today to enjoy pancakes and presents for breakfast, cupcakes with her class, and then dinner out with us. She is such a dear heart. I mean don't get me wrong, she can drive one nuts just like any child can, but there is a real sweetness and sensitivity to this little girl. I hope and pray that as her parents, we can help bring out the best in her. She's a good sort.

I remember so vividly the first year of her life. She was a very fussy baby, who would nap in 20 minute intervals in the day for the first several months, and many nights wake every 45 minutes. I mean, 45 minutes on the nose. You could put a cake in the oven and time it based on her wakeups. As a result, I now have a graduate degree in Baby Sleep Science and Strategy. Okay, I don't really, but I should. I studied, read and obsessed over it long enough to earn some type of qualifications! She was just busy--wanted to be up at our eye level all the time, wanted to see what we were seeing, instead of being in the stroller. As a result, I learned how to do everything with her strapped into the Baby Bjorn. Even trying on jeans at The Gap--it can be done!

I realize now, looking back, that I really dealt with some Post Partum Depression issues during those first 5-6 months of her life. (Or Post Natal Depression, as it's known here.) I didn't have any professional/medical intervention, but that was only because I couldn't see that I needed it at the time.

I so loved that sweet, high-need little one. I knew that she was meant for us. And I loved watching Jason come into his own as a father. I wanted to care for her and nurture her. But I was so anxious all the time; I couldn't relax. I was always waiting for her to wake up and cry--well, because usually she was about to! When someone else was holding her, I was bracing myself for when she would start to fuss. My heart would race as I would try to let others help with her. That kind of anxiety for that amount of time takes a toll. It feels like clenching a muscle and never relaxing it. I remember wondering in the first weeks and months when things would feel normal again. When I would be able to read a book and actually concentrate on the storyline, or--and this must sound odd if you haven't been there--do something non-baby and not feel like I'm neglecting her in some way. When I could have a conversation with Jase that didn't involve sleep schedules. To be honest, I was a bit of a mess. I think I hid it well from most people, but it was a struggle for me; accepting and relishing this new season of my life.

I remember when she was about 5 months old, going to meet some friends for dinner one evening. Jason stayed home with Ava. And it struck me as I drove to the restaurant, This is how I used to feel. Normal. Not because I wasn't with her--I had been out on my own prior to this. But it was like a switch flipped in my brain. It's hard to describe, but it was like I realized that I had leveled out again, maybe? Like, oh yeah--I remember this sort of okay-ness. And the remembrance of it made me realize that I hadn't felt that way in awhile. It was like a huge sigh of relief. I know now that it didn't just "happen"--although I didn't get the professional help I probably needed, I had huge support from Jason, my family, and a few close friends.

Heh. You know? This isn't the post I sat down to write. I have some pictures of Grace being goofy at the restaurant tonight that I was also gonna show y'all. But I think I'm going to leave those for later. All this came out instead. Obviously, I don't know who all might run across this post, but maybe someone's in the same shape I was in this time 8 years ago. I hope you'll be encouraged to know that while right now you may feel completely in over your head, the baby grows and so do you. People used to tell me that, and I'd think, "Well your baby outgrew it, but what if mine doesn't?" But she did--of course she did. And now, I can hardly believe that same little baby who was pretty much Bjorn-ed to me 24/7 is now a lanky, sassy-mouthed, sweet 8 year old girl. That indeed happens.

I will say this, though. Whenever one thing gets easier, another thing gets harder! And gosh, I know I've barely scratched the surface of that one--or so my friends with older kids tell me! But in the meantime, here are my rules for surviving with a newborn: 1. Love them; hold them and talk to them even if that doesn't come naturally at first. (It didn't for me--I haven't really told anyone that before. Yikes! But I remember trying to "do" bonding.) 2. Feed them and feed yourself. 3. Get some sleep.

Take that from someone with an honorary degree (self-awarded) in Baby Sleep Science and Strategy. (MA, BSSS)

P.S. For real though, if you'd like to read how a friend of mine coped with and overcame Post Partum (Post Natal) Depression, Deb's story is here. I read it the other day, and man, I think it's gonna help a lot of families.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Surely it's not just me. (Don't call me Shirley.)

Leaving the gym today, I was buckling Grace into her carseat when a gust of wind caught the car door and blew it into the car next to ours. "Shoot!" I said. Grace parroted right back, "Shoot, Mom! Shoot!" Ha. Thank goodness that was all I said. I remember once, years ago, when Ava was just starting to potty train, she wet her pants. "Damn," she said softly to herself. I don't know why Jason teaches her to say things like that.

Anyway, I looked at the door of the other car. There was no dent that I could see, but there was a smudge of our paint on their door. I couldn't rub it out with my thumb. I thought, I should really leave a note. But of course, I had no pen in my purse, in the car, in the glove box, under the seats. I called Jason, already investing much more energy in this little occurrence than it probably warranted. He said if there was no ding or dent, that it was probably okay to just drive off.

He forgot, though, that I have a guilt complex the size of Montana. So, I went back around to the other side of the car, unbuckled Grace, got her out, walked across the parking lot, up the stairs, up the lift, back into the gym. Where I borrowed a pen and scrap of paper and wrote a quick note to whomever owned the car. Then we reversed ourselves and went back outside, down, over and across. Back goes Grace into her carseat. (I hooked my foot around the bottom of the door so it wouldn't blow out again.) I slipped the note under the windshield wipers and off we drove.

Do you do this? I mean, I am nearly 100% certain that the owner of that car didn't care about the little paint mark. I wouldn't have, if it had been me. I don't think I would've noticed it--unlike Jason, I never notice little dings in our car doors and things. But, I knew that it would bother me, and I'd spend the rest of the day worrying about it. What if I park next to that car again someday and the owner remembers my car? (It had come after I'd parked there, you see.) What if it's someone I actually know? (Lots of people in our area go there.) What if this makes me one of those people that do irresponsible things? (I mean, besides the irresponsible things I already do.)

A month or so after Jason and I got married, we went out grocery shopping. We were still in that cutesy time where we went to the supermarket together. Awwww. Anyway, after we unloaded our cart, I walked it back across the parking lot to the "cart corral" or whatever. When I got back, Jason said, "I love that you're the kind of person who will go out of her way to do something like that, when no one would be the wiser if you didn't bother." Awwww. Young love. But you know what? Dang it if that one statement didn't make me take the dang cart to the dang corral everytime for years to come. Through rain, through sleet, through dark of night. (Okay, maybe not sleet. But you get the idea.) There were times that I'd be this close to just leaving the cart in the empty space next to me, and then I'd remember what he said. And I'd actually sigh, shake my head in annoyance, and stomp all the way over to the little holding bay. The truth is, I really wasn't "that kind of person". But Jason thinking I was made me that way? Maybe? I don't know, it's complicated, okay? But I have to admit, it's pretty much worn off. I'll sometimes wheel it off to the side, especially if the kids are with me. Don't tell him, spouses need their illusions too.

I'm so glad you guys are here for me in soul-searching times like these. I have to tell you one more thing. I think it just highlights how neurotic I can be sometimes. So, I wrote the note and all that. Grace and I finally pulled out of the parking lot to head home. And then I think, What if this person takes advantage of me "being nice"? What if they, like, try to blame all kinds of car damage on me? They could be all, "Hey--she even left a note!"

So then--I kid you not--I turned around, went back, and pulled back into my just-vacated spot. Where I proceeded to get back out and take a photo of the door and its miniscule paint mark. In case I needed evidence in this hypothetical fraud case my brain had concocted in the last 25 seconds.

And this is why Jason so often, when talking with me, raises his hands in a kind of surrender position. "Okay, babe," he'll say, "You just do what you need to do to feel better." And so I do. And usually, what I'm so worked up about isn't worth a hill of beans.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Safari cannot open this page because it is not connected to the Internet

Inexplicably, our Internet is down today. And we done paid the bill and everything! This happens from time to time. And when we call our service provider, they say helpful things like, "Hmmm, we haven't had any reported outages in your area." And we are like, "THIS IS WHAT I AM DOING. I AM REPORTING AN OUTAGE." And they're like, Oh. And then we open our mouths in a silent scream, like that soul in the Edvard Munsch painting. (Which I can't google to see if I spelled it right, obvs.)

So tonight, friends I'm blogging to you from my iPhone; on the tiniest, cutest little 3G bar you've ever seen. Just one lil' bar. It's adorable, really. So scrappy and ready to take on the world. Yet so very feeble.

I feel like this is what it must've been like for Laura Ingalls Wilder, when she blogged in the big woods of Wisconsin. Between Pa slaughtering the pig and making a little balloon out of its bladder (that happened) and Ma hanging the onions in the attic. You know? It's magical, in a way.

I have a bit of a fuzzy head today, if you couldn't tell that already. Its been a horrific allergy season here in Sydney, and I also awoke with a cold this morning. Jason was sick with it last week when he returned from the States. In the process of us exchanging demure, chaste kisses at the airport, I think I caught it from him. But what is one to do?

I took drugs and lots of vitamin C, and have felt like my head is floating 15 feet about the ground all day. (That's about 5 meters, Aussie friends.) And it doesn't help that Grace's newest thing is requesting something: a sandwich, to go to the park, to talk on the phone, and then repeating it endlessly until it's given to her.

Doesn't matter how we answer or reason with her. The same tone, the same inflection over and over AND OVER again. I am not kidding you, I ACTUALLY watched my hair grow half an inch while she was asking for juice infinity times today. I think she's messing with my head. That, combined with the decongestant, kinda made for a loopy day.

So now here I am, drifting from my one 3G bar, to E, and sometimes O. What is O?? Can anyone even hear me? Is this thing on? I'm gonna put this message into the bottle and hurl it into the void. I hope it finds you somewhere warm, safe, and with wifi as far as the eye can see. Good night. And good luck.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Spinning Vomit Wheel of Doom

Yesterday, we took the kids to a new park that we hadn't been to before. That's one of many things to love about Sydney: there are parks and outdoor recreation everywhere. I love it. Jason and I often wondered, How did we live in Dallas all those years? Where one chooses from a succession of mall play areas to visit? We loved our time in Dallas, and miss our friends there, but we realize now what we were missing. (Sorry, Dallas peeps. Y'all are still my boo.) However, for shopping and restaurants, Dallas is hard to beat. That we miss!

But anyway, this park is part of the Sydney Olympic Park, and it's right on the Parramatta River. It's called Newington Armory. I don't know how we'd never been there before--the place is HUGE. There are tunnels through hillsides, and slides, and a zipline. There are swings, and bike paths, and climbing walls. At one point I asked Ava if she was having fun. She stopped and said, "Mom, I'm having the time of my life."

Grace loved the slides and the zip line, but Ava and Nate spent most of their time on this spinning disc thingy.
I'm pretty sure that's its official name. Y'know, it's a concave disc set at an angle that spins and spins and spins until you want to die. Okay, perhaps I'm projecting a bit. I can't handle things that spin. Even the teacups at Disneyland. But they loved it!
Even when some boy fell on Ava's nose, she still wanted to get back on. When I showed the photos to my mom, she aptly named it the Throw Up Express. But thankfully, we were spew-free for the duration of our time there.

So, in conclusion:

Opportunities to run and scream: Check
No vomit: Check
Chance to feel brave and dangerous: Check
Minor injuries: Check
--(This injury and the recounting and dramatization of it provide fodder for post-game analysis on the drive home, which is why it's deemed a positive thing, you see.)
Grace going down the slides till the world burned to a crisp and time ended: Check

This adds up to a gold star outing in our book! It was a great day, and anytime we need very tired kids at bedtime, we will definitely return.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Internet is full of options.

Ava turns 8 (!) this week. She wanted to have a pool party this year, so I will spend the whole week praying for good weather on Saturday. Cause if it's raining, I'll have 14 little girls running around my house. Do you remember the last time that happened? Unless you've been reading this blog since the beginning, you might not. (Hi, Mom!)

When Ava turned 6, she wanted a tea party, so I invited all the little girls in her kindergarten class and a few others over. I had it all planned. But then, it was such a hot day. Hot, like hotter than the pit of hell hot. Way too hot to have all these little girls drinking tea in my living room--it was seriously 90F in my house. (I analyze it as if it were a military op here.) So we moved everything into the downstairs office, which was slightly cooler. The girls had fun, but it was so chaotic and frenzied--all of them crammed down there--that I forgot to bring out Ava's birthday cake. Did you catch that? It was a birthday and we forgot the cake. If you've ever wondered what kind of mother would do that, well you've found her. But I mean well, really I do.

For the pool party this year, I had this idea that as a craft, all the girls could decorate a pair of flip flops (thongs to my Aussie readers, jandals to my Kiwi readers, --what does everyone else call them?) I'll just say flip flops, cause it just feels wrong to talk about 2nd graders decorating thongs. I'm sure you understand. I thought this was a cute idea, so I've been on the hunt for super cheap, really basic rubber flip flops. But in my usual fashion, I have waited until the week before. I am that kind of mother, too. Ava and I went to a big market today--the kind of place where vendors set up and sell everything from mangoes to knee socks to fake Louis Vuitton bags. It was fun to walk around, but in all that, we didn't find what we needed. Kmart had them, but I wanted to find them even cheaper.

When we got home, I looked around online for places I could maybe order them wholesale. I found a few leads. But what I wanted to show you was a couple of entries I found on this one website. It's basically a listing of all kinds of different manufacturers in China that you can order direct from. I clicked on the photos I'm about to show you cause initially they looked promising, but--well now I'm not so sure.

This one is just one of those obvious mis-translations into English. But it made me laugh, cause what do you think they were going for?

Oh, those lovers of men and women who drag beach slippers. Such procrastinators! You just can't guess what they'll do next. Especially when they're contracted.

Look, only $1.58 a pair!! Now we're talking. They're plain too, so better to decorate. But, oh--hmmm, apparently it will cost me almost $800,000 to ship them here. Maybe there are, like, trained talking dolphins guided by mermaids that are bringing them over? Maybe, instead of those styrofoam peanut things, they're packed in yellow diamonds? Cause I can't work out why it would be that much. Have you ever? I can't even. Maybe it's a typo? Jason said maybe they're trying to scam someone, but is anyone that stupid?

My heart(and my search) will go on. I do this every year--tell myself I'm gonna keep it simple, and then I keep thinking of one more thing that would be fun, or 2-3 more people to invite. I wish I was one of those people that can just throw an amazing party together with minimal effort--like, oh I just had all this stuff laying around the house! I just opened my craft closet and grabbed a few things! And then I had time to get my nails done to match the napkins! But, I'm not. I love hosting people, but I always end up spending much more time preparing than I think I will. I enjoy it, though! But we've got several other things on this week, and I'm speaking at a women's meeting on Friday night, so I'll be getting ready for that, too. Should be interesting! Remember Nate's astute observations on polygamy? This is one of those weeks that a sister wife might come in handy.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I used to cry. But now I hold my head up high.

This is one of those days where you are ready for bed by 9pm. Nice but busy!

Today I went to a Fundraising Breakfast for breast cancer research. It's organized and hosted by a neighbor of ours who has survived breast cancer--twice! Their kids go to school with our kids, and I've really enjoyed getting to know her a little over the years. She is someone who, to me, seems like a real grownup. Do you know what I mean? Someone who gets things done and makes things happen. I don't always feel like a grownup in that way. But enough about my issues.

They did a great job with the breakfast--it was really fun. Full of auction items, and gift bags, raffle prizes, fashion shows, and ladies all dressed in pink. Did you know 1 in 11 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they're 70? I've heard that before, but it just stuns me anew every time I hear it. Obviously, with what Becky has been through, the issue hits a little closer to home now.

Of course there were lighter topics as well. The ladies I was sitting with taught me a lot about laser hair removal! So that was something. Also we shared our rodent woes. It made me feel better that I am not alone in my struggles with *creatures*. My neighbor's husband had to dye his hair pink--he'd pledged to do it if a certain fundraising goal was met. Actually, it suited him quite well. Magenta can work on a guy. I'm telling you--I have seen it! I found a lady to make Ava's birthday cake, I donated some more money for breast cancer research, and I ate some chocolate. A successful morning!

But. I was secretly hoping to win one of the big raffle prizes. There were some good ones! But alas, my name wasn't called. Well, that's not totally true. I did win a bottle of wine, which was nice, though I'm not a big wine person. Whine? Yes. Are you the person who always wins raffles? I think some people just seem to win them more often, though I know that can't be true mathematically. As that one Barbie said, "Math is hard!" Don't confuse me with the facts! I think some folks are just prone to winning those types of things. Are you?

After this, Ava and Nate both had birthday parties to attend. At the same time and taking place in opposite ends of town. Of course. Then, tonight we went to a party. The kids played and bothered the dog, they rolled around in the grass, they all cried at one point or another. Then we played karaoke and I sang "I Will Survive" . I'm sure this doesn't surprise you. And you know what? It felt pretty dang good.

This, my Internet companions, is what I have for you today. A tale of pink hair and statistics, of bush rats and raffle prizes. Of grass-covered kids and disco hits. Sometimes you write the blog, sometimes the blog writes you.

(I don't really know what that means. It sounded like a good ending, though. In theory.)