Friday, March 25, 2011

Cause I wonder where you are, and I wonder what you do.

And when abusive text messages and emails began to arrive from my family, I know I'm overdue for a blog post. Stop the shaming, guys. I'm here, ok?

How have you been? After days and days of rain, we've had some glorious weather the last few days--autumn is finally (hopefully?) here. This week, we spent a few days with Jason's parents in the Hunter Valley. It's the wine-growing region about 2 hours outside of Sydney, and it is really beautiful. See? I took this picture last night at dinner.

There's scenery like that ALL UP in the Hunter. There's scores of charming restaurants, shopping villages, little playgrounds, and of course, wineries. This weekend, Lionel Richie and Santana are doing concerts there. When I saw that, it made me think of this poster, which is making the rounds on the Interwebs:
I love that someone took the time to make that. There are so many fun people in the world. And isn't it nice to know that Lionel's still out there, making it happen?

I'm not really a wine drinker--it just never tasted good to me. Same thing with coffee. People would say, "It's an acquired taste; you need to just keep trying it and you'll like it eventually." But I always thought, "Why should I keep drinking something that tastes crappy to me in the hopes that one day I'll like it?" It's not like it's veggies or something. Y'know? Anybody? Anyhoo, even for a culture-less ingrate like me, the Hunter Valley is a really nice place to visit.

The kids were worried they'd be bored. On the way there, Ava told us that one of her friends warned her there was NOTHING to do and that ALL that happened is that adults drank wine and talked for HOURS. That made me laugh, because seriously, what could be worse to a kid? We reassured her that there was plenty to do. The kids have been wanting Jason to take them to play golf for awhile now, so Jason and his dad took Ava and Nate out when they played 9 holes yesterday. There was much excitement due to golf carts being involved. And looked who popped by?
See there, in the background? Oh, okay, here's a closeup:
Betcha don't get those in Napa, baby! We're city folks, so to see kangaroos in the wild is still pretty fun and novel for us. Ava said they saw at least 8 on the golf course. Which made me wonder, how do they keep them out of the vineyards? But anyway.

We had a nice time, in spite of Grace having a tough time sleeping. Which means Jason and I did too. Remember this post about our first night away on holiday last year? Y'all, that is like birth control in blog form, right there. This trip wasn't quite at that epic level of badness, but we're a bit tired nonetheless. Last night, she developed a fever, so we came home a bit early today. She was pretty wiped out, as you can see:
Here we are allowing a very risky situation: giving Grace both her Primary Bear and her Backup Bear at the same time. We like to live on the edge. A parenting pro trip that I learned the hard way is to always have a backup bear/blanket/lovey for your child. And, listen: take it with you when you go on vacation. You never know when the Primary will get upchucked on, dipped in the toilet, or--seriously, God forbid--lost. Today, with her fever and fussiness and a car ride, we had an official Two Bear Situation on our hands. Sometimes, a girl needs more than the usual level of comfort.

Well, I'm off to bed. I'm preaching this Sunday, and have some work to do tomorrow. Sermons don't write themselves, ya know! Or at least, mine don't. I might need to borrow the Backup Bear for this one.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wink, Wink, Say No More.

Hi, and welcome to the Questionable Social Interactions Forum (QuSIF). Please take your seats. I'll start: my name is Amy, and I wink at strangers. Or at inappropriate times.
I now know that it is a problem. It all started years ago. I found myself winking at friends when we were sharing a joke. It just felt good. And then before I knew it, I was winking throughout the day. At work, out to dinner, even in church. I found that most social situations could benefit from a wink--or so I thought. I'm an active listener, you see. And in my wink-addled brain, a wink conveyed interest, shared humor, empathy, amusement.

Some time later, I found myself walking down a sidewalk one day. Isn't that how all these stories begin? I passed by a man walking the opposite direction. In the South, where I was raised, it's customary to flash a brief, perfunctory smile to someone you pass by and make eye contact with. I swear, that's all I meant to do. But after he'd passed me, I realized I'd winked at him. And smiled! I was shocked and embarrassed. How long have I been winking at men I don't even know, I wondered. The Lord only knows.

I began aggressively curtailing my winking habit. Eye patches helped. Shock therapy. I tell you, it hasn't been easy. And lately, since living in Sydney I find I've been doing it again. The problem is, Sydney is a very multi-cultural city. Winking can convey lots of different meanings, I think, to different cultures. And so, depending on who I'm accidentally winking at, I fear that I've obligated myself to do one or more of the following:
  • Marry someone's son
  • Sell a goat for a fair price
  • Cheat at a card game
  • Hire a hit man
  • Buy someone's groceries
I am working on my winking tendencies. What do you think some acceptable substitutions are? Thumbs-up? Slow nodding? Forehead slapping? I just don't know.

What about you? I mean, you're here at the QuSIF meeting, after all. Anything you need to confess?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Still Here

Oh...why, hello! Was I saying something?

Things got a bit busy this week. And just when I was gonna pop back in and tell y'all about Jason's parents being here for a visit, and show you some cute photos, and tell you some funny Nate stories, I came home Friday evening to live footage from Japan.

And then all my stuff just seemed so...silly. (I mean, more than the normal amount of silly that you get from me.) In the face of such disaster and heartbreak. I didn't know what to say about it that isn't already being said anywhere and everywhere. Except it just reminds you, doesn't it, how uncertain life is. I keep thinking of this time right after 9/11 when I read a passage in Hebrews that (basically) says that when everything is shaken, only the unshakeable remains. And it's made me think: what are the unshakeable things in my life? And have I been attending to them like I ought?

I guess then, that we need to take joy in the everydayness of life, don't we? Friday night, Jason was out at a church event, Jason's parents looked after Grace, and I took the kids to a movie night at the school. Despicable Me was showing on a big outdoor screen, and the kids had a great time doing everything but watching the movie. Nate ran around with his little kindergarten buddies and made a general nuisance of himself. Ava bought glow sticks and drank slushies till I thought her tongue would be permanently blue. And when the music started at the beginning of the movie, she said, "Mom, I'm gonna go dance with my friends." And she pranced off to do just that. I had one of those surreal fast-forward moments where I could hear her saying, "Mom, can I have the car to go out with my friends?"

The audience sat on bleachers to watch the film, and Nate and his buds were running around down on the ground in front of the screen. At one point, I saw him crawling around in the dark down there. I went down to see what he was doing and, yes, he was eating popcorn that had been dropped on the ground. Cramming it into his mouth like he hadn't eaten in days. Not his popcorn, mind you. Just random pieces of anonymously dropped popcorn. He's five, and he definitely knows better. I thought I'd passed the threshold with the older two about warning them what not to eat. I guess I was wrong.

Here's a few of my unshakeable things...
Our friends Jessica and Shawn took some family photos of us the other day. In spite of serious crankiness on the part of the kids (and, ok, me--a little) they managed to get some beautiful shots. I love this one of Gracie. She's lulling you into thinking that she's sweet and gentle, so she can steal your wallet when you look the other way. Keep yer hands where I can see 'em, girl.

And this is a fun one of Ava and Nate. This speaks volumes about the little brother-big sister dynamic, doesn't it?

That's what's doing over here. How are you? Everything just feels a bit tender right now. Or is that just me?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It comes with the territory.

This morning, I got up early and went to the gym. When I got home, Jason had already given the kids breakfast, and I got busy rounding up the kids' school uniforms and finishing up our whole morning thing.

Jason asked if I wanted to go shower first, since I'd worked out and I told him to go ahead. I was being lazy, and figured I'd get to it later.

Never have I been more thankful for my questionable hygiene. Cause look what Jason unwittingly took a shower with:
As he was finishing up his shower, he glanced up at the window, which runs the length of our tiny bathroom, and into the shower stall. And, hello Huntsman Spider. Now, if you click on that link, it'll tell you that Huntsman are found in many parts of the world, but are very common in this part of Australia. They are not considered dangerous to humans, but if they bite you it'll hurt. But they don't really bite unless provoked. So, always let them have the remote, laugh at their jokes, and never steal their parking space, I guess.

We haven't found a Huntsman in the house for a few years, but they sure get your attention when they decide to show up. But can I tell you that I would prefer this many, many times over a recurrence of The Rodent Invasion of 2010? I have still not fully recovered from The Pantry Incident. Let's change the subject.

Now, if it'd been me showering and finding the spider, I would've probably run shrieking and wet through the house--terrorizing the children and possibly our neighbors. Jason had the presence of mind to dry off and get dressed before coming downstairs and telling us that we needed to all come check the spider out. Which we did.

Look at Nate's face--he really wants to think this is cool. But he's just not too sure.

Most people prefer to catch Huntsman spiders and release them, cause they kill other bugs--cockroaches, especially. So, on their way to school, Jason and the kids stopped at the bottom of our driveway and let him go. But first I think they blindfolded him and spun him around a few times so he wouldn't find his way back to the house.

Now, all you true blue Aussie readers will tell me, I'm sure, how Huntsmen are no big deals, that you used to let them sit on your shoulder while you ate your toast and Vegemite. I know! I'm a Yankee wimp--we have established that. I embrace it as part of my identity.

I wish all spiders well, as long as they live their full, productive lives not crawling on my wall. Is that too much to ask? Probably.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Morning

It's 30 minutes before the kids need to leave for school.

School uniforms still need to be put on.
Ava needs to finish her breakfast.
Permission slips need to be signed.
Shoes need to be found. (Why do the shoes always go missing? Whyyyy??)
Hair needs to be combed and wrangled.
Lunches need to be packed.
Shoes for dance practice need to be found. (Again with the finding of the shoes.)

So of course it makes total sense, and is a great use of time, to get the kids to watch the promo video for the new iPad.

I don't know why I didn't think of it first. As you can see, Grace is thrilled by the enhanced Face Time capabilities, while Ava remains dubious about the new magnetic cover. Always a wild card, Nate rejects the idea of "the next big thing" altogether. And Jason? Well, I keep catching him doodling "Jason + iPad 4eva" and "Jason iPad" all over the place.

If you're been reading this blog for awhile, you may remember a similar scenario from last year when the iPhone 4 came out:

I think I see a pattern developing.